Recipes

Sichuan-Spiced Dry-Brined Turkey

A bit of spice for your holiday bird
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100% would make again
Sichuan-Spiced Dry-Brined Turkey
Photo: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table

It's time to give dry Thanksgiving Day turkey the bird.

There's more than one way to cook a turkey. Four years ago, I discovered that spatchcocking (the process of splitting a whole bird in half, removing its backbone and roasting it flat, skin-side up) was the way to get juicy meat and that prized, magazine-worthy golden skin.

Spatchcocking does a few things: Laying the entire bird flat gives it a larger, more uniform surface area, allowing for more even cooking. It also exposes all of the skin to the heat (hence, more browning), so you'll get the super crisp skin you're looking for. The method cuts the turkey's roasting time almost in half. (You can thank me later for the extra couple of hours of sleep.) 

And as for the turkey's flavor, I went for a dry brine that incorporates the warm spices of coriander, peppercorn and Sichuan pepper. A dry overnight brine really infuses the skin and meat with all that spice and salt, and you don't even have to rinse the bird off.

So this turkey isn't necessarily traditional. But if eating a crisp-skinned, gorgeously juicy piece of bird this year is wrong, I don't want to be right.

To learn more, read "Spatchcocked and Loaded."

Sichuan-Spiced Dry-Brined Turkey

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Yield: 12 to 14 servings

Prep Time: 40 minutes, plus brining time

Cook Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, plus brining time

Ingredients

For the Sichuan Dry-Brined Turkey:

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

4 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns

3½ tablespoons kosher salt

1 12- to 14-pound fresh turkey, backbone and neck removed and reserved for gravy (see note)

2 medium carrots, roughly chopped

2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped

½ cup chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade

For the Gravy:

Reserved turkey drippings

8 cups chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade

¼ cup unsalted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Make the Sichuan dry-brined turkey: Place the coriander, fennel and Sichuan peppercorns in a small skillet over medium heat and toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool, then transfer to a spice grinder and pulse until the spices are coarsely ground. Transfer the spice mix to a small bowl and stir in the salt; set aside.

2. Place the turkey on a clean work surface and trim off any excess pockets of fat or skin around the turkey. Flip the turkey so it is laying breast-side up. Using the heels of your hands, press down on the center of both breasts until you hear a cracking sound and the bird flattens.

3. Pat the bird very dry using a kitchen towel and rub the spice mixture on both sides. Transfer the turkey, breast-side up, to a wire-rack placed over a parchment-lined sheet tray. Tuck the wings underneath. Store the turkey in the refrigerator for at least overnight and up to 24 hours.

4. Remove the turkey an hour before roasting to take the chill off.

5. Place the reserved backbone and neck in a roasting pan with the carrots, onions, thyme, bay leaf and stock. Place the turkey on a wire rack.

6. Preheat the oven to 425°. Set one rack in the middle of the oven and another one below for the roasting pan. Place the turkey on the center rack of the oven. Place the roasting pan on the rack below the turkey and roast both for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350° and finish roasting until the turkey is a deep golden brown and crisp or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°, another 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven and, using two grilling spatulas, transfer the bird to a platter. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving.

7. Meanwhile, make the gravy: Transfer the roasted neck-and-backbone turkey mixture along with the stock to a medium saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce it by half, 10 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and discard the solids. Skim the stock of any excess fat before placing it back into the saucepan. Bring to a simmer.

8. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter begins to foam, whisk in the flour. Reduce the heat to low and whisk until the roux is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

9. Add 1 to 2 cups of hot stock to the roux, whisking constantly. Continue until all the stock has been added. Simmer until the gravy has thickened and the flavors have melded, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and season the gravy with salt and pepper. Carve the turkey and serve with the warm gravy.

Note: Find a trusted butcher to remove the backbone for you or read our guide on how to spatchcock a turkey.

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