There’s something pleasantly autumnal about the flavor of whiskey: subtle caramel notes, a rich mouthfeel, and a hint of smokiness in the background can all evoke images of changing leaves, fireside chats, and massive Thanksgiving spreads. Plenty of articles and TV segments will recommend pairing the Thanksgiving feast with whiskey-spiked ciders or cocktails … but true brown-liquor devotees may want to take things to the next level by using whiskey in their turkey preparation. Or, as the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. (yes, that Watergate Hotel) recently announced, by cooking a truffle-stuffed and whiskey-infused turkey roulade in a glass whiskey bottle.
Executive chef Sébastien Giannini plans to roll out this specialty dish for Thanksgiving 2019, and he calls his whiskey-bottle bird “the Break-In Turkey” (har har har, we see what you did there, Watergate). Because this method of turkey prep is so unique (and because we love whiskey), we decided to check in with Chef Sébastien to hear about what inspired the Break-In Turkey, how the bottle-cooking process works, and what effect the whiskey has on the overall flavor.
How does Chef Sébastien cook the turkey in a whiskey bottle?
To maneuver the turkey into a size and shape suitable for bottle-cooking, Chef Sébastien removes the breasts from a whole turkey, butterflies them, and pounds them flat. He then spreads them with a turkey mousseline (a light mousse made from dark-meat turkey, heavy cream, eggs, and truffle shavings) and rolls them up (a technique known as roulade). Next, he slides the turkey roulade into the whiskey bottle and uses a quick (36-minute) steam to cook the breasts and mousseline, achieving a tender texture and a rich, unctuous flavor.
In order to cook the turkey inside the bottle, Chef Sébastien has to do some bottle customization work, which he explains as follows: “The bottle is uniquely sliced at the very bottom [and] polished to avoid rough edges. An adhesive that is both heat-safe and edible/non toxic is applied, [and] that enables the two pieces of the bottle to cling together while cooking, [while still being] easy to pull apart once complete. The turkey breast stays perfectly tender and juicy while in the bottle. The glass protects [the meat] and helps to control the cooking process of the turkey breast with [a] very low cooking temperature applied.”
So where does the whiskey come in?
Chef Sébastien bastes the turkey breasts with whiskey (he uses Hibiki Suntory Japanese whisky) before seasoning with salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg and spreading with the mousseline. In terms of flavor, Chef Sébastien tells us that “the whisky brings another level of taste to the mousseline. It [also] adds richness and regulates some of the sweetness [in the recipe by] balancing out the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.”
How do I get my hands on a Break-In Turkey?
This holiday special will be available at The Watergate Hotel from November 25-28 during dinner service, and a $129 bird will serve two to four people.
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