Julia Child’s Deconstructed Thanksgiving

November 29, 2015

If you like dark meat, this will be the only turkey recipe you will ever make from this point forward. Removing the thighbones, then trussing the thighs up using skewers and string, makes the dark meat the absolute best part of the entire evening. This was my second year in a row making Julia Child’s Thanksgiving. Last year I posted the turkey/stuffing combination, and this year I also wanted to include the gravy recipe; the 3 recipes go perfectly together. This post is intended to ease the juggling between the three recipes; integrating the timing of each step was the biggest challenge.

Traditional Thanksgiving meal

Traditional Thanksgiving meal

By separating the turkey into three major pieces, some of the most fundamental Thanksgiving issues are solved. (1) Getting the dark meat cooked properly without overcooking the white meat. (2) getting real turkey drippings into the stuffing. As a bonus, this method cooks the turkey in about half the time, freeing up my oven to cook rolls, pies, and gravy the rest of the day. There are a few issues (discussed below), but overall this technique provides a delicious turkey. It was the best dark meat I’ve ever eaten. Chris Kimball agrees, saying “this is now my new, absolute favorite.” 4-1/2 stars. I hope you all had a delicious Thanksgiving.

Most beautiful dark meat ever

Most beautiful dark meat ever

Start the evening before Thanksgiving, taking care of most of the prep work in about 1-1/2 hours. Cut the turkey into three major parts, (1) breast/wings, then (2) cut off each leg/thigh quarter. At first, I misread the instructions and started to cut off just the leg; not the entire leg quarter (i.e. including the thigh), but realized my mistake before I did any damage beyond the skin. The recipe only brines the breast/wings. It salts/seasons the leg quarters separately.

Shopping List for Turkey, Stuffing and Gravy:

  • Turkey (between 1-1/2 and 2 pounds per person)
  • 24-ounce loaf of hearty white sandwich bread (e.g. Arnold’s or Pepperidge Farms)
  • Fresh sage (enough for 2-1/2 tablespoons)
  • 5 onions
  • 7 celery ribs
  • 1 carrot
  • 6 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (about 4-ounces)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 ½ cups chicken broth (28 0unces)
  • 2 cups dry white wine (2/3-rds bottle)
  • Wooden skewers

Issues / Comments:

  1. Cutting off leg quarters, not just legs. As I mentioned above, I almost cut off just the legs in step 2. The recipe calls for me to remove the “leg quarter”.
  2. Because the wings overhanged my 12″ skillet, the juices dripped down to the oven floor and filled the house with smoke. My solution is that I recommend putting a foil-lined baking sheet below the skillet to catch the juices. If it starts to smoke you can just swap it out for new foil. Fortunately, my guests had not yet arrived.
  3. I was surprised that it took me a full hour to deconstruct and prepare the turkey, most of the time was separating the leg quarters. The back was pretty easy to remove using kitchen shears.
  4. The recipe calls for a 12-to-15-pound turkey. I bought a 19-pounder because of the number of guests, but my turkey took double the time to cook than stated in the recipe. In the end, we ate an hour late, but only because I cut the resting time down (more than I should have).
  5. If your turkey weighs more than 17-pounds you will have to remove the stuffing before the turkey has finished cooking,
  6. While Chris Kimball tries to have the white and dark meat ready at the same time, it was not the case. The dark meat took longer, but that gave the breast an extra 10-to-15 minutes to rest. The beautiful thing about this recipe is that I was able to remove the white meat while the dark meat came up to temperature.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $25.  ($10 of which was by 21-lb turkey; which was subsidized by my supermarket)
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 12 Noon. Dinner time 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it for this Thanksgiving is as follows:

The Evening Before Thanksgiving:
1 Turkey
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage (remaining 2 tablespoons will be for tomorrow)
Salt and pepper
Wooden skewers
1-1/2 pounds hearty white sandwich bread (e.g. Arnold’s or Pepperidge Farms)

