Intro: Green Chile Fried Turkey
How to inject and brine a turkey with New Mexican Green Chile. Also, using industrial blue dye to stain turkey brining pathways.
Step 1: Obtain Green Chile
It should be noted, right off the bat, that the goal of this recipe is not an extremely spicy, highly flavored turkey. Rather, we wanted a turkey whose meat was delicately, but noticeably, flavored with green chile, a condiment whose use is as universal as black pepper in New Mexico.
The most important ingredient in this recipe is, unfortunatley, also the hardest to obtain: New Mexican Green Chile. By this, we don't just mean green colored chile peppers that happen to be from New Mexico. The New Mexican Green Chile is a specific strain of chile pepper, bred specifically for the New Mexican climate by government scientists in Las Cruces around a century ago. It has a very distinct flavor from its more widespread ancestors, such as the Anaheim chile. There are a number of substrains of New Mexican Green Chile, of which the most celebrated is the Hatch Chile.
The best Green Chile Sauce that we have encountered comes from Horseman's Haven, in Santa Fe. They purchase their pods from farmers who use various arcane techniques (irregular cycles of light and dark and of water and drought, for instance) to make their chiles especially hot while not detracting from their flavor. Then they stew these down into a delicious, fiery, green slurry. We have a contact in Santa Fe who purchased this chile, put it in jars, and airmailed it to us just before Thanksgiving.
If you don't have someone in New Mexico who can mail you Horseman's green chile, that's a shame. But all is not lost. There are a number of companies that will ship you New Mexican Green Chile. We recommend 505chile (http://www.505chile.com/) - you'll want at least 16 oz. of the "Hot Green Chile Sauce". This is almost certainly easier than trying to make your own, since you'd probably have to order the chiles anyway to get the right type.
Step 2: Inject Green Chile
Now you need to get the green chile flavor into the turkey. We are brining our Turkeys, as usual; an earlier idea was just to add the chile to the brine. Intuitively, you would expect such a powerful flavor to permeate throught the bird during the course of its 9 hour soak. However, this is not what happens (there is a nice graphical demonstration of this later in the instructable). To get the flavor into the bird, you have to actually inject the chile into the muscle.
We tried two techniques on our two different birds this year. On one, we injected the chile just under the skin, resulting in subcutaneous blisters of green chile. On the second, we actually left veins of green chile injected deep in the actual meat of the bird. This deep-muscular injection worked the best; the blistered turkey suffered from the same malady as the chile-brined turkey, which was that all the green chile flavor was concentrated in the turkey skin.
If you own a Ronco Solid Flavor Injector, now is the time to use it. If not, you can do what we did - use a knife and a turkey baster. This is ideally a two-person operation, and should be done in a sink. The chile-handler should fill the tube of the baster with green chile, and then put the bulb back on the baster. Gripping the base of the bulb tightly forms a seal against the tube, so that squeezing the bulb will force the chile out (when you release the bulb, loosen the seal, and the air will flow straight into the inflating bulb, leaving green chile in the tip of the baster). Then the turkey handler should poke small holes in the turkey with the tip of a knife. It is not necessary to cut deeply into the turkey to deposit the chile there; in fact, it is better to make a hole just large enough to fit the tip of the baster into the flesh of the turkey, and then to push down into the musculature of the bird with the baster tip. Then just squeeze to inject the chile. You may have to wiggle the tip of the baster back and forth, or up and down, to get the chile to come out. Make sure that the chile is ending up in the meat, rather than pooling just under the skin.
An important safety tip: you should use gloves for this operation. We didn't, but if you are at all unused to working with very hot peppers, they are a good idea. Safety First!
Then, when you have finished injecting the chile, proceed as you would with any other turkey. For us, this meant a 9-hour overnight brine in 2 gallons of water, 1 cup of salt, and 1 cup of sugar for each turkey. We added the leftover chile to the brine, but only because we had a couple extra jars in the fridge.
Step 3: Brine Turkey
As stated earlier, our turkeys brined for 9 hours in 2 gallons of water, 1 cup of table salt, and 1 cup of sugar each. 2 of these were the two chile turkeys; the remainder of the green chile left over from the injection process went into these brines. In an adjacent bucket, we brined a third turkey, unmodified, and added a jar of blue icing color to the brine. The idea was to see how the brine would carry the blue food coloring into the turkey. Also, we wanted a blue turkey.
The icing color was not readily soluble in cold water, and had to be stirred vigorously before it would all dissolve.
