Can’t quit the herb cold turkey

Robin wanted me to title this one: “Not your Uncle Herb’s turkey sandwich.”


This week started out with me having an urge to bake some bagels. Part of my blog process, and one of my most often used sources for sandwich inspiration is google image search. I will often search to see examples of things that are like what I am attempting to make. My google search history is as full of sandwiches as I am.

A screenshot from Bruegger’s online menu.

I began with no real plan except I wanted to bake another batch of bagels and while searching around I was reminded of Bruegger’s.

If you’re not familiar, Bruegger’s Bagels is a sandwich chain in the United States (just shy of 200 locations) that specializes in bagel sandwiches. Twenty plus years ago, when my wife and I had just started dating, we enjoyed quite a few trips to our nearby Bruegger’s. Often, I think we both ordered a custom build-your-own bagel sandwich, but there was one sandwich on their specialties menu that we enjoyed from time to time.

From Bruegger’s Facebook page (this is not my photo). This is an official photo of the sandwich I’m attempting to copycat. Click for larger.

The Herby Turkey is a sliced roasted turkey sandwich with garlic and herb flavored cream cheese, sundried tomato spread, lettuce and red onions on a sesame bagel. I have no idea if the Herby Turkey is a good sandwich on Bruegger’s menu today because I haven’t eaten at one in more than fifteen years, but it is the bagel sandwich that I remember best from that period in my life. It also seemed like a fun sandwich to tackle for the blog.

Read along as I tell and show you how I made the ingredients in my version of the Herby Turkey bagel.

The bagels

I’ve only made four batches of bagels ever. My first batch (pictured down below) was a sourdough batch and since then I’ve tried two other recipes. The one that I’ve made the most (twice) is this easy bagel recipe from King Arthur Baking.

Bagels start out like regular bread dough but then shift to being similar to baking pretzels because there’s a short period of boiling prior to actual baking. For this King Arthur recipe, the only non-typical ingredient is non-diastatic malt powder. I bought this stuff from Amazon, but King Arthur’s recipe says that you can also use brown sugar or barley malt syrup which I have also used in a past recipe. I’m not sure that the difference was great enough to notice, but I want to do one more batch with the non-diastatic malt powder before I decide on that.

For this Herby Turkey recreation, I baked some sesame bagels and some plain ones.
Open says-a me!
This is the first batch of bagels I ever baked in early April 2020. These are from a sourdough recipe.

The Turkey

For this week’s sandwich I was at the store interested in buying a turkey breast and they were out. The local store I shop at (shout out to Cermak Produce on North Ave) usually has a great meat selection with lots of turkey options but this day they were cleaned out. Instead of a breast, I was able to buy bone-in turkey thighs. Sometimes you need to audible and change your plans.

If you want to replicate this sandwich or something like it, you can use the recipe below for a black pepper crusted turkey breast. This was the first time I had bought bone in turkey thighs or any sort of turkey thighs to cook. We have cooked whole turkeys and turkey breasts but never thighs alone. But since I enjoy cooking chicken thighs so much, I figured I’d give it a shot.

I googled some turkey thigh recipes online and narrowed it down to the oven-based ones. They all said somewhere between 350 F and 400 F and 50 to 70 minutes. I started at 400 and set an instant read thermometer and it took right around 55 minutes to get to 160 degrees F. Carryover cooking took it up to 165 after it was removed from the oven.

I let the thighs cool off, removed the bone, and then put them into the fridge for slicing when they had firmed up the next day.

Here’s my black pepper crusted turkey breast recipe, it’s great if you like pepper and it’s easy.

2 hours and 5 minutes
Oven roasted black pepper turkey

Super peppery turkey when cooked to temp is a very flavorful and moist addition to a sandwich. From a turkey, bacon club to a Kentucky Hot Brown (not an urban dictionary entry), this is a solid recipe to have bookmarked.

Get Recipe

The cream cheese

I never thought I’d be making my own bagels, much less whipping up my own cream cheese flavors.

Growing up in the Southeastern United States, I don’t think I had ever had a bagel sandwich with cream cheese on it until I was in my mid 20’s. I had certainly had bagels and cream cheese before, but not in an official sandwich role with meat and veggies.

Since then, I’ve become a pretty big fan of cream cheese in sandwiches and even hot dogs (cream cheese on a hot dog is a top tier condiment – but this discussion is for another sandwich, another week).

Sure, you can buy herb flavored cream cheese at most grocery stores, but I decided to make my own. Other than 50-ish minutes waiting for garlic to roast in the oven, this recipe is very simple to make.

1 hour
Roasted garlic herby cream cheese

Creamy with herby freshness and sweet roasted garlic, this spread is great on bagels or toast. You can even enjoy this on crackers as a snack.

Get Recipe

Sun dried tomato spread

Much like the flavored cream cheese, sun dried tomato spread is also very easy to make. It is also something you can buy at the store, so take that into account if you want to make this sandwich. Sun dried tomato spread is great on other sandwiches too. During the winter, you can substitute a regular tomato slice for sun dried tomato spread to step your off-season BLT game up.

5 minutes
Sun-dried tomato spread

This spread is great on a sandwich with cheese and meat. A bagel sandwiched with cream cheese on one side and sun-dried tomato spread on the other is fantastic.

Get Recipe

Put it all together

Let us assemble all this sandwich stuff. Here are all the ingredients in one photo ready for sandwiching.

All the pieces for my herby turkey inspired bagel sandwich.

Once you get all your ingredients together, I placed my sandwich parts into the following order from top to bottom:

  • top bagel slice
  • spread of sun dried tomato spread
  • sliced red onion
  • turkey slices
  • green leaf lettuce
  • big smear of garlic herby cream cheese
  • bottom bagel slice

BAGEL SANDWICH TIP: cut your bagel sandwich in half. This may offend some folks. I don’t know how they do it in NYC or Montreal but cutting a bagel sandwich in half could be the best thing you take away from this blog post. When you bite into a bagel sandwich, you’re biting down hard; a bagel isn’t the softest bread. A hard bite will shove and push your sandwich internals all around and potentially out of the sandwich. Cutting the bagel in half means you have less horizontal distance to shove ingredients out of your sandwich. Even if none of this totally real sandwich physics are true, having two smaller sandwich pieces will mean that there’s less sandwich internals to smush around.

Trust me: slicing your bagel sandwich in half is the way to go for maximum bagel sandwich enjoyment.

Cross section of one of my homemade herby turkey bagels.
Sandwich, ready for a close up.

Even if you don’t try to make any of these ingredients and instead buy them at the store, I certainly hope you’ll try a bagel with cream cheese and sun dried tomato spread. That combination would work with all sorts of meat and veggies and the chewiness of the bagel pairs well with soft spreadable cream cheese and tangy tomato spread.

Check back next week when I get crazy with potatoes and sandwiches.