  1. Expect to spend 1-1/2 hours this evening on preparations. Mince enough fresh sage to yield 1 teaspoon and set aside until you are ready to season/truss the thigh in Step 5.
  2. Remove turkey from packaging, and remove the giblets and neck (from inside the body cavity). Reserve in a gallon-sized plastic bag (or in a large Dutch oven), which will be used tomorrow along with back and thigh bones to make the gravy.
  3. Put turkey breast-side-up on your largest cutting board. Tuck the wing back just to get it out-of-the-way. Working on one leg quarter at a time; remove the thighs/legs (the entire leg quarter in one piece). Cut through the skin around the quarters where it attaches to breast; which will allow you to better see the actual meat. From the front of the turkey (near the wings), use a boning knife to cut deeply along the bone, freeing the thigh meat; until your knife reaches the hip bone. Bend the entire leg quarter back so that the bone pops out of the hip socket, then you can continue to cut the meat away and remove entire quarter.
  4. To de-bone the thigh (just the thigh, not the drumstick), use the tip of your boning knife to cut along the length of the thigh; there is usually a thin line of fat that will show you where the bone is. Then cut around the tip of the bone and work your knife underneath the bone to expose the joint between thigh and leg. Cut through the cartilage and remove thighbone; adding bones to your bag/pot for the gravy. Repeat to remove the second leg quarter.
  5. Rub interior of each thigh with ½ teaspoon sage, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  6. Poke 3 skewers through skin/meat to close up the thigh where your removed the thigh bone. Wrap some kitchen twine around the wooden skewers to tightly close the thigh into a nice, round piece of boneless meat. Set on a large plate, cover, and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours until ready to cook.
  7. Trim away and discard any excess skin from around the neck. Trim away and discard any large globs of fat from the skin.
  8. To remove the back bone from the breast, flip the turkey over breast-side-down. Use kitchen shears to cut through ribs (following vertical line of fat where breast meets back) until you can’t cut anymore. You’ve reach the bone near the wing joint. Repeat on other side of backbone.
  9. Use a little force to bend the back-section away from the breast, and the shoulder joint should pop out of the socket. Cut between the bonds to separate the back from the breast, and add the back to the bag/pot for making gravy.
  10. Dissolve 3/4-cup salt into 6 quarts of cold water in a large container (I used my 8-quart stock pot; so reduced to 1/2 cup salt and 4 quarts of cold water). Submerge breast in brine, cover and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours until ready to cook. Refrigerate reserved bones.
  11. Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes (including the crust). Spread on-top 2 rimmed baking sheets and bake at 300-degrees from 30 to 40 minutes until it becomes dry and lightly browned. Stir a few times during baking and empty into the largest bowl you own. Set aside until Thanksgiving day.
  12. While the bread drying out is in the oven, you will have time to pre-mix your pumpkin pie filling. If you are going to make dinner rolls or bread, then mix your biga.

Thanksgiving Day:

Stuffing Ingredients:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
3 onions, chopped fine
6 celery ribs, minced
1 cup dried cranberries
4 large eggs, beaten

Gravy Ingredients:
2 onions, chopped coarse
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 celery rib, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3-1/2 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
2 cups dry white wine
6 sprigs fresh thyme

