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Turkey Breast in White Wine Sauce

I realize that some readers are still preparing for Halloween, creating costumes and confections. While I am selecting recipes for confections for a neighborhood Trunk-or-Treat event, I like to begin to think about my Thanksgiving menu in October, and to begin tweaking or creating new recipes based on our planned gatherings. There are those years when Thanksgiving gatherings are smaller than usual, but you still desire a home-cooked meal with some of the traditional Thanksgiving Day flavors. “Food is memories,” as stated in Richard Morais’ book The Hundred-Foot Journey, and Thanksgiving Day meals of the past have left many of us with very particular, indelible family and flavor memories. Here is a method for enjoying some very traditional flavors, without fussing with a huge, whole turkey, if you would like to forego that production. Perhaps you would like to prepare turkey during other times of the year. Whether for Thanksgiving, another holiday or for a Sunday supper at any time of year, here is a recipe and technique that has served me well.

Turkey Breast in White Wine Sauce

Plan a quarter pound of poultry per person. Boneless, skinless turkey breast has no waste, and this braising method yields moist, tender turkey breast that can be carved beautifully every time.

2 and 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless turkey breast. I had a butcher cut one for me in one large half turkey breast portion, and then I cut it in half lengthwise. But, you can purchase those smaller 8-ounce portions at the supermarket, if you wish. The cooking time will be less, 45 minutes versus 1.5 hours for a large, intact half off bone turkey breast.

Turkey Breast in White Wine Sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brandy or cognac
  • 2 cups dry white wine or dry champagne
  • 1 cup turkey stock
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 and1/2 teaspoons dried sage leaves (if you are not a sage fan, you can use tarragon or thyme with very good results)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  1. Melt the butter in a 5 quart pot suitable for braising. I like enamel over cast iron for this purpose, and it must have a lid. Add the salted and peppered turkey at medium high heat and brown each side, about 6 minutes each side. You want to see some golden caramelization on the turkey.
  2. Remove the turkey to a platter. Turn off the heat, and add the cognac or brandy. Light the brandy flame with a safe fireplace lighter. Once the fire dies out, add the flour and herb, whisking til nearly smooth. Don’t worry about lumps at this point. Add the stock and wine or champagne and whisk until smooth over medium heat. It will smooth out nicely.
  3. Add back the turkey, place the lid on the pot, bring to just a boil and lower to simmer to braise for 45 minutes if you utilized the usual turkey breast portions found in the supermarket, or 1 and 1/2 hours if you have an entire half breast in two large portions.
  4. You can test for doneness by inserting an instant read thermometer into the thickest portion of the breast. If it registers 165, it is cooked properly.
  5. The beauty of this technique is, that the breast becomes moist, succulent, infused with wine, herb and stock flavor; and, even if you cook it a bit too long, the consequence is tat it will be falling apart tender and will not slice so attractively.
  6. After you remove the turkey, add 1/2 cup heavy cream to the pot, whisk, and adjust for salt and pepper.
  7. Allow the turkey to rest for 5-10 minutes, and then slice it and arrange on a platter. ladle some of the sauce over it. Garnish the platter. It is pretty garnished with fresh sage and orange slices.

This recipe was inspired by an old favorite of mine from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, with Sarah Leah Chase, Chicken Breasts in Champagne Sauce. This is a dish that I have served to dinner party guests often, because it is simple, delicious, and allows me some relaxation time with guests. You can use either a favorite white wine or champagne, your preference–I have prepared it with both with very good outcomes.

Dressing with Onions, Apples, Dried Fruits, and Nuts

Every family has its favorite, beloved Thanksgiving Day dressing recipe. In our Italian-American family, the dressing always included some browned, crumbled Italian sausage. Through the years, I have made many variations on bread dressing, sometimes with browned sage-flavored sausage, sometimes very Italian with roughly chopped prosciutto. But, for this year, I think that I am in the mood for an apple-dried fruits-nuts dressing, but with a twist. I always use good quality bread to make my cubed bread for dressing, but this year, I will use a very special rye bread made by a local Pastry Chef and Baker. This rye is incredibly flavorful, rich, and moist, and has a “secret” ingredient, which is sauerkraut! Here is the recipe that I created today.

  • 8 thick slices of good quality rye bread, cut into 1-inch cubes and toasted until dry in a 400-degree oven
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage leaves
  • 1 large sweet onion, coarsely diced
  • 1 cup large dice celery with leaves, if you have them
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced small
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins, dried cranberries, or chopped dried apricots, your preference
  • 2 and 1/2 cups stock
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, plus butter to butter the casserole dish
  • 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley
  1. Butter a minimum 2-inch deep, medium-size casserole and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a 12-inch, deep skillet and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the celery and the apple and sauté for just 2 or 3 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, and sage.


