Alright. In the interest of being honest this holiday season, I should fess up: I don’t really like turkey. I’m one of those people who thinks that Thanksgiving is all about the sides—and the pie, of course.
Leave it to my husband, my dear Angry Chef, to make a bird that totally changes an opinion I’ve had for more than 25 years.
This turkey is moist, juicy and super-duper flavorful. I actually went back for seconds. (Gasp…I know!)
We used a 6.5 lb. bone-in turkey breast for this recipe. You could also use this method (with regular turkey timing) on a full bird, as well. If you just like the white meat, aren’t feeding an army, and don’t need a huge carcass for soup, etc., this is definitely a good way to go.
The basic method
For this recipe, you make a very flavorful compound butter with whiskey or scotch, maple syrup, and five-spice powder. It gets a boost of warm spiciness from a little extra cinnamon, clove, and star anise—and just a hint of smoke from smoked paprika.
Take that butter and pack it under the turkey’s skin. (Warning: the recipe below makes a lot more than you need for the actual bird. That’s intentional, so you can have extra on hand for sandwiches and other holiday goodies. If you don’t need that much, just cut the recipe in half.)
Rub the cavity with olive oil and spices, and stuff it with smashed garlic cloves and a lemon studded with cloves and cinnamon sticks. As the bird roasts, you baste it every half hour or so with a mixture of dark soy sauce and whiskey infused with star anise, cinnamon, and garlic.
I’m skipping over a few steps, but that’s the basic idea. Read on for detailed instructions.
The bird is intensely flavorful and—thanks to all that compound butter—super moist and juicy.
If you don’t like turkey, you should try it this way. I’m willing to bet it might change your mind, too.
To brine or not to brine
Brining can only improve a turkey.
Essentially, brining means soaking your bird overnight in a mixture of water/stock, sugar, salt, and spices. This plumps up the bird, which helps keep it moist and juicy as it roasts. It also adds flavor.
We skipped it this year because we were running out of time. If you want to brine your bird, check out Alton Brown’s brine recipe here.
My kitchen friends
When I was cooking this weekend, the trees next to our house were full of crows. They were kind enough to let me snap a few shots of them.
My holiday helpers were also hanging around the kitchen, eagerly waiting for me to drop things. (Dexter is the large beast. Penelope is the little silver blur next to him.)
OK! Let’s roast a turkey, shall we?
The Angry Chef’s Whiskey Glazed Roasted Turkey
For the turkey
1 (6.5 lb) turkey breast, bone in
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 lemon, cut in half on a diagonal
10-12 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
ground white pepper
2 wooden teriyaki sticks (or a handful of toothpicks)
Compound butter (yields enough to have a lot extra. cut in 1/2 if using just for turkey)
1 lb. butter, softened
2 Tbls. Johnny Walker Black
1 Tbls. grade B maple syrup
1 Tbls. 5-spice powder
1/4 tsp. star anise
1/4 tsp. ground clove
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
In the roasting pan
1 lemon, quartered
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 cinnamon stick
6-8 whole star anise
1/2 cup Johnny Walker Black
generous dash Tabasco
3 Tbls. dark soy sauce
2-3 cups water
Do a little prep
Mix up the compound butter. (Add all the ingredients to 1 pound of softened butter. Mix well with a fork until uniform.) Set aside on the counter.
Set a v-shaped roasting rack in a large roasting pan. Preheat your oven to 345 degrees.
I definitely recommend using a non-stick rack. You can pick one up for under $10 at most large grocery stores. It makes cleanup so much easier…
Season the bird
Grab your bird. Rinse him really well under cold water, then rub him with paper towels until he’s completely dry. Set him aside for a minute.
Peel and smash the garlic cloves with the flat of your knife.
Whack a lemon in half on the diagonal (more surface area).
Stud each half of the lemon with 5 or 6 whole cloves.
Stick half a cinnamon stick into each piece of lemon. (Toss your sense of aesthetics to the wind. This is purely to keep the cinnamon sticks from falling out, since the cavity on a breast is much more open than it is on a whole bird.)
Drizzle a little olive oil on the inside of your bird.
Rub it around and sprinkle with a little kosher salt, ground white pepper, onion powder, ground chipotle, 5-spice powder, and smoked paprika. Rub that around to coat the inside.
Toss the smashed garlic into the cavity next. Then squeeze each lemon in, and insert it into the cavity.
Grab the flaps on either side of the cavity and pin them closed with two wooden skewers. (If you don’t have skewers, get creative with toothpicks. They’ll work just fine.)
You don’t want to seal it completely. You just want to hold it closed enough so that the lemons, etc., don’t fall out.
Flip your bird over.
Gently loosen the skin from the bird. Pull up at the edge, then work your fingers under, separating the thin layer that holds the skin to the meat.
You want to loosen as much of the skin as you can on the breast, without making any holes. Basically, you’re creating a little pouch to hold the compound butter.
Once you’ve loosened the skin, grab a blob of your compound butter (be careful not to contaminate the whole bowl with your raw turkey paws).
Lift up the skin and push the butter in underneath.
Keep going until you have a good layer of butter under the skin on both sides. As long as you’re not making holes in the skin, there’s really no wrong way to do this. Basically, just get as much butter as you can under the skin.
Next, rub some of the butter on the outside of the skin.
And sprinkle with a little kosher salt, ground white pepper, onion powder, ground chipotle, 5-spice powder, and smoked paprika.
Into the oven!
Set the bird on your roasting rack, breast side up.
Whack another lemon in quarters. Smash up 5 or 6 more cloves of garlic. Grab a small handful of star anise, and a cinnamon stick. Measure out the soy sauce and whiskey.
Pour in the soy sauce-whiskey mixture.
Add enough water so that you have about a quarter-inch of liquid in the bottom of your pan. (How much you add will vary based on the size of your pan.)
Pop that sucker into your preheated 345-degree oven.
Roast for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until crispy, browned, and 160 degrees internal temp.
Baste the bird every half an hour with the liquid in the pan. Keep an eye on the turkey’s skin. If it starts to brown too much before it’s done, just slip a sheet of aluminum foil over him loosely.
He’s done when he registers 155-160 degrees on a meat thermometer (stick it in the fattest part of the breast, and be sure not to hit a bone or you’ll get a false reading).
Serve and enjoy!
Remove him from the oven. Loosely tent a piece of foil over him for about 20 minutes, to let the juices settle into the meat.
Serve on a platter strewn with lemon quarters, cinnamon sticks, whole star anise, ground paprika, and chopped parsley.
Depending on the size or shape of your bird, you may have trouble getting him to stand up at attention on your platter. Simply prop him up with lemon wedges on each side until he stays put. Works like a charm.