Tea-rubbed maple turkey: A holiday bird goes subtly Sichuan
Credit Sichuan-style tea-smoked duck for inspiring this “radical reboot” of the Thanksgiving turkey, said Ted Anthony in Milk Street magazine. I fell in love with the centuries-old Sichuan specialty while visiting Chengdu years ago, and ever since I’ve been perfecting a way to make a roast turkey with the lightly sweet and “deeply savory” flavor.
Forget trying to smoke the bird in a wok or deep-frying it in fat. Lapsang souchong tea is smoked already, so incorporating the tea leaves in a dry rub “works wonderfully.” And if you let the seasoned turkey sit uncovered in a refrigerator for a day, the skin will dry out enough to become crispy in the oven. The final touch—a maple glaze—adds sweetness and color.
Recipe of the week
Tea-rubbed maple turkey
12- to 14-lb turkey, neck and giblets discarded
6 bags lapsang souchong tea
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 tbsp cornstarch (for gravy)
8 bags lapsang souchong tea
½ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
½ tsp ground white pepper
Using paper towels, pat turkey dry inside and out. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and tuck wings underneath. Empty 6 tea bags into a bowl; mix in salt and white pepper. Loosen the turkey’s skin and spread half the mixture evenly underneath. Sprinkle remaining mixture over skin, rubbing to coat evenly. Set bird breast side up on rack; refrigerate, uncovered, 24 hours.
Heat oven to 325 with a rack in the lowest position. Pour 4 cups water into roasting pan. For even cooking, pull the turkey’s legs up and forward and insert a long skewer through, both to lift them and hold them tight to the breast. Roast about 2 hours, until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh reads 155 to 160.
Meanwhile, prepare glaze: Steep 8 tea bags in ¾ cup boiling water until cooled; squeeze liquid from bags. In a saucepan, combine brewed tea, syrup, and soy sauce. Bring to simmer over medium heat; cook until large bubbles form, 8 to 10 minutes. Blend ½ cup glaze with vinegar and pepper to make a serving sauce. Use leftover glaze below.
Remove turkey from oven; brush with half the leftover glaze. Return turkey to oven, brushing with glaze every 30 minutes. Roast until thigh temperature reads 175 and breast 160, 1 to 1½ hours. Tilt bird so juices run out of cavity into pan. Transfer turkey to a carving board and allow to rest 45 minutes.
Prepare gravy: Pour pan juices into a fat separator; let settle about 5 minutes. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 2 cups defatted juices to a simmer. In a small bowl, stir together 3 tbsp water and cornstarch. Whisk mixture into simmering juices and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Carve turkey and set out with gravy and reheated sauce. Serves 12.