Monday, January 4, 2010


Pity the poor turkey. For one bright shiny November day it is fussed over, cosseted, the main topic of conversation and culinary concern -- the glistening, mahogany skinned behemoth lording over the Thanksgiving feast like Gulliver and the Lilliputians. Then for the other 364 days of the year it's pretty much relegated to the "I'm watching what I eat" category, a bland, dry mass reluctantly chosen solely for its low-cal, high protein status. Think about it -- even in a club sandwich turkey is the weakest link. Ditch it and add some avacado. Live a little.

Ahh, but remember Myrtle Allen and her Ballymaloe House in Ireland? If not yet cannonized as the patron saint of turkeys, Myrtle should at least be beatified, her Turkey White - Turkey Brown is as close to a miracle as a turkey's going to get. This transformative party dish is a revolutionary concept presenting the white meat and dark meat side by side in rich, individual sauces. Lemony cream sauce for the breasts, a rich bourguignon-style treatment for the dark.

To really do justice to Turkey White - Turkey Brown, you'll need two matching baking dishes. Corningware white is perfectly sufficient (but no clear glass, please, it gives away the surprise). Fancier stuff like Le Crueset is great if you're living large. If you've already got some old heirloom type pieces, more power to you. You're looking for two dishes the same size, 12" x 8" x 3" or larger.

12 - 15 lb. whole turkey, butchered as indicated below

For the stock:
Turkey carcass (minus the skin), with neck, giblets, heart. Toss the liver.
A couple of carrots peeled and cut up
A few stalks of celery
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
bouquet garni of parsley, bay leaf and thyme
1 chicken bouillon cube

For the white meat:
Flour for dredging seasoned with salt and white pepper
butter for sauteing
heavy cream for the sauce
fresh lemon juice for the sauce

For the dark meat:
Flour seasoned with salt and black pepper for dredging
butter for sauteing
1/2 lb. sliced cremini mushrooms
2 thick strips of smokey bacon sliced into thin strips
1 c. frozen pearl onions
turkey stock
red wine
chopped fresh parsley and fresh thyme leaves

For the crust:
Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry (2 sheets in a box), thawed in the fridge
A scrambled egg with a bit of water to make a wash

Make the turkey stock -- allow a couple of hour and after you strain out all the solids continue to reduce it, you won't need more than 5-6 cups so the more concentrated the flavor, the better.

Have your butcher take all the meat off the bones of the turkey, saving the carcass, discarding the skin. The breasts come off in nice big lobes, the legs and thighs come out a little rougher, not to worry. Thinly slice the breast meat across the grain, scallopini-style, in smallish pieces, 2 - 3 inches or so. Cut the dark meat into 1" cubes. Keep white and dark separate.

Start with the breast scallops. Dredge in flour mixed with a moderate amount of salt and white pepper. (Black pepper visually mars the pristine sauce.) Working in batches, saute in hot butter til just barely done. They will cook further in the sauce and you only want the faintest bit of browning. Drain on paper towels as you go. Once you've got them all sauted, layer them in the first baking dish.

Here's where your experience and good judgement come in. You're going to make a sauce of reduced heavy cream and lemon juice. So start with about twice as much cream as you'd need to cover the turkey scallops in the baking dish, and reduce it down by half in a sauce pan. You want a thick, velvety texture. Add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice for each cup of reduced cream. Season with more salt and white pepper. Pour over the turkey scallops, using a spoon to lift up and jiggle the pieces so the sauce goes around and under every piece.

Next dredge the dark meat cubes in flour seasoned with salt and black pepper. Saute these in butter in batches as well, drain and place in the second baking dish. In the remaining butter saute the mushrooms and the bacon, scraping up any browned bits in the pan. When they look ready, repeat the mental calculations for how much sauce you'll need. Equal parts turkey stock and red wine, enough so that when reduced by half you've got enough to cover the dark meat cubes. Add the frozen pearl onions and the fresh herbs in the last couple of minutes of cooking down the sauce. Salt and cracked black pepper. If the sauce looks too thin, thicken it a bit with some flour or cornstarch. You're going for hearty but be sure to stop short of gloppy. Mix the sauce in and around the dark meat.

Unfold the thawed puff pastry on a floured surface. Roll out the rectangles so they're just an inch larger than the baking dishes. Brush the egg wash around the top edges of the baking dishes, place the pastry over the tops and crimp closed. Make it neat and even. If your puff pastry skills are more advanced, you could hold some back and make some decorative elaborations of your own design. Plain and pretty is just fine though. Cut some organized vents* in the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape, and give tops a good going over with the egg wash.

Into a preheated 375 degree oven they go. Plan on at least 50 minutes to an hour if you're plowing through this at one go, while the meat and sauce are still warm. If you've done some of the work in advance and refrigerated it, you'll need to account for that timing-wise. You'll know it's done when the pastry is puffed and browned all over and the sauces are starting to bubble up in the vents or from little breaches along the sides.

And now the moment we've all been waiting for. Present the identical dishes on your table or buffet. Delve into the first and you're rewarded with elegant slices of turkey scallopini luxuriating in lemony cream sauce. Then help your guests to a spoonfull of its apparent twin. But wait! This one is an earthy stew of tender chunks of dark meat studded with the earthy goodness of mushroom, bacon, onion.

High drama...the element of surprise...clever concept...and completely delicious. What are you waiting for?

Send me a picture!

*Astute observers might notice that my steam vents were cut into a "W" and "B".  Little mix-up there, the W covered the brown meat and vice versa.  No matter, it added to the fun. But I will be more careful next time.

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