Galley Recipe: Spice-Rubbed Roast Turkey

Celebrating a holiday aboard? Try this easy, tasty turkey recipe.

December 14, 2020
turkey dish
An adaptable feast Lynda Morris Childress

While cruising aboard our Tayana 58 in Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean in recent years, we managed to weather several hurricanes as well as ­countless storms that approached our harbors. Once it appeared that a storm might impact us, if there was time, meal planning began in earnest, so when it was time to hunker down or move off the boat for safety reasons, we’d already eaten our way out of the freezer. One year, I devised this recipe for a small, whole turkey. It provided plenty of food to weather a storm: After a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, we used the leftover meat for turkey hash, turkey sandwiches and turkey soup.

The recipe below is a scaled-down ­version, using turkey parts. For a whole small bird, double the quantities of all other ingredients. For holidays aboard without a crowd, a spice-rubbed, split turkey breast or a few turkey thighs are simple to cook in a cast-iron pan that goes right into the oven to finish roasting. Don’t forget to pick up some stuffing mix, cranberry sauce and a vegetable of your choosing, and you’ll have an easy and wonderful holiday meal—or roast a whole bird for a storm turkey dinner that will provide plenty of comfort and nourishment until the tempest passes.

Spice-Rubbed Roast Turkey

Spice Rub

  • 3/4 tsp. coriander seeds, ground
  • 2 tsp. salt, coarse or kosher
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Herb Butter

  • 3-4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/8 cup fresh sage, chopped (or more, to taste)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • 1 turkey breast, split; or 2-3 turkey thighs (about 2-3 pounds total)
  • 2 large shallots or 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 1 orange, cut into eighths

Serves 2 to 3.


Spice Rub: In a small pan, over low heat, toast the coriander seeds, cool, and then coarsely grind with a pepper mill or mortar and pestle; add salt and pepper and mix. Season the turkey breast and/or thighs with the rub. (Save and store what you don’t use!)

Herb Butter: In a small bowl, combine the softened butter and sage, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Lift the skin off the turkey, and spread butter mix underneath. Brush the outside of the turkey pieces with melted butter.

Turkey: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat a lightly oiled cast-iron pan on the top of the stove. Lightly brown the turkey on both sides, and briefly remove from the pan. Add the shallots (or onion) and orange pieces to the pan, and place the turkey, skin side up, over them. Place the pan in the oven to roast for approximately 45-60 minutes; internal temperature should read 165°F. The spice-rub crust will be rich brown. Let rest 15-20 minutes before serving; if you wish, ladle some buttery, delicious pan juice over each portion.


Preparation: At Anchor

Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Difficulty: medium


Cook’s Notes

Depending on your marine oven, a 10- to 12-inch cast-iron pan should fit, otherwise use a 9-by-12-by-2-inch roasting pan. If you can’t find coriander seed, use ground coriander, but you’ll lose a bit of the lovely crust. No fresh sage? Use dried.


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