Don’t be intimidated by the “en cocotte” portion of the title. It’s just French for “cooked in a covered pot that you can also use for serving.” An alternative translation is: How to cook a really good turkey breast the lazy way; no overnight brine, no basting, nothing.
A quick note before we talk about the ins and out of this recipe: Anyone who knows me, understands how very much I hate the word “moist.” (I refer to is as “the ‘M’ word.”) Even saying it in my head feels wrong. I’m not alone here, I know, but I do feel that I have a particularly strong reaction, which made my search for the easiest turkey cooking method particularly grueling. Because it’s damn near impossible to read a blog post, watch a video, or see a cooking show about poultry without people shouting it from the rooftops.
But figuring out this recipe made it all worth it! And I promise you, this is the easiest route to not-dry turkey.
I first learned about cooking “en cocotte” from an episode of Cook’s Country. They made “French Chicken in a Pot” and I wanted to try it with turkey. I’ve also wanted to make a version of the famous Greek Avgolemono Soup, which is broth thickened with a cooked grains and egg yolks, but soup isn’t always psychologically satisfying as a meal, you know?
Instead, I used the broth and egg yolks to thicken the grains instead of the other way around.
A couple of cooking notes:
After roasting the turkey, there should be about 1/4 of an inch of liquid at the bottom of the Dutch oven. If there isn’t, add another 1/4 cup of stock before cooking the couscous.
The only extra step in this recipe is to blend together some broth, egg yolks, and lemon juice to add to the cooked couscous. I really recommend using a blender EVEN THOUGH it’ll dirty another appliance. If you don’t get a really good emulsion of the liquids, you can end up with scrambled eggs rather than a rich, thick sauce over your couscous.
The oven temperature (275!) will seem very low and it is. But the Dutch Oven with a lid and an extra layer of foil really seals in the heat and moisture and cooks the turkey despite the low oven temperature. Our oven runs very hot, so I actually set it 10 degree lower.
The only downside to this cooking method is that the steam softens the turkey skin. If you like crispy skin, just strip it off and seer it on a really hot skillet to crisp it back up.
I love serving this with a quick tzatziki sauce.
Lemon and rosemary turkey and couscous en cocotte
1 bone-in turkey breast, about 2 ½ lbs
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 small onion (or ½ of a large onion), chopped
4-5 extra large garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced (or 1 tsp dried)
1½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
4 cups low sodium chicken stock or water, divided
3 cups Israeli couscous
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup lemon juice (juice of 2 large lemons)
Preheat the oven to 275.
In a large Dutch oven or oven safe pot with a lid, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Seer the turkey breast on the top, bottom, and both sides, adjusting the heat if the turkey browns too quickly or if the oil starts to spit uncomfortably. When browned all over (this should take about 10 minutes), remove to a plate.
Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to the same Dutch oven and heat over a medium low flame for a few seconds. Saute the onion until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the rosemary, smoked paprika, and salt. Cook for 1 minute more until fragrant.
Turn off the heat.
Add the turkey back to the pan. Cover the top of the Dutch oven tightly with a large piece of tin foil and then top with the lid.
Bake for 1 hour. Check the internal temperature of the turkey with a thermometer in the thickest part. When the thermometer reads 165, the turkey is done. If the turkey isn’t up to temperature yet, return it to the oven and check it every 5-10 minutes to avoid overcooking.
While the turkey is cooking, blend together 1 cup of chicken stock, 2 egg yolks, and 1/3 cup of lemon juice. Set aside.
When the turkey is done, remove the Dutch oven and carefully take off the tin foil from its top (watch the steam!). Remove the turkey to a plate or cutting board and cover tightly with the tin foil. Let rest.
Add 3 cups of stock to the turkey cooking juices in the Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Add the couscous, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until the couscous has absorbed all of the stock. (Check after 4 minutes to make sure the couscous isn’t cooking too fast or sticking too much. If it is, turn down the heat.)
When the liquid is absorbed, add the broth/ egg yolk/ lemon juice combination. Stir it into the couscous and bring the mixture back to a boil. Once it boils, turn off the heat and stir a few more times.
Slice the turkey and serve with the couscous.
Yield: 5-6 large servings