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Posts Tagged ‘turkey’

Usually, when we roast a chicken, I debone it and store the meat in the freezer for later use. If I store it in the fridge, there’s a chance that it might not get used right away and it will go bad and then I will feel sad. I don’t cut up meat before freezing, because I don’t know what I’ll be using it for. Instead, I try to keep the pieces as large as possible to help delay freezer burn.

For two people eating the soup as a meal, I allow for about 5-6 cups broth, some of which will evaporate during cooking. As I mentioned in my previous post about turkey stock, I prefer to make my own stock. Even if I don’t have bones to simmer, I save the water after steaming vegetables and pour it all into one container in the freezer. It’s liquid that would have been thrown out, but is still tasty and it’s like making vegetable stock a few tablespoons at a time. Trust me, it adds up and it tastes great.

Bring the stock just to a boil and get all your ingredients ready – scrub them, peel and chop them, and then add them sequentially to the broth. Different vegetables take different times to cook. Case in point – if you add the peas at the same time as the carrots, the peas will end up brownish grey by the time the carrots are cooked. They’ll taste fine, but we eat with our eyes first and you want your soup to look as attractive as possible. Add any herbs you want. Usually, I add carrots, onion, and garlic next along with any tubers I might have and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Like making stock, I skim constantly, removing and discardig any scum or oil that floats to the top. After they’ve cooked for a short while, then comes the celery. Last are the peas and meat. Frozen peas take 30 seconds to boil and the meat just needs to be warmed up. Sometimes I just put the meat into the soup bowls first and pour the heated soup over it. I used about 1 cup of turkey meat for this. Roasted chicken or turkey is very tender and if I cook it in the soup with the vegetables, I’m worried it will get tough and chewy. Plus, it’s already cooked.

While this is all happening, and it will take about 20-25 minutes, I make a cup of orzo in a small pot and drain them when cooked. Mixing a little bit of turkey fat into the cooked orzo will keep it from sticking together and give it more turkey flavour. I don’t add it to the soup itself, because it gives me more control over serving time if I don’t. If you cook the orzo in the soup, it will make the soup starchy and will soak up all of your precious liquid so that the soup is just a soupy orzo salad. This is especially useful when you think you’ll have leftovers. Sometimes I use rice. Just to mix it up.

excellent homemade turkey soup, to which my husband exclaimed, "I'm sick of turkey!" ...ungrateful wretch...

When it comes time to assemble, I sprinkle the soup bowls with fresh herbs like dill or chives. Then spoon in several heaping spoonfuls of orzo and if I haven’t added it already, shredded or cubed meat. Then I spoon out the hot soup over it all, which heats everything up. In order to make it into a meal, I made sure to use a lot of ingredients in the soup. It’s great for cold winter nights and feels really healthy to eat because it’s mostly vegetables with practically no fat.

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I’m counting this as a dish, even though we never consume it as its own dish. Homemade stocks are easy to make and they are delicious. It’s so much nicer to have a homemade stock for…well, for everything. You know exactly what is in it, you’ve controlled the seasoning, you feel really great because you made your own stock, and it impresses everyone you brag to about it because they think that making homemade stock is really hard. It’s not.

I was going to gift myself with a new stock pot this year, but haven’t yet gotten around to it. Just like how I was going to gift myself with a new set of knives last year. My current one was $10 at a grocery store and my mother gave me hell about buying it because it was so cheaply made. Hey, I was fresh out of college then and was holding down four jobs to support myself – investing$100-400 in a “good” stock pot wasn’t high on my priorities. Now we have a flat-top stove (not induction, just flat-top) and the pot doesn’t work very well because the thin bottom has warped unevenly. If it’s less than 1/3 full, I have to blast it on high and hold it down in order for it to warm up. But if we end up moving to a place that has a gas stove it’ll work fine again. Also, we have a tiny sink and washing a large, heavy stock pot would be a chore. (Shhh…don’t tell Santa…)

Anyway, I used to make my own stocks even when I was living alone. I would save my roasted chicken carcasses (remember, almost one chicken each week), and when I got two or three I would make stock. They were small chickens. Anyway, the method I’ve developed is thus:

my arsenal of dried herbs and spices. yes, the entire top shelf is from Penzeys.

