At my house turkey is for more than holidays. Turkey is my husband’s favorite dinner and since he suffers my favorite – steak, much more frequently than I suffer his I try and make his turkey dinner special every time. The high point to turkey dinner is that without a doubt there will always be enough leftovers for reinvention Monday meals. That for me is the fun part of making big old fashioned traditional meals making something much more creative out of them. I don’t think the turkey dinner itself is very exciting so I’m glad it gives me something to look forward to.
I started my weekend off by pulling a beautiful Butterball turkey from my freezer. I like to think ahead and I purchased this one on special for $1.49/lb before Christmas knowing that it would be triple the price any other time I wanted to cook one. I also pulled two packages of turkey wings out. These too I like to buy when I find them on special. They’re a great roasted with honey garlic sauce and I like them for making broth and stuffing during major turkey –a- thons. One package l left to defrost and the other I tossed on a cookie tray with the standard onion, garlic, and celery base I like in my stocks and broths. The entire tray then joined water, herbs and peppercorns in the stock pot to make a quick broth for both the stuffing and gravy.
I decided this week to make my family’s stuffing. It’s unique in that it starts with mashed potatoes. It can sometimes be weird depending on how you feel about the ingredients. I peeled and boiled the potatoes, set them aside. Also squirrelled away in my freezer was a loaf of stuffing bread, only available during holidays this bread has all of the best stuffing flavors baked right in. I defrosted half of the loaf to add to my recipe. The bread is broken up and added to the potatoes both are mixed with turkey broth, until the mixture is wet, but not drowning. The secret ingredient to this stuffing is turkey or chicken giblets. I know it sounds wrong, but it’s true. I bought a small package of chicken giblets and ground them in my food processor I also added onion, garlic and celery to the mix and sautéed it all in butter. The end result is more like a highly flavoured sausage instead of unmentionable chicken parts. This mix joined the potatoes and bread with some fresh thyme before being spread into a baking pan and topped with the other package of turkey wings wrapped with foil and it was good for the fridge until the next day.
I than made gravy with the rest of the broth, opting once again for a cream based slurry, I finished off the first leg of the marathon on high. I find breaking up my efforts for these meals makes it easier. For the record I ate grilled cheese for dinner on day one because cooking anything else seemed too hard.
Day two, I woke up early with great anticipation for the day. I popped the stuffing into the oven, preheated to 350 degrees and roasted it for about 90 mins. Before putting it in the oven I basted the wings and the top of the stuffing with melted butter for extra golden crispiness. Whilst the oven worked its magic I prepped the turkey to take the stuffing’s place. A mere four hours or so in the oven and this bird was dinner ready. My husband was on potato duty so he once again he provided the solid standard many of our meals call for and some sautéed spinach on the side made an amazing Sunday meal.
Right after dinner I boned the turkey, took all of the carcass and vegetables I roasted with it and started a bone broth that I only left for 16 hours, yet it’s rich and lovely not missing anything with the less cooking time. This is different from the stock on day one, the flavors are deeper, the fat content higher and it’s more of a health option; it will be used for soup.
Leftovers today have taken a few turns. There’s a casserole I’d almost like to call turkey Shepherd’s Pie, but I can hear the purists correcting me; so it’s a casserole modeled after Shepherd’s Pie. The pot of bone broth has been separated; half for the freezer and the other still on the stove with dumplings and vegetables. Dinner tonight will likely be the soup with my favorite turkey left over a simple turkey salad sandwich. Every meal at my house for the next few days will be a tribute to my three days of efforts; plus I’m sure a few meals will make their way to the freezer for those days where cooking just isn’t on my agenda. Traditional turkey dinner has so many possibilities. I make many different stuffing recipes and I’ve been known to smoke the turkey on occasion. The leftovers scream make me better every time. Yesterday I reached again for the memories. I created the turkey my Grandmother always did and the recipes my Mom also relied on for an entire lifetime of family moments. I’ve updated them, turkeys are smaller and stuffing needs to roast on its own for both quantity and safety; the essence however is still the same. For three days my house has smelled like every turkey my kitchen mentors ever made. That in itself made all of my efforts worth it; the great food was just an added bonus. Another Sunday dinner backed by a celebration of memories is what makes these recipes unforgettable.
Quick and Easy Broth
Roast turkey wings (4 parts or 2 wings), 2 small onions, 2 stalks celery and 1 bulb garlic for 45mins on 350. Add contents of roasting pan with 1 tablespoon peppercorns and a few sprigs of rosemary/thyme, salt and pepper to a Dutch oven, cover with cold water bring to a boil and allow to simmer about 90mins; strain and chill liquid for later. This is the liquid for both gravy and the stuffing.
2 lbs potatoes peeled and boiled
1/2 bread – stuffing loaf of available otherwise add 3 tablespoons of dried herbs to your mix – rosemary, sage, thyme
227 grams of chicken giblets (usually 1 package) ground in food processor
1 medium onion, 2 stalks celery and 3 cloves garlic also chopped in the food processor. Sautee the vegetable and meat in butter with a little salt and pepper
Mash the boiled potatoes, I like to use hand masher so there’s some texture to them, add the chopped bread and 2-3 ladles of the broth to make everything juicy but not swimming. Put potato mixture into a 9×12” baking dish, top with wing piece. Baste entire top of dish with melted butter, including wings, bake on 350 covered 1 hour, remove from oven, baste top again and bake with the cover off for an additional 30 mins. I prebaked this Sunday morning and returned it to the oven for the additional half hour after the turkey came out to rest. Adding the wings to the top means the stuffing will taste a lot more like it was cooked inside the turkey, the juices will mix adding moisture and the texture will be crispy on the outside but soft and creamy on the inside. For larger crowds the extra wings are also usually a welcome addition to the table.
Creamy Turkey Gravy
1 litre of stock from day 1
1 cup flour
11/2 cups heavy cream
Salt, pepper fresh or dried herbs to taste
Make slurry with flour, cream, and spices/herbs just by mixing them all together. Make sure you mix out the lumps. Heat stock to boiling and whisk in the slurry. Cook for a few minutes until gravy is thick. Taste and adjust flavors. Gravy made with flour can easily be reheated at low temps. Boiling may make it separate.
I always clean out the turkey and give it a quick rinse in the sink before laying it in the roast pan on top of a bed of celery and onions. I stuff the cavity with more onions, garlic, celery and herbs, baste it with butter, salt and pepper add a couple cups of liquid – stock, wine, water cover and bake on 350, for 4 hours. Take the cover off, baste with butter or pan juices again and bake additional 35 mins until skin is brown and crispy. Remove from oven and rest 30mins before carving.
Turkey almost Shepherd’s Pie
3 cups leftover turkey chopped into bite size pieces
3 cups gravy
2 cups can or frozen corn
4 cups mashed potatoes
2 cups Monterey Jack Cheese
Mix gravy and chopped turkey and spread in the bottom of a baking dish; layer corn over gravy mixture and top with mashed potatoes. Add shredded cheese to the top and bake 45 mins – 1 hour until hot and bubbly.
Entire turkey carcass
All veg and pan juice from roast pan
2tbsp black pepper corns
I used my large soup kettle for this adventure rather than my slow cooker. I added all of the ingredients to the pot, brought it to a boil before lowering to a simmer for about 14 hours. You can do it for up to 48 hours for maximum benefit. I strained the liquid through a metal strainer making sure to keep bones etc. out. The resulting broth is great on its own or as a base for soups and stews.
I cup chopped turkey
Salt, pepper fresh thyme
Mix together and top bread with lettuce, cheese and salad for an amazing sandwich or just with lettuce for a healthy low carb meal.