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Recipe Swap: Smaller meat cuts for smaller families

A stuffed turkey breast is a way to enjoy a Christmas food 
tradition if a whole bird is too much for your smaller brood

sliced turkey

If you have a big extended family squeezed around the dining table next week, you’re blessed.

The large, blood-relative family event seems to be going the way of the grandfather clock.

Many extended families don’t gather as they once did at Christmas. Part of the reason is family members live farther apart nowadays. They can be outside the country, or otherwise so far away travel becomes prohibitive. Busier lives and conflicting schedules, priorities and obligations often make getting together tricky or downright impossible.

Households are smaller too. Slightly more Canadian couples now have no children compared with those that do, according to the 2011 Census of Population. There are more lone-parent families, and many single-person households today.

Christmas dinner with the relatives ceases in many families for another reason — the female relative with the time, energy and skill to make it happen declaring she’s had enough. If no one else is bossy and organized enough to take over, the tradition ceases. Then we all just stay home and “cocoon” in our smaller family unit.

The long and short of it is Christmas dinner is a quieter, smaller-group affair for more of us than it used to be.

What does that mean for food traditions? For one, the hefty traditional Christmas pudding isn’t so popular anymore. Smaller gatherings can’t finish one.

What about a whole turkey? If fewer dads wear mom’s apron and carve for big broods, are Canadians switching their meat preference too?

No, says Wendy Harrisko, marketing and communication co-ordinator for Manitoba Turkey Producers. Whole birds remain popular and sales are strong this time of year. But her organization is paying attention to this trend toward smaller gatherings. That’s why it now promotes recipes for smaller cuts, such as the breast only.

“The whole turkey is still popular,” she says, “but we do know that family dynamics have changed, and recognize smaller gatherings aren’t necessarily going to eat whole birds.”

I wish you a wonderful Christmas spent with family and friends, no matter how lavish or intimate your holiday gathering is. Here are two stuffed turkey breast recipes, compliments of Chef Jason Wortzman and Granny’s Poultry (Manitoba) Cooperative Ltd.

Rustic Italian Stuffed Turkey Breast

  • 1 whole Granny’s seasoned boneless turkey breast, thawed
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. Pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 c. fennel, diced
  • 1/4 c. green onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c. homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 c. crusty Italian bread, cubed
  • 3 tbsp. fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c. homemade or low-sodium chicken stock (onlyrequired for slow cooker method)

Sauté bacon in oil until just crisp. Add butter, fennel, onion and garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add stock and then transfer to a mixing bowl. Add bread cubes, parmesan, salt and pepper and mix until stock is absorbed. Make a cut in the top of the turkey breast from one end to the other, not cutting all of the way through. Create a large pocket in the turkey breast by cutting a slit further on each side. Place the stuffing mixture into the pocket.

Oven Method:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place the breast on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the stuffing area with a greased piece of foil. Bake for 40 minutes, remove foil and continue baking for another 20 minutes or until it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 170 F. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Slow Cooker Method:
Place the breast in a slow cooker and add 1/4 cup of stock beside the breast. Cook on low setting for a minimum of 4-1/2 hours.

Recipe courtesy of Chef Jason Wortzman, Granny’s Poultry Cooperative (Manitoba) Ltd.

Serves 4 to 6.

Turkey Breast Stuffed with Brie and Cranberry

  • Granny’s Seasoned, Boneless Turkey Breast, thawed
  • 3 oz. brie, chopped
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c. slivered almonds
  • 1/8 c. green onion, chopped
  • 1/8 c. egg white

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine brie, cranberries, almonds, onion and egg white in a bowl. Cut a large pocket in turkey breast. Stuff the brie and cranberry mixture into the pocket. Place the breast on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the stuffing area with a greased piece of foil. Bake for approximately 45 minutes until meat reaches a minimum internal temperature of 170 C. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Preparation time: 5 minutes.
Cooking time: 45 minutes.

Serves 4 to 5.

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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