I have very little fondness for ground turkey. I’ll grant you it’s about as low fat as it can get, but to me it’s also low on taste and low on juice and low on my list of things I love to cook. But an article in Food and Wine intrigued me. It was entitled “French food that won’t make you fat”. Now there’s something I can sink my teeth into. And it has a very solid pedigree. Its inventor is the chef Sandro Gamba who cooked under Joel Robichon and Alain Ducasse, was Food and Wine magazine’s Best New Chef of 2001.
Apparently tired of rendering French classics at Nomi, in Chicago’s Park Hyatt Hotel, he quit his job and began to look for a place where he could cook “cleaner” and healthier versions of his mentors’ specialties. He landed at the Four Seasons in Westlake Village, CA which welcomed his healthy approach at all five restaurants on the property. I couldn’t actually find this dish on any of their menus but since it dates back to 2007, it may have now been replaced. As may have Sandro, although his bio remains on the Four Seasons corporate site.
The key here is trying to find a way to keep the lean turkey meat moist without loading it with fat or calories. Enter cottage cheese. Now before you turn the page, you should know you’ll won’t be at all aware of the stuff in the finished dish, although the flecks of it before the loaf is cooked are a little off-putting. But forge ahead and make this. The Red Pepper Sauce is very easy to make and add tremendously to the color and the flavor of the dish. Here’s the recipe:
Recipe for Sandro Gamba’s Turkey Meat Loaves with Red
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Lightly oil a 9-by-5-inch metal loaf pan. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the carrot, celery, garlic and two-thirds of the onion; season with salt and white pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
Add the turkey and cooked vegetables to a large bowl. Add the egg whites, panko, cottage cheese, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper. Knead until blended and put into the metal pan. Place the pans on a baking sheet and bake in the upper third of the oven for 35 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°. Remove from the oven and preheat the broiler.
3. Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add two-thirds of the red peppers, the remaining onion and the thyme. Cover and cook over moderate heat until softened, 10 minutes. Add the water, cover and simmer until the peppers are very tender, 7 minutes. Discard the thyme. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a blender, add the half-and-half and puree. Season with salt and pepper.
4. In a skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the remaining peppers and cook over moderate heat until softened, 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Broil the meat loaves 4 inches from the heat until browned, 2 minutes. Turn the loaves out onto a plate and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Spoon the pepper sauce onto plates. Top with the meat loaf and peppers. Serve with new potatoes and asparagus.