M. Andrew Gordon

Turkey Necks with Roasted Figs and Pears

In Main Dish on November 29, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Forelle Pears

Thanksgiving yielded at least one revelation this year: the neck is the best meat on the bird.  I do not know how I missed this all of these years.  It’s not as if I had never noticed that the neck has the perfect dark meat, tender as all get out and flavorful as hell.  It’s just that I never quite thought about it being so good.  My mind started to race with ideas about what to do with turkey necks.  Unfortunately, there is only one neck on each bird – and thankfully, no amount of genetic modification will probably change that.  But at least the necks are packaged for short money at the supermarket.

This salad combines some seasonal produce and plays the richness of the turkey neck off the sweetness of the figs and pears.  Forelle pears are a fantastic variety, with a really nice flavor and a smooth texture.  Bartlett or D’anjou are good substitutes.  The slight bitterness of the watercess and the sharp flavor of the cheddar tie it all together.  Baby spinach would also work well as the base of this salad.

I think the meat would also be very nice in a ragout over pasta or a nutty wild rice.

  • 5 or 6 turkey necks, any extra skin removed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, thickly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 parsnip, cut in half lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pint fresh figs, quartered
  • 2 forelle pears, cored and sliced
  • 1 bunch watercress
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly grated cheddar cheese

Nestled underneath all of that is neck meat...sweet turkey neck meat

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.  Clean turkey necks and set aside.  Combine spices in large bowl and add necks, turning to coat completely.
  2. In large cast-iron skillet (or other oven proof skillet), add olive oil and heat to medium.  Add onion, garlic, carrot and parsnip and cook until onion starts to soften.  Add stock and layer necks on top of mixture.  Cover and place in oven.  Cook for one hour.
  3. Decrease heat to 275°F and cook for an additional 30 minutes.  Remove necks and let cool for about 10 minutes. Strain liquid mixture into small saucepan, pressing against the solids to extract more liquid.  Pull meat from necks and place in saucepan with reserved liquid.  Add lemon juice and keep warm over low heat.
  4. Turn oven up to 425°F.  Place figs in ovenproof dish and roast for 15 minutes, shaking several times.
  5. Place watercress in bowl.  Top with turkey meat and liquid, placing roasted figs and pears around meat.  Sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with cheddar to taste.
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