Add a New Thanksgiving Tradition: Coffee Glazed Turkey

November 02, 2010

It would be hard to make a case that there is any American holiday more unifying than the upcoming feast of Thanksgiving.

Virtually every religious, ethnic and otherwise diverse sub-group in America can gather with family and friends at Thanksgiving to celebrate what’s good in their lives. Who could not enjoy a day set aside just to eat a festive meal?

Consider the day’s uniqueness.  It’s the only day that the government can’t change to a Monday, because it’s mandated to be on a Thursday. It’s special also because there are so few obligatory traditions associated with it: there are no presents to buy, no special decorations to hang, no special songs to sing. It is purely a day to call together the family to express thanks and to eat well.

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Because turkey was served at the first Thanksgiving, there is the almost universal centering of the meal around the roast turkey. Of course, the Pilgrims ate other items besides turkey at that first Thanksgiving in 1621. The menu shared by 90 Native Americans and 50 immigrant Pilgrims also featured deer, wild geese and duck, meat pies, seafood such as eel, clams and oysters and many kinds of fresh fish. The vegetable course consisted of corn, popcorn, carrots, beets, onions, turnips, cucumbers, radishes, and cabbages. Popcorn a vegetable- just including this favorite snack as a veggie is enough for some of us to elevate Thanksgiving to favorite holiday status. Last but not least, for dessert there were dried berries they’d picked in the spring.

Even vegetarians are not left out, for now there is “faux” turkey.

ROASTe fans might immediately notice that something is missing. Where’s the coffee?  Lists of menu items for this meal don’t mention drinks, but if they still had some tea from the Old Country, they might have had that. There were no coffee plants in the Americas at that time, though Captain John Smith, the founder of Jamestown fourteen years earlier, undoubtedly bemoaned the fact that there was no “kahve” to accompany the berries. He had tasted kahveearlier in a trip to Turkey and has been credited with introducing it in America.

Aren’t you thankful you can have your coffee to top off your turkey dinner? But you don’t have to stop with just drinking your coffee after the meal - it can be incorporated into the meal. Like fine chefs, you can literally “top off” your turkey with coffee/espresso-based barbecue sauces, glazes and rubs.

It’s clear the Pilgrims didn’t season their wild turkeys with espresso, but you can try it this Thanksgiving. You can find plenty of recipes for coffee with poultry on the web; a Google search of coffee glazed turkey brought over 700,000 hits.  If that number is too overwhelming, the phrase “coffee glazed turkey” with quote marks limits the results to just a few pages.

The variety of recipes for coffee glazed turkey is limited only by your imagination. Mexican cooks are known for their Chicken Mole, which is a sauce flavored with chocolate and sometimes coffee. There are kabobs with espresso glaze, sandwiches with coffee glazed turkey, Chipotle Espresso BBQ Sauce, brewed espresso is mixed with spices such as, but no means limited to, cinnamon, molasses or brown sugar, coriander, pepper and mustard seed. Besides the sweet glazes, some cooks used cayenne and other hot peppers to create a spicier taste. The simplest recipe mixed medium ground coffee and course black pepper with coarse sea salt to make a rub for the meat, which gave it a smoky flavor. You can find our original recipe for Coffee Glazed Turkey here.  Also, you can check out thisbeef and coffee entrée on ROASTe.

Why would expert cooks put something unusual like coffee into a meat dish? Comments on recipes surveyed contained statements such as: Coffee tenderizes the meat, it adds a zesty zing to crispy chicken skin, it adds a robust depth of flavor to slow roasted meats, and it brings out the meat flavor without an overpowering coffee flavor.

This is turkey like the pilgrims, Squanto and John Smith never imagined.

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