This General Tso's Turkey Is the Only Way to Make Turkey Not Suck
Deep-fried meat candy, guys.
As an American, you are given one day out of an entire year to stuff your face with totally nonsensical, absolutely delicious food. Using animal fat to rehydrate old bread would be unreasonable on any day other than Thanksgiving, but we call it stuffing, and it's a beloved tradition. A tradition that Aunt Karen screws up every year trying to get cute by adding raisins and chestnuts—but it's a tradition nonetheless. Ditto with covering a root vegetable in marshmallows, or making squash into a custard pie. That's the beauty of Thanksgiving.
But it comes with a price: As penance for your gluttony, you must cook and eat the world's stupidest, worst-tasting, and most useless animal: the turkey. Look, I'm not happy about it either, but good ol' Aunt Karen would flip her shit if we didn't have a whole turkey, and all I want to do is eat my animal-fat bread and marshmallow vegetables in peace.
It's hard to completely banish tradition, but it's super-easy to troll it. If you must have a tasteless, vaguely symbolic bird sitting in the middle of your table, you might as well get weird with it. This Thanksgiving, offer to make the turkey, then show up with this deep-fried, candy-coated monstrosity. Make sure to stare all your family members dead in their confused eyes as they, for once in their lives, eat a turkey that actually has flavor.
General Tso's chicken is a popular Chinese-American-ish dish of deep-fried chicken coated in a sugary, acidic, and somewhat spicy sauce. It's essentially fried meat covered in candy; it's the best and 100% should be the way you make your turkey this year.
Unfortunately, coating and deep-frying a whole turkey would be impossible, because the starch from the sauce on the outside would burn before the turkey even started to get cooked. So you have to pre-cook the turkey until it's almost done, then coat it with sauce, and then drop it in the fryer. This is not easy. It's actually a huge pain in the ass. But it's totally worth it.
Cooking the TurkeyTo pre-cook the turkey, I went with a quick braising method that's going to create a lot of steam, keeping the bird moist and perfuming it with aromatics like ginger and scallion. The skin is going to be flaccid and rubbery, but it's cool because you're just going to drop it in a fryer anyways. That's where the magic will happen.
After the turkey is cooked, it is time to coat. I first dipped the bird in cornstarch, then dropped it into a wet batter, and lastly dredged it in flour. It's really difficult to get coating to stick to cooked meat, which just means you need to be extra-diligent about really coating the turkey in various starches and batters.
Still, no matter how careful you are, you aren't going to get a perfect coating on the turkey. And it's going to be a little ugly. But you aren't going for perfection or beauty here—you're going for greatness. And a little bit of trolling. But mainly greatness. And greatness is rarely perfect or beautiful.
General Tso's TurkeyTotal time: 6 hours
Serves approximately 10 people
What you'll need:
5 gallons light oil (peanut, vegetable, canola, or grapeseed)
4 cups flour
2 cups cornstarch
2 shots vodka
24 ounces beer
2 pieces of ginger (1 3-inch piece and 1 2-inch piece), peeled and roughly chopped
15 chiles de arbol, deseeded by slicing in half and removing seeds with knife
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bunches of scallions, roughly chopped, one separated into green and white parts
1 cup + 1 cup soy sauce
¾ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 cup + 1 quart chicken stock
4 tablespoons sambal (or Sriracha if you can't find sambal)
1 ½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup sesame seeds
1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and liberally season your turkey with salt. Remove all the giblets and stuff. Pour a quart of chicken stock and a cup of soy sauce into a large turkey roasting pan. Add one bunch of rough-chopped scallions, and the 3-inch piece of rough-chopped ginger, then place your turkey into the liquid. Cover your pan tightly with foil, then throw it in the oven for about 2 hours. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it cool for about 2 hours. You want the temperature of the turkey breast to be around 155 degrees, or just below fully cooked.
2) Throw 2 inches of chopped ginger into the food processor along with 10 deseeded chiles de arbol, 4 cloves of peeled garlic, and the white parts from the other bunch of chopped scallions. Reserve the dark green tops for garnish later. Process on high for 30 seconds until you get a rough paste.
3) Heat 2 tablespoons of light oil on medium-high in a large sauce pot. When it shimmers, add in your chile and ginger paste. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes, until all nice and fragrant, then add in your sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sambal, chicken stock, tomato paste, and sesame oil, and whisk to combine. Crank the heat to high, let it simmer for about 10 minutes, then pour the sauce through a strainer to get rid of the weird chile and ginger chunks.
4) Add the sauce back to the pan, then continue to cook on high for another 10 minutes, letting the sauce reduce. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together cold water and cornstarch, then pour into the sauce, and whisk to combine. Let the sauce reduce for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon. Turn off the heat and reserve for later.
5) Follow the directions on your turkey fryer. Pour your oil into the pot up to the fill line, and heat it until it gets to 375 degrees. While the oil is heating, batter that turkey up. Dust 2 cups of cornstarch all over the turkey, and use your hands to massage it into the skin. Whisk together the beer, vodka, and 2 cups of flour until smooth, then pour over the turkey, rubbing it into all the crevices and underneath. It's not going to be perfect, but try to get as much coverage as possible. Take an additional 2 cups of flour, and dust that on top of the batter. Since the turkey is already cooked, making a coating that will stick is extra-tricky, but this method works well.
6) Attach your battered turkey up to the hook mechanism that came with the deep fryer. The coating on the turkey is going to be sloppy, but that's how you want it. Gently and carefully lower your turkey into the oil and let cook for about 15 minutes, until the coating is golden brown and crispy. The breast should be up to 165 degrees by then. Let the turkey rest for 15 minutes, until cool enough to work with.
7) Throw the turkey on a comically large bed of chow mein (you can make your own or just buy a catering tray from your favorite Chinese restaurant), cover it in your General Tso's sauce, then garnish with sesame seeds and thin-sliced scallion tops that you should have reserved from earlier. Eat and celebrate the fact that this turkey doesn't suck.