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Asha's Tandoori Masala Roast Turkey

Recipe by: Asha Loupy

Serves: 12 to 18

Asha's Tandoori Masala Roast Turkey
Photo by:  

Melati Citrawireja

Welcome to the best turkey of your life. For our Thanksgiving centerpiece, we reached for the chef's tin of our house Tandoori Masala. Instead of yogurt, we took a page out of Samin Nosrat's book, and reached for good ol' buttermilk. Combined with the masala, plus some extra Surya Salt and Madhur Jaggery, the spiced buttermilk brine imbues the meat with deep savory, fragrant flavor and keeps things nice and juicy. Plus, the combination of the buttermilk and the jaggery — and some well-timed butter basting — results in deeply burnished, perfectly rendered skin (get ready for audible wows when you bring it to the table).

The other key to a never-dry, succulent turkey? Roasting it in pieces. This ensures both the dark meat and white meat can be cooked to the right temperatures, without drying our the whole bird. If breaking down a turkey intimidates you, join the club! The first time I looked at a whole bird on my cutting board, it felt like a daunting task, but I promise, you can do it. Just take your time, breathe, and take it piece by piece — or, if you’re lucky enough to have a nice butcher, ask them to break your turkey down into 5 pieces (bone-in breasts connected at the breast bone, two legs, and two wings). And, don’t forget to save the backbone and giblets for stock (I make a small batch of turkey stock with the roasted backbone, giblets, and veggie scraps to bolster my gravy).

Cook's note: If you're roasting a whole turkey and want to turn our Tandoori Masala into a dry brine, you can 1 tablespoon masala, 1¼ teaspoons Surya Salt, and ½ teaspoon Madhur Jaggery per 1 pound of turkey. Season the turkey liberally with the dry brine, and let marinate in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours before roasting.

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To break down the turkey
  1. First, take a deep breath — you got this! Flip the bird so that it is breast-side down on the cutting board. Start by removing the wings. Pull the wing out, and using a boning knife, cut between the joint where it meets the breast (be careful not to cut into the breast itself). If your knife meets bone, pull the wing out until you’re able to find the joint. Repeat with the other wing.
  2. Now, it’s on to the legs! Flip the bird on its side and pull the leg out and back until you hear the joint pop. Make a shallow cut to cut through the skin and then cut through the socket. (I find that holding the leg up while doing this helps because gravity is pulling the rest of the bird down.) Repeat with the other leg.
  3. The last step is finishing the bone-in double breast piece. Place the turkey breast side-up, and using kitchen shears, cut through the bottom of the ribs to remove the backbone from the opening of the cavity to the neckbone. Save the backbone for stock, and now you have your five pieces to brine!
To brine the turkey
  1. Combine the buttermilk, Tandoori Masala, salt, and jaggery in a large bowl, and whisk until smooth. Place the bone-in double breast in one large gallon, zip-top bag, and the legs and wings in another zip-top bag. Divide the brine equally between the two bags, making sure to move the turkey parts around so they are fully coated in the spiced buttermilk mixture. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours, up to 72 hours.
To roast the turkey
  1. Place a wire baking rack on top of a half sheet pan. Remove the turkey parts from the bags, letting most of the brine drip back into the bag (a thin layer of the spiced buttermilk is fine), and place them skin-side up on the rack. Let the turkey sit for 1 hour to come to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.
  3. Place the turkey on the middle rack of the oven and pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the pan (this will ensure that the pan drippings don’t burn). Roast the turkey for 20 minutes, and then reduce the oven temperature to 300°F, and continue to roast until the thickest part of the breasts reaches an internal temperature of 150°F and the thickest part of the thighs reaches 170°F, about 2 to 3 hours total, depending on the size of your bird. About 1 hour into roasting, baste the turkey parts with half the melted butter and repeat basting every 30 minutes using the remaining butter, and then the pan drippings. Start checking the temperature of the breasts at about 1 hour, 45 minutes, and remove once it hits the right internal temperature. The thighs will take about 30 minutes longer than the breasts. Tent the roast turkey parts with aluminum foil and allow to rest 30 to 60 minutes.
  4. To serve, separate the thigh and drumsticks, then remove the breasts from the breast bone and slice in thick slices, against the grain. To serve, arrange the sliced breasts, thighs, drumsticks, and wings on a serving platter.

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