Step 4: Prepare Fryer
If you own a turkey fryer, you probably already know how to operate it. Briefly, though, for completeness:
First, add enough frying oil to the fryer to submerge your turkeys. We like peanut oil, but vegetable or other frying oils will work in a pinch. Remember, it is easier to add more oil than to remove boiling hot oil from the fryer (well, at least, easier than removing that oil safely and responsibly), so err on the side of too little oil. You will need a good thermometer and a way to mount this to the fryer so as to measure the temperature of the oil. Most fryers come with these.
Make sure that the fuel hose is attached securely to the propane tank, and that the fryer is outdoors and far from anything flammable. You should have a fire extinguisher handy; remember that water is a bad way to put out grease fires. With the hose valve closed, open the tank valve; then open the hose valve and use a grill lighter (several inches should be between your hand and the flame) to light the burner flame.
You can modulate the strength of your flame with the hose valve. Right now, you want it fairly high. You will not add the turkey until the oil temperature gets near 400F.
Step 5: Prepare Brined Turkey
While the oil heats up, remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry with a paper towel or two. Rub a little salt into the skin of the turkey, along with whatever other spices you think are appropriate: Paprika, Pepper, MSG... We stuck with salt for this turkey. For obvious reasons, there is no need to rub your turkey with any oil.
Next, you need to truss your bird, to keep it manageable while being taken in and out of the hot oil. Basically, you want to fasten the two ends of the drumsticks together, and you want to bind the wings to the side of the bird. Cotton twine works fine for this, but don't use any synthetic threads. We usually use heavy-gauge wire; this year, we used cut up non-painted wire coathangers.
Once your bird is rubbed and trussed, pull aside the neck flap and slide your bird onto the turkey stand, wings down and legs up. If you don't have a turkey stand, you will have to engineer some sort of basket.
The only other thing you will need is something with which to fish the turkey in and out of the oil. A golf club fitted with a sturdy hook is a standard solution. Which club to use is a matter of personal taste and style, but we prefer to use an open-faced club, like a sand wedge.
Step 6: Fry Turkey
When the oil gets up to about 400F, it's time to add the turkey. Add the turkey slowly, lowering it a little, then raising back up, then going down a little further, then back up... 3 inches down, 2 inches up. This will keep the violent bubbling to a minimum. If you add the turkey all at once, the enormous burst of steam will splash hot oil everywhere, including your face and the fire below. Thus, it pays to be careful with this step; it's easy to do right, and definitely worth it.
This should drop your oil temp down to around 325F or so. Your ideal frying temperature is around 350F, but as long as it stays between 325F and a little over 350F you'll be fine. If the oil gets too cold, the steam pressure from your turkey will be inadequate to keep the oil out, and you will end up with a turkey full of peanut oil. If it gets too hot, you will slightly scorch your turkey. But it's very easy to keep the temperature in the operational window of 325F to 350F - it can easily be done by one man with one beer and no engineering degree. But the fryer should not be left unattended, so we like to leave it in the care of two men with two beers.
There are various rules of thumb for cooking time, but the only reliable test is the internal temperature of your turkey. After about 45 minutes (for a 15 pound bird), start pulling the bird up from the oil and sticking a meat thermometer deep into its thigh. When the thermometer reads 165F, the turkey's done. This shouldn't take much more than an hour for a 15lb bird (which, by the way, is the ideal frying mass for a turkey).
Step 7: Post-frying Analysis
Take the turkey off the turkey stand, remove the trussing, and then let it rest for at least 15 minutes or so. This will allow the cooking to complete a little further, and is usually a good idea after cooking meat.
Now for the promised illustration of the futility of brining as a method to permeate a turkey with flavor. There is no doubt that the brine in which this turkey soaked was extremely blue, and that this blue wanted to dye the meat. However, the beautiful blue color of our turkey barely continued a millimeter below the surface. Paradoxical, since the juiciness caused by brining was clearly noticeable throughout the bird. But when you think about the mechanism of brining, it becomes clearer what is going on. Brining works by using a salt imbalance to force the cells of the meat to take in more water, and other things in the process. But only relatively simple chemicals will be able to pass through the cell membrane, thus permeating the meat. Our blue food coloring, clearly, was not such a chemical. Neither are the chemical compounds responsible for the flavor and spice of green chile. The turkey cells may have been tricked into letting water, sugar, and a little salt inside, but they are still capable of excluding strange, foreign substances like blue and chile.
However, once the turkey starts cooking, the cells break down, and fluids and flavors can flow freely through the meat. Thus, if there is a vein of green chile deep in the muscle of the turkey at the time of cooking, that flavor will permeate through the meat during cooking, and even meat that was not directly adjacent to such a vein will have a good chile flavor.