We’re putting a Korean spin on the classic Thanksgiving roasted turkey with gravy and cranberry sauce by serving it ssam-style. Ssam translates as “to wrap,” and describes a Korean way of dining that involves wrapping various leafy greens around meat, condiments, banchan, and kimchi. It’s an extremely interactive way to eat—perfect for the holidays, when you’re down to bump elbows and double-dip around your family and friends.
While ssam is traditionally made with steamed pork (bossam) or grilled meats, it works perfectly with our Korean Thanksgiving dinner. For the turkey breast, we dry-brine it for at least 12 hours, then slather it in a cinnamon compound butter that bathes and seasons the skin as it roasts to a rich golden brown.
The condiments for this ssam—honeynut squash ssamjang and sweet jujube relish—fill in for the classic Thanskgiving gravy and cranberry sauce. Ssamjang is the condiment served with ssam and Korean barbecue, a thick spread that’s sweet, salty, spicy, garlicky, savory, and bright. Classically composed of doenjang, gochujang, garlic, sesame, and rice syrup, my version also incorporates roasted honeynut squash, which adds a sweet earthiness and incorporates a classic fall flavor. This sauce will keep for up to a week in the fridge, and it’s a great condiment to have on hand to add depth to a pot of bean soup or as a spread on a ham and cheese sandwich.
The relish features jujubes, which are a variety of date common to many Asian cuisines. They’re drier and less sweet than more common date varieties. Once rehydrated in hot water and softened, they take on the texture and flavor of baked green apples, with a slight butterscotch undertone. The jujubes are cooked with the turkey until those sweet, fruity flavors take on a deeper caramelized note, and then they’re blended with all of the buttery, cinnamon-spiced roasting juices to create a relish that offsets the leanness of the turkey breast.