Friday, May 25, 2012

Pistachio Turkey Ballottine with Madeira Sauce (Page 385)

RECIPE #1292
  • Date: Sunday, April 8, 2012 -- 1:30pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Fellow Chefs: Chris and Mike
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Karen H, Dave, Brad, Deniz, Mike M, Teresa, Sami, Kendra, Watson
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I put off making this recipe until the end because it just didn't sound delicious to me, and it is hard to rally to make something not-so-delicious that serves 20. Back when I was in graduate school I felt perfectly comfortable inviting people to a party with a message like, "I'm going to make something gross for dinner on Friday that serves tons of people. Come on over! Starts at 7pm." But in my post-graduate school life I feel a little less comfortable doing that. So instead, I just saved this recipe for the end!

This recipe started with 2 whole turkey breasts, and the first instruction was to bone them. I wasn't too excited about it, especially because there was an entire page of instructions on how to bone a turkey breast. At the top of the page it indicated that you should set aside 45 minutes per breast for this process! Luckily, I had help, so I didn't have to do it twice. Chris and I stood side by side at the counter, each of us with a cutting board, a knife, and a turkey breast, and we did our best, carefully following the instructions. Here's a picture of Chris' breast right before he made the final cut to remove the bones. Mmmm.... delicious.

Meanwhile, Mike blanched and shelled some pistachios and minced some scallions. The turkey breast boning process was a bit gross, but the next step took it to a whole new level. I took some of the extra turkey breast trimmings and ground them in the food processor. Then I added some raw bacon and pureed it. Yup, pureed raw turkey and raw bacon. But wait, it gets better. Then I added some eggs, heavy cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and pureed it some more. You might wonder what such a puree would look like. Here it is:

Into that yummy puree I mixed raw ground pork, ground up ham, the scallions, and the pistachios. Because pistachios go well with pureed meat, right? It was actually the pistachios in the pureed meat that made me skeptical enough about this recipe to put it off for so many years! I mixed that all together with my hands, and then the next instruction was, "Refrigerate, covered, until firm." Ick. I think the expression on my face in the photo below perfectly captures how I was feeling about this:

While the pureed animal products were firming up, it was time to return to the turkey. We removed the turkey tenders and cut them into little strips which we tossed with vermouth, salt, and pepper. Then we pounded the turkey breasts with a mallet to get them nice and flat:

After they had been pounded we laid them on cheesecloth and sprinkled them with thyme and salt. Then it was time to get the pureed meat out of the fridge and assemble!


Oh how I wish I had pictures of this next stage. There were a lot of people around but everyone was either A) Covered in raw turkey juice or B) Avoiding the kitchen so as to not be covered in raw turkey juice. So alas, there are no pictures mid-assembly. Here's how it went. We divided the pureed meat mixture into four parts. Chris and I each spread one part on our turkey breast. We topped it with the turkey tenders. We spread the rest of the pureed meat on top of that. Then came the tricky part. We had to roll those babies up! It was a mess. Filling and raw turkey juice squeezed everywhere. But somehow we got them rolled and tied and into a roasting pan: 

Mike managed to identify exact what they looked like: giant grubs! In case you aren't too familiar with grubs, here's a picture of a grub I stole off the internets:

The resemblance is striking, no? At that point we let the grubs sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning I browned the grubs in oil, still wrapped in the cheesecloth. I have to admit that I don't usually brown things while they are wrapped in cheesecloth, so I found this step a little perplexing. On the other hand, it did make them look more appealing. Here they are, after being browned:

While I was at church (it was Easter!) Chris threw them into the oven and monitored them for me until I got home. Once they were cooked through, we took them out and carefully unwrapped the cheesecloth:

As you can see, the skin was slightly browned underneath the cheesecloth, but much of the skin stuck to the cheesecloth rather than the meat. The grubs were not so cute once the cheesecloth had been removed. We let the grubs rest for a while and Chris, Mike, and I worked on the sauce. We deglazed the roasting pans with white wine, then poured the deglazing liquid into a saucepan with Madeira and the homemade Turkey Breast Stock (see post below). Then we added arrowroot to thicken it and salt and pepper to taste. Once the sauce was ready, I sliced the grubs (aka turkey ballottines) and served them with the sauce. The dish definitely got better looking at that point (see photo at the top of the post).

So was it as bad as I expected? Actually, no. It was pretty OK. The sauce tasted good. And actually the weird pureed meat concoction wasn't bad either. As expected, the pistachios were an unwelcome touch. They were kind of slimy/soggy, which is not a good look on a pistachio. No one was particularly disgusted by the dish, but no one was particularly wowed by it either. It was much, much more work than roasting a turkey and making gravy Thanksgiving style, and it was not as good. So I certainly won't be making this recipe again. But it was a fun adventure and I am glad I left it to the end so that Chris, Mike, and I could battle through it together.

Sadly, this recipe isn't online.

1292 recipes down, only 1 left to blog about!

This was the last recipe in the Poultry section of The Book. That means it is time to revisit the section and list some favorites. In no particular order, my favorite five recipes from this section were:

  • Grilled Turkey with Cranberry Gravy -- My special gentleman and I made this turkey for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration in East Lansing a couple years ago and it was AMAZING. Best turkey I have ever had. Easily. We will be grilling our turkeys from now on!
  • Panfried Pressed Poussins -- When I made this dish my special gentleman declared it to be the best poultry he had ever eaten. The skin was crispy and delicious. The meat was flavorful and juicy. It was awesome!
  • Spice-Rubbed Quail -- This recipe started a fire in our oven but it was worth it. These flavorful little quail were finger-lickin' good! We ate a lot of poultry when I lived in Bloomington as there was a butcher shop there with an excellent poultry selection. Despite our poultry overload, these little quail were met with a very enthusiastic response. Yum!
  • Fragrant Crispy Duck -- After my special gentleman took one bite of this dish he got a sad look on his face and said, "You're never going to make this again, are you?" This duck was quite a project. It involved marinating the duck, steaming the duck, blow-drying the duck, and deep-frying the duck (twice!). But it was worth it! This duck was insanely delicious. 
  • Chicken Pie with Biscuit Crust -- This recipe is as delicious as it sounds. Yummy chicken and vegetables topped with wonderful flaky biscuits. Even tastier than chicken pot pie!
And just like that, another section is done. It's hard for me to believe I have just one recipe left to blog about! Crazy!

It is summer here now, by which I mean that school is out! Yay! I was quite exhausted by the end of the semester. This summer is very busy with travel, but not teaching does free up a lot of time to work on research. The traveling has already begun. I was in Albuquerque for a conference last week and was in Chicago briefly earlier this week to give a talk. Still on the agenda for the summer: Boston, Virginia, Lake Michigan, Paris, Switzerland, and a month in California. Thank goodness we have a good house/cat-sitter! And hopefully soon I will find time to blog about the very last recipe I made from The Book: smoke your own bacon!

* A special thank-you to Chris and Deniz for many of the pictures above. 

1 comment:

Elizabeth Swinford said...

I had made this Turkey Ballottine about 15 years ago for a large dinner party and also had a problem with the skin coming off with the cheesecloth. I think lining the cheesecloth with bacon prior to laying the pounded turkey down would remedy this and impart more flavor and fat to the turkey. I loved this recipe and had seen in in a magazine prior to the The Gourmet Cookbook. This was WONDERFUL!