Thai’d Thanksgiving and Other Holiday Culinary Hijinx

When I’m at home, I am lucky enough that someone else makes dinner. But when major “western” holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas roll around, the onus falls on me to make the celebratory meal (I haven’t made the Chinese New Year meals yet…that I think is coming soon.) And each year I’ve gotten a little better, incorporating every new technique that I’ve learned over the past year. And for the most part, they’ve all turned out okay. But this year, having been exposed to so many new techniques, I think I outdid myself.

Most years (especially when my grandmother was still around), on Thanksgiving we would sit down to a big turkey. But ever since Poh-Poh left us, we’ve taken to having a roasted chicken instead. Sure, we don’t get the luxury of turning the bones into delicious turkey congee, but on the other hand we don’t have tons of leftovers that would take us days and weeks to get through. So in a way, it’s a win-win.

As for chicken, it has always been one of my favourite meats (my unfortunate encounter with it on a certain show notwithstanding), and when I’ve roasted chicken, I’ve always been partial to Ina Garten’s technique of stuffing citrus, onion and garlic into the cavity to perfume and keep moist the meat. But with all the rage about brining, I decided to give it a try. The problem is, I’ve never brined it before. And since my mom asked me on Sunday night what we were having for Thanksgiving Monday, I needed an answer…and fast!

The brine working its magic on Mr Chicken!

The brine working its magic on Mr Chicken!

And through the magic powers of Google, an answer came in the form of Michael Ruhlman’s quick brine. Since I needed a chicken in the oven, cooked and served in a reasonable amount of time (there have been years where the bird was not served until 8:30pm or 9pm, which is rather inconvenient to say the least.) — a quick brine was the only answer.

A standard brine, according to Ruhlman, is 5% (or 50 grams of salt per 1 litre of water). But to get it done quick, a 10% brine would do just fine. While the brine was great, I had to put an Asian spin on it. And what better way to Asian up roast chicken than to make it Thai? So instead of what Ruhlman added (lemon and sage), I placed limes, shallots, cilantro, Kaffir lime leaves and other Thai-style herbs and spices into the brine. And to give a nod back to Ina Garten, I placed the lime wedges into the chicken cavity for the extra perfume.

The result? A perfectly tender, juicy and moist chicken that was aromatic and flavourful. But no festival roast is complete without some sort of gravy, right?

The finished product, ready for carving!

The finished product, ready for carving!

Enter in the green curry gravy. Just like your ordinary gravy, except made with coconut milk steeped with Thai spices to give it a brand new aroma. Drizzled on top of the moist chicken, it was incredible…so incredible, that my dad (usually not a gravy kind of guy) had the gravy with the chicken. I think that means I did well, right?

As for side dishes, I went with a traditional buttermilk mashed potato and roasted peppers (a family favourite), and paired it with two new items, a spiced butternut squash and stir-fried Brussels sprouts with tomato and lap cheong (Chinese sausage). All in all, it was definitely a meal for the books, once again raising the bar higher. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have to find a way to top myself for Christmas.

Maybe a nice prime rib? Hmmm…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thai Style Roasted Chicken
1 3-4 lb chicken, whole
515ml water
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup salt
1 tablespoon sugar
600 g ice cubes
1 lime, quartered into wedges
1/2 onion, peeled and quartered
1 shallot, peeled and halved
1 stalk lemongrass, roughly chopped
2 dried chilis, cut
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed
3 Kaffir lime leaves
1 5mm piece of ginger, smashed
4 cloves garlic, smashed
A handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

1. In a pot, mix water, salt, sugar and fish sauce. Add in lime, lemongrass, cjilis, peppercorns, lime leaves, ginger and cilantro, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and let steep for 10 minutes.
2. Add in ice cubes and stir until most ice cubes are melted.
3. In a large bag, place in chicken. Pour in brine. Seal.
4. Shake bag, and let sit for anywhere between 3-7 hours.
5. Remove chicken from bag and discard the brine. Pat dry chicken completely (yes, even the insides). Place the wedges of lime into the cavity, and truss (if not done already…)
6. Let chicken dry for about 1 hour.
7. Preheat oven to 450°F, and cover chicken skin with salt and pepper.
8. Cook chicken in the oven for approximately 20 minutes to crisp up skin, and then reduce heat to 350°F. Cook 20 minutes every pound of chicken. (i.e. 3.5lbs = 70 minutes.)
9. Using a meat thermometre, test chicken for doneness. You’re looking for 185°F or more. If it hits, take it out and rest 5-10 minutes.
10. If desired, place chicken on low broil for 5-7 minutes really crisp up the skin.

Green Curry Gravy
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon roast chicken drippings
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon green curry paste
1 tablespoon chicken stock powder
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped fine
1 tablespoon lemongrass, chopped fine
1 tablespoon ginger, chopped rough
1 dried chili, chopped

1. In a pot, mix milk, coconut milk, chicken stock powder and fish sauce. Bring to a simmer, and add in green curry paste, cilantro, lemongrass, chili and ginger. Let slowly steep on low heat.
2. Melt butter on medium heat, add in roast drippings. Add in flour to create roux and whisk. Let cook for about 5 minutes to create a blonde roux.
3. Strain milk mixture of herbs and spices, and gently pour into roux to incorporate. Whisk until a smooth sauce forms, and keep warm to serve with the chicken.