Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cleo Coyle's Cozy Turkey: How to Roast a Smaller Turkey for a Cozy #Thanksgiving #Dinner

It's Thanksgiving Recipes Week here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, and Marc and I are kicking it off today. Be sure to stop back every day from now until Thanksgiving to get new recipe ideas for your big feast!

Now for today's recipe... 

A Note from Cleo
Cleo Coyle has a partner in
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.

My childhood Thanksgivings were always large family gatherings. My mother and Aunt Mary would routinely rise at six AM and work together most of the day to roast a fully-stuffed 25 to 30 pound bird, as well prepare all the sides and desserts.

These days, my husband and I have much cozier gatherings than our younger years. That's why we're sharing our easy recipe for roasting a beautiful 6 to 8 pound turkey breast, a wonderful choice for smaller dinner gatherings, especially if you prefer white meat.

And for those of you having larger parties, this recipe makes a great second turkey, giving the table plenty of extra breast meat and providing more leftovers for delicious turkey sandwiches and turkey salads in the days following your big Thanksgiving feast...


Above is a standard turkey breast of about 7 pounds. Our secret to making a really terrific Thanksgiving dinner using a small turkey breast (rather than a whole turkey) is the additional purchase of turkey wings. Why? 

Small turkey breasts come without wings, so we buy them separately for roasting right along with the bird. The wings aren't so much for eating, although they are delicious. While they cook, they render plenty of extra juices for making a rich homemade gravy, a must for a truly delicious turkey dinner. (See our gravy recipe below this one.)

As for the turkey wings, if you've never bought them before, look for them in the poultry section of your grocery store. They're usually sold in pairs and packaged similar to chicken wings. Now let's get that turkey started... 


To download this recipe in
a free PDF that you can print,
save, or share,
click here.

Cleo Coyle's 

Cozy Thanksgiving Turkey Breast 

with Homemade Gravy


6 to 8 pound turkey breast* (see note below on fresh vs frozen)**

+ 2 to 4 turkey wings (optional, for extra gravy juices)

3/4 stick (6 T) softened butter

1 teaspoon Bell Seasoning

1 teaspoon Poultry Seasoning

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground sage

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon cooking oil or cooking spray (to grease the rack)

**FRESH VS. FROZEN: We recommend using fresh turkey breast, though frozen will work just fine, BUT be sure to allow at least 24 hours to thaw the frozen breast in the refrigerator before cooking. NOTE: Larger turkeys take several days to thaw in the fridge (about 24 hours per 5 pounds of meat). To learn more about how to thaw a turkey, click here.

*FOR LARGER TURKEYS: To adapt this recipe for a larger whole turkey, double the amount of "slurry" for birds 12-16 pounds. Triple it for birds 17-25 pounds. And follow the package directions on cooking time and temperature. To prevent over-browning, cover loosely with foil near the end of cooking time. If your bird is frozen, allow several days for thawing (24 hours in the fridge for every 5 pounds). To learn more about how to thaw a turkey, click here


Step 1—Prep the oven and slurry: 
First preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (When adapting this recipe for a larger, whole turkey, we roast at 325° F.) Place softened butter into a bowl and add your Bell Seasoning, Poultry Seasoning, white and black peppers, ground sage, and kosher salt. Blend everything well with a fork until you have a soft slurry (as shown below)...

Step 2—Prep the bird: Wash the turkey breast and pat dry. If using wings, remove the wing tips, then wash the wings and and pat them dry. Line a shallow baking or roasting pan with aluminum foil. Grease the rack that sits on top (with oil or cooking spray). Place the turkey on the rack, and (if using) position wings on either side of the breast. Slather the breast with the slurry you made in Step 1. 

The wings in my photo above are not attached. As I mentioned, small turkey breasts come without wings. Marc and I like to buy the wings separately and roast them with the turkey for extra pan juices. You can coat them with a bit of the slurry or simply salt and pepper them, your call.

For even more pan dripping, we often roast a
second pair
 of wings in a separate pan.
(See photo below...)

Step 3—Roast and cool: Roast the breast, uncovered, according to package instructions, or about 20 minutes per pound. Turn the pan a few times during the cooking to make sure the turkey roasts evenly.

