Friday, December 04, 2009

Sous Vide Turkey and Stuffing

Ok, got a nice pint of Snoqualmie Avalanche Winter ale in front of me. Onwards.

Follow up to the Fried Turkey Post. So a year ago I saw this video of Grant Achatz, of Alinea fame, cooking a Thanksgiving dinner sous vide.

I really wanted to try it but never got around to it. Well this year we had several days of Thanksgiving chaos and at the end of it M and I were feeling a bit...let down. It had nothing to do with our families or the meals, it had everything to do with, dare I say, Holiday Imperialism!

Which is to say, when we lived in Miami we stayed there for Thanksgiving and came home at Christmas. So it became our holiday. We cooked what we wanted, invited who we wanted, and ran it how we wanted. And though it was fun to see our families and friends, something had been lost. So we talked about it and hit upon the solution: Thanksgiving 3.0

We went to the Farmer's market the Sunday after and picked up some ingredients: sage, thyme, root vegetables, mushrooms. Went to the Ballard Market and picked up a 20lb turkey. Went to Larsen's and picked up some day old bread. Got to cooking.

I decided we'd do both the sous vide turkey and the stuffing. Recipes here.

Boned out the breasts of the turkey, and cut off the hindquarters. Stuck the breasts in one gallon ziplock bag, thighs and drums in another. Each bag got a stick of butter, some sage and thyme, salt and pepper. I say some because, like Achatz, I really didn't measure. Squeezed as much air out as possible.

Took the cleaver and hacked the hell out of all the bones, the neck, and the necks and guts from the two fried turkeys from Thanksgiving. Roasted for an hour at 425, added some mirepoix, roasted a bit more, made stock. With the amount contributed by my mom (from the Fried Turkey carcasses. Thanks mom!)

I am now the proud owner of a gallon and a half of delicious turkey stock. Of course this went into the stuffing, made gravy, and formed the base of a Thanksgiving Leftover Shepperd's Pie.

Took my largest pot, the 7.5 gallon aluminum pot I use for frying turkeys, and put 4 gallons of water in. Heated to 175 and added the turkey bags. Thanks to all that water volume, it held 170-175 without too much faffing for the 2 1/2 hours of cooking.

Got to work on the stuffing. To the recipe I added about a quarter pound of cooked Chanterelles, two good handfuls of wild cranberries, and the rest of our leftover pecans, chopped. Again, everything went in a bag and into the pot. This one floats way more than the turkey, bread is full of air bubbles, so I weighted it down with a pot.

After 2 1/2 hours we pulled it and took some temp readings. Right on, even a bit over-cooked. Next time I may keep the water at 170 for an hour and then ramp down to 160.

But there was a problem.

Here's what the legs looked like.

Not particularly appetizing. There's no direct high heat, so no Maillard reaction, so no delicious browning. The meat may be perfect and moist, but the eyes say "Eww".

Depending on your serving plan you can skip this next step or not, but if you plan to present this to anyone or are a huge fan of crispy skin, you'll need to do this. Take a big pan, heat it to scorching, ridiculous hot and film it with oil. Sear the hell out of the turkey until the skin browns, it doesn't take long.

When you're done it looks like this.

Much better, no?

The Final Verdict:

It was seriously delicious turkey. Moist, and well seasoned. Also reasonably easy to do, and still took less time than oven roasting. Next time I'd cook them to 160 or so. Even sous vide, where no liquids can escape and it can't physically go above the temp of the water, 170 is pretty dry for poultry. Carving is a breeze, it's more like slicing deli turkey. All in all, if I didn't want to bother with the oil and cleanup of Fried Turkey I'd totally recommend this. On par with fried. Waaaay better than oven roasted.

The stuffing, however, was OUTSTANDING. For days we've been talking about it and because we made a whole Thanksgiving feast (there was also mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, etc) for two people, we have been eating it for a week now. And will be for at least another week... It is seriously, awesomely delicious. Chanterelles: absolutly, god yes. Cranberries: gives a nice sour bite and red color. Pecans: enh, take em or leave em, it's a texture thing. I may use pine nuts next year. But if you take nothing else from this the lesson is clear: poach your stuffing. Which is kind of funny. Here we have the chef of one of America's most cutting edge restaurants, essentially making a boiled British pudding right out of Lobscouse and Spotted Dog.

And it's delicious.


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