Did you check out that turkey’s legs? Dayum.
Doesn’t matter if you’re walking through your county’s fair chomping away on one of these, or sitting in your kitchen alone trying to make eating a turkey leg look attractive – everyone knows these are something to cherish.
Baltimore’s Art Scape was a few weeks ago and I passed someone with one of these caveman pops and instantly started to drool. Later that week, I was listening to Baltimore’s best and funniest morning show that happens to be the best and funniest show in the world that also happens to be where I ended my college-radio-production-internship last summer. One of the comedians, who I believe is Baltimore’s best, was talking about a Thanksgiving burrito. He’s been talking about this since I was their intern, so I thought it’d be the perfect excuse to finally make turkey legs of my own and make his sick dreams come true.
I wanted to focus primarily on the turkey. There’s so much to learn with this little piece of lean meat and I knew I’d have such a fun time with it. I then figured I’d use the meat to create an insane burrito. Last week my family flew in from Wisconsin so my foodie Aunt stayed up with me prepping Thanksgiving yums. Mashed potatoes, cranberries, stuffing. We had it all. My legs were brining and by the next morning I had all of my yums, roasted legs, and a constructed burrito. After I had all of my photos of my turkey legs, I went to go set up for my burrito AND THEN IT HAPPENED.
I tripped and fell and dropped and broke my camera. Assuming you watch The Office, do you remember the Safety Training episode where Michael Scott is standing on the roof screaming OH MY LIFE! Michael what’s wrong? EVERYTHING’S WRONG. That was me all day. I was entirely devastated, but to turn my pity into a party – I was fortunate enough to get all of my shots of the turkey legs. Long story short, the Thanksgiving Burrito that I’ve been anticipated for you all week will not be on the blog. OH MY LIFE. As for my camera, they’re trying to fix it but who knows with my luck. Let’s move on.
As you know, turkey is poultry and incredibly lean. Just like chicken, the legs are filled with dark meat, which calls for a juicy and tender piece of meat – if properly cooked of course. I’ve been studying recipes and methods for these things for seven days now and if I haven’t nailed it, then I give up. I’ve broke it up into what I believe are four important components in creating some divine turkey legs.
I’m going to give you a house made poultry seasoning blend, but don’t let me limit you. If you already have poultry seasoning on hand, use that!
If you can handle a little kick, my aunt suggested mixing poultry seasoning with Cajun seasoning (yum). Mine was a combination of sweet smokey paprika, cayenne pepper, dry mustard, garlic powder, black peppercorns, celery salt, and lemon zest. You know how a little amount of seasoning can cost a whole lot? My trick is the Amish Market. You’d be surprised how little you can buy spices for! I made this first on the list because you’ll need your spice blend twice: the brine and the rub.
2. The brine
You may be familiar with this, especially if you’ve been in charge of the holiday turkey. Since turkey is incredibly lean, brining overnight can help the bird retain moisture while cooking. How you ask? Well if I paid attention in chemistry, I’d be able to tell you all about it, but for now just google Osmosis. Ideally you’ll want 1 cup of table salt per gallon of water and to that 1/2 cup of sugar (I like to use brown). Honestly I just used enough water to submerge my legs in a ziplock bag with about 3/4 c. salt, 1/2 c. brown sugar, bay leaf, peppercorns, onion, garlic, and a heaping tablespoon of the poultry seasoning. Before adding your turkey, give it a taste! Might not be something you want to take a gulp of, but it does give you an idea of the salt/sweetness. Heat all of this up over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then allow it to cool for one hour before adding the turkey. Let this hang out in the brine overnight!
3. Cooking method
After your turkey has brined a good 6-8 hours, you want to rinse and pat dry. Give the legs a good rub with the seasonings and do not be shy. In and out of the skin pockets, rub it good allllll over.
I then place the legs in a roasting pan over a bed of chopped celery, onion, carrot, and garlic. Once covered and cookin’, the veggies will partner with the juices and create a steaming effect inside the pan. After about an hour, I take the cover off, crank the heat to 350 and roast another 40 minutes rotating half way.This helps gets the skin a little crispier, but also gets us to the internal cooking temperature (165-170). Always have a meat thermometer on hand!
I then take the pan out, rub one side with compound butter, then crank the heat to the broiler setting, and fry the legs a good three minutes to a true golden perfection. About this compound butter though.
4. Compound butter
This is something you should always have ready in your fridge. It’s nothing more than butter creamed with fresh parsley, lemon juice, salt, and white butter. You lay it on some plastic wrap, roll it in a log, and freeze till you need it. This stuff is life changing. It’s perfect on top a piece of grilled steak, fish, mashed potatoes, and PERFECT for a turkey rub. Mhm. This stuff melted and rubbed on the meat before broiled adds not only beautiful color but beautiful flavor.
You’ll want to allow these babies to rest 5 minutes before digging in. They’re so juicy that your camera just might slip out of your hands. Kidding Dad, I totally tripped. Oh, and how to look attractive while eating one these? It doesn’t work. I should never be allowed to eat one of these in public.
Roasted Turkey Legs
For the poultry seasoning
- 2 T. smoky sweet paprika
- 1 T. dry mustard
- 1 T. garlic powder
- 1 t. black pepper corns - cruhed
- 2 t. celery salt
- 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
- zest of 1 lemon
For the brine
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 c. table salt
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1 T. Poultry seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 t. black peppercorns
- 1/2 onion rough chop
- 2 garlic cloves
For the roast
- 4 turkey legs
- 2 stalks celery - 1" chop
- 3 carrots - 1" chop
- 1 onion - 1" chop
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- Poultry seasoning as needed
- 3 T. compound butter, see recipe in notes
For the brine
- Add the water, sugar, salt, and seasonings to a stock pot. Heat over medium high heat to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved, allow to cool for one hour.
- Place turkey legs in ziplock bag and add the brine. Secure and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.
For the roast
- Preheat oven to 325
- After the turkey has been brined, rinse well and pat dry. Rub generously with the poultry seasoning on both sides.
- Place veggies on the bottom of a roasting pan and place the seasoned legs on top. Cover with aluminum foil and roast low and slow for one hour.
- Remove the foil, crank the heat to 350, and roast another 30-40 minutes or until your meat thermometer reads 165-170, turning half way.
- Once it hits hit the internal cooking temperature, crank the oven one final time (I promise) to broil. Melt the butter, baste the legs, and broil for 3
- minutes watching VERY closely. You can do both sides, but I only do one.
- Reserve the veggies for leftovers and eat away!
- For the compound butter, cream together a 1/4 lb. of butter, 3 T. of minced fresh parsley, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and white pepper. Lay on a piece of plastic wrap, roll, and freeze! When ready to use, cut off a piece and use as needed.