Kalua Turkey avoids pitfalls of dry roasting
How's your turkey doing? Defrosting in the fridge, I hope, and not still rock solid in the freezer (although there are ways to fix that).
In preparation for the big day, several requests came in last week for Kalua Turkey, one of those only-in-Hawaii preparations invented by some genius decades ago. Today might be late in the game to bring it up, so if you've already got other plans, tuck this away for next year.
Kalua Turkey is cooked while wrapped in ti leaves and covered completely in foil. The process mimics what happens in an imu, when a whole pig is buried underground and allowed to steam slowly overnight.
Afterward, the skin and bones are removed and the turkey is shredded, then doused in the pan juices. It comes to the table looking a lot like Kalua Pig.
It's a good method for a first-time turkey cook, as many of the usual pitfalls have been removed. You don't have to worry about the breast meat drying out while the dark meat comes up to temperature, as the bird is essentially steaming inside that foil-wrapped package and always comes out moist. And you're discarding the skin, so it doesn't need to be perfectly browned.
If you undercook the dark meat, simply run the legs under the broiler to finish them. It all ends up shredded anyway.
For those who find roast turkey dry or uninteresting, this is the solution. All it lacks is presentation: You're not going to get the effect of the big, golden bird on the table, laden with stuffing.
The ingredients are simple, provided you have access to ti leaves. Banana leaves are a decent substitute, often sold frozen in Asian groceries.
If you don't have liquid smoke, you can leave it out. I made turkey this way for years before I learned I was supposed to be adding smoke. It does improve the end product, but you'd be fine without it.
12 to 14-pound turkey
1/4 cup sea salt
1 to 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
6 large ti leaves, washed
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove giblets and neck from turkey; save for another use. Rinse turkey, pat dry and loosen skin.
Place turkey on a flat rack in roasting pan. Rub turkey under skin and inside cavities with salt and liquid smoke. Insert thermometer into thickest part of thigh without touching bone. Cover with ti leaves, then wrap the entire bird with foil, allowing thermometer to stick out.
Roast 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 degrees. Roast 4 to 4-1/2 hours, until internal temperature reaches 170 to 175 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest until meat is cool enough to handle.
Remove skin and discard. Shred meat into bite-sized pieces. Pour juices from bottom of roasting pan into measuring cup. Skim fat. Pour juices over shredded turkey and toss to coat. Taste and add salt if necessary. Serves 12.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving (for a 12-pound turkey): 575 calories, 29 g total fat, 8 g saturated fat, 250 mg cholesterol, greater than 2,000 mg sodium, 73 g protein, no carbohydrate, fiber or sugar.
Nutritional analyses by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.
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