Turkey breasts, whether from wild birds or domestic, farm-raised specimens can be notoriously dry if you cook them improperly or for too long. We sometimes roast a wild bird whole, first brining it for nearly a day and then using an oven browning bag to help hold in moisture. We add vegetables to the body cavity or to the bag to add to the moisture and flavor.
Even then, it’s possible to dry out the meat.
A few years ago, we began taking cues from chefs in cutlet-making and other preparation techniques designed to tenderize meat and allow flexibility in cooking. Since then, our rolled turkey breast roasts have become favorites. We’ve used everything from a cornbread stuffing to fruity mixes and more in our wild turkey “roll-ups” or “roulades.” Company always seems to enjoy this ham, cheese and spinach version. Preparation is relatively simple.
1 turkey breast, skinned and boned, removing all silver skin possible
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
¼ pound sliced ham (real ham — not a chopped reformulated cut)
¼ pound cheese (we use mix of provolone and Muenster)
1 large bunch fresh spinach
1 cup chopped mushrooms (optional, pick a favorite)
¼ cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste
5 or 6 slices of bacon
Using a meat mallet, pound out the breast to about ½-inch thickness. Tip: Save the inner bag from a cereal box. Place the meat in the bag before using the meat mallet. Alternatively, you can place the breast between two pieces of plastic wrap to make clean up easier.
Season both sides of the meat with poultry seasoning.
Wash and dry the spinach, removing any tough stems. Melt butter in a skillet, add onion and mushrooms, and cook over medium-low heat until soft and much of the liquid from the mushrooms has reduced. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
Lay the turkey breast on a cutting board. On the widest side, place slices of ham, provolone and Muenster cheeses, and the spinach/onion/mushroom mixture. Roll it up tightly, jelly roll style, and secure with toothpicks. Then, wrap with bacon. You can continue to use the toothpicks to hold it together or, if desired, use kitchen twine for a surer wrap.
Carefully transfer to baking dish with the seam side down and roast at 350 degrees until turkey is cooked. A meat thermometer should read 165 degrees. Much of the cheese will melt and ooze out, but it will mix with bacon and turkey drippings to create a sauce that can be spooned over the slices before serving. Of course, you can also use a favored gravy, too.
Let cool for several minutes before slicing.
Serve with roasted, seasoned winter vegetables, such as Brussel sprouts and butternut squash. A cranberry relish also makes a wonderful side dish. Serves 4-6 depending on the size of the turkey.
— Ken and Maria Perrotte