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This Thanksgiving, make turkey better

Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Entertaining

I may never eat turkey again.

I don’t want it for Thanksgiving. I don’t want it for Christmas. I don’t want to have a turkey sandwich sometime next summer with a bowl of fresh tomato soup, although that does sound kind of good.

I’m done with turkey for ever and ever. Or at least for the time being.

Thanksgiving is next week, if you can believe it, and for the inevitable How-to-Prepare-Turkey-for-Thanksgiving article I decided to cook it three different ways. I cooked them all the same day, and naturally, I had to eat them the same day, too.

I may never eat turkey again. But I loved it while I was eating it.

Naturally, for that inevitable story, I did not want to prepare it the ordinary way — roasting it unadorned in the oven, or maybe with some stuffing. That’s dreary and predictable. I wanted turkey with a little pizzazz.

So I made Peking-Style Roast Turkey with Molasses-Soy Glaze and Orange-Ginger Gravy. And I made Citrus and Herb Stuffed Turkey Breast. And I made Roast Turkey With Spicy Rub, which sounds pedestrian compared to the other two, but most decidedly was not.

For starters, the recipe came from the folks at Butterball. They may have a silly name, but you have to admit that they know all you would ever want to know about turkey.

And among the things they know is how to create a spice rub that complements the flavor of the turkey and brings it out to the best advantage without overpowering it.

All it takes is a bit of brown sugar. A dusting of chili powder. A dash of cumin. A sprinkling of red pepper flakes.

A soupçon of salt. A pinch of pepper. A glimmer of garlic. A crunch of coriander.

OK, it has a lot of ingredients. But they all blend together harmoniously to make something better than turkey. It’s flavorful and moist, but not too spicy.

But is it better than Peking-Style Roast Turkey with Molasses-Soy Glaze and Orange-Ginger Gravy? That depends entirely on your taste, and what you’re looking for in a turkey.

If you want a gorgeous mahogany color, an exquisitely crisp skin and a vaguely Asian flavor, then you definitely want to go with the Peking-Style Roast Turkey (though the Roast Turkey with Spicy Rub also creates a remarkably crisp skin). But you should know going in that it takes a fair amount of effort.

You begin by steaming the turkey for a half-hour. That’s what makes it Peking-style; it’s the same trick that gives Peking duck its ultra-crisp skin, and it works just as well for turkey. (I believe it was Jacques Pepin who first thought of applying that technique to turkey, or at least he was an early promoter of the concept.)

While the turkey is steaming, you make a glaze out of soy sauce, molasses, orange juice, butter, five-spice powder and more. This glaze is used to baste the turkey every 20 minutes while it roasts.

And even then you’re not done, because you still have to make the gravy. And orange-ginger gravy is unlike other gravies. For one, it has orange juice and ginger in it. But it also has shallot and garlic and cloves and star anise and allspice, plus just the right amount of dry white wine.

It’s a lot of work, but it all comes together for an exceptionally elegant meal — the sort of thing you only serve once a year.

Less effort, perhaps, but no less delicious is the Citrus and Herb Stuffed Turkey Breast, a dish reminiscent of braciole (stuffed Italian beef roll). And as in the case of braciole, it isn’t the turkey that makes this dish so good, it is what you use to stuff it.

The name says it all: It is stuffed with citrus and herbs. The citrus comes by way of the zest of an orange and a lemon. But the herbs? The herbs are plentiful, including fresh rosemary and tarragon and marjoram (you can substitute oregano) and a lot of parsley and a little sage.

Roll all of that together with minced red onion and garlic, and you have a Thanksgiving dinner worth eating again.

Eventually.

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ROAST TURKEY WITH SPICY RUB

Yield: 12 servings

3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

3 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 (12- to 14-pound) whole turkey, thawed if frozen

6 tablespoons canola oil, divided

Note: This recipe must be started the night before serving.

1. Combine the sugar, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, garlic powder and coriander; blend well (may be prepared 2 to 3 days in advance, stored at room temperature in an airtight container).

2. Remove the neck and giblets from the body and neck cavity of the turkey; refrigerate for another use or discard. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan. Brush the turkey with half of the oil; rub the outside and inside with the spice mixture. Cover and refrigerate 12 hours or overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Brush or rub the spiced turkey with the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Bake until a meat thermometer reaches 170 degrees when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh, about 3 hours. Let turkey stand 15 minutes before carving.

