In the past I've always made two big turkeys for Thanksgiving, because I've had more than 20 people here. This year I had "only" 17, so I considered making two smaller turkeys, but I was nervous because I've never done anything smaller than 16 pounds and feared I'd somehow wreck it. Then loyal Verbatim reader Amy suggested I make my usual big turkey and also a whole turkey breast, since most people prefer the white meat anyhow. Great idea! Only problem was I'd never made a whole breast before. Amy to the rescue again, with the recipe below!
It came out great. As it turned out, there was quite a bit left over (like, the entire additional breast!), but that meant that I got to send my guests home with leftovers and still have plenty left for us. I will definitely go this route again next year if I have a similarly sized group. I did the breast on Wednesday, refrigerated it overnight, then reheated it gently on Thursday.
Roast Turkey Breast
You'll need 1 whole bone-in, skin-on turkey breast, weighing 6–7 pounds. Trim any excess fat.
I recommend brining the turkey breast, just as I always brine my whole turkey. I really think it makes the meat extra juicy and flavorful (but no, not overly salty). Dissolve EITHER ½ cup table salt OR ¾ cup Morton's kosher salt OR 1 cup Diamond kosher salt (they have different-sized crystals!) in 1 gallon of cold water in your biggest spaghetti pot. Submerge the turkey breast in the brine, cover the pot, and put it in the refrigerator for 3–6 hours, but no longer than that or it will indeed get too salty. Meanwhile, leave 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter out on the counter to soften.
Adjust your oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 425°. Spray a V-rack with nonstick spray and place it in your roasting pan. Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the roasting pan.
Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it thoroughly under cold running water, then pat it dry all over with paper towels.
With a rubber spatula, mix the softened butter with ¼ teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl until thoroughly combined. (If you didn't brine the turkey, you can add ¾ teaspoon table salt to the butter-pepper mixture.)
Here comes the only tricky part. Beginning at the top near where the neck was, stick your fingers between the skin and the meat, being careful not to rip the skin itself or the membrane around the edges of the breast. Stick your hand right down in there to separate the skin from the meat on each side of the breastbone. (I had trouble getting around the pop-up thermometer thingy but didn't want to try pulling it out.) Then spoon half of the butter mixture under the skin on each side. Rub your hands all over the outside of the skin to distribute the butter evenly. Place turkey on V-rack skin-side up.
Roast turkey for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°. Continue to roast turkey until thickest part of breast registers 160° on instant-read thermometer, about 1 hour longer. (Ignore the aforementioned pop-up thermometer thingy.) Transfer turkey to carving board and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.