Recipe of the week
Turkey roasted in banana leaves: A lesson from Cuba
Chefs in Cuba have to be creative with often-limited resources, and they “love to wrap foods in banana leaves prior to roasting them,” said Guillermo Pernot in Cuba Cooks (Rizzoli). The method was favored by the indigenous Taino people, and the leaves, which grow abundantly throughout the island, are used to hold in moisture and add flavor to everything from fish to whole pigs.
At my Cuba Libre restaurants, we cook turkey this way, first brushing the breasts with a mango-curry sauce, or mojito. Frozen banana leaves, which are more easily found, work just as well if you thaw them just before cooking, and you can sub in parchment paper if needed. Banana leaves aren’t edible, but “they impart an herbal smokiness” and “make for a striking presentation.”
Banana leaf-roasted turkey with mango-curry mojito
1 cup diced mango
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup olive oil
¼ tsp sugar
2 tsp Thai red curry paste
1 sprig fresh basil
¾ tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 cup shrimp stock
1 small onion, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
12 fresh sage leaves
½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 bay leaves
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
2 (4½-lb) boneless turkey breast halves
Freshly ground black pepper
4 banana leaves, fresh or thawed
In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook all mojito ingredients except shrimp stock until curry paste fully dissolves. Transfer to a blender; puree until smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in shrimp stock. Taste, and adjust salt. Cover and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400. In a mini food processor, pulse onion and lemon zest until onion is finely chopped. Add sage, parsley, olive oil, bay leaves, butter, and salt; pulse until mixture forms a coarse paste.
Place turkey breasts on a work surface and carefully insert your fingers between skin and flesh of each breast, creating a pocket that runs the length of the breast. Be careful not to pull skin off. Season outside of breasts generously with salt and pepper. Stuff half the herb paste into the pocket of a turkey breast and spread evenly over flesh. Repeat with second breast.
Place two banana leaves in the bottom of a large roasting pan and set a turkey breast on each one. Baste breasts with mojito glaze, then wrap individually in remaining banana leaves, fully enclosing them.
Roast turkey about 40 minutes, until breasts are cooked through and a thermometer registers an internal temperature of 155. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serves 16. ■