Smoked Turkey Pho

pho garnishes

This is made entirely from leftover items from Thanksgiving and some standard pantry items (at least mine). While I used mushrooms and celery leaves because that’s what I had, you should use whatever you have or just go traditional and pick up mung bean sprouts, jalapeno, and thai basil. And your turkey may not have been smoked like mine was, but that roast or fried turkey carcass will do just fine, though will lack the smokiness, obviously. Just be sure to pick parts of the carcass that have some meat still on it, like the wings, neck, and backside. You’ll be eating that in the soup when it’s assembled.

I borrowed the spicing heavily from here. I mostly followed it for a beef version a few months ago, and that came out great, too.

Oh, and I used a pressure cooker which is superior for stock making. If you don’t have one, I’m sure you could just simmer the broth for a few hours to mostly the same effect. But you should own a pressure cooker. Besides this, I’ll share the best reason to own one with a future post.

Now, let’s get down to business.

smoked turkey pho

Smoked Turkey Pho

Broth:

makes 12 cups of broth, about 4 servings, depending on the size of your pot

  • 2 onions
  • 4 inch piece of ginger
  • 1/2 smoked turkey carcass
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 3 inches
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp raw sugar

Garnish:

  • turkey meat
  • rice noodles
  • sauteed mushrooms, finished with soy sauce and vinegar
  • celery leaves (or whatever you got)
  • hoison
  • sriracha
  1. Slice the onions in half and the ginger, too, lengthwise. Place under broiler till they’re nearly black.
  2. Put the ginger, onions, and rest of the broth ingredients into a pressure cooker. Fill pot with water to its fill line.
  3. Put on lid, bring to full pressure, and lower heat but still maintain pressure for an hour.
  4. After an hour, take off heat and let the pressure cooker lose pressure naturally.
  5. Soak the rice noodles for 10-20 minutes in hot water till soft. Drain.
  6. Once pressure is released on the pot, strain broth.
  7. Pick any meat you can from the spent bones. You should have at least enough for 4 bowls.
  8. Put broth back on the stove and bring to a boil.
  9. Assemble bowls with noodles, picked turkey, and the rest of your garnishes.
  10. Top with the heated broth.

Coppa Cabana

It’s all lead to this. Well, to be fair, the moment of truth is likely still close to two months away. I’ve long daydreamed of a simple life of working a modest pig and goat farm and producing artisan ham and goat cheese. And it’s always been a daydream, and it’s very likely to stay that way, but I’m at least a few steps closer to that ideal life. And it’s all thanks to a well prepared wedding registry and the generous folks on our invite list who have unknowingly been contributing to fueling that daydream. So, what are the magic items? A wine fridge with temp control and a copy of Michael Ruhlman’s and Brian Polcyn’s Salumi book. I’m certain that those that bought us the wine fridge – as any reasonable human being would – assumed it’ll be used to protect our extensive wine collection. Nope. After pulling out a bunch of the bottle racks and putting a pan of salted water in the bottom, I’ve hopefully recreated a temperature and humidity controlled environment in which to cure and age a variety of charcuterie and salumi (which by the way is the Italian word for all cured meat, not just salame) and maybe someday cheese.

It took me less than 24 hours to decide what I was going to produce first, but I decided on Coppa which as Ruhlman says should be one of the easier cuts to cure. The Coppa is a specific cut that comes from the shoulder of a pig and runs from the neck along the spine and spans the first few ribs. Thanks as always to my reliable, friendly, and local butcher, I am now the proud owner of a 2 1/4 pound coppa (and 5 pounds of brisket already on the brine, destined for this year’s corned beef.)

getting a salty coat

getting a salty coat

The process so far is pretty straightforward. Salt the meat thoroughly and uniformly. Weight it down and leave it to cure for a day or two in the refrigerator. Once it’s been cured and the meat has tightened up some, it’s ready to hang in the “cave” or in this case, the wine fridge. Doneness is gauged entirely by weight loss. When it’s lost 30% of the its original weight, it’s done.

the tally

the tally

And the waiting begins. Stay tuned.

hanging in wait

hanging in wait

Del Ray Food Swap

just one of the tables filled to the brim

just one of the tables filled to the brim

I am really lucky to live in a such a great neighborhood. Within just a few blocks I can visit the best cheese store in the DC area, a top-notch butcher who sources everything locally (except the kangaroo, of course