Why This Recipe Works
by Tim Chin
Thanksgiving turkey can be an exercise in culinary futility. Cooking one for the holiday meal too often results in a disappointing centerpiece with anemic skin and bland, dry, overcooked meat. But I knew I could do better. After all, I was armed with koji.
After learning about the great tenderizing and radical flavor-enhancing properties of shio koji, I wanted to put them to use once again. Shio koji is a traditional use of koji, the ancient mold that gives us soy sauce, miso, fermented bean paste, and sake. It’s made by combining rice koji, salt, and water and letting the mixture ferment for a week. You can make it at home or buy it online. The enzymes present in koji—and in shio koji—help break down the proteins in meat, causing turkey, for example, to retain juices and remain moist. These enzymes also add a deeply savory, umami-forward flavor.
I decided to blend the shio koji with water and additional salt to make a brine, which added water and seasoning to the turkey along with koji’s meat-enhancing properties. I even lacquered the skin at the end of cooking with a coat of shio koji–spiked butter to give a burnished appearance and add even more savory-sweet flavor. For good measure, I roasted some vegetables underneath the turkey, where they could catch all those amazing koji-fied drippings.