It seems so wrong somehow to have Thanksgiving without turkey. I still have trouble bringing my vegetarian, world-cuisine-oriented self to have Thanksgiving without it.
Not only is turkey intimidating and quite time-consuming to prepare, but even scarier is that thought of putting so much time into a dish and having it turn out dry, bland, or otherwise generally unappealing.
To save us all from so much work for such a high chance of failure, I went in search of other ways to prepare turkey that was still on par with a meal like Thanksgiving and came across an ostentatious, yet surprisingly easy, winning dish.
When New York Magazine issued its yearly Thanksgiving challenge, celebrated chef Daniel Boulud (of the famed ‘Daniel’ restaurant in New York) responded with an elegant and flavorful turkey ballottine. “let’s not kid ourselves,” he says. “Turkey is bland. You need bacon, spices.” And after trying this turkey, I have to agree with him 100%.
- 3-4 pounds of turkey breasts (can be separate packaged breasts – actually much easier this way. Try to avoid frozen turkey breast, but make sure to completely thaw them before beginning cooking if you are stuck with the frozen variety. Do not thaw them in the microwave, but by leaving them in the fridge or at room temperature or running them under hot water if necessary)
- 1 pound sweet and spicy raw italian sausage
- 2 pounds thinly sliced bacon
- half a baguette
- 2 cups of milk
- 1 onion
- 1 stalk of celery
- quatre épices (available at specialty spice shops, but probably only found in main metropolitan areas. substitute pumpkin spice if quatre épices is not available)
- fresh parsley (dried is too strong tasting)
- fresh rosemary
- fennel seeds
- 1 egg
- white pepper
- Slice half of the baguette into slices and then tear the slices into small pieces.
- Soak bread pieces in 2 cups of milk in a medium sized mixing bowl.
- Finely chop 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic and 1 stalk of celery.
- Saute the onion, garlic and celery over medium heat until soft.
- Toast the fennel seeds by setting them in a small pan over high heat and shaking the pan constantly until the fennel aroma fills the air. Do not allow them to burn. Should only take one to two minutes.
- Pour the extra milk out of the bowl with the bread and squeeze the bread to remove any excess.
- Add the sautéed vegetables to the bread.
- Roughly chop a small handful of parsley and the leaves from two sticks of rosemary.
- Add the parsley, rosemary, a dash of salt and one, a half teaspoons of quatre épices, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon white pepper.
- Remove the sausage from casing to the bread mixture along with one egg.
- Place a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter.
- Mix the sausage mixture by hand and then shape into a 12 inch long log on the plastic wrap.
- Wrap up the sausage log and put it in the freezer.
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Grind the fennel seeds in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
- Lay out another large piece of plastic wrap and arrange the turkey breast in a long rectangle.
- Cover the turkey with another layer of plastic wrap and pound it with a meat tenderizer, pestle or stone into a foot-long, eight or nine inch wide and roughly 3/4 inch thick rectangle.
- Rub both sides of the turkey with white pepper, salt, and ground fennel.
- Set out a large piece of tin foil on the counter and butter one side.
- Lay out the bacon slices on the tin foil in one layer to form a long rectangle.
- Place the turkey on top of the bacon and the sausage long in the center of the turkey.
- Roll up the turkey and bacon around the sausage log and seal the package with tinfoil.
- Cook on a cookie sheet, turning a quarter turn every ten minutes.
- After forty-five minutes, open the packet and check to see if the turkey is ready. It should be opaque and firm. Do not allow the turkey to get tough.
- Allow the turkey to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Preslice half of the turkey and serve.
Photo copyright Miserere 2009.