Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gobble Gobble Fat Turkey

No, not me.

Recently it was Thanksgiving. I know, not that recent, but I have to show off this damn turkey!

Lyle decided this year that we would get a "healthy" bird. Free-Range you say? Oh no, Pasture raised. The difference being that free range just means "not caged" but can still be in cramped quarters or enclosed in a barn. Pasture raised is the idea that you thought free range was.

Wow, I thought, this bird is gonna' be PRICEY. But we got Mary's Pasture Raised Turkey at Whole Foods and it was around a reasonable $3 a lb. Under $50 for the whole bird. Seriously, I think that is a good price.

Once home the bird was brined in Williams-Sonoma Brining Blend (I think it may be only seasonably available) overnight and then... smoked in the smoker for about 6 hours.

And when it emerged... Voilá!
Admit it, that is a stunning bird. And unbelievably moist (thank you brining) and tasty!

Lyle also picked up a little cooking toy while at Williams-Sonoma, a potato ricer. You mash the potatoes through this baby and man they are creamy without being whipped. Lyle's parents were here and remarked that Lyle's grandmother had one of those and Lyle said that he thought it looked familiar in the store.
Rice it, rice it, baby.

I was in charge of the stuffing. I have taken Lyle's family recipe and modified it slightly to the point where it is really all I need on Thanksgiving. Lyle's dad says that's because I've put an entire meal in there (mind you, he's not complaining).

Jim & Lyle's stuffing
(read this all the way through if you are going to attempt it because I don't really have a recipe and I am just writing it as if I were cooking it in the kitchen. You should slice and dice all the ingredients ahead of time)

Two days in advance, two loaves of bread you love. This year I used a loaf of ciabatta, half a baguette, and half a loaf of whole wheat from my local farmer's market - there were halves as we had already eaten the other parts of bread before I could tear it up. Tear the bread into "rustic" pieces. Non uniform. Not too big, not too small. Bite sized. Set this aside to dry out. Toss and flip over the next few days to ensure even drying. Bread should get a crusty "toasted" feel on the outside, but remain tender to the squish)

Day of -
  • One pound bacon, (I like thick cut apple wood smoked bacon from Trader Joe's) cut the slices into about inch squares
  • Turkey gizzard and heart, (you know, that stuff you had to remove from the cavity) finely diced so you get the flavor without getting a big bite of gross
  • One onion, chopped into pieces about the size of a kernel of corn
  • One red or orange bell pepper, chopped into pieces about the size of a kernel of corn (I like the color splash!)
  • 8-12 stalks of celery, chopped into little moon crescents (if my dad is coming for dinner I put in less celery, he doesn't care for celery) try to keep the slices about as thick as you've been cutting everything else but in the stalk crescent still, not cubed.
  • Two boxes of mushrooms sliced.
  • Two ears of corn on the cob, taken off the cob (or half a bag of frozen corn)
  • A large handful of dried cranberries (more or less, depending on your taste for dried cranberries
  • Fresh sage, to taste. As a general rule I use just a fair bit more than I think needed as it cooks down (I have pineapple sage in my yard that I love to use)
  • 1 cup of poultry broth (maybe a little more, you never know) This year I had duck broth!

Start with the pound of bacon, throw it into the largest pan you own to cook. I like it crisp in the stuffing so I brown it to "near crisp" (as it will keep cooking in the pan with more ingredients).

Once you've got your bacon "near crisp" add the chopped onions. Mix, mix... Stir, stir, stir...

Hold on to your heart, I do not drain the bacon fat off this pan, ever. I think that's why I like the nicer bacon from Trader Joe's, not too much fat... but enough to get a lot of FLAVOR.

So we've added the onions, cook until they start to go translucent, not brown. Add the chopped bell pepper. Mix, mix... Stir, stir, stir...

Now the crescent moon celery goes in and you will cook it all together until the celery starts to get just slightly translucent (it doesn't look the same as when the onions go translucent) and again, before it gets brown. Mix, mix... Stir, stir, stir...

Add the sliced mushrooms. Mix, mix... Stir, stir, stir... Don't cook the mushrooms down to nothingness.

Now its looking amazing and smells even better all thanks to the great god of bacon fat.

Throw in some salt, throw in some more, add pepper. No, add more. I use white pepper so no one can figure out where that pepper taste comes from. Taste. You will say, "Oh my god, this is perfect!" Then you need to add more salt and pepper because what you have in your pan will be distributed amongst all that bread you've been drying for two days (Oh yeah, I forgot I have to mix this in with bread!)

Time to add the final ingredients, throw in your corn, dried cranberries and chopped sage. I add these all near the end because they can get overcooked if thrown in too soon. Mix, mix... Stir, stir, stir... taste, add more seasoning. Remember it should be a strong flavor becasue it will be diluted in that bread. Happy? Remove from heat.

Go find a friend. You're going to need help. Get out the biggest bowl you have, maybe two bowls. Time to stir the cooked pan mixture into your dried out bread. Mix, mix... Stir, stir, stir... Spill over the side. Mix, mix... Stir, stir, stir... and it will start to compact a little. Mix, mix... Stir, stir, stir...

And finally place into a 9 x 12 baking pan (if you went crazy with your bread, you're gonna need two pans). Lightly pack the pan. Slightly press it all in. You want each piece of bread to become very good friends with its neighbor but not meld into one single cell. Once all that bread is in the pan, evenly pour your poultry stock over top. Back and forth lightly with a little extra on the edges and slightly more generous splash into the corners (where it will likely dry out first if it's going to dry out).

At this point I turn to Lyle and say, "Is that enough?" and he says, "Yes. Stop." Then I throw in maybe 1/3 cup more. Lyle always says stop 1/3 cup early of the perfect moist dressing.

Back in the over about 1 hour at 350˚.
All that recipe just to show off my turkey dishes!

After dinner we played Disney "Sorry". We play it like we were in a Mama's Family skit on the Carol Burnett Show.

Every time you play a Sorry card you must ring the bell and sing, "Soooooooorrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyy" as annoying as possible.
Lyle was the Princesses.


Michael Guy said...

That turkey is picture-perfect! And if I had the inclination to mash potatoes I'd most definitely wish for that masher!

LOVE the Thanksgiving china! And I note the RL glassware! So pretty...everything...

LOVED the "Mama's Family" bit; I'd forgotten how damn funny they were.

And why is Lyle the "Princesses"? I thought you were the one with the tiara to prove it?!

dit said...

My what a beautiful bird you have and your stuffing sounds delicious! Probably shouldnt say that in mixed company. lol Seriously though, it all looks and sounds extra good.

Rachel said...

Next time you make the stuffing I'll volunteer to be helper friend and fellow taste tester. XD

The T-Dude said...

I LOVE stuffing. It is the only reason I even care about Thanksgiving. That one looks awesome.