Turkey Salad with Lemon, Capers, Mustard and Cornichons

Patricia Wells has been writing about Paris for decades, and put a lot of bakeries, restaurants, and really…anything food-related—on the map for visitors. And when Patricia recently invited me and some friends over for lunch in her well-equipped Paris cooking school kitchen to celebrate her new book on salads, I jumped at the chance (okay, I didn’t jump because people would have looked at me funny if I was jumping down the street in Paris…I rode a bike), even though I had just returned from a week of indulging the fine cuisine of Switzerland.

I was relieved when she served a lovely lunch which included – of course – several copious salads because I was stuffed from a week of eating everything from fondue to bacon. This one was particularly light, but really flavorful due to the big dose of cornichons, French mustard, and lemon juice in the dressing, making it perfect for summer. Please welcome this guest post and recipe from Patricia Wells. -David

turkey salad

The inspiration for the title of my latest book, Salad As A Meal, comes from the menu at Paris’s Brasserie Lipp, where in big, bold red letters the French menu proclaims in clear English: NO SALAD AS A MEAL.

As one who has long considered all manner of composed salads to make up a complete meal, it seemed natural to fiddle with Lipp’s pronouncement. In my house – and in the book — salads are dressed with light and lively dressings, and paired with soups, homemade breads, light egg dishes.


Paris provided a wealth of inspiration for the book, with a favorite Lobster Salad with Green Beans, Apple, and Avocado from Yves Camdeborde’s Le Comptoir; a Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocado, Pistachios, and Pistachio Oil inspired the fabulous nut oils sold at the Leblanc family’s tiny shop right downstairs from my Paris studio/office/cooking school; and a Spring Salad of Asparagus, Peas, Beans and Fennel prompted by a trip to the Sunday morning organic farmer’s market on Boulevard Raspail.

Poilane Bread

To celebrate the book’s arrival, I recently created a Saturday afternoon lunch for a group of Parisian colleagues, including David (of course!), Alexander Lobrano, Clotilde Dusoulier, Meg Zimbeck, Susan Herrmann Loomis, and my assistant Emily Buchanan. On the menu? Starters of Hummous with Cumin Chips, and Cilantro-Flecked Heirloom Tomato Soup prepared with sweet and tangy tomatoes that appear in the Paris markets from February to May.

Once at the table, we feasted on a trio of varied salads: My Crab Salad with Lime and Avocado; a favorite Chicken Salad with Green Beans and Tahini-Yogurt-Lemon Dressing: and my students’ most popular Poached Turkey Breast Salad with Lemon, Capers, Cornichons, and Mint, a winner that will be sure to appear on picnic menus this summer.

All the while, we sipped the clean, crisp Inforescence 100% Pinot Noir Champagne from independent winemaker Cedric Bouchard; the crowd pleasing Domaine Ostertag Riesling 2009 Vignoble d’E; and the light and fruity Martinelle, a 2008 Cotes de Ventoux from lady winemaker Corinna Kryse.

cheese and ham bread coutome coffee

Since there are no desserts in my salad book, I had to steal from one of my next books and prepared two seasonal favorites: a chilled Red Fruit Soup prepared with Gariguette strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and Mara de Bois strawberries. I paired it with a colorful Raspberry Yogurt Sorbet that received an emphatic WOW! as it was served to each guest.

