November 24, 2012

five+ spice turkey

Last year was the first year my family had a big turkey for Thanksgiving. My mom was the one who cooked it, and she was so worried it wouldn't turn out well. Except it exceeded all of our expectations. Besides being moist and flavorful, she also made a unique sticky rice & shiitake mushroom stuffing.

This year I wanted to tackle the turkey-making. As it was my first time, I was pretty worried too. I wanted to keep the sticky rice stuffing tradition going, so I thought the turkey should be flavored with Chinese five spice to be complementary. Cris found me this five-spice turkey recipe, which lays things out from start to finish. True to "me" form, I made some modifications to the recipe.

Started out with a 15-pound Butterball turkey. Took the neck out to make stock with later. Checked all of the cavities (or so I thought), but it wasn't till after the turkey was roasted and carved did the plastic sack of giblets turn out. So don't let that happen to you!

naked turkey

Anyway, cooked the brine with 5+ spices. Roughly 2.5 gallons of water (two of these pots), 1.5 cups of salt, handful of each of the following: cinnamon stick, clove, star anise, fennel seed, lemongrass, black peppercorn. Brought the mixture to a boil and let it cool (with some ice cubes to speed the process up).

brine & spices

Once the mixture cooled to about room temperature, it was poured over the turkey in double oven bags. The last minute addition of orange zest made it all the more fragrant. Tied the bags and put it inside an extra trash bag just in case. Then the whole thing went into the fridge.

turkey in brine

The turkey sat in brine for a good 24 hours, after which I dumped the brine, rinsed the turkey, and patted the turkey dry. Saved the spices though, and shoved them under the turkey skin wherever I could.

After overnight stay in the fridge to further dry out (to facilitate the skin being crispy when roasted), it was time to roast. First set the oven at 400F and roasted the breast side up for 45 min so the skin would brown. Then lowered the temperature to 350F and rotated the turkey every 30 min so it would cook evenly.

The soaked and stir-fried sticky rice was stuffed into the turkey at some point. Except it doesn't really cook in the cavity so I had to scoop it out and cook it in the rice cooker.

The turkey was pulled when the internal temperature was 155F. It came out glorious - skin crispy, super fragrant. And once carved, it was the moistest turkey I've ever had.

roasted turkey

Megan said the spices reminded her of the Chinese duck she likes to get. Very flavorful.

The only downside was that the bottom of the turkey was a little underdone. I think it's because I didn't roast the turkey breast side down, for fear the crispy skin would get soaked. Or maybe I should have let it roast for longer and pulled it out after the internal temperature reached 160F.

Not a loss though, because I used the bones and all the underdone parts to make turkey porridge, not unlike the chicken porridge I've made before. And that was delicious too.

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