Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. The fall weather and colors invoke a warm and cozy feeling from within that is begging to be nourished by ramen. It is a time where friends and family get together to have multiple feasts over a span of a few weeks with amazing leftovers. The day after Thanksgiving my family always takes the leftover bones of the turkey and repurpose it into Turkey Jook (congee). No waste! Since I am living the #ramenlife, I of course have to take it to the next level and make Turkey Ramen.
I started this festive ramen journey two years ago when I made a Turkey Miso ramen after Thanksgiving. It was very delicious but did not embody the soul of Thanksgiving. Last year I had to missed out on the opportunity to make Thanksgiving Ramen since it coincided with the amazing Ramen Lab Pop-up. I had no excuse this year, so I braved the black friday crowds and picked up my heavily discounted turkey.
Once I got home, I dusted off my Turkey Ramen Thinking Hat and went to the drawing board. I first identified the 5 components of ramen and how I would incorporate the spirit of Thanksgiving into each element.
The Broth - The foundation of Thanksgiving is built around the majestic turkey. Some of the best flavors come from this bird with gravy and crispy turkey skin topping the list. To emulate the rich gravy flavors, an emulsified paitan broth is ideal. I deboned my turkey, and laid out the bones over a bed of aromatic vegetables coated in olive oil. Roasting them in the oven created a meld of great flavors.
The Toppings are the next most important aspect of a Thanksgiving bowl. The large variety of side dishes is what makes Thanksgiving a feast! It was a no brainer to make turkey chashu out of the 10+ pounds of meat that I removed from the bones. I paired the turkey meat with some roasted brussel sprouts and mushrooms to reinforce the toasty flavors of the broth. The final components are chives and fried shallots which are stand in for fried onions that top one of the most iconic side dishes - the green bean casserole.
I wanted the aroma oil to accent all the flavors and give a nice pop of color to the bowl. Cranberry sauce immediately came to mind. I blend dried cranberries and added lemon zest in the oil.
The tare in this bowl is very simply. The broth is jammed packed full of flavor from all of the roasted vegetables and bones so it does not need too many other flavors. I added some mirin, sake, soy sauce, and salt to just bring out the flavor already in the broth.
Noodles must be thick for this bowl. I essentially made turkey gravy for the soup, so a thick noodle pairs the best with the almost dipping ramen like quality of the broth.
Turkey Paitan Ramen
Bones from your turkey
½ of an Onion
1 Leek split down the middle lengthwise and cut into 2 inch segments
2-3 sprigs of Thyme
1-2 sprigs of Rosemany
6 cloves of garlic
2 medium carrot cut into 2 inch pieces
2 stalks of celery cut into 2 inch pieces
Water as needed to cover all ingredients
For this stock we do not need to be too precise. This is a meal that is perfect to make with all of your scraps from the day after Thanksgiving. It will all depend on what available ingredients you have lying around. I used fresh turkey bones, but this can be done with the leftover bones from your already cooked turkey.
Preheat your oven to 425°F. Toss all of your vegetables and herbs together with olive oil and spread over a large baking sheet. Feel free to add any fresh leftover vegetables that you have lying around the fridge. Spread your bones over the top of the vegetables. The fat from the bones will drip onto the vegetables below and help with the roasting process. Place your sheet pan into the oven until all the bones and vegetables are browned. Some bones will brown faster than others so you will have to remove them as they are done roasting. Be aware that your smoke alarm might go off during the process. The whole process can take anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes depending on your ingredients. Once you have finished roasting your bones, place it into a pot with enough water to cover the bones. You have two options: (1) pressure cook the bones for 2.5 hours, or (2) simmer on the stove for 10+ hours. If you simmer the broth on the stove top, you may have to add water from time to time to keep the bones cover. The great part of using roasted bones for your stock is that you do not have to skim any skum. All of the blood and gunk from within the bones have solidified or coagulated and should be contained within the bones.
Turkey Breast, Thighs and Legs - Skin on
Thyme, Garlic, Rosemary, Sage
Sous Vide Turkey Chashu - Generously salt your turkey breast, thighs and legs. Mince garlic and herbs and apply to both sides of your meat. Roll your meat into a roulade (a fancy way of saying a log) with the skin on the outside. If you have the tenders, you can place them on the inside of your thigh/leg meat to emulate pork belly chashu (fatty on the outside and lean on the inside). Truss your roulade with butcher's twine. If you want to skip the tying part, feel free to just wrap the roulade in foil like a Chipotle burrito for Sous Vide Chashu. It is only important to truss your roulade if you are roasting it. Bag your meats in a ziplock with a tablespoon of butter for each rolled turkey chashu. Place your turkey thigh/leg in a water bath at 151°F for at least 3 hours. Turkey breast should be placed into a water bath set to 131°F for at least 3 hours. After your turkey chashu has finished cooking, remove from the bag, pat dry and place in a 475°F oven for about 10 minutes to crispy up the skin. Alternatively you can deep fry your turkey chashu for that golden brown and delicious crispy skin.
Brussel Sprouts - Trim the bottom, remove any dirty exterior leaves and half each brussel sprout. Heat up a pan with olive oil or the fat of your choice in a large pan on medium high heat and place the brussel sprouts cut side face down. Season generously with salt. Once the cut side of the brussel sprouts are brown (about 3 minutes), toss the brussel sprouts every minute or so to cook through evenly. Brussel sprouts should be done cooking after another 5 minutes. I like to keep it simple and add black pepper, but feel free to add any additional herbs or spices, maybe even a drizzle of lemon juice.
Roasted Mushrooms - Grab your favorite mushroom and throw into a hot pan with oil on medium heat. I quarted some button mushrooms as those were what I had around. Season with salt to draw out water and help the cooking process. Stir the mushrooms occasionally to get an even crisp sear. Toss with finely cut chives.
Crispy Shallots - See Aroma Oil below.
1 finely sliced shallot - We want long strips
6 cloves of garlic sliced
1 lemon for zesting
1 handful of dried cranberries
Place sliced shallot and garlic into a small pot with just enough oil to cover everything (about ½ cup). Heat the oil until it bubbles, but keep the temperature as low as possible. We want to give the oil a change to absorb as much of the flavor as possible from the aromatics. When the garlic and shallots begin to develop a tan color, remove from the oil. The carry over heat heat will continue to brown these ingredients. Exposure to air will help with the color as well. I do not a scientific explanation on what oxygen is doing, so it is purely empirical. Set these delicious crisps for later to top your bowl of ramen. Strain hot oil into a container with lemon zest and dried cranberries. When the oil has cooled, blend everything together. I was expecting an oil with a reddish hue, but I couldn’t get good color from the cranberries. This is probably because I used an underpowered hand blender. Maybe if I used a vitamix, I could break more of the cells to extract some color.
I wanted to keep my tare as simple as possible because I do not want to take away from the nice flavors that we have built from the roasted vegetables and bones, aroma oil, and herbs. I like measure out everything, but every once and I while I like to wing it. I added soy sauce until the broth tasted slightly under seasoned. I added a few splashes of mirin and sake and heated to broth for several minutes to let all the flavors meld. Before serving, I seasoned the broth to taste with salt.
Grab your favorite ramen noodle for your bowl. I like a thicker noodle with high hydration (40%+) for that extra chew.
I am very happy with how this bowl turned out. I would argue that this is this best Thanksgiving Ramen ever made. That being said, there are plenty of ways to improve on it. A few ideas that come to mind: brine the turkey chashu, incorporate the cranberries more into the oil, add crispy sweet potato shoestring fries on top… the possibilities are endless. I hope you will join me in my tradition next year and make a bowl of Thanksgiving Ramen next year!