Throw your spices and herbs into the pot first. Usually cookbooks recommend you tie the spices and herbs into cheesecloth as a bouquet garni, but I’ve never bothered to do that. Firstly, I hate using cheesecloth. When I first started cooking seriously, I used to use it to strain my stocks and tie those little bouquet garnis…but cheesecloth is a pain. You have to keep it around and I never wanted to save them to wash them, so it was a big waste. I now use a clean flour sack towel to strain my stocks. More on that below. Secondly, if you use dried spices, they tend to slip out of the cheesecloth. Thirdly, you’re going to have bits of vegetable and chicken floating around anyway, so some free-flowing herbs aren’t going to matter. If you add the herbs and spices in first, and pile everything on top, I’ve reasoned that the rest of the stuff will keep most of the herbs and spices from floating around to the top. It works for me. I usually use the following, but it varies and everyone has their own tastes:

  • whole peppercorns. I’ve been using green peppercorns lately, but anything will do for poultry
  • several shakes of dried red chili pepper, like the kind you put on pizza. I find it perks up the stock.
  • fresh herbs if I have them, or dried. Usually thyme, rosemary, sage. Parsley and dill if I have it, but it’s not necesary if I don’t.
  • Bay leaves
  • Fresh garlic. Ok, not an herb, but it keeps it from floating to the top.
  • Fresh ginger. Just stick a chunk in about the size of a thumb.
  • Celery seeds if I don’t have celery

Why no salt? The carcass will already be salty because I use a lot of salt when I roast. Also, it’s usually best to wait to add salt until you’re at least halfway through the cooking process. The liquid will reduce, and if you add it too early, you might end up with a saltier stock than you’d like. Then I add the poultry carcass, including any skin. I broke down the turkey carcass into about eight pieces so they would comfortably fit into the pot. I want everything to be covered by water, and didn’t want drumsticks jutting out of the pot.

Then I add the vegetables, lighter ones on the bottom and heavier ones on top, again to weight everything down. I used the following this time:

  • Tomato paste, since tomatoes aren’t in season
  • 3 small onions, halved. I sometimes use leeks as well, but not this time.
  • 3 medium carrots, halved on a slant
  • 2 stalks celery, halved
  • 1/2 a rutebega, cut into large hunks. This helps give the stock body.
  • Leftover shitake mushroom stalks that I had saved when I had made stuffing

cheap stock pot filled to the brim. note the wire rack holding everything down.

I added a small dash of white wine, which is supposed to help unlock the tomato flavour – I can’t remember details, but I saw something about it on Good Eats. Less is more with wine here, because you can really taste it and you don’t want the wine to overpower all the hard work you put into your stock. You can booze it up later on when you make caramelized onion soup or risotto.

Then I added a lot of water, perhaps 1.5 gallons. Water evaporates during the cooking process; recently I made stock out of a small chicken carcass, using about three cups of water, and ended up with only 1/2 a cup of stock! So this time I filled the pot just about to the top.

collected scum. I ended up removing about 1.5 cups of scum.

I turned the heat to high (since I was using the cheap pot), and waited until it came to a gentle boil, then reduced the heat to a gentle simmer. Because I like a very clear stock, it’s important to keep the temperature low (still cooking, but few bubbles) and I am a determined skimmer. People say that you only have to skim during the first 15-30 minutes, but I skim during the entire cooking process. To skim, I use a large flat spoon to scrape and remove the oil and scum and foam that collects at the top of the pot. It’s important to do this frequently and thoroughly, or the scum will cloud the stock and it will taste muddy or slightly turned or not as pure as if you had skimmed. It might seem like you’re taking out quite a lot of the stock itself when you skim, but that’s one of the reasons why I use so much water in the first place. When you start skimming, you’ll understand why I’ve thought so much about weighing down all the little bits so they don’t float around to the top and get skimmed off with the scum.

