Inspired by spring, I cook this tender pan-roasted turkey breast with asparagus in a bright sauce made with white wine, tangy feta cheese and fresh dill. If you forage, this is the perfect opportunity to use wild asparagus and chopped morels.
Cooking a wild turkey breast can be a little daunting, especially if you want to avoid the all-too-familiar dry breast meat. For this particular cut, I like to pan roast to ensure an evenly cooked, juicy piece of meat.
With large birds, I cut off the lower portion of each lobe. You will notice that the breast meat is thick towards the top, and then gets dramatically thinner towards the bottom. I cut the breast crosswise right where the meat begins to thin out, about two-thirds of the way down the breast. You can save those pieces, about the size of a large pheasant breast, for an entirely separate meal.
The reasoning is that breast meat won’t cook evenly if kept whole, unless you’re slow cooking or smoking it. By the time the upper portion reaches the target internal temperature the lower section is way beyond it, resulting in dry, over-cooked meat.
The recipe shown here uses the thick, top portion for pan roasting. I like to serve this over orzo pasta, but any starchy side or some sautéed mushrooms will work perfectly.
- 1 large (or 2 small) turkey breast(s)
- Salt and pepper
- 1-2 bundles of asparagus, woody ends trimmed or snapped off
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup turkey/chicken stock
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 2 tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
- Fresh chopped dill for serving
- Oil for cooking
Also works with
- Heat oven to 325 degrees.
- If you have a fatty bird and kept the skin on, use a sharp knife to score a cross-hatch pattern to release the fat and juices. Season generously on both sides with salt and pepper and make sure you also get under the skin. For best results, do this step 24 hours in advance.
- Add a teaspoon or more of oil to a large, cold sauté pan that is oven safe. Place the turkey skin side down. Turn the heat to medium-high. Let it sizzle and cook, undisturbed, until the skin crisps to a golden color (about 5 minutes). Flip and brown for another 3 minutes on the other side. If your turkey is skinless, you should brown it on both sides once the oil is hot. Work in batches if you’re using both breasts to avoid over-crowding if your pan is small. Remove and set aside.
- Turn the heat down and let it cool for a moment if it reached a smoking point. Add another splash of oil and sauté minced garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Deglaze with the white wine, scraping up bits at the bottom. Let it boil down to cook off the alcohol. Add the stock and continue to let it simmer for several minutes until it is reduced in half. Swirl in the butter and, once melted, add the asparagus and sprinkle in the feta cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
- Return the turkey to the pan, wedging it in the center with the asparagus around it and transfer the whole sauté pan to the oven.
- Cook the turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. This took me about 15 minutes for a turkey breast that was roughly 3 inches thick. Let the meat rest under foil until it reaches a final temperature of 155. Peel off the skin before slicing and serve with the asparagus and a generous sprinkle of chopped dill.