Serves 4; requires 1 day’s preparation
Special equipment: digital thermometer (optional, but very helpful)
¼ kosher salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
3 whole star anise (or 1½ tablespoons of star anise pieces)
4 medium-to-large turkey legs
1 gallon vegetable oil (canola, peanut or grape seed will work, too)
1) In a small pan, toast anise and fennel over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar along with chili flakes, and grind until mostly smooth. Pour into a bowl, and add salt and brown sugar. Stir to combine.
2) Wipe turkey legs with a damp paper towel, and set on a large plate. Rub dry brine all over turkey. Then transfer the plate to the refrigerator and chill, uncovered, for at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.
3) Pour the oil into a very large stock pot. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot, turn the heat to medium-high and bring the oil to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
4) While the oil heats up, rinse the dry brine off your turkey and dry very thoroughly. Any liquid that remains on the turkey will splatter when it hits the oil, so be sure to wipe the turkey legs several times (using paper towels) until they are bone dry. Set the legs on a clean plate. You’ll be cooking them 2 at a time.
5) Stick the heat-safe end of your digital thermometer into the largest of your turkey legs. Starting with that leg, carefully add the legs to the pot: hold each leg by its thin end, and set it gently into the oil, round end first. While I found gloves unnecessary, you definitely want an apron, and you might consider long sleeves. If your legs are dry, the oil will sizzle a bit, but it will not splatter.
6) Add a second turkey leg to the pot. Set your digital thermometer to notify you when the turkey legs have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. In my pot, that took about 20 minutes. If you’re nervous about undercooking, 22–23 minutes should do the trick.
7) When the turkey legs are done, carefully remove them from the oil, using long, heat-safe tongs. Transfer the finished legs to yet another clean plate, and allow them to rest for at least 3–5 minutes before digging in. Cook the remaining legs in the same manner.
8) Serve with turkey schmaltz latkes and cranberry applesauce. Happy Thanksgivukkah!