It’s up to you as to how long you let a stock simmer. Some do it for hours and hours, but if you’re impatient, about an hour is the minimum for poultry. I let the turkey stock go for three hours, including warm-up time. I tasted the stock a couple of times, and added salt.

vegetables removed and draining. note the receding tide line of the stock.The stock will stay hot for a long time even after turning off the heat. I removed the spent vegetables first with a slotted spoon and let them draining and cool in a colander nested in a large mixing bowl for about 30 minutes. I’m not kidding – the pieces are big and they take a long time to cool. If you chop stock vegetables too small, they will disintegrate in your stock and make it cloudy. I did several loads of laundry during this cooking process, so I wasn’t just standing around waiting for them to cool. Why not just dump all the hot stuff straight into the garbage bin? Well, first of all, it still has a lot of moisture. It will steam up your garbage, make everything smell, and the moisture from the steam will encourage mildew to fester in your garbage. Ew. Secondly, it still has a lot of moisture, meaning it still has stock locked up inside of it. When I finally dumped out the used vegetable bits, I had at least a half cup of stock which had drained out the bottom. Then I removed the bones and rest of the stuff. It also took about 30 minutes to cool and drain. When I had removed all the pieces I could, I then lined the colander with a clean flour sack towel and strained the stock through it into a large bowl. I did this three or four times.

bones removed and cooling/draining. note the level of the stock.

I don’t usually use fabric softener and never on towels anymore. When we lived in Rhode Island, we had to share the duplex’s dryer with our landlords, who were kind of but not completely ok with our sharing it with them (it wasn’t us, the thing kept breaking down on them, but they were still trying to baby it along and use it as little as possible to avoid getting a new one). So I used the outside clothes line as much as possible, and especially for towels. I’d finish them for 10-15 minutes in the dryer to make them fluffy. After that experience, I found that I really didn’t miss fabric softener on towels, or a

flour sack towel caught all the little bits leftover

nything else. Since we use fragrance-free, gentle detergent, I don’t worry about using the cotton flour sack towels as strainers, biscuit covers, or paper towel substitutes. If the food stains them, I can always run them through the wash twice (once on hot with towels and again on warm with light colours if necessary) to get them out. I find that using flour sack towels also encourages me to cook more, because I don’t feel as wasteful using a lot of paper towels for everything. They can’t replace everything, as I learned when I tried to run one through the can opener to clean it, and ended up creating holes. It’s a lifestyle choice, but I do strongly advocate the use of flour sack towels, which can be purchase inexpensively online.

So, back to the stock. The flour sack towel caught all of the little bits leftover, like the dried spices and the tomato paste particles. I squeezed out the towel to get

beautiful golden turkey stock to be frozen.

the last of the juices, and admired my handiwork. I was left with about a gallon of clear, beautiful dark golden turkey stock. Why this obsession with a clear stock? I find that when I am sick, I am super sensitive to even the smell of grease or oil and I want to have very clear soups with zero fat in it. I’m not often sick, but it’s good to be prepared. I associate cloudy stocks with unknown contaminates and don’t trust them as much as I would a clear stock.

homemade turkey stock, about to become homemade turkey soup

Usually, I freeze stock in 2-3 cup containers which can easily be used later. Since its winter and I’ll definitely make soup later on, I froze one large container and a small container with the leftover. Turkey stock freezes very well and it relieves me of the pressure of using the stock right away, as I would if I stored it in the fridge. Since my stock is very clear, I feel like it keeps longer than a cloudy stock. Nothing is worse than going through this day-long process of making stock, and find out that your stock tastes rancid or muddy, as has happened to me when I attempted to make stocks out of rock crab carcasses. I made turkey soup right away with the remainder. Note to self: rutabaga is great in stock, but less interesting as a component in turkey soup.

