Turkey has always been a holiday food for us: it’s so weighted with tradition and expectation (good or bad!), and it’s so physically imposing, that it has rarely occurred to us to do anything other than roast it whole and in season, preferably for a bunch of people.
But when our local Mennonite-farmer-butcher outfit had boneless/skinless turkey breast halves on sale last week, something clicked (clucked?) and I ordered one. It weighed in at 4 lbs., so I cut it into a couple of chunks and vacuum-packed and froze one… that’ll be nice gently poached in stock and then cloaked in a mole rojo one day soon.
I love what capers and lemons do for light proteins, and they frequently find their way into a buttery piccata sauce for sautéed fish fillets and veal or chicken cutlets. I hadn’t made turkey piccata before, but figured it would be a natural.
To ease the task of slicing the turkey into cutlets, I put it in the freezer for an hour. I thought it would be interesting to slice it across the grain… maybe this would make it more tender than chicken piccata, which is usually butterflied and “presents” on the plate as a with-the-grain cutlet. So, I cut the semi-frozen turkey crosswise into 1/4 inch slices and set them aside.
For a pound of turkey, I minced a couple of small cloves of garlic, chopped some parsley, and rinsed off a couple of tablespoons of capers. I juiced half a lemon, and had 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, 1/2C of unsalted chicken stock and 1/2C of white wine at the ready.
With wine, salad and bread on the table, I warmed the oven to 180’F and heated a Tbsp each of olive and canola oils at medium-high in a large skillet. I salted and peppered the cutlets on both sides, dredged them in flour, and fried them for 2 minutes on one side and about 30 seconds on the other. Once they were all cooked, I put them in the oven on a serving dish to keep warm and set about making the sauce.
I poured off all but 1 Tbsp of the oil in the pan, sautéed the minced garlic for half a minute, and deglazed the pan with the white wine. Once that was almost evaporated, I poured in the chicken stock and lemon juice. Putting those in late in the game ensured that the lemon flavour would stay fresh but not biting, and that the stock wouldn’t reduce to an overly-salty glaze.
When that had bubbled away happily and reduced just a bit to a sauce-y colour, I turned the heat to low, threw in the capers and parsley, and added the butter, swirling the pan so it would emulsify with the jus.
And that was dinner! The lightly browned flour coating on the cross-cut turkey cutlets made them velvety, and they were far more tender than chicken or veal. The sauce was light but rich, lifted by lemon and punctuated with hits of salty caper. Oh: and given the richness of the sauce, the 1lb of turkey easily stretched to dinner and lunch for two people. This is going on frequent rotation.