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Braised Turkey Update

Braised turkey prep

 

I stashed away a frozen turkey just before Thanksgiving and when I had fully recovered from the family festivities, I decided I would try the braising method found here. I did not brine it first (I’ve made it no secret I do not understand brining – extra work and messy for not much reward IMHO).

This method is fairly easy to do. You need to have a sharp knife to separate the leg/thighs from the bird and I also removed the backbone and wings before cooking to use for soup stock.

I can’t say that it was any better or worse than the cooking in a bag method, but it did make the best gravy ever. So I might do it again.

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Moar Turkey!

DSC_9493 (1600x1060)I nearly dropped the whole stock pot last night while carrying it down to the basement fridge.  I did slop a pint or so out onto the stairs but they cleaned up well enough, just bare wood – no carpet.  I brought it back up this afternoon and ladled out portions to freeze, and brought the rest to a boil for the dumplings.  Simple rolled dumplings: flour, salt, baking powder, lard, and milk enough to moisten.  These could have spent more time simmering but they were close enough done to eat.  I stirred in a can of cream of celery soup just to get that can out of the pantry.  I bought it long ago for an abandoned project, long enough ago I don’t remember what I had intended for it.

Mmm… Mini Pot Pies

DSC_9487 (1600x1060)Mrs J makes a killer pie crust using the smittenkitchen.com butter recipe.  We like these with crusts on the bottom, too.  I bought some 6″ anodized aluminum pie pans a while ago and these pies came right out of them without greasing the pan,  Lots of butter in the crust.DSC_9481 (1600x1060)Sometimes I mix the fillings with the white sauce, these were assembled in layers – veggies then meat then sauce, then the same again.DSC_9482 (1600x1060)I cooked a white sauce with a little nutmeg and a teaspoon of dry mustard.  It seemed lacking so I turned it into a mornay sauce by grating in a few ounces of Parmesan.  It would have been a little better with more half and half, these came out a bit drier than I like.DSC_9483 (1600x1060)Top them with another crust and seal the rims with a fork, trim the excess dough, then give them an egg wash.  This wash was a whole egg beaten with a dollop of dairy.DSC_9484 (1600x1060)Pop them into a 350 oven until they get some nice color, about 30 minutes.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Preparing for Thanksgiving

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Cornbread Stuffing Photo by JeffreyW

Bixby and I are hitting the road for the holiday, as long as the weather stays nice. I’m planning on arriving early so I can help with prep, because I like love to cook. Bixby is growing fast and you can see his latest photo here, along with a quick update. I hope he does as well in the car as he did last trip.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, next to 4th of July. Food, family, friends…and leftovers. I compiled some favorite recipes for tonight’s recipe exchange.

JefferyW makes Cornbread Stuffing,  part 1 here and part 2 here.

Roasted Butternut Apple Soup makes a great starter, recipe here.

I think I’m going to volunteer for mashed potato duty this year so I can make these again, a lost recipe found, Hearty Garlic Mashed Potatoes, link here. I made them years ago and then completely forgot about the recipe.

And this recipe is the reason I think I get invited to many holiday gatherings, my Cranberry Upside Down Cake, click here.

Since my brother is cooking again this year, we’ll probably have deep fried turkey, which is ok by me, as long as I’m not cooking it. I have a real fear of deep frying anything, which is why all the deep fried recipes on the blog are from JeffreyW. I will still cook a turkey, though, because, leftovers. This year I’m going to try the braising method from America’s Test Kitchen’s Braised Turkey technique, link here, minus the brining.

Not sure how you want to cook your turkey this year? I’ve listed some ideas from people smarter than I am: turkey four different ways, here.

What’s on the menu for your Thanksgiving this year? Do you have a must-have recipe for your holiday dinner?

I’m not a fan of traditional candied sweet potatoes, so tonight’s featured recipes are some non-traditional styles of recipes for sweet potatoes.

Cajun Sweet Potatoes

  • 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter,  melted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • ¼ tsp cumin (opt)

Covered casserole dish, well-greased

Steamer and saucepan

In saucepan, add water, steamer and sweet potatoes. Steam until you can easily stick a fork in them. They don’t need to be completely soft. About 10-15 minutes. Add sweet potatoes to casserole dish. Combine oil, butter and spices. Pour evenly over potatoes. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes until potatoes are soft. You can adjust cooking time if you prefer your firmer or softer potatoes.