Now, is it economically worth it to make homemade stock, when a can of stock is just $.99? Or those little cubes of bouillon are ~$.25 each? I say yes. The carcass would otherwise be thrown out, and if you keep a stocked fridge the old vegetables would also have been discarded. I have the advantage of the incredibly inexpensive public markets at my disposal, where a 10 lb. bag of carrots or onions is $3-$5, so I’d say yes, even with vegetables a stock is worth the effort and cost. If you don’t have vegetables around, even just making a stock out of a carcass and some salt and pepper is nice. A homemade stock has a greater depth of flavour than a canned stock and it’s really not hard or expensive to make.

Of course, if I don’t have homemade stock around, I do resort to those canned broths and those little bouillon cubes, but my preference is always for my own product.

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I made this on Christmas Day using leftover turkey. I use Martha Stewart’s chicken pot pie recipe, but I’ve adjusted it to my own tastes. I really like mushrooms, and put them in everything. This isn’t an easy recipe for those who don’t cook a lot, as it requires multiple steps and a ton of dishes, but the end result is delicious so I suppose it’s worth it. I’ve never tried another chicken pot pie recipe, so perhaps it’s time to try something different.

Chicken pot pie

Based on Martha Stewart recipe April 2007 \ from Chef John Delucie

Serves: 3 people

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 med onion, coarsely chopped

2 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 carrots, coarsely chopped

Coarse salt and pepper

4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ c. carrots, peeled, med chop (~1 carrot)

½ c. frozen green peas

½ c. onion, med chop

½ c. celery, med chop

3 T. plus 1 T unsalted butter

1 ¼ c. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and cut into quarters

3 T. all-purpose flour

1 ½ c. half & half

1 t. hot pepper flakes

1 ½ t. Worcestershire sauce

1 large egg, beaten

Pie crust

  • Place chicken, onion, celery, and carrots in a large stockpot; season with salt and pepper and enough water to cover (~2 c.). Wrap thyme and garlic in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine to enclose; add to pot. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until chicken is no longer pink, ~ 25 min.. Discard vegetables; reserve chicken and liquids separately; set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Meanwhile, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil (don’t over salt – save later as veggie stock) and prepare an ice-water bath. Cook in the boiling water for the following times:
    • Carrots –  2 min.
    • Peas –   ~30 sec.
    • Onions –  1 min.
    • Celery –  30 sec.
  • Drain and immediately shock in the ice-water bath. Drain; set aside in a large non-reactive bowl.
  • Heat 1 t. butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Brown mushrooms, 3 to 4 min.; add to other veggies.
  • Cut chicken into bite-size pieces and add to veggies.
  • In a medium skillet on med-low heat, melt remaining 3 T. butter. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 min.. Add ½ c. of the reserved cooking liquid and half and half. Cook, stirring constantly, until liquid comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2 min.. Remove from heat and add pepper flakes and Worcestershire sauce; season with salt and pepper. Add to bowl with chicken and vegetables; toss to combine.
  • Make pie crust.
  • Spoon filling into a large soufflé dish or pie pan. Roll pie crust onto top. Cut a slit in the center of the puff pastry to allow steam to escape; brush beaten egg over puff pastry.
  • Bake until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbling, ~ 25 min.. Let stand 5 min. before serving.

 

Notes:

  • skip first part if have chicken stock/drippings and cooked chicken on hand (but add thyme later)
  • can substitute roasted chicken drippings for chicken stock (be very careful with seasoning)

I usually skip the first part and use leftover chicken from for this, since I keep stock handy so I don’t necessarily need the broth gotten from boiled chicken. I used about 2 cups of leftover turkey, cubed.

