Thursday, April 12, 2012

Slow Cooker Turkey - True Thrift

The other day I found myself in one of those Rowe Farms butcher shops. They're not bad given that they do all their own cutting  and have pretty good, naturally raised (in some cases organic) meat.  In any event, I suppose as a hang over from the Easter Weekend, they had some turkey available. Why people would cook turkey for Easter is beyond me, however it is evident that people do, thus there was a bit of overstock. The boys at Rowe had portioned up the turkey and had leg quarters (which by the way, or huge), for about six bucks a piece. A turkey leg quarter could feed my entire family - six bucks for high quality, naturally raised turkey? How could I say no? I bought two legs and two thighs (along with a bag of marrow bones and some pork shanks - damn I love butcher shops). I don't use my slow cooker as often as I should, so I decided to pull it out and give it a whirl. I use a pressure cooker quite a bit, so the slow cooker is its very antithesis. The thing they have in common is that they are easy to use and incredibly useful tools for family cooking. Why more people don't use slow cookers and pressure cookers is anyone's guess. Anyway, here's what I did:

Brown the turkey thoroughly in some oil, then set aside. Then in the remaining fat, toss in a few carrots (halved or quartered), a couple of ribs of celery (halved) and a couple of onions (halved). Once they've got a bit of colour and sweated down, take the vegetables and the turkey and get them in your slow cooker. Then follow that with a few bay leaves, some fresh thyme, a clove of garlic, a cup of white wine and enough water to cover the meat. Lightly season, and then put on the lid and set at high for about four or five hours (depending on the size of the turkey and your slowcooker). Keep an eye on it - you want a gentle bubble - not a boil, but also not mill pond calm. Feel free to skim if the mood suits you. I don't skim with slowcooking - that can be addressed after when your sorting out the stock.  For timing, I actually put this on after dinner (which itself was other leftovers) and it was done by the time I went to bed. My slow cooker has a removable insert for which I simply removed, cooled slightly and then stored in the fridge overnight. This allowed the meat and the stock and everything else to set up overnight. The next day, I simply removed the turkey from the now congealed and gelatin-rich braising medium and put them on cookie sheet in a hot oven along with the vegetables. This will warm them through and brown the outside. In the meantime, I put on some peeled basic white potatoes to steam and got to sorting out the stock. The cooking medium will almost be pure jelly - this is a good thing. Warm it all in a saucepan, and once liquid again, pour through a fine sieve into a clean pot. Put up the heat, and then reduce by about 25%. At this point, I put aside all but about half a cup of the stock in a jar to cool for soup on another day. Then I thickened the remainder in the pot with a bit of beurre manier to create a sort of veloute sauce or chicken gravy. I seasoned it and flavoured with a tiny bit of nutmeg. Then the turkey and veg come out of the oven (now crispy on the outside and fall-off-the-bone tender on the inside) and arranged in a large platter with the steamed spuds and a ladle or two of the gravy over top with the remainder on the side for pouring. It smelled a little like Thanksgiving in the house - cranberry sauce would have worked here, but I didn't have any - black currant jam hit the spot. Either way, after all was said and done, I have a nice turkey stock in the fridge, and with the leftover meat, two additional meals all for the cost of two six dollar leg quarters. Now that's thrift!

As a postscript, since writing this blog, the leftovers from this meal made a turkey and basil farfalle on day two, a really good soup on day three and the last bit of meat was shredded, tossed in a warm pot with a bit of homemade BBQ sauce and slathered all over a crusty piece of toast for a quick, Carolina inspired lunch for the final day. That's four meals from that one bit of turkey - my Scotch thrift is showing.

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