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This Thanksgiving, make turkey better

This Thanksgiving, make turkey better


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.


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