Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
Turkey roasting in the oven – is there any scent more evocative of the fall season, the bounty of the harvest, the abundance of autumn? Nothing makes me give thanks faster than a plateful of turkey, dressing and buttery mashed potatoes. Like most folks this time of year, I start pulling out the recipes handed down to me from parents and grandparents, shopping for obscure ingredients and craving foods I eat only once a year. For one dazzling moment, pomegranate seeds, butternut squash, and marshmallows live together on my plate, all as a complement to the bird, the one I lovingly tended for most of the day, basting and seasoning to perfection.
Turkey, especially when it’s done well, is a special treat worth the mountain of dishes and piles of mess it produces. With friends and family on hand to keep me company during the aftermath of the feast, I hardly mind the work. A cozy kitchen and a sink full of suds is actually a relaxing way to end the holiday.
The same cannot be said, however, during the other 364 days of the year. On any day other than Thanksgiving, the monumental amount of cleanup involved in roasting a turkey usually means that there’s just no feasible way for me to make an off-season feast. I have recently discovered, however, a pretty good way to make a reasonably moist and tasty version in the slow cooker. And while it lacks the crispy skin and impressive presentation of the holiday bird, it more than makes up for its lack of fanfare with its lack of dishes.
This Crock-Pot recipe is for a turkey breast, rather than a whole bird. At our house we are mostly white-meat fans though, so that works out just fine. A simple spice rub and a squeeze of lemon give it a bright flavor, and the long cooking time over low heat means there is little risk of dry, sawdust-like turkey. There are even a few drippings at the end of the day, and supplemented with a little broth it makes a decent gravy.
A turkey breast makes enough dinner for five or six hungry people, with enough leftovers for a tasty sandwich or two the next day. Since the flavor of this particular seasoning combination is a little different from the traditional bird, I like to mix up the sides when I make this for a weeknight meal. Roast potatoes or other root veggies are great on the side, as is an old-school rice pilaf. When I’m looking to eat lighter, this lean and tasty bird is great with a simple green salad or some steamed veggies and sliced fruit.
This time of year is a perfect time to grab a few bone-in turkey breasts at the supermarket and stash them in the freezer for use in the months to come. If you happen to be preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for just a few people, this makes a nice amount of food and gives you minimal fuss in the kitchen. On the other hand, if you’re feeding a crowd and need to supplement your white-meat offerings, this is a wonderful way to increase the number of servings you can offer without roasting two turkeys. It’s a bountiful feast with less fuss, and that’s something worth being thankful for.
Turkey Breast in Slow Cooker
Bone-in turkey breast, 4-5 pounds, thawed
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Combine thyme leaves, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper with olive oil to make a thick paste. Cut onion and lemon in half and place in bottom of slow cooker. Rub turkey breast with seasoning and olive oil mixture, then place in slow cooker atop onion and lemon. Cook on low for about six hours. When cook time is over, remove turkey from slow cooker and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
Did you know?
To make this recipe (and others you make in your slow cooker) even easier to clean up, grab a slow cooker liner before you load the crock. These plastic bags are designed to lock in moisture and heat, while preventing any chance of sticking or mess during a long cook time. Liners are available at supermarkets and discount stores and online. Simply line your slow cooker with the bag, seal it as directed after placing your ingredients inside and place the lid of the slow cooker on top as usual. When you’re finished with your meal, simply drop the bag in the trash. No muss, no fuss.