Italian Thanksgiving

Juniper-Berry-Roasted Turkey Breast With Boston LettucePhoto: Kang Kim. Food Styling by Alison Attenborough

Fabio Trabocchi
Chef-partner, Fiamma

Italian chef Fabio Trabocchi discovered his love of Thanksgiving while working long hours at Maestro, an Italian restaurant, in McLean, Virginia. “I hardly ever saw my family, and so I began to appreciate the importance of Thanksgiving,” says Trabocchi, who recently moved to New York to run the kitchen at Fiamma. One thing Trabocchi doesn’t like about traditional American Thanksgiving is dry turkey. To address that, he cooks his bird’s breast and legs separately and seasons with juniper berries, rosemary, and sage—a traditional Italian combination. Bollito misto, a hearty Italian dish of various boiled meats, is Trabocchi’s inspiration for the “galantina” of turkey legs, which he stuffs with chestnuts and fall mushrooms. Instead of serving mashed potatoes, Trabocchi makes a potato-gnocchi gratin topped with Robiola Bosina cheese (“The cheese makes my kids happy,” he says), and a smooth purée of roasted butternut squash. For dessert, Trabocchi wanted something more festive than pumpkin pie, which he admits he doesn’t like (“The consistency and texture are too dense for me,” he says). Instead, he makes a citrusy cranberry jam that normally accompanies the turkey and serves it with chunks of bread sautéed in butter and sugar and topped with rum-raisin ice cream. “Everyone loves this dessert,” he says. “It reminds them of their childhood in Italy, eating pane tostato.”

Juniper-Berry-Roasted Turkey Breast With Boston Lettuce
Rolled Turkey Legs Stuffed With Chestnuts and Wild Mushrooms
Potato-Gnocchi Gratin
Butternut-Squash Purée
Sautéed Country Bread With Cranberry Jam

Juniper-Berry-Roasted Turkey Breast With Boston Lettuce
1 turkey breast, on the bone, about 3 1/2 pounds
Salt and black pepper
2 sticks butter, softened
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
3 sprigs rosemary
1 small bunch sage
4 teaspoons crushed juniper berries
2 heads Boston lettuce
11/2 cups white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Sicilian sea salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Remove the turkey breast from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking. Season all sides of the breast with salt and pepper, cover with a towel, and let sit for another 30 minutes.

Place the turkey breast in a roasting pan just big enough to hold the breast, making it a tight fit. Rub the top of the breast with a stick of butter, and place the head of garlic on breast, cut side down. Set in the oven, and when the butter has melted, start basting the breast with the juices in the bottom of the pan. Repeat this process 3 times during the first 20 minutes of cooking.

Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees; add the remaining butter, herbs, and the juniper berries. Repeat the basting process for another 20 minutes. Switch off the oven, cover the breast with foil, and leave in the oven for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, discard the outer leaves from the lettuces; put the light-green inner leaves in a salad bowl and refrigerate.

Remove the turkey breast from the roasting pan, place on a cutting board, and remove the bone from the breast. Cover the breast with foil, and chop up the bones. Drain the fat from the roasting pan, and place over medium-high heat; add the bones, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the bottom of the pan begins to caramelize, increase the heat to high, add the white wine, and reduce by two thirds; then add the stock, and reduce by half. Strain the liquid through a sieve, pressing on the bones with a wooden spoon. Season the roasting jus with salt and pepper.

Toss the lettuce with the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon Sicilian sea salt. Thinly slice the turkey breast, and arrange on a platter, alternating each slice with a lettuce leaf. Drizzle the roasting jus all over the plate, and sprinkle with the remaining sea salt.

Rolled Turkey LegsPhoto: Kang Kim

Rolled Turkey Legs Stuffed With Chestnuts and Wild Mushrooms
2 whole turkey legs (ask the butcher to bone and remove tendons and partially flatten the surface to make it even, leaving the skin on)
Salt and black pepper
1 pound mixed mushrooms (white button, shiitake, chanterelle, porcini, or morel)
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup blanched, diced chestnuts
2 egg whites
1/2 cup white-bread crumbs, soaked in milk
4 quarts chicken stock
4 teaspoons chopped Italian parsley

Place two pieces of plastic wrap two inches larger than the boned turkey legs on the counter, set the legs on top, and cover with another sheet of plastic wrap. Pound the surface of the meat with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin until the meats become similar thickness and rectangular in shape. Remove the top piece of plastic, and season the legs on both sides with salt and pepper. Let the legs sit covered for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the mushrooms in half, removing the stems from the shiitakes. Melt the butter in a sauté pan, add the mushrooms, and cook quickly over high heat until wilted. Place the mushrooms on a rack to cool. Chop the mushrooms finely, and place in a large bowl with the chestnuts and egg whites. Squeeze out the excess milk from the bread, and add to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and fold the ingredients together until combined.

