Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving Trial Run

I've been appointed as the Grand Wizard of Thanksgiving this year, so I am in charge of cooking for twenty-two people in about a week and a half.  As many of you may know, I can't do anything the normal way, so I wanted to do a scaled down version early to get out many of the bugs that could plague the day in two Thursdays. 

Enter the lovely Miss Brianna.  She, unfortunately for her, has to work on Thanksgiving.  All the selfish people at the hospital can't just quit being sick for even one day, but I suppose that's how it works.  Plus she had every weekend for the entire summer off, so this is some decent payback.  Anyway, she got to experience a Thanksgiving early with us.  Here is how everything went.  I got some of this off the Alinea Thanksgiving, but tossed in a few modifications of my own. 

The turkey and stuffing are cooked sous vide, which means that it is vacuum sealed (in a Vac Saver) and then cooked in a large amount of water that is held at a specific temperature.  When I do it again, I will cook the dark meat at 168-170 degrees instead of the 175 I did today.  I will cook the white meat at 155-157 rather than 165.  If you want to make your own sous vide thing at home, you need a giant stockpot and a thermometer with a clip.  You then fill it almost full of water and clip the thermometer on the side.  Heat the water over low heat until it stabilizes at a temperature, then adjust the heat up or down until it stabilizes at the proper temp.  Also, if you are using a vac saver, you have to be sure there is almost no liquid in the bag.  It doesn't seal if there is liquid in the bag, so be sure the turkey is dry.  You could use a large zip lock bag too, but it might take a little longer because of the air in the bag.  No you won't have a nice turkey to present, but you will have perfectly cooked, not dry turkey.  Since this is cooked well above 140 degrees, there shouldn't be too much of a food safety concern, but I should note that you should either serve the meat immediately or cool it quickly (by covering it in moist paper towels and putting it in the fridge) as to prevent bacteria growth.  I don't want to turn you off of sous vide since it's an awesome way to cook, but you should take heed of those safety measures.

Turkey (serves 4-6)
1 eleven lb turkey, thawed (mine wasn't fully thawed, so butchering it was not easy.
1 stick of butter cut into 3 pieces
6 sprigs of thyme
half of a  package of sage, stems removed
kosher salt
olive oil

1.  Put 2 large stockpots filled with water on the burners.  Heat one to 170 and the other to 155
2. Butcher turkey into legs, wings, and breasts.  Break bones down with a cleaver and reserve.
3.  Pat the legs with paper towels to be sure that they are very dry.  Put the legs together in a vacuum bag.  Toss in 1 of the pieces of butter, 2 sprigs of thyme and 1/3 of the sage.  Put in a few pinches of salt and some pepper.  Seal the legs in a vacuum bag and put into the 170 degree pot of water.
4.  Repeat, putting wings in one bag and breasts in another with the remaining butter, thyme, and sage.  Put the wings in with the legs in the 170 degree pot and put the breasts in the 155 degree water.
5.  Cook in the water for 2.5-3 hours.
6.  When you remove the turkey from the bag, reserve the rendered turkey fat for the gravy.
7.  Remove the turkey from the bags and put to the side.  Film a large saute pan with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat until smoking.  Put the legs in first, skin side down for about a minute until skin is browned.  Flip and do the same with the other side.
8.  Repeat the browning process with the wings.
9.  Repeat the browning process with the breasts.  The breasts only have skin on one side only, so no need to brown the other side.

Turkey Stock (You may want to start the stock an hour or so before you cook the turkey)
Bones from the butchered turkey
2 carrots, large diced
2 celery stalks, large diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine
olive oil

1.  Film a large saute pan with the olive oil and heat over high heat until smoking.
2.  Carefully arrange the bones in the pan.  Cook until the bottom is very brown and then flip.
3.  When both sides are very dark brown (almost burnt), deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping the bottom to get up all the turkey.
4.  Put in the carrots, celery, onion, and bay leaves and cook with the bones for 8-10 minutes until aromatic.
5.  Add enough water to cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 3 hours until reduced by at least half.
6.  Skim the fat off the top occasionally.
7.  If you have time, refrigerate overnight to get the fat to the top.  Pull the fat layer off.

