Turkey was never something that I would seek out outside of the Thanksgiving holiday, but after getting a Gunthorp bird last year, I have been eating turkey on the regular – specifically leg and thigh – whenever I find local turkey. The difference between the conventional turkey and one raised correctly is remarkable. Deciding if you like turkey based on conventional turkey is like deciding whether you like beer based on Milwaukee’s Best. At its worst, turkey is dry and flavorless, but this is not that.
Stuffing a leg of turkey full of greens and other animal legs was one of those “Ideas While Running”. While my favorite blog, “Ideas in Food” is slicker and far smarter than a hypothetical “Ideas While Running” blog would be, the flow of ideas while deep into a run is fast and free and would be at least interesting insight into the thought process if not a scary look at loss of filter. The filter is completely gone, which could prove to be good or bad, but there are certainly doors being turned into windows when my heart rate elevates for a long period of time.
As the cliche goes, necessity is the mother of invention and due to the need for two days of food with very little pre-dinner hands on prep time, I knew that some sort of roast would be the answer, but I wanted to stay with poultry. Turducken was a natural choice, despite its relative obscurity, and the leg made sense due to portion size and ease of preparation.
I started with a chicken leg, a duck leg, and a turkey leg. As you can see in the photo, the turkey leg was a monster and the duck leg was a bit shrimpy, but this would be no matter. It was the sum, not the proportion of the parts that mattered.
After completely boning the duck and chicken legs, I used the galantine method by Pepin to 90% bone the turkey leg to keep the turkey leg looking “normal”. The main issue with using the legs is that the connective tissue and sinew, for the turkey especially, was troublesome. After spending a good amount of time cleaning them out, I arranged the legs like Russian nesting dolls separated by mustard greens, red cabbage, and sorrel.
Once the legs were in place, I bound the leg with butcher’s twine and a large needle. I need to work on neatness, clearly, but I have never been one to win style points, especially in knitting.
Most of the work was done at this point. I added the leg and a half cup of rendered chicken fat to a vacuum bag with thyme, bay, and salt. The bag went into a water bath in a low oven overnight and, after that into the fridge for the day. Since time was tight that day, the leg was roasted over blanched fava pods until the skin was crisped and any leftover confit fat dripped down and gave the fava pods additional flavor.
Once the skin was crispy, slicing was easy.the cross-sections were beautiful, but the real standout were the texture and flavor. The low and slow method in luscious chicken fat created a tender bird that was rich without being heavy and was extraordinarily savory. The sorrel, cabbage, and mustard added just enough of a contrast to keep the turducken confit from becoming a single direction dish.
The textures were excellent. The turkey skin was extra crispy, but the dark drumstick meat was extraordinarily soft. The textures of the turkey were slightly different than the textures of the duck and the chicken leg.
It seems as if people only roast turkey, but after making turkey thigh confit a few Thanksgivings ago, confiting is my favorite way to cook poultry when fat is plentiful. It is a riff on duck confit which is one of the most common ways to cook duck legs. Adding a few other poultry legs to the turkey was simply a small enhancement to the basic idea of turkey confit, but a worthwhile idea thought of while deep into a long run. Those small side steps are a smattering of thoughts had to avoid thinking of stopping mid-run. There is no stopping.
As a note, I am signed up to meet the Ideas in Food crew in Chicago later this month at a dinner and I am looking forward to seeing what their spark is.