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Braised Turkey Legs

Related Ingredients
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Tasting Notes

Turkey is always the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table, but the layering of flavors in these braised turkey legs really amps up the star-power of this succulent bird.

Flavor development begins when the skin on the turkey legs is browned and caramelized, adding depth and richness to the braising liquid. The next layers of flavor come from the spice of the aromatic herbs – thyme, rosemary and sage – and the concentrated sweet flavors of cooked-down carrots, celery, onions, garlic and mushrooms. The white wine in the braise adds acidity and subtle notes of fruit. Once finished, these braised legs are the first building block for the rich, full-bodied gravy, the addictive turkey croquettes, and the elegant panini-pressed brioche stuffing.

Tips & Techniques

  1. Safely butcher your bird. Dry the bird before you begin, so it won’t slip and slide on the cutting board. To get through the butchering process with ease, always use a very sharp boning knife, follow the natural lines of the bird and stay close to the bone.
  2. Salt from the start. It is impossible to season the bird properly if you save all your salt for the end. As the flavors build, season lightly and consistently with each step.
  3. Slow and steady. After slowly braising the legs, it is important to let them come to room temperature in the braising liquid. This will ensure the ideal flavor and texture in the final product.

Toolbox

These tools are the ones we find especially helpful when making this dish.

  1. Cheesecloth. This gauze-like cotton cloth is often used in cheese making. If you don’t have a chinois or a fine mesh strainer, line a colander with cheesecloth to strain the turkey’s braising liquid or use cheesecloth as a sachet for herbs.

The list below includes all the equipment you’ll want to make this dish.

Large pot

Small pot

Chinois (or fine-mesh strainer or strainer with cheesecloth)

Knife and cutting board

Gloves

Medium-sized sheet pan

Large sauté pan

Tongs

Large roasting pan with lid

Dutch oven

Wood spoon

Rubber spatula

Whisk


Ingredients

For the brine:

  • 6 quarts water
  • 1 cup salt
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig thyme 
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 4 garlic cloves

 

For the braise:

  • Grapeseed oil
  • 8 oz. bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice
  • Half head celery, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 2 medium onions, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup Beech mushrooms
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small bunch thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 8 leaves sage
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 3 quarts low-sodium chicken stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serves: 8

Total Time: 12 hours

Active Time: 30 minutes

Method
  1. Make the brine: heat water along with all other ingredients except ice in a large stock pot.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Using a sharp butcher’s knife, take the legs and wings off the turkey. Place the crown in a large stock pot or food-safe bucket. Reserve the legs, thighs, neck, wings and gizzards for sauce and stuffing.
  3. Pour the brine into a pot with cold water in order to cool hot brine liquid. Then place turkey crown in the cooled brine until the crown is submerged. There may be a little extra brine depending on the size of your bird or your container. You can discard this.
  4. Refrigerate the turkey crown in the brine overnight. The day before you are ready to make the Roasted Turkey Crown, take the crown out of the brine, pat it dry and hold it in the refrigerator for another 24 hours, uncovered to air-dry. Reserve to roast the day of.
  5. For the braise, set a roasting pan over medium-high heat on the stove top. Add enough grapeseed oil to just coat the pan. Pat the drumsticks, thighs, wings, neck and gizzards dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Place all of the turkey parts, besides the crown, in the pan. Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to brown the parts in batches in order to brown each part entirely.
  6. Transfer the turkey parts to a plate. Once all of the parts are browned, return the roasting pan to the stove and add enough grapeseed oil to just coat the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add the bacon and cook until golden brown. Add the carrots, celery, onions, garlic and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Sweat on medium heat until aromatic, about 10 minutes.
  8. Add the tomato paste. Stir with a wooden spoon to coat the vegetables with the tomato paste. Cook down until the tomato paste is tacky, about 4 minutes. Add the flour and stir to combine. Add white wine and reduce until dry. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly or until the flour is golden brown and has been absorbed by the fat in the pan.
  9. Add chicken stock and place bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley to the pot. To make retrieving herbs easier, place herbs in a piece of cheesecloth that is tied to make a sachet and add to the pot. Whisk ingredients together. Season to taste.
  10. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and pour over the browned turkey parts in a large Dutch oven. Cover with lid and place in oven.
  11. Cook in the oven for 3 hours or until the meat falls easily off the bone.
  12. Remove braising pot from the oven. Cool legs in the braising liquid.

Here is a great way to turn this dish into a meal

Tasty tortilla soup with shredded turkey

Make a tasty tortilla soup by straining the braising liquid and using it as the base of the soup. Add dried chilies, canned chopped tomatoes, cooked corn and chili powder to taste. Shred the turkey meat and add it back into the soup. Top with crushed tortilla chips and grated cheddar cheese.

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