Stuffing (serves 4)
7 cups of whole wheat bread (about 3/4 loaf), cut into medium sized squares
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 package of sage
1 scant cup of turkey stock
1 stalk celery, small dice
1/2 onion, small dice
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, small diced
1 1/4 stick unsalted butter
2 tspn kosher salt

1.  Put bread in a large bowl.
2.  Melt butter over a medium heat.  Add garlic, onion, celery, sage, and bay leaves to the hot butter, and cook for 7 minutes until onions are slightly browned.
3.  Pour butter and its contents over bread and stir until incorporated.
4.  Gently stir in eggs and turkey stock until incorporated.  Too much stirring will make the bread mushy, and no one likes mushy bread.
5.  Put the stuffing in a large zip lock bag.  Presss out all the air and seal.  Put in the 170 degree pot with the dark meat for about an hour and a half.
6.  After an hour and a half, remove the stuffing from the bag and put into a bread pan.  Put under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp the top.

Reserved turkey fat
Turkey stock

1.  In a shallow pan, bring the turkey fat to a simmer over low heat.
2.  Stir 1 tbsp of flour into the simmering turkey fat, whisking constantly until there are no visible lumps of flour.
3.  When there is no flour visible, stir in another tbsp of flour while constantly whisking.  Repeat process until turkey fat is very thick and leaves a trail on the bottom of the pan when you run a spoon through it.
4.  When it reaches this stage of thickness, thin it out with some turkey stock until it seems watery.
5.  Continue simmering and whisking stock until it rethickens.
6.  It should already be properly seasoned from the rendered turkey fat, so no need to mess around with it.  Keep warm over lowest heat until serving.

Mashed Potatoes
6 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and large diced (yukon golds hold liquid better), peels reserved
1 stick of unsalted butter, cold
1/3 cup milk, hot
2 tbsp kosher salt

1.  Rinse potatoes in cold water to get the surface starch off of them.
2.  Heat a large stock pot of water to 160 degrees, and put potatoes in it for about 30 minutes, be sure not to let it get much above 160 degrees.  This stage is to render the starch which would make the mashed potatoes lumpy.  You will see the water get very cloudy.
3.  Pour out hot water and rinse potatoes in cold water again to get the starch off.
4.  Rinse out the stockpot and put the potatoes in it.  Put in enough water to cover.  Put the peels in a cheese cloth sack and put this in the water as well.  Heat over medium heat.
5.  Once the water gets hot, stir in salt.  Simmer for about 30-45 minutes until potatoes are tender and are easily pierced by a fork.  Discard cheese cloth containing potato skins.
6.  Put butter in a large bowl, put hot potatoes in a potato ricer or china cap and rice the potatoes over the butter.  Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until the butter is melted and incorporated.
7.  Stir in hot milk.  Salt (you shouldn't need much, if any) and pepper to taste.

Here is the dinner, in all its glory!

Who could forget dessert?

Berry Crisps (serves 6)

1 lb assorted berries (raspberrys, strawberrys, blueberrys, blackberrys, etc.)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tspn corn starch

1 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped nuts
1 1/2 cup crushed cereal (like corn flakes)
1 handful of crackers, crushed
1/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1 1/2 tspn pure vanilla extract
1 stick butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

1.  Combine all Filling ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate while preparing the topping.
2.  Combine all topping ingredients in a mixer bowl.  Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer mix together on medium speed until the butter is crumbly and well combined.
3.  Refrigerate the topping while the oven preheats.
4.  Preheat oven to 350.
5.  Mix half the topping into the fruit.
6.  Put fruit mixture into ramekins, generously sprinkle the topping onto each fruit-filled ramekin.
7.  Bake in the oven on a baking pan for 30-35 minutes until fruit is bubbling on the sides.
8.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes while the top sets and the inside cools slightly.
9.  Serve with vanilla ice cream and eat while warm.

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