Leftover Central

I found a turkey in my freezer a few weeks ago. What? Yeah, that’s right. Our CSA, which although I did love it I’m glad it’s finally finished because we had way too much food, included a rather large turkey right before Thanksgiving last year. Generally, I’d think that was pretty great, because we could use a turkey around Thanksgiving, but we’d already ordered ours since Chris likes his heritage turkeys and the farm we ordered from last time sold out quickly.

That said, I’ve never been one to complain about having too much meat around the house (that’s what she said). The down side with the turkey, however, is that it took up a lot of precious space in that little freezer of ours. So after Christmas I vowed to roast that sucker, and have turkey leftovers for days.

Strangely enough, I’ve never roasted a turkey before. That’s Chris’ job; I make the other fixin’s for the best holiday ever, and he cooks the bird. So I was sorta excited that I got to pick my own recipe, and do my own thing.

Also, I would never get away with stuffing cilantro into a turkey on Thanksgiving, because Chris would promptly say, “that’s not traditional”. What can I say, he likes his traditions; I like my cilantro.

I should state here that I’m aware that posting a turkey recipe in the middle of February might not be the smartest idea, but for two reasons I felt it still post-worthy, and actually rather genius, I might add:

For one, this is easily adapted to chicken, and nothing’s better than tossing a chicken into the oven and roasting it whole for a nice Sunday dinner. Just scale back the ingredients and cooking time, and the deed is done.

And second, if you can get your hands on a turkey this time of year, it’s probably much cheaper than buying it in November, and you can save all the uneaten meat in your freezer for months, resulting in oodles of leftover recipes. This is exactly why I was reminded of this recipe, as I’ve been trying to use up all that stuff in the freezer, and as a result I located a bag of shredded turkey.

Said turkey went a long way, that’s for sure. Mexican turkey soup, turkey salad, a mouth-watering turkey pot pie adapted from a previous recipe that’s been on my mind since I made it and as a result has been my dinner all. week. long, and even some turkey tacos.

Of course, you could just have an impromptu ‘Thanksgiving dinner’ in February, and there’d be not nary a thing wrong with that either.

Apple-Poblano Roasted Turkey
adapted from Cooking Light, November 2010; serves at least 12

time commitment: 3 hours, most of which is inactive

the original recipe included a 24-hour brine, which I’m usually a big fan of, but I skipped it this time and the turkey was plenty juicy and flavorful.

printable version

ingredients
1  (12-pound) organic fresh turkey
1  T  brown sugar
1  t  kosher salt
3/4  t  dried oregano
1/2  t  ground cumin
1/2  t  freshly ground black pepper
1/2  t  ground red pepper
1/4  t  ground coriander
3  Gala apples, quartered and divided
2  poblano chiles, quartered, seeded, and divided
1  c  cilantro leaves
Cooking spray
3  c  water
3  c  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
2  T butter
2  c  chopped onion
5  garlic cloves, crushed
1.13  oz  all-purpose flour (about 1/4 cup)
1  c  apple cider
3  T  chopped fresh cilantro
2  T  fresh lime juice

instructions
To prepare turkey, remove giblets and neck from turkey. Trim excess fat. Preheat oven to 500 F.

Pat turkey dry. Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat. Combine 1 T sugar and next 6 ingredients (through coriander) in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture under loosened skin over flesh. Place 1 apple quarter and 1 poblano quarter in the neck cavity; close skin flap. Arrange 5 apple quarters, 1 poblano quarter, and 1 cup cilantro leaves in the body cavity. Secure legs with kitchen twine. Arrange turkey on the rack of a roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Arrange remaining 6 apple quarters and 6 poblano quarters in bottom of roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Place rack with turkey in pan. Roast at 500 for 30 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 F (do not remove turkey from oven). Place a foil tent over turkey breast. Pour 3 cups water in bottom of pan. Bake turkey at 350 for 40 minutes. Rotate turkey, and baste with 3/4 cup broth. Roast for 30 minutes; rotate turkey. Baste with 3/4 cup broth. Roast 20 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 F. Remove from oven. Place turkey, breast side down, on a jelly-roll pan or cutting board. Let stand, covered, for 30 minutes. Serve breast side up.

Strain pan drippings through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté for 5 minutes or until translucent. Stir in chopped garlic; sauté 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Sprinkle flour over onion mixture; saute 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add drippings, remaining 1 1/2 cups broth, and 1 cup apple cider; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until reduced to 3 cups (about 15 minutes). Strain through a sieve over a bowl, and discard solids. Stir in chopped cilantro and lime juice. Carve and serve with gravy.

Getting Fresh

Now that the big secret’s out, we can get back to this backlog of recipes I’ve been wanting to talk about for ages but wasn’t able to since there’s been about ten thousand things on my mind.

And let there be no doubt, there are still at least 9,000 things on my mind, but nonetheless, enough space has been cleared in my brain where I can talk about food again. Cooking it is another thing, but fortunately I have a pretty big backlog.

I don’t know about you, but one of the first things that comes to my mind when I think of California (my future state of residence!!) is all the fresh food. The words fresh and local will be a little different in the Golden State than here in the Midwest – word on the street is that people grow oranges, and lemons, and maybe even avocados there! I’m hoping real hard to land a place with a lemon tree in the backyard, and if not, you best believe I might plant one myself, even with my horrible track record of growing things.

This is certainly a recipe that should fit well into any season, but it’s usually in January or so when I really crave something light and fresh in between all the stews and chili. Plus, with having a constant meat rotation with the CSA, I find that I need a good excuse to have some fresh fish that isn’t something coming from my freezer. This is a good, easy answer to all of those things.

And I never turn down a taco, or an avocado, or salmon for that matter. All things that make moving to the West Coast even more exciting, if truth be told.

Chipotle-Rubbed Salmon Tacos
Adapted from Food & Wine, March 2010; serves 4

time commitment: ~30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
salsa
1 Granny Smith apple—peeled and small-diced
1/2 cucumber—peeled, seeded, and small-diced
1/2 small red onion, small-diced
1/2 small red bell pepper, small-diced
1 1/2 T champagne vinegar
1 1/2 t sugar
salt

2 T mayonnaise
2 t fresh lime juice
2 t chipotle chile powder
2 t finely grated orange zest
2 t sugar
1 lb skinless wild Alaskan salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
1 T plus 1 t extra-virgin olive oil
8 corn tortillas
salt
1 Hass avocado, mashed
zest from 1 lime

instructions
cut up all ingredients for salsa. toss with vinegar, sugar, and salt. can be prepared in advance and refrigerated.

preheat the oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the lime juice. In another small bowl, combine the chipotle powder with the orange zest and sugar. Rub each piece of salmon with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and then with the chipotle–orange zest mixture. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Wrap the tortillas in foil and bake for about 8 minutes, until they are softened and heated through.

Meanwhile, heat a grill pan. Season the salmon with salt and grill over high heat until nicely browned and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

Break salmon into small chunks. Spread the mashed avocado on the warm tortillas and top with the salmon, and salsa. Drizzle each taco with the lime mayonnaise and serve right away.