My sister, niece, and paternal cousins have been reminiscing about the Italian-American food traditions of our childhood, especially holiday traditions. We all recall that my father made the best turkey gravy ever–none of that pale yellow sauce. He created a rich, deep brown, full-flavored, savory, silky smooth gravy every time! He made his base stock from scratch. My dad was a very hard-working man with professional responsibilities, and he and his mom were raising five children.

But, this did not prevent him from taking over the kitchen frequently and cooking fantastic meals from scratch. I think that it was his real passion. He came from a family and a cultural tradition of creating handmade food from fresh, seasonal ingredients. and he believed in “the right” techniques. So, I come by my food philosophy honestly, learning by osmosis from my dad and then from other experiences.

The day prior to Thanksgiving, dad would brown turkey parts in his largest stock pot–remember those Silver Seal Dutch ovens that every family of the 1950s bought from the door-to-door salesman?

Dad used the largest oval Dutch oven to brown the turkey parts, add vegetables, aromatics, and water, and then simmered it for hours. The aroma would waft through the entire house, and dad would eventually chop up any gibbets and meat finely to add to his stuffing and the gravy. If we were lucky he’d smile and offer us a nibble. He always had plenty of stock to make gravy, to baste the turkey, and to flavor and moisten the stuffing before he tucked it into the turkey. He was a master at making a roux, which accounted for his silky smooth gravy. So, I learned some important basics from dad.

One of the tricks that I learned somewhere along the way in my culinary adventures, is to brown the turkey parts, carrots, and onions in the oven at a high temperature, which provides caramelization and brown fond on the bottom of the baking tray. When that tray is deglazed with white wine, it provides the basis for rich stock color and flavor. Here is my basic Homemade Turkey Stock recipe.

Homemade Turkey Stock Recipe

Makes approximately 4 cups of stock

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F

Homemade Turkey Stock Recipe
  • Olive oil to coat the turkey pieces and vegetable chunks
  • Several pounds of fresh turkey parts–backs, necks, wings (in my case, parts were scarce, and I settled for 3 pounds of legs)
  • 1/2 pound turkey giblets (hearts, gizzards, livers)
  • 1 pound of carrots, scrubbed and cut into large chunks
  • 2 large sweet onions, scrubbed, quartered
  • 3 ribs celery with leaves, cut into large chunks
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons peppercorns (I used the blend of green, black and pink)
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • a few sprigs each of fresh parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme if you have it.
  • 1 cup white wine
  • slosh brandy
  • 5 cups cartooned turkey stock.
  1. You will need a large rimmed baking tray and a 5 quart stock pot good for slow cook method.
  2. Coat the turkey parts and carrots and onions with olive oil and place on the baking tray.
  3. Roast for 30 minutes at 475, until you see lots of browning action and brown fond on the bottom of the tray.
  4. While the turkey parts are browning, place the cut up celery, giblets, herbs and seasonings into the stockpot.
  5. Add the turkey parts and vegetables to the stockpot.
  6. Place the baking tray over tow burners on medium-high heat and add a slosh of brandy and then 1/2 cup dry white wine to deglaze the pan. Scrap up the brown fond carefully with a wooden spoon, bubbling it over the heat for just 2-3 minutes.
  7. Carefully, pour the liquid into the stockpot.
  8. Add the cartooned turkey stock or water and stir.
  9. Bring the pot to just a boil and lower to simmer.
  10. Simmer for abut 1 and 1/2- 2 hours.
  11. Cool, ad then skim any excess fat off.
  12. Remove the turkey parts and the vegetable chunks to a large bowl.
  13. Strain the stock into a large container with a lid that seals. Refrigerate.
  14. Strip and chop finely the turkey meat and the giblets, if you like them, and save in a sealable storage bag to add to your gravy or stuffing/dressing, if you like.

This method produces a very concentrated, rich-in-turkey flavor, so when you reheat it on Thanksgiving Day to baste and moisten and flavor your dressing, you can add some additional cartooned stock if you need to do so to have the amount that you need. Just choose the best quality stock that you can source.

On Thanksgiving Day, when I roast the turkey, I always add a mound of chunks of carrot and onions beneath the turkey, as well as some wine, which then creates some additional stock as the turkey roasts. Some liquid in the roasting pan aids in keeping the turkey moist, as well. While my turkey rests, I will make a nice brown roux with butter and flour in order to thicken my gravy to the desired consistency. But, you will have to wait until the evening of Thanksgiving Day for my post about Roast Turkey with Sage, and all of the trimmings! My husband is currently snacking on the carrots and celery that were strained out of the stock!

Readers, please share your favorite tips for roasting succulent turkey, for creating a great gravy or memorable side dishes! You can use the Comments box below!

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