I made a turkey last week solely for the leftovers. I didn’t make it for dinner, in fact I made chili that night instead. I roasted a whole turkey breast just so we could have great sandwiches all week, and you know what? It was totally worth it.
As we head into Turkey day, I’m sure everyone will have ample leftovers and it would be a shame to see any of that glorious bird to go waste. In my family, the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving sandwich is always a hit. My brother ditches the bread and makes a “Thanksgiving bowl” a la KFC. It’s basically a bowl with all the Thanksgiving trimmings, covered in gravy.
I’m a fan of the turkey, cranberry, cheese route, which I’ve jumped the gun on a bit this week–more than once. The best part about Thanksgiving leftovers, though, is that there are so dang much that you don’t have to choose just one route. I’ve compiled a list of leftover ideas that are worth making a turkey breast even if you aren’t hosting Thanksgiving. Or even if it’s not Thanksgiving! Turkey is good all year round.
Day-After Dip–for when your guests are still around, and you have a lot of potatoes leftover (leftover potatoes are never my family’s problem. They don’t last long.)
Thanksgiving Pizza–Pizza? Sure. Always.
And More! –Food Network has an entire page dedicated to leftover ideas. It’s a great resource!
Those are just a couple of leftover ideas, but first, you need the turkey.
I worked as a personal assistant right out of college, a job which I learned very quickly was not my future. I was tasked with cooking most meals and had it not been for that…interesting…four months, I wouldn’t know how to make a fool-proof turkey breast. See, it all worked out!
Let’s get started.
Start with a turkey breast. This method can also work for an entire turkey, but a turkey breast was plenty for us.
Soften half a stick of butter and to it add a tablespoon of honey and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg.
Next, take a handful of woody herbs. Sage, rosemary, and thyme all work here and I used a combination of all three. You’ll need about 1/4 cup chopped herbs when it’s all said and done.
Chop the herbs finely and add them to the butter, then mix until combined.
Set that aside and get to work on your bird. You’ll want to rinse it well inside and out, then pat it very, very dry. Then, working from the top of the bird, gently separate the skin from the bird by running your fingers in between the breast and the skin. Work gently–you don’t want to tear the breast or the skin.
Once the skin is loosened, take your hands and rub 1/4 of the butter mixture under the skin of each breast. Make sure it is evenly distributed. Take the other half of the butter mixture and rub it all over the outside of the bird, gently massaging the butter into the bird.
Place it on the rack of a roasting pan and season it generously with salt and pepper inside the cavity of the breast and all over the outside. Next, combine 1/3 cup of honey with 2 cups of cranberry juice. Whisk until smooth and combined.
Pour the cranberry juice mixture in the bottom of a roasting pan.
Tent loosely with foil and place in a 325 degree oven for about 2 hours and 20 minutes, or 20 minutes per pound of turkey. Use a pastry brush to baste the turkey every 30 minutes or so. Remove the foil the last 30 minutes of cooking to brown the skin.
Test the temperature of the bird with a meat thermometer. The internal temperature should read 165 degrees. Let it rest for 30 minutes or so, tented loosely with foil to retain the heat.
You can serve immediately or you can let it cool completely and save the rest for leftovers. Regardless, you’ll need to carve the turkey, so transfer it to a wooden cutting board and get to work. Take your knife and run it down the side of the breast bone and cut the entire turkey breast away from the bone. Once the breast is removed, slice it against the grain. Here’s a video showing you exactly how to do this.
Discard the skin, but save the bones! I made turkey stock out of mine and it is delicious. It would be perfect for a leftover turkey noodle soup.
Cooking your own turkey breast is incredibly easy and cost effective. This method ensures moist and flavorful meat. You’ll be impressed with yourself and you’ll have lunch and probably a few dinners for a week.
Here’s the recipe.
Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
For the Turkey/Compound Butter:
- 1 turkey breast (about 6-7 pounds)
- 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), softened
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used a combination of fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and fresh sage)
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Salt and pepper
For the Basting Liquid
- 1/3 cup of honey
- 2 cups of cranberry juice
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Set a roasting pan up with a rack and set aside.
- Combined softened butter, tablespoon of honey, nutmeg, and chopped herbs. Set aside. Whisk together 1/3 cup of honey and the cranberry juice until smooth. Set aside.
- Rinse and dry your turkey breast. Using your fingers, gently separate the skin from the breast meat, being careful not to tear the turkey or the skin.
- Using your hands, take about half of the butter mixture and spread it under the skin of the turkey breast, evenly distributing it between both sides. Make sure it gets all over the breast. Take the rest of the butter and rub it all over the outside. Season generously with salt and black pepper inside the cavity of the bird and all over the outside. I’m talking generously. At least a tablespoon of salt on the outside.
- Place bird on the rack of a roasting pan. Pour the cranberry juice mixture in the bottom of the pan. Tent loosely with foil and place in the oven.
- Cook for 20 minutes per pound of turkey. My turkey was 6.86 pounds so I needed to roast mine for 137.2 minutes, or two hours and 17 minutes. You don’t have to be as exact as that, but be close–an overcooked bird would be a tragedy. Keep a meat thermometer handy to ensure you don’t overcook your turkey.
- Using a pastry brush, baste the turkey every 30 minutes or so with the cranberry liquid. Remove the foil for the last 30 minutes of roasting to brown the skin.
- Let rest for 30 minutes before carving, or let cool completely and carve for leftovers. Save the bones!
A related article You may be interested in Power Pressure Cooker Reviews 2017.