I just finished a rather yucky culinary task. Hope it turns out to have been worth it.
So it turns out that what I thought was chicken breast was actually an entire boneless turkey thigh, cut into a single sheet of meat with the skin still attached. Upon finding this out, I took the opportunity to make something resembling porchetta: I rolled the meat up with fennel tops, garlic, salt and pepper, wrapped it in the skin, tied it with twine, and marinated in salted red wine before baking in the marinade. It smells marvelous; I peeled the skin off and sliced it thin for sandwiches, since Daniel’s a big fan of turkey sandwiches. He says it’s tasty.
Byproducts: All the skin (dyed excitingly purple on one side) and a bit of fatty tissue that didn’t cook out; pan juices consisting of boiled wine, drippings, and the fat that did cook out. I put the former in a lump in the container with the sliced meat and refrigerated it. The latter I poured off into a pan, where it turned into a weird meat-and-wine gelatin with a thick layer of congealed fat on top. These two sets of leftovers clearly demanded a plan.
Boiled wine and gelatinous meat juices, flavoured with fennel and garlic? Sounded like a start for a vaguely-medieval pasta sauce. I figured I should try mincing the cooked skin and fat really finely, so that when cooked with caramelized onions it would basically disappear into a puddle of oil with tiny crispy protein bits in it. Well, I just did that, and EWWWW. Seriously. Not only did my fingers get greasy and smell like meat, the stuff was of a totally nauseating texture — somewhere between wood-ear mushrooms and, I don’t know, boiled bacon or something. And it was in these big rubbery sheets with extensive purple stains and a disconcerting fennel smell, and the whole thing just seemed like someone’s dinner from Unknown Kadath.
Anyhow. I’ll post about it later. I hope it turns out well.
ETA: It totally was. This was a phenomenally rich, sweet, medieval-tasting sauce — a proof that a tomato-less pasta sauce can be as gorgeous as a well-caramelized ragú.
I first soaked a handful of raisins in my own heavily-spiced dark rum and some hot water. I took the gross minced stuff aforementioned, added the fat from the top of the drippings, and melted it all in a saucepan until it was sizzling. Then I added one whole largish onion, sliced thinly, and a teaspoon or so of minced rosemary; mushed the raisins and three or four cloves of garlic through a garlic press and added them too; and cooked the whole mess until the onions were brownish. I then added the fennel-flavoured wine jelly (which de-jelled immediately) and another teaspoon of minced rosemary, threw in probably a tablespoon each of white pepper powder and fresh-ground black pepper and a pinch of cinnamon, and added a dash of wine and a little butter to make a reasonable sauce consistency. Served this with penne rigate, which took up the sauce beautifully and let the little bits of caramelized onion get into their tubes, and a glass of the 2007 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon.
Truly, a beautiful thing. I’m going to have to make a point of caramelizing onions with minced soaked raisins more often. Incredibly decadent-tasting, quite medieval in effect with all the sweetness and spices and no tomato or pepper. The Cabernet, one of our faves, brought out the raisiny notes in the sauce just right. The slight funkiness of the meat fats (strongly-flavoured terrestrial meats always disturb me a tiny bit) was smoothed out by the sweet and sulfurous onion and the various spices. And all this from the parts of a marinated roasted boneless turkey thigh that one might reasonably discard… it was totally worth the gross fingers yesterday.
Then again, a culinary pleasure today is almost always worth an inconvenience yesterday. It’s one of those principles that keeps me going.