Chefs’ Picks: Turkey
Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.
The national day of stuffing, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, Thanksgiving is one of the few meals in which the main dish is often upstaged by the sides. Though bird is the word of the season, many a Thanksgiving turkey tends to underwhelm. Don’t let that be the case this year. Several chefs offer their favorite preparations for T-Day poultry to ensure your bird is far from bland.
As the owners of a chainlet of fried chicken joints in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and London, the siblings behind Blue Ribbon Restaurants know a thing or two about poultry. Owners Bruce and Eric Bromberg use Blue Ribbon's proprietary blend of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and dried thyme as a seasoning, and they separate the birds into pieces. “When cooking, remove the legs and thighs from the breast and cook them separately, so white and dark cuts both come out perfectly,” they say.
For another simply seasoned spin on the Thanksgiving turkey, try Ina Garten’s take.
Much like the Bromberg brothers, Executive Chef Tyler Kinnett of Harvest in Cambridge, Mass., also butchers the turkey into bits to achieve the best result. At the restaurant, he cooks the breast sous vide, then sears it in a pan. Doing so creates a crisp texture on the outside while locking in juiciness, Kinnett explains. “This process allows for [the] breast to retain moisture and results in a super-juicy breast.” The chef likes to confit the legs separately with some thyme and garlic. Once the legs cool, he removes the meat from the bone and mixes it into stuffing with the fat reserved from the confit. “It adds an amazing flavor to the stuffing, and all the guests in the restaurant love it,” Kinnett says.
Get creative in your own kitchen with this leg and wing confit recipe from Food Network Kitchen.
Executive Chef Chris Miracolo of S3 in Fort Lauderdale likes to relax on Thanksgiving — and sleep in. His solution: oil. He likes to brine his birds for three days in a combination of salt, smashed garlic cloves, herbs and molasses mixed together in a big cooler with ice water. On Thanksgiving Day, Miracolo fills a big outdoor candy stove halfway with oil, then fries his turkey. “You cannot beat the crispiness of the skin, the moisture inside the meat, and the fact that you can sleep in and not start cooking a turkey at 5 a.m.,” says Miracolo. A 20-pound turkey takes less than an hour to cook. It may seem easy as pie to make, but be careful of displacement. Use a harness to lower the turkey into the hot oil slowly, so the liquid gently fills the cavity. “Otherwise, you’ll have an explosion,” Miracolo says.
Fry up your own Thanksgiving bird with Valerie Bertinelli’s recipe.
Another fan of a nice, long brine is Executive Chef Chris Coleman of Stoke in Charlotte, N.C. He soaks a 12- to 16-pound bird for two days in a bath of salt, brown sugar, bay leaves, juniper, thyme, black pepper and orange. He prefers to cook his turkey in the oven, starting low at 375 degrees F for an hour and a half, before cranking the temperature to 450 degrees for the last 30 minutes. “That way it cooks through without drying out,” says Coleman. “If you cook just low and slow, the breast dries out before [the] thighs cook through.” Little goes to waste in Coleman’s kitchen, as he uses the giblets, neck and heart to make a turkey gravy to pair with the bird.
Step up your bird game with this brine recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli.
“I empower you to roast a turkey!” says Executive Chef-Owner Michael Lomonaco of Porter House Bar and Grill in New York City. Unlike Coleman and Miracolo, however, Lomonaco forgoes the traditional brining process. Before putting his bird in the oven, the chef washes it in cold, salted water for a couple of minutes, which he describes as “flash brining it.” Lomonaco then thoroughly dries the turkey and seasons the cavity with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. To retain moisture, Lomonaco separates the skin from the breast meat, starting from the bottom of the carcass and filling the void with a blend of sweet butter, herbs, salt and pepper. “Season the turkey well since a well-seasoned bird will taste best, so apply some of that butter to the top of the skin," Lomonaco says. “Use a stick or two of butter.”
For another no-brine option, try this can’t-miss recipe from Food Network Kitchen.