Roast Turkey with Quinoa Pilaf, Citrus-Poached Beets, and Beet Greens

Andrew Cox

Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA

This dish was a finalist in the Sodexo Recipes for a Better Tomorrow contest, held at the James Beard House in May 2011.


Brined Turkey:
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 tablespoon organic Vermont maple syrup
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 pounds Misty Knoll Farm turkey breasts
Poached Beets:
  • 4 red beets, greens removed, cleaned, and chopped (roughly chop the greens and reserve for sautéing)
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Roast Turkey:
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup water
Quinoa Pilaf:
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for sautéing the beet greens
  • 1 1/2 leeks, trimmed, split in half lengthwise, rinsed, and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 5 1/2 cups organic quinoa
  • 7 cups chicken stock, plus extra for deglazing
  • Peel from half of 1 lemon, cut into 2-inch strips
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
Pan Sauce:
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup water


To make the brine, bring the water to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan. Add the maple syrup, kosher salt, and black peppercorns and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the lemon juice, remove the brine from heat, and let cool. Transfer to a large sealable bag and add the turkey breasts. Let the turkey brine in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

To make the poached beets, put the beets in an 2-quart stockpot. Cover with the orange juice, white vinegar, water, and lemon juice. Add the kosher salt and bring to a boil. Simmer until the beets are tender, about 30 minutes. (A paring knife should slide in and out without resistance.) Transfer the beets to a sheet pan to cool, then remove their skins by rubbing them with a clean towel. Cut the beets in half, then cut each half into 8 to 10 wedges and reserve. Reserve the beet poaching liquid for later.

To roast the turkey, preheat a convection oven to 325ºF. Remove the turkey breast from the brine and rinse. Season with the kosher salt and ground black pepper. Place the turkey on a roasting rack in a roasting pan and pour 2 cups of cold water into the bottom of the pan. Roast the turkey until the internal temperature reaches 160ºF, about 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes, making sure the internal temperature reaches 165ºF.

While the turkey is roasting, make the quinoa pilaf: put the dried cranberries in the large mixing bowl. Bring a cup of the reserved beet poaching liquid to a boil, then pour over the dried cranberries. Let rest for 10 minutes, then strain. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a 4-quart rondeau over medium heat. Sauté the leeks until translucent. Add the quinoa and stir constantly it starts to toast, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, lemon peel, cranberries, kosher salt, and ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 17 minutes, or until the quinoa starts to get plump. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, remove the strips of lemon peel, and fold in the chopped parsley leaves. Set aside until needed.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in large skillet until it starts to lightly smoke. Add the reserved beet greens and stir continuously for 2 minutes. Add a tablespoon of the reserved beet poaching liquid and cover. Cook until the beet greens are wilted and just tender, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, add the sliced beets, and set aside.

To make the pan sauce, deglaze the roasting pan with a couple tablespoons of the reserved beet poaching liquid and chicken stock. Transfer the contents of the roasting pan to a 1-quart saucepan. Skim off any excess fat and discard. Bring to a boil. Mix the cornstarch with a tablespoon of cold water to make a slurry and add to the saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve for plating.

To serve, slice each turkey breast lengthwise, portioning them into two 2-ounce slices per person. Place a 1/4 cup of quinoa pilaf on a serving plate. Spoon a tablespoon of sautéed beet greens next to the pilaf. Place 4 to 5 beet slices on top of the greens. Arrange 2 slices of turkey breast next to the greens. Drizzle with pan sauce.


About 8 servings