Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Southern Bell

Straccetti di Tacchino con Peperoni e Gombo
Turkey Strips with Bell Peppers and Okra 

Ok, I am going to admit to it, straight up... this is the other piece of turkey I had left-over after making my last recipe.
I hope you don't have a problem with that. I certainly don't! 

A lot of people dislike the thought of having the same food two days in a row for some reason. So I want to show you how very different a meal you can make using the very same turkey breast that we made our delicious rolls with the other night... read on!

I slice the turkey breast as thinly as I can, into irregular pieces, or "straccetti". I love the sound of that word (stra-chet-ti), which literally translated means "scraps", "tatters" or "rags". Straccetti is originally a Roman dish made of thin, tatters or slices of beef or veal, which are flash-fried on a hot skillet and served up with a fresh green salad. Very simple and very good. In my version, I am using thinly sliced turkey which I marinate in a mixture of whiskey, Cointreau, mustard, a splash of olive oil and a little orange marmalade. I like to tap the turkey flat using the blunt edge of my kitchen knife rather than pound it flat with a hammer or a pan. I think that poultry tends to lose its texture too much if you pound it too flat and then ends up drying out during cooking. Pop it into the marinade with a couple of slices of garlic and ginger and let it sit for an hour or so. In the meanwhile we can prepare our bell peppers and the okra...

The bell peppers are best prepared in the traditional manner- pop them into a hot oven for ca. 10 minutes and then turn on the broiler to blacken them. Once the skin is scorched, take the peppers and drop them into a bag- paper or plastic, depending on how much you want to save the world.

Actually, I like to save my bags- so I pop mine into a Tupperware container and put the lid on.

It has the same effect of course: the heat can't escape in the closed space and it condenses and liquefies on the surface of the pepper, making the outer skin wilt and loosen from the flesh. After around 10 minutes of cooling, you should be able to peal the skin off easily. Dress with a little olive oil, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of sea salt and a little white pepper. Set to one side and keep warm until we are ready to serve.

Now for the okra- which believe it or not IS called "gombo" in Italian! The first time I ever ate okra, WAS actually in a gumbo, which was a love at first taste affair in Savannah, Georgia... many a moon ago. 

I find that okra, like cilantro, tends to be one of those things that people either love or hate. I find okra to be mild, juicy and delicious, although many people complain of it being "slimy". Well they have simply eaten overcooked okra is all that I can say! In a traditional gumbo, the okra IS supposed to stew for a while- it is the ingredient that makes gumbo thick and creamy and delicious. But in this dish we are just going to pan-fry it in a little butter very quickly. Add a couple of slices of garlic and ginger to add flavor and fragrance, a little salt and a little cayenne... and you should be good to go in anything between 5-10 minutes, depending on the size. The smaller ones do tend to be softer, milder and juicier and I always prefer those to the big ones. Now that the okra and the peppers are ready, all we need to do is to flash-fry out turkey pieces in a very hot non-stick pan. There should be enough oil in the marinade that we don't need any extra. So off we go- once the pan is nice and hot, place your turkey pieces carefully in the pan one by one, making sure that they lay out nice and flat. This will make for a larger surface area to contact the hot pan and therefore a shorter cooking time. The meat should brown quickly due to the sugar in the Cointreau and the marmalade- it should take 5 minutes at the most on each side. Towards the end, add the left over marinade and a few rosemary leaves and you are ready to serve! 

Give the turkey pieces a light coating of honey and sprinkle with toasted black sesame seeds. 

I would serve this with a nice cold Chardonnay and a broad grin on my face... how about you?


  1. Well, I learned some new today. Never knew that okra was gombo in Italian. Never had any cause to use it, of course. I think I only saw okra once in ten years living in Rome—in some African food shop near piazza Vittoria, if memory serves. But, any way, count me in as a lover not a hater. Okra's great and, as you say, is only slimy if overcooked.

    And stracetti was another favorite Roman dish! Never thought to make them with turkey, though. Will have to try them that way!

  2. Hi Frank... I had to look that one up too- haha! Glad you like it though- I think it's a shame that it is so "unknown" over here in Europe. The turkey is a similar matter- if you cook it too long and it will become dry and tough, but being as it has been marinated in alcohol, the cooking time does reduce considerably. In any case- thanks again for your message and support! Enjoy! Best from Francesco