Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Turkey Talk Post-Feast

We had a Thanksgiving Feast First this year.  Our first free-range turkey and my first experience brining a turkey.  Michael's been trying for a few years to bring home a wild turkey but has been unsuccessful so far.  They taunt him.  They brazenly show themselves in large numbers, flaunting their feathers at him when he's out hunting deer, presenting and holding still for the perfect shot, knowing full well that they are out of season and perfectly safe because Michael is an ethical hunter and won't shoot them.  As soon as turkey season arrives - POOF - they're gone.  Not a turkey to be seen.  I, pining to cook a wild turkey and being (ahem) maybe a little less ethical than my husband, have been saying, "Ef 'em! Shoot the bastard!  I wanna cook it!"  Michael smiles tolerantly at me and keeps me honest.  So this year he bought me a free-range turkey from our friends at Indigo Seafood.  I admit to suffering sticker shock, being used to .57/lb giants from the supermarket, but the point is to get away from factory farmed animals and without government subsidies and with responsible animal husbandry comes a higher reality-based price, as opposed to the artificial low price supported ultimately by the taxes we pay.

Without a doubt and with unanimous agreement of everyone sitting around our holiday table, that was the best damn turkey we've ever eaten!  We will be raising a couple-three turkeys for next year's feasts!

Our feast started with nibbles for folks while I was putting the final touches on the main event.

A platter of Michael's deviled eggs surrounding Hot Honeyed Cherry Peppers stuffed with smokey trout and goat cheese.

Chipotle Cherries, Pickled Asparagus and Refrigerator Pickled Baby Yellow Summer Squash, Garlic Dill Pickles, and Spiced Olives.

Carrot and celery sticks with Boursin-style cheese spread.

While folks were noshing, the turkey was resting.

While the turkey rested, gravy was made and apple-cranberry-walnut stuffing appeared.  Although in this instance it might actually have been dressing since I was warned to bake it separately from the brined turkey.  Seems stuffing cooked inside a brined turkey becomes way too salty.  Which inspired the conversation about "stuffing" being a Yankee term and "dressing" being a Southern term and was it just different names for the same thing or is it stuffing when it's cooked inside the bird and dressing when it's cooked outside the bird and does it really matter anyway once gravy is applied?  But in any case, I stuffed the bird with Granny Smith Apple halves running on the theory that the apples would perfume the meat and provide extra moisture.

And then there was oven roasted, maple glazed acorn squash, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts with pecans from our son James' tree.  So far this recipe has converted a number of Brussels sprouts haters.  Maple syrup and butter can make a lot of things better!  And two quarts of our canned Romano green beans.  With butter.

Next, while everybody was distracted with appetizers, drinks and conversation, I wrestled the turkey into submission and onto the platter.  Because I think that only in Norman Rockwell paintings and through the magic of old movies and TV shows does anyone ever expertly carve a turkey at the table with the flair and finesse deserving of an audience.  Certainly not me.  I flip that bugger this way and that while applying all the appropriate cuss magic words it takes to get the job done.

With all the food plated and ready to go we filled our plates buffet-style.  Conversation lulled while the first bites of turkey went down.

It was at this point we all looked at each other, free-range turkey virgins that we were, and declared it The-Best-Turkey-Ever!  I can only blame my increasingly intense food buzz for forgetting to take pictures of dessert.  All I know is that at some point my dinner plate disappeared and a dessert plate of apple pie and pumpkin mousse was slipped into it's place.  I'm not sure how, when, or by whom, but I never question good magic.  It was either Glenda, the good witch or my dear husband.

Cider Brine
4 quarts apple cider, divided
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1/4 cup whole allspice
8 bay leaves
16 whole black peppercorns
8 whole star anise pods
6 garlic cloves, smashed
6 scallions, white parts only, trimmed, split lengthwise
6 1/4”-thick slices unpeeled ginger
5 dried shitake mushrooms
2 3”-4” cinnamon sticks
4 quarts cold water
Directions - start 3 days in advance
Day 1
Simmer 1 quart apple cider, salt, scallions, mushrooms, and spices in 20-quart pot 5 minutes, stirring often. Cool completely. Add remaining 3 quarts cider and 4 quarts water.  Chill.
Day 2
Place turkey in brine. You may have to weight it down with a plate and something heavy to keep it submerged.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Day 3
Drain turkey and rinse. Arrange on several layers of paper towels in roasting pan. Refrigerate uncovered overnight.

Cider Syrup Glaze
2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced fresh sage
Boil cider in saucepan until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 15 minutes. Whisk in butter. Stir in sage.  Cool completely.  Baste turkey every 45 minutes.

Maple Glazed Roasted Veggies
1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1 large red onion, peeled, cut in 1-inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 large (about 2 lbs) acorn squash, halved, seeded, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 lb parsnips, peeled, cut in 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
2 tsp Herbes de Provence or your preferred blend of herbs.  I used my salt preserved herbs for this and eliminated the salt to taste further down the recipe.
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup unsalted Butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup pecan halves and pieces, toasted
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Toss Brussels sprouts, red onion, acorn squash, parsnips, and herbs in olive oil. Arrange on large baking sheet. Roast about 35 min until knife-tender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Prepare glaze as vegetables roast.
Make glaze: In saucepan on medium-low, melt butter. Stir in maple syrup, brown sugar, and pecans. Remove vegetables from oven; drizzle with glaze. Return to oven. Roast 5-8 min. Garnish with parsley.

Pumpkin Mousse
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (I substituted roasted, pureed Butternut squash I already had in the freezer)
3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Ginger snaps, for garnish
Combine pumpkin, 1 cup cream, sugar and spice in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Cool fully.

Whip remaining heavy cream and vanilla to soft peaks and fold into cooled pumpkin mixture. Pour into a serving dish and crumble the ginger snaps over top before serving.

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