Cider-brined Turkey with Star Anise and Cinnamon

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We have a group of newly arrived, young, energetic, smart, and very fun buddies at work. This is their first year in America, and (drum roll please) their very first Thanksgiving! They were excited. As an adamant cook, I boasted to them: you guys will have the most memorable Thanksgiving dinner ever!

At that time, I didn’t quite register the fact that I had never cooked any poultry larger than 5 lbs, and that there must probably be zillion side dishes accompanying that gigantic bird. On top of that, we had already been spoiled by our good friends who generously hosted us Thanksgiving every year. These friends, I’m telling you, are serious cook. So, we knew what a great Thanksgiving dinner would look like. The bar was high.

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, my quest for an Asian-inspired dinner began. It was a tough journey, but finally, the menu was set. I was kind of nervous because basically, with brand-new recipes, it was like a gamble. Some of the below recipes turned out to be a great success, others were just meh… Here is our Thanksgiving dinner menu with our verdict:

  1. Sweet and spice sesame walnuts (I burnt it, most of it went to the trash – our friends didn’t know, until now)
  2. Wasabi deviled eggs (the winner!)
  3. Sesame cucumbers (meh)
  4. Cider-brined turkey with star anise and cinnamon (excellent!)
  5. Edamame, celery, and fennel salad (interesting)
  6. Cranberry, ginger, and orange chutney (awesome! But I didn’t know the quantity given could feed my entire neighborhood)
  7. Sticky rice with Chinese sausages (my usual recipe, so no surprise here)
  8. Simple apple pie (ok, could have been better).

Cider-brined turkey with star anise and cinnamon

(adapted from Bon Appetit)
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I didn’t know there were so many different types of turkey out there: free range, organic, heirloom bronze, kosher, just to name a few. I ended up having a 12 lb fresh Heirloom Bronze Turkey because the sale assistant at Whole Foods said this bird has more dark meat (hello there!).

The bird turned out to be super tasty and full of flavor. I would definitely make it again, with a few twists (noted below). Next time, I would also get a large brining bag for the turkey. Cleaning a huge pot after brining was a pain.

8 cups plus 1 cup apple cider (Whole Foods sell those freshly made cider with 100% apple, it tastes so much better)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup soy sauce
9og light brown sugar
16 whole black peppercorns
8 whole star anise pods
6 garlic cloves, smashed
6 scallions, white parts only, trimmed, split lengthwise
6 1/4″-thick slices unpeeled ginger
5 dried shitake mushrooms
2 4″ cinnamon sticks
2 sprigs cilantro
12 lb turkey
Freshly ground black pepper
4 apples, optional (cored, quartered)
Melted unsalted butter for basting

  1. Bring 2 quarts cider, 1/2 cup salt, and the next 10 ingredients to a boil in a very large pot, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Let cool to room temperature. Stir in 4 liters cold water. Add turkey to brine (I will use a brining bag next time). Cover. Put the whole thing outdoor if it’s cold outside, unless you have huge extra space in your fridge. Let it brine over night (I left it for a full 24 hours).
  2. Remove turkey from brine, pat dry with paper towels, discard brine. Season lightly inside and out with salt and pepper.
  3. Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack set in a large heavy roasting pan, and tie legs together with kitchen twine. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 375F.
  5. Brush turkey with butter.
  6. Flip breast side down.
  7. Pour 1 cup apply cider + 2 cups water in the roasting pan.
  8. Scatter apples on the pan.
  9. Roast turkey, breast side down, basting occasionally for 1 hour.
  10. Flip turkey, roast, basting occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registered 160F, another 1 hours.
  11. Transfer turkey to a platter. Let rest for 30 minutes before carving.
  12. Meanwhile, strain the juices from the roasting pan into a saucepan, reserving apples. Simmer over medium heat until juices have thickened, about 10 minutes.
  13. Serve the cider juice alongside the turkey.

 

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