Herb and Citrus Brined Turkey Breast

A lovely Herb and Citrus Brined Turkey Breast accompanied by Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Pecorino and Herbed Farro Dressing with Butternut Squash, Dried Cherries, and Pecans covers the flavors of the season with elegant flair! This cozy Thanksgiving dinner serves 2 to 4 generously, and provides delicious leftovers!

A Cozy Thanksgiving Dinner For Two Platter with Herb and Citrus Brined Turkey Breast on an oval platter with brussels and farro, a glass of rosé, and fresh herbs.
Herb and Citrus Brined Turkey Breast with roasted brussels sprouts and farro dressing… a lovely, small-scale Thanksgiving menu!

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.

~~ Henry Van Dyke, American author, educator, clergyman.

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – Thanksgiving Dinner for Two

Have you ever struggled over how to “do” the holidays when it’s “Andersen party of two?” The conversation goes something like this (at Andersen casa): “We I never like the food at (xyz) restaurant. The turkey is dry. The vegetables are soggy. It’s too expensive for what you’re getting. I can make it better in my own kitchen.” Then hubby says, “yeah, but it’s waaaay too much work for two. Just. Two.” Hah.  😆

It was only recently that we had to confront being such a small household. McAllen, Texas is 831 miles from our closest son in Las Cruces… The other 3 are even further away in Charlotte.

It has been a challenge to adapt to cooking for two. In October as I began planning for the upcoming holidays, I felt compelled to create an approachable holiday menu for 2-4 people. After a “google” search, I realized there really isn’t much out there in the blogosphere.

My premise was simple: Create a main course (turkey), and 2 sides, that capture the essence of the holiday table in a simple but elegant manner! The challenge was in delivering the menu in a clear and concise fashion, since I wanted to include all 3 recipes in one post…

The centerpiece of this small menu is a boneless turkey breast. The herb and citrus brine does require some planning ahead. Because it is small, 12 hours in the brine is adequate. In fact, I wouldn’t go over that.

I also recommend allowing the turkey to dry in the refrigerator for a few hours. Starting the brining process the night before, removing after breakfast, drying throughout the day, and cooking in the evening works out perfectly!

The turkey cavity can be filled with some of the citrus and herbs, and it all gets glazed with a lovely pomegranate, orange, sherry sauce while it roasts. Garnished with pomegranate arils, crumbled bacon, and fresh herbs, this beauty is sure to please your loved one!

The brined and roasted turkey breast plated with brussels and farro on a white plate with a glass of rosé.

🦃 Why Brine Your Turkey?

Over 4 decades, I’ve cooked a lot of turkeys a lot of ways. As a young woman, I was convinced that a (new) cloth diaper soaked in melted butter wrapped around my large turkey was the way to go.

I tried barding the turkey with bacon strips! After all, avoiding a dry turkey is/was of paramount importance! Both methods were pretty successful…

Later, I moved on to creating a menu around an international theme, and tried Mexican flavors (chiles, cumin, garlic), Persian (fruit and nuts), etc.

It was only in recent years that I discovered the benefit of a good brine. While a good brine can result in a moist and flavorful turkey, the importance of a thermometer and diligence cannot be dismissed. Brining doesn’t let the cook off the hook!

This citrus brine is so easy to make, and brings moist, subtle citrus and herb flavor to your turkey breast. Given how easy it is to dry out turkey breast, that’s a win!

🍗 A Holiday Menu for 2 to 4

I wanted my dressing to incorporate a roasted root vegetable. I chose butternut squash, but you could use pumpkin, sweet potato, dumpling squash, golden beets, etc. The squash roasts in about the time it takes to cook the farro. The farro gets tossed with the roasted root veg, toasted pecans, dried cherries. Mmmm!!! 

Lastly, this menu includes an Italian-inspired roasted, shaved brussels dish. Whenever possible, I roast my veggies. You know the drill? Maillard reaction.

In addition to extra virgin olive oil, shallot, and garlic, these simple brussels are roasted with diced pancetta (Italian cured but not smoked pork belly) and finished with pecorino romano (hard, salty Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk). You may substitute parmesan, but make sure it’s a good one.  😀

In an attempt to clean up this post and make it easier for search engines to find, I have moved Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Pecorino and Herbed Farro Dressing with Butternut Squash, Dried Cherries, and Pecans to their own well-deserved locations!

A large white ceramic platter with the entire small Thanksgiving menu - herb and citrus brined turkey breast, roasted brussels, farro and butternut squash dressing.