red fruits

Poached Turkey Breast Salad with Lemon, Capers, Mustard, Cornichons, and Mint
Print Recipe
Serves twelve
Used with permission from Salad as a Meal by Patricia Wells This is a great summer salad and makes enough for a crowd. It’s also best made in advance, making it perfect for entertaining guests. I’ve added some notes at the end of the recipe. -dl
1 boneless turkey breast (about 4 pounds 2kg)
1 large onion halved (do not peel), stuck with 2 cloves
3 carrots chopped
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
A 1-inch (3cm) knob of fresh ginger, peeled
4 cloves plump moistgarlic, peeled, halved, and green germ removed
6 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
Grated zest of 2 lemons, preferably organic
1/2 cup (125ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup (250ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 small spring onions or scallions, trimmed, peeled, and cut into very thin slices
24 cornichons, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (90g) capers in vinegar, drained
1/2 cup (20g) fresh mint leaves, cut into a chiffonade (for garnish)
1. Place the turkey breast in a 6-quart (6l) stock pot and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch (3cm). Remove the turkey to a platter. Add the onion, carrots, bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, ginger, garlic, and vinegar to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Carefully lower the turkey into the pot. Reduce heat to a bare simmer, and poach, covered, for 1 1/4 hours.
2. Remove the pot from the heat and cool the turkey in the liquid, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
3. Drain the turkey and discard the poaching liquid and solids.
4. In a bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, juice, oil, and mustard. Stir in the spring onions, cornichons, and capers.
5. Place the turkey in a sturdy resealable plastic bag and pour the marinated into the bag. Seal the bag and turn it back and forth to evenly coat the turkey with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
6. At serving time, remove the turkey from the bag and place on a cutting board. With a very sharp chef’s knife, slice the turkey crosswise into thin slices. Moisten the turkey slices with the marinade. Garnish with the mint and serve.


David’s Notes: I adapted Patricia’s marvelous recipe a bit since the original recipe calls for 4-pounds of turkey breast and serves twelve people, and that many people won’t fit in my apartment at the same time. Here’s my notes:

1. I cut the recipe in half and used a 2-pound (1kg) turkey breast. The poaching time was 1 hour.

2. I reduced the olive oil to 1/3 cup for the half recipes. (2/3 cup if you are making the recipe as is.)

3. If you don’t want to use a plastic bag, marinate the turkey in a shallow baking dish, turning it frequently while it’s marinating.

4. You could save the poaching liquid and use it as a soup base. I tasted it and the vinegar wasn’t discernible. So taste it and if it’s to your liking, feel free to reserve it for another use.

5. I didn’t use fresh mint as a garnish even though I have some growing outside my window. I keep finding pigeon feathers in it, so I’m wary of using it.

6. Leftovers are great sliced into strips and tossed with grated raw vegetables with some of the dressing and pickles, and I made a quick – and tasty – lunch salad from them.

Related Links and Recipes

Patricia Wells Website and Blog

8 Tips for Choosing and Using Olive Oil

Apricot, Almond and Lemon Bread

French Tomato Tart

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Chicken Mango Slaw

Cucumber Feta Salad


  • sarahb1313
    April 24, 2011 4:32pm

    Oh thank-you for the recipe! A lovely salad served with a great knob of crusty bread is just fabulous- not just in spring, but all year.

    I often will poach chicken breast for a light chicken salad, and this is a great change to try. I only wish I could find such luscious berries near my home.

    Amazing that the french are so lean, yet don’t embrace a great salad? I am very much looking forward to the book- most of my not winter dinners are some boring variation of a dinner salad with some grilled add-on. This will much improve my repertoire!

  • April 24, 2011 4:39pm

    You had me at Cornichons. I love Patricia Wells and have been inspired by her for decades. My dream has always been to treat myself to her cooking school in Provence. My goal is to get there within the next 5 years. Your lunch looks amazing, I am especially intrigued with the cumin chips!

  • April 24, 2011 4:52pm

    Is the tahini-yogurt-lemon dressing recipe in your book? All I can think about is drizzling that on the green beans hanging out in my crisper. Luckily, I have everything for the marinade — including the fresh mint, which never happens — already waiting for me in my kitchen.

  • April 24, 2011 4:55pm

    I am so pleased this book is available in the UK too.

    Patricia Wells’ books, especially At Home in Provence, have been favourites for years, a new one is something to look forward to.

  • April 24, 2011 5:00pm

    After days of traditional Italian Easter eating, I was thinking – hmmm – salad for a week (or a month) and here you are. Interested in the book now! And very interested in this salad.

  • Michael
    April 24, 2011 5:06pm

    Where can I get the cheese and ham bread that is pictured in this article? Did a google search to no avail.


