Tea-Brined Turkey and Roquefort Baguettes

When I attended the LA Tea Festival a few weeks ago I ended up dropping in on Chef Robert Wemischner‘s class on tea and cheese pairings.  We often think of wine and cheese, but tea and cheese?  I was skeptical.

When it comes to wine we think of the land where the grapes grow, when and where the grapes are harvested, and how they are treated after harvesting.  All the same elements are important to the character of the tea that you drink.  So, just like wine, the complex layers of flavor you enjoy in tea can complement the unique tastes of artisan cheeses in the most unexpected and delicious ways.

Sencha and goat cheese?  Oolong and Gouda?  Assam and Brie?

All surprisingly fantastic pairings.

Especially if you are drinking hot tea, the warmth of the tea brew can can awaken and amplify the true character of a particular cheese, which can make for some unique flavor highlights.

During the tea and cheese tasting class, one of the parings I found most intriguing with was that of a strong, robust blue cheese with smokey, deep Lapsang Souchong tea.  Drinking the Lapsang Souchong actually tamed the pungency of the blue cheese, making it flavorful without being too assertive.

This recipe for Tea-Brined Turkey and Roquefort Baguettes pairs a tangy cheese from France with turkey breast brined in a Chinese Lapsang Souchong tea.  I love that I’m able to pair two of my favorite culinary cultures here in one chic and tasty to-go meal.

Roquefort is a sheep’s milk cheese that comes from caves in the South of France and has characteristic blue streaks.  This cheese is rich, tangy, sweet, and slightly salty.  The black leaves of Lapsang Souchong tea are actually smoked over a pinewood fire, giving the tea a distinct and full-bodied savory flavor.

These rustic baguette sandwiches are perfect for fall picnics and outdoor get togethers. Wrapped in parchment and tied with twine, they make an easy and elegant portable lunch that will leave you longing for a trip to Paris…or maybe even China!

Lapsang Souchong Turkey and Roquefort Baguettes

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise

2 Tbsp Roquefort blue cheese

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp lemon juice

2 sprigs of thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup arugula leaves

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced thinly

4 French Sandwich Baguettes, sliced in half lengthwise

1 Tea-Brined Turkey Breast, sliced thinly

Equipment:

parchment paper

twine or string

Directions:

1.)  Mix yogurt, mayo, Roquefort, garlic, and lemon juice together, then add salt and pepper to taste.

2.)  Spread Roquefort mixture on both sides of cut baguettes, then scatter thyme leaves over the spread.

3.)  Arrange arugula, tomatoes, and sliced turkey breast on bottom part of baguettes, and place top baguette piece on to finish the sandwich.

Roasted Tea-Brined Turkey Breast

Floral, clean, fruity–these are all words that I commonly use to describe tea.  Well, these were the words I used until I first tried Lapsang Souchong tea.  Lapsang Souchong is a tea that comes from the Fujian region in China, and is uniquely smokey, savory, and fiery.  When you brew Lapsang Souchong, it’s faintly reminiscent of walking into a rustic BBQ shack.  I know about this since I spent a few years living in South Carolina, the land of BBQ.

Tea, the easy cheat to deep, smokey flavor

During the summer I posted a piece on Tea Smoked Shrimp, where you actually use tea leaves to smoke meat on a gas grill.  Consider this recipe the lazy winter version of that recipe, where you can get all that smokey flavor into your meat without all that messing around with the grill.  Hey, sometimes you are up to it and sometimes you aren’t right?

Steeped Lapsang Souchong takes on a dark mahogany color

Other ingredients for tea brine

Other ingredients for tea brine

Lapsang Souchong tea has a very unique taste that deserves to have a culinary application, and this is the best one I could think of.  Since I use the very healthy, very low-fat cut of turkey breast here, it’s really the ideal time for using a brine.  I’m actually using the Lapsang Souchong to replace some of the salt used in a typical brine.  I’ve seen many brine recipes commonly use at least 2 Tablespoons of salt to every 2 1/2 cups of water.  For this brine recipe, I’ve used a ratio of 2 Tablespoons to 8 cups of water.  This is a huge proportion change, but trust me, you really won’t miss any of the salt.  The Lapsang Souchong tea is savory enough to add a wonderfully deep layer of meaty flavor to the brined meat that will leave you so happy to have eased up on the sodium.

Steep turkey breasts in tea-brine for 4-24 hours in the fridge

Brush off peppercorns after the turkey has brined

This Tea-Brined Turkey Breast is amazingly tender, flavorful, and moist.  It’s perfect for Thanksgiving, for a simple and elegant meal, and also great in sandwiches when cooled and sliced thinly.  I’ve used it here in my recipe for Tea-Brined Turkey and Roquefort Baguettes where the best of Chinese tea is paired with the most classic of French specialties.

Ready for the oven!

Lapsang Souchong Brined Turkey Breast

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:

2- 2 pound turkey breasts

1 large sprig fresh thyme

1 large lemon, sliced

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tsp black pepper corns

2 Tbsp salt

8 cups of water (4 hot, 4 cold)

4 Tbsp Lapsang Souchong loose leaf tea

olive oil for pan and drizzling

cracked black pepper

Equipment:

large bowl or pitcher

wire mesh strainer

large airtight container or extra large ziplock bags

roasting pan

large piece of foil

meat thermometer

Directions:

1.)  In a large bowl or pitcher, steep Lapsang Souchong tea in 4 cups of boiling water for 5 minutes.  Remove the tea leaves with strainer and add the brown sugar, salt, thyme,  black peppercorns, and remaining 4 cups of cool water into the bowl/pitcher.  Mix and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

2.)  Place the turkey breast in a large airtight container or ziplock bags (double-up) and add the cooled tea brine mixture and lemon slices.  Let the turkey breasts brine in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours.

3.)  Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F.  After turkey breasts have brined for 4-24 hours, remove them from the brine, and brush off any clinging back peppercorns or thyme sprigs.  Use paper towels to blot any excess moisture off the meat and place the meat on a roasting pan drizzled with olive oil.  Use more olive oil to lightly pour over turkey breasts and season with cracked black pepper.  If you prefer, also place brined lemon slices and thyme sprigs on or by the turkey breasts to roast in the oven.

4.)  Roast the turkey breasts in the oven for 1 -1 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature of each turkey breast reaches 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the meat.  Remove the meat from the oven and loosely cover with foil for about 20 minutes to allow juices to settle (please don’t skip this step!).  Serve warm or at room temperature.

* And here’s the recipe for Tea-Brined Turkey and Roquefort Bleu Cheese Baguettes, where you can use some of your leftovers.