Friday, November 28, 2008

thanksgiving after action report, part I: The Turkey

i love thanksgiving. I get to hang out in my happy kitchen and play with food, all day long. I'm sure plenty of people would see that as drudgery, boring, dumb, waste of time, etc, but I see it as therapy.

What I'm so proud of this year is that a)nearly everything I cooked was a new recipe for me, and b)dude, I pulled a raw turkey apart! my late grandfather the butcher would be proud.

the menu:
Bacon wrapped Turkey roulade with figs, cranberries, feta and apricots, adapted from Bitchincamero
Barbara Kingsolver's Corn Pudding
Scalloped Potatoes
Zucchini sauteed with greenbeans

as there were only two of us, this was plenty of food.

Can I please tell you about my raw turkey adventures? How i wish i had photos, because this was totally cool, and totally gross. Ok, so the recipe called for a butterflied turkey breast. I had a whole turkey breast, with breast bone, ribs, and all (no wings or legs). where in my little kitchen was I going to rip this thing apart? a ha! in the sink! nice and big, and easy to clean.

First, the skin came off. pretty easy, actually. while flipping the bird over, I heard a few audible crunches. that would be the itty bitty ribs. ick. back to the top of the bird. There were some breaks in the breast meat, and slipping my fingertips in there, the top layer came clean away on a seam, (breast meat, slipping my fingertips in? sounds dirty) leaving the tenderloins underneath and still attached to the breastbone. keep in mind, i haven't even touched the knife yet. this is all finger tearing. so I've got the rib cage with tenderloins still attached, and big hunks of breastmeat attached at one seam, almost looking like overly heavy wings. ripping gently with the knife (finally!), the breast meat came away from the breastbone/rib area. breasts in hand (still sounds dirty), the carcass went into the freezer for future soup making use.

while "debreasting" the poor tasty bird, i'd seperated the tenderloin from the breast, so not so much butterflying was going to be happening (it should really be attached if you're going to butterfly), so I just pounded the things between some saran wrap a few times. now it's time to make it pretty!

Bacon Wrapped Turkey Roulade (adapted from Bitchincamero.

two turkey breasts, pounded, weighing about 2 lbs each. (If you can get one giant one, that's even better, but i had two smallish ones)
6 cups water mixed with 1/4 cup salt

Brine the turkey in the salt water for about an hour. while it's brining, do the next steps:
Into a skillet over medium heat, add
2-3 tbsp butter.
when melted, add
1 onion, sliced finely
2 shallots, sliced finely
Let carmelize for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. you want them to get brown. if they start to stick/burn, add more oil, or lower the temp. when carmelized, add
2-3 tbsp water
3/4 cups chopped dried figs (found in the baking area of the grocery store)
stirring often, carmelize figs for another 10 minutes. Everything will get brown and sticky. This is good.

remove turkey from brine, discard brine, rinse turkey, then wrap in paper towels to absorb remaining water.

preheat the oven to 325. have ready:
greased foil lined rimmed cookie sheet
unrimmed cookie sheet
butcher's twine, cut into 8 peices, each about 8-10 inches long (trust me, don't skip this step!)
salt & pepper
your carmelized onion/fig mixture in a bowl
20 slices bacon (I used turkey bacon, but pork bacon would probably work better)
6-8oz feta cheese
about a 1/2 cup cranberries (I used frozen, worked great)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup apricot jam

on the unrimmed cookie sheet, lie down for pieces of butchers twine. put 8 slices of bacon on top, going the same direction. the bacon slices should over lap slightly. put one turkey breast on top of the bacon, crosswise (you want the bacon to wrap around the breast when you roll it up), and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle, but don't skimp. put half the onion mixture evenly on the breast. now put some cranberries, feta, and pecans down. with the help of a friend, roll the breast over the filling, and pulling the bacon around. use two more slices of bacon to cover the gap over the crease. tie with butchers twine, stuff in any stuffing that fell out. Put stuffed breast on the foiled greased rimmed cookie sheet, seam side down. slather half the apricot jam over the bacon.

now do the same with the other breast. this is the messiest thing i've done in a long time. It was even messier than ripping the turkey apart in the sink.

Once your breasts are prepared, and well slathered in apricot jam (damn, that sounds dirty!) pop into the oven for one and a half hours. remove from oven, and let sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting twine off and slicing.

I would absolutely make this again. the one mistake that I made was neglecting to line my rimmed baking sheet with tin foil. any jam that dripped off the turkey burnt to the pan, and i had to soak the thing 3 times to get the burntness off. next time, I will use foil!!!

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