Turkey Redux

November 30, 2008

We have a lot of leftovers from our turkey. The day after Thanksgiving, we usually have turkey sandwiches for lunch. For dinner, I reheat the entire Thanksgiving meal. To reheat the turkey, I put some gravy in a pan and heat that, then add in some slices of turkey for just a few minutes until it is hot. That way the turkey doesn’t overcook and stays moist.

By the Saturday after Thanksgiving I am starting to tire of turkey. So I really appreciated the section in the November Living with all the great leftover idea. My first try was turkey croquettes (page 70).

Croquette mixture

Croquette mixture

The recipe seemed pretty easy. You cook onion in a pan with oil then add thyme and sage. Next you add some chopped turkey and a little cream and cook until the cream is gone. You transfer it to a bowl and let it cool. Then add mashed potatoes, flour and egg. Mix it up and make little croquettes. Here’s where it got tricky. These croquettes were very, very mushy. Martha says to dip them in breadcrumbs, put them on a tray and freeze them for 15 min (a lot of Martha’s recipes

Ready to freeze

Ready to freeze

require a freezing step, I am finding). It was very hard to cover the mushy blobs in breadcrumbs and hard to transfer them to a tray. I muttered a bit at Martha under my breath. I think it might make sense to freeze the mixture for a few minutes first, then shape them into croquettes. They were really hard to work with.

After I froze the breaded croquettes, them it was time to fry. The key here is make sure your oil is very hot. The first batch I did broke apart a little and didn’t cook

Fry it up in a pan

Fry it up in a pan

very evenly, but the second batch was perfect.

You serve them with cranberry sauce. They were tasty with a nice flavor. What was weird was you couldn’t really tell you were eating potato at all. They definitely need the cranberry sauce, so don’t leave that out. I would definitely make these

Fried to perfection

Fried to perfection

again next year. They’re a nice alternative to other turkey leftover dishes I think. A good thing.

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A Tale of Two Pies

November 29, 2008

We always have pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving – it’s a tradition. My recipe uses the crust recipe I got from my mother and the filling that I am embarrassed to admit came from an ad for Libby’s canned pumpkin! Martha has a recipe for Traditional Pumpkin Pie on page 82 of November Living. It was time for a pie-off.

First I made my own crust. This is a simple, no hassle crust. I dump 1 1/3 c of  flour, 1 stick of butter, 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp sugar in the Cuisinart and process till it looks like meal. Then I gradually add 1/4 c ice water until it forms into a ball. I roll it out (and it rolls out smoothly and easily) and pour in the filling and bake. Easy and reliable.

Next I did Martha’s crust. Martha calls for 2 1/2 c flour, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt and 2 sticks of butter. Then you add 3-4 tbsp cold water. Quite different than mine – twice as much butter and almost twice as much flour and much

Messy

Messy

less water. Martha directs you to chill it for 1 hour before rolling it out. I did that. I rolled it out and it was a giant mess. It ripped and shredded all over the place. I ended up having to patch it in places once it was in the pan.

Then Martha says to freeze the pie shell for 15 minutes. When you take it out, you prick it with a fork, put parchment paper inside it and fill it with pie weights. Then

Patched

Patched

you bake for 15 min at 375. Take it out and remove the pie weights and parchment paper and bake for another 15-20 min until it is brown.

By the time I did all this, my pie was completely done. I was feeling a bit annoyed at how complicated Martha’s process was. Thank goodness I have two

Martha's crust baked

Martha

ovens though or I would have been in trouble! That turkey needed to go in while all this was happening!

Next, let’s take a look at the 2 fillings. My fabulous Libby’s pie is made up of 3/4 c white sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves, 2 eggs, 15 oz pumpkin and 12 oz evaporated milk.

Martha’s filling is 3/4 c brown sugar, 1 tbsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp ginger, 3/4 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp vanilla, 3 eggs, 12 oz evaporated milk and 15 oz canned pumpkin. Again, different than mine. She uses an extra egg, brown sugar instead of white, and nutmeg instead of cloves. The cornstarch is extra also.

My pie

My pie

My pie bakes at 425 for 15 min then you reduce the temp to 350 and bake for another 40-50 min. It was done exactly on time.

Martha’s pie bakes at 325. The recipe says 50-55 minutes. WRONG! That pie was not done for a good hour and a half, and that was only after I got annoyed and cranked the temp to 350!

