Turkey delight in a single bite!
The classic Thanksgiving dinner – turkey, cranberry sauce & stuffing. Things we all know too well. However, I have never been overly excited by these things on their own. Between that fact, and my lifelong belief that every bite should be the best bite, I started a journey for the creating the best Thanksgiving bite many years ago.
My first version of recreating Thanksgiving dinner into a single, delicious, perfect bite was making a ravioli stuffed with well seasoned turkey and cranberry sauce served in a light cream sauce. Super delicious. But a ton of work. (Still, I do love that recipe!)
The next year, I moved on to what we started referring to as “Turkini’s.” Turkini’s are everything you want in your thanksgiving bite piled high on a crostini. They are soooo good! I toast slices of baguette, slather them with cranberry sauce, layer on turkey, followed by stuffing and smother with gravy. As single bite of thanksgiving deliciousness. The problem here is that Turkini’s are really an appetizer. You put them on a platter and pass them around. They also get cold pretty quickly. However, they are a serious crowd pleaser.
Ahhh and then for two years in a row, the mother of them all- Thanksgiving pizza. Huge hit! HUGE! I thought I had it. Don’t get me wrong, I am never going to stop making Thanksgiving pizza because if I did, my friends would disown me. For realz. It is by far, the most talked about amongst them. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s the best of Thanksgiving dinner on a pizza! The problem here is similar to my Turkini issue- it’s an appetizer, or a party food. Which is great because we often host Black Friday parties. It’s perfect for serving around the fire pit or a late night surprise, but not for a dinner.
I could not stop thinking about how much everyone loves these bites of delight that I have made over the years, but how no one ever talks about the dinner itself. I’m sorry but there is no such thing as a memorable roasted turkey, a platter of stuffing and a bowl of cranberry sauce. I want a WOW factor on my Thanksgiving table! I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then it came to me.
I decided to try something. I had the idea to stuff turkey scallopini (fancy name for cutlets pounded very thin) with a buttery stuffing, cranberry sauce and a bit of parmesan cheese, roll, tie, cook and smother with gravy.
I tested out several different versions (all of which were delicious).
The Test Kitchen
In my first attempt, I included provolone cheese, whole berry cranberry sauce, rolled long side in, and cooked only by pan searing in cast iron. Version one had very good taste, but the cheese oozes and if cooking multiple portions, the oozing cheese could create too much burn in the pan- not sure it’s worth it.
In this round, I also wasn’t sure about the whole berries, which are great but makes spreading and rolling inconsistent. I also decided I had way too much stuffing and by rolling lengthwise, only one fit in pan comfortably and didn’t produce the spiral I was looking for. More work to be done.
In version 2, I omitted the provolone and choose to use a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. (I think it helps add a bit of fat from the inside to help keep the turkey tasting delicious.) I also opted to try a jellied cranberry sauce with no whole berries thinking it would make rolling the turkeys easier. I decided to try baking this round and while this is significantly easier than pan searing for a crowd, they just didn’t produce that gorgeous browning that searing gives you. I also decided that whole berries cranberry sauce is a an absolute must. Without them, the cranberry gets lost and absorbs too easily into the stuffing. It must be whole berried sauce. Which lead me to Version 3.
In version 3, I went back to the whole berries and decided to again bake the turkey. However, I added another step and this was to reverse sear the turkey in a cast iron pan in a butter and cranberry reduction, to finish the dish. This not only added the golden color of deliciousness that I was looking for, but also an additional level of flavor. This was the winner. It came out absolutely perfect!
In version 4, what I was looking to test was how far in advance I could prepare this dish. So I used up the rest of my ingredients and made about 6 portions. I wrapped each one in plastic wrap and into the fridge they went. The next day, I let the tray sit out to take the chill off just for a short while. (Cooking ice cold meat makes it seize up so always take the chill off before cooking.) Then into the oven they went, then reverse seared in the pan. The result was just as good, if not better than when made to order. This was very important to me because I like to always prepare as much of the meal as I can in advance. After all, no one wants to watch you work with raw turkey!
This dish will forever change Turkey dinner.
I have to admit, I considered not even sharing this one! But it’s just too darn good not to. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family & friends do. Cheers!
Tips & Suggestions:
I made this a complete entree when served with shredded brussel sprouts and my make ahead mashed potatoes. It was a perfect meal.
I have also served this dish as an hors d’oeuvre using a toothpick through each piece. My friends went nuts! In appetizer form, it was named “turkey sushi” and we haven’t stopped talking about it since!