Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday at Home-- Thanksgiving success, Ina Garten tips and leftovers...

I'm enjoying the peace and quiet at home. My kitties are curled up, next to me. The Thanksgiving feast dishes, pots and pans are put away.  I had a wonderful and very low-key Thanksgiving, and I am looking forward to seeing what recipes and stories my foodie blogger friends will be posting today. Instead of waking up early, to catch shopping bargains...

... my plan is to try and edit and schedule at least a half dozen recipes I've made, but have been too busy to upload. A few more, are very seasonal-- so I guess I should wait until next year!

I've cooked and hosted Thanksgiving, for my family, for at least thirty years. I've evolved from buying vegetable oil injected Butterball turkeys, to draping my turkey with butter drenched cheese cloths, to basting the bird every 30 minutes-- and I even tried Alton Brown's brined a turkey.  Over the decades, I've had semi-raw birds, overcooked birds and then I've had great turkey!  To be perfectly honest, I don't care for brined poultry. I can tell the difference in the texture of the meat-- I find that brined poultry takes on a spongy texture that doesn't agree with my tongue. Neither does my husband. I apologize if I offend those of you who are true "brine fans", but I skip that step. I have come to rely on a cooking thermometer and prepping the turkey with great seasonings, and butter.

This year, I decided to research how one of my favorite cookbook authors and Food Network stars-- Ina Garten-- roasts her turkey.  Ina hasn't failed me, yet.

I have converted to buying only a Diestel Turkey  (we paid  $2.09 a pound), and we picked it up the day before Thanksgiving...fresh and unfrozen. These birds are raised in the foothills of the California Sierras.  They're a sustainable farm and certified organic, for those of you who appreciate what that means. Their turkeys are hormone-free, range free and I believe that the higher cost is well worth the price.  I'm a fan of buying from turkey farms, like this, for the rest of my Thanksgiving years to come.

Last week, I caught Ina's show on Roast Turkey with Truffle Butter. I had no intention of investing in truffle butter, because I think it's highly overrated-- but, that's me! What I found interesting were the tips that Ina's friend gave.
  • Don't baste the turkey, and you'll get a crisper skin
  • Don't stuff the turkey (which I quit doing years ago). An unstuffed bird will cook more evenly. I agree!
  • Generously salt (season) the cavity of the bird.
  • Instead, the bird was stuffed with a whole head of garlic, herbs and onion.
Don't baste the bird?  I was game to test this theory. But, first, I start with making gravy. One of the best tips I've learned, over the years, is make-ahead turkey gravy.  About a month ago, I bought some turkey legs that were on sale. I've learned that there are folks who LOVE turkey legs this time of year, and I couldn't find them last November. I froze the turkey legs, until Thanksgiving Week approached... because I was busy, I didn't get a chance to make the gravy until Thanksgiving morning.  Still, I think this is a time-saver, because once the bird comes out of the oven-- guests have arrived-- gravy making can be stressful and distracting.  I got the idea from Tyler Florence. I've, since adapted it a bit, and it's a keeper:

REALITY CHECK: I you don't want to make your own turkey or chicken stock, by all means, buy canned or boxed!

You need fresh herbs. Here's my winter herb garden-- left to right: tarragon, Italian parsley, sage, marjorgan and thyme & oregano. These herbs are doing so well!  I cut springs of everything to use for my turkey stock, herb butter (for my turkey) and for the cornbread dressing.

The turkey legs were seasoned with kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper and drizzled with olive oil. I roasted them at 375F for about 45 minutes.  Can you see all that brown stuff? Flavor! Don't wash the pan, because that's the flavor for the gravy. Now, for the turkey stock that will make delicious gravy...

I had to blow up this picture. How golden and crunchy and good does that turkey leg look?

So, here are my washed herbs.

Turkey stock is easy to make-- roughly chop celery, carrots, onion and add a bouquet garni and tie it with kitchen twine. Trust me-- you don't want to peel, chop the veggies nor herbs. It's hard to fish them out, and I want clear stock. Don't add any salt, either! You do that once you make your recipe from the stock.

If you have a pasta pot, it's perfect for making stock. I put all the turkey legs in, ten the veggies and peppercorns and fill with water-- about 8 quarts of water. Put it on the stove, bring to a boil and relax while it simmers for 1-2 hours. If you used a pasta pot, simply lift out the inner colander and discard the veggies. When the turkey meat cooks, chop it up and save for making soup or even turkey pot pies! I froze the meat in portions. This batch of turkey stock was stored and frozen for a rainy day.

Once the stock was ready, I simply turned on the turkey pan to high on my stove. I added ladles of turkey stock, whisking away-- and then added a slurry of flour and milk.  Of course, you want to season to taste with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. I got about 3 cups of gravy this way and I was set. (I didn't photograph the process, sorry).  Now for dressing:

Why do people buy stuffing mix? I freeze leftover bread for making dressing!  I defrosted some leftover skillet cornbread.  I like to caramelize onion, then saute' celery and add that to the broken up cornbread. I add a few ladles of the turkey stock I just made, two whisked eggs,some heavy cream and a handful or two of dried cranberries. I was going to add pecans, but that was going into a different dish. Dressing is so easy to make. I like to make my dressing in a crockpot, but I only had three guests, this year.
 Craig's sense of humor-- but last year's cornbread stuffing, which was a hit with the crowd. So, my scaled down portions  went into a baking dish. Ready.  Now, for the turkey....