  • April 24, 2011 5:10pm
    David Lebovitz

    Claudia: Yes, the recipe is pretty healthy. I did reduce the olive oil since I like the salads more on the acidic side.

    Michael: The recipe is in her book. I’ve linked to a savory cake/bread on the site at the end of the post, too.

    sarah: People eat salads at home, but in restaurants and cafés in Paris- if there are salad options (which there often are), they’re not terribly inspired and are heavy on meat and cheese and light on fresh vegetables.

  • April 24, 2011 5:18pm

    It was so wonderful to see a couple of my favorite people on the same page on this post, David. Thank you for that. I have spent many hours at Chanteduc with Patricia and Walter and also followed them to Vietnam last spring. The genius in Patricia’s food these days is in the incredible flavors that she wields with such a light hand. I don’t want to eat like when I was twenty. And after a couple decades on an organic farm, I crave those nuanced bright combinations that Patricia does so well. I have every other book she has ever written, and am waiting patiently for Amazon to send me my copy of Salad As a Meal here in Japan. They are not always very swift when sending across the sea.

  • A Little Sugar
    April 24, 2011 6:08pm

    I have loved PW’s style for years. Thank you for posting your beautiful lunch! I will have to try everything mentioned! The fruit soup also sounds amazing and will look for that lobster salad too! Of course, I can’t get Pinot champ here in Kuwait (or any champ for that matter!) but once I’m back to SF this summer I’ll be recreating your little lunch as best as I can! Can’t wait!

  • latafiolesucrée
    April 24, 2011 8:35pm

    It’s off topic, but when are you going to let Romain guest blog?

  • Jean Marie
    April 24, 2011 9:20pm

    I would never have thought to put together a salad like this one but it sounds delicious. We love having salad for dinner. Seems as if I need to add one more cookbook to the collection! That bread looks amazing and there is no mention of it in the post. I want to eat it now.

  • Sheila
    April 24, 2011 9:43pm

    Thanks so much for the post from Patricia, David. I just love her! I was brought to tears last week when a local restaurant could not find a seat for me at a sold-out luncheon to host a book signing by Patricia of this new cookbook of hers. (I pleaded and even said I would forgo the lunch and the included book, and just sit quietly in the corner listening to her talk, but it was still a “no”) I’m still sad about it, but it was fun to read about your lunch with her at least! You are so lucky with all the experiences you have!

  • Richard Farner
    April 24, 2011 11:14pm

    David, I have enjoyed your blog for several months and your “Perfect Scoop” for a couple years. Thanks for both.
    Can you tell me what the other salad is on the plate with the turkey? It looks like carrots, jicama or fennel, red cabbage–? How is it dressed?

  • toastchef
    April 24, 2011 11:23pm

    I like that I am sitting down to a meal of salad as I read this. It looks great and I look forward to trying it!

  • jennifer
    April 25, 2011 1:04am

    Thanks for this post – loved meeting Patricia when I lived in Paris and enjoy her books. Tell me, was the bread/place card made at Poilane? How incredibly clever!

  • Janet
    April 25, 2011 4:25am

    My two favourite people together… I love it. I always thought that in my next life I wanted to come back as Patricia Wells so that I too could enjoy Paris and Provence and write cookbooks and live the French life. Now I’m thinking that David’s life is pretty sweet looking too. Thank-you to both of you for enriching our lives with delicious food, engaging prose, and always, for the insider’s view of Paris.

  • April 25, 2011 4:31am

    “No salad as a meal” – and in English at that, would make me get up from the table and look for greener pastures. ;-)

  • April 25, 2011 5:17am

    Can’t wait to try the recipe and especially to get my copy of this new cookbook. The texture and flavor combinations sound fantastic. Patricia is one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  • April 25, 2011 11:07am
    David Lebovitz

    latafiolesucrée: I did a couple of posts with recipes of his:

    How to Make French vinaigrette

    Grated Carrot Salad

    ..but he’s not much for writing on his own…

    Merisi: I haven’t eaten at Brasserie Lipp just because of the stories of less-than-welcoming service if you’re not a regular. But in their defense, I have been out with visitors who just want soup or salad for dinner and better they let you know before you sit down than when you’re ready to order ; )

    jennifer: Yes, those are made at Poilane. You can order those in the shop and pick them up later, or the next day. They’re cute!

