Servings: 8 Prep: 30 mins Cook: 45 mins Total: 1 hr 15
This recipe is absolutely tasty, but it’s also a strange recipe. My original challenge was to take an inexpensive cut of meat and do something interesting with it. While I believe I COMPLETELY succeeded on that account, this recipe is also a bit of a stretch.
I purchased two turkey thighs. With the first, I created the Bacon Wrapped and Sausage Stuffed BBQ’d Turkey Thigh recipe. For the second, I wanted to do whatever was the opposite of the smoky thigh. The BBQ’d thigh was cooked low and slow in a smoky environment, was full of spices, wrapped in bacon and just … a really excellent down and dirty recipe. To steal a term from GrassFedGirl, it was “amazeballs!”
This time, I wanted something a little more refined. A “snobby” turkey thigh, if you will. I chose to go with some Mediterranean flavors and make it sort of a northern Italian type of dish. The end result was thoroughly delicious, rich and flavorful, but … for some odd reason, I decided to wrap the whole thing in caul fat.
Caul fat? What’s that?
It can’t be a big secret that I love wrapping things in bacon. I wrapped the BBQ’d thigh in bacon and this was to be the opposite of that. So, what’s the opposite of no bacon? In my mind … it’s caul fat! It’s like wrapping food in bacon, but … without bacon!
Caul fat is a thin membrane, which surrounds the stomach internal organs of some animals, like cows, pigs and sheep. It’s the weirdest looking stuff; appearing like a big webby net. I happened to have some left over in my freezer from Thanksgiving, where I had wrapped various turkey parts in it and served it to my family.
I flat out stole the above image, but I liked the picture. It does a fantastic job of showing what caul fat looks like, while being held by a regular person (not a chef), who ALSO used it for Thanksgiving and a turkey. If you click the image, you’ll also see she goes into a little more detail about caul fat than I did. She also calls herself the “Pig Whisperer” which automatically makes her awesome, in my book.
Anywhoo … cool picture! I hope she doesn’t sue! 🙂
See, one of the wonderful things about caul fat is, it essentially disappears when it’s cooked. You can take something like a meatloaf and wrap it in caul fat and then bake it. The meatloaf will maintain its shape, because the caul fat helps it to stay that shape. However, the caul fat essentially melts IN to the meatloaf, rendering it extra flavorful and juicy! It does almost all the great stuff wrapping stuff in bacon does, but … without the bacon! (and salt and smokiness)
Caul fat is great. It’s fun to wrap around monkfish or meatballs. Find some and play with it. It’s weird, but fun!
It’s unlikely you’ll find this at a standard grocery store. If you call ahead, you might be able to order some. The first butcher I called in Seattle had some in the freezer. It’s far from impossible to find, but it’s not going to be sitting next to the bacon.
Finally, caul fat freezes well. Defrost in a bucket of water and just pull it out of the water and spread it out. Cut a big sheet of it, put something in the middle of the sheet, roll “it” up in the caul fat, then cut off any excess. Sear and roast! YUM!
Photo Note: Served with pesto cream sauce.
Italian Stuffed Turkey ThighPrint Rate
- 2 approx. 1-lb each turkey thighs
- 6 oz caul fat
- 1 lb firm fontina cheese grated
- 1/2 lb asiago cheese grated
- 8 whole artichoke hearts in oil cut into 8 wedges, each
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil oil drained off
- 1/2 cup assorted italian olives chopped
- 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
- salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 375 F.
- Place a boneless turkey thigh in between two sheets of plastic wrap.
- With the bottom of a pan, the back of your knife, or a meat mallet, whack your turkey thigh until it's about 1/2-inch thick and spread out evenly. Different thighs will spread in different ways, which will result in different shapes and cooking times. Some will be shaped a nice square, while others will be circular, or the US states California or Texas. In a perfect world, we want a shape like Kansas (a fairly clean rectangle).
- Lightly season both sides of your turkey thigh with salt and pepper.
- Spread out a sheet of caul fat, so that it's about twice as much surface area as your turkey thigh. It's ok if you have extra. You can easily cut it off, after it's been rolled.
- Place your turkey thigh on the caul fat, skin side down.
- Sprinkle half of your cheese evenly over the turkey breast.
- Evenly distribute half of the remaining ingredients.
- Tightly roll the thigh in the caul fat, so that it forms a nice solid and tightly rolled shape. Fold under any large masses of caul fat, or cut it off. You will want the entire piece of thigh to be tightly wrapped, without holes in the membrane, or leaving any of the turkey unexposed. The wrapping should be "air tight". Once you're certain the turkey is well wrapped and free of holes, cut off any excess flaps.
- Repeat the process with the other thigh.
- Line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Place your two thighs on the parchment, making sure there is plenty of space between them.
- Bake the thighs until they are cooked through. Because the size and shape can vary, it's difficult to gauge the time, but it should be between 35 and 55 minutes. Stick a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the largest one. When it reads 165 F, remove the thighs, cover them and place in a warm location for 10 minutes to let the juices settle.
- Slice and serve!
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