Rotolo di Tacchino


I went to my local butcher looking for a boneless turkey breast already tied into a roast, but instead I found only a large full turkey breast on the bone–organic and free-range.  It was irresistable, so I instantly thought of making two separate meals as well as a pot of broth with the bones.  This is the first of the two dishes–tune in tomorrow for the second.

For this dish, I debone one of the breast halves, butterfly it, scoring and spreading the flesh with my knife until I have a large flap of meat that I can cover with a stuffing of some sort, then roll the meat around the stuffing, making sure to cover the whole package with the skin, then tie and roast.   It’s a bit of a labor, but the final presentation is very rewarding.

Ever since my neighbor Beppi showed me his stuffing, with which we filled a capon for Christmas, I’ve been wanting to make it myself and use it in a slightly different way.   He uses mortadella, bread crumbs and sausage in his stuffing.   I’ve chosen to omit the sausage because I find that the mortadella is rich and meaty enough on its own.  The stuffing is a very simple assembly that gets pureed in the food processor with no sauteing of aromatics beforehand.  Then the seasoned crumbs are added to give the mixture firmness.  Then a copious amount of chopped fresh parsley is added.  

After I’ve taken both breast halves off the bone,  I throw the carcass into a pot of water with some celery and onion to let simmer while I’m doing everything else.  You can skip this step and use already prepared chicken broth or bouillon if you’re using a breast that you’ve bought without the bone.

Another  technique in this dish is one I’ve borrowed from my late friend, Margie, who made the best turkey breast.  She used to saute a bunch of onions and place the turkey breast on top of the caramelized onions to roast.  It resulted in a ready-made sauce that was sweet and complex.  I’ve added a touch of Marsala to this onion mixture because it enhances the turkey beautifully.

After the breast comes out of the oven, remove it from the pan, then you  may want to add a little water to the pan and reduce those juices–the onions are a mahogany brown by then.

Rotolo di Tacchino

2-lb turkey breast serves 4 

1 boneless turkey breast approx. 2 – 3 lbs., butterflied

6 slices whole wheat or white bread

3/4 cup chicken broth

2 small shallots

1/4 lb mortadella, diced into small chunks

approx. 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1/2 cup parsley

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp black pepper

3 or 4 small onions or 6 shallots, peeled and sliced

3 tbl olive oil

1/4 cup marsala

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Soak bread in broth for 10 minutes. 

In the food processor, chop the shallots and mortadella until it is a coarse paste.  Add the bread and broth.  Turn mixture into a mixing bowl and add nutmeg, parsley, black pepper and some seasoned crumbs.  Test for firmness and if it’s not stiff enough, add more seasoned crumbs–it should be fairly dense. 

Season both sides of the turkey breast lightly with salt and pepper.

Lay the stuffing in a log across the non-skin side of the butterflied turkey breast and wrap into a bundle, then tie crossways, then lengthwise. 

In an ovenproof skillet, saute the shallots or onions in the olive oil for about ten minutes until golden.  Add marsala and reduce for about 5 minutes.  Let cool.

Place turkey breast on top of onion mixture and roast, uncovered for about 45 minutes, basting occasionally and adding water or broth if the pan gets dry.

Let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.


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