Friday, December 14, 2012

Crockpot Turkey Breast by Stupid Easy Paleo

Each year, I have a a holiday party at my home.  It's a lot of hard work cleaning and preparing food, but its worth it to have my house full of friends.  My menu isn't all paleo as the majority of my friends are not paleo eaters, but I offer some solid paleo options.  This year, after learning that some serious paleo eaters would be attending my party, I decided to up my game and make my own turkey breast instead of buying prepared turkey breast.  I knew I'd be pressed for time on the day of the party, so I decided a slow cooker recipe would be best.  After searching the internet, I found this recipe from Stupid Easy Paleo.

My main worry about making the turkey breast was dryness.  I commented on the recipe asking about the juiciness level of the turkey.  The moderator, I couldn't find the name of the person who authors this blog anywhere on the site, said that it was juicy but suggested brining the breast as a way to guarantee juiciness.  So here I go again:  making a recipe for the first time for company.

Brining is another cooking technique that has always seemed intimidating to me for some reason.  I had Melissa Joulwan's suggested turkey brine recipe from going to her Whole Foods' cooking demonstration, but decided to do a little further research.  I came across this recipe for brining just the breast.  The only thing I was concerned about was the ratio of salt to water.  I decided to use 1.5 cups of kosher salt to one gallon of water.

Brining the Turkey Breast 

The night before my party, I prepared the brine.  I lined my pot with a slow cooker bag.  I would never cook in one of these bags, but size wise it seemed right for brining.  I took the turkey breast out of its packaging, discarded the "gravy" mix and rinsed the breast under cold water.  I put it in my bag lined stock pot.

The next I dissolved 1.5 cups of kosher salt into cold water.  Its important to use cold water for food safety purposes.  To speed up this process I used my mixing pitcher.   Stirring will work, but as I had this handy, I decided to use it.  I had to do two batches to get a gallon of water, so I simply divided the salt between the two. I closed up the bag with a rubber band, put the lid on the pot and put the pot in my refrigerator.

Cooking the Turkey Breast

The next day, I prepared my slow cooker to cook the turkey.

I started by chopping up an onion.  I already had some carrots sliced for the party, so I threw some in the slow cooker with the onion.  As I was making this for my party and knew I wasn't going to serve the vegetables, I probably didn't use as many carrots as the recipe calls for.

I removed the turkey from the brine and rinsed it well with cold water.  I could tell that the texture/color of the meat had changed somewhat.  I dried the turkey with paper towels and placed it on the bed of vegetables in the slow cooker crock.

I liberally sprinkled the turkey breast with Herbs De Provence and lightly seasoned it with salt and pepper.  

I then  measured and washed my cranberries.

And sliced a lemon.

I poured the cranberries over the turkey and placed the lemon slices as best I could on top of turkey.  I think maybe Stupid Easy Paleo put her turkey breast in her slow cooker on its side to make it easier to balance the lemon slices on the bird.  I added the water to the crock as well.

I set my slow cooker on low for 7 hours.

Here is the finished turkey breast.

I carefully separated the breast meat from the bone and sliced them.  This was another step that I was worried about as I wanted pretty slices.  I almost considered getting a boneless breast but was concerned by the description that it had dark and white meat that it was some sort of franken-turkey which would completely miss the point of my making this turkey from scratch.  I had read a comment on some turkey breast recipe about the breasts being difficult to remove from the bone.  Not true.  I used a pairing knife to help me pull the breast of the bone.  Easy.  

Oh, happy paleo turkey!

Cost and Accessibility of Ingredients:  You should be able to find all of the ingredients for this recipe at your big box grocery store.  The only time I see fresh cranberries at the grocery store during the Thanksgiving/Holiday season which makes sense because they are in season from September through November.  I think I've seen frozen cranberries at Whole Foods, so that might be an option for other times of the year.  Nothing in this recipe is particularly expensive.

Preparation/Cooking Time:  As there are a few steps I'll break it down in a list:
                                                      1. Brine Preparation: 10 minutes
                                                      2. Inactive brining time: 12 hours
                                                      3. Preparation for Slow Cooking: 15 minutes
                                                      4. Slow Cooking time: 7 hours on low
                                                      5.  Carving time: 5-10 minutes 

You don't have to brine your turkey if you don't want to do so.  The author of this recipe represents that you'll get a juicy turkey even if you do not do so.   I just couldn't take the risk since I was making this for my party.

Update 12/29:  I made the turkey breast again today and I did not brine it before hand.  It came out pretty dry.  I'll be brining the turkey when I make this in the future.  

Clean up:  The clean up for both the brining and slow cooking was super easy.  As I was taking this turkey out of the slow cooker right before my party started, that was very important.  I was able to put everything except my knives into the dishwasher.  As I knew I wasn't going to serve the vegetables, I put them into a food storage container before throwing the slow cooker crock into the dishwasher.

The Paleo Review:  TWO THUMBS UP AS HIGH AS POSSIBLE!  This turkey was moist and flavorful.  In fact it was the best turkey breast I have ever had in my life.  Now that the pressure of the party is off, I'll have to go back and cook without brining the turkey to see how much that process contributes to the juiciness of the meat.  I'm still shocked that I loved this turkey given my recent dislike of white meat poultry.

This was fantastic.  My hardcore paleo guests did not show up, but it was their loss, if only because they missed of this turkey!  Many of my guests commented on the awesomeness of this turkey.  It gave me the opportunity to talk about the tastiness of paleo cooking in general.   The success of this recipe has me thinking about revisiting chicken breasts, but brining them first.

Alas, I have yet to try the vegetables that were in the crock with this turkey breast.  So, I'll update this post once I make this turkey again with a review of the vegetables.

Update 12/29:  The vegetables are ok- this recipe is about the bird, in my opinion.  

Post Script:  When I bought my turkey breast, it was frozen.  It actually took a few days to thaw out in the refrigerator, so keep that in mind if you plan to cook this dish.

Bonus Mini-Review:  Ranch Dressing from Well Fed:  For the party, I decided to make my own paleo ranch dressing from Well Fed and have plain paleo mayo for those who still make sandwiches, so I made 4 batches of paleo mayo at once.   I didn't get any pictures of my making the ranch, but I give it  THUMBS UP!  
Behold the Paleo Mayo!
And since I'm talking Well Fed,  I was lucky enough to recently win a copy through a Lava Lake Lamb giveaway.  Alas, I didn't win any lamb.  In the spirit of holiday re-gifting, if The Paleo Review's Facebook page gets 100 likes, I will giveaway my superfluous copy of Well Fed!