My current obsession with grilling might be slightly out of control at the moment. In fact, the way things are going, it’s a wonder I haven’t tried to bake a cake on the barbecue (though, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should admit that the thought has crossed my mind.)
So when the Turkey Farmers of Canada asked me if I’d like to participate in their Great Grilling Turkey Trial and help spread the word about how easy it can be to prepare delicious turkey dishes any time of the year, I figured it was an offer I couldn’t refuse… particularly since they were nice enough to send me a BBQ prize kit to help inspire me. (Not that I needed much of a nudge, obviously.)
To be honest, treating turkey like an everyday ingredient comes pretty naturally to me. Unlike most of the kids I knew growing up, turkey wasn’t really a special occasion ingredient at my house. Holiday meals for us usually meant roast goose, salt cod or a French-Canadian tourtiere, not a big roast turkey with all the trimmings.
To my ever-practical mother, a turkey was nothing more than an oversized chicken that could easily feed our household of five – particularly since utility turkeys could be bought for next to nothing on sale. There was nothing unusual about coming home from school on a random Tuesday afternoon to find a turkey roasting away in the oven, filling the house with a comforting aroma that most people only associate with a holiday.
The only reason I don’t cook turkey as much as my parents did is simple – as delicious as a roasted turkey can be, a whole bird is a bit much for our itty-bitty two-person household. Thankfully, it’s easy to find prepackaged ground turkey and turkey parts like breasts, thighs, drumsticks and wings at the store nowadays, so I can get my turkey fix in much more conveniently-sized portions.
My turkey of choice when I’m grilling is usually ground turkey, since it’s a great way to get my burger fix without worrying about my waistline, but this time around I decided to try something new – boneless turkey breast, to be specific.
For this recipe, I decided to draw my inspiration from tandoori chicken, an Indian dish which is normally made by marinating chicken legs with a blend of yogurt, lemon juice and spices, then baking in an extremely hot clay oven called a tandoor. Boneless turkey breasts are a great substitute for the usual chicken legs – they’re lower in fat, and cook up much faster when cut into bite-sized cubes, which means that these flavourful skewers can easily be on the table in under 30 minutes if you marinate them in advance.
My version of the marinade uses a blend of lime juice, paprika, fresh ginger, garam masala and cayenne pepper to flavour the turkey breast, while turmeric adds both flavour and a beautiful bright yellow colour. (Red food colouring is often added to the tandoori marinade to create the distinctive pinkish-red hue, but I opted to leave it out.)
Peppers and onions are a completely un-traditional addition, but like the bright colour and flavour they add to the finished dish.
The most critical ingredient in the marinade is the yogurt – aside from helping the spices stick to the meat and adding a tangy flavour all its own, it also contains enzymes that break down the proteins in the turkey breast as it marinates, guaranteeing it’ll come off the grill tender and moist. (Which I’m sure we can all agree is a good thing where turkey breast is concerned, since I’m sure all of us have been visited by the Ghost of Overcooked Christmas Turkeys Past.)
All you need to make yourself a fabulous Indian-inspired meal is some plain basmati rice or warm naan, a simple cucumber salad, and a side of refreshing Mango Raita on the side. Indian buffet? Who needs it!
Disclosure: I received a BBQ kit from the Turkey Farmers of Canada in exchange for writing this post. All opinions are entirely my own.
- 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 limes, zested and juiced
- 2 tbsp grated ginger
- 2 tbsp hot paprika
- 2 tbsp garam masala
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 lbs boneless skinless turkey breast
- 10 bamboo skewers
- 1 small red onion, cut into chunks
- 1 green pepper, cut into chunks
- 1 small firm-ripe Ataulfo mango, finely diced
- 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp finely chopped mint
- 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp salt
- Pinch cayenne
- In a small bowl, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients until smooth.
- Place the turkey cubes in a large zip-top plastic bag. Pour in the marinade, and seal up the bag. Shake until the turkey is evenly coated with marinade. Transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.
- About an hour before you're ready to cook, soak the bamboo skewers in water to prevent them from burning.
- Thread the turkey pieces onto the prepared skewers, alternating with 2-3 chunks of onion and pepper per skewer.
- Preheat a gas or charcoal grill on high heat. Arrange the skewers on the preheated grill, and cook for 4-5 minutes per side or until turkey is cooked all the way through and a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 165F.
- Transfer the skewers to a serving platter and cover with foil while you quickly prepare the raita.
- Combine the raita ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. Spoon into four small serving bowls.
- Serve the turkey skewers with small bowls of raita for dipping, and warm naan or basmati rice alongside.