Boneless, stuffed, rolled and roasted turkey breast fillet – this is a wonderful alternative to the drumsticks nobody wants and stuffing cooked in a tray.
Shall I just say one thing? This makes carving a doddle. I think that’s sold it now but if not, I’ll also say – this makes one oven perfectly sufficient for the roast, the potatoes and the vegetables. Plus you can still have the gravy (I would never leave anyone without gravy on Christmas Day) in a stress-free way.
Roll your own
They obviously sell the boned and stuffed turkey joints all over the place, but you and me, we aim higher. The stuffing in those ready-made things – even from the most respectable butchers – is meh at its best and hideous on average. The skin competes with bacon covering for primacy and the deftly tied up butcher’s string hides a multitude of little bits of random, non-turkey-breast-fillet sins.
We can do better than this.
It’s worth preparing the stuffing ahead of the game: you can even make it days in advance and freeze it, provided it thaws and comes to room temperature before spreading it over the turkey.
The recipe below is my favourite: it’s an everyone pleaser with the meat, the exotic flavour of mushrooms and enough chestnuts and breadcrumbs to fight the ‘too-meaty-stuffing’ critique.
It’s easy and I’m not ashamed of cutting some corners: ready cooked chestnuts? yes please. Minced pork? of course. Just make sure the pork is fatty enough not to turn out too dry – otherwise you’ll be spreading meatloaf over your turkey. Good stuffing should be made with good quality pork but broken down with bacon fat, starchy chestnuts and bread if needed.
How to get stuffing just right?
That’s why my tasting ceremony is so important – more than seasoning with salt and pepper, this is about the stuffing texture as you never know what the meat you’d bought is going to be like.
So fill a mini pie foil tin with the patty, bake it and taste – is it mushy and soft on the tongue? Is it too like a meatball pressed into a tin? In the latter case, your salvation is in breadcrumbs and the mushroom soaking liquid.
Once the stuffing’s done, it’s the challenge of the turkey fillet. But it’s really easier than it sounds.
How to flatten the turkey fillet?
Watch the video below; you’ll see I’ve cut this way and that. It’s really about getting a rectangle of turkey meat, as even as you can but without busting a gut and as in one piece as possible, but mind that it can be all tied together in the end – so really, don’t sweat about it.
Then spread the stuffing over the inside of the spreadeagled fillet, having salted both sides, and roll it up from the scragglier end, width wise, so you end up with the approximation of the original breast fillet. Pin it in place with meat pins if you have them, and the bacon will do the rest of the job.
Lay the rashers across the fillet and tuck them underneath – unless you have a fortuitously small turkey breast or abnormally long rashers, they won’t reach all around. No worries – kitchen string comes next. Place lengths across the rashers and tuck the ends underneath one side.
Turn the fillet over - very much like changing a baby’s nappy – and retrieve the string ends. Reposition, and tie up. That’s the job. Wasn’t too bad, was it?
How to roast boneless stuffed turkey roll?
Roasting seems tricky because you would not like the turkey breast to overcook, while the stuffing needs to be cooked through. The turkey won’t be pink - sorry. But the timing of 20 minutes per half a kilo will work for most turkeys (see note) and ovens, plus 20 minutes at high heat at the end.
It’s a reverse of what recipes usually tell you to do but it works in this instance: you want the roll to nearly cook while the bacon on top isn’t frazzled. It will get scorched to requirement at the last stage.
And rest the beast for half an hour while your potatoes and vegetables have the oven to themselves.
NOTE: Kelly bronze turkey and Norfolk black (that’s in UK) have much higher fat content and cook quicker. If your breast fillet comes from one of those posh birds, cut the roasting time to 18 minutes per 500g.