This Thanksgiving, Dark Meat Confit
I have a lot of turkey prey, but my strongest belief is that a large bird is best if it is divided into light and dark and then cooked separately. Yes, you sacrifice the visualization of the whole bird , but honestly, who cares? I would prefer it to taste good .
With chopped poultry, you can focus on white and dark meat separately to make each one shine. Instead of drying your breasts looking for tender legs and thighs, you can cook each one at the proper temperature (which is a good 15 degrees!).
The downside, of course, is that you cook two different turkey recipes, but you don’t have to cook them both on the same day. Confit turkey legs or thighs can be cooked in three days, then reheated and roasted on the stove. And since you’ll only be roasting the breast – I recommend my buttermilk-baked breast – the white meat will cook much faster than a whole turkey, making room in the oven for casseroles and cornbread.
Most confit recipes require the meat in question to cook slowly in its own fat, but turkey fat is not something you can buy in the tub. I thought about using duck fat, but the amount of duck fat it would take to confuse four turkey thighs is frankly a little prohibitively expensive, so I switched to lard (which you can buy in four pound buckets for about six dollars).
Fluffy, cloudy white lard is most commonly used to make carnitas, but mixing interspecies confit is not a crime. (If so, I dare for the authorities to come and take me.) Cooking pickled thighs in ghee will give you moist meat with a strong flavor. You also get meat that tastes like turkey . Unlike smoked duck fat, the lard doesn’t affect the flavor, so you get a real clean turkey. (Duck-flavored turkey actually sounds pretty raw, but some people are purists.)
This recipe was designed for four thighs, which you can buy pre-cut, but it’s also great for two whole thighs. If you want the food to be full of thighs, just enlarge it. One hip for each guest is more than enough. To make thighs with salad jam, you will need:
- 4 turkey thighs (or two legs) about five pounds
- 1/4 cup fine salt
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon white pepper
- 6 sprigs of thyme without leaves
- 4 fresh sage leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large sprig of rosemary
- About 2 pounds of lard (you may need more or less depending on size and depth or your pan)
Blot the thighs of the turkey and set them aside. In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar and pepper and toss with a fork. Chop the herbs finely, chop the bay leaf and add to the salt mixture. Stir again with a fork until the herbs are evenly distributed. (You can also throw everything in the food processor, but I don’t like cleaning that.)
Place thighs in a gallon freezer bag, then sprinkle brine on all sides of each thigh. Close the bag and place it in the refrigerator for at least eight hours, until 24. Flip the bag a couple of times during the brine process, if you remember.
The day before Thanksgiving (or two days before), remove the turkey thighs from the bag, brush off excess brine, and place the thighs in a deep frying pan. They should be fairly snug and there should be at least an inch of free space above them. Preheat oven to 225 ℉ and heat lard over medium-high heat in a saucepan until liquid. Pour the fat over your thighs, then put it in the oven and let it simmer for four hours until you can easily poke through the thickest part of your largest thigh with a paring knife. Remove the thighs from the oven and let them cool at room temperature for about an hour and a half. Put your thighs in the refrigerator and let them cool overnight (or longer).
When you’re ready to serve the turkey, place the baking sheet in a warm oven until the lard has melted and the thighs are easily separated from the fat. (You can put it next to a casserole or something; just watch out for it at higher temperatures.) Heat a nonstick skillet over medium to high heat, then fry all sides of the thighs, paying special attention to the skin. Once the meat is warm and the skin is crispy, serve immediately, garnish with toasted sage .