Main Dish

Smoked Turkey Hot Brown with Pumpkin Soup

Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards

4401 Slusser Road
Windsor, CA 95492

As a chef, fall is my favorite season. For me, life is about sharing savory foods: apples, turkey, pumpkin and whiskey. Gravensteins, Willie Birds, Muelrath Ranches and Jack Daniel’s are all the best of the best, here combined with pork, cheese and bread and served with Sonoma-Cutrer’s Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Your friends are sure to leave with a full stomach and soul.

Jack Daniel's Apple-Brined Smoked Turkey

  • 1 cup Jack Daniel's apple whiskey
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 turkey breast
  • 1 cup apple cider, such as Golden State Apple Cider from Sonoma
To prepare the smoked turkey, 2 to 3 days before you are going to cook the turkey, in a large pot over high heat, combine the bourbon, water, salt and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Let cool completely. 

Submerge the turkey breast in the brine and place a plate or weight over the top so the entire breast is covered by the liquid. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 days.

Remove the turkey breast from the brine (discard the brine) and rinse the turkey with cold water. Place, uncovered, in the refrigerator for a few hours, preferably overnight. 

If you have a smoker, fire up the coals. Try and keep the temperature of the smoker around 225°F, but 200°F works as well. I like to use a spray bottle to spray the meat with apple cider every 15 to 30 minutes. The sugar caramelizes over the top of the meat, trapping moisture in the breast, creating very juicy turkey.

If you don't have a smoker, you can cook the turkey in the oven at 250°F for about 1 hour, depending on the size. 

To test for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer into the center of the turkey breast; it should register 165°F.

Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest for about 15 minutes, then cut into slices.

Stone Valley Farm Walnut-Finished Pork Belly

  • 1 pound pork belly, skin removed
  • 1 cup salt
While the turkey is smoking, prepare the pork belly: Preheat the oven to 250°F. 

Completely cover the top (skin side) of the pork belly with the salt. Don’t worry, this isn’t for seasoning. This technique draws the moisture out of the fat. (With the turkey, we are trying to keep the moisture in; with the pork, we want as little moisture as possible. This will create crispy, succulent fat that melts in your mouth.)

Place the salted pork belly on a wire cooling rack and then on a baking sheet. This gap will catch the fat that melts away so your oven isn’t a mess. Another trick is to pour a bit of water in the bottom of the baking sheet; this will keep the fat from smoking. 

Transfer to the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the meat from the oven; the salt will have crusted together. Scrape off the crusted salt and discard it; you can use a dry paper towel to remove as much of the salt as possible. 

Increase the oven temperature to 425°F. Return the pork to the oven and roast until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 145°F, 15 to 20 minutes. 

Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest for about 15 minutes, then cut into slices. 

Bellwether Farms Carmody Mornay Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces shallots, minced
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Bellwether Farms Carmody or Gruyère or Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
To prepare the Mornay sauce, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the roux (flour and butter) to the shallots and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. 

Add the milk, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring continually. After all of the milk has been added, bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently and skimming if needed, for 30 minutes. 

Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Return the sauce to the pan and bring to a simmer, adding the cheese and stirring until melted and fully incorporated. Remove from the heat.

Pumpkin Soup, Winter Luxury, Muelrath Ranches

  • 1 pumpkin, preferably Winter Luxury
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ounce maitake mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 ounce shiitake mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 ounce porcini mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 1 apple, preferably Gravenstein or Fuji, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon Woodford Reserve double-oaked crème fraîche
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 bunch fresh sage, leaves chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Rub the cavities with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. (You can add other spices if you like, such as nutmeg or allspice, but I prefer to keep it simple.)

Place the pumpkin halves on a rack set over a baking sheet and roast for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the pumpkin. (Winter Luxuries are usually 3 to 5 pounds, but other varieties can weigh as much as 10 pounds; they will take longer to roast.) You are looking for a nice crust on the pulp; don’t be afraid of a little color, but don’t burn the pumpkin, either. 

While the pumpkin is roasting, in a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the onion, carrot and celery, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent. Set aside.

When the pumpkin is done, let cool for 30 minutes. Using a spoon, scrape the flesh away from the skin.

In a blender, combine the pumpkin, onion mixture and half of the stock and puree on high speed until smooth. Transfer to a soup pot, place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally.

To prepare the mushrooms, in a small pot over low heat, warm the vegetable oil until it registers 300°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Gently place the mushrooms in the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms to a paper towel–lined plate and season with salt. 

To prepare the crème fraîche, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, slowly whip together the cream and buttermilk. Pour in the bourbon and continue to whip until lightly ribboned. Store overnight in a mason jar, uncovered, at room temperature. 

To prepare the sage oil, in a small pot over low heat, warm the vegetable oil until it registers 250°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Add the sage to the hot oil and cook for 10 minutes, without discoloring the sage. 

Sandwiches and Serving

  • 1 loaf sourdough bread, such as Bright Bear Bakery's rosemary and garlic sourdough
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
To prepare the sandwiches, preheat the broiler. 

Toast the bread slices and place on a baking sheet. Top with the smoked turkey breast, then the tomatoes. Place 1 to 3 slices of the pork belly on top. Ladle on the Mornay sauce. 

Transfer the open-faced sandwiches to the middle rack of the oven and broil for 60 seconds. 

Carefully remove the sandwiches from the oven and let cool for 2 minutes. 

Serve the sandwiches with the pumpkin soup.