I always forget to make ice ahead of time. I don’t use ice in my drinks, and don’t usually keep it around, but if I can think ahead for this dish, I freeze a two cup block of ice to use in ice water for shocking vegetables. Otherwise, since it’s winter, I can run cold water over each addition of vegetables, but that’s wasteful and more trouble than just having a nice block of ice.

mixing the sauce with the vegetables and turkey.

It’s important to partially cook these vegetables first before baking the pie. I decided to add a potato this time to make it heartier, knowing I’d have leftovers that are often crustless. However, I only added the cubed potato when the sauce was already done, and even after baking to a golden crust and bubbly insides, the potato bits were still crunchy. Oops. They’ll be fully cooked when microwaved next week for lunch at work. Next time, I’ll add the potatoes at the beginning of the sauce process, when I add the half and half. That should give it enough time to partially cook, since I take a while between that step and baking in order to make the crust.

I forgot to get mushrooms, and used sliced leftover hydrated shitake mushrooms instead. Turned out fine.

turkey pot pie, enjoyment in process

I use my father-in-law’s recipe for pie pastry. It’s so much better if the crust is homemade. A homemade crust is flakier, more tender, and just overall better than a premade crust. It’s an extra step, but they’re really not that hard. Use shortening NOT butter. You’d think that you’d want a buttery crust, but butter just makes it heavy. If you really must use butter, use mostly shortening with just a tablespoon or two of butter. Really, though, it’s just as “buttery” if you use only shortening. Or lard. But I haven’t tried lard yet myself, so I’ll just write about shortening. And don’t over mix the dough. Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, salt), then cut in the shortening using a pastry cutter or two knives until it has the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Then gradually add ice cold water until it holds together in a ball. Don’t add too much water and only mix it just until it comes together. If you overmix, you’ll use too much water and it will turn rock hard when baked and it will not be flaky. The goal is always a tender, flaky crust. Ok, it’s not so much flakey as it is tender. Apparently you need to rub the shortening into the flour if you want a truly flaky crust. I haven’t yet mastered this skill, but I’ve seen my father-in-law do it quite successfully. I’m satisfied with just using a pastry cutter for now.

I don’t use a bottom crust on chicken pot pie. I’ve found that it gets too soggy to be enjoyable, and the top crust is just enough for two people. I tuck the pie dough inside the pie dish, so that it doesn’t hang over the sides, which makes it hard to handle. The filling always bubbles over a little bit, so I place a sheet of foil underneath it.

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Last year, I saw the most gorgeous turkey breast recipe on the NYTimes website on a holiday slideshow, and went so far as to email the newspaper to request the recipe. They sent me the link to it, and I carefully filed it away for future use.

I’d been craving turkey before the holidays at the beginning of December, but didn’t have enough people to warrant getting a whole bird. So I brought out the Torrisi Turkey recipe. I had to settle for a small 1 lb. turkey breast, but only halved the glaze recipe. It was my first time using a brine, which turned the cooked turkey breast into a deli meat-like consistency. And when it came down to coating the breast with the glaze, it all fell off! I did not get the gorgeous golden layer of glaze that the picture had. It still flavoured the breast, and I tried to coax more on top during the roasting process, but I was disappointed that it didn’t look like the picture. Perhaps I need to use a special thickened honey next time.

In the end, we decided that the recipe was too much trouble for too little gain for two people. Perhaps if I had been making multiple turkey breasts, it would have been more worthwhile.

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My husband refuses to eat leftovers, which makes cooking for two more trying that it should be. When I was cooking for just one, before we got married, I would eat quite a lot of leftovers. I’d roast a small chicken on Sunday and eat the wings and drumsticks right away (and the skin…yum!), cut up the breast meat for sandwiches to take to work, debone what was left, and make stock out of the carcass. The entire chicken was used and thoroughly enjoyed. I would make a casserole and freeze individual-sized portions so I would have homemade frozen dinners and lunches. And breakfasts. I had a plan.