  1. At 8AM. If you are making dinner rolls or bread, start the dough early in the morning. The dough needs time to rise, and you need time to bake the bread without conflicting with your turkey roasting schedule. Also, I had extra rolls to serve hot around lunchtime.
  2. At 11AM: If you want your pumpkin pie shortly after dinner, this is your last free oven time to bake it. It is also possible to put it into the oven around 4:30PM (while the turkey rests); but the pie won’t be cool enough to eat until about 7:30PM.
  3. At 12 NOON: Set two over racks to the lowest and second lowest positions; pre-heat to 450-degrees. Put reserved turkey bones, onions, carrot, celery, and garlic in large roasting pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and toss to combine. Roast, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 50 minutes until everything becomes well browned.
  4. At 12:30PM: Remove the breast from brine and pat dry using paper towels (leaving the leg quarters in refrigerator for now). Tuck the wings behind back. Finely chop 3 onions. Melt butter in 12″ non-stick oven-safe skillet over medium burner. Add chopped onions and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have softened and are just beginning to brown
  5. Meanwhile, mince 2 tablespoons of fresh sage and 6 celery ribs. Add minced celery and sage to skillet, plus 1-1/2 teaspoons pepper. Continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes until celery is softened. It is essential that the vegetables have time to dry out in the skillet or your stuffing will turn to mush. Empty vegetables into your large bowl with the bread cubes. Set aside until Step 9.
  6. AT 1PM: Transfer your gravy ingredients from the roasting pan to a large Dutch oven and set aside until Step 8.
  7. Reduce oven temperature to 425-degrees. Use paper towels to wipe out non-stick skillet. Brush surface of breast with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and set turkey breast with the skin-side-down into skillet. Roast at 425-degrees for 35 minutes; placing a foil-lined baking sheet on the rack below turkey to catch any drippings.
  8. For the gravy, add 3-1/2 cups chicken broth, 3 cups water, 2 cups white wine and the 6 sprigs fresh thyme to the pot with the roasted turkey/vegetables from Step 6. Bring up to boil over high burner, then reduce to low and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, until it is reduced by half.
  9. At 1:30PM. Add 1 cup cranberries and 4 beaten eggs to bread mixture and toss to combine (mixture will be dry). Empty stuffing to 16″x13″ roasting pan, then use a rubber spatula to form an even 12″x10″ rectangle. The turkey will be set on-top of stuffing to protect it and prevent it from burning.
  10. Remove the breast from the oven and use paper towels to pat up the hot juices from the top of the breast. Use wads to paper towels to flip over and set over two-thirds of stuffing.
  11. Brush leg quarters with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and arrange over the remaining stuffing. Lightly season legs and breasts with salt.
  12. Use your rubber spatula to tuck and exposed stuffing under the turkey, so that it is almost entire covered.
  13. Bake for 30 minutes at 425-degrees.
  14. At 2:30PM. Reduce oven to 350-degrees and continue cooking turkey for between 40 minutes and 2 hours.
  15. For the Gravy, empty the contents of pot through fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Use the back of a spatula to press solids to render as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. If you have more than 4 cups of liquid continue reducing until you have 4 cups. Empty the liquid into a fat separator. Allow to settle for at least 5 minutes (until Step 20)
  16. If your turkey is more than 16-to-17-pounds you will need to remove the stuffing before the turkey has fully cooked to prevent it from becoming too greasy. Put stuffing into an oven-safe pyrex casserole dish and continue baking until nicely browned. Also continue cooking turkey in the roasting pan on a v-rack.
  17. At 3:30PM to 4:30PM. Begin to check the internal temperature and remove when the breast registers 160 to 165 degrees and thighs reach 175 to 180 degrees; Remove each piece individually as each piece attains the proper temperature.  Set onto a cutting board and tent with aluminum foil.
  18. In my case, parts of the skin was not crispy. I broiled the leg quarts to crisp up the skin. Rotate turkey as necessary to crisp the entire skin.
  19. Allow turkey to rest for 30 minutes before carving. While turkey rests, use a spatula to stir stuffing and scrape up any browned bits. Evenly rearrange stuffing over the entire roasting pan and keep warm in the turned-off-oven.
  20. While the turkey continues to rest, finish making your gravy. Separate 1/4 cup of fat to medium saucepan. Put over medium-high burner and cook until bubbling. If you do not have 1/4 cup of reserved turkey fat, then supplement with unsalted butter. Whisk in 1/4 cup flour and cook for 2 minutes, constantly whisking, until it becomes honey-colored. Gradually whisk in hot turkey liquid and bring to boil. Reduce burner to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
  21. Remove skewers and twine from leg quarters. Carve turkey. Before serving stuffing, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. and arrange in center of large serving platter. Serve.
The breast also roasted up wonderfully moist.

The breast also roasted up wonderfully moist.

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Julia Child’s Deconstructed Turkey

November 29, 2014

When cooking chicken lately, I have been cooking and enjoying dark meat for its deeper flavor and more forgiving texture. Yet, one weakness of my usual turkey recipes is getting the breast to correctly cook (to 160-degrees) without sacrificing the dark meat. I rarely time the flip correctly. So when I saw this episode on America’s Test Kitchen last month, I was amazed and happy to see how it showcased the dark meat. By separating the turkey into three major pieces, some of the most fundamental Thanksgiving issues are solved. (1) Getting the dark meat cooked properly without overcooking the white meat. (2) getting real turkey drippings into the stuffing. As a bonus, this method cooks the turkey in about half the time, freeing up my oven to cook rolls, pies, and gravy the rest of the day. There are a few issues (discussed below), but overall this technique provides a delicious turkey. It was the best dark meat I’ve ever eaten. Chris Kimball agrees, saying “this is now my new, absolute favorite.” 4-1/2 stars. I hope you all had a delicious Thanksgiving.

