Here at Chez Belm we celebrate Aftersgiving: the weekend after Thanksgiving weekend. Since we travel to visit family most years, we were routinely denied the joys of turkey leftovers until I hit on the idea of ordering a farm-raised turkey to cook upon our return.
Roasting a whole turkey requires a lot of time and oven management, especially if you have a lot of sides to serve as well. I had decided to cut down on the cooking time by spatchcocking the bird, but a friend suggested a different method: smoke the breast and confit the legs. Smoking and confiting for the same meal? That’s right up my fun alley.
I began three days before mealtime by separating the legs from the breast. I prepared a cure with salt, brown sugar, thyme, bay leaves, and sage, and rubbed it all over the legs.
I also heavily salted the breast instead of brining it, which intensified the flavor without making the meat soggy.
After 24 hours, I rinsed the cure off the legs and vacuum sealed them with some duck fat and butter. They cooked sous vide for 18 hours at 73 °C.
While the legs cooked, I smoked the breast with cherry wood for about eight hours, until not quite fully cooked. You can see the result at the top of the post. Once the breast had cooled, I carefully removed the skin.
I sandwiched the skin between two sheet pans and added some weight to flatten it out.
I removed each breast half and vacuum sealed them with more butter. They sat in the fridge until about two hours before serving time, when they were dunked into the same water bath as the legs.
I broke down the rest of the carcass.
After an overnight simmer in the stockpot I wound up with five quarts of smoked turkey stock. (I just used a quart as the base for red beans and rice.)
Before serving I crisped the legs in a hot pan, removed the bones, sliced the breast, and crisped the skin in a still-hot oven. I don’t have any final plate photos – there’s not much subtlety in a heaping plate of Aftersgiving goodness – but here’s the meat ready to be served:
I made gravy using a roux made from the rendered leg confit fat and some plain turkey stock from the Deep Storage Facility.
The other sides were buttermilk mashed potatoes,
roasted brussels sprouts with shallots and balsamic vinegar,
and cornbread sausage stuffing made with home made cornbread (a recipe I was testing for America’s Test Kitchen).
This was the best-cooked turkey I’ve made to date. The breast was moist and subtly smoky, but the leg confit was the big hit of the meal. I’m considering buying more leg and thigh sections to confit along with my annual winter duck prep.We also wiped out the skin, which turned out like turkey chicharrones.
Of course, no Aftersgiving feast would be complete without pie, so I served brownie pie with cereal milk ice cream, hot fudge, graham and chocolate crumbs, and a shot of cereal milk.
Next year we get to stay home for Thanksgiving, but I think we’ll still celebrate Aftersgiving. You can never have too much turkey.
Wow….I guess I’ve done this turkey method for a while and it does seem complicated when I’m cooking but that is a heck of a lot of steps that I’ve never detailed in my head. I encourage others to try one or more of the steps as this meal is good any time of the year. Just covering chicken, duck, or turkey legs and thighs in a deep pan of olive oil, garlic, herbs of choice, and cooking in the oven @ 225 is amazing. Simple and keeps for a long while in the fridge if covered in the cooking oil.
Great post Dave!
It didn’t seem complicated to me, in fact it was much more laid back than the usual oven shuffling that goes on when you roast a whole turkey.
Everyone should try the leg confit.