Moldovan Turkey Gratin

It all started with Sergey Donika’s Moldovan Cuisine, a book that one might call obscure for rather obvious reasons: 1) it’s written in Russian, 2) it was published in Chișinău, and 3) I found it in a bookstore in Kiev. Overnight, I went from not knowing a single Moldovan dish to having at my disposal “500 ancient and contemporary recipes” — at least that’s what it says on the cover. I’m afraid that this sudden profusion of choices (many of which didn’t sound all that different from one another), plus the fact that the book contains no index or detailed table of contents, left me a little bit confused. I completed my reading with the vague notion that I should be trying a dish with turkey, pumpkin, and prunes, and labeling it as Moldovan…

Moldovan Cuisine - Turkey, Butternut Squash and Prune Gratin

So, there! My Moldovan turkey gratin is full of what appears to be quintessential Moldovan ingredients, and it’s layered and baked like a Moldovan moussaka. Moreover, for my American readers, it’s an instant Thanksgiving classic that doesn’t even require you to be able to spell / pronounce / locate Chișinău on a map — and if you can’t wait till next year, you can always prepare it for Christmas. This makes a sophisticated side for roasted turkey breast, or a whole bird minus one leg. Or you can easily adapt the recipe to use your leftovers.

Turkey leg confit
Yields about 8 servings

1 turkey thigh and leg (about 19 oz, taken from a 9 lb turkey)
about 14 g salt
3 oz rendered duck fat
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
2 peppercorns
1 clove
2 thyme sprigs

  • Weigh the turkey thigh and leg, then measure 2.5% of that weight in salt. Sprinkle the salt on the meat, and transfer into a sous-vide pouch with the duck fat, garlic, peppercorns, clove, and thyme.
  • Cook in a 166 F water bath for 25 to 30 hours, until very tender.
  • Reserve. You can prepare in advance and refrigerate it for a few days.

Turkey gratin
Yields about 8 servings

20 oz peeled butternut squash
22 oz peeled Yukon Gold potatoes
32 oz milk
3/4 tsp salt
ground black pepper
ground nutmeg
turkey leg confit
4 oz pitted prunes, halved

  • Using a mandoline, slice the butternut squash into 1/8″ thick slices. Do the same with the potatoes.
  • Place the milk into a large pot with 3 oz of the butternut squash. Add the salt, black pepper, and nutmeg, and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the squash is tender. Blend until smooth, using either a hand blender or a regular one.
  • Add the potatoes, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring regularly.
  • Place the turkey confit with its fat and juices in a saucepan over very low heat. Add the prunes, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.
  • Drain the turkey meat, and shred into small pieces using your fingers (I got about 9 oz meat). Mix with 4 tbsp of the cooking liquid and reserve. Drain and reserve the prunes, as well.
  • In a 8″ x 11″ dish, pour half of the potato mixture and spread evenly. Cover with half of the butternut squash, then arrange the meat and the prunes on top. Finish with another layer of butternut squash, followed by the rest of the potatoes.
  • Bake in a 350 F oven for 1 1/2 hours.
  • Let cool for a few minutes and serve.

Moldovan Cuisine - Turkey, Butternut Squash and Prune Gratin

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