Finally found some time to post about thanksgiving this year. And the famous and anticipated turkey night came and went, it happened so fast! I hope everybody had a great time and survived the cleaning marathon that usually follows the cooking olympics. Three days of prep, about 10-15 hours of cooking, gone in less than 20 minutes at the table. I will always find that fascinating, how quickly so much hard work can disappear in minutes. But, that’s actually what it’s all about. It’s a good sign if anything!
What I like about Thanksgiving, specially because I’m not amercian, and fundamentally this holiday has zero nostalgic meaning to me, no childhood memories, no grandma roasting a huge turkey… I got nothing. But after having lived in the US for over a decade, I have learned to love it. The fact that it isn’t about presents and that it hasn’t been commercialized, makes it more special.
The fact that it is about sharing food, makes it unique and wonderful. And for anyone in love with food and cooking, this is a big big big day. I hope you enjoyed time with your friends and family. I also hope you enjoy this rough account of what I made for thanksgiving dinner. I don’t measure when I’m cooking, unless I’m baking, or curing, so the quantities are an approximation.
One of the things I did differently this time was to prep ahead as much as I could. Turkey brined over the course of 3 days. And the day before thanksgiving I decided to prepare a few components of the final meal. I made the stuffing, the stock, the cranberry chutney and the braised cabbage ahead of time. Cooking on thanksgiving was a breeze. One other thing. I clean as I go. I can’t do it any other way anymore, I just have to keep my kitchen clean and ready. It’s a bit OCD but it works. If you haven’t tried this strategy and you feel that thanksgiving is just good times as long as you don’t think about the mess in the kitchen, think again. Being organized helps create a less stressful experience and I almost believe, better food. Try it! Ok, here we go:
Turkey (the main victim):
16 pound turkey (quartered. So… minus backbone, subtract about 4 pounds). Do not halve the turkey breasts. We’ll have to debone it after it’s brined. If possible, make an effort and get a free range, cage free, etc etc one. They deserve to be treated humanly like all animals.
Brine (equilibrium brine, takes longer):
5 liters of water (adjust recipe based on the container, mine fitted the turkey pretty snuggly)
7 Tbsp sea salt
5 Tbsp granulated sugar
1-2 Tbsp chinese 5 spice
2 Tbsp sriracha sauce
2-3 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp liquid smoke
Brine preparation: Mix all the ingredients in a vat large enough to fit the turkey. You can pre measure the amount of water you will need by placing the turkey in the vat and then adding the water until it covers it. Then remove the turkey. Whatever is left in the vat is the amount water you’ll need. I portioned the turkey which made it smaller, I remove the stock bones, and didn’t add those to the brine. Once you know how much water you need, I’d suggest cleaning the bath throughly. Pouring in clean water. And add the ingredients to the water and mix with an immersion blender. Keep the water as cold as possible. I add those blue ice gel packs. Be careful and mindful of working with raw poultry. Keep everything super clean clean clean and work as cold as you can possibly can. Brine for 2-3 days. This brine tastes pleasantly salty, not too salty like usual brine solutions. But we’re counting on time to diffuse only the proper amount of salt through the meat, takes longer, but it is worth it. If you have time constraints, or forgot to buy the turkey until the day before thanksgiving. Then make a regular extra salty brine and it should all work out in the end! There’s no risk of over-brining with the less salty formula (equilibrium brining). I like that. Make sure the turkey meat is fully covered by the brine.
10 shallots, finely chopped.
40g butter for the shallots
40g butter for the mushrooms
1/2 C port
1 Stella Artois (as needed, for deglazing occasionally and moral boosting)
1/2 C Panko breadcrumbs
2 Pork Bradwurst sausages (chopped into small bits)
10 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
20-30 white mushrooms (stalks removed, finely chop the caps)
Drizzle of thai fish sauce (bare with me… again)
1/2 C dried cranberries
Splash of Pedro Ximenez Sherry Vinegar
Salt, Pepper, Sugar to taste
Roulade stuffing preparation. Caramelize the shallots in the butter.
This can be a test if you haven’t done it before. It takes about 40 minutes, and you will probably have to spend that time by the pot stirring. You could add a tiny little pinch of baking soda to speed things up a bit, but I think it affects the final texture and not in a good way. Degalze as you go with some water or white wine or beer (stella, ended up being the theme I guess).
