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Culinary Spotlight: Not Your Traditional Holiday Turkey

When it comes to holiday dinners, turkey is the focal point of the meal. Check out this different turkey recipe from Mezzaluna’s Joe Brunner.

A turkey recipe from Joe Brunner from Mezzaluna

Photo by Hillary Ehlen

When it comes to holiday dinners, turkey is the usual choice as the focal point of the meal. Growing up, turkey was never my favorite part of the meal. I usually would go to the other end of the table to grab heaping amounts of canned cranberry sauce and grandma’s mashed potatoes. As I started to get more into cooking while growing up, I kept trying to get my hand in the kitchen during holidays to try and help cook and maybe make something of my own. But once I graduated culinary school, my family let me finally cook the turkey. It still never turned out the way that I wanted. But after a few roasted turkeys that turned out a little too dry, I have found the best way to get a juicy and flavorful turkey for the holidays.

Usually the staple way to cook the turkey is to throw it in the oven at a high temperature initially and then turn it down and cook it for hours. When the turkey sits in the oven for hours on end, it will tend to dry out. To avoid the dry turkey, there are a few steps to take. First, start off by removing the leg quarters on each side and reserve them to make roulades. Then, brine the whole turkey in a salt and sugar solution to tenderize the meat. And finally, when roasting the turkey, keep the oven at the high temperature, which helps cook the bird quickly and give it a deep, brown color on the outside.

A roulade is a stuffed and rolled piece of meat. Think of it as a Swiss Roll, but instead of chocolate, this one is made with turkey. With turkey roulades, you won’t be able to eat turkey any other way after trying these. The most moist and flavorful part of the turkey is the legs for sure, but then filling it with an herbed filling and then poaching it to slowly develop its flavor will bring it to another level.

Holiday traditionalists might go against not doing the same old roasted turkey, and not being able to see this huge whole turkey come out of the kitchen on a platter might be a disappointment, but hopefully this recipe will change their mind.



  • 1 (15-20 lb) turkey, split into three (crown and two leg quarters)
  • 2 gallons water
  • 2 cups salt
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • ½ cup black peppercorns
  • 2 lemons



  • 1 lb of ground turkey
  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Butcher’s twine
  • Plastic wrap


  • Boil water, salt, sugar, peppercorns and garlic. Cool and pour over top of turkey, citrus and bay leaves. Let sit for 24 hours.
  • Remove turkey from brine and let air-dry in the fridge for another four hours or until the skin is tacky.
  • Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Separate the brined legs and thighs. Set aside the thighs, and add legs to sheet tray with the turkey crown. Put the pan into the pre-heated oven.
  • Make Mousseline filling for the roulade. Set up food processor and add in ground turkey. With processor running, add in the rest of the ingredients until the mixture is smooth. Cool.
  • Assemble the roulades. Heat up a large pot with water, insert a thermometer and heat until it reaches 180 degrees (or, if available, set a sous vide machine to 180). Lay the thigh flat on the table. Spoon filling on top of the thigh meat (try not to overfill) and roll each thigh around the filling to make a tight bundle. Tie off with 2 sets of butchers twine. Then wrap the roulade with plastic wrap until airtight and twist the ends with twine. Add roulades into the water bath to poach for 45 minutes. Remove from water, throw away plastic and pat dry. To finish the roulades, cook with clarified butter in sauté pan over high heat. Cook until thermometer reaches 165 degrees.
  • To present, remove cooked crown from the oven, fabricate breasts out of the bone and slice roulades into discs. Put both onto a platter and serve with a gravy.

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Joe Brunner

Written by Joe Brunner

South Fargo native Joe Brunner is the co-owner and executive chef at Fargo dining staple Mezzaluna.

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