Martha's pie

Martha

Both pies looked good. Martha’s was a little taller than mine.

I made the family do a taste test. The results were split. I loved Martha’s crust. Yes, it was a giant pain to make it, but it tasted terrific. I would make it again. I liked my filling better. It had a stronger flavor and tasted more like pumpkin to me. So in the future I would make her crust with my filling.

Mine- left, Martha- right

Mine- left, Martha- right

The rest of the family was split also. Mini-Martha liked my pie. Teen daughter liked Martha. Mr. MarthaAndMe liked both.


Turkey Talk

November 28, 2008

As I posted earlier, this year I made Martha’s dry brined turkey. In the past I’ve done a wet brine and been very happy with it. I took the plunge though and put my turkey in Martha’s hands.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

The dry brine meant I coated the turkey with a mix of salt and bay leaves and left it in the fridge for 48 hours. Thanksgiving Day, Mr. Turkey came out and we first rinsed it well inside and out. I was a little paranoid about so much salt, so I really wanted to give it a good rinse. Martha says to pat the turkey dry and then rub it with half a stick of butter. I’ve never rubbed a turkey with butter, but if Martha says so I will obey. I also sprinkled some poultry seasoning and salt and pepper on it.

I stuffed the big cavity with regular stuffing. I admit I did not do a Martha stuffing since my kids would mutiny. Here’s how I make stuffing. All year long I keep a bag in the freezer and throw stale bread and the ends of loaves into. Come Thanksgiving, I have a nice variety of different breads and plenty to make stuffing with. I cook up onions and celery and add that with poultry seasoning, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, sage, salt and pepper to the stuffing. Then I get it wet with broth and water. Pretty easy.

The small cavity was stuffed with a new family tradition – cornbread stuffing. We tried this last year and it was a hit and everyone wanted it again. I make cornbread and treat it like I do the regular bread stuffing.

Once the turkey was stuffed, Martha says to tuck the wings underneath it. It took a while to figure out how to do this. What she really means it to take the tips of the wings – that third, skinny part – and bend it backwards and then stick it under the front of the turkey (the neck end). Next, I tied the legs together as directed by Martha. Into the oven it went. Martha says to baste it every half hour with a butter and white wine mixture. I just used butter (we’re not big on wine).

Martha says to start the oven at 425 then turn it down to 350 after half an hour. I did as directed.

Here’s where things got a little kooky. My turkey was 19 lbs and every chart I consulted said it should take 4 1/2 to 5 hours stuffed to cook. Ha! This bird was done in 3 1/2 hours! I was not prepared at all! I turned the oven down to warm and raced around peeling potatoes and cooking veggies.

Right out of the oven

Right out of the oven

I let it rest outside the oven for about half an hour before Mr. MarthaAndMe carved. What a beautiful bird this recipe produced! It was a gorgeous bronze color, just like the one of the cover of the November issue of Living. I’ve never seen a turkey so brown and perfect.

This was hands down the most delicious turkey I have ever made. It tasted simply incredible. Moist, flavorful, silky – to die for. I did use a different kind of turkey this year – organic, free range when in the past I’ve only used organic, so that may be part of it. But I believe the dry brine definitely made this turkey moist and tasty. Slathering it with

Ready to carve

Ready to carve

butter probably helped too.

What else did we have? Mashed potatoes, gravy (pan drippings mixed with turkey broth that I mix Wondra into), and roasted root vegetables (carrot, parsnip and rutabaga with olive oil and balsamic vinegar). Pumpkin pie for dessert (that’ll be tomorrow’s post, so tune in to find out how Martha’s pie went).

We had a great Thanksgiving. We watched the parade and the dog show. After dinner we played some games and then watched the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving show. It was a terrific, relaxing day. We have lots of leftovers – Oh! I can’t wait to have that turkey sandwich at lunch! I’m also planning to try out some of Martha’s leftover ideas from November Living.

I will definitely make this dry brined turkey again next year. It is much easier to make than the wet brine and the results were simply incredible!


Win Martha!

November 27, 2008

Win Martha’s products, each Friday from now to the end of the year. I’m entering. I really want one of the lamps! What do you want to win?

Happy Thanksgiving! Check back to see how Martha’s dry brined turkey and pumpkin pie turned out!