Place the filling down the middle of each flattened turkey leg, and roll lengthwise to form a sausage shape. Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to set. Wrap the stuffed turkey legs in cheesecloth, and tie each end with butcher’s string. Place on a plate, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 20 minutes before cooking.

Add the chicken stock to a large pot set over medium-low heat, and bring to a simmer. Slide in the turkey legs, cover the pot, and cook slowly, barely simmering, for about 3 hours. Remove the turkey legs from the liquid, and allow them to rest in a warm place, covered with foil, for about 20 minutes. Remove the cheesecloth, and slice the leg into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Arrange on a large, deep dish and sprinkle the surface with parsley. Serve with the cooking broth.

Sautéed Country Bread With Cranberry JamPhoto: Kang Kim
Potato-Gnocchi GratinPhoto: Kang Kim

Potato-Gnocchi Gratin
11/2 pounds large fingerling potatoes
3/4 cup OO flour plus 1/4 cup for dusting (available at Buon Italia)
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
11/2 cups diced Robiola Bosina, about 81/4ounces (available at BuonItalia)
13/4 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups chicken stock, warm
Salt and black pepper

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover with water. Set the pan over medium-low heat, and boil for about 35 minutes or until cooked. Drain the potatoes, and while they are still hot, remove the skins, holding the potatoes in a cloth. Pass the potatoes through a flour sieve or ricer.

In a bowl, combine the hot potato purée with the flour, egg yolks, 6 tablespoons Parmigiano, and a pinch of salt; mix briefly with your hands until combined. Place the gnocchi dough on a counter dusted with flour, and take a small piece of dough and roll it between the palms of your hands to form a cylinder about 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut the gnocchi logs into pieces about 3/4-inch long, and slide them onto a tray dusted lightly with flour. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover the gnocchi with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place the butter into a large sauté pan set over medium-low heat, and when it has partially melted, add the warm chicken stock and reduce the heat to low. At this point, slide the gnocchi gently into the boiling water, and as soon as they rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon. (This may have to be done in batches, as you do not want to overcrowd the pan.) Add the gnocchi to the sauté pan, increase the heat to medium, and move the gnocchi around in the pan until they are evenly glazed. Remove from the heat, fold in the diced Robiola, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the gnocchi to a gratin dish, and sprinkle the remaining Parmigiano over the top. Place under a hot broiler for a few minutes or until the surface is golden. Serve immediately.

Butternut-Squash Purée
1 large butternut squash
1/2 stick butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup heavy cream, warm
Salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Split the butternut squash in half, remove the seeds, and season with salt and pepper. Place onto a baking tray, skin side down, and cook for about 2 1/2 hours or until the center of the squash feels soft to the touch. Scrape out the flesh with a spoon, taking care not to include any skin, and place in a food processor. Add the butter and half the cream, and start to blend slowly, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure a smooth purée. Process again, and slowly add the remaining cream as necessary, until completely incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, and transfer to a serving dish.

Sautéed Country Bread With Cranberry Jam
21/2 cups cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 orange, zest removed
1 lemon, zest removed
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Pullman sandwich loaf
11/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 quart rum-raisin ice cream

Add the cranberries, 3/4 cup sugar, the orange and lemon zest, and 1/2 cup water to a saucepan, and fold together. Set the pan over medium-low heat, semi-covered, and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, until the cranberries are soft and the sugar forms a syruplike consistency. Remove from the heat, and add the balsamic vinegar. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, transfer to a sealed container, and refrigerate overnight.

Cut eight 1-inch-thick slices of bread, and trim into 3-by-4-inch rectangles. Melt half the butter in a large sauté pan, add 2 tablespoons sugar, and when it dissolves, add half the bread and sauté until golden on both sides, about 2 1/2 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining butter, sugar, and bread.

Place the warm sautéed bread on individual plates, spoon the cranberry jam over the top, and finish with a scoop of rum-raisin ice cream. Serve immediately.

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