Per serving: 677 calories; 31 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 300 mg cholesterol; 91 g protein; 5 g carbohydrate; 3 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 2,271 mg sodium; 61 mg calcium

Recipe by Butterball

PEKING-STYLE ROAST TURKEY WITH MOLASSES-SOY GLAZE AND ORANGE-GINGER GRAVY

Yield: 8 servings

For the turkey

1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey, neck, gizzard and liver reserved, left at room temperature for 1 hour

Salt and pepper

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

3/4 cup orange juice, from 2 oranges, divided (keep the peels for the gravy)

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons molasses

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons 5-spice powder

 

1 bunch scallions, cut into large pieces

1 celery rib, cut into large pieces

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the gravy

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Reserved turkey neck, gizzard and liver (not the heart)

Salt and pepper

1 shallot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 (2-inch) piece ginger, sliced

2 cloves

1 whole star anise

1 allspice berry

4 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth

4 tablespoon (1/2 stick) butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup orange juice (reserved from above)

1. Steam the turkey: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season the inside of the turkey with salt and pepper and tie the legs together. In the bottom of a large pot (16 quart or larger) fitted with a small rack or crumpled foil, bring 8 cups water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and lower the turkey into the pot. Cover and steam for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the orange juice (reserve 1/4 cup for later), soy sauce, molasses, vinegar and 5-spice powder. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the glaze is slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Roast the turkey: In a large roasting pan, toss the scallions, celery and reserved orange peels with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Fit a roasting rack over the vegetables and place the turkey on top. Brush all over with the glaze, lower oven to 350 degrees and roast the turkey, basting every 20 minutes, until a thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 165 degrees, about 2 hours. If the turkey is browning too quickly, tent with a piece of foil. Let the turkey rest about 20 minutes before carving.

4. Make the gravy: While the turkey is cooking, in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the turkey neck, gizzard and liver and cook until browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes, flipping occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium and add the shallot, garlic, ginger, cloves, star anise and allspice; cook until the vegetables are softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Add the broth and bring to a boil, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the stock is flavorful and slightly reduced, about 1 hour. Strain the broth into a large, clean saucepan and set aside on the stovetop to keep warm.

6. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the butter mixture is browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the gravy is thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.

7. Once the turkey has been removed from the roasting pan, strain the drippings into the pot with the gravy, discarding the solids. Place the roasting pan over 2 burners over medium-high heat. Pour in the wine and orange juice and bring to a boil. Scrape up brown bits on the bottom of the pan, and cook until reduced, about 1 minute. Pour pan juices into the gravy. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the turkey.

Per serving: 1,117 calories; 53 g fat; 21 g saturated fat; 493 mg cholesterol; 140 g protein; 13 g carbohydrate; 7 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 1,882 mg sodium; 116 mg calcium

Recipe from Epicurious

CITRUS AND HERB STUFFED TURKEY BREAST

Yield: 8 servings

1/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil, divided

1 red onion, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 orange, zested

1 lemon, zested

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, minced

1/4 cup fresh marjoram or oregano leaves, minced

4 fresh sage leaves, minced

1/4 cup parsley leaves, minced

1 (4-pound) skin-on turkey breast, see note

Salt and pepper

Note: This recipe can also be made with skinless turkey breast.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions turn translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the orange zest, lemon zest, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, sage and parsley, and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

3. Lay the turkey breast out on a plastic-wrap-covered cutting board and butterfly the flesh, leaving the skin as intact as possible, cutting so that it has a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Pound out the meat with a mallet, if needed, to flatten.

4. Evenly distribute the herb mixture on the inside of the turkey breast. Roll up the turkey, folding in the edges as you go (like a pinwheel), enclosing the outside surface of the rolled turkey with the skin as thoroughly as possible, if using turkey with skin.

5. Tie up the rolled turkey with a long piece of kitchen twine and use bamboo skewers to secure any areas that can’t be easily tied. Sprinkle the rolled turkey with salt and pepper.

6. In a large sauté pan with an oven-safe handle, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Sear the turkey on all sides and then place in the oven. Roast the turkey until fork-tender, with an internal temperature between 170 and 175 degrees as measured with a meat thermometer, about 55 minutes to 1 hour.

7. Remove the turkey from the oven and let rest 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Per serving: 355 calories; 11 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; 130 mg cholesterol; 55 g protein; 9 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 552 mg sodium; 66 mg calcium

Recipe by Robert Irvine via the Daily Meal