Most beautiful dark meat ever

Most beautiful dark meat ever

Start the day/evening before, taking care of most of the prep work. Cut the turkey into three major parts, (1) breast/wings, then (2) cut off each leg/thigh quarter. I misread the instructions and started to cut off just the leg; not the entire leg quarter (i.e. including the thigh), but realized my mistake before I did any damage beyond the skin. The recipe only brines the breast/wings. It salts/seasons the leg quarters separately.

What makes this recipe truly unique is removing the thighbones, then trussing the thighs up using skewers and string. This step makes the dark meat the absolute best part of the entire evening. I was hesitant to break the tradition of roasting a whole turkey, but with my guests arriving just before dinner this year, it was a great opportunity to give this recipe a try. Mostly because Chris Kimball says it is based upon Julia Child’s recipe.

Issues / Comments:

  1. Cutting off leg quarters, not just legs. As I mentioned above, I almost cut off just the legs in step 2. The recipe calls for me to remove the “leg quarter”.
  2. Because the wings overhanged my 12″ skillet, the juices dripped down to the oven floor and filled the house with smoke. My solution is that I recommend putting a foil-lined baking sheet below the skillet to catch the juices. If it starts to smoke you can just swap it out for new foil. Fortunately, my guests had not yet arrived.
  3. I was surprised that it took me a full hour to deconstruct and prepare the turkey, most of the time was separating the leg quarters. The back was pretty easy to remove using kitchen shears.
  4. The recipe calls for a 12-to-15-pound turkey. I bought a 19-pounder because of the number of guests, but my turkey took double the time to cook than stated in the recipe. In the end, we ate an hour late, but only because I cut the resting time down (more than I should have).
  5. While Chris Kimball tries to have the white and dark meat ready at the same time, it was not the case. The dark meat took longer, but that gave the breast an extra 10-to-15 minutes to rest. The beautiful thing about this recipe is that I was able to remove the white meat while the dark meat came up to temperature.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $19.  ($10 of which was by 19-lb turkey)
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 1 PM. Dinner time 6 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it for this Thanksgiving is as follows:

The Eventing Before Thanksgiving:
12-to-15-pound turkey
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
Salt and pepper
Wooden skewers
1-1/2 pounds hearty white sandwich bread (e.g. Arnold’s or Pepperidge Farms)

  1. Remove the neck and giblets and set aside in a large Dutch oven, which will be used along with back and thigh bones to make the gravy.
  2. Put turkey breast-side-up on a cutting board. Tuck the wing back just to get it out-of-the-way. Remove the thighs/legs by cutting through the skin around the quarters where it attaches to breast. Cut away the top of the meat until your knife reaches the hip bone. Bend the entire leg quarter back so that the bone pops out of the hip socket, then you can continue to cut the meat away and remove entire quarter.
  3. To take out the thigh bone, use the tip of your knife to cut along the length of the thigh. Cut around the tip of the bone and work your knife underneath the bone to expose the joint between thigh and leg. Cut through the cartilage and remove thighbone; adding bones to your pot for the gravy. Repeat to remove the second leg quarter.
  4. Rub interior of each thigh with ½ teaspoon sage, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  5. Poke 2 or 3 skewers through skin/meat to close up the thigh where your removed the thigh bone. Wrap some kitchen twine around the wooden skewers to tightly close the thigh into a nice, round piece of boneless meat. Set on a large plate, cover, and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours until ready to cook.
  6. Trim away and discard any excess skin from around the neck.
  7. To remove the back bone from the breast, flip the turkey over breast-side-down. Use kitchen shears to cut through ribs (following vertical line of fat where breast meets back) until you can’t cut anymore. You’ve reach the bone near the wing joint. Repeat on other side of backbone.
  8. Use a little force to bend the back-section away from the breast, and the shoulder joint should pop out of the socket. Cut between the bonds to separate the back from the breast, and add the back to the pot for making gravy.
  9. Dissolve 3/4-cup salt into 6 quarts of cold water in a large container (I used a large stock pot). Submerge in brine, cover and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours until ready to cook.
  10. Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes (including the crust). Spread on-top 2 rimmed baking sheets and bake at 300-degrees from 25 to 30 minutes until it becomes dry and lightly browned. Stir a few times during baking and empty into the largest bowl you own.