Cooking School #5: Turkey Brining

November 26, 2008

For the past few years, I have done a wet brine for my Thanksgiving turkey. My brine usually includes salt (obv, as my teen would say), cider, sugar, lemon juice, lemon slices, orange slices, and some Williams Sonoma Turkey Brine mix Mr. MarthaAndMe bought me for Christmas one year.  I’ve experimented with adding brown sugar or molasses. I’ve had great success with brining. It creates a moist and flavorful turkey. It’s well worth the effort. Martha said on her show Tuesday that this is the year of the brined turkey. She said in past years people were all excited about deep frying their turkeys, but this year everyone is brining. Look at me, riding the trend!

In the past, I bought a Plainville Farms organic turkey from a butcher shop. This year, however, I bought an organic, free range turkey from my grocery store. It was $64 for a 19 pound turkey! Yowza!

In the November issue of Living, Martha has a recipe for a Dry-Brined Turkey, which she and Sarah Carey demo’ed on the 5th Cooking School lesson on her show (which I missed, but was able to catch most of online). I had never heard of a dry brine before this, so this is a new one for me. The scientific explanation for it that somehow the salt draws all the juices of the turkey to the surface which makes it juicier. I’m not chemist, but I’ll give it a shot. Martha says you must dry brine your turkey on Tuesday if you want it on Thursday (it needs to sit for 48 hours), so that was the plan.

Mr. MarthaAndMe and the cavity

Mr. MarthaAndMe and the cavity

First step is to remove the giblets. Eww, gross. I hate those! Mr. MarthaAndMe was glad to step in and hold the turkey’s intimate parts for me. I love how Martha wears gloves to work with turkeys. I definitely could use those. One small glitch – this turkey had an actual feather still attached. Eeek! That did not make me happy! Mr. MarthaAndMe bravely plucked it out.

Next, you rinse the turkey off, inside and out. I understand the importance of this, but boy do I hate doing it. All I can do is imagine nasty turkey salmonella germs all

Patting Mr. Turkey Dry

Patting Mr. Turkey Dry

over my sink. Blech. (I know I do seem to have many issues when it comes to turkeys, don’t I?) There was some serious cleaning when this project was done I can tell you.

The next step is to pat the turkey dry. Ok, got that Martha.

Then you rub the turkey, inside and out, with a mix of salt and bay leaves. I really expected there to be more in the mixture than that, but I’m doing what Martha says. This was harder than it sounds. Since I patted Mr. Turkey dry, the salt and bay leaf stuff didn’t want to stick to him at all. I kept rubbing it on and it kept just rolling off.

Then you put the turkey-lurkey in a bag and get the air out and refrigerate until

Dry Brine

Dry Brine

Thanksgiving day. Martha says to use an oven bag. I cheated and used a giant size Ziploc. I got all the air out and tucked the zippy part underneath.

I’m a little nervous about this! I’m used to my wet brining approach, so I’m worried this won’t be as good. All I can do is trust in Martha. As always, I do enjoy trying something new, so I’m definitely game. I’ll report back after turkey day as to the results! I’m sure there are others of you out there trying this method too, so I’m interested to hear your results also.

Turkey massage

Turkey massage

Turkey in a bag

Turkey in a bag


Baked Artichoke Hearts and Pomegranates, Oh My!

November 25, 2008

On Martha’s show yesterday, Sarah Carey and Lucinda Scala Quinn both cooked their “Sensational Sides” from the November issue of Living. These are recipes their families make every year. Sarah made peach stuffing, which I find too weird to attempt (although the fact that Sarah was raised on a commune in Woodstock is fascinating). Lucinda made baked artichoke hearts. I have to say when I saw this in the magazine, it didn’t interest me, but when I saw her make it, it looked so good (and Martha was raving about it)!

Getting to the heart

Getting to the heart

So, out I ran to the grocery store to buy some artichoke hearts (you have no idea how many grocery store trips Martha is causing me!). The recipe calls for 3 nine oz packages. I only bought one since the daughter wasn’t home for dinner and Mini-Martha would likely have only a taste. I cut the rest of the recipe by 1/3 as well.

This was super easy to throw together. Put your hearts in the pan (sounds

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

like a song, doesn’t it?). Mix breadcrumbs (Martha will be proud – I made my own for this!), grated cheese, herbs and seasonings together and spread over it. Then whisk lemon juice, garlic and oil together and spread over it.

You cook it for about half an hour at 325 covered, then crank it to

Crunchy!