📋 Herb and Citrus Brined Turkey Breast Ingredients

Brine

  • kosher salt
  • honey
  • citrus – orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime
  • fresh herbs – sage, rosemary, thyme
  • onion
  • whole peppercorns
  • boneless turkey breast – I used a 3 pound turkey breast. A meat thermometer is important for getting the turkey properly cooked!
  • garnishes – orange slices, pomegranate arils, and fresh herbs
A large pot with the herb and citrus brine and a boneless turkey breast.

Pomegranate-Orange Glaze

  • thick, lean bacon
  • shallot
  • garlic
  • dry sherry
  • oranges, reserve zest for farro, juiced
  • pomegranate molasses – Pomegranate molasses is available in the “international foods” aisle of many markets. If you can’t find it, try this recipe or order it online.
  • honey
  • fresh thyme
  • butter
  • sea salt and a few grinds pepper

Prepare the Turkey Breast

  1. Brine the turkey – Combine all the ingredients except the turkey in a large vessel. (See the post photo). Add the turkey breast. Refrigerate 12 hours. Remove from brine. Place on a rack on a roasting pan. Refrigerate until ready to roast – several hours is ideal. Drying the turkey prior to roasting yields a better result.
  2. Prepare to roast the turkey – About 2 hours before serving, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place turkey in a roasting pan (rack is optional). Leave the net around the breast to hold it all together. If desired, stuff the cavity (created during the boning process) with citrus and herbs reserved from the brine mixture. When the oven is to temperature, place the pan in the oven, and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees (325 convection).
  3. Glaze the turkey – Make the glaze (instructions follow). After 20 minutes or so, begin brushing the breast with the prepared glaze. Repeat at 10-15 minute intervals. 
  4. Finish roasting the turkey – After 60 minutes, begin checking the internal temperature of the breast. When your reading is 155-160 degrees, remove from the oven, tent loosely with foil, and cover with a towel. Allow the turkey breast to rest 15-20 minutes before slicing.
  5. Serve – See the post for my “work flow” (below) if coordinating all 3 dishes. Garnish with the reserved crumbled bacon, fresh herbs, orange slices, pomegranate arils, and any remaining glaze (I reheat it prior to drizzling). Enjoy!

The Glaze

  1. Cook the bacon – In a small saute pan, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Crumble, and set aside to garnish the turkey.
  2. Sauté the aromatics – Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the shallot and garlic. Cook until transparent but not browned.
  3. Finish the glaze – Add the sherry, juice from the 2 oranges (don’t forget to zest them first!), pomegranate molasses, honey, and thyme sprig. Reduce by about ⅓. Pour through a strainer, add the butter, sea salt, and a few grinds of pepper.
  4. Glaze the turkey – Brush the turkey breast periodically with the sauce. Any remaining sauce can be reheated, and poured over the turkey breast prior to serving.

🍷 Pairing Suggestions

We recently finished a batch of French rosé. For those of you that don’t know, my husband and I make wine and brew beer. It’s one of our favorite togetherness activities. The rosé was ready for a taste test. It is awesome, and paired beautifully with this meal!

I’d love for you to try this cozy menu for 2-4. It served the two of us generously, and we both had a nice lunch the next day. We didn’t waste anything, and we enjoyed a quiet, high-quality meal in the privacy of our own home. I’d say it was a “win.”

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

P.S. As a follow up to this Thanksgiving Dinner for Two, I posted a simple, light dessert – (Gluten-Free) Streusel Baked Apples with Bourbon-Vanilla Mascarpone Cream that is easily adapted for a small or larger gathering. It’s a perfect finish to this lovely menu – you won’t want to miss it!

🍽️ Thanksgiving Dinner for 2 Work Flow

  • Brine the turkey the evening before. Twelve hours in the brine is ideal. As mentioned above, try to allow several hours for the turkey breast to dry as this yields a nicer result in roasting.
  • Prep the butternut squash for roasting. Preheat the oven.
  • Start the turkey and the butternut squash (or other root veg).
  • Make the glaze. Brush the turkey occasionally throughout the roasting process.
  • Start the farro on the stove.
  • Prep the brussels.
  • Remove the squash when tender and beginning to brown. Set aside.
  • Put the brussels in the oven to roast.
  • Use a meat thermometer. I recommend an instant read thermometer. I aim for 155-160° with 15 minutes resting time covered with foil. the FDA recommendation of 165° almost guarantees a dry slice of turkey!
  • While the turkey rests, toss the brussels with the pecorino and check for seasoning. Add the toasted pecans, roasted squash, and fresh herbs in to the farro.
  • Pour the wine.
  • Slice the turkey roast. Plate all 3 dishes, garnishing liberally with fresh herbs, pomegranate arils, orange slices, crumbled bacon (as desired).
  • Enjoy!
My platter with A Cozy Thanksgiving Dinner For Two: Herb and Citrus Brined Turkey Breast, shave brussels with pancetta, and farro with butternut squash.

