This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Turkey Leftovers?

Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is past and that turkey carcass is looking more and more boney, maybe it is time to think about what can be done with it. Sure a quick trip to the garbage can would solve the entire problem, but what a waste of a lot of flavorful potential stock chalk full of vitimins and minerals and, if grandma was correct, healing power for the common cold.

Toss the bones from that turkey carcass into a stock pot and cover it with fresh cold water. Set it to simmer on the stove. Toss in a few pepper corns and a bay leaf. Quick chop an onion and toss it in. Then rough chop some celery (here is a place to make use of the celery leaves usually thrown away unless you are making Bloody Marys) and carrot and toss it in along with a garlic clove or two. Simmer this stock for a couple of hours covered keeping an eye on the liquid level.

Pour off the liquid through a colander and some cheese cloth reserving the liquid. No need to worry about clarifying this stock. The rustic form is fine for our intent here.
Toss the veggies out. Pick over the bones pulling off any meat left behind. Toss it into the reserved stock. Toss the bones out with the veggies.

Next, chill the stock overnight. The next day skim the fat hardened on the top of the stock which will have turned into a gelee due to the protein present in the stock (its like gelatin).

Reheat the stock and reduce it slowly until it has become the strength you like. The more it is reduced the stronger the turkey flavor. You should be able to get a good 6-8 cups of delicious stock from a 15-20 pound bird.

Add in whatever you like. This depends entirely on what direction you want to go with the stock. Add some soba noodles, tofu, ginger and go Asian. Spice it up with jalapeno and cilantro and a little lime to go south of the border.

If you have any more turkey meat left over, chopp it or pull it from the bones and toss it in. Add in any carrots, celery, onion, pasta, beans, rice, peas, whatever you like. Don't add in too much or it can overwhelm the amount of broth so your soup will turn into a stew (unless of course that is your intent).
Simmer your concoction until the veggies are cooked through. Serve immediately in soup bowls with your choice of garnish--rosemary, sage, a little sour cream, whatever.

Away at work all day? Cook the whole thing in a crock pot on low and oh, the smell that will welcome you on a cold winter's night!

Bon appetit!


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Great Books for Great Cooks!

If you are looking for a great holiday gift this season look no further than this terrific read from the noted author on cooking-- Michael Ruhlman. The author of other great reads for lovers of the culinary arts such as The Making of a Chef and The Elements of Cooking, Ruhlman has found Foie gras again with his newest book.

The Soul of a Chef: The Persuit of Pefection is a must read for anyone interested in the evolutionary process a chef can go through on his or her journey towards perfection. Not that all chefs aspire to such lofty goals, but the three chefs Michael Ruhlman spends time with in his research for this book are all determinedly looking for it.

This book is divided (for lack of a better word) into three sections though in the final analysis Ruhlman masterfully blends them together. He begins with a torturous journey for a half dozen aspiring Master Chefs through the arduous test to become a Certified Master Chef, a title bestowed to few and then only after an unbelieveable 10 day trial by fire at the Culinary Institute of America. Only one of the chefs manages to pass this ultimate test of skill in our story. Reading this part of the book you feel all the emotions the candidates feel as they slowly drop out of the grinding test or are eliminated from it. Alternately euphoric then to the depths of despair, it really gets under your skin as you read their individual stories.

Next up, Ruhlman takes us to Michael Symon's restaurant Lola in Cleveland. Symons, who is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America has also become big on the Food Network scene of late. The pace inside his kitchen at Lola is described in frenetic detail as he and his amazing staff, working in hellish temperatures and at a pace that would make most people collapse midway through the service, yet they manage to produce amazing cuisine and love doing it. What drives a person to work under such conditions day in and day out, year after year?

Finally, to a more calm place--Yountville, California and Thomas Keller's The French Laundry considered by many to be the finest restaurant in the United States. Thomas Keller has a more Zen-like approach to cooking--calmly producing his cuisine with care and respect for what the food is and where it came from. He is constantly striving for perfection though many of his diners would argue he long ago achieved it. Ruhlman spends time watching, helping and eating in this fabulous restaurant and we are the lucky recipients of his experiences there.

Each of these scenarios is explored with such care and depth that I wanted the reading experience to go on forever. My next travel adventures anywhere near Cleveland or Yountville will definately include stops at Lola and The French Laundry if only to experience even a little of whatever part of perfection is on the menu.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I'm Back!

Feeling much better and having had a very restful Thanksgiving holiday, I returned to school today and my teaching duties.

Our holiday was low key yet had all the trimmings of a great Thanksgiving meal.

I tried a brinning solution for our turkey using what sounded like a great recipe from the Neeleys from the Food Network. I'd seen the Neeleys themselves demostrating this recipe on two separate shows the week before Thanksgiving. Looked pretty good so I decided to give it a try.

I have considered brinning a turkey for several years now but put it of since my turkeys always come out very moist, which is the point of brinning in the first place. This recipe looked so good and easy I decided this would be the year to give it a try.


1 gallon of fresh cook water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of bourbon
1 Tablespoon of pepper corns

Mix all ingredients well inside a bag large enough to fit the turkey and liquid. Carefully lower the turkey into the bag. Close up the bag and lower it into an ice chest. Cover bag with ice and set out in the garage or other cool room. Or, place it in your refrigerator if you have the space.

Brine the turkey for up to 24 hours ahead or at least 12 hours turning the turkey over at least once during the process. Keep an eye on the ice adding more ice as needed to keep the turkey ice cold.

Remove the turkey from the brine when ready to roast it. Pat the turkey dry and prepare it for roasting as you usually do.

I tried this brinning solution and let it brine for about 24 hours. When all was said and done I really couldn't tell any difference in the taste. Of course, I suppose it is possible that this turkey could have been very dry had I not brinned it. But as you can see, it looked great and it tasted as good as any turkey I've ever prepared.

So will I bother to brine next year? Well, it wasn't a lot of extra work, but any extra unnecessary work at holiday time is just a waste of time. So probably not!

The rest of our 2008 Thanksgiving dinner menu:

  • Roast Turkey
  • Turkey gravy
  • Cornbread and Sausage Dressing
  • Roasted Brussles Sprouts
  • Orange Cranberry Chutney
  • Cranberry Fluff Salad
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake w/ Pecan Crust

We had friends over for the dinner as well and Peggy, Lara and Fred all contributed to the meal as well. We spent a wonderful afternoon with Gram and the Wepprechts. Along about time for dessert our friend Scott Opsahl came by for a short visit. By about 9:00 pm everyone had gone and the dinner was all but clean up. I finished carving the other half of the turkey and we found a home for all the left overs in the fridge. ________________________________________