Sweet Potatoes w/Apples

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 apples, cored & sliced
  • 8 oz can sliced pineapple (including liquid)
  • 2 tsp butter
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt

2 qt casserole dish, greased

Add ingredients to casserole dish. Stir gently and bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes, uncovered, until apples and potatoes are very soft. Cover if it begins to brown too much

That’s it for this week. No recipe exchange next week I hope you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.   – TaMara

cropped-thanksgiving.jpg

Chicken Dumplings

DSC_8372 (1600x1060)I found a frozen block of turkey broth while rummaging through the big box and dragged it out.  I added more broth and a few more chicken thighs, tossed in some veggies and a bag of dumplings that have been in the freezer since I can’t remember when.  It all simmered for a good while but the dumplings never did get quite right, they’ll be better tomorrow when they have had more time to soak.

Turkey Soup

DSC_7646 (1600x1060)It was pretty cold overnight, down into the teens.  We got a bare dusting of snow but that will go away today.  Strong south wind and warming temps today, we have made it into the 40s but there is a chance for sprinkles later.  Soup sounded pretty good.  This one has the turkey and some baby carrots along with a wild rice mix from Zatarain.  They make good rice mixes and we really like the wild/long grain rice mix they sell.  It’s been absent from the local market so we ordered a case online.

Hearty Turkey Soup on a Cold December Day

It’s still chilly here, though the Arctic blast has moved on. I decided to use up the leftover turkey and test out my new mandolin at the same time and make a big pot of soup for lunches this week.

When I roast a turkey, I always save the wings and legs, freezing them for soup later on.  You can also save the carcass, which I do sometimes, but really most times it seems like too much trouble.   You can also freeze leftovers, but I find dark meat works best because the white meat tends to get tough once it’s frozen, even when simmered for hours in soup.

You can add anything you want. I didn’t have beans, so I substituted whole wheat egg noodles. I cook them separately, so they don’t get too mushy and add them to the bowl and pour the soup over them.

Hearty Turkey Soup

  • Wings and Legs of turkey, cooked
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 carrots,  julienned (frozen ok)
  • 2 stalk of celery and celery leaves,  julienned
  • 1 cup green beans, frozen or canned
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 15 oz can Cannellini beans*
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, add turkey, broth and water.  Bring to a boil and let boil 10 minutes.  Reduce heat and add remaining ingredients.  Let simmer for 20 minutes, remove legs and wings, let cool enough to remove remaining meat (most will have fallen off).  Add meat back to soup and let simmer another 10 minutes.  Remove bay leaf and serve with Buttermilk Biscuits and Cranberry Sauce.

*Cannellini beans are large and have that traditional kidney shape. With a slightly nutty taste and mild earthiness, they have a relatively thin skin and tender, creamy flesh. They hold their shape well and are one of the best white beans for salads and ragouts.

 

Originally posted November 2011

Sammich Pr0n – Thanksgiving Leftovers

DSC_7415 (1600x1060)An alternate version might have garlic mashed potatoes and candied yam slices.  This one used the praline sweet potatoes in lieu of both. Also: Chopped turkey, green beans, dressing, and cranberry sauce.  Don’t forget the cranberry sauce!  It holds everything together.DSC_7409 (1600x1060)

Thanksgiving Files: Perfect Turkey

OK, your turkey is probably not going to look like this (unless you’re JeffW) so cut yourself a break. It will taste wonderful, that is all that matters.

Reposted from 2011 Thanksgiving:

Okay, let’s jump into the cooking a turkey debate.  And acknowledge that a perfect turkey is in the eye of the beholder…or cook.

Last year I had my very first deep fried turkey – I know, late to the party as usual – and I really enjoyed it.  But considering deep frying of any kind terrifies me, you will not see me attempting that anytime soon.  There’s a reason only JeffreyW has deep frying recipes on the blog.  I will, however, enjoy the labors of anyone who wants to deep fry one for me (I’m looking at you little brother).

Traditionalists seem to like to roast their turkeys, basting and slaving over a hot oven for the perfect bird.  I’m not a traditionalist by any means.  Have I mentioned I’m lazy?  Yes, I do believe I have.

There is nothing wrong with this and for expert cooks, the perfect bird is attainable.  But for the rest of us mortals, traditional roasting can be a challenge.  It’s too easy to over cook or under cook, leaving your white meat dry or your dark sections pink and unsafe – sometimes in the same bird.   But in case you want to roast, here are step by step instructions:

World’s Simplest Roast Turkey

And here’s everyone’s favorite Alton Brown with a video demonstration:

Alton Roasts a Turkey

Next up are the briners.  I have to tell you I do not understand brining a turkey.  I’ve had brined turkey, it’s not my favorite.  But if you have a desire to brine, here’s our trusty Alton again (seeing a theme here?):

Alton Brine’s a Turkey

One thing you’ll see in all these examples is no one stuffs a turkey with stuffing.  In my humble opinion this is the easiest way to dry out your bird or accidentally poison your guests.  Stuffing needs to reach a temperature of at least 165 degrees to be fully cooked, at this point your bird will be completely dried out.  If you are looking for stuffing that tastes like it has been cooked inside the bird, do what my friend Alton does (no not that Alton), he buys and cooks turkey thighs and legs in chicken broth (or you can use the neck and giblets) and then uses that broth to season both his stuffing and gravy.  And both are wonderful.  Cook the stuffing in a casserole dish, covered for really moist stuffing.  If you like a crunchy top, take the lid off once the stuffing is warmed through and bake until golden brown on top.

So what do you do with that big cavernous space in your turkey if you’re not going to stuff it?  Fill it with flavor.  I use a spice infuser or a spice bag and fill it with all kinds of wonderful spices, depending on my mood.  I’ve also added a whole onion or citrus fruits (all should be disposed of after cooking), to infuse the bird with intense flavor.  Citrus bird is one of my favorites after the traditional rosemary-garlic-sage spices.

This recipe for a citrus bird sounds wonderful and I may try it this year (yes, I do cook a turkey even if I’m having Thanksgiving elsewhere – how else are we going to have leftovers?):

Perfect Citrus Turkey

Picture of Perfect Citrus Turkey and Gravy Recipe

Citrus Turkey from Food Network

So how do I cook my bird?  After many mishaps, I’ve decided that the easiest and most foolproof way is to use a cooking bag.  I usually roast at a higher temperature than on the instructions (375 instead of the 325 they recommend) and the last 15 minutes or so, I open the bag, pull it back and let the skin brown nicely.

Whatever spices I decide to use in the infuser I also mix with butter and put under the skin of the bird at the breast and thighs.  I then coat the bird in olive oil and spices to get a nice browned texture.  This gives me a perfectly flavored bird that I don’t ever have to worry about, so I can then concentrate on all the sides.  It’s never failed me.

So if you are a novice, or even a seasoned cook, but don’t want to take any chances on  disappointing your guests, I say go with a roasting bag.

Are you cooking the turkey this year?  How are you preparing yours?  Want to share a favorite recipe?  Nervous about pleasing a house-full of hungry company?

I may have a few more sides to share or we’ll head straight into desserts.  Until then…

Mmm… turkey dumplings

DSC_4518 [1600x1200]We bought a turkey the other day because the sale price was so good and cooked the bird in the oven, stripped the meat, and made stock with the carcass.  Mrs J has been wanting dumplings for a while now and today I put the dish together with simple rolled dumplings.

DSC_4511 [1600x1200]This is a really good turkey soup even before the dumplings are added.  I diced celery, carrots, onion, and a couple of cloves of garlic and softened them on the stove top in olive oil with a pinch of dried thyme.  These went into the pot with the stock and the already cooked turkey to simmer until the veggies were done.  At this point the mixture can sit until you are ready to drop in the dumplings, they only take 5 minutes to cook up.  The flour in the dumplings will thicken the broth, but if you want just the turkey vegetable soup sans dumplings you can add a tablespoon of flour to the veggies as you saute them.  If you do, add a ladle of broth to the saute pan and stir well to combine with the flour before you dump the lot into the pot.

Enjoy!

 

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