Thanksgiving Day:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
3 onions, chopped fine
6 celery ribs, minced
1 cup dried cranberries
4 large eggs, beaten

  1. An hour before you are ready to start cooking turkey, begin baking the bones reserved gravy.
  2. Pre-heat oven temperature to 425-degrees, and set two over racks to the lowest and second lowest positions.
  3. Remove the breast from brine and pat dry using paper towels (leaving the leg quarters in refrigerator for now). Tuck the wings behind back.
  4. Finely chop 3 onions.
  5. Melt down butter in 12″ non-stick oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have softened and are just beginning to brown. Meanwhile, mince 2 tablespoons of fresh sage and 6 celery ribs.
  6. Add minced celery and sage to skillet, plus 1-1/2 teaspoons pepper. Continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes until celery is slightly softened. Empty vegetables into your large bowl with the bread cubes.
  7. Use paper towels to wipe out skillet. Brush surface of breast with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and set turkey breast with the skin-side-down into skillet. Roast at 425-degrees for 30 minutes. Place a foil-lined baking sheet on the rack below turkey to catch any drippings.
  8. Meanwhile, add cranberries and beaten eggs to bread mixture and toss to combine (mixture will be dry). Empty stuffing to 16″x13″ roasting pan, then use a rubber spatula to form an even 12″x10″ rectangle. The turkey will be set on-top of stuffing to protect it and prevent it from burning.
  9. Remove the breast from the oven and use paper towels to pat up the hot juices from the top of the breast. Use wads to paper towels to flip over and set over two-thirds of stuffing.
  10. Brush leg quarters with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and arrange over the remaining stuffing. Lightly season lets and breasts with salt.
  11. Use your rubber spatula to tuck and exposed stuffing under the turkey, so that it is almost entire covered.
  12. Bake for 30 minutes at 425-degrees.
  13. Reduce oven to 350-degrees and continue cooking for between 40 minutes and 2 hours; until breast registers 160 to 165 degrees and  thighs registers 175 to 180 degrees.
  14. Empty onto a cutting board as each individual piece attains the proper temperature. Allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving. While turkey rests, use a spatula to stir stuffing and scrape up any browned bits. Evenly rearrange stuffing over the entire roasting pan and keep warm in the tured-off-oven.
  15. Before serving, adjust seasoning of the stuffing with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the stuffing in center of large serving platter.
  16. Remove skewers and twine from leg quarters. Carve and serve.
The breast also roasted up wonderfully moist.

The breast also roasted up wonderfully moist.


Pork Pernil

November 9, 2014

The menu for my big Mexican dinner party (which happened last night) has been planned for a few weeks. Then, two days before the party, I was watching Cook’s Country and heard Chris Kimball declare his latest recipe to be “the best pork recipe he’s ever eaten.” Sure, I hear that every few episodes, but the final pork looked amazing. So I switched my theme from Mexican to Latin. I added ceviche, but left the Mexican Chicken Flautas on the menu. I also made a homemade tomatillo sauce. The pork was absolutely delicious; flavorful, tender. Yet without a doubt, the crispy pig skin was the best part of the entire meal. The recipe softens the skin by soaking it in water while baking at pretty high temperature for 4 hours. It’s as if the entire recipe is crafted towards perfecting the skin; the piece de resistance on an entirely delicious meal. The only flaw in the recipe is that the wonderful flavors of the sofrito do not permeate into the meat; even after 24-hours marinating. Instead of the complexity of the sofrito, the final presentation of the dish relies on a much simpler lime/cilantro jus. 4-1/2 stars. Definitely worth the 6-1/2 hours.

Tender pork topped with crispy pig skin

Tender pork topped with crispy pig skin

To overcome the recipes main flaw, a Latin friend says her sister pokes holes all over the roast with a big knife. Allowing the Sofrito, or Recao as she called it, to flavor the entire roast rather than just the exterior.