A Cozy Thanksgiving Dinner For Two - shaved brussels, turkey breast, farro dressing on a white platter.

Herb and Citrus Brined Turkey Breast

Moist, tender, and full of flavor… This boneless turkey breast roast gets a herb and citrus brine and a lovely pomegranate and citrus glaze!
5 from 3 votes

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Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
12 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 3 quarts cold water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 small oranges - sliced
  • 1 small grapefruit - sliced
  • 1 lemon - sliced
  • 1 lime - sliced
  • fresh sage, rosemary, thyme
  • 1 onion - sliced
  • 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 3 pound boneless turkey breast - (see notes)
  • orange slices - for garnish
  • pomegranate arils - for garnish
  • fresh herbs - for garnish

Pomegranate-Orange Glaze

  • 2 slices thick, lean bacon
  • 1 shallot - minced
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • ¼ cup dry sherry
  • 2 oranges - reserve zest for farro, juiced
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses - (see notes)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 generous sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • a few grinds pepper

Instructions

Brine the Turkey Breast

  • Combine all the ingredients except the turkey in a large vessel. (See the post photo).
  • Add the turkey breast. Refrigerate 12 hours. Remove from brine. Place on a rack on a roasting pan.
  • Refrigerate until ready to roast – several hours is ideal. Drying the turkey prior to roasting yields a better result.
  • About 2 hours before serving, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place turkey in a roasting pan (rack is optional). Leave the net around the breast to hold it all together. If desired, stuff the cavity (created during the boning process) with citrus and herbs reserved from the brine mixture. When the oven is to temperature, place the pan in the oven, and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees (325 convection).
  • Make the glaze (see below). After 20 minutes or so, begin brushing the breast with the prepared glaze. Repeat at 10-15 minute intervals. 
  • After 60 minutes, begin checking the internal temperature of the breast. When your reading is 155-160 degrees, remove from the oven, tent loosely with foil, and cover with a towel. All the turkey breast to rest 15-20 minutes before slicing.
  • See the post for my “work flow” if coordinating all 3 dishes. Garnish with the reserved crumbled bacon, fresh herbs, orange slices, pomegranate arils, and any remaining glaze (I reheat it prior to drizzling). Enjoy!

The Glaze

  • In a small saute pan, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Crumble, and set aside to garnish the turkey.
  • Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the shallot and garlic. Cook until transparent but not browned.
  • Add the sherry, juice from the 2 oranges (don’t forget to zest them first!), pomegranate molasses, honey, and thyme sprig. Reduce by about 1/3. Pour through a strainer, add the butter, sea salt, and a few grinds of pepper.
  • Brush the turkey breast periodically with the sauce. Any remaining sauce can be reheated, and poured over the turkey breast prior to serving.

Notes

The prep/cook time does not include brining and drying in the refrigerator. I start this process at 9:00 am, and finish at 7:00 or so.
You can adapt this recipe to a bone-in turkey breast, but keep in mind the cooking time may be quite different. USE A MEAT THERMOMETER!
Pomegranate molasses is available in the “international foods” aisle of many markets. If you can’t find it, try this recipe or order it online.
You will now find Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Pecorino in its own post.

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com

🦃 More Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

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8 Comments

  1. I LOVE this, it’s all soooo helpful. Since we live far from family we usually do an Orphan Thanksgiving among friends, but we’ve talked about doing it just for us some year, but it always seemed like we were obligated to cook a HUGE feast even if it was just us. Thank you for the inspiration to do a party of two!!

  2. This is such an awesome post! It’s always tricky to find something fancy enough for Thanksgiving and Christmas when you are only cooking for two! It all looks amazing, will definitely save these!

    1. Thanks Betty! I agree there really isn’t much out there for small holiday “feasts.” This menu is quite approachable and easy to execute for two… Happy Thanksgiving!