Pastrami Turkey Breast to Cure What Ails You

You don't have to wait a whole year to make this turkey breast for Thanksgiving. Pastrami turkey is great for sandwiches, kicking up your minestrone or seriously, snacking on when you're wrapped up in your blanket watching Netflix. The brine was adapted from Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie

Things you'll need:
5-pound turkey breast

1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seed
1 dried chili pepper
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 whole cloves
2 tsp fresh ginger
1 cup of honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
5 garlic cloves
For the butter:
1 stick of softened butter
1 bunch of chives
2 cloves of garlic

For the rub:
1 tbl black peppercorn
1 tbl coriander seed

For smoking:
2 handfuls of maple wood chips (or pecan)
1 chimney of coals
1 fennel bulb

Make sure you have a container and lid large enough to fit and submerge the turkey breast. Unwrap the turkey and remove any organs from inside the neck or breast cavity. Pat it dry with paper towels and let it come to room temperature. Wash your hands.

Soak the wood chips in water and set aside.

Heat a quart of water in a pot and whisk in the salt, honey and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and make sure to stir the salt and sugar until they dissolve. Turn the heat off and add the rest of the brine ingredients. Let the spices steep for 10 minutes as it cools. 

Add the brine and the turkey to your container. Add enough ice to cover the turkey. Cover and store in the fridge for up to two days. Check that the meat is submerged, add cold water if the ice wasn't enough.

While you wait make the butter. Leave a stick of butter on the counter for a couple of hours to soften or if it's rock hard, use a grater to quicken the process. Chop chives finely with the garlic and fold into the butter. If you want a less chunky and bright green butter to go under the turkey skin, pass the butter through a couple pulses of the food processor (but not necessary).

If you have a dedicated spice grinder, pulse the peppercorn and coriander until you don't see whole seeds anymore. I like it coarse but if you prefer you can make it fine. If there be no spice grinder in your kitchen, simply crush the seeds with the handle of a wooden spoon, bash a ziplock bag or even empty your pepper grinder and pass the seeds through--though I understand that might take a while to grind out. 

Once the turkey is brined, drain the container and dry the meat with paper towels. Take the butter out of the fridge to soften. 

On a cutting board, carefully lift up the turkey's skin and run your hands as best as you can underneath it. Like, get in there but don't rip it. Spread 2 to 4 tablespoons of chive butter under the skin. If you can't get it to distribute evenly, at least prioritize the top because the butter will melt and cascade down. Sprinkle the rub all over the turkey breast and place on a pan that will fit in your grill or smoker. Stuff the fennel bulb into the empty cavity.

Prepare a chimney of charcoal until they turn gray. Turn them out on one side of the grill and place the turkey on the cold side of the grill. Throw a small handful of wet wood chips on the coals and cover the grill with the lid. Make sure the vents are open. Smoke for 1 hour and turn the breast 180 degrees before you throw more wood chips onto the coals. Continue for another hour and baste with the remaining chive butter. Do not brush it on, but drizzle so you don't wipe off the pepper crust.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Once the turkey is done smoking, roast it for an hour until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees F. Let it cool out of the oven for 15 minutes.

Slice it up and store in the fridge all week for sandwiches. 

Don't know what to do with the turkey carcass? I've got some ideas on my guest post for Dear Kate..

Going to try this recipe? Let me know by tagging @Randwiches on Instagram or Twitter. I want to know how to improve it.





A Christmas Dream Come True with DIY Pepper Bacon

This past Christmas, I went down to Tampa to hang out with Eric's family. We met up with his brother Jeff, who was transporting a bunch of cooking tools to their parents' house. One of the hefty packages was a smoker! I couldn't contain myself. We set out a plan of smoking every since thing, from cheese to tomatoes, the Christmas beef roast and breakfast bacon. I've made bacon before and used nitrate salt (which can be controversial). This was my first opportunity to have a truly smokey hunk of meat for Christmas. 

First, we obtained a quality slab of pork side with the skin on. Three days before we would have Christmas breakfast, I put the slab in a large zipper plastic bag with the salt, sugar and pepper. I then placed the bag in a small sheet tray in case it leaked anywhere. When you have a lot of food to prepare, dad or mom can mistakenly stack things on top; so it's good to take the precaution.

Every 8 hours, I'd flip it over and massage the meat so the brine got all over. It starts dry but after a couple of hours, it starts to release water.

The day before Christmas breakfast, I drained the bag and patted the pork dry with paper towels. We stuck it in the hot smoker for about 4 hours, until the outsides were a little red and the internal temperature read 150 degrees F. 

Here it is, skin side up:

And the under side!

The side! Look at the stripes!


I let it cool in the open air and then wrapped it to rest in the fridge. The next morning, I cut thick slices and we par-cooked them in a cast iron on the range and finished them in the oven. It was a little too salty, but nothing a little egg and toast couldn't fix.

It's not crispy "commercial" bacon because it's cut so thick, but it does have this addicting cracklin rind that is fun to chew on.  My original brine proportions were 1:1 ratio of salt and sugar (measuring 1/2 cup each). I've adjusted the salt in the ingredient list below but if you fry up a piece and it's too salty, you can boil the other slices in water for 5 minutes to tone it down. Pat dry and store for up to a week (if it'll last that long). Or if it's not salty enough, add some in the frying pan.

Don't use any oil to cook these. It will have its own natural fat. You can also save the fat for frying other things later on!

Things you'll need:
2lb slab of pork side with skin
1/3 cup of kosher salt
1/2 cup of sugar
Freshly cracked pepper
Large zipper plastic baggie
Sheet pan
Smoker (optional)

If you don't have a smoker, don't fret! The bacon is most of the way there after curing in the fridge. If you aren't against liquid smoke, you can brush a little on each slice before frying. Otherwise, it's still perfectly satisfying to slice up and cook without the smoking part.

What proportions do you use for bacon brine at home? Let me know so I can try it and adjust.