How to Salt-Roast Turkey
My love for salt was kindled at a young age. I spent summers with my grandfather in the Florida Panhandle, fishing and swimming in the bay behind his house. My favorite thing to do was to dive as far down as possible and fill my mouth with the cold, briny water; I'd hold my breath as long as I could before shooting to the surface. I'd float for a minute, my taste buds tingling, before taking a deep breath and doing it all over again. As a chef, I treasure those Florida summers as the first moments I began to fall in love with food and, most profoundly, with salt.
Arguably the most versatile ingredient in any pantry, salt has capabilities far beyond seasoning. This recipe for Salt-Roasted Turkey Breast honors salt not only as an ingredient, but also as a tool. Salt-roasting is a technique that is often employed to keep lean fish moist while roasting; the mixture of salt and egg whites forms a nearly airtight crust when baked, locking in moisture and flavor. It works the same magic with turkey. Whereas traditional methods for roasting turkey tend to yield dry white meat, salt-roasting delivers an incredibly juicy breast that's perfectly seasoned to the bone, with no brining required. And though I'm a fan of salt in all its forms, from fine sea salt for baking to flaky sea salt for a finishing touch, coarse kosher salt is the best bet here to ensure maximum coverage at a reasonable cost.
There's also a helpful side benefit of salt-roasting: The crust keeps the turkey warm up to 30 minutes, freeing the oven for last-minute sides. When it's finally time for dinner, crack open the salt crust tableside to share the complete experience of salt-roasting with your dinner guests, and then whisk the bird away to the kitchen for carving. Watching their expressions as the steam rises from the crust and the aroma fills the room will help you appreciate the magic of salt in a whole new way.
Salt-Roasted Turkey Breast How-To
1. Remove Backbone
Using poultry shears or a sharp knife and beginning at tail end, cut along each side of backbone, separating backbone from turkey.
2. Flatten Turkey Breast
Turn turkey breast side up. Press palms firmly against breastbone until it cracks and turkey breast flattens slightly.
3. Make Salt Mixture
Stir together salt and egg whites until combined. Gradually stir in water until mixture resembles damp sand.
4. Prepare Skillet
Place 2 cups salt mixture in a small mound in a cast-iron skillet, leaving a 2-inch border around perimeter. Top with shallots and herb sprigs.
5. Encase Turkey
Add turkey to pan, breast side up. Cover turkey completely with salt mixture; insert thermometer, and firmly press and smooth salt to seal.
6. Crack Salt Crust
Roast turkey as directed. Using a spoon, crack and remove salt crust. Remove turkey skin, and carve turkey as desired.