From Raphael Lunetta

A turkey can be an intimidating bird to cook.

You need one large enough to feed your holiday guest list, but small enough to actually fit in your oven.

It needs to be cooked through but kept moist on the inside, preferably with a crispy exterior.

The white and dark meat cook at different temperatures and yield different flavors, but there are specific expectations for each.

It’s enough to bedevil a professional let alone the casual home cook but local chef Raphael Lunetta has a solution: dismember the bird.

He said turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal and as an absolute comfort food it offers great leftovers.

Separating the cuts allows each piece to be cooked properly and provides a better overall experience.

“It came about around 2006 at JiRaffe,” he said of his approach. “We wanted to make the dark meat the star.

We worked hard to develop a method that would yield the juiciest dark meat possible.”

He said his approach delivers juicy breast meat, incredible dark meat that is full flavor and creates the base to the best gravy your guests will ever have.

“Even a chef like myself finds himself or herself pulling their hair out when trying to cook both dark and white meat to perfection,” he said.

“My deconstructed turkey will set you up for success ― and rave reviews among friends and family.”

Lunetta suggests starting with at least an 18-pound turkey but suggests outsourcing some of the hard work to a professional.

“Make things easy by having your local butcher handle the deconstruction of your bird,” he said.

“Order extra dark meat from butcher. One bird never yields enough for all guests and it always ends up being the favorite.”
The deconstructed bird hits several bases for Lunetta, it capitalizes on seasonal eating and takes a new approach to a classic dish.

“Seasonality is at the heart of every dish. Plus, it’s a fun challenge to incorporate seasonal ingredients.

My favorite part of any meal is going to the farmer’s market and seeing the abundance of fresh herbs and different fruits and vegetables. It inspires and stimulates me to put a twist on a recipe,” he said.

“I always make roasted root vegetables and great sauces for my own family. I’m always trying to come up with something new.”

As a longtime restaurateur, Lunetta spends many of his holidays at work feeding guests but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying the winter festivities.

“I’m an avid surfer, so I love driving up the coast to Ventura/ Oxnard and seeing all the farmland lush with fall squash and gourds.

Also, the sunsets are most incredible this time of year.

There’s something very special about fall light,” he said. “In my opinion, fall and winter are the best time of year in Southern California because. We have the most amazing sunsets and offshore winds. The best time for surfing is October through December, so it’s heaven for me.”

Raphael Lunetta owns Lunetta All Day restaurant, 2420 Pico Blvd, www.lunettasm.com, (310) 581-4201.

THE BEST THANKSGIVING TURKEY METHOD

Ingredients – Breast Meat Rub:
½ cup pure maple syrup
Juice of one orange
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons fresh sage (or any other herbs of your liking)
2 lbs. butter
Kosher salt
White pepper

Recipe – Breast Meat:
Start by having your butcher separate and debone the leg and thigh meat
For breast meat, brine your breast carcass for 12 hours
Allow breast meat to air dry for 6 hours
Combine all ingredients for rub in food processor and rub over turkey

Ingredients – Thigh Meat:
Oil of your choice
2 cups chopped onions
3 whole garlic cloves
2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups chopped celery
Any fresh herbs of your choice
Kosher salt
White pepper
½ cup sherry vinegar
1 bottle white wine of your choice
1 liter chicken broth

Recipe – Thigh Meat
Using a large (14”/15” in diameter) rondeau or roasting pan, sear thigh and leg meat (which should be connected) over medium/high heat with oil of your choice until golden brown.

Season well with salt and pepper
Flip thigh meat skin side up.

Cook for additional 4-6 minutes
Remove from pan
Using existing oil in pan, add onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and any additional seasonal fresh herbs of your choice
Sweat the vegetables over medium/low simmer for 8-10 minutes
Add dark meat back into pan skin side up and add ½ cup sherry vinegar
Add 1 bottle of white wine of your choice
Add 1 liter of any quality chicken broth of your choice
Cover pan with lid or aluminum and place into oven at 275-300 degrees for 3 hours
Remove thigh meat. Set side
Strain all remaining braising liquid through a fine mesh strainer/chinois. Reserve your strained vegetables for a garnish, if desired
Roast vegetables a bit longer in the oven
You now have a complex braising liquid. This aromatic braising liquid will serve as the base for your gravy.
Cover and store in a warm area, such as the top of oven
Turkey should rest at least 1-1.5 hours before cutting

Gravy
Combine 4 tablespoons of pan drippings from roasted turkey breast, 2-3oz cut butter and 2 tablespoons of flour
Whisk in braising liquid
Add additional flour as needed

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