Bao Down To This Char Siu Turkey Thanksgiving Spread

Welcome to Hibernation Holiday, The Takeout's guide to celebrating Thanksgiving in the comfort of your own home—and in your sweatpants.

While I was planning for Hibernation Holiday I received a copy of The Nom Wah Cookbook—a restaurant that was always near and dear to me growing up in New York City. As I flipped through its pages I realized that I had far more good memories associated with Nom Wah's dim sum than I've ever had with turkey and potatoes, so why not try Nom Wah-ifying my Thanksgiving dinner? While it's sad that we've got to abandon some of our holiday traditions this year, it's also somewhat liberating knowing that as far as dinner goes, the only guest we have to please is ourselves. Maybe your relatives wouldn't appreciate having char siu bao for Thanksgiving, but they ain't coming over so they can't complain. This year, live for yourself. Celebrate things the way you want to, with the foods that bring you the most joy. If you're struggling to figure out what that looks like, know that this recipe involves ultra-crispy turkey skin, which is just about as joyful as things get.

For the turkey:

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. red or white miso paste
  • 2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. Shaoxing cooking wine (Sherry is an acceptable substitute)
  • 1 tsp. five spice powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. crushed black pepper
  • 2 large turkey thighs (about 3 lbs.)

For the pumpkin bao:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 1 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 packet instant yeast
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

For the cranberry hoisin sauce:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 3/4" nub fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 pod star anise
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp. black pepper
  • Water
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce

For the crispy shallots:

  • 4 large shallots
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch

For the rest of the toppings:

  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

First, marinate the turkey

Combine all the ingredients except the turkey thighs in a plastic ziptop bag, smoosh them around to mix, then add the turkey and keep on smooshing to coat completely. Remove as much air as possible from the bag, then refrigerate for at least four hours, or overnight.


Once the marinating is done, start the bao

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment; mix on high speed for about 5 minutes, until a tight ball of dough forms. Put in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.. If you'd like, you can make this a day ahead of time alongside the marinated turkey, and let it rise overnight in the fridge. If you'd like to do it the day you'll be eating them, place the bowl in a cold oven with the light on, and let rise until doubled in size—about 2 hours.


Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, dust some flour on your hands, and knead for about a minute. Roll the dough into a log, then cut into 8 pieces. Repeatedly slap each piece to flatten to a thickness of about 1". Brush with a bit of water, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and cover with plastic wrap.

Set up a steamer basket in a pot filled with 1" of boiling water. Reduce the heat so the water stays at a simmer; working in batches, add the buns, leaving about 2" in between each one. Cover the pan and allow to steam for 15-20 minutes until the buns are firm to the touch.

Make the turkey thighs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Put a cast iron skillet on the stove over medium-high heat, add a bit of cooking oil (like canola or vegetable) to coat the bottom, then allow to preheat for about 3 minutes.


Remove the turkey thighs from the bag and discard the marinade. Use paper towels to wipe off as much of the marinade as possible, then blot dry. Sprinkle the skin with a bit of kosher salt, then gently lay the thighs in the hot pan, skin-side down. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to cook undisturbed for 15 minutes. Try to flip the thighs over using a pair of tongs; if they're stuck to the pan, leave them alone for another few minutes—they'll release when they're good and ready. Once flipped, slide the turkey into the oven and roast until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit—this could take anywhere from 10-20 minutes, so keep your eye on it and let the thermometer be your guide.


While the turkey is cooking, make the cranberry hoisin sauce

Put the cranberries, ginger, star anise, salt, and black pepper into a small saucepan, then pour in enough water to just cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the ginger and star anise, then stir in the hoisin sauce. Give it a taste and season with salt and pepper as you see fit. (If you like your cranberry sauce on the sweet side, you can add a spoonful of sugar here. It's your sauce!)


Now.. back to the turkey!

When the turkey is ready, move the pan to the stovetop. Transfer the thighs to a plate and leave uncovered. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and place it in the still-hot pan, unseared side down. Use the backside of a spatula to press the skins down to help them crisp up, which should happen in about 2 minutes. Set the crispy skin aside.


Once the crispy skin is done, make the shallots

Peel the shallots, then slice them into thin rings. Put into a bowl and separate the rings with your fingers, then add the cornstarch with a pinch of salt and toss well to coat. (If you need a bit more cornstarch, just add some—it's not a precise measurement.)


Turn the burner under the cast iron pan to medium-high heat, and use a spatula to start scraping up any turkey bits stuck to the bottom. Once you hear sizzling, shake the excess cornstarch off the shallots and throw them in. Fry, stirring regularly—if the pan appears dry while cooking, drizzle in a bit of neutral cooking oil as you see fit. Once the shallots are crispy, remove them to a plate lined with some paper towels to drain. Set aside.

Make the rest of the toppings

Cut the scallions into 2" pieces, then slice them in half lengthwise. Put into a bowl full of ice water and leave them alone—the water makes them curl up and look pretty. Drain and blot dry with paper towels before serving.


Use a vegetable peeler to shave the carrot into paper-thin strips, then cut them in half. Toss in a bowl with just enough sesame oil to coat, then add the toasted sesame seeds and some kosher salt, to taste.

Now, get things to the table

Remove the bones from the turkey legs, then roughly chop the meat into bite-sized pieces and transfer to a plate.

Cut the crispy turkey skin into strips. Put on a plate with the crispy shallots, sesame carrots, and scallions.


If you'd like, reheat the bao for a few minutes in the steamer, or cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 45-60 seconds until warm.