Beirut-born Boston chef Jay Hadge is an American turkey master. I am grateful every day for his story of his own incredible immigration success.
The owner of the beloved Mike’s City Diner in Boston’s South End has been serving loyal locals, brokers of political power and hordes of tourists every day for 27 years with freshly baked turkey and Thanksgiving dinners. .
A frequent Food Network guest, Hajj spent years learning every conceivable trip to cooking the perfect turkey. He offers his three most important tips (below) for making your holiday bird crispier and tastier than ever this year.
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His tips include: If you have room in your oven, cook the turkey on its legs rather than on its back.
“Turkey tastes so good, makes a great meal, makes a great sandwich, and makes everything smell better while cooking,” Hajj told Fox News Digital.
“This is America’s signature dish, and it means a lot to all of us.”
Turkey has made Mike’s City Diner a landmark in American casual dining.
The Boston Herald proclaimed “Bird Man!” of Hajj Boston. Before the recent Thanksgiving, in bold first-page headlines. Boston Magazine declared Mike’s Famous Pilgrim’s sandwich a “restaurant legacy,” and Food His Network named Mike’s Famous Pilgrim one of his five Best Thanksgiving Meals in America. .
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Mike’s City Diner offers turkey hash, turkey soup, turkey club, turkey meatloaf, and complete turkey dinners.
The diner’s signature Mike’s Famous Pilgrim Sandwich is an entire Thanksgiving dinner in one handheld package.
It includes turkey, cranberries and stuffing, and the diner’s “wonderful” gravy boasts Hajj.
His gravy is made by mixing stock and drips made from roasted turkey carcasses.
Hajj devotes an entire chapter to turkey in his 2017 cookbook, From Beirut to Boston: Comfort Food Inspired by the Tales of Rag-to-Restaurant.
“Turkey is America’s national dish, and it means a lot to all of us.” — Chef Jay Hadge
This chapter contains Hajj’s amazing secrets of cooking the perfect turkey.
Turkey Tip #1: Soak the bird in salt water for 12-24 hours to keep it as moist as possible.
A basic brine is just salt and water plus spices to your liking.
Hajj brine contains orange and lemon slices, along with rosemary, sage, cinnamon, and other aromatics.
Turkey Tip #2: Dry Your Turkey in the Refrigerator for a Crispy Skin
A refrigerator is a very dry environment. Exposing the skin to dry, cool air will cause it to become crispier and darker in color as it cooks.
Simply place the bird in the refrigerator the night before cooking.
Turkey Tip #3: Cook the turkey on its legs for extra tenderness
Yes, it is. Hajj cooks the bird upright and on its legs in a poultry roaster, rather than flat on its back like a mere human chef at Thanksgiving.
Of course, he recognizes that not everyone has a home oven big enough to cook a turkey upright.
But if you do, the Hajj swears that way.
Cook the bird on its feet for a super tender turkey.
“The fat melts and the meat becomes more tender,” Hajj writes in his book.
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He also cooks Thanksgiving dinner at his home each year for 50 guests from a large Lebanese-Irish-American family.
“We cook thousands of turkeys at Mike’s every year, and this technique is one of our best kept secrets,” he says.
Hajj said there are many things to be grateful for each year, including the opportunity to call himself an American.
Hajj was born in Beirut in 1970, a young boy when the Lebanese Civil War broke out in 1975 outside his parents’ home in the city centre. His family would often hide in the elevator shaft of his apartment building for safety during a rain of missiles.
They sought safety in the United States and arrived in Massachusetts, the state that gave birth to Thanksgiving in 1978.
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Hajj was a young chef in 1995 when he took over Mike’s City Diner, which was struggling on the then run-down Boston block.
He turned the diner into a landmark and is now celebrated nationally as America’s quintessential holiday dish. Also, investments in run-down neighborhoods have made Southend one of Boston’s trendiest zip codes.
The late Boston Mayor Tom Menino rewarded the pilgrimage to investing in the neighborhood by appearing with a very special guest, President Bill Clinton.
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A visit by the then President of the United States helped put Mike’s City Diner and its signature turkey dish on the national food map.
“How cool is that?” Hajj writes in his From Beirut to Boston cookbook.
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“This Lebanese immigrant kid has made a name for himself in America by mastering the most iconic American meal, Thanksgiving dinner. It makes me so proud.”