  • April 25, 2011 2:46pm

    I am really looking forward to my book arriving in the mail!


  • Sara
    April 25, 2011 6:04pm

    Is that cheese and ham bread recipe in her book? That looks absolutely delicious as I read your post at 9 AM this morning!

  • April 25, 2011 7:51pm

    The name of the book is so cute! I missed vegetables a bit when I was visiting Paris. Thank goodness the falafel at ‘L’as du falafel’ contained a full salad serving in vegetables. But in other occasions, I had to substitute my five-a-day servings of fresh vegetables with five-a-day servings between cheese, cream and butter. Oh well.

    Great recipe, very inspiring menu, thanks for the guest post!

  • M'Lissa
    April 26, 2011 3:10am

    Mint with pigeon feathers, yum. Once again, you made me laugh out loud. Thanks.

  • April 26, 2011 5:09am

    Whoa. Love the berries.

  • April 27, 2011 12:33am

    Having spent my life devouring all things fat, creamy, starchy, salty and red-blooded, this recipe, and your cookbook, have reached me just in the nik of time. If my heart doesn’t explode by the end of the night, I’ll be ordering a copy of Salad for Dinner! Thank you for sharing your recipe and post.

  • Maya
    April 27, 2011 4:40pm

    Should you poach the turkey with the skin on or off? Thanks!!

  • April 27, 2011 5:03pm
    David Lebovitz

    Maya: I’ve never seen a turkey breast sold with the skin on. But if you do find one, it’ll likely float off during the poaching, so you can remove it first if you wish.

    Sara: Yes, that recipe is in her book. (Unfortunately those cute bread rolls, you have to get at Poilâne!)

  • April 27, 2011 6:55pm

    Patricia this sounds fantastic! David, you must post more of her recipes soon! I’d love to see her crab stuffed with lime and avocado recipe. Do you think that could be a future post?

    ~Nancy Lewis~

  • marta Petrini
    April 27, 2011 7:02pm

    Hi David i am from Italy and I think we have so much to learn from americans when it comes to cooking. I am talking about techniques and correct info.Here in Italy cooking is something you are born and raised with..still there’s always so much to learn.Love your photographs!!Are you a professional?Today i am willing to try oatmeal raisin cookies and this turkey salad

  • April 29, 2011 11:56pm

    Hi Patricia – It sounds like a fabulous luncheon. You don’t have to twist my arm to get me to order your book! I look forward to it!

    Hi David – so glad you didn’t use the mint.

  • April 30, 2011 1:11pm

    Dear Mr. Lebovitz,

    I probably won’t tell this anecdote (at least not at a public booksigning) to Patricia Wells next week when she’s in Durham, NC, but I’ll give it to you. Call it my present for having just discovered your blog.

    My copy of “Salad as a Meal” arrived this past wednesday and was sitting in a stack of five or so other new books on the ktichen table when Selma also arrived.

    Selma is a 64 year old, 250-or-so pound black grandmother whom I help out regularly (she’s raising 8 year-old grandaughter and a 12 year old grandson on her own). “Helping out” basically boils down to simply giving her money, explaining legal forms, and giving her groceries. She came on Wednesday to pick up the ten packs of pork chops I’d bought when I saw the sale-price.

    We were both sitting at the kitchen table while I wrote out a check for her, and I gathered that her eyes had wandered to the stack of books. I suddenly heard a loud snort, followed by “Salad as a MEAL? Who wrote that…a White Lady? These people gone to starve to death….”

    How is THAT for a dismissive review? I’m glad to read that the book’s experiencing a gentler critical reception in other venues.


    David Terry


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