Crunchy!

375 uncovered. How did it taste? This was pretty good. The hearts were soft and the topping was crunchy. Here’s how I would improve it. First of all, use melted butter instead of olive oil. It just needs some extra flavor. Cut back on the lemon juice. It was a bit a tart I thought. I think I would make this again with those changes. I can also see adding some bacon crumbles or more cheese to this to make it really decadent.

Pomegranate Peeling

My kids like pomegranates, but they are such a huge mess. So I was simply stunned when I saw Martha easily remove the seeds from one on her show. I had to try it.

Scoring

Scoring

Martha says to cut through the skin as if you are quartering it, but only cut the skin, not the insides. Use that incision to get your fingers in and pull it apart into 4 quarters.

The pieces

The pieces

Once you have the 4 quarters, whack them on the back with the back of a wooden spoon and all the seeds will magically pop out (so says Martha). The POM pomegranate lady Martha had on didn’t even know this!

I had to try it. First I sliced the skin. This was easy. Then I pulled it into quarters. Again, not too hard, although it did not come apart very evenly.

Then I got to take out my aggressions on it with the wooden spoon. It did

Seeds remaining

Seeds remaining

get most of the seeds out, but you do have to pull some of the pulp out to get to some and get some seeds out by hand. Overall, fairly effective. It was messy though. Seeds were flying every which way and you can see juice was spattering too, if you look at the edges of the bowl. This was pretty effective though and much easier than trying to peel it and pick out seeds by hand. I will definitely use this method again. Now if Martha just had a plan for how to eat the seeds without having to have a spitoon at the ready, I would be really excited!

The results

The results


Thanksgiving Table

November 24, 2008

I must confess that since we usually stay home for Thanksgiving, I don’t go nuts (ha! You’ll get the joke later in the blog) with table decorations. I use the good china, but generally stick with everyday silverware. Cloth napkins, maybe. This year, in my ongoing Martha makeover, I knew I had to kick it up a notch or two.

Candy Caper

First, I printed out the turkey candy bar wrapper template from Martha’s site that is shown on page 110 of the November issue of Living. I thought this was going to be slam dunk easy. Silly me. On 3 different trips to the store, I bought three different candy bars. None were the right size for this. The directions say to buy a 3 by 6 inch candy bar. Apparently all my efforts to estimate this size did not work! I have no idea why this was so complicated. The only way to make this one work is to take the wrapper to the store and find a candy bar that fits it. I gave up finally. No candy bars on my table. Sorry, Martha.

Going Nuts

Next I decided I wanted to make the cute acorn napkin decoration from page 54 of November Living. I couldn’t find any faux acorns, and we don’t have any real ones around here. Instead, I decided to use chestnuts! My mom always used to take me to pick them up when I was kid and she would tell me to put one in my pocket for luck. Once I had kids, she would take them to pick up chestnuts too. I have a basket of chestnuts in the family room that comes out with the fall decorations, so I just stole a few from it to do this.

Drill in action

Drill in action

Mr. MarthaAndMe got

Ready to use

Ready to use

out the drill and we drilled a hole in each chestnut. It wasn’t too hard to do at all! Then I pushed ribbon through (I used the end of a paper clip to shove it through) and tied a knot under each chestnut. Next, I just wrapped the ribbon around the napkin and tied it into a knot.

I think these are adorable and the added bonus is that they would work for a woodsy kind of Christmas setting too. This was so easy! I am proud of myself for attempting and succeeding at another craft (ok, so it was a minor one!).

Getting Centered

Martha had a “Good Things to Save Money” tip on her show recommending you just fill a bowl with apples for your Thanksgiving centerpiece. There’s also a section in the Nov. Living about making centerpieces from cabbages (trust me here, the cabbages in my grocery store do not look like the pretty ones Martha used).

I have a really cute faux pumpkin with flowers in it that I actually bought at the grocery store, which is my fall centerpiece. But to please Martha, I attempted to make my own from apples and pears. It looks kind of lame I think.

Placecards

Table setting a la Martha

Table setting a la Martha

On Page 54 of November Living, Martha also has leaf placecards. You take a plain card (she used black but I chose green) and cut a diagonal slit in one corner and insert a leaf there. Great, except all of our leaves have turned brown, crumpled into nothing, and been covered with snow by now. So I used a faux leaf instead. I think it’s actually kind of cute.


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