Two days after our Christmas Eve dinner, the fridge is still full of succulent turkey meat, rice stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted yams, and cranberry sauce. I had thrown out the remaining shredded stir-fried Brussels sprouts right away since it would be a mushy mess upon reheat, but everything else is fine. The turkey meat is still flavourful and moist, thanks to my prowess with the convection oven, and the stuffing might be a little less well-defined now with the Chinese sausage losing its chewiness, but it’s still good. In fact, I just finished eating a delicious, reheated plate of stuffing, cold turkey, and cranberry sauce right now.

But instead of eating these yummy leftovers from a carefully prepared feast, my husband is already talking about making new dishes which will require space in the fridge that we don’t have and generate their own leftovers (which he will refuse to eat himself). He’s asking where I want to go for lunch today and what other places I want to eat out later. And he doesn’t find anything wrong with throwing out all the uneaten food after a big turkey dinner. Because he refuses to eat leftovers.

Turkey is especially expensive. Even our little 10 lb. bird was almost $30. While cooking big meals like this for company is less expensive than going out to eat, the cost-saving factor decreases dramatically when the food isn’t used for another meal as leftovers. As someone who was recently on strike for three months, I am especially conscious of money this year.

But it’s not just about the money. Around the holidays, I don’t want to expend extra energy finding a restaurant, braving the snowy cold (it was -17C the other night), waiting for a table, ordering, waiting for food, etc.. It’s a lot of waiting and trouble and money when I could just have easily fixed myself a plate of leftovers, popped it in the microwave, and have finished eating within the time it would take to even get to a restaurant, let alone get to a table and commence eating. I used to find eating out to be special, but it’s really lost its magic for me because we eat out so frequently. Not that I don’t enjoy a good meal, regardless of its origins. Just that, at certain times, I want something no-fuss and straightforward. Like straight from my fridge to my microwave to my stomach.

It’s also a matter of ego. When my husband refuses to eat my leftovers, I feel like he’s rejecting my culinary talents, regardless of how much he had enjoyed (without comment) the original presentation. When someone eats something once, they could just be eating it out of politeness; when they decline the second time, it could be because they really didn’t like it the first time. When they say yes to seconds, it means they liked it. I like my own cooking, and I like my leftovers. When my husband refuses to eat my leftovers which I eat myself, it’s like he’s refusing to eat my cooking because he thinks it’s bad. It’s not bad. He’s just refusing to be a team player.

There are things that I won’t eat as leftovers myself, and they are usually foods which have already been overcooked into a textureless mush. This is why I threw out the Brussels sprouts right away, since I knew they wouldn’t be as great the second time around. But he won’t even bother tasting the leftovers. He just refuses.

In the past, I have humoured his irrational rules about having to “change the nature of the dish” in order to eat some semblance of leftovers. For example, he won’t eat cold or reheated turkey as-is, but he will eat it in a turkey pot pie or turkey soup. But he refused to eat stuffing patties – a ball of stuffing pressed flat and pan fried so it has a crispy exterior, a trick people often use for leftover risotto. I made a turkey pot pie for that very reason last night, and was planning on making a hearty turkey soup tonight. But I feel less motivated. Why bother? Why put all this effort into cooking constrained by someone else’s crazy, insensitive rules? He clearly doesn’t appreciate it. And consequently, since I cook out of love (both for myself and those who eat my cooking), he doesn’t appreciate me. This is one of those times when cooking for two sucks.

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This was the third time I’ve attempted to roast a turkey, and I was determined that it would be moist and delicious. I followed advice from a Chowhound post about slow roasting turkeys. My first turkey had been overdone and dry, with an internal temperature around 181F, close to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s recommendation. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends an internal temperature of 165F, so I decided to do an “American” Christmas turkey preparation. To avoid my first Thanksgiving turkey’s thawing stress, I got a 5kg (~10 lbs.) fresh turkey. And it was on sale – yay!

The turkey was cooked thusly:

Oven preheated to 450F on the convection setting. That means that it had hot air circulating all around the turkey, and that there would be more crispy, delicious skin to enjoy.

