IT’S THANKSGIVING WEEK! I’m that excited that I have to type it in all caps. I’ve said it many times before: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Most get four days off, the weather is lovely, there is no pressure and stress of gift-giving, and all you do is watch/play football and stuff your faces with comfort foods.
Your crazy family came and went. Now all that’s left is a big ol’ turkey carcass. Wait, don’t throw anything away just yet. In this time and age when offal eating has become the trend, I’m going to show you what you can do with all those leftover turkey bones.
First, you make turkey stock. Duh! Then, you use that stock to make turkey congee.
Every Asian country has its own version of rice porridge. It’s the ultimate Asian comfort food. Think of the Americans with their chicken noodle soup. Well, the Asians have their rice porridge. It’s what you feed someone under the weather. I admit I used to hate congee or chao (as it’s called in Vietnamese) because it was all my mama let me eat when I was sick. Incidentally, I grew to associate congee only with illness. Of course it left a negative impression on me. But now that I’ve got no mama to cook me homemade congee, I had to roll up my sleeves and do it myself. Now I don’t necessarily eat congee just when I’m sick; I’ll eat it when it’s cold out. (Speaking of which, Houston is finally starting to feel like winter. Yippee!) I eat it because it’s hearty, warm, and best of all, simple to make. I almost always have the ingredients on hand to make congee, but even if I don’t, the great thing about congee is its versatility. You can just about throw anything into it. Perhaps the only requirement is stock or broth and rice. (I’ve even seen some people cook congee with plain water but I don’t recommend this—too plain.)
So read on, and learn how to make turkey stock with that leftover carcass and then, subsequently, turkey congee. And remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you. Happy winter eating!
For nine years and counting, it’s been my little tradition to fry a turkey for Thanksgiving. In 2001 when I started my first job out of college, my Louisianan coworker, Brandi, informed me her family deep-fries a turkey every year for Thanksgiving. I pictured a spicy flour battered turkey–just like Popeye’s chicken but in whole bird form and five times larger. I was surprised to learn that fried turkey wasn’t battered at all–simply rubbed down with Cajun spice and then thrown (very carefully) into a vat of hot peanut oil. I was a little disappointed since fried chicken skin is always the best part but since everyone and their mama claimed fried turkey is so good, I decided to give the turkey frying a try anyway.
To try this at home, I recommend acquiring the following items:
- 1 40-qt. stockpot with basket (these are usually sold together for turkey and crawfish cooking purposes–both Southern/Louisianan dishes)
- 1 propane burner for outdoor cooking
- 1 propane tank
- 1 lg. pc. cardboard to lay under burner so oil splatters won’t stain your concrete
You can find the turkey fryer at Academy; I personally found mine at Tuesday Morning for about $50 if I remember correctly. The propane burner and tank is from Wal-Mart. I imagine you could probably make one stop at a Home Depot or Lowe’s and find all these things.
The advantages of frying a turkey are:
- It’s delicious. Once I went fried, I never went back. Even the breast meat is juicy.
- It’s quick. Roasting a turkey takes anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes per pound depending on if it’s stuffed or not, and you have to tend to it frequently for basting. Frying, on the other hand, takes 3.5 minutes per pound, just a fraction of the time it takes to roast the bird. And once you get it in the fryer, you don’t have to touch it till it’s finished.
The disadvantage? Obviously, it’s not as healthy. But when you’re stuffing yourself with mashed potatoes and casseroles and pies for the holidays anyway, who cares? That’s the Southern motto.
This turkey has received rave reviews from every mouth it’s touched for the last nine years. So why not do it yourself this year? John and I like to sit in our garage and driveway, pop open a beer, and relax while taking in the wonderful smells of deep-fried turkey.
Note: This photo of the turkey was actually taken in 2006 because the one we took of the turkey this year was half carved and not a good picture.
Recipe: Deep-Fried Turkey
Summary: Call it Cajun, call it Southern. I just call it damn delish.
- 3 ga. peanut oil for frying
- 1 whole turkey, no more than 14 lbs.
