Five-spice Turkey

by (pbs)

Here's a recipe I invented for Thanksgiving turkey for the kids at the
Chinese American International School. It takes a long time, three
days, but you don't have to do much at any one time. In addition when
you steep the brine your whole house will smell great. Victor liked the
smell a whole bunch. I just held a class for six moms and dads from
Victor's school to spread the word and raise funds for the Winter
This bird is the word.
Five Spice Roast Turkey
Buy a 12 to 14 pound turkey. It will probably be frozen. If it is
frozen buy it At Least Five Days ahead of serving day. Defrost the bird
in the refrigerator or in an ice cooler. Brine the turkey in a salt
water and spice solution. Brining will keep the breast meat moist and
the spices permeate the meat and give it a pleasant flavor. This recipe
calls for lots of spices. I recommend buying them some place that
sells spices in bulk. In San Francisco I like the spices at Real Foods
on Division.
  3       Gallons of Water
  1/4     Cup Whole Cloves
  10      Sticks of Cinnamon, each about four inches long 
  1/2     Cup Cracked Black Pepper
  1/2     Cup Fennel
  1/2     Cup Star Anise
  8       Stalks Lemon Grass
  4 1/2   Cups of salt
Fill large pot with 3 gallons of water. Add spices and lemon grass.
Bring to boil. Simmer for one hour then cool. Remove the neck and the
metal clip that holds the legs together from the turkey's cavity.
Remove the sack of giblets from the neck cavity. Rinse the turkey
inside and out. Don't bother to pat it dry. 
Stand the turkey on its head in a large size Reynolds baking bag with
the turkey's cavity facing up. I stand the bag and the turkey inside of
another large and deep pot. If your turkey won't stand up in the bag
by itself in a pot, then the following is a two-person job. Fill the
cavity with the spices from the brine. Transfer the brine from the pot
to the baking bag. Our goal is to completely submerge the turkey in the
brine. Twist the bag closed. Use one of the ties from the browning
bag's box to firmly close the bag. Place the bagged turkey in the
refrigerator at least overnight. The highly saline brine should keep
any microbes from growing.
Air Dry Turkey
After at least an overnight stay in the brine remove the turkey from
the brine. Drain it, fore and aft to get the brine out of the cavities.
 Place the lemon grass from the brine and a handful of the soggy
spices. Place on a platter and put the platter in the refrigerator to
air dry at least overnight. This will give the turkey the crisp skin
that everyone loves.
Roast the Turkey
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a roasting pan with a Vee
shaped rack by covering the rack with aluminum foil Spray the aluminum
foil with a nonstick spray or brush with butter to keep the turkey from
sticking to the foil.
  1 hand sized Ginger Root, about 6 oz of Ginger Root by actual measure
  6 to 8 Carrots chopped into one-inch chunks
  6 to 8 Celery Stalks, chopped into one inch chunks
  1 turnip sliced
  2 Cups of stock
Don't bother to peel the ginger as no one is going to eat it. Slice
the gingerroot into quarter thick slices. Smash each slice to help
release the ginger flavor in roasting. Put a handful into the neck
cavity; place the rest into the body cavity. Truss the turkey by tying
the legs together and running the string over the flap of skin covering
the neck cavity. Pour the stock over the turkey's back to keep the
veggies from incinerating in the pan. 
You can also roast garlic in the pan. I usually roast 20 heads in the
pan by slicing off the tops and drizzle olive oil over them. 
Place the turkey, breast side down on the Vee shaped roasting rack.
Place rack in roasting pan. Scatter chucks of carrots and celery on the
floor of the roasting pan. Place roasting pan in the oven; set timer
for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Using
two heavy-duty forks turn the bird 90 degrees so that one leg is up;
return to oven for 45 minutes. Keep the oven door closed as much as
possible to keep the heat in the oven. Unless you can crawl into the
oven, you will need to place the turkey on the counter to rotate it. 
After another 15 minutes, rotate the turkey 180 degrees so that the
other leg is up. After another 15 minutes, rotate the turkey so that
the breast is up. After another 15 minutes get your instant read meat
thermometer and check for doneness. The recommended temperatures are
160 degrees F. for the thickest part of the breast meat and 170 to 175
degrees F. for the thickest part of the thigh. 
When the temperature is high enough and the turkey is done, remove it
from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. This will make
it much easier to carve. To carve, first remove the thigh and wing from
one side, then the other. Laying the turkey on its side, slice the
breast meat from front to back. Try to make the slices thin and long.
You can cut the slices in half later.
A few words on basting and adding liquid to the roasting pan
You can baste every time you rotate the turkey. Use melted butter and
a big brush. I don't tend to baste and the turkeys don't seem to
suffer. If you are going to make gravy, you want to keep some liquid in
the bottom of the pan to keep it from scorching  Add a cup or so of
water or broth to the pan each time you turn the turkey to keep things
liquid on the bottom.
Good eating!

Back to Recipes page.
Back to Cooking Conference Home Page.