Other Comments:

  1. About 4 hours into the recipe I had a near disaster, so I offer this warning. Do not treat the 4 hours of cooking in steps 3 and 4 as virtually unattended cooking time. After you remove the foil, starting with step 4, plan to add 1 to 2 cups per hour. In my case I caught it just in time to save the drippings. Another 15 minutes and I could not have made the Jus.
  2. The 1 hour of cooking in Step 6 only brought my port up to 180-degrees. It took an extra 35-to-40 minutes to attain 195-degrees.
  3. While not described in the original recipe, the step of crisping the skin (step 8) had an added secret, which was very subtly shown on the Cook’s Country episode. You can use balled up aluminum foil to hold your roast in perfect position so that the skin crisps evenly.
  4. I had to buy two bunches of cilantro to yield the requisite 1-1/2 cups. One bunch will give you enough for the night before dinner, but I had to make another trip to the supermarket the next day.
  5. Chris Kimball recommends serving this with plain, white rice.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $15.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 11:30 AM. Ready at: 6:00 PM. (Begin marinating the day prior)

The Cook’s Country original recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1-1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems (used in Step 1 and Step 10)
1 onion, chopped coarse
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
7-pound bone-in pork picnic shoulder
3 to 4 limes (1 tablespoon grated lime zest plus 1/3 cup juice)

  1. The day before you cook the meal, add 1 cup cilantro, onion, salt, oil, garlic, pepper, oregano, and cumin to food processor. Pulse 15 times until finely ground. You may need to scrape down sides of the bowl.
  2. Pat pork dry with paper towels and rub sofrito all over. Wrap pork in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
  3. Start cooking 6 hours before dinner. Set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees. Pour 8 cups water into a large roasting pan. Unwrap pork, place in pan with the skin-side down in the water. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and roast at 450-degrees for 90 minutes.
  4. Remove foil, and turn down oven to 375-degrees. Continue roasting uncovered for 2-1/2 more hours.
  5. Prepare a V-rack by spraying it with non-stick vegetable oil spray.
  6. Remove entire pan from oven. Gently slide metal spatula under pork to release skin from pan. Using two clean, folded dish towels (or wads of paper towels) to grasp both ends of pork and put on V-rack with the skin-side up. Use paper towels to wipe the skin dry. Place V-rack with pork in roasting pan. If the pan looks dry, add 1-cup water (I recommend adding it no matter what). Return to oven and bake for another 1 hour (mine took 1-1/2 hours) until the pork registers 195-degrees. (If needed, to add water several times to prevent the pan from drying out.)
  7. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with foil (for easy cleanup).
  8. Remove pan from oven, and set V-rack with pork in prepared baking sheet. I saw on the Cook’s Country episode that they make the roast level by creating a ball of foil to support the flatter end. Return to oven, and turn up the oven temperature to 500-degrees. Cook for 15 to 30 minutes; rotating sheet halfway through cooking. It will be done when the skin becomes well browned and crispy., and you can tap it lightly using tongs and it should sound hollow.
  9. Allow pork to rest for 30 minutes on a carving board.
  10. Meanwhile, pour juices from pan into fat separator. Allow to settle for 5 minutes, then pour off 1 cup of the de-fatted juices into large bowl. If you don’t have 1 cup, then make up the shortfall using water. Whisk 1/2-cup cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice into bowl with the de-fatted juices.
  11. Remove crispy skin from pork in large pieces. Chop skin coarsely into bite-size pieces and put in serving bowl.
  12. Trim and discard any excess fat from pork. Remove the pork from the bone and chop it coarsely. Transfer pork to bowl with cilantro-lime sauce and toss to combine. Serve pork, with crispy skin on the side.

Honey Fried Chicken

December 3, 2013

Every year Cook’s Country introduces a new fried chicken recipe, and each year Chris Kimball declares that new recipe to be the “best fried chicken recipe ever”. It seemed impossible to surpass this Spicy, Extra-Crunchy Fried Chicken from a few years ago. But Cook’s Country removed the milk, and the problem of brown-spots completely disappears. Later, I thought this Korean Fried Chicken was the pinnacle of fried chicken, which used pure corn starch (i.e. no flour). This year it was Honey Fried Chicken; “AAA, number one, best recipe of all-time for fried chicken”, Chris Kimball proclaimed. I was skeptical. This year’s chicken recipe includes all the past innovations; water instead of milk, corn starch instead of flour, liquid batter instead of dry coating. This year’s innovation: Twice frying the chicken, using a classic french fry technique.; to fully-crisp the exterior without overcooking the interior. 5-stars.