I removed the plastic trussing thing. I don’t truss my birds, since I like crispy wings and drumsticks, even if they dry out to jerky-like texture. I boiled the giblet and neck in salted water, then cut up the giblet and added it to my rice stuffing. I tried to debone the neck like my mom does to add to the stuffing, but found the clear membrane encasing it to be too tough and slippery, so I threw that in the soup pot whole. I kept a large stock pot on the stock, unheated, into which I threw extra scraps throughout the afternoon, which kept the area more organized than previous years when I’d try to save bits and pieces in various containers scattered about the counters.

The turkey was rinsed and carefully dried. I used a flour sack towel first, since I use them for just about everything in the kitchen – drying dishes, clarifying stock, keeping biscuits warm – but then I switched to paper towels when the first cotton towel got soaked. I had recently watched the Julia Child video regarding roasting chickens, and she had used paper towels. Also, it’s a bit of a production to clean the flour sack towel after using it on raw poultry. I throw them in the bathtub since they’re wet, then I have to wait until they dry to add to the regular laundry bin or they’ll smell and make all the laundry damp and smelly. Or I obsess over cleaning it right away, which means I have to do a load of towels even if I’m not quite ready to wash towels.

Once the turkey was dry, I liberally salted and peppered the cavity, then shoved a lemon cut in half, half a head of garlic, two bay leaves, some whole green peppercorns, two sprigs sage, one big sprig thyme, and two or three long sprigs rosemary. I have two rosemary shrubs and am trying to use more rosemary in my dishes. I usually grow my own sage and thyme, too, but I’ve already cannibalized all that the meager little sage and thyme seedlings had to offer. It hurt to buy the fresh herbs, because even though I frequently use fresh herbs when I cook, one never uses all of the herbs in those little packets before they go bad and it adds up if you buy them as opposed to growing them yourself. Cost of 1 packet of herb seeds with a hundred seeds = 1 little package of fresh herbs that is used maybe 3 times if you’re lucky.

I positioned the bird breast side down on a rack in a large pyrex casserole dish. I prefer roasting breast side down because I want the breast meat to be moist even if I accidentally overcook the bird. I will NEVER carve a bird at the table and I’m the only one who enjoys crispy poultry skin, so it’s not important to have a picture-perfect turkey. I am terrible at carving birds, despite studying numerous online videos from all of my culinary heros. Also, we don’t have a dining table big enough for more than two guests. Usually we set up food on the kitchen table we use everyday, and make people crouch around the coffee table, smushed together on the lone couch. It’s in front of the fire place, so they naturally migrate there, anyway.

I smeared about 1/2 a tablespoon of softened butter on the top of the bird to encourage browning, and liberally sprinkled all sides with salt and pepper. Kosher salt, so it stuck to the skin. I jammed a digital meat thermometer into the fleshy part of the thigh and placed it in the oven. I put a sheet of foil on the rack underneath the pan to catch wayward juices, since the wings stuck out over both sides.

The turkey was roasted on 450F on convection setting for 20 minutes until brown, and then the convection setting was lowered to 225F for 3 hours until the digital thermometer read an internal temperature of 150F. The chowhounders had recommended removing the turkey before it reached 165F, as the internal temperature will continue to increase on the counter in a process called “carry over.” Unfortunately, my turkey did not carry over, perhaps because during the last hour of cooking, I opened the oven several times to add other dishes to it. The temperature continuously fell. Next year I’ll set the thermometer alert for 155F.

The second time I roasted a turkey, a helpful guest who used to own a restaurant helped me to carve the bird. Unfortunately, our guests tonight were graduate students and no one knew how to carve, so I was left to do it. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t too bad. I cut off both wings (one of which my cat immediately pilfered and tried to enjoy hidden beneath the table), sliced both breasts at a slant like I’d been advised to last time. It got the job done. I even got some of the dark meat off of the drumsticks, but not much. Unfortunately, the turkey was cold by the time I was ready to serve all the other dishes, but at least it was tender and moist and flavourful.

