Turkey with a twist: Local chiefs on spicing up festive bird

For home cooks who want to up the ante, five chefs offer different ways of spicing up the festive bird. Eunice Quek and Kenneth Goh report

TURKEY RILLETTES

If roasting and carving a whole turkey is too much of a chore, add turkey rillettes to your Christmas feast instead.

The recipe, by Le Bistrot du Sommelier's chef-owner Brandon Foo, 29, is also a good way of using up leftover turkey.

He makes his own smoked turkey rillettes in the restaurant in Armenian Street, which includes an arduous process of brining and smoking the turkey. It is priced from $13 for 150g (takeaway) and $10.50 for 100g (dine-in).

In this recipe, he suggests a sodium nitrite marinade for the turkey meat instead of brining, which will also give the rillettes its salty flavour.

Another key part of making the rillettes is cooking the meat with a bouquet garni (French for garnished bouquet) - a bundle of herbs tied together with kitchen string - which is commonly used to flavour soups and stews.

He says: "Cooking with a bouquet garni adds depth of flavour to the turkey meat. It can be used with other meats as well."

INGREDIENTS

For the turkey

16g sodium nitrite (nitrite salt), from Le Bistrot du Sommelier

10g salt

4g ground white peppercorns

2kg roast turkey meat, cubed

2.8kg duck fat, from Huber's Butchery in Dempsey Road

1.5kg onion, peeled and sliced

150g garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

5g ground white pepper

For the bouquet garni

2 bay leaves

25g thyme

25g rosemary

25g sage

1 stalk green celery

50g parsley stem

1 to 2 leek leaves

METHOD

1. Marinate the sodium nitrite, salt and white peppercorns onto turkey meat. Leave overnight in the refrigerator.

2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 110 deg C.

3. In a large oven-proof pot/tray, heat 300g duck fat and fry the onions and garlic for 10 to 15 minutes until the onions turn translucent. Stir in the turkey meat, 2.5kg duck fat and white pepper.

4. Tie the ingredients for the bouquet garni together with kitchen string and add to the pot. Place the pot in the oven and leave to slow-cook for 21/2 hours, then remove and place on a heat-proof surface.

5. Use a ladle to scoop off the fat floating on top of the turkey jus. Set aside. Strain the meat from the jus and set the jus aside.

6. Place the meat in a deep dish or pot and shred it with a fork or wooden spoon. Pour the jus on the meat till it just covers it and spoon the fat over to ensure the meat is moist.

7. Place the dish in the refrigerator for at least one week before serving.

8. To serve: spread the rillettes on bread and serve with gherkins or other charcuterie. The rillettes can keep for up to one month in the refrigerator.

Serves 30

Eunice Quek


NASI LEMAK TURKEY


Nasi lemak turkey. ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

Fiery red sambal with long beans and light green pandan rice - the colours spell Christmas, but with a definite tropical vibe.

Make nasi lemak turkey for Christmas and it will be a talking point among guests.

The recipe comes from executive chef Harry Lew, 33, of Peony Jade, a Chinese restaurant at Keppel Club. The restaurant sells the turkey, which serves 10 to 12, at $148.

After the sambal turkey chef Lew came up with two years ago was well received by diners, he decided to go further this year.

"No one's done a nasi lemak turkey before. Turkey meat can be bland if you don't have a good sauce or marinade. The sambal makes the flesh tasty and juicy," he says in Mandarin.

For a full meal, serve the turkey with pandan rice, sambal belacan, ikan bilis and peanuts.

INGREDIENTS

For the rice

1 fresh coconut

200g pandan leaves, rinsed

500ml water

500g white rice

50g salt

For the sambal

3 pieces thumb-size turmeric, skin removed, chopped into chunks

200g shallots, peeled

100g dried red chillies, stems removed and soaked in hot water until soft

60g belacan paste

200ml peanut oil

200g sugar

1 Tbs salt

For the turkey

1 turkey (about 5kg), thawed and rinsed

3 Tbs salt

3 Tbs white pepper

300ml vinegar

200ml honey

500ml water

300g long beans

METHOD

1. For the rice: Pour coconut water out of fresh coconut into a bowl. Grate the coconut flesh and place into the coconut water.

2. Pour the grated coconut and water into a clean muslin bag and squeeze out the coconut cream. Set aside the coconut cream and the grated coconut in separate bowls.

3. Process the pandan leaves and water in a blender. Pour the pandan liquid into a clean muslin bag and squeeze out the pandan water.

