DIY Turkey Roulades

DIY Turkey Roulades

I know, I know…BIG whole roasted turkeys are what Thanksgiving dreams are made of (and holiday movies too).  But to be honest, I just don’t want to commit my oven space for that many hours, with every other dish revolving around the holy turkey’s high-maintenance cooking schedule.  Also, I hate cleaning that bird.  It is a project I would rather not have to spend time on.  Even Black Friday shopping seems more appealing than plucking pin feathers and maneuvering around the hefty fowl.   That being said, I am more than happy with other turkey options that take less oven time, cook more evenly and have every bit as much of “fancy shmancy” presentation factor. Enter the Roulade!


Roulade is a French term for a rolled-up item – whether a jelly-roll type of cake or a thin piece of meat rolled around a filling. When sliced, a roulade has an impressive spiral look, suggesting that you must have slaved over it for hours (…shhh, its simple preparation will be our little secret!). Beautiful to the eye, this dish is well-suited for a tender cut of meat such as a boneless breast of veal (a.k.a. “veal brisket”) or a butterflied boneless turkey breast. On a smaller scale, a boneless chicken breast can also be butterflied and either rolled as a roulade or stuffed by creating a pocket. Your guests will enjoy a lovely presentation, with some yummy stuffing to boot – and who doesn’t like stuffing?

Butterflying is a method of cutting that opens up the breast via a center incision, cutting almost but not completely through the meat.

The two halves are then opened flat to resemble a butterfly shape.

Your butcher will be happy to do this for you upon request, but it is nevertheless a valuable skill to have and will give you the freedom to do as you wish without being reliant on the butcher’s availability.

Once butterflied, pounding the meat or poultry into an even thickness is essential for even cooking, having ample room to stuff and roll, and a tastier, more palatable end result to enjoy (no one likes to work that hard to swallow).

A side benefit to pounding is that you are both literally and figuratively stretching your meat – you can feed more people for the same money and with better results…that’s a win-win!

Spread an even layer of stuffing over the pounded turkey breast.  Then starting from the tender, roll inwards…

Carefully slide pre-cut pieces of twine under the roulade, tying at 2-inch intervals.

Tools for Success:

  • Use a sharp, straight-edged carving knife (not serrated) for smooth and easy cutting.
  • A meat mallet is great for pounding, but a heavy rolling pin will do the trick as well.
  • Use kitchen twine to tie up roulades. Cutting pieces of twine in advance is helpful in preventing cross-contamination of bacteria when dealing with raw poultry or meat.
  • Using a piece of plastic wrap below and above when pounding poultry or meat will also help prevent cross-contamination in your kitchen.
  • “Unfold” turkey tender flap before butterflying and pounding.

(Photography by Baila Gluck)


Truth is, roulades are great for Thanksgiving, but I think they are great for entertaining any time of the year!


Roasted Turkey Roulade with Smoky Apple Chestnut Stuffing

Roasting a turkey roast with its skin helps it retain moisture during cooking. This sweet and smoky stuffing can also be used with individual chicken breasts. The pastrami or beef fry in the stuffing lends an extra boost of flavor and spice to balance the sweetness of the apples.

 Note: Be sure to use a meat thermometer to ensure proper doneness without drying out the turkey.

 Yield: 10-12 servings



 2 (2 lb) turkey breast roasts with skin, butterflied


¼ cup olive oil plus more for rubbing

4 oz. thinly sliced pastrami or beef-fry

1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 very large or 2 small Fuji apples, peeled and chopped (2 cups)

1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 (5.2 oz.) package whole peeled and roasted chestnuts, chopped

3 Tbsp. apple liquor (or white wine)

4 slices day-old bread, crusts removed and cubed (about 2½ cups)

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage leaves

1 cup apple cider

Special materials: 12 (10”-12″) pieces of kitchen twine


To prepare the stuffing, heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high flame. Add the pastrami or beef fry to the pan and fry until crisp and shriveled, about 5 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the apples and season with 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Continue to sauté until the apples begin to soften, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chestnuts and sauté another 2 minutes. Add the apple liquor and stir to blend until the liquid is mostly absorbed (1 minute). Remove from heat. Dice the cooled pastrami or beef fry.  Add the bread, chopped sage, and chopped pastrami or beef fry, then toss together until the bread is moistened. Set aside to cool slightly.

(Do Ahead: The stuffing can be made 2 days ahead.)

Preheat oven to 450° F.

To assemble the roulades, place the turkey on a flat surface or cutting board and pound to an even ¼” thickness. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread half the stuffing over the turkey in an even layer. Fold the turkey tender in over the stuffing, then carefully roll the turkey breast, tucking the ends in if necessary, so that the skin is on top. Secure with toothpicks. Carefully slide the pre-cut kitchen twine under the rolled roast, tying each one closed at 2″ intervals. Repeat with second turkey breast.

Carefully place the tied roast on a rack in a medium roasting pan. Place in the oven to brown at 450° F for 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375° F, add the cider to the bottom of the roasting pan, and cover with foil. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until an inserted meat thermometer reaches 158° F internally. Remove from oven and allow the turkey to rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the Cider Sage Gravy (recipe below).

Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and use a sharp carving knife to remove twine and carefully slice the roulade crosswise. Arrange the slices on a platter and serve with gravy.


Cider Sage Gravy

1½ Tbsp. olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

2 Tbsp. flour

1 cup low-sodium chicken or turkey stock

1/3 cup apple cider

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1½ Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp. chopped fresh sage leaves


Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-high flame. Add the shallot and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the shallots and quickly whisk to blend, cooking for another minute until the flour is slightly colored. Add the stock, cider, mustard, and vinegar. Whisk to blend. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, simmering the gravy for 15 minutes, or until the mixture becomes thickened (it should be able to coat the back of a spoon). Season to taste with black pepper, and add salt if necessary. Remove from heat and stir in the sage. Serve hot, drizzled over the turkey.


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