 I've never thought to put garlic into a turkey before... but, that's what Ina did, so that's what I did, too.

Herb butter and... what is the photo on the right?! I'll tell you! On the left is the herb butter I made-- fresh rosemary and thyme, instead of truffle butter.  On the right is a closeup shot where I slid the herb butter under the skin of the bird. Inside the cavity, I added sprigs of herbs-- fresh sage, oregano, thyme...whatever was in my garden. I added one onion, quartered and unpeeled and then one head of garlic, cut in two.  I didn't photograph the rest, because my hands were slimy!  Imagine my seasoning the outside of the turkey with kosher salt & pepper and drizzling it with olive oil. Into the oven at 325F and this took, literally, 10 minutes to do. I'm not even building up a sweat!

I took about 2 1/2 hours to roast, and I loosely covered it with foil about 20 minutes towards the end. I never basted the turkey, once! This is the tiniest turkey I've ever made. But, will it be moist?

You better believe it!  OMG!  The herbs were absolutely perfect. The garlic was sweet and didn't overpower the meat whatsoever.

Juice just oozed out and it smelled unbelievably delicious! Ina Garten, you are a genius. I will never have to baste again! 

I made a batch of the King Arthur Flour buttered pull-apart rolls, which will be our new family tradition...

I will never buy rolls again... ever. Pinkie Promise.

Not pictured, but served-- homemade cranberry-orange sauce, steamed green beans, herb-garlic mashed potatoes (which my brother made to perfection), turkey gravy. It's hard to expect dinner guests to wait while I set up the light stand (I don't use flash anymore).  The Sweet Potato Casserole that I made was the star of the show-- next to Ina's turkey.

For dessert, I made a Pumpkin Panna Cotta with fresh whipped cream, drizzled with a pumpkin-spice syrup. It was light and perfect, after a heavy meal.  I forgot to write down how I made it, so I'll try and recreate another time.

The extra bonus of making our turkey this way, was all the herbs and aromatics inside the turkey was plunged into my pasta pot again and became four more quarts of turkey stock.  Nothing went to waste, and that's how I like to show gratitude for all the wonderful food that our family is blessed to have.

Life is good. I'm glad I didn't buy a huge turkey. I'm free to explore what other recipes I'm going to find, as soon as I start visiting your kitchens in blogosphere.   I'm thinking of making turkey pot pie, since I have plenty of turkey stock and cut-up dark meat. Sounds like a winner?

Recipe cards are at the end of this post.

Enjoying a peaceful Friday at home,

Turkey Stock on Foodista

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George Gaston said...

Debby, it looks like you did good! The turkey looks out of this world and you know I love those wonderful King Arthur rolls; the dessert looks so tasty, too.

Relax and we all will be looking forward to your next wave of 'good cooking'!

Jason Diestel said...

All I have to say is WOW!! Thank you for this inspiring blog. As a family farmer and avid promoter of high quality food from sustainable farms I really appreciate the tasty treats!

Jason Diestel
Family Farmer
Diestel Family Turkey Ranch

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Debby, sounds like you had a successful Thanksgiving dinner. I too love Ina and she has never let me down either. I don't stuff the bird and my husband makes the most fantastic gravy imaginable. I make my own cornbread to use as dressing.
We're stuffed.....

ARLENE said...

Ina is a favorite of mine, too, and I'm not a bit surprised about the no basting. I don't baste either. I also agree about the brining; at the risk of being thrown out of the blogging world, I think it's much ado about nothing. I'm going to try those KA rolls soon. I've always gone with biscuits at Thanksgiving, but those look very tasty. I must confess I didn't take one picture on Thanksgiving.

Frieda said...

Ina has never let me down, either. She has an herbed turkey breast recipe that I have used the last few years.
Here's to a wonderful and successful Thanksgiving ~ thanks for all the tips you shared!

Stacey Snacks said...

I love Ina. I make her roast chicken weekly. I only made breasts this year because I had so many people and not enough room for all the sides....but it was delicious.
Looking forward to all your upcoming posts!

Kate said...

Sounds as though you had a great Thanksgiving. Ina is pretty consistent. I enjoy her recipes. How you ever got everything done...a mystery!

Monica H said...

Your turkey looks great and you know I'm all over those rolls!

Glad you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Kim said...

Everything looks wonderful! Sounds like a relaxing and wonderful Thanksgiving with great food! Loved all the pictures. I didn't think about pictures until everything was almost gone

Mary said...

Your turkey looks wonderful, Debbie. I don't brine either. I prefer to salt rub the turkey or chicken.

bella said...

What a great Thanksgiving you had (and deserve!). I love that you used a free range turkey, which I totally agree is worth the extra pennies! I've never brined because every turkey baked (and FRIED) are always great without it. Why fix it if it ain't broke? I'm so glad to see another die hard foodie like you who has and uses a fresh herb garden. It's the only way! I was so busy in the kitchen that hardly anything got photographed, you're amazing!!! Roz

redqtip said...

Ina Garten
I would like to serve her country Pinto beans, cornbread, and a host of produce that I grew up with in NC