Brined and smoked Thanksgiving turkey from Heartlandia
BRINED AND SMOKED THANKSGIVING TURKEY Serves 8 “I’m proud to say that I’ve never cooked a turkey the traditional way in my entire life,” writes Adam Sappington. “Here’s why: When you break down the whole bird into parts, you can cook each part in the most forgiving and painless way possible. Simply brine and smoke the breast and marinate and braise the legs, and boom—it’s done! When it comes time to serve that bird, you’ll be the hero who cooked a juicy, tender Thanksgiving turkey that everyone will talk about for years to come. I’ll be damned if anyone cooks a whole turkey again after trying this process.” 1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey4 cups packed light brown sugar1 1/2 cups kosher salt1/2 cup ground fennel seed1/4 cup whole allspice berries1/4 cup whole black peppercorns1/4 cup juniper berries5 star aniseFinely grated zest of 2 oranges3 medium celery stalks, trimmed, peeled, and thinly sliced (see Chef’s Note, below)2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and thinly sliced2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage leavesKosher salt and freshly ground black pepper2 cups hickory chips, for smoking2 tbsp. vegetable oil1 cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay2 quarts chicken stock 1. One day before serving, on a large cutting board, remove the legs and wings from the turkey, keeping both breasts intact and the spine attached, and set aside. 2. In a large pot, combine 2 quarts water, brown sugar, salt, fennel seed, allspice berries, peppercorns, juniper berries, star anise, and orange zest. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. Once the liquid is hot and the sugar has dissolved, remove the pot from the heat. 3. In a large stockpot or container, place 2 quarts ice cubes. Pour the brine over the ice cubes and stir to incorporate and cool down the brine. (The brine should feel lukewarm. If it is still hot, add a little more ice.) Place the turkey breasts in the brine, cover the container with a lid, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 24 hours. 4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the celery, carrots, onions, rosemary, thyme, and sage. Season the turkey legs with salt and pepper. Add the turkey legs to the bowl and toss to combine. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. 5. The next day, soak the wood chips according to the package instructions and preheat a smoker to 200°F. (Or see “Smoking Without a Smoker,” below). Remove the turkey breasts from the brine and pat dry. Place the wet hickory chips over the fire or in an electric hopper and smoke the turkey breast for 3 hours. Place a wire rack on a large baking sheet and transfer the turkey breasts to the wire rack to rest. 6. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Remove the turkey legs from the vegetables and set the vegetables aside. In a large Dutch oven set over medium heat, warm the oil. Place the turkey legs skin-side up in the pot and lightly brown them on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the turkey legs from the pot and set aside. 7. Add the vegetables to the pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pot to incorporate the brown bits. Return the turkey legs to the pot, skin-side up, and add the stock. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then transfer the pot to the oven and braise the turkey legs for 2 hours or until they are fork-tender. 8. Remove the turkey legs from the oven and transfer them to a cutting board. Pull the meat off the legs, but don’t shred it. Transfer the meat and vegetables to a large serving platter. Slice the turkey breasts and arrange the meat on the platter. Dig in. CHEF’S NOTE: To peel the fibrous strings off a celery stalk, trim the top and bottom off the stalk. Hold the stalk vertically over a cutting board and place a vegetable peeler against the outside of the stalk. Then run the peeler down the length of the stalk like you would when peeling a carrot, to remove the strings. Smoking without a smoker: If you don’t have a smoker but do have a charcoal barbecue, you can use it to smoke foods. By making an indirect heat source in a barbecue pit, you are creating the ambient heat needed for smoking as opposed to the direct heat that is used for grilling. While your wood chips are soaking, build a medium-hot coal fire with charcoal briquettes in your grill and burn the coals to a chalky white. Spread out the coals and move them to one side of the grill, opposite of where you want to place the item. Drain the hickory chips and place them directly onto the coals. Place the item on the grill opposite the coals and hickory chips. Cover the barbecue with the lid and smoke the food according to the recipe instructions, checking on the coals occasionally to make sure the heat stays even.