Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Curried Turkey Salad: Delight from Disaster

Curried Turkey Salad
For the record, turkey breast may be my least favorite meat. Like a plain black dress, it really needs embellishment. Lots of embellishment. Last week my local market had a good deal on whole turkey breasts, so I picked up a nice 5 pounder. I'm used to tasty, locally grown, free range turkey, so how much different could a "factory" farmed turkey be? The plan was to pull the two halves off the bone, butterfly them, and roll them around a combination of lamb sausage, spinach, shallots and sheep's milk feta. It didn't happen for reasons beyond my control, but I did need to cook the turkey, since there isn't an iota of space in either freezer.

I've never cooked a turkey breast plain, because I think it tastes like eating cotton balls. And I have eaten one of those, thanks to a forgetful dentist about 10 years ago. Not delicious. But I was looking at the directions on the wrapper, and I thought, what the heck. It'll give us plain sliced turkey for sandwiches. Right? Oh, so wrong. Usually, I at least brine a turkey breast before cooking, but I was out of time. I salted and peppered the meat like I do any poultry before roasting, put it on a rack as per the instructions on the wrapper and slid it into the 325ºF oven. In about 90 minutes my thermometer showed a temperature of 160ºF, so I pulled it from the oven, tented it in foil, and let it stand. The temperature rose well past the safe temperature of 165ºF.  Made a little gravy from the scant drippings, augmented with reduced chicken stock, Wondra flour,  butter and seasonings. The gravy was delicious, and that turkey was one of the worst things I've ever made. The cotton ball the dentist forgot was yummy in comparison. 

Chuck, who adores turkey breast even thought it was terrible. Dry and tasteless. No wonder there is such a brisk business in cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. You have to have something with this dreadful bird to get even a mouthful down. Those factory farmers have managed to breed every last wee dram of flavor and juiciness out of their turkey. Amazing. I'll never buy anything but free-range again.

So here I am with about 4 pounds of dry, mealy, factory-raised turkey to use up. The first batch we re-cooked in a highly seasoned gravy and that perked it up quite a bit. The last will go into a soup, but this middle bit, about a half pound was slated for lunches this week.  Hmmm. Needs something creamy and spicy? But since I'm on a diet, there is no slathering it with mayonnaise. Hmmm. Greek yogurt? Curry? Apple... YES! Total reclamation. Something toothsome from a cooking disaster. Or at the very least, a fab way to use up the leftovers from Thanksgiving.

This is one of the best lunches I've had in quite a while. I just popped the turkey salad on a bed of spinach, and it truly made a memorable lunch. Even if I did have to eat it in the stockroom at work.

Note: Cooking the curry powder in a little oil helps bloom the flavors in the spice mixture, so please don't skip that step. I've made it idiot-proof; you can do it in the microwave. There is no celery in this simply because I don't like it raw, but feel free to add a few tablespoons of chopped celery if you like. This recipe is high in protein, low in carbs and fat, and is very diet friendly.

Curried Turkey Salad

Serves 2


8 oz of cooked turkey breast in small dice (about 2-1/2 cups)
1 scallion, sliced in thin rounds
1 small apple cored, and in 1/4" dice, mixed into 1T lemon juice
1T organic canola oil or safflower oil (olive oil will do)
1-1/2 tsp hot madras curry powder
2 tsp. of honey or 1/16 tsp. stevia powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
Optional garnish: 2T finely chopped cilantro leaves


Place the oil and the curry powder into a small, microwave safe bowl, stir and microwave on high for about 1 minute. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Mix the turkey and the scallion in a bowl, then add the apple-lemon mixture. Stir to mix. Add the yogurt to the oil and curry powder mixture, along with the honey or stevia, and the salt. Whisk well to blend, and then pour over the chicken mixture, stir well to blend, and let stand at least 30 minutes in the fridge for the flavors to meld. Serve on greens. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

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