“Leftover” Turkey Roll

featuredBefore we get started talking about roasting meat and poultry, let’s talk about thermometers. As I’ve said several times before, there are a lot of ovens out there that don’t keep proper temperature. A five dollar oven thermometer is worth your time and will help you avoid over- and under-cooking your food.

A good meat/poultry thermometer is just as important. Unless you’re a master chef who can simply touch a piece of meat and tell doneness, you need one. The thermometer I’ve come to love is this one.


It has a probe with a long cord. So you stick the probe in the meat, thread the cord through the door and either stick the magnetic meter to the outside of your oven door or simply put it on the counter. You can set an alarm to tell you exactly when your meat reaches a particular temperature. Which means you don’t have to open the oven door, and that will keep the heat in and your meat from drying out.

OK, lecture over. Back to the recipe…

Being married to and knowing many Europeans I’ve come to realize how very American leftovers are. Try asking for a doggie bag in Rome or Stockholm or Dublin. Go ahead. I dare you. That said, having lived in the U.S. for some time now, my husband has not only gotten used to leftovers, he loves them. Given certain circumstances, he expects them.

My brother George and I split the holiday cooking–I do Christmas and Greek Easter and he does Thanksgiving. Now George has a much bigger crowd for Thanksgiving than I have for Christmas, so from the beginning–to Ken’s horror–there have never been any leftovers. No turkey sandwich at midnight… So a few years back I started making a small turkey roast so there was a little something in the fridge for sandwiches in the days after the holiday. Last year I got the bright idea to roll light and dark meat together and a new tradition was born.

This doesn’t work so well if you’re serving people who only want light or dark meat. But for those who like a little of both, it’s great. It’s perfect for a small crowd. Much easier to deal with–in my mind at least–than even the tiniest whole turkey. The bird, the brine–everything can be made on the day. The roast and brine are small enough to fit in a bowl in the refrigerator, which should take the worry out of it for folks who freak out over having poultry in a bucket in the garage no matter how cold it is. And that brings me to my second lecture for the day,–before you go shopping and get started with all the cooking, take a moment to clean out your refrigerator.

If you want to make it as easy as possible on yourself, have the butcher debone and butterfly your turkey. Then all you’ll have to do is roll it together. Be sure to ask them to give you the bones–they’re going to weigh the meat and charge you before they take the bones out, so you might as well make stock with them. It’s not a bad idea to call and order the meat deboned in advance. Sometimes they don’t have time to do it–or simply don’t want to–when it’s super busy. But if you wind up with bone-in poultry, don’t fret. As long as you have a really sharp knife (and you should) it’s not hard. Your slightly flawed butchering skills won’t show in the final product.

“Leftover” Turkey Roll (makes approximately 4 half pound (225g) servings)

I used a half breast, but you could use a whole breast and another thigh or two and serve more people.

To plan ahead… I would either brine this early in the morning, remove it from the brine and refrigerate it until ready to roast, or brine it the day before and have it ready to go.

1/2 turkey breast, deboned, about 1.5 lbs. or 675g
2 turkey thighs, deboned, about 1.5 lbs. or 675g
1 gallon (4 liters) water
1/2 cup (120ml) table salt or 3/4 cup (180ml) Morton’s kosher salt or 1 cup (240ml) Diamond kosher salt
4 Tbsp. (60ml) unsalted butter, room temperature
Minced Herbs–I used sage, thyme and parsley, about 1 heaping Tbsp. (15ml) of sage, and thyme combined and a small handful of parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

8 or so pieces of kitchen twine, cut into strips long enough to wrap around the roast–this should be string appropriate for food prep, not something used for gift wrapping, etc.

Roasting pan with rack or baking sheet with rack.

Aluminum foil

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C degrees.

If deboning the turkey… Use a sharp knife, follow the line of the bone, slowly cutting and scraping until the meat comes away. Take your time.


Either use the bones in stock right away or freeze for later.

Regarding the skin…

  • You can take it off completely if you want a lighter meal
  • You can leave it attached to the breast and remove it from the thighs
  • You can remove it from all three and wrap the roll with the skin so the whole thing is covered–what I did

Butterfly the breast by cutting it through the middle within an inch of the opposite side and folding it open like a book. It will be slightly irregular. Don’t worry about it.

Place the butterflied breast between two sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper and pound with a meat mallet until uniformly flattened. Do the same with the thighs.



Place the thighs on top of the breast.breastandthigh

Starting at one of the longest ends, roll the roast together.



If using the skin, take the pieces and cover the roast on both sides.


Take the twine and slide it under the roast and make a knot every 2 inches or so. You will probably need to rearrange the skin and roll a few times as you do this, but it holds together pretty well.



In a bowl or pot big enough to hold the turkey and the brine, mix the water with the salt until the salt is completely dissolved. You can do this in cold water. If you use hot water you will need to let the water cool before adding the turkey.

Add the turkey to the bowl/pot with the brine. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours.


Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel. Be thorough.

Mix the softened butter with the minced herbs and a few grinds of black pepper. Reserve a quarter of the mixture and put it aside. Spread the rest over both sides of the roast. Do not dip fingers that have touched the raw turkey into the portion of the mixture you’ve reserved.


Preheat your oven to 350F/175C degrees and move the rack to the lower third of the oven. Oil your roasting rack so the turkey doesn’t stick.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Make sure the pan is good and hot before adding the roast. Toss a bit of water on the surface to see if it sizzles.

Add the roast to the skillet and cook about 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Have a piece of aluminum foil at the ready–the moisture from the turkey can cause splattering so you might need to cover it as it cooks.


Transfer the roast to the roasting rack, insert thermometer probe (if using) and put the roast in the oven.


Cook until the roast reaches an internal temperature of 160F/71C degrees. Remove the roast from the oven, remove the probe. Coat with the last of the butter/herb mixture. Tent with foil and let rest for 20-30 minutes.


Slice and serve. This would be great sliced thin and made into sandwiches with my Stuffing Bread.