This is my favorite turkey recipe—and has been for three years running—producing tender, moist breast meat and falling-off-the bone dark meat with lots of flavorful veggies and wild mushrooms. The only thing missing is the tableside presentation, slicing and serving of a whole turkey—not much of sacrifice when the braised turkey is this tender and delicious. And for those of us that are mostly vegetarians, having so many fabulous vegetables along with the turkey is a tremendous bonus.
Braising the turkey requires first breaking it down into its parts so that each of them cooks perfectly. Do this yourself just as you would cut up a chicken, or perhaps buy individual turkey thighs, legs and breasts already cut up. http://www.recipetips.com/kitchen-tips/t–436/cutting-up-a-whole-turkey.asp is a great site for learning how to cut up your turkey yourself.
Salting the Turkey in Advance
I begin by salting the turkey at least 2-3 days in advance. Although not an essential step when braising a turkey, with the oftentimes tough local turkeys we get here in Montana, it does make a difference. Here’s how to do it:
Rinse the cut-up turkey parts and sprinkle them with 2 tablespoons kosher salt (enough for a 12-15 pound turkey). Place the parts on a pan. Put the pan with the turkey inside a plastic bag. Press out the air and seal the bag. Refrigerate for 2-3 days. When ready to proceed with the braised turkey recipe, remove the individual parts and pat them very dry with paper towels.
Preparing the Turkey Stock
The stock can be prepared a number of days in advance. Be sure to include the wing tips, breast bones and backbone from cutting up your turkey along with additional wings and backs for a rich and flavorful stock. Use your own or perhaps this excellent Bon Appétit recipe for Golden Turkey Stock found on the Epicurious.com website.
Adapted from and inspired by a 2008 recipe from Mark Bittman in the New York Times
1 12-15 pound turkey, cut into parts (optionally salted 2-3 days in advance)
Turkey Stock as needed (prepare the stock at least one day in advance of using it)
½-1 ounce dried porcini or other mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced pole-to-pole
2 cups carrots, ½ -inch dice
2 cups celery, ½ -inch dice
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Several sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary
½ pound shiitakes, stems removed and caps thickly sliced
½ pound cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
Chopped fresh parsley and/or herb bouquet for garnish
Soak the dried porcini in boiling water to just cover them. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When it’s hot, add as many thighs, legs and wings skin-side down that will fit comfortably without touching one another. (You may need to do this in two or more batches depending on the size of your pan.) Cook until well browned. Turn them over and cook a couple of minutes on the other side. Remove from the pan and add the boned breasts, skin side down, cooking until well browned. Turn them over and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove the breasts from the pan and refrigerate.
In the same sauté pan, cook the onions till softened. Stir in the carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another 4 minutes. Add the shiitakes and cremini mushrooms and continue to cook until they are tender. Add the drained porcini, reserving the soaking liquid, and cook another minute till they are heated through.
Put the turkey legs, thighs and wings skin side up in the corners of a large roasting pan (my pan’s interior dimensions are 11½ by 16½ inches). Fill both the middle and the spaces around the turkey with the vegetable/mushroom mixture. Strain the porcini soaking liquid thorough a fine strainer into the pan. Now add as much stock as needed to come a little more than halfway up the sides of the turkey.
Roast the turkey, uncovered, for about 2 hours. Remove the breasts from the fridge after the turkey has cooked for 1¾ hours. When the turkey meat is tender, place the breasts, skin side up, in the middle of the pan on top of the vegetables. Cook another 30 minutes until the breast meat is tender. Remove the pan from the oven.
Serve on a large platter: the veggies and mushrooms on one side and the sliced white and dark meat on the other. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and/or a bouquet of thyme, rosemary and parsley.
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