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Going Cold Turkey

August 19, 1993|FAYE LEVY

The centerpieces of the food displays at many elegant Paris charcuteries are the cold poultry platters. Best known to food-loving tourists are Fauchon's ritzy birds, glazed in sparkling aspic and garnished with fruit.

The classic recipe calls for coating cooked poultry in a thick veloute sauce containing gelatin, then glazing it with a layer of clear aspic made of stock and more gelatin. This type of dish, called chaud-froid , is not easy to make.

The fact is, Parisians rarely make poultry chaud-froid at home because it's easy to buy at the deli. Well, deli is not exactly the word to describe the food boutiques where these creations are found, but they are similar to our delis in their offerings of cooked meats and other ready-to-eat foods. And at American delis and deli sections of supermarkets, we, like the French, can find the makings of easy poultry dishes for summer.

On hot summer days, a few slices of cold turkey or chicken purchased at the deli can be the basis of lunch or supper. Arrange the sliced turkey on a bed of greens, such as crisp romaine lettuce, tender butter or Boston lettuce, green leaf lettuce, mixed baby greens or even young spinach leaves. Then spoon a little homemade sauce or dressing over the turkey and serve more sauce separately. These dishes demand no heat, no cooking and almost no effort.

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The secret of making a great meal out of lean turkey is the sauce--not a thick, sticky sauce, but something easy that you whip together in a food processor or quickly mix in a bowl. A thin sauce is even better from a nutritional standpoint, so that you need a smaller amount to moisten the turkey.

If you like mayonnaise-based sauces, add a little yogurt or water to obtain a flowing, pourable consistency. One of my favorites is creamy cilantro dressing accented with garlic. Tonnato dressing, a classic Italian tuna sauce for serving on cold veal, is also terrific with turkey.

Vinaigrette is a great choice--it's thin and a small amount goes a long way. It's wonderful when flavored with aromatic herb vinegar, mustard or capers. If you want a dressing with no fat at all, use this season's ripe tomatoes to prepare a fresh salsa.

Be sure to buy good-quality fresh-roasted turkey. Often you can sample a small piece before you purchase enough turkey for a meal. If you already have some roasted turkey or chicken from a previous meal, this is a good way to use it; serving the meat cold means it won't dry out from reheating.

Turkey with any of these simple sauces also makes tasty sandwiches. Of course, the better the bread, the more delicious the sandwich will be.

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With the addition of avocado, fresh mushrooms, tomatoes and olives, roast turkey is turned into a colorful, easy entree, perfect for hot weather. Jalapeno chile, cilantro and lime juice transform the familiar American mayonnaise and sour cream dressing into a spirited sauce. It is perfect with roasted or poached chicken or turkey, or to make terrific turkey sandwiches.

TURKEY WITH CREAMY CILANTRO DRESSING

3 large mushrooms

1 ripe avocado, preferably Haas

12 lettuce leaves

12 to 16 thin slices roast turkey

2 small tomatoes, cut into wedges

12 to 16 black olives, such as Kalamata

Cut mushrooms into thin slices. Peel, halve and pit avocado and cut into thin crosswise slices.

On each plate make bed of lettuce. Arrange rows of slices of turkey, mushrooms and avocado on top, overlapping them. Garnish with tomato wedges and olives. Serve Creamy Cilantro Dressing separately. Makes 4 servings.

Creamy Cilantro Dressing

2 large cloves garlic

1 fresh jalapeno chile, cut into 4 pieces

1/3 cup packed cilantro leaves

1/4 cup packed small parsley sprigs

Salt

1 tablespoon strained fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup regular or light sour cream or yogurt

Freshly ground pepper, optional

With blade of food processor turning, drop garlic cloves, then jalapeno pieces through feed tube and process until finely chopped. Add cilantro, parsley and dash of salt and process until finely chopped.

Add lime juice and olive oil and process until thoroughly blended, scraping bottom and sides of bowl several times. Add mayonnaise and process until blended. Transfer to bowl and stir in sour cream. Season to taste with pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

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Turkey with tuna-caper dressing is based on an Italian veal recipe, but the turkey version has become so popular it has practically become an American classic. The dressing can be made with or without mayonnaise. The version with mayonnaise is creamier; the one without is more piquant.

TURKEY TONNATO SALAD

Butter lettuce leaves

16 to 20 thin slices roast turkey

Tuna Dressing

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 to 2 tablespoons capers, drained

Strips of roasted sweet red peppers, oil-cured sun-dried tomatoes or fresh tomato wedges

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