Ask Chef Phyllis
This is the time of year I start thinking about turkey. I roast a large bird for our family (about 22–25 pounds), because they enjoy seeing a whole bird on the table, like a picture postcard. However, they don’t really enjoy the drumsticks and other dark meat, which we sometimes save for soup. What can I do with the white meat other than use it for sandwiches? We like sandwiches with everything leftover for a couple of days, but all too soon we’re tired of them. Is there another meal, easy to prepare, that uses up the white turkey meat?
—Millie L. from Tampa, Florida
Thanksgiving is family time! The average woman spends seven or more hours preparing for this luxurious occasion, which kicks off our holiday season with a bang. I think it’s worth it. How you deal with this feast sets the tone for the rest of the season. Will it be joyful or full of exhaustion? (But that, as I’m fond of saying, is the makings of yet another post.)
But Millie, what if I told you that using up the white turkey meat is one of the most-asked questions received by the Butterball “turkey hotline” the day after the big event? This probably has something to do with the fact that our modern birds are bred to have bigger breasts, so we wind up with more white meat than in days of past. And after many hours of roasting, especially for larger turkeys, the breasts are often dry, no matter how much you baste the turkey. Plus, every time you open that oven door to baste the turkey, you lower the temperature and add even more to the overall cook time—by almost an hour! It seems not worth the effort if you ask me. Keep in mind that nine hours of roasting are enough, and the white meat will only be a little dry.
If you’ve never considered the use of a food processor as a solution to leftovers, I encourage you to do so. Try whipping up a new meal—a unique turkey “cutlet” that’s sure to please everyone, even if the meat is a bit dry. You might consider saving your leftovers for cutlets every year from now on.
Chef’s note: These cutlets are truly easy to prepare from leftover turkey, chicken, or game. The food processor saves you time and serves as a one-stop bowl for mixing. At holiday time, any help is appreciated in my book.
½ lb. uncured bacon, nitrate and nitrite free
2–2½ lbs. leftover white turkey meat (even scraps)
¼ cup milk
2 eggs, divided
2 tablespoons sharp hard-grated cheese (Parmesan or Pecorino)
1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon mixed herbs or ground sage
1 tablespoon arrowroot (if needed)
½ cup whole grain bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil (for sautéing)
Special equipment: Food processor
- Place a steel blade in your food processor. Add bacon and pulse until chopped.
- Add turkey and pulse until bacon and turkey are just combined. Do not over process or the meat will turn into a paste. (The egg and cheese will help it bind.)
- Add 1 egg, grated cheese, Worcester sauce, cayenne pepper, and herbs. If mixture appears wet, add the arrowroot. (Too wet is a matter of feel. Does the mixture hold together enough to be formed into cutlets? If not, add 1 teaspoon of arrowroot, which will thicken the mixture after it is fried.)
- Form by hand into 8 oval cutlets (about 4-inches long and half as wide).
- Beat the remaining egg in a shallow dish. Dip the cutlet into the egg and then into the bread crumbs.
- Place cutlets on a platter, uncovered. Chill at least 30–45 minutes or longer to set.
- Heat oil until it ripples. Working in batches, sauté the cutlets.
- Serve with a green salad and lemon wedges.
Image from iStock/from_my_point_of_view.