Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Tale Of Two Turkeys...Stuffed Turkey Breast With Chestnuts And Prunes

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On weekday mornings I usually get up fairly early, get a strong cup of coffee and turn on CNBC for the usual dribble on Greece, Italy,  gold and everything bad that is going on in the world economies.  This morning the news was all about "Mario's gaffe" last night. Mario? what Mario? a new Prime Minister for Italy? Did Berlusconi finally throw in the towel? Nothing doing, this was none other than our friend Mario Batali, the well known cookbook author, chef and owner of several restaurants in New York, most of which none of us can afford.

Apparently last night at a Time magazine event promoting its Person of the Year issue,  our culinary friend nominated the food writer Michael Pollan, then went on to say:

"But I would have to say that who has had the largest effect on the whole planet without us really paying attention is the entire banking industry, and their disregard for the people that they're supposed to be working for."He added: "The way the bankers have toppled the way money is distributed – and taken most of it into their own hands – is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys."


The reaction from Wall Street was swift and merciless. Bankers took to their Blackberries and Bloomberg terminals to sound off and organise a boycott. This message was sent out across trading floors:

"Celebrity Chef Mario Batali Says Bankers As Bad As Hitler, Stalin … a list of his restaurants – *B&B Ristorante *Osteria Mozza *Babbo *Otto *Bar Jamon *Pizzeria Mozza *Carnevino Italian Steakhouse *Tarry Lodge *Casa Mono *Tarry Market *Del Posto *Mozza2Go *Esca *Manzo *Lupa – cancel all reservations … pass the word."

On Twitter, the reaction was also fast and furious.

"Wow. Mario Batali pisses off the only people who can afford to eat at Del Posto," wrote one.

Later Batali took to Twitter to "clarify" his views.

"To remove any ambiguity about my appearance at yesterday's Time Person of the Year panel, I want to apologise for my remarks," he wrote. "It was never my intention to equate our banking industry with Hitler and Stalin, two of the most evil, brutal dictators in modern history."

Mario, Mario, Mario...what where you thinking?! Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

So, if you are not a banker and have always wanted to eat at one of his restaurants, this might be your only chance.  But don't tell them who sent you. I still have some "Nazi" friends who might not return my phone calls if they find out and who knows when I may need them.

So talking about turkeys, here's a great recipe for a Sunday family dinner or Thanksgiving for a small crowd.  Enjoy!

Tacchino Ripieno...Stuffed Turkey Breast With Chestnuts and Prunes

Serves 10-12 people
  • 1 (5 to 6 pound) whole turkey breast, removed from the bone, halved and butterflied by your butcher
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus 1/4 cup
  • 1/2 pound pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork shoulder
  • 10 Italian prunes, pits removed, cut into quarters
  • 12 chestnuts, roasted, peeled, and halved
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoons each chopped fresh rosemary and sage
  • 2 cups dry white wine plus 1 cup
1/2 cup brown chicken stock, recipe follows

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/2 pounds chicken wings, backs, and bones
  • 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch parsley stems


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the pancetta pieces and cook until golden brown, about 7 to 9 minutes. Add the ground pork and cook until starting to brown in its own fat, stirring regularly. Drain all but 4 tablespoons of the fat from the pan, then add the prunes and chestnut, and continue cooking for 8 minutes, until the prunes start to really soften. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, about 20 minutes.

Add the bread crumbs, the Parmigiano, the eggs, the pepper, nutmeg, and herbs and just bring together, stirring with your hand. Over-mixing here can result in a lead torpedo for a stuffing, so don't.

Place the 2 turkey pieces on a cutting board and divide the stuffing between them.

Roll each of the breasts like a jelly roll and tie them firmly with butchers twine.

Place the 2 breasts, skin side up, on a roasting rack in a roasting pan and pour 2 cups wine over them.

Season with salt and pepper, and place into preheated oven and cook uncovered until dark golden brown outside and a meat thermometer reads 165 at the thickest part of the breast, about 1 hour, plus or minus 10 minutes.

Remove and allow to rest 15 minutes before carving.

Add remaining 1 cup of wine to the roasting pan and deglaze, scraping with a wooden spoon. Add chicken stock and cook for 5 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup remaining oil and season with salt and pepper.

Carve turkey into 1-inch slices and serve with pan sauce.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over high heat until smoking. Add all the chicken parts and brown all over, stirring to avoid burning. Remove the chicken and reserve.

Add the carrots, onions, and celery to the pot and cook until soft and browned.

Return the chicken to the pot and add 3 quarts of water, the tomato paste, peppercorns, and parsley.

Stir with a wooden spoon to dislodge the browned chicken and vegetables bits from the bottom of the pan.

Bring almost to a boil, then reduce heat and cook at a low simmer until reduced by half, about 2 hours, occasionally skimming excess fat.

Remove from heat, strain, and press on the solids with the bottom of a ladle to extract out all liquids.

Stir the stock to facilitate cooling and set aside. Refrigerate stock in small containers for up to a week or freeze for up to a month.

Yield: 1 1/2 quarts

Mario Batali recipe


  1. Julieta, this is totally off topic, but I have question about silverware placement. If the main course of an informal dinner is soup, may the soup spoon be placed at the left side of the plate! What do you think?

  2. That's funny about Mario. Many of us might agree with him to a certain extent but his comparisons to H & S are off the wall. But then he's off the wall. He once dined (with Bono) next to me at Gambero Rosso in San Vincenzo, at the time one of the top restaurants in Italy. My friend the chef, Fulvio Pierangelini chatted with me for a minute in the center of the dining room, which seated no more that 40 people, and then pointing to Mario and shouted, "I'm sick to death of cooking for these pieces of S..t!"

  3. Paul,

    and what did Mario do???

    You are right but as the guy on Twitter said, only Wall Street can afford to go to his restaurants, especially Del Posto which I understand is outrageously expensive so he is dumb to boot!

  4. The scene was in Italian—a language Mario doesn't seem to know, fortunately for him. Fulvio felt he was there to steal his ideas, take them back to NYC and make a fortune and I too believe that this is exactly what Mario was up to.

  5. Paul,

    This is too funny for words...


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