- 1/4 c. cajun or creole seasoning
- 1 jar cajun or creole marinade with syringe for injecting
- The day before cooking, remove giblets and rinse turkey. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Inject turkey with marinade: 1 syringe-ful in ea. leg, 1 in ea. thigh, 1 in ea. wing, and 2 in ea. breast. During injection, pull syringe out slowly while pushing down plunger to spread marinade evenly throughout meat.
- Rub inside and outside liberally with seasoning. Marinate in refrigerator overnight.
- When ready to cook, fill 40-qt. pot with 3 gal. peanut oil. (This should fill about half the pot.) Heat oil on high heat to 400 degrees or until oil has lines in it, indicating high heat.
- Make sure skin at turkey neck has at least a 2″ opening so oil doesn’t get trapped inside the bird later. Place turkey in basket neck side down.
- Slowly lower basket into pot. Cook 3.5 min./lb. or until internal temperature of thigh is 180 degrees.
- Remove turkey and let it sit for 20 min. before carving.
Note that it takes 24 hours to thaw five lbs. of turkey. I.e. a 14-lb. turkey will take 72 hours. And remember that it needs to be fully thawed before the marinade can be injected, which means if I had a 14-lb. turkey I wanted to fry on Thanksgiving Thursday, I need to move it from the freezer into the fridge Sunday morning (thawed by Wednesday so it can marinate a full 24 hours before going into the fyer.
Peanut oil is ideal for deep-frying because it has a high smoking point.
Birds 14 lbs. or less are ideal for this method of cooking–any larger, and the bird’s skin could be overexposed to the hot oil, resulting in a charred skin. And we can’t have that considering skin is the best part!
Be extremely careful when frying the turkey. They say you should cook this completely outdoors in case a grease fire shoots up to the sky, but we always cook ours in the garage and have yet to have a black hole on our ceiling. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Meal type: dinner
Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)
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With all of our fancy feasts lately, I was craving something completely on the other end of the spectrum. I brought it back old school with a variation of the school lunch favorite: sloppy joes. Everyone has memories of their elementary school experience when the hefty, hair-netted cafeteria lady would slop the meat mixture onto their open-faced bun. (Pass on the white milk…chocolate milk, please.)
To make it a little healthier, I used ground turkey instead of the usual ground beef. The original recipe came from ChoppedOnions on All Recipes. It was very simple to make and ready to eat in a jiffy. We ended up leaving the sandwich open-faced and eating it with a fork because, like its name, it was incredibly sloppy.
Also, I’m trying out this recipe plugin John installed for me. Let me know what you think. Should I continue to use the recipe template plugin, or should I stick to my rudimentary HTML skills and just list ingredients and directions the way I did in the Vietnamese chicken curry recipe?
Recipe: Turkey Sloppy Joes
Summary: Original recipe from ChoppedOnions on All Recipes
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 1 (8 oz.) can pureed tomatoes
- 1/4 c. barbecue sauce
- 2 tbsp. ketchup
- 2 tbsp. white vinegar
- 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp. brown mustard
- 1 tbsp. chili garlic sauce (optional)
- 4 burger buns
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook onion and bell pepper until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ground turkey, and cook until meat is well done, about another 5 to 7 minutes.
- Stir in the pureed tomatoes, barbecue sauce, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and chili garlic sauce. Simmer until heated through, about 7 to 10 minutes. Serve on burger buns.
Try using Stubb’s barbecue sauce instead of, say, KC Masterpiece–it’s got a more robust flavor.
For the chili garlic sauce, use Sriracha brand. It comes with a green lid and has a rooster on the jar. You can find it in Asian supermarkets or in the international food aisle.
Serve with potato salad or chips, and slices of raw onion or pickles.
The sloppy joe mixture was very runny (hence the name “sloppy). I think I’d prefer a heartier meat filling in my sandwich, so next time, I’ll try using 1.5 to 2 lbs. ground turkey instead of just 1 lb.
Since I used spicy barbecue sauce and spicy brown mustard, I decided to omit the chili garlic sauce. It had enough of a kick as is.
Cooking time (duration): 30
Meal type: lunch
Culinary tradition: USA (General)
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Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.