To wet or dry brine, that is often the home cook’s question when heading into the Thanksgiving holidays.
“My goal was to show a simple process that makes something really good,” says chef Michael Corvino, who arrived late this summer to take over the reins at one of the city’s premier restaurants. “By drying the turkey out, you get this really crispy skin and insert flavor for a super savory taste that you don’t get with a wet brine.”
The cure Corvino created uses an intriguing Asian ingredient — kochujang — a chili paste that is traditionally used in Korean barbecue. The Asian influence is not all that surprising when you consider that the chef has spent time working in a full dim sum kitchen and a high-end Japanese restaurant serving Nobu-style small plates.
“But this is a great way to cook poultry any time of year,” Corvino says.Roast Turkey With Aromatic Salt Cure and Natural Jus Makes 10 servings, with leftovers
Special equipment: 1 extra-large zip-top bag big enough to hold the turkey, an immersion blender
Cure:1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns 1 teaspoon fennel seed 1 teaspoon coriander seed 3 tablespoons kosher salt 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 1 large shallot, peeled and sliced 3 garlic cloves, peeled 1/2 tablespoon Korean kochujang chili paste (see note) 1/2 ounce fresh thyme, leaves removed, stems reserved 1/2 ounce fresh rosemary, leaves removed, stems reserved 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, leaves removed, stems reserved
Turkey:1 (15-pound) fresh turkey, giblet packet and neck removed and reserved 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
Jus:Reserved turkey drippings, wings, neck, livers and heart 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced 1 fennel bulb, sliced 1/4 cup apple cider 2 bay leaves 2 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar Salt to taste
Tuesday before Thanksgiving:
Toast the peppercorns, fennel and coriander in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Using a spice or coffee grinder, process the spices together. Place spice powder, salt, sugar, shallot, garlic, chili paste and herbs in a food processor; puree cure mixture until smooth.
Rinse turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the entire bird with the cure mixture, making sure to get the inner cavity and underneath the skin where possible. Place the turkey in a zip-top bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and seal. Store turkey in the refrigerator for 36 hours.
The night before Thanksgiving:
Remove turkey from the bag and place breast up in roasting pan or on a large platter. Remove any liquid and rub the bird down again, pressing remaining cure into the skin. Place the turkey in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 8 hours to air dry.
Remove turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to cooking to bring to room temperature. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub butter on the outside of the turkey to coat and place breast up on rack in the roasting pan. Cook for 30 minutes and reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Cook for an additional 11/2 to 2 hours, or until the thickest part of the breast reaches 160 degrees. Baste the bird occasionally with pan drippings. When the turkey is cooked through, remove from the oven and allow to rest 20 to 30 minutes before carving. Remove wings using a sharp knife and reserve drippings, juice and fat for jus.
Place the turkey drippings into a tall, narrow container or pot to make a jus. Skim all fat off the top and reserve. Heat a large saute pan or a shallow sauce pot over medium heat. Add a few tablespoons of turkey fat. Add roasted wings, giblets, heart and neck, searing all sides; the more color the better. Remove wings, neck, liver and heart and set aside. Add onion and fennel. Cook on medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes, allowing some caramel color but stirring frequently to avoid burning. Add apple cider; cook and reduce by half. Tie herb stems or wrap in cheesecloth and add to the pot, along with bay leaves, seared wings, neck and heart (omit liver), stock and drippings from turkey. Slowly reduce the mixture, occasionally skimming the fat, until the jus lightly coats the back of a spoon.
Pour jus into a taller sauce pot; remove neck (reserve) and discard wings and herb stems. Pick all meat from the turkey neck and set aside. Add liver to the pot; pulse to combine slightly using an immersion blender. (The heart and liver add body, but do not puree too much because the chunks are the best part.) Still using an immersion blender, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of turkey fat. Add sherry and neck meat and season with salt to taste.
• Ingredient note:
Korean kochujang (also spelled gochujang) chili paste is available at Asian markets. Some versions are hotter than others, so read the label for a heat indicator. You may substitute 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper.Per serving, white and dark meat, including skin: 470 calories (50 percent from fat), 26 grams total fat (9 grams saturated), 232 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams carbohydrates, 56 grams protein, 632 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.