Quick Bite: Feeling Fried?
Try Caviar & Bananas chef Todd Mazurek’s nutty spin on Thanksgiving turkey
Deep-fried turkey flew the Southern coop back in the ’90s, landing on Thanksgiving tables across the United States. “People love this cooking method because it creates juicy meat with a wonderfully thick, crispy skin. Plus, a turkey can fry in as few as 45 minutes, and the process requires minimal clean-up,” says Caviar & Bananas executive chef Todd Mazurek.
The Johnson & Wales University grad, who’s worked in the kitchens of Fat Hen, Wild Olive, COAST, and other local restaurants, fries a bird for his own celebration every year. “I always start by soaking it in a citrus and herb brine for two days to make the meat really moist,” he says. “But I experiment with a different rub each time.”
A peanut butter recipe has worked well in the past, but this year, he found that homemade hazelnut butter tastes even better. “Hazelnuts are milder and sweeter, bringing out more of the turkey’s flavors and providing a nice complement to the peanut oil that I fry it in,” he explains.
And the butter is a cinch to make. “Toast the nuts by coating them in two tablespoons of hazelnut oil, tossing them until evenly coated, then baking them on a sheet pan at 300°F for 12 minutes,” instructs Mazurek. Make sure the turkey is dry inside and out before you apply the rub—this will help it stick to the skin, creating a holiday bird you’ll be truly thankful for.
Turkey Frying Tips
While deep-frying is an easy way to cook a delicious Thanksgiving turkey, safety precautions are vital. Chef Todd Mazurek shares a few pointers
For beginners, poultry-frying kits make things simple by packing all the necessary equipment, including a burner (which connects to a propane gas tank), a stand, and a large stockpot.
Do not stuff turkeys for deep-frying—rubs and marinade injections work best.
“Always fry outside on dirt, grass, or concrete that you don’t mind getting a couple grease stains on,” says Mazurek.
Make sure you use the correct amount of oil. “Do a test run by putting the turkey in the pot and pouring water on top until the bird is completely covered,” instructs Mazurek. “Remove the turkey and use a ruler to measure the distance from the top of the pot to the surface of the water. Then dump water, dry the pot, and fill the oil to this point.”
Thoroughly dry both the bird and the pot inside and out. “This will help prevent spattering. Remember that water and oil do not mix,” Mazurek says.
Before putting the turkey into the hot oil, remove trussing and pop-up timers from the meat and any excess fat from around the neck. Clip the wing tips up to the first joint and cut off the tail.
Heat the oil to 375°F. “When you add the turkey to the pot, the oil will cool down really quickly but will then come back up to 325°F within several minutes,” says Mazurek. Cook the bird at 325°F for three minutes per pound of meat, monitoring the fryer closely.
Hazelnut-Rubbed Deep-Fried Turkey
- 5-7 qts. peanut oil
- 15- to 18-lb. turkey
- Citrus-Herb Brine (recipe follows)
- 1 qt. hazelnut butter
(Makes 2 Gallons)
- 4 carrots, peeled and large diced
- 2 onions, peeled and large diced
- 6 celery stalks, washed and large diced
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 bunch lavender
- 1 bunch Italian parsley
- 2 Tbs. whole black peppercorns
- 15 bay leaves
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 cups salt
- 2 cups white wine
- 1 gal. hot water
- 1 gal. ice
Hazelnut Butter Rub
(Makes 1 Quart)
- 5 cups hazelnuts, toasted
- 4 Tbs. hazelnut oil
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. lavender flower
Hazelnut-Rubbed Deep-Fried Turkey
Remove giblets and neck from turkey and reserve for other uses. If present, remove and discard any plastic pieces, such as a leg holder and pop-up timer. Rinse turkey well with cold water; drain cavity.
Place turkey in a large container and pour citrus-herb brine over turkey until completely covered. Refrigerate turkey in brine for 48 hours prior to cooking. After turkey has been brined, discard brining liquid and dry turkey very well with paper towels so that no moisture is present.
Generously rub front and back of outside of turkey with hazelnut butter. Pull neck skin to back and twist wing tips to back as well in order to hold skin in place. Tuck legs under band of skin or tie legs to tail with cotton string or butcher’s twine.
In a large stockpot, preheat the oil to 375°F.
Place turkey breast-side down on an upright stand designed for poultry frying. Wearing protective gloves or heavy oven mitts, and using a hook or tongs to hold bird away from you, very slowly lower turkey into hot oil (be cautious of splattering). Oil temperature will go down once turkey has been placed in it. Maintain a temperature of around 325°F.
Fry turkey for three minutes per pound. When you think it should be done, slowly lift from oil and place on a metal sheet pan or tray. Use caution, as hot oil will drain from bird. Insert an instant-read thermometer in the center of the breast; it is considered done when thermometer reads 160°F or above. Let sit for 15 minutes. Carefully carve with a sharp knife.
Place the first 12 ingredients in a large container. Use your hands to mix until well incorporated. Pour hot water over mixture and stir until sugar and salt have dissolved (about three to five minutes). Add ice into container and place in refrigerator until ice has melted.
Hazelnut Butter Rub
Place toasted hazelnuts in a blender or food processor and pulse until they are of a coarse consistency. With the machine at a low speed, slowly add hazelnut oil and grind mixture for two to three minutes until meal consistency, scraping down sides of container as needed. Gradually add remaining ingredients and blend on low until thoroughly mixed, about two minutes.
- 2 lbs. lamb sausage
- 16 cups focaccia bread, cut in large cubes
- 2 Tbs. garlic, minced
- 2 yellow onions, diced
- 6 celery sticks, sliced thinly on a bias
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 3 Tbs. pineapple sage, minced
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grill lamb sausage on medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes until cooked thoroughly (sausage is done when moisture releases from links). Let cool in refrigerator. Slice on a bias.
Place focaccia bread in a large bowl. In a nine-inch casserole pan, sauté garlic, onions, and celery over medium-high heat for three to five minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add cooked vegetables to focaccia. Next, add the sausage, Parmesan cheese, pineapple sage, chicken stock, salt, and pepper. With a spoon, stir ingredients until all are well incorporated.
Place dressing in an oven-safe baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool for five minutes before serving.