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.
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?
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.
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.
Lapsang Souchong Brined Turkey Breast
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
large bowl or pitcher
wire mesh strainer
large airtight container or extra large ziplock bags
large piece of foil
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.