How to Throw a Chinese Thanksgiving
Here's how you turn your Thanksgiving turkey, into a Chinese Thanksgiving turkey.
Step one: Buy a regular, good ol' American turkey.
Step two: Roast turkey, with modifications veering towards the Chinese way. That is, rub the bird with five spice powder, or Sichuan peppercorns. Line your pan with ginger and scallions accompanied by, if you so choose, Chinese vegetables good for roasting, such as daikon and taro.
Step three: Chinese-ify the heck out of all the accoutrements, in the style of Peking Duck. Which is to say: shred the turkey meat and enfold in pancakes or steamed buns, along with Chinese-style sauce, and a strip of crispy turkey skin per bun.
And with the stock that you make from the turkey giblets and backbones, add rice wine, more ginger, and more scallions. Reduce the stock until it is the turkey-iest liquid you can make, and mix that liquid with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, chili bean paste, sesame oil, and so forth. Toss the turkey meat with the Chinese-inspired turkey jus, and that is yet one more dimension of moistness (not to mention Chinese-ness) you are adding to the finished product.
(The preparation for the turkey, by the way, is the spatchcocked roast turkey, touted quite rightly as the easiest, quickest way to get juicy meat and crispy skin. Which also means that Peking-style turkey is even better than Peking-style duck, for which the meat is always too dry at the expense of the crispy-crackly skin.)
Now, I must admit that I would not be inclined to serve this Chinese turkey in lieu of a whole bird on the big day, because I harbor certain sentimental ideas of carving into one centerpiece, ideas which were never realized in my Chinese immigrant household, and so have only become stronger over the years.
But think about how fun it would be to do a Peking Turkey on some other night, if not Thanksgiving night. And you could, of course, easily Chinese-ify other parts of your meal too. Stuffing with turnip cake? Brussels sprouts with lop cheong? Kabocha pie? It is almost impossible to stop, once you get started.
I promise you, you and your loved ones will not be sorry. Along with the Peking-style turkey, Kenji and I served a spicy mayo (just mayo mixed with Sriracha, but gosh it was really good), and we had a room full of friends raving about our "Chinese Thanksgiving." At the end, delicious "Chinese" turkey juices pooled at the bottom of the serving platter, and people were spooning it over their remaining bits of turkey and then, sipping the jus from the spoon. There is no greater reward for a cook than to see that sort of behavior exhibited, I think.
And what about the cook's reward? Well, the day after our Chinese Thanksgiving, I was alone in the kitchen with the turkey carcass, a pot of boiling water, and one very hungry cat. An episode of Prairie Home Companion was playing, and I was humming along. I stood at the counter, gnawing on some of the meatier bones, tossing each bone after I'd picked on it into the pot. Gnawed and ate some more, especially on the cartilaginous ends.
For every two or three scraps I ate, it was only fair, after all, that that I give a little scrap to the cat. At the end of the two hours, I had in my kitchen: one pot of turkey broth, good for soup. One happy cat. One happy cook. It was hard to say who was happier, me or the cat, as I've no way of measuring cat happiness to human happiness. But we were both extremely content, I think, and it was chilly outside. But ah, inside; inside we were both so warm and full and drowsy.
About the author: Born in Shanghai and raised in New Mexico, Chichi Wang currently resides in Manhattan, where she divides her time between writing, cooking, and tracking down the best noodles in the city. Visit her blog, Mostly Tripe.