I love a roast turkey on Thanksgiving Day, but I’m not disappointed the bird doesn’t feature more prominently on menus year-round. Maybe if I weren’t the person annually charged with prepping, stuffing, cooking, carving, clean-up… followed by wrestling with the carcass and leftovers from the damn bird, I’d be more enthusiastic about serving it more often.
But my husband really loves turkey, so during the year, we buy turkey legs, which he usually grills on the barbeque. For a change of pace, I experimented with cooking them sous vide style, and we were very pleased with the results. First I took the skin off the legs, then seasoned the meat and rubbed it with garlic confit. I added fresh thyme and rosemary, strips of orange peel, a bay leaf, tomato paste, and frozen cubes of chicken stock to each food bag, one leg per bag. The resulting sauce was incredibly tasty with lots of complex flavors, and the turkey was moist and tender.
Once the turkey was cooked, I cranked the water oven up to 185°F (to speed this process, I often remove some of the water and replace it with boiling water) and cooked some root vegetables — carrots and parsnips in one bag and diced Yukon gold potatoes with butter and Maldon salt in another bag. To finish the dish, I reduced the sauce from the turkey legs with a bit of white wine, then added my cooked carrots and parsnips and a knob of butter to the sauce. The braised turkey is terrific with mashed (or smashed) potatoes or with polenta, too.
So for those of you who think roasting a turkey is too much trouble or just plain too much food, here’s a Thanksgiving alternative with a lot less fuss and muss!
- Preheat the water bath to 175°F (79°C).
- Remove the skin from the turkey legs, along with any silver skin or tough membranes. If you prefer to skip this step, the skin can be removed after the legs are cooked. Season the meat with salt and pepper, then rub 1 tablespoon garlic confit over each leg. Place 1 leg in a food bag and add ½ tablespoon thyme leaves, 1 bay leaf, 2 strips orange zest, 1 sprig rosemary, 1 teaspoon frozen tomato paste, and ½ cup frozen chicken stock. Seal the bag. Repeat with the remaining legs.
- Cook the turkey legs for at least 8 hours or up to 12 hours.
- Open the bags and remove the turkey legs; set aside. Strain the sauce from the bags through a fine mesh sieve into a large skillet; discard the solids. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat and add the white wine. Continue to boil until the sauce is reduced to about 1½ cups. Add the turkey legs and cooked vegetables, if using, to the sauce and reheat, covered, over low heat. Just before serving, stir the butter into the sauce.
- Divide the legs and vegetables among four warm shallow bowls and ladle some of the sauce over each portion. Garnish with minced parsley and serve hot.