Thankful for turkeys and French soft cheeses

Tonight’s dinner – white and dark turkey, whole cranberry sauce, and Gournay cheese with garlic and herbs on toasted sourdough, accompanied by a glass of cider – was almost as good as last night’s. A tad bit less effort, too.

I’ll try warmed turkey, stuffing, and gravy in the next sandwich

The gravy definitely improved the problematic mash (see below)

Good results yesterday: Five wins, one tie, one loss.

  • Best turkey I’ve roasted, tying with two I’ve done in recent weeks
  • Best gravy I’ve made
  • Best cornbread, bacon, and sage stuffing – we winged it, combining recipes of Julia Child and Martha Stewart, modifying to suit us
  • The slow-roasted sweet potatoes worked nicely – we added maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, and pepper only; no need for butter
  • Best banana cream pie, made more subtle and luxurious by decreasing the sweetness slightly and adding a half-teaspoon more than the usual two teaspoons of banana extract (the real stuff)

Neutral: The peas with mint and finely shredded wilted lettuce were good, but I missed my usual butternut squash with nutmeg and white pepper and will restore it at Christmas.

Loss: I cannot recommend slow-roasted potatoes for making mashed; there was a graininess that refused to be riced away and the taste was not right. To be honest, if there had been a store open yesterday where I could get a half-dozen potatoes, I would have tossed the lot and started again. Back to the usual boiling or steaming next time for silky smooth and pure potato-flavoured mash.

Sammiches? Turkey dinner? Turkey noodle soup? More sammiches?

Yes to all of those, and probably in that order. First up, the sandwiches: turkey, cranberry sauce, and soft Gournay cheese with garlic and herbs on hunks of split and lightly-toasted baguette from Iggy’s.

Possibly the best-looking turkey ever to come out of my oven; click for a larger version

Nice and juicy, too. I always scratch my head when I hear some sleb chef say turkeys are dry and awful. One little click below will present to you the evidence of how wrong they are.

The roasting pan has the requisite amount of liquid gold, of course, to be strained right after I post this.

A happy Thanksgiving

It must be said that six days off is enough to make me happy even without a holiday.

Thanksgiving dinner

Click for a larger size

Thanksgiving dinner this year was a tasty Bell & Evans turkey with roasting pan instant stock that made a perfect quart of deeply flavourful gravy, mash, some Trader Joe’s corn (frozen but pretty good), light and fluffy freshly-baked Parker House rolls, and just for me, butternut squash with white pepper and nutmeg.

In past years Market Basket has stocked a few Bell & Evans turkeys, but this year they had quite a large selection priced at a little more than twice the price per pound of, say, a Butterball bird. That might sound expensive, but Bell & Evans birds are miles above others in terms of flavour, texture, and a complete lack of injected saline solution. At other shops, they’re most often priced at 3-4 times the Butterball price per pound.

The next time I cook butternut squash, I’m going to try roasting or steaming them. Boiling infuses far too much water into the porous flesh, which forces you to cook down the mashed result for 20-25 minutes on a medium heat to get it to an unwatery state where its flavour is properly highlighted. Two whole foot-long gourds produce just 3 cups/.7 litres of delicious cooked squash in the end.

The first leftover dish, an hour ago, was a turkey sandwich on lightly toasted sourdough with jellied cranberry sauce and herb & garlic boursin cheese:

Turkey sandwich

Click for a larger size

I’ll likely be making turkey noodle soup with most of the remaining bird, but more sandwiches are definitely in my future.

Great turkey stock, no waiting

I roast turkeys throughout the year, so I’ve learned a thing or two about those birds. The best trick I’ve come up with is a method of simultaneously roasting a turkey and preparing a quart of the finest turkey stock I’ve ever seen right underneath it – no four or five hours of simmering and reduction on the stovetop needed.

Outside of Thanksgiving, I often roast a turkey one night, allow it to cool somewhat, cover and refrigerate the whole bird – except for Quality Assurance slices, of course – and then get the meat off the next night for use in turkey sandwiches and sometimes for turkey tetrazzini*. In the past, each time I stripped the carcass, I’d notice the sizeable quantity of jelly that always covered the bottom of the bird. It’s a thick layer of well-set jelly, maybe a third of a cup’s worth. I knew that jelly was collagen melted from the connective tissue and bones – the source of gelatin – and that collagen is one of the keys to a fine stock, and wondered just how much was being evaporated away and wasted from the bottom of a dry pan. And so, I came up with this recipe to find out. The answer was “quite a bit.”


To adjust for evaporation that will occur during roasting and basting, start with 5 cups/1.1 litre of water in the bottom of a roasting pan along with a bunch of roughly-chopped root vegetables and other stock components – in this photo, half a bag of baby carrots, a few celery stalks with their leaves, a few onions cut in quarters, several unpeeled cloves of garlic crushed with the flat of a chef’s knife, a few bay leaves, a small handful of whole black peppercorns, and some thyme:


Roast the turkey as normal on a rack above those – I often use Alton Brown’s 500F/260C for 30 minutes and the remainder at 350F/175C method – adding a little more water every now and then during roasting to keep the level of liquid to a quart or so, basting the turkey every twenty minutes. The basting is not to keep the turkey moist – because it doesn’t, really – but mainly to wash more collagen into the pan below, and it does also help crisp the skin. The only thing not to do is add more water to the pan in the last half-hour of roasting, when it dilutes the stock too much. At the end, you’ll have your turkey:


And this liquid gold in the pan:


Strain the contents of the pan through a close-mesh strainer into a bowl, squeezing all the juices out of the veg with the back of a spoon or ladle, strain the resulting liquid once more through some cheesecloth into a quart container, then store that in the fridge overnight – or, if you want to use some or all of it immediately for gravy, use a fat separator such as this one and off you go.

If you go the chilling route, there will be a set layer of turkey fat on top, and, after you lift that off, you’ll find that the rest is a highly concentrated and gelled stock, shown below, that I think would make even a dour French chef secretly smile.


*My turkey tetrazzini is chunks of white and dark meat with herbed sautéed mushrooms in a turkey velouté-based sauce Parisienne with Gruyère cheese added, served with freshly-made egg noodles in a casserole, an enhanced version of Tyler Florence’s recipe. Speaking of which, separately try that sautéed mushroom mixture made in the first part of his recipe on some sourdough toast. Delicious.