Cooking ideas surface in the most unexpected ways. This one came out of a casual conversation with a friend, who suggested poaching a turkey breast.
It sounded like a good idea. After all, the white meat of turkey has a lot going for it. It is fairly inexpensive, low-calorie as well as low-cholesterol--a 3 1/2 ounce serving, without the skin, has only 115 calories and under 2 grams of fat. And it's about as versatile as any meat could be.
Even better, following my friend's suggestion I've discovered that a whole turkey breast on the bone can be poached in water in only an hour to flavorful, juicy perfection. A microwave oven could not do it as well--or as quickly.
This moist turkey meat can be used in a variety of ways. It's especially useful when you have weekend guests, for do-it-yourself chef-type salads or sandwiches. Consider it as a substitute in any dish where cooked chicken meat is an ingredient. It can also be used as a high quality, low cost replacement for veal. And if you have more turkey than you need in the course of the week, the extra meat can be easily frozen for another time.
And you get the poaching liquid as a bonus. Once reduced, it makes a mildly flavored soup stock that will enhance any mix of fresh vegetables you happen to have on hand.
The following recipes will give you some ideas for using this meat, but there are many other possibilities: casseroles, tortillas, turkey tonnato, hash and crepes, to name but a few.
It is great fun and rewarding to exchange good cooking ideas. If you have a favorite preparation to share, please take the time to send it to me at P.O. Box 127, Winnetka, Ill. 60093.
If all preparations could be as straightforward, simple and practical as this one, home cooking would be a breeze. It only takes an hour to cook a 6-pound turkey breast on the bone, requiring no attention from the cook. If the turkey breast is smaller, it takes less time. An instant reading thermometer is useful for determining when the turkey breast is fully cooked. Lacking a thermometer, use a knife to penetrate the thickest part of the meat to be sure the juices run clear rather than pink, indicating that it is properly cooked. (It will be necessary to remove the turkey breast from the liquid in order to see the juices; afterward, replace the meat in the liquid for 20 minutes' standing time.)
JIMMY ADKINS' POACHED TURKEY BREAST
1 (6-pound) whole turkey breast
2 large onions, cut into chunks
2 carrots, cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into chunks
Several parsley sprigs
1 teaspoon salt
Place turkey breast in large stockpot. Add water to cover. Add onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, parsley and salt. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer gently 1 hour, or until instant reading thermometer registers 155 degrees when inserted into thickest part of meat (temperature will increase at least 20 degrees on standing). Remove from heat. Let stand 20 minutes in liquid.
Skim off surface of liquid. Remove meat and reserve liquid. Meat can be sliced immediately for serving or wrapped airtight and refrigerated as long as 4 days. Once meat is removed from bone, it can also be frozen, wrapped airtight.
Boil liquid vigorously, uncovered, until reduced to about 8 cups of mildly flavored stock. Strain. Reserve for soup-making or sauces. Can be frozen as long as 6 months, either in ice cube trays for individual portions (once frozen, pop cubes out and wrap airtight) or in larger containers. Makes 1 whole turkey breast.
When Jimmy Adkins cooks turkey breast, he serves it right after it's cooked; succulent 1/4 -inch slices of perfectly moist turkey, glazed with a piquant currant sauce. Partnered with wild rice and steamed broccoli, it's festive enough for a dinner party. Chilled slices of turkey can also be reheated right in the skillet with the sauce. Dried cherries or dried cranberries would be a great addition to the sauce.
GLAZED TURKEY SLICES
1/3 cup currant jelly
1/2 cup turkey stock
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons horseradish
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper
8 (1/4-inch) thick slices cooked turkey breast
Snipped fresh chives
For sauce, heat jelly, stock and cream in 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat until boiling. Let boil, uncovered, until thickened and syrupy, about 3 minutes.
Add horseradish, mustard and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir well. Adjust seasonings. Add turkey slices to pan. Use tongs to turn meat until heated through. Sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated. Gently reheat in skillet and finish as above. Garnish glazed turkey slices with chives. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings, scant 1/2 cup sauce.
Light yet robustly flavored, this salad takes advantage of the final fling of the fall garden, sun-ripened tomatoes and fresh basil.
TURKEY SALAD WITH TOMATOES, ONION AND BASIL
4 cups cooked turkey breast meat cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained, finely chopped