Surely just a turkey sandwich could be replicable, right? Try your best to copy the ingredients, get the good stuff, and voila–you’ll be a copy cat in no time. What I discovered in this exercise, and I should have known better after gobbling them up 3 different times, is that when it comes to Torrisi Italian Specialities, it’s never JUST a turkey sandwich. Or JUST chicken parm. Or JUST anything. It’s simple, yes. Ingredient lists are likely short in this operation, but I think it’s the details and intangibles that might make this sandwich so good–the TLC in the technique–maybe it’s just that euphoria you get because “someone else made it for you.” All of that being said, my copy was very good. If you can’t get to Torrisi to try their turkey sandwich, by all means, make this at home. But if you can get there, please do. And do so soon. It’s espcially good timing as they’ve just opened a new spot next door, appropriately called PARM. Parm’s menu looks AH-mazing. You can check out some photos via Serious Eats, whom were lucky to get a sneak preview. My impression is that they are moving most of the sandwich and antipasti operation to Parm where Torrisi Italian Specialities will focus on finer dining for lunch and dinner.
Here you have it, my copy of the Torrisi house turkey sandwich. I was very fortunate to stumble on a recipe for Torrisi Turkey via the New York Times. While that recipe called for a full turkey breast for roasting, I applied the technique to turkey cutlets. I also didn’t brine as they called for. These two changes could have made a large difference in the result–I can’t be 100% sure–but I can tell you, the turkey was still amazing.
You start by roasting garlic and pureeing it with honey, thyme, and salt & pepper.
Now the cool technique. We’ve all had our share of tough, dry turkey breast. Deli meat has more moisture moistly because it’s been overly processed to achieve that. What I was happy to discover here, is that if you use proper technique and care, turkey can be so juicy and flavorful. The recipe calls for wrapping your turkey 4 times in plastic wrap and then one time in foil. Then you place the turkey package on a rack in a roasting pan filled with water (the water is just shy of touching the turkey.) Next pop an oven-safe thermometer into the center of the turkey package, then place the whole pan in a low degree oven until an intermediary temp is achieved. With a big ice bath on stand-by, you remove the turkey package still in its layers and place the whole bundle into the ice bath. Crank up the oven higher, remove the plastic wrap and foil, coat in the roasted garlic-honey glaze, and place back on the rack and back in the hotter oven. The recipe states to simply roast until golden. I instead popped the meat thermometer back in to achieve the proper cooked temperature. I let the turkey cutlets rest to let the juices redistribute. When I finally was able to slice into them… the aroma, flowing juices, and lastly taste was delicious.
And now the other components to the sandwich. The bread. The shaved lettuce, tomato, and red onion. The spicy sauce. Torrisi sources their bread from Parisi Bakery–lucky for me, I live in NYC, so that was easy to get. Any italian roll will do here–preferably with seeds. I recommend making a trip to a good Italian bakery. If you give the TLC to the turkey, do the same for the bread. And no whole wheat or multi-grain or french bread–it’s gotta be white Italian bread. As for the shaved veggies, I decided to use my mandoline for lettuce and red onion. I sliced an on-the-vine ripe tomato very thinly with a sharp knife. Now for the spicy sauce. I did a simple combination of light mayo and Sriracha hot sauce. I think that I missed the Torrisi mark on this, though my sauce was excellent. Their sauce was a little redder in color and had a different kind of flavor, and I wondered if perhaps they added some ketchup. After some Google work, turns out they use B&G Hot Peppers in their spicy sauce. If you try at home, I encourage to experiment with that combo. Any way you like it, spicy sauce is always a good thing on a sandwich.
All that was left was assembling. A few slices, some layering, and big cut down the center–voila olivetocook’s take on a Torrisi turkey sandwich. The flavors of the soft bread, sesame seeds, juicy turkey, roasted garlic, spicy sauce, and crisp veggies all come together for a delicious bite. And while it wasn’t the same as Torrisi for reasons I can and can’t explain, I wasn’t disappointed. The sandwich was indeed gone before I even had a chance to sip my Diet Coke with it.
Time: About 4 hours, plus 24 hours’ marinating.
Note: To give real justice to the recipe, I would recommend folks follow this recipe as written. However, since I made modifications and was happy with the results, I’ve included my notes here in parentheses. Feel free to make your own version too.
FOR BRINING THE TURKEY: (I didn’t brine)
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 boneless turkey breasts, 3 to 4 1/2 pounds each (2 boneless turkey cutlets, 1 ½ pounds total)
FOR THE GLAZE:
8 heads garlic, lightly smashed but intact (1 head of garlic)
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (1/2 tbsp. of olive oil)
1/2 cup honey (1 tbsp. honey)
1 tablespoon kosher salt (pinch of salt)
1 tablespoon pepper (pinch of pepper)
1 tablespoon thyme leaves. (pinch of thyme)
1. To brine the turkey: In a medium saucepan, bring 2 quarts water to a boil with the salt and sugar. Pour into a large pot, and add 2 quarts cold water. Once the brine is cool, submerge the turkey breasts and refrigerate overnight, or up to 24 hours. (skipped this step)
2. To make the glaze: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss the garlic heads with the olive oil in a small casserole dish, cover and roast until the garlic is soft, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Leave covered until cool enough to handle, then squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins into a food processor and purée. Add the honey, salt and pepper. Cover until ready to use. (followed method here exactly)
3. To cook the turkey: Heat oven to 250 degrees. Remove the breasts from the brine and wrap each one four times in plastic wrap and once in aluminum foil. Insert an oven-safe thermometer into the center of one breast and place both on a wire rack in a roasting pan. Add water to reach to just below the rack. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees, 2 to 3 hours. Near the end of cooking time, fill a large bowl halfway with ice water. (followed method exactly)
4. Remove the turkey from oven and raise temperature to 425 degrees. Without removing thermometer or wrapping, submerge the turkey in the ice bath for 5 minutes. Remove foil, plastic wrap and turkey skin. Pat dry and brush glaze liberally on all sides of the breasts. Roast until glaze is golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh thyme and serve thinly sliced, hot or cold. (followed exactly except I popped the thermometer back in until a temperature of 165 degrees was achieved. This took longer than 20 minutes.)
Yield: 12 servings. (4 servings)
Olive to Cook’s Torrisi Turkey Sandwich
2 Torrisi turkey cutlets as prepared above
½ head of iceberg lettuce
½ red onion
1 very ripe red tomato
Best quality Italian bread you can find, either individual sandwich rolls or 1 long loaf
Optional: spicy sauce (1/2 cup mayonnaise and add Sriracha until your preferred spice level is achieved)
1. Slice turkey cutlets into diagonal ¼-inch slices, against the grain.
2. Shred the lettuce and onion as thinly as possible—I recommend a mandoline. Slice the tomato very thinly with a sharp knife.
3. Spread a generous amount of the spicy sauce on both sides of your Italian bread, layer turkey slices, then tomato, red onion, and lettuce.
4. Serve and enjoy.