If you think you've done nearly everything a cook can with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, it might be time to talk turkey.
Other than the big bird at Thanksgiving and ground turkey when they're craving a virtuous burger, most people overlook turkey. And fair enough. Ground turkey can be dry and tasteless. And who has time to roast a bird (or even a massive breast) most nights of the week?
But the turkey tenderloin — a thick strip of meat cut from between the bird's breasts — turns out to be a convenient, delicious and healthy alternative. Because the tenderloin doesn't get much of a workout when the bird is alive, the meat is particularly tender. And like chicken breasts, it is incredibly versatile, taking well to the grill, skillet or oven, and working well with any flavour or marinade.
The tenderloins — which average anywhere between 8 ounces and 1 pound — also are agreeable to a variety of cuts. Slice them crosswise into medallions, lengthwise into tenders for breading and baking, or into chunks for stir-fry.
Because of their size, tenderloins also take well to being stuffed. Use a paring to knife to cut a slit along one side into the meat (without going all the way through). This creates a pocket which can be filled with a blend of ricotta cheese, egg, herbs and chopped greens.
The real benefits of turkey tenderloins are the flavour and texture. Though they resemble chicken breasts, and can be used in just about any recipe that calls from them, the flavour is more robust and the texture more tender and moist.
You also save a few calories. A 4-ounce serving of turkey tenderloin has 130 calories and 0.5 grams of fat. The same serving of boneless, skinless chicken breast has 144 calories and nearly 6 grams of fat.
CHOPPED SMOKY TURKEY BURGERS WITH MANCHEGO
Banish all notions of dried out ground turkey burgers. This technique produces truly moist burgers. In fact, when you form the patties, they will be very moist and messy. Once they hit the grill, they hold together fine.
Start to finish: 20 minutes
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch kosher salt
1 1/4 pounds turkey tenderloin, cut into large chunks
2 ounces prosciutto
4 hamburger buns
4 ounces manchego cheese
Heat a grill to medium. Oil the grates, or coat them with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, garlic powder, mustard powder, paprika, black pepper and salt. Set aside.
In a food processor, combine the turkey and prosciutto. Pulse until the meat is well chopped but still chunky, about 10 seconds total. Scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse again if any large pieces remain unchopped.
Transfer the meat to the bowl with the egg mixture, then mix well. Form the meat into 4 loose patties. They will be moist and not hold together well.
Use a spatula to carefully place the burgers on the grill and cook, covered, for 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the burgers — they should be firm enough to move easily now — and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, or until they read 165 F at the centre. Top each burger with a quarter of the cheese, then serve on a bun.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 420 calories; 130 calories from fat (31 per cent of total calories); 15 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 145 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrate; 52 g protein; 1 g fiber; 1070 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the national food editor for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch.