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

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

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.

Not So Flash Taco

China. Fine china. Bone china. You know, the fancy stuff you register for when you get hitched, or those dishes that your grandma gave your mom that your mom gave you (or maybe she just stored them away in the attic) that you’re supposed to give to your daughter. Sure, those dishes are pretty, and I’m sure using them impresses people during those special dinners.

But they aren’t for me.

And while I enjoy dining out, I definitely don’t fit the mold of the typical high-end dining guest. And I could care less about the way my silverware is placed on the table, or if they remove my plate the correct way, and it bothers me just a tad when they fold my napkin while I’m in the restroom.

If truth be told, on most days I’d prefer leaving the utensils in the drawer and digging in with my hands. Forks and knives just get in the way sometimes, don’t you think?

Which is part of the reason, I think, that tacos are one of my very favorites. And sure, Flash Taco usually hits the spot, particularly when you’re approximately three sheets to the wind, but these days it’s all about the braise. People tend to braise beef or pork, but in this case I was intrigued by the braising of turkey.

Braising turkey, and the fact that said turkey would become shredded like that oh-so-mouth-watering barbeque, and then, then, encased in a corn tortilla. After being braised in beer, of course.

It’s a taco concoction you won’t find at Flash Taco, or any other taco joint, for that matter. It’s a taco that is a lovely consideration for Thanksgiving leftovers, when the time comes, but in March it’s a welcome change from all the soups and all the beefs and if you can believe it, from the pork.

And better yet, it’s a taco just like any other taco, that you eat with your hands, and even when the pieces fall out of the sides of the tortilla, you pick them up, lick your fingers, and keep on goin’.

Beer-Braised Turkey Tacos with Roasted Tomato Salsa
Adapted from Food & Wine, March 2010; serves 4

printable version

3-4 plum tomatoes
2-3 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 serrano chile
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 c cilantro (or more, to taste)
salt, to taste
lime juice, to taste

2 T evoo
Two 1-lb bone-in turkey thighs or drumsticks, skin and fat removed
salt and pepper
4 lg garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 med onion, small dice
1 t dried Mexican oregano
1 lg jalapeno, sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick
1 med plum tomato, coarsely chopped
1 ancho or guajillo chile, seeded and torn into pieces
1 cinnamon stick
1 12-oz bottle of dark Mexican beer (Modelo Negro)
1 c water
8 corn tortillas
2 T toasted black or white sesame seeds and cilantro, for garnish

heat 1 T in large dutch oven. season turkey with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 8 minutes. transfer to plate. add remaining 1 T of oil to dutch oven along with garlic, oregano, onion, and jalapeno and cook over moderate heat until onion is softened, about 8 minutes. add tomato, chile, and cinnamon stick and cook, stirring, until tomato releases juices.

preheat oven to 350 F. place salsa ingredients (tomatoes, serrano, and garlic) on baking sheet and roast until tender (20-30 minutes). keep oven on 350 F.

meanwhile, return turkey to pot and add beer and water; bring to boil. cover and simmer over low heat, turning once, until turkey thighs are tender, about 1 hour. transfer turkey to plate and let cool. discard cinnamon stick and boil the sauce over high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 12 minutes.

puree roasted salsa ingredients with remaining salsa ingredients and season to taste.

shred turkey meat with two forks. wrap tortillas in foil and bake for about 8 minutes, until softened and heated through. transfer sauce to food processor and puree. return to pot and stir in shredded turkey. season with salt and pepper. spoon turkey over warm tortillas and top with cilantro, sesame seeds, and salsa.