Once the shallots are of a deep golden brown color, stop, remove from the heat and reserve. Add the butter to a pan in medium high heat. Melt and wait until it stops bubbling. Add the mushrooms.
If you crowd the pan you will get less browning because they will sweat too much water and cool down the pan. Work in batches, or don’t'… just add all the mushrooms to the pan, and cook off all the liquid and brown the mushrooms at the end (sort of the opposite approach) since this is going to end up as stuffing, I don’t care much for keeping the shape of the mushrooms recognizable, so the second technique will work perfectly fine.
Once the mushrooms are nicely cooked, splash of fish sauce, cook it off, add the panko, or bread crumbs, and cook until golden, add the garlic last, and cook for a little bit (you know what they say.. don’t let it burn), add dried cranberries, a splash of port wine, stir all together, bring the caramelized shallots back in the pan, and cook briefly and mix well. It’s done. Reserve. This also can be made ahead of time.
Turkey Breast Roulade Sous Vide:
A whole turkey breast, deboned.
1 1/2 lb Roulade stuffing (read above)
butcher twine, cling wrap, sous vide gear or
big stock pot full of water, and a probe thermometer
big cast iron pot
enough vegetable oil to fill up the pot by 1 inch
Turkey breast roulade sous vide preparation: This was definitely challenging and a bit involved so bare with me. Deboning a whole turkey breast can be tricky. If you have a boning knife use it. If you have a cleaver, you might need it to break through the sternum. There are plenty of tutorials on youtube, so I won’t bore you with a lengthy explanation of how to do this. You can always ask your butcher to do this for you. I wanted to learn, so I tried it at home, it is a bit of work and the risk of “butchering” the meat are high. If you still want to try it at home, make sure you are relaxed, and have plenty of time, don’t rush this. Once you have your de-boned turkey breasts, remove the skin and don’t tear it, keep it whole and reserve in the fridge. Lay the turkey breasts over cling film, cover them with cling film (plastic wrap) and beat the crap out of them using a rolling pin (I’m pretty sure this works better than using a meat pounder) Trying to even out the thickness is key, but don’t take it too far, the final thickness should be about 2cm or about 3/4 of an inch. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap but keep the bottom one. Try to shape the meat as a rectangle as much as possible. Spread the stuffing over the turkey breasts as even as possible, and helping yourself with the underlying cling wrap, roll the meat onto itself. Wrap it well in cling wrap, shaping it like a cylinder. Place the meat in a plastic baggie, hopefully big enough to accommodate the roulade snugly. Vacuum seal. And cook sous vide at 140F or 60C for 2 1/2 hours.
If you could get a probe thermometer into the roulade, that would be ideal, once the core temperature reaches 140F it will take about 30-40 minutes to pasteurize. You could roast the roulade in the oven, at the lowest temperature setting, some ovens go as low as 170F, that will eventually overcook the meat, but keep it within a reasonable doneness level. After the roulade is cooked.Chuck it in a bath of ice water for about 20 minutes. Carefully remove it from the bag (I cut up the bag to free it, remove the cling wrap as well) And bring out the skin form the fridge. This is basically similar to making a bollotine , make sure the skin goes over the seam of the roulade. Now using butcher’s twine, tie it up. This is also tricky but fun once you get the hang of it. Tons of videos on youtube. Place the cast iron pot over medium high and add enough oil to fill by 1 inch. Bring the oil to 350F (using a infrared thermometer or a candy thermometer), add the roulade into the frying oil with a lot of care. There will be splatter… tons! so be really careful. Using large tongs, brown roulade all all sides, the skin should be nicely brown and crispy. If for whatever reason the roulade sticks to the bottom, don’t rip it off, let it cook, it just means the it isn’t golden brown yet :) Remove roulade from the frying oil carefully and place over a cutting board. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes. It is hard work, but big payoff in the end. Try it!
Roasted Turkey Legs:
2 turkey legs
1 large potato cut into rounds
1 large white onion medium dice
Olive oil (to coat vegetables and turkey legs)
S+P to taste
Roasted Turkey legs preparation. Coat vegetables in olive oil. Salt and peper to taste Add to the bottom of a roasting pan. Place legs over the bed of vegetables. Start with a cold oven and set the temperature to 350. And roast until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches about 149F and the juices run clear. Every 20 minutes, brush the legs with olive oil to help browning. Remove from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing. The total roasting time is about 1 and 1/2 hours, but don’t listen to me and trust the thermometer.
