Turkey Tonnato: A Traditional Italian Recipe for Wild Gobblers

Spring gobbler meat takes the place of veal in this old-world favorite

turkey tonnato recipe, spring turkey recipe, easy turkey recipe, italian turkey recipe
An absolute knockout recipe for spring turkey.Photo by Travis Rathbone; food and prop styling by Roscoe Betsill

Vitello tonnato is a classic dish from Italy’s Piedmont region that, frankly, sounds patently insane: veal slices dressed in a creamy sauce made from canned tuna and capers. The brain may say no, but the mouth disagrees.

The savory-on-­savory combination is terrifically lush, a carnivorous marriage that shouldn’t work but somehow does. In our version, braised wild turkey breast stands in for the veal, upping the flavor ante that much further. Some asparagus on the side—cooked in some of the leftover pan juices—would round it out nicely.

What You Will Need

Ingredients

Serves 4

1 wild turkey breast (about 2 lb.), boneless and skinless

2 Tbsp. plus 1⁄2 cup olive oil, divided

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3⁄4 cup chicken stock

3⁄4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. dry white wine, divided

1 lemon, halved, with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice reserved

4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed

One 5- or 6-oz. can chunk tuna in olive oil

2 tsp. anchovy paste (or 2 tsp. minced anchovies)

1 tsp. capers

Thinly sliced radishes, watercress, and halved cherry tomatoes (optional)

Directions

  1. Remove the turkey breast from the refrigerator at least a half hour before cooking to take the chill off. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub the meat with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, then salt and pepper generously. Place the meat in a baking dish and add just enough stock and wine to cover the bottom third of the meat. (You may need more or less, depending on the size of the breast and dish.) Squeeze 1 Tbsp. juice from the lemon and reserve for later. Add the lemon halves and garlic to the broth-wine mixture. Transfer to the oven, uncovered, and cook for about 1 hour, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 150. Transfer the turkey to a plate to cool, reserving 1⁄4 cup of the pan juices.

  2. Make the sauce: In a blender combine the tuna (and the packing oil) with 1⁄2 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp. wine, reserved lemon juice, anchovy paste, capers, and reserved pan juices. Purée until smooth, then season with pepper. (Taste for salt, but the anchovies should supply enough.)

  3. To serve, slice the turkey across the grain and dress with the sauce. Garnish with the radish slices, watercress, and cherry tomatoes.

Wine Pairing

This dish wants wine, but it's finicky about what type. In ­Italy's Piedmont, where the dish originates, you're likely to find it accompanied by a white Gavi wine—the 2015 Tenuta La Marchesa will provide that lush Piedmontese effect. Stateside, both the Castoro Cellars 2015 estate-grown sauvignon blanc, from Paso Robles, Calif., and the 2013 J. Lohr Arroyo Vista chardonnay have a briny character to them, which hooks up smoothly with the tuna sauce. —J.M.