Delicious, Kid-friendly Fried Chicken

Delicious, Kid-friendly Fried Chicken

Actually, this recipe most closely resembles the Korean Fried Chicken, except that it is seasoned with sweet honey instead of sugar/soy sauce. Considering my audience; five teenaged boys; the sweetness made this a perfect meal.

Overall innovations:

  1. Use water instead of milk: The sugars in the milk solids browned too fast (not enough to adversely affect the flavor but it’s definitely visible; see photos here and here)
  2. Use corn starch instead of flour: This is a trick used by Chris Kimball to keep his shrimp tempura tender. The gluten-free results will be more tender than a coating made with flour.
  3. Use liquid batter instead of dry breading. This produces a more even coating, that is more prone to slicking on the chicken. A dry breading tends to lose a lot of breading during cooking.
  4. Twice frying the chicken, using a classic french fry technique: This allows the skin to fully-crisp, without overcooking the interior.

Comments/Issues:

  1. Because of the limitations of the number and size of my mixing bowls, I ended up using a small bowl to just the chicken in Step 3. But I had a hard time working with the steeper curves and am wondering if it would have been easier to use a pie plate.
  2. When cooking any fried chicken, you should try to use a splatter screen to make your stove-top cleanup a little easier.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $10 for 3 pounds.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Huge
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 6:40pm

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

Brine Ingredients:
1/2 cup salt (4 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar (4 ounces)
2 quarts cold water (4 ounces)
3-lbs bone-in chicken pieces

Batter Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups cornstarch (6-3/4 ounces)
3/4 cup cold water
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 quarts vegetable oil

Honey Glaze Ingredients:
3/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons hot sauce

  1. Cut your split breasts cut in half so that they are approximately the same size as your drumsticks and thighs, then trim away any excess skin or fat. In a large bowl filled with 2 quarts cold water, add 1/2-cup salt and 1/2-cup sugar. Stir until dissolved; add chicken, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to sit in refrigerate for between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. In a medium bowl, add 1 cup cornstarch, water, pepper, and salt. Whisk until smooth and refrigerate while the chicken brines.
  3. Sift 1/2-cup of cornstarch into a third, medium-sized bowl or pie plate. After chicken is done brining, remove and pat dry using paper towels. Coat chicken one piece at a time with cornstarch, then shake to remove any excess, and set on a clean platter.
  4. Add 3 quarts vegetable oil to a Dutch oven, which should measure about 2″ deep. Put over medium-high burner and begin to pre-heat oil.
  5. After about 6 to 7 minutes as the oil approaches 350-degrees, whisk batter to recombine ingredients and put half the chicken into batter and turn until entirely coated. Remove the chicken allowing the excess batter to drip back into the bowl, then add to 350-degree oil. Adjust burner as required to maintain the temperature between 325-and-350-degrees. The first batch you will need to crank up the heat, but during later batches that probably won’t be necessary.
  6. Fry for 6 to 7 minutes, until the chicken begins to become crispy. Remove partially cooked chicken from oil and set on a clean plate lined with paper towels. Once the oil is again approaching 350-degrees, repeat steps 5 and 6 with remaining raw chicken. While the chicken cooks, line a rimmed backing sheet with Aluminum foil and put a wire rack ontop.
  7. Again, heat the oil back up to 350-degrees and re-fry the fist batch for 5 to 7 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked; breasts reach 160-degrees and thighs/drumsticks are 175-degrees. Remove chicken back to wire rack, and repeat the second fry with the second batch.
  8. While the second batch is in it’s final frying, add together honey and hot sauce to a large bowl, stir to combine, and microwave for 1-1/2 minutes. Working one piece at a time, dip chicken in honey and turn until coated, then return to wire rack with the skin-side up, and allow to briefly drain before serving.

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