Thursday, April 8, 2010

Turkey milanesa with hominy/bean/grits cakes

Pictured above: 2 pieces turkey milanesa and one bean cake (top of plate).

We bought a 20 lb. turkey at a 60% discount the day after Easter. I broke it down into legs, thighs, breasts (one boneless, one bone-on), wings and back (for stock). Last night I made some of the boneless breast into milanesa. The remainder of that breast will become turkey burgers tonight.

Cheese-Whiz, that’s a lot of turkey. But the t-bird is an excellent source of low-fat protein. And, as it happens, Peter and I love turkey.

I have studied the art of milanesa (or the Italian version, milanese) for a long time. The last two times I’ve made it (pork once, then now the turkey) I really felt like I understood it.

I did one thing different: I sliced the breast across instead of lengthwise – into two 5-6 oz. cutlets ½” thick (before pounding). This is the equivalent of cutting meat across the grain.

Keys to the process:
1) brining – 2 cups water, 2 tbsp kosher salt (1 for regular salt), 1 tsp roughly smashed black peppercorns – 2-3 hours in the fridge is fine.
2) Rinsing very, very well.
3) No added salt after brining – seasoning with some more pepper and some paprika is good.
4) Pounding thin is essential – no more than 1/4”; closer to 1/8” is even better.
5) Allow the coatings to set up in the refrigerator.
6) Getting the oil hot enough – when it’s ready a flick of water into it will pop instantly – not sizzle, pop.
7) Cooking time – absolutely no more than 90 seconds per side.
8) Drain on paper towel and dab the top to remove any excess oil.

Turkey milanesa
2 5-6 oz. turkey cutlets, cut across the grain ½” thick
brining liquid
sweet or smoked paprika to taste
black pepper
all-purpose flour for dredging
1 egg, lightly beaten with 2 tbsp cream, milk or water
bread crumbs, homemade or panko, but never Italian-flavored ones from a box
2/3 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese (optional)
vegetable oil, enough to coat a large saute pan to 1/8”

Pound the cutlets to 1/8” – ¼” thickness between plastic wrap or in a freezer bag. Season with paprika and/or pepper. Dredge in flour and shake off excess. Dip into egg and coat thoroughly, allowing excess to drain off. Coat with bread crumbs (with or without the cheese in it), pressing the crumbs in.

Place the cutlets on a baking rack over a plate and refrigerate until 30 minutes before cooking.

I cannot emphasize the importance of getting the oil hot enough. You can test it one of two ways: flick a drop of water into it – it should pop instantly; or drop a tiny bit of breadcrumbs into the oil – it should sizzle aggressively in an instant and be brown in a matter of a few seconds.

Here’s the part that’s hard to trust – the cooking time. Cook for 90 seconds on one side, turn and cook as little as one more minute. Last night, because the cutlets were about ¼” thick, I intended to cook them 2 minutes per side. After turning them I let them go only 30 seconds on side 2.

Drain on paper towels, dabbing the tops with another towel to remove any residual oil. Serve at once.

It was time to dispose of some leftovers: a bit of grits from last night, a bit of hominy from the recent posole, and an orphan can of Navy beans in the pantry. I had to consult a couple of recipes from our loose-leaf collection, mostly to see what I should use as a binder.

Grits, hominy and Navy bean cakes
1/3 cup leftover grits or polenta
½ - 14 oz. can hominy, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz. can Navy beans, drained and rinsed
2 scallions, green and white parts chopped fine
1 tsp hot sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp flour
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
pinch finely chopped fresh rosemary
½ cup grated pepper jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil

Put the hominy and beans in a food processor and pulse to a rough chop. Mix in grits, scallions, hot sauce, egg, flour, serrano chile, rosemary, cheese, salt and pepper. Form a little of it into a 1” ball, flatten it and microwave it for 15 seconds. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Heat olive oil in a non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat. Form the mixture into patties and fry 3-4 minutes per side until hot throughout.

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