Well, the turkey was indeed moist with the slow roast method, which I would repeat again. Now that I know how long it will take, I will have better time management in the future and won’t start the roast so early ( I put it in just before 1pm for a 6:30pm dinner…oops). The breast meat seemed to be cooked all of the way through and the turkey was nicely browned. Only when I later deboned the turkey did I discover a small patch of only partially cooked meat. Hopefully no one will get sick. I don’t think the uncooked patch was near the breast part. One interesting thing that I noticed was that there were less drippings than there usually are, in the end just as much as usually emits from a small chicken, about half a cup. I like to use hot drippings as gravy, as is. It’s perfectly flavourful already and since it doesn’t have any flour or corn starch in it, it is easily and perfectly reheated as many times as one wants without mishap. I suppose that all of the juices remained in the bird with this method, which is itself fine.

I’ve already gotten a request for post-turkey day recipes, and I plan to make turkey pot pie tomorrow. After five people, including myself, enjoyed the freshly cooked turkey and other assorted dishes, I was left with only 6 cups of turkey meat. It’s actually a little disappointing, but it’s much more manageable than if we’d gotten an enormous 20 lb. bird. It’s enough for turkey pot pie and at least one hearty turkey soup. I don’t have time to start the turkey stock tonight, but I will do it tomorrow morning. I love turkey stock. I also have to wait to generate more filtered water. I strongly prefer Brita filtered water to plain tap water, and use it exclusively in cooking as well. I can actually taste it when my husband unthinkingly serves me unfiltered tap water, and I don’t like it. We live in an old apartment building, and I just don’t trust the pipes. Unfortunately, the little pitcher can only be refilled twice in rapid succession before the taste changes, and only about four times in one day. I planned ahead for today’s cooking needs, and had started preparing more filtered water and storing it in a medium-sized stock pot. It really came in handy, since I used the water for cooking rice, boiling the giblet and neck, boiling potatoes to mash, making a pate sucrée for a tarte tatin, and for multiple coffees and teas throughout the evening. Next time, I will prepare even more filtered water, since I ran out for the coffees. Or we could get another pitcher. We certainly use a lot of drinking water in a day.

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Despite 2 1/2 days of thawing in the fridge, the 11 lb. turkey was still partially frozen when I unwrapped it at 3pm. It took several minutes of running water over it to even pry out the giblets and neck. After some hasty googling, I came up with submerging the unfortunate thing in cool water for an hour, draining and refilling it twice. The turkey gods were smiling -it worked! A tiny circular sink is impractical for washing dishes but just the right size for last-minute turkey defrosting.

I salted and peppered the cavity and added fresh rosemary, lemon halves, and a whole garlic half. Rubbed softened butter all over the skin and salted and peppered both sides. 1 hour in a convection oven at 350 degrees F, then reduced to 325 for another 1 1/2 hours, and poof. Perfectly browned turkey (though perhaps slightly overcooked by 15 min.) with an internal temperature of 181 degrees. While slightly overcooked, it was breast side down so the meat was still moist and enjoyable. Defatted and lightly reduced drippings were used as gravy.

The menu included: roast turkey; gravy; roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, and apple puree from the NYTimes; herbed mashed potatoes; stir fried Brussel sprouts with bacon; peas in butter sauce; canned cranberry sauce. Dessert was a tarte tatin (my very first attempt, including my first attempt at pâte sucrée) with fresh whipped cream and a nice, spicy ice cider. I had asked my in-laws for their stuffing recipe, but in the end simply couldn’t manage it with the other dishes.

The very best part? Mom called me a good cook for the first time and my finicky husband got seconds of the tarte tatin made especially for him. Ahhhh. It was a Thanksgiving dinner well done, even if it was stuffing-less.

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