4. Wash the rice, place in a rice cooker and add the coconut milk, pandan water and salt. Cook for 30 minutes.

5. For the sambal: Process the turmeric, shallots, dried chillies and belacan in a blender.

6. Heat peanut oil in wok and fry the spice paste for about 25 minutes until it becomes a rich, dark red.

7. Add sugar and salt to taste and set aside in a dish to cool.

8. For the turkey: Rub the turkey with salt and pepper, including inside the cavity. Set aside for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

9. Rub one-third of the cooled sambal onto the turkey. Set aside for one hour in the refrigerator.

10. Bring water to boil in a pot large enough to hold the turkey. Add the turkey and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.

11. Remove from the water and place onto a roasting pan, breast side up. Stuff the grated coconut from step 2 into the cavity of the bird. Rub another third of the sambal onto the turkey.

12. In a pot, bring the vinegar, honey and water to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over the turkey to glaze it.

13. Leave the turkey to dry for three hours before roasting.

14. Preheat the oven to its maximum heat setting. Once it hits maximum heat, bring the temperature down to 180 deg C. Place the turkey in the oven to roast for about 45 minutes, or until the red tab attached to it pops out. A meat thermometer inserted into a thigh should register about 180 deg C.

15. For the long beans: Fry the long beans in the remaining sambal over high heat for about five minutes.

16. When the turkey is cooked, remove from the oven and garnish with the long beans.

17. Serve the turkey with sliced cucumber, ikan bilis, peanuts and the pandan rice.

Serves 10 to 12

Eunice Quek


FIVE-SPICE TURKEY STUFFED WITH GLUTINOUS RICE


Five-spice turkey stuffed with glutinous rice. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Holidays in Hong Kong and South Korea inspired Ms Tan Meiwen to come up with five-spice turkey stuffed with glutinous rice.

The 25-year-old, who is part of the research and development team at Swiss Butchery and a food consultant with Jones The Grocer, was won over by the fragrance of the spices used in roast ducks she ate in Hong Kong.

She gives turkey stuffing an Asian twist by packing it with glutinous rice, reminiscent of Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup), a popular dish in South Korea.

On the perennial challenge of keeping the turkey moist, she offers a tip: pour chicken broth into the tray when roasting the turkey.

She likes how the spices from the five-spice mix, such as cinnamon and fennel seeds, give "rich and warm flavours" associated with Christmas.

"It gives the same comforting feeling as drinking a glass of eggnog," she says.

INGREDIENTS

350g glutinous rice

8 fresh chestnuts, peeled

1 head garlic

5 Tbs olive oil

3 shallots

5kg turkey, thawed

250g and 2 tsp salt

2 litres water

3 cinnamon sticks

2 Tbs cloves

2 Tbs fennel seeds

2 Tbs star anise

1 Tbs Sichuan peppercorns

3 Tbs five-spice powder

5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

For the giblet sauce

Turkey giblets

500ml reduced sodium chicken broth

Turkey drippings

1 Tbs plain flour

METHOD

1. Soak glutinous rice in water for a day. Drain and cook in a steamer.

2. Steam chestnuts until soft, then chop .

3. Preheat oven to 200 deg C, bake the garlic on a tray for 30 minutes. Take out from the oven, remove the skin and mash the cloves with the back of a spoon.

4. In a wok set over high heat, add olive oil and fry shallots till they turn golden brown. Drain the oil into a bowl. Set aside the fried shallots.

5. Add the shallot oil into a clean wok and fry the mashed garlic and chestnuts in it for two minutes. Add glutinous rice and fried shallots to the wok and stir-fry all the ingredients till they are well-mixed, about five minutes. Set aside.

6. Remove turkey from bag and remove its bag of giblets and liver. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Place it in a huge resealable plastic bag.

7. In a mixing bowl, stir 250g salt in 2 litres of water gradually. In a 200 deg C oven, bake cinnamon sticks, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise and Sichuan peppercorns for 10 minutes. Add the spices to the salt water and pour the mixture into the plastic bag containing the turkey. Seal the plastic bag and place in the chiller for 24 hours.

8. Preheat oven to 160 deg C.

9. In a bowl, mix five-spice powder, 2 tsp salt and olive oil until a paste is formed. Take turkey out of the brine solution after 24 hours and wipe dry with kitchen towels. Rub spice paste all over turkey and in its cavity.

10. Mould the cooked glutinous rice into small rolls and stuff them inside the turkey. Close the cavity by inserting a skewer across it.

