Hello dear friends, how are you? at Alla Madonna del Piatto we are finally at the end of the season and enjoying the first few days of rest and free time after a very busy fall. It was so busy we did not have time to pick our little bit of olives. Nevertheless we have had 2 Olive Harvest Tour groups who enjoyed a variety of experiences of the Umbrian countryside. We made sure to include plenty food, olive oil and wine tasting as well as meeting some of Umbria’s extraordinary food artisans like our new friends at a wonderful saffron farm.
Fall is mellow and warm here right now, with the woods clad in golden and red. For us, it’s time for walks, for naps and for good comforting food to share in peace around the table.
I know you will appreciate an Umbrian twist on turkey at this time of the year. It is called “in porchetta” because is seasoned in the same way as the roast pig commonly sold in Umbria as street food. I have made various versions of this recipe, using also boneless chicken legs or turkey breast.
To be honest, while breast is easier to obtain, the results are often less brilliant than leg. The white meat becomes easily dry and, no matter how carefully you season it, it is less tasty.
The secret of this recipe is to season and roll the meat at least one day in advance and don’t skimp on salt. This way the meat will have time to absorb the aromatic rub and become flavorful and tender.
For the herb rub:
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 2 sprigs sage
- a handful of fennel fronds
- zest of half a lemon
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries
- 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
- 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
For the turkey roll:
- 1 boneless turkey leg, 1 and 1/2 to 2 pounds
- 60 g (2 oz) guanciale or pancetta thinly sliced
- 4-5 shallots, peeled
- 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon white vinegar or balsamic
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt per lb meat
- 4 pork sausages (optional)
Make the herb rub
Removing any woody part from the herbs, then in a food processor, blend herbs, lemon zest, garlic, pepper, juniper and a teaspoon of olive oil until chopped finely.
Prepare the meat
Before stuffing, place the meat on a cutting board and beat it flat with a meat pounder or other heavy object.
Sprinkle the meat with salt on both sides, then spread the herb mixture over the turkey.
Arrange the slices of guanciale over the herbs.
Beginning with the side nearest you, roll up the slice, gently pressing on the filling and making sure it does not slip out from ends. Tie the roll crosswise with string at 1.5 cm (3/4-inch) intervals, then tie one or 2 times lengthwise.
Transfer the turkey roll into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and place in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. The salt will tenderize the meat (it’s a dry brine) and infuse it with the flavors of the herbs.
Place the turkey in a roasting pan with the whole peeled onions or shallots. Add sausages if using. Sprinkle the roll with brown sugar and drizzle with vinegar and one tablespoon olive oil. Roast in preheated oven at 220 °C (430 °F) turning every 15 min. until golden and crispy, about 45 min to one hour. Add a little white wine or water if the juices become too dark. You might need to remove the sausages and onions if they are ready before the turkey roll and put them back for 5 minutes or so to reheat.