Turkey season is all about transitions. At the beginning of my season, I drive to hunt with the heat on in the truck, and you can usually see your breath in the predawn. By mid-season, I’m running the AC and soaked in sweat by the end of the morning. This transition happens with the dishes I cook as the season progresses as well—sausage, braises, and stick-to-your rib-meals transition to lighter fare like smoked breasts, fresh greens, and salads.
This green papaya salad is light and refreshing, yet doesn’t lack savory elements. Ripe papaya is known for its sweet tropical flavor, but when it's green, it has a crisp texture similar to green mangos, jicama, or chayote (all of which would make great substitutes for green papaya). Paired with carrots, green onions, and a savory dressing with a little heat, it’s a perfect mid-day meal or a light dinner alfresco.
I use turkey tenders for this salad for a few reasons. First, they‘re the perfect size for this salad, one tender per person. Second, they’re tender, so no need to fuss with them. Turkey breasts can be used as well, but I’d recommend slicing them cross-grain and giving them a once-over with a tenderizing mallet. Braised thigh meat also works wonderfully. Whatever part of the turkey you want to use, season lightly—the dressing has plenty of character.
Make the dressing ahead of time to allow the flavors to meld. Choose a papaya that is entirely green and doesn’t have any soft spots. Peel the skin off, cut it in half, and scoop out the seeds and soft parts. Slice the papaya and carrots thinly with a mandolin or knife. Remember to remove the tendon from the tenders before cooking, and after cooking, allow them to rest before slicing cross grain.
- 2 turkey tenders
- White pepper
- 2-3 cups green papaya, julienned
- ½ cup carrot, julienned
- 2 tbsp. green onions, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice, about 3 limes
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small jalapeno or Thai chili pepper, minced
Also works with
- Combine all ingredients for the dressing, and stir until sugar is dissolved. You can make this ahead of time and store it in the fridge for up to a week.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Remove tendon from turkey tenders. Season with salt and white pepper.
- Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Lightly oil pan, sear turkey tenders for 45 to 60 seconds until lightly browned. Flip tenders and place the pan in the preheated oven. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 150°F. Remove from pan and allow to rest.
- Mix papaya, carrots, and green onions. Dress to taste with dressing. Slice turkey tenders across the grain, and serve over the papaya salad. Top turkey with some of the dressing, especially the peppers and garlic bits.