Just the two of you for the holidays this year? Why not do A Cozy Thanksgiving Dinner For Two, and skip the restaurant? A lovely Citrus and Herb Roasted Turkey Breast accompanied by Shaved Roasted Brussels with Pecorino and Pancetta and Herbed Farro Dressing with Butternut Squash, Dried Cherries, and Pecans covers the flavors of the season with elegant flair! And it’s healthy too!
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.
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 Tucson, Minneapolis, and 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 citrus/herb 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!
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, I have 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. 😀
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!
Since this is my first attempt at including 3 recipes in one post, I would LOVE your feedback on how user-friendly it is… Of course I’d love for you to try the recipes too. This 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.”
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!
My 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).
Citrus and Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
Moist, tender, and full of flavor... This boneless turkey breast roast gets a citrus-herb brine and a lovely pomegranate and citrus glaze!
- 3 quarts cold water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 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
- 2 slices thick, lean bacon
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 tsp garlic
- 1/4 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
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- a few grinds pepper
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!
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.
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!
Herbed Farro Dressing with Butternut Squash, Dried Cherries, and Pecans
Lots of healthy, Thanksgiving flavor in an easy-to-prepare stove top dressing!
- 2 cups butternut squash cubed (see notes)
- 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 tsp garlic minced
- 1 cup farro rinsed
- 3 cups broth/stock
- 1 generous sprig fresh thyme
- 1 tsp sea salt/fresh ground pepper or to taste
- zest of 2 oranges save oranges for the turkey sauce
- 1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
- 1/4 cup pecan pieces toasted
Toss the cubed root veg with a drizzle olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet. Roast until tender but not soft when pierced with a fork. You want a bit of browning.
While the veg roasts, start the farro. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a medium saucepan or small dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Add the shallot and garlic. Cook until fragrant and beginning to soften. Add the farro. Stir to coat with oil.
Add the broth/stock, sprig of thyme, salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Remember to check seasoning prior to serving!
After 15 minutes, add the orange zest, and dried cherries. Toast the pecans and set aside.
When the farro grains are al dente (firm to the bite), drain any remaining liquid. Pull out the thyme sprig, toss the roasted butternut squash and toasted pecans, and cover until you're ready to plate.
Cubed butternut squash is widely available in markets now, and is a huge time saver. Check the package carefully for freshness!
As I mentioned in the post, feel free to substitute pumpkin, golden beets, sweet potato, dumpling squash, etc. for the butternut squash. Just make sure it's roasted to tender but not soft. This process takes 20-40 minutes depending on the size of the pieces and the variety of root vegetables used.
I typically roast vegetables at 400 degrees (375 convection). Since you're likely roasting a turkey, you can roast them at the turkey temperature. It will probably take about 30 minutes. They get added into the dressing just prior to serving, so the timing works out fine.
I use Bob's Red Mill Organic Farro. The suggested cooking time of 30 minutes works well with the rest of the menu. If you're waiting on your other dishes, simply drain the farro, toss in the roasted butternut squash, toasted pecans, and cover to keep warm.
Roasted and Shredded Brussels with Pecorino and Pancetta
- 1 pound brussels sprouts sliced thin or shredded (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil to drizzle
- 2 ounces pancetta chopped
- 2 ounces pecorino (see notes)
- sea salt/fresh ground pepper
Toss the sliced or shredded brussels with olive oil, pancetta, sea salt, and pepper.
Roast until edges are dark brown, and thicker parts yield to the fork. They should not be soft. Taste for seasoning.
Shave or grate the pecorino over the brussels. Enjoy!
I tried shredding the brussels in my food processor, and they were too fine IMHO. I loved the results when I sliced each brussel sprout by hand as thin as I could comfortably get them.
Prosciutto is another good option (in place of pancetta). I use 5 thin slices, and chop it up, then toss it with the sliced brussels.
Pecorino is supposed to be sheep's milk, but there are impostors out there. Be sure to use a good, aged hard cheese. Parmesan and asiago will also work.
The brussels can go into the oven when the roasted root veggies come out. Since the turkey needs to rest, you should have plenty of time to get everything done and ready to serve in about 2 hours.