1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup of sugar
Splash of Whiskey
Splash of red wine
Splash of Apple cider vinegar
Pinch of salt
Cranberry chutney preparation. Simplest thing in the world. Add everything to a pan and cook over medium low heat for an hour. I kept it going for at least 2 hours. I would cook off all the liquid, and then add a little water and do it again for a few more times. The cranberries become softer and softer, and they syrup richer and more complex. Taste as you go, the flavor will probably need to be balanced, add more vinegar or more sugar as you see fit. Can be made ahead of time.
Braised savoy cabbage in lager beer:
1 beautiful savoy cabbage, quartered and thick ribs trimmed
1/2 Stella Artois (you should be on your second stella by now, why not)
30g bacon, cut in small bits.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup turkey stock (optional)
Splash of lemon juice
Splash of champagne vinegar
S+P to taste
Braised savoy cabbage preparation. Place a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon. Render the fat, make sure the bacon gets crispy but don’t burn. Yep, you guessed it. Deglaze with a big drizzle of beer.
You could remove the bacon bits, they will go soggy, I left them in, I can handle bacon in any presentation. Add the cabbage to the pan and start and start cooking it. Sprinkle some salt. It will break down, slowly, be patient. Add a little more beer, keep the cabbage hydrated but remember, its not cabbage beer soup. After 10-15 minutes, the cabbage should be soft, but still crunchy, like sauerkraut, start to cook off any excess liquid Remove from the heat. Allow to cool off for a bit. Adjust salt. Add pepper. Add the acid components until your happy. I like it sour and served cold. It’s a nice contrast to everything else. Can be made ahead as well.
Turkey backbone cut in chunks
Turkey neck bones
Turkey wings (options, I didn’t use them, still trying to figure out what to do with them)
1 white onion
1 large carrot
1 whole leek (washed , grit removed)
1 whole garlic head, halved
1 celery stalk
2 bay leaves
Turkey Stock Preparation. I kept this stock fairly simple. Roast the bones in the oven at 350F-400F. Don’t let anything burn. That will ruin the stock. Brush the bones and skin with the olive oil to help browning. The aroma coming out of the oven should be a good indicator of when their done. Remove the bones and rain excess fat from the roasting pan. Bring roasting pan over the stove on medium high heat and caramelize the fond even more, but don’t burn it.
Deglaze with water and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. . Place bones in a pressure cooker along with everything else including the deglazed fond, and cook at 15psi for an hour. Or if using a traditional stock pot, cook for about 2 to 2:30 hours. Line a strainer with paper towels. Strain the stock and reserve. You can do this step ahead of turkey day. I recommend that.
2 Tbsp light brown roux (1 part butter 1 part flour, cooked until light brown)
1500g turkey stock (see above)
250g red wine, like a full bodied cabernet.
1/2 rosemary sprig
1 or 2 Tbsp heavy cream
50g unsalted butter
Salt, Sugar, Pepper to taste
Gravy Preparation. Reduce the turkey stock, to a third. That usually is done by slow simmering. If you want to speed this up, use as wide a vessel as possible. Reducing in a tall saucepan will take very long. Reduce the wine the same way, until you’re left with a syrupy consistent. Add the stock to the wind syrup and mix well. Bring to a simmer and add the rosemary. Simmer for about 10 minutes, covered. Strain an reserve. Make a roux. Melt the butter in a saucepan, over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for about 10 minutes. The roux will become darker. Stop when you have a light golden brown color. Add a Tbsp to the wine/stock mix at a time. The sauce will thicken. Add more until you end up with a nice gravy consistency. Place the saucepan over medium low heat and add the butter and mix. Taste, as you go. You might find that it needs more butter. I added heavy cream to cut the acidity of the wine a bit. I adjusted the flavor until I was happy. You can strain one last time at the end through a fine strain if you have one. It won’t go through paper towels at least not on time for dinner :)
We devoured everything. Incredibly rich and the delicious and juicy turkey breast roulade is something I will find myself trying agin and again with other meats. The gravy was rich and velvety. So many delicious ideas out there! Ok, I’ll stop writing now. I must rest. Onto the next cooking experiment after a well deserved 5 day break from the kitchen. See you all very soon! Take care. Oh, btw, no sage was harmed in the making of this dinner… because I couldn’t find any at the store… . It’s ok. I’m not the biggest fan :)