During the last hour, baste the meat in its own juices every fifteen minutes or so. At the end of the cooking time, use a meat thermometer to measure the turkey breast's temperature. You're looking for 165 degrees F. to confirm that the turkey meat is properly cooked.*

*Note for Larger Turkeys: If adapting this recipe to a larger, whole bird, watch the breast skin near the end of the cooking time and cover loosely with foil to prevent over-browning

Remove the turkey from the oven, tent loosely with foil, and let sit for AT LEAST 30 MINUTES before slicing. The resting period will keep your turkey nice and moist. If you slice it too soon after removing it from the oven, the juices will run out and the turkey meat will taste dry. 

Extra pan juices come from the wings,
which we use to whip up our Homemade
Turkey Gravy, recipe below...

Cleo's Homemade Turkey Gravy

Makes about 1 ½ cups


2 cups pan drippings (or add enough
   chicken or turkey stock to make 2 cups)

2 Tablespoons Wondra flour

Salt and pepper to taste


Step 1—Make a roux: While the turkey is cooling, pour off the pan drippings into a bowl and let them cool, allowing the fat to separate. Skim off two tablespoons of fat from the top of the cooled drippings and warm this small amount of fat in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour until the mixture thickens. You’ve just created a roux. Now gently cook until the roux turns slightly brown (1-3 minutes).

Step 2—Finish the gravy: Measure your remaining pan drippings. If you have less than 2 cups, pour in enough chicken or turkey stock to make the full two. Whisk these two cups of drippings (and/or stock) into the roux that you made in Step 1. Heat the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. 

Lower the heat and continue to whisk gently while letting the gravy simmer until it thickens and the flour cooks (4 to 5 minutes). The key here (to prevent the gravy from breaking) is continually whisking. Add salt and pepper to taste, serve hot, and...

For free recipe guide, click here.

Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author
The Coffeehouse Mysteries 

Alice and Marc in Central Park. 
Together we write as Cleo Coyle. 

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  1. Thank you for the recipes, especially the gravy! I have been making just the turkey for several years. It has plenty of sandwiches to dream about!

    1. Deb - You're very welcome. So nice of you to stop by the Kitchen today. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and enjoy those turkey sandwiches. (I know we will!) xoxo

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter
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  2. That is a neat trick regarding the roasting of turkey wings for the extra pan juices. It will be Thanksgiving for two of us this year. We are far from home. Roasting a turkey breast will do nicely for us. Thanks for sharing your recipes.

    1. Lil - You are very welcome. In our house, the gravy is its own food group (the entire reason for the mashed potatoes). It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it. :) Thank you kindly for dropping in today and taking the time to comment. Marc and I hope you and your loved ones have a delicious Thanksgiving!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter
      Friend or Follow Cleo Coyle on Facebook

  3. We usually have a big crew for Thanksgiving, but this year much of the family will be out of town. A turkey breast with wings seems like the perfect solution. Thank you, Cleo. (BTW I just finished Shot in the Dark and I loved it). Megan Haney

    1. Megan - Good news on the turkey breast solution, and thank you so much for the nice words about SHOT IN THE DARK. Marc and I had a great deal of fun coming up with the twists and surprises in SHOT (and we're coming up with all new ones for our next Coffeehouse Mystery, look for it in 2019). In the meantime, we hope you have a beautiful 2018 holiday season and a Happy Thanksgiving!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter
      Friend or Follow Cleo Coyle on Facebook

  4. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but what I love about a turkey breast is that you can cook it year round. Love your gravy recipe, too. Thanks you Mystery Lovers Kitchen!

    1. Joan - Right you are about the turkey breast, and we do cook it year round. In the winter, especially, a turkey roast in the oven gives the entire house a warm and cozy feeling. We wish the same for you this holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter
      Friend or Follow Cleo Coyle on Facebook

  5. Thanksgiving I love it for the turkey but I like the dark meat so much that we cook a larger turkey and it is usually 14 or so lbs as my hubby loves to take leftovers. Your recipes in the back of your books and this one are all so good i like the idea of the wings! Peggy Clayton

    1. Peggy - You and I would do well together at the same table because I'm a fan of white meat--that's the perfect division of turkey for us. Thanks for dropping by. May you and your husband have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter
      Friend or Follow Cleo Coyle on Facebook