I don't cook turkey and there is not much anyone could say to make me change my mind about this bird. Why on earth would anyone want to eat turkey when there is duck or even chicken? But in comes Kenji Alt with his braised turkey leg idea, and for the first time in my life, I actually wanted to try a turkey dish. It turned out so good, I might actually cook turkey again. I followed Kenji's recipe pretty closely with a few minor tweaks:
- My legs came already cut into thighs and drum sticks. That made it easier to fit into the pan.
- I pre-salted them the night before.
- I needed to cook them almost 3 hours (the recipe said 2), though I did start at a lower temperature (250F instead of 275F).
- I felt like the sauce needed a bit of tomato product even though the recipe didn't call for it. Normally, I would have used a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, but I didn't have any on hand, so instead I finished it with a tablespoon of pomegranate syrup. It was not obtrusive, but added a great depth and complexity to the sauce.
Here is a thorough critic of the finished dish:
- The sauce was fantastic and abundant, which is important when cooking turkey. Really, where would Thanksgiving table be without the gravy? I only needed 1.5 Tbsp of butter and 1.5 Tbsp of flour to thicken.
- The texture of the meat that was submerged in the sauce during cooking was outstanding -- succulent and very soft.
- The texture of the meat that was above the sauce was a bit dry. The basic idea of this dish is that you keep the skin above the liquid to prevent it from getting soggy. As any remedy, this one is not without side effects. The skin was indeed tasty. But the meat in those parts was a tad dry -- not a show stopper, and I doubt anyone besides Jason and me would notice. With enough sauce, it was all delicious, but I think I would do it a bit differently next time. Thighs were easier to deal with. The skin was flat and on top so it was easy to keep just that part above the liquid. If I wanted to keep the skin crisp, I would only use thighs. The drumsticks have the skin all around, so you have to decide how much meat you want to sacrifice to the crispy skin. If I was cooking drumsticks, I would not worry about crispy skin and flip them half way through or cook partially covered.
- The parts of meat that came out perfectly (the parts submerged in the liquid) reminded me of coq au vin. Not that I've ever tasted a real coq au vin, but that's what I always imagined it would taste like. The original dish was created for a rooster that would be a tough old bird and required hours of slow cooking to soften. Do you know where to get an old rooster? I don't. The chickens we buy in the stores are tender babies whose legs soften almost immediately. I've made yummy dishes with them that involve red wine and mushrooms, but that's not coq au vin. Is "dinde au vin" a dish? If not, it should be.