Braised Turkey Jjim with Bacon, Shiitakes, and Chestnuts Recipe

Braised turkey legs and wings with soy sauce and root beer are the perfect cold weather, Korean-inspired stew.

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Vicky Wasik

Galbi-jjim—a Korean soy sauce-based braise of beef short ribs, brown sugar, root vegetables, ginger, garlic, jujubes, mushrooms, and chestnuts—is one of my favorite things to eat during the winter. It's a cozy, cold-weather braise with a gravy that's so delicious I find myself spooning it over everything. This version uses turkey legs and wings in place of short ribs, and, to compensate for the turkey's relative leanness, I add richness to the braise with bacon lardons and a generous amount of butter.

The braise gets a salty-sweet push-pull from the traditional combination of soy sauce, lots of black pepper, ginger, garlic, jujubes, and dried shiitake mushrooms. Straying from classic galbi-jjim, I turn to sake and root beer instead of brown sugar to add a background sweetness to the braise. Radishes complement the black pepper, and carrots complement the radishes. Once the vegetables and turkey are tender, the meat is picked off the bone while the gravy is thickened with a cornstarch slurry. The braise is finished with peeled roasted chestnuts (the store-bought kind, we wouldn't ask you to peel your own chestnuts), and a sprinkling of pine nuts to give the dish a decidedly autumnal feel—a perfect fit for a Thanksgiving meal. So perfect, in fact, you may have trouble going back to a standard roast turkey with gravy.

Recipe Facts

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Active: 30 mins
Total: 2 hrs
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

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Ingredients

  • 2 (1 1/2- to 1 3/4-pound; 680 to 800g) turkey leg quarters, split at the joint into drumsticks and thighs (see note)
  • 2 (1-pound; 450g) turkey wings, split into flats and drums (optional; see note)
  • 1 turkey neck (optional; see note)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound (225g) slab bacon, cut into 1- by 1/2-inch lardons (see note)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick; 113g) unsalted butter, divided
  • 8 medium garlic cloves (about 40g), roughly chopped
  • 1 large (11-ounce; 330g) white onion, roughly chopped
  • One 3-inch piece (about 2 1/2 ounces; 70g) fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces; 180ml) sake
  • 2 cups (500ml) homemade chicken stock, turkey stock, or store-bought, low-sodium chicken broth
  • One 12-ounce (355ml) can root beer
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) soy sauce
  • 1 ounce (30g) dried shiitakes, broken into roughly 1-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 ounce (30g) dried jujube dates, pitted (about 12 small dates)
  • 9 ounces (265g) red salad radishes (about 24 radishes), peeled
  • 2 medium carrots (about 13 ounces; 380g total), peeled and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch (3/4 ounce; 20g)
  • 10 1/2 ounces (300g) roasted peeled chestnuts (two 5.2-ounce (150g) bags)
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) pine nuts, lightly toasted, for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Season turkey pieces on all sides with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Working in batches to prevent crowding, add half the turkey pieces skin side down and cook, turning occasionally and lowering heat as needed to prevent skin from burning, until golden brown all over, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and repeat browning process with remaining turkey pieces. Set aside.

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  2. Add bacon to now-empty Dutch oven and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lardons are crisp and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add half the butter (4 tablespoons; 56g), garlic, onion, and ginger. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring frequently and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, until vegetables are slightly softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

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  3. Pour in sake, bring to a boil, and cook until liquid has mostly evaporated, about 1 minute. Add chicken stock, root beer, soy sauce, dried shiitakes, and jujubes, and bring to a boil. Add turkey parts along with any accumulated juices to the pot, nestling them in so they are mostly submerged. Lower heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

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  4. Add radishes and carrots in a single layer on top of the turkey pieces so that vegetables are partially submerged. Continue to cook until vegetables are tender and turkey is cooked through and pulls easily off the bone, about 45 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

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  5. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer turkey pieces to a plate. Once cool enough to handle, pick meat from the bones into large bite-size pieces; discard bones. Set picked turkey meat aside.

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  6. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/4 cup (60ml) cold water to form a smooth slurry. Return Dutch oven to stovetop and bring braising liquid back to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk in cornstarch slurry and cook, whisking constantly, until liquid thickens to the point that it can coat the back of a spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in chestnuts, turkey, and remaining 4 tablespoons (56g) butter. Continue to cook until turkey is warmed through and butter is fully emulsified, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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  7. If serving right away, divide jjim between individual serving bowls, sprinkle with pine nuts (if using), and serve. If making in advance, allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days; reheat over medium heat before serving.

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Special equipment

Large Dutch oven

Notes

This recipe calls for turkey leg quarters and wings, which can be purchased separately (you can even do without the wings if serving fewer people), or you can buy a whole 10- to 12-pound turkey and break down the bird yourself, using the legs, wings (and neck, if available) for this recipe, while reserving the crown for another dish, such as roast turkey breast ssam.

If you can't find slab bacon for this recipe, thick-cut sliced bacon will work as well.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Turkey jjim can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container (without the pine nuts) for up to 5 days; reheat over medium heat and sprinkle with pine nuts before serving.

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