4th December 2006

Cooking- Peking Turkey

For the past couple of years Hillel and I have wanted to do some interesting things for Thanksgiving beyond the usual turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry. We often talked about ideas like imagining thanksgiving as an Asian holiday.
Last year we tried to do thanksgiving as a small plates meal. Overall I’d call it a disaster. Some of the dishes worked out ok, some failed (truffle mini-souffles) and the many-courses of small plates format kept a bunch of us psycho busy in the kitchen the whole night.
This year Michael agreed to host Thanksgiving and in the end almost 50 people were invited. With that many people we needed some good coordination and we had an opportunity to do both traditional versions of many dishes as well as jazzing things up a little bit. We did three turkeys- one traditional roasted, one deep friend, and my experiment for this year was a Peking Turkey.

Basically the idea was to cook a turkey using the techniques normally applied to Peking duck. Part of the motivation was some less than stellar skin on previous turkeys. Since Peking duck is known for its great crispy skin I wondered if the approach would work on a turkey.

The basic notion is to dry out the turkey and then baste it with some flavored boiling water for 10 minutes. This seals the skin and helps keep the juices in when you cook it. Then you hang it for 8 hours with a fan on it and brush it with a honey-water mix every couple of hours. Then you roast it fairly conventionally. The skin browned fairly quickly, so make sure to cover it in foil and turn down the heat once it browns.

Overall I think it worked out very well and I’d be tempted to try it again. The usual duck recipes tell you to remove the leg bones and I should have followed that- when the turkey was hung the blood all accumulated in the drumsticks and couldnt really drain.

Hillel wrote up some of the meal here on tastingmenu with some pictures. One other observation- I think the class we took at the CIA was some pretty good prep for an event like this. Cooking for 50 can be pretty hectic and we had it mostly all prepped and ready to go with only reasonable amount of work on Thanksgiving afternoon itself.

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