Thursday, November 09, 2006
I don't know about others, but whole turkey breasts are not something that I often cook. I'll do the occasional turkey chili and that is about it. But recently I bought a turkey breast because it seemed like such a good value. At 99 cents per pound, I could get more than a couple meals from it. With the holiday coming so soon, I didn't want to prepare it in a traditional way. Roasting one half for the boys would be smart; and then I could do something "interesting" with the other half.
After thumbing through cookbooks, it became apparent that turkey is often paired with mole sauces. I love mexican cooking and do a great deal of it, but I have never made a mole sauce. It just seemed too exotic and difficult because there is so much blending of flavors. How would I know if it even came out right? Mole is a complex-flavored mexican sauce that often includes: nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, and chiles. But this recipe didn't intimidate me. The Simple Red Mole recipe that I decided to use came from the Joy of Cooking, 2nd edition. Rick Bayless was a contributor. I compared this recipe to Bayless' mole recipes in his other books and it was very similar. I decided to use tomatillos (ala the Bayless books) instead of the canned tomatoes that the Joy of Cooking recipe called for. But other than that, I stuck to the recipe.
First, I needed to de-bone my turkey breast. A turkey, is anatomically, nothing more than a large chicken. I tried to keep that in mind as I proceded. I was concerned that the bird would be difficult to work with because it is heavy and cold. It turns out that de-boning a turkey is easier than a chicken because being bigger makes it easier to see what you are doing. When you give a lesson to someone on how to de-bone a chicken breast, you should USE a turkey breast! Where to align my knife was so much clearer to me, I think I learned a lot and will be better at boning out chickens because of it. I have a new, razor sharp, Wusthof knife and it made light work of gliding along the rib bones and freeing the meat. But that is enough of Butchery Talk for today.
One breast half was removed and simply roasted in the oven for children's dinners and sandwiches. The carcasse was also roasted to make a broth. And the other breast half waited in the fridge for the mole...
I spent the day toasting and soaking ancho chiles, chopping almonds, garlic, onions, and mexican chocolate, roasting tomatillos, sauteeing various items, blending and straining sauce... It was gloriously fun. The turkey breast was browned and then braised in the finished mole for close to an hour. I couldn't believe how fast it was done. I used a meat thermometer and took it to 170. The results were good. The mole tasted like what I hoped it would. I've had fabulously more complex moles at Frontera Grill that really have to grow on you. This one tasted good right off, "a starter mole." It had the sweet dark flavor of the chiles and raisins, the acid of cooked-down tomatillos, onions, garlic, almonds, mex choc., cloves, and cinnamon. I served the turkey sliced and doused with the sauce and warm corn tortillas on the side. I'll admit that my presentation of the Turkey Mole is somewhat lackluster, but I was exhausted from mole-making! I made up for it the next day...
with the leftovers: turkey enchiladas. Mmmm.