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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Turkey Two Ways...Roasted and Braised

Every year, I roast a huge turkey for Thanksgiving.  When it comes time to serve it, no one ever eats the legs and wings, probably because they get over-cooked and a bit dry.  This year, I started to think about how to cook them so they would be juicy and delicious.  I knew I wanted to roast the turkey breast, but why not take a chance and try something different?  If you have read any of my blogs, you will understand how I came to the decision to braise them.  So far, I have braised chicken thighs and lamb chops, and both times was blown away by how moist and flavorful they came out.  I thought, why not turkey legs, wings and thighs?  Wouldn't it be nice if just once, someone ate the drumsticks? Well, let me tell you, this year they did!  It was such a success that I wanted to share it with you.

I went to Whole Foods and bought the following:  2 drumsticks, 3 wings, 3 thighs, and a turkey breast.  Recently I heard about dry-brining as opposed to a liquid brining, so I thought I would give it a try.  It was actually a lot easier and didn't take up as much room in the refrigerator as the liquid method.  Mix the following together:

1 tbs of kosher salt for every 5 pounds of turkey (I used 3 tablespoons)
probably ½ tsp of garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, parsley, thyme, and black pepper

Wash and dry off the pieces of turkey and rub the salt mixture onto each of them.  Use zip lock bags to keep them in the refrigerator.  I did this 3 days in advance.  On Thanksgiving day, take the turkey pieces out first thing in the morning and let them get to room temperature (about 4-5 hours).  I then heated a small amount of olive oil in my cast iron pan, and browned each piece.

Once they are all nice and browned, place them aside and cut up the following:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 large leeks, white and pale-green parts only, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, crushed
6 stalks of celery, sliced
4 carrots, sliced

1 ½ cups dry white wine
4 sprigs each:  parsley, thyme, sage
1 box chicken broth

Add the onion, leeks, celery, and garlic to the pan and cook until softened, 5-8 minutes.  Add the wine and herb sprigs, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes (until it reduced by about half). 

Return the turkey to the pans and add the chicken broth.  Again bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer covered until the meat is tender (about 2 ½-3 hours).  Remove the cover and cook another 35-45 minutes, until the meat is falling off the bone,.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

This was, by far, the best possible way to cook the turkey legs, wings and thighs.  I think people ate more of the braised turkey than they did of the roasted breast!  The meat literally fell off the bone. Granted it was a little more work than just popping everything into the oven, but it was so worth the time and effort.   And an added bonus?  I used the braising liquid as a soup stock to make my leftover turkey noodle soup a few nights later!

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