Tag Archives: Turkey

The Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey is certainly one of the finest gifts made by the New World to the Old.

-Brillat-Savarin in The Physiology of Taste

A Thanksgiving turkey, fresh from the ovenThe Saturday morning of Thanksgiving weekend we pick up a turkey from the Four Whistle truck at Old Strathcona, then take it home and cut it up, usually into two suprêmes (breasts with the drumette still attached) and two leg-thighs.  I know: bringing the whole roasted bird to the table, and carving that bird in front of the guests, is an indispensable part of Thanksgiving.  I appreciate the pageantry of tableside carving, but there are some huge advantages to separating the bird.

With the bird broken up into smaller pieces I can sear them to jump-start the browning.  Each piece can then be removed from the oven at the proper temperature (165°F for legs, 155°F for breasts).  Also, the turkey cooks in under an hour, which makes our Thanksgiving timeline less stressful and more flexible.

Finally, with the remaining carcass I can make a stock to be used at the same dinner as the meat.  We have essence of turkey to add to the soup, the stuffing, and many of the vegetable accompaniments.

I think the above gastronomic benefits trump Thanksgiving ritual.

For a few years I was riding the brine bandwagon, and I’d submerge the turkey bits in a simple solution of salt, brown sugar, and sage.  More recently I’ve simply been laying to two breasts and the two legs on a wire rack, seasoning them generously with salt, black pepper, and herbs, then leaving the turkey uncovered in the fridge until Monday.  The skin dries out so that it will brown well in the oven.

Once the bird is cut and resting in the fridge, it’s time to make turkey stock.

Making Turkey Stock

My general stock-making procedure is outlined here.  Really the only difference between my turkey stock and chicken stock is that the turkey stock is very herbaceous, especially with sage.

Here’s my complete turkey stock method.

Turkey Stock

Ingredients

  • carcass of one 10-15 lb turkey, including neck, gizzard, and wingtips
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 small head of garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • roughly 2 cups dry cider
  • roughly 6 L very cold water
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 5 black peppercorns, crushed

Procedure

  1. Roast bones in a heavy pan at 350°F until thoroughly browned. Remove and set aside.
  2. Roast the vegetables in rendered turkey fat until browned. Remove a reserve for later use.
  3. Pour any excess fat from the pan.  Deglaze the pan with the dry cider and reduce au sec.
  4. Put the roasted bones and the cider reduction in a stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then simmer very gently for 24 hours.
  5. Add the roasted vegetables to the pot. Return the liquid to a boil and simmer gently for 2 hours.
  6. Add the herbs and peppercorns.  Simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  7. Strain the mixture and chill thoroughly.  Once chilled, remove any fat from the surface of the stock.

Please, please save the abovementioned fat and fry something in it.  Here’s an idea:

Turkey Gravy

I know gravy is supposed to be made from pan juices, but if there’s loads of juice in your roasting pan, doesn’t that mean your meat is dry?  I prefer to make gravy from stock, fortified with the minimal drippings in the roasting pan.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup turkey fat, either from the roasting pan, or reserved from the chilled stock
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry cider
  • 1 L turkey stock

Procedure

  1. Deglaze the roasting pan with the dry cider.  Reduce the cider to 1/4 its original volume.
  2. In a separate pot, combine the fat and flour.  Cook out the flour for about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir the cider and stock into the roux.  Adjust seasoning and consistency.
The Thanksgiving table

Thanksgiving Leftovers

I try to cook such that we are not inundated and overwhelmed by Thanksgiving leftovers.  I like to have a few turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce on the days immediately after the feast, but beyond that I grow weary of leftovers.  Following are some go-to preparations to use up Thanksgiving leftovers.

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

Leftover turkey and wild rice soupToday I used the rest of my turkey giblets, as well as some other Thanksgiving leftovers.

I simmered the turkey neck, heart, and bones with onion, carrots, celery, thyme, white wine, and water to make stock. The neck gave a lot of body to the stock. A lot. When I chilled some extra stock it solidified to a thick pudding. To the rest of my stock I added mirepoix, corn, and left-over turkey meat. I also threw in some wild rice, which was cooked in a separate pot (cooking rice in the same pot will leach starch which clouds the otherwise clear soup).

More ideas for using up turkey:

Turkey Pot Pie

Shred the leftover turkey meat and mix with leftover gravy.  You can even add leftover vegetables, or a small amount of leftover mash potato.  I make extra pie dough when I’m making the pumpkin pie.

Turkey pot pie

Turkey and Waffles

Again, shred the leftover turkey and combine with gravy.
Turkey and waffles

A plate of turkey giblets: neck, liver, and heart.

Turkey Giblets

A plate of turkey giblets: neck, liver, and heart.This was the first year that I had a hand in preparing the Thanksgiving turkey. Subsequently it was also the first time that I came in contact with the infamous giblets: the neck, heart, liver, and gizzard of the turkey, stored together in a bag in the cavity of the bird.

First things first: I needed to know what I was dealing with. I was familiar with the general shape and function of the first three items on that list. The gizzard, however, I embarrassingly thought was the flap of skin hanging between a turkey’s beak and neck. Turns out this is the wattle, “an organ of sexual dimorphism” (Wikipedia), whatever that means. The gizzard is actually a stomach with strong muscles that break down food.

On inspection of my own turkey giblets, and comparison with pictures on the internet, I decided that I was not given a gizzard, and that my turkey’s liver had been broken in two. In the picture at left, clockwise from the top left is the neck (obviously), the heart, and two pieces of liver.

A quick Google search suggested that the giblets are most often simmered with the gravy to add extra offally good (pun) flavour. I also looked for preparations dealing just with the liver. People online were divided as to whether turkey livers make for good eats. You can only read so many blogs and forums that waffle back and forth before just trying it out yourself.

I basically followed Julia Childs’ recipe for sautéed chicken livers: salt, pepper, and flour the livers, then sauté them in butter and oil with mushrooms and ham (homemade bacon in my case). I spread the mixture on lightly toasted baguette rounds, then had them as an appetizer to left-over turkey and mashed potatoes.

The neck and heart are great additions to turkey stock.