What if, instead of a stomach ache and a nap, Thanksgiving dinner left you feeling elevated—intoxicated in a way that has less to do with alcohol consumed than with a magical blend of ingredients?
Your pulse quickens, your energy increases, and you have a heightened sense of excitement and awareness, all thanks to aphrodisiacs: molten dark chocolate, mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, sweet figs, and star anise. Effectively spiking your Thanksgiving dinner with these has two potential goals: creating a general sense of camaraderie and well being among guests, or creating a romantic evening with a single dining companion. Whether successful or not, these holiday recipes might lead to a happier state than a traditional Thanksgiving food coma.
The star anise and Sichuan peppercorn-brined Turkey with dark chocolate sourdough stuffing is the recipe you are looking for to accomplish your goal. The subtle flavour of the star anise in the salt and sugar brine adds a warmth and Vietnamese pho’-like quality to the meat, complementing the natural glutamate in the turkey.
The bitterness of the dark chocolate and appealing tartness of the sourdough keeps the stuffing from tasting like dessert. You only need ¼ cup Sichuan peppercorns, ¾ cup salt, ¾ cup sugar, 8 litres water 8 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped, 2 bay leaves, 1 tbsp coriander seeds, ¼ tsp fennel seeds, 2 star anise, one 12- to 14-lb turkey and you are set to go.
Toast the Sichuan peppercorns in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for 35 seconds, shaking skillet to toast evenly. Transfer to a bowl to cool. When cool, grind 1 tbsp to powder, reserving the rest. In a pot large enough to hold the turkey, bring the salt and sugar to a boil along with water. Stir to dissolve then remove from heat. Add shallots, bay leaves, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise and remaining whole, toasted Sichuan peppercorns. Refrigerate until cold. When brine is cool, place turkey in pot along with giblets. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 3 days.
Remove turkey from brine and place on roasting pan. Loosen skin from bird to spread 2½ tsp of reserved ground Sichuan peppercorns underneath (reserve 1/2 tsp ground peppercorns for gravy). Stuff cavity loosely with stuffing and roast turkey in preheated 425°F oven for 25 minutes. Lower heat to 325°F for 2 ½ hours to 2 ¾ hours. until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken leg reaches 130°F. Baste turkey if desired, but it’s not mandatory since the brine keeps even the breast meat moist. Cover turkey with foil if it browns too much. Remove from oven when done, tent with foil for 20 minutes, then remove stuffing and carve bird.
The dark chocolate sourdough stuffing is next. The sweet and salty turkey juices and the molten dark chocolate soak into the bread like a mouthful of joy. You need 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, 5 shallots, diced, 1 clove garlic, finely chopped, 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced, 6 cups cubed gluten-free bread, 2 tbsp toasted, chopped hazelnut pieces 1/2 cup dried figs, diced 1 tsp dried thyme, ¼ cup chopped parsley, 1tbsp lemon juice ¼ cup chicken stock or water, 1 cup more chicken stock and 1/2 tsp salt, only if cooking stuffing outside the bird.
Now you have to heat the oil in a skillet. Add the shallots, garlic and apple and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent browning. Combine with remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Massage with hands to combine. Stuff turkey loosely. Place any remaining stuffing in a baking sheet and roast, covered in foil, alongside turkey in last 45 minutes. Remove foil for last 10 minutes. Remove from oven and re-cover to keep warm until serving. Sichuan Peppercorn Gravy Pan drippings 1 cup + 1 tbsp chicken stock 2 tbsp flour ½ tsp reserved ground Sichuan peppercorns salt, to taste and remove turkey from roasting pan. Place pan on stove over medium-high heat and add 1 cup chicken stock. Scrape tasty bits of turkey from sides of pan. Transfer to a wide-bottomed saucepan if roasting pan heats unevenly on burner. Whisk flour into 1 tbsp stock in a small bowl. Whisk into pot. Cook, stirring, until thickened. Stir in Sichuan peppercorns and salt to taste.
Strain gravy and serve immediately for the most romantic Thanksgiving of your life.