11. Place turkey on a baking tray breast side up and roast for 11/2 hours. Take out of the oven and cover loosely with aluminium foil and continue roasting for another hour. Remove the bird and transfer it to a wire rack and let rest for 15 minutes.

12. To make giblet sauce: Boil the turkey giblets that come with the bird in chicken broth for 10 minutes. Chop the giblets into small pieces. Reserve the broth.

13. Set the roasting pan, which contains the turkey drippings, over high heat. Add the broth to the pan and stir the mixture continuously till it comes to a boil.

14. Reduce the heat to medium, add flour slowly to the pan and stir the sauce until it thickens. Add chopped giblets and serve with the turkey.

Serves four to six

Kenneth Goh


TEOCHEW-STYLE BRAISED TURKEY


Teochew-style braised turkey. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Roast turkey is not one of Mr Daniel Tay's favourite Christmas foods. The 45-year-old founder of online cheesecake shop Cat & the Fiddle finds the meat too dry and not layered with enough fat.

To get around this problem, he turns to one of his favourite dishes, Teochew-style braised duck, for inspiration.

Instead of roasting the turkey, he simmers it in a big pot of soya sauce-based gravy perfumed with spices such as cloves, star anise, cinnamon and five-spice powder.

Adding to the fragrance are galangal, cinnamon and chestnuts, which are stuffed in the turkey.

He says: "I love braised duck and braised pork belly with sea cucumber and thought braising the turkey would make all of the bird soft."

With the turkey immersed in the gravy, it is evenly coated and infused with spices.

"Instead of going for the typical turkey breast, I can also have the wings and drumsticks, which are equally tasty."

He also serves the braised turkey (above) with hard-boiled eggs and tau kwa (firm beancurd).

One challenge of braising a turkey is the risk of overcooking. One needs to keep a close eye on the bird to ensure it does not become too soft and lose its shape.

Mr Tay's favourite accompaniment is a humble bowl of porridge.

He says: "The fragrant sauce has a balance of sweet and salty and goes perfectly with porridge."

INGREDIENTS

1kg chestnuts, shelled and rinsed

5kg turkey, thawed

300g sea salt

3g five-spice powder

70g galangal

20g cinnamon sticks

100g sugar

100ml vegetable oil

160g garlic cloves

5g star anise

15g dried chillies

2g cloves

6g bay leaves

3g dried orange peel

600ml dark soya sauce

600ml light soya sauce

1.2 litres water

10 eggs

6 pieces of tau kwa (firm beancurd)

METHOD

1. In a pot set over high heat, boil chestnuts in water for about 15 to 20 minutes, then strain and set aside.

2. Remove turkey from bag and remove the giblets and liver. Rinse the bird under running water. Pat it inside and outside with paper towels and transfer it onto a large plate. Rub the sea salt all over it and let it rest at room temperature for three hours. Then rinse away the salt under running water and pat the turkey dry with paper towels.

3. Rub five-spice powder all over the turkey and set aside.

4. Flatten 20g of galangal with the back of a knife. Place it, together with 150g of the chestnuts and half the cinnamon sticks, in the cavity of the turkey. Set aside.

5. In a large pot set over low heat, add sugar and vegetable oil and stir continuously for five minutes until the sugar caramelises and the mixture turns brown. Add garlic, star anise, dried chillies, cloves, bay leaves, dried orange peel, remaining galangal and cinnamon sticks, dark soya sauce and light soya sauce into the pot.

6. Add 1.2 litres of water into the pot and bring it to a boil. Immerse the turkey in the pot and let it simmer over low heat for 11/2 hours. Check the bird once every 15 minutes to ensure it stays submerged, adding water if needed.

7. To check if the turkey is cooked, insert a meat thermometer into the breast area. It should register about 80 deg C. Turn off the heat and let it sit in the broth overnight.

8. Lift the turkey from the pot and transfer it onto a serving platter.

9. Place the eggs in boiling water and cook for seven minutes before transferring into a container of ice-cold water for five minutes. Peel the eggs and soak them in a bowl of braising liquid for five hours. Boil the tau kwa, then let soak in braising liquid for two to three hours.

10. Slice the eggs and tau kwa and serve with the turkey and remaining boiled chestnuts.

Serves 10

Kenneth Goh


BUAH KELUAK TURKEY


Buah keluak turkey. ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

The idea of a turkey seasoned with buah keluak (black Indonesian nuts) is not a stretch for Peranakan chef and food consultant Philip Chia, 55.

He was inspired by the classic Peranakan dish of ayam buah keluak.

