Holiday-Spiced Turkey Breast + Gravy

Dry-brining is the simplest way to take a turkey from ho-hum to outrageous. I've blended this specific combination of spices to complement all the November-December holiday staple sides. If you're making a whole turkey, just double the brine and make sure it can sit for a minimum of 6 hours. Your patience will be rewarded with a complex, perfectly-seasoned, juicy bird and the most delectable gravy. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Holiday-Spiced Dry Brine Ingredients:

  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 1½ tablespoons Demerara, Turbinado, or raw sugar

Turkey Breast Ingredients:

  • ½ stick unsalted butter
  • Approx. 4 pound bone-in turkey breast
  • Generous 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 4 sprigs thyme

Gravy Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups turkey or chicken stock

Dry Brine Instructions:

  1. In a dry pan on low heat, combine the red pepper flakes, peppercorns, and all seeds. Toast, shaking frequently, until fragrant and darkened, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the spices.
  2. In a spice mill, grind the toasted spices until evenly ground. You don't want a fine powder, but you also don't want big chunks of spices. Add to the salt and sugar.

Dry-Brine the Turkey Breast:

  1. The night before you want to roast the breast, set out the half stick of butter to come up to room temperature. Remove the breast from its packaging, rinse and dry very well. Be sure to rinse and dry all cracks and crevices of the breast, then set it on a baking sheet.
  2. Rub the oil all over the breast, front and back. Sprinkle the dry brine all over the breast, really pressing it into all the crevices. Season it well, front and back. Be sure to roll the breast in the brine to adhere as much of it as possible to the bird. Refrigerate, uncovered, in the bottom shelf of the refrigerator overnight, up to 12 hours.

Roast the Turkey Breast:

  1. Remove the breast from the fridge a full hour before you intend to roast it. Preheat an oven to 450°F.
  2. Rinse all of the brine off of the breast under cold water. Be sure to rinse out any crevices, then dry extremely thoroughly. Rinse the leftover brine from the baking sheet and dry it as well.
  3. Peel then halve the onions. Place cut-side down onto the center of the baking sheet. Nestle the garlic cloves in between the onions. 
  4. Using your fingers, separate the skin from the breast meat to form a pocket. It may be necessary to use a knife; be careful to not cut into the meat. Spread the butter beneath the skin. Press on the skin to spread the butter evenly. Place two thyme stalks under each side of the skin.
  5. Place the breast on top of the onions and garlic. Try to cover as much of the onion as possible with the breast.
  6. Roast at 450°F for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F and roast for 30 more minutes. The skin will get very dark, black in places. Try not to open the oven door at all.
  7. Tent with foil and let rest at least 15 minutes. While it's resting, make the gravy.
  8. Once rested, carve the breasts off of the bone just like a chicken and slice at an angle. Enjoy the skin as a cook's treat!

Make the Gravy:

  1. Find the two least-burnt onion halves and chop well. Extrude the garlic from the cloves. Strip the thyme leaves from the stalks if possible.
  2. Pour all of the fat from the baking sheet into a saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently. Add any juices from the resting breast.
  3. Whisking constantly, slowly add the flour; it will thicken into a paste. Continue whisking and cook it for 2 minutes.
  4. While still whisking constantly, slowly pour in the stock. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer at least 10 minutes or until desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning at the very end.