talkin’ turkey

Turkey & Dumplings...

Turkey & Dumplings…

Tis the season for turkeys!  Ironically, I cook turkey breast all year round, and in fact did so two days ago.  I love having it sliced for sandwiches and lunch boxes, and then you really reap the rewards by using the breast meat and bones to make a hearty stock.  With the stock and meat you can make turkey & dumplin’s, turkey & okra gumbo, how can I stop there with all you can do?  Therefore, I was inspired to share a little gobble with you, if you are so inclined to try doing this at home.  It does take a little time, but it is simple and the smells and flavors are worth it, a perfect Sunday afternoon activity on a chilly day!

So, here is what happened…I went to the Teeter and bought a turkey breast.  A simple 7+ pound turkey breast, not the whole bird.  (You’ll be doing the whole bird soon enough, and this is something I hope you’ll find easy to do throughout the year and not just on Thanksgiving Day.)  Roast according to the package instructions, which took about 2 hours 15 minutes at 325 degrees for my 7.41 pound bird.  Using my hands, I rubbed mine prior to roasting with olive oil, then generously salt and peppered it, nothing else.

Okay, so the house is smelling awesome just over an hour in.  Hard to wait, but don’t peek yet!  Each time you open the oven to look at something you loose valuable heat, which only takes things longer to cook.  Finally, the wait is over and it is time to check the girl.  Often they come with handy dandy pop up timers, and if not, it is always reliable to check with your meat thermometer for 165internal temp in the thickest part of the breast.  After it was done, I let it cool, then covered and put in the fridge overnight.  Okay, I admit, I did rob it of some of that hot crispy skin, but to me that is half the reason for doing it!

The next the morning I sliced the breast meat off the bone, then into thin slices I sealed in a Ziploc for using the next few days.   For simple instructions on how to slice the breast meat, this link from monkey see is an easy to follow guide!  For lunch I made Hot Turkey Melts which were gobbled up (pun intended).  Simple sandwiches on a day off from school: fresh roasted turkey, mayo & mustard, cheese, and we added a sliced or two of salami, then grilled with butter in the pan until toasty—yummmmy.

Awesome—now you have some tender sliced turkey and a gorgeous carcass to go with it!  Throw that bad girl in a stock pot and let the fun begin.  (carcass only, save the already sliced meat for other uses).  To start, cover turkey carcass with water, at least an inch above.  Next, go to your fridge or pantry and use up some things, or feel free to buy just for this purpose.  I added to my stock pot with the turkey:

3 whole carrots, unpeeled and cut into 2 inch pieces

1 whole onion, skin on, quartered

1/3 stalk of celery, leaves included, cut into 2 inch pieces

generous sprinkle of salt and pepper, and any fresh herbs that you may have ( I like to use thyme, parsley and a bay leaf)

1.)  Bring to a good simmer, but not a rolling boil, then continue to let simmer on low for at least one hour, or more.  Remember, all the meat is cooked, you are simply trying to slowly extract all the flavor you can from it.  I simmered mine about a total of 1.5 hours today.  2.)  Taking care not to burn yourself, lift the carcass from the stock pot onto a plate.  Don’t take it straight to the trash can, as that meat from the bone is so tender you won’t believe it, in fact it will likely just fall off.   3.)  Next, carefully pour the remaining stock and vegetables slowly through a strainer resting over a large pot, where your pure stock will be able to cool.  4.)  Discard ingredients in strainer.  5.)  Let stock cool on the counter at least one or two hours.  While stock is cooling, pick the meat off and reserve for using later.  6.)  Once stock has cooled, place in the fridge, uncovered.  The fat will rise to the top, and once it has separated and cooled completely, then you remove the fat with a slotted spoon or skimmer.

What’s left?  A delicious, homemade, low sodium, low fat stock that you can use in many recipes.  I portion mine into quart containers and freeze.  The day I made stock we had delicious Turkey & Dumplings for dinner, pictured at the top.  I have enough for sandwiches again today, and will freeze a small amount for using later in a soup, plus plenty of stock in the freezer too.  And if you don’t want to do this with Thanksgiving just down the road, challenge yourself to a little fun and use the whole leftover bird this Holiday to make stock!  One of our favorite family traditions just after Turkey Day is having gumbo, turkey & okra gumbo with Andouille sausage and crusty bread.  Only a few more weeks to wait!

Enjoy the best of food and life, and homemade goodies like this!

Pot with strainer set over it...

Pot with strainer set over it…

Beautiful pot of stock!

Beautiful pot of stock!

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