Instead of serving the turkey in gravy, he spices it up by rubbing the bird with a buah keluak-infused rempah and butter.

He says: "Buah keluak has a peculiar taste; it is bitter and that has to be balanced with saltiness and sourness."

To inject a dash of sourness, he stirs tamarind juice into the turkey gravy and stuffs lemons into the bird's cavity.

This recipe is an improved version from the original one he created for a hotel 10 years ago.

Completing the Peranakan touch, he serves the turkey (below) with buah keluak fried rice and a gravy made with the rempah.

INGREDIENTS

For the rempah

300g shallots, peeled

8 candlenuts

2 to 3 Tbs dried chilli paste, blended from 15 to 20 dried chillies soaked in hot water for an hour

50g galangal, sliced into 2mm-thick pieces

20g turmeric, sliced into 2mm-thick pieces

20g belacan paste

1 stalk lemongrass, use the lower-bulb portion, sliced to about 5cm in length

5 Tbs grapeseed oil

3 Tbs buah keluak paste (from Tekka Market)

For the turkey

4.7kg turkey, thawed

3 Tbs salted butter, at room temperature

2 stalks celery, sliced into 1cm pieces

2 purple onions, peeled and cut into quarters

2 lemons, cut into quarters

200g streaky bacon

For turkey gravy

200ml tamarind juice, from mixing water with 20g of tamarind paste

1 tsp sugar

For buah keluak fried rice

750g basmati rice, washed and drained

2 Tbs olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 purple onion, peeled and chopped

500g shrimp, washed and peeled

Buah keluak rempah

4 large eggs, beaten

Sea salt to taste

Finely sliced kaffir lime leaves

METHOD

1. For the rempah: Blend the shallots, candlenuts, dried chilli paste, sliced galangal, sliced turmeric, belacan paste and sliced lemongrass until they form a paste.

2. Pour grapeseed oil into a wok set over medium heat and add spice paste. Stir-fry it until it is dry and fragrant. Add buah keluak paste and stir-fry another three to four minutes. Set aside in a bowl.

3. For the turkey: Snip the bag containing the turkey, remove the plastic bag of giblets and liver in its cavity and discard. Rinse the turkey under running tap water. Place it in a colander to drain and let it sit for 30 minutes.

4. Pat dry the outside of turkey with paper towels.

5. In a mixing bowl, rub half the rempah and the salted butter until it becomes a clump.

6. Carefully separate the skin over the turkey breast from the meat. Stuff some of the marinade in between. Rub the mixture gently to distribute it evenly under the skin.

7. Wrap the turkey in clingfilm and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

8. Before cooking, let the turkey sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

9. Pre-heat a fan-forced oven to 200 deg C.

10. Stuff the chopped celery, onions and lemons into the cavity of the bird. Using kitchen string, tie the bottom of the drumsticks together.

11. Place the turkey on a roasting pan, breast side down.

12. Slide the tray into the bottom part of the oven and reduce the heat to 180 deg C. After 20 minutes, take the turkey out of the oven and turn it over. Drape eight strips of bacon over the turkey breast so they overlap.

13. Reduce the heat to 160 deg C and roast for an hour. Increase heat to 180 dec C and roast for another 30 minutes. By now, the turkey skin would have browned.

14. Take the turkey out of the oven and cover it with aluminium foil loosely. Increase the oven temperature to 200 deg C, return the covered bird to the oven and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes. To check if it is cooked, insert a skewer into the thickest part of the breast. If the juices run clear, it is cooked. If the juices run pink, roast for another 15 minutes.

15. Transfer the turkey on a large platter. Remove the bacon and snip and discard the string holding the drumsticks together. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes.

16. To make the gravy, collect the turkey drippings from the baking pan into a bowl. In a saucepan over medium heat, add 1 Tbs of the rempah, tamarind juice, sugar and turkey drippings. Stir the mixture until it bubbles. Set aside.

17. For buah keluak fried rice: Cook the rice in a rice cooker and let it cool for three hours before frying.

18. In a wok over medium heat, add the olive oil, chopped garlic and onions and fry for two to three minutes. Add shrimp, the remaining rempah and the eggs and fry for two minutes.

19. Add the cooked basmati rice, sea salt and kaffir lime leaves and fry for five minutes.

20. Serve turkey with buah keluak fried rice topped with turkey gravy.

Serves 10

Kenneth Goh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 13, 2015, with the headline 'Turkey with a twist'. Print Edition | Subscribe