|When James is not working at il Fustino, going to school at SBCC, or cooking, he likes to do live action role playing|
By Chef James R. Kirkley, IV
Olive Oil Poached Turkey Breast
The turkey breast must be cooked through to be tender, however, this thorough cooking tends to make turkey breast dry. Among the techniques that solve this dilemma is one that is not used as often as it might be: poaching in olive oil.
This might sound a little extreme, but contrary to what you might expect, it is not deep-frying, and it is not greasy. (In fact, you wind up eating less oil with food cooked this way than you do in a typical salad.) If the technique is akin to anything, it is the traditional process of making confit, in which meat -- usually duck or pork -- is cooked very slowly in its own fat until tender.
With turkey, the process doesn't take long at all, and is neither difficult nor messy. You immerse the food in good olive oil and keep the oil between 180 and 200 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour (the internal temperature of the breast must be 170 degrees when done). The amount of oil depends on the size of the pan, which should be just large enough to hold all the ingredients in one layer, but no larger. If the oil does not cover the food, you must turn the pieces a couple of times and allow a few more minutes for cooking.
While not absolutely necessary, I strongly recommend brining the turkey breast before poaching it (or cooking it any other way for that matter). In a 6-quart container or stockpot, mix water, salt and sugar; stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add turkey. Cover; refrigerate at least 12 hours but no longer than 24 hours.
During cooking, the oil bubbles gently -- if it was water, you would call it simmering. This technique produces a tender, juicy and flavorful turkey breast. And the process gives the food a textural quality that is uncommon, a kind of density that's really enjoyable.
Once I understood this technique, I realized that having a broad pan filled with olive oil offered opportunities to cook a few other things alongside the breast. A whole head of garlic, cut in half, not only produced what some restaurants call garlic confit -- creamy cloves suitable for spreading on bread or eating straight -- but added delightful fragrance and flavor to the oil. Shallots cooked in the same amount of time, becoming soft and sweet. My favorite addition, however, was carrots. These turned soft and bright orange-red, as they do when steamed, but again somehow dense-fleshed and delicious. In the recipe I call for eight, but the number is approximate; use as many as the pan holds.
One final note: turkey cooked this way is delicious cold. Yeah, turkey sandwiches, one of my favorites.
You can also save the oil, which has now been infused with garlic, shallots and carrots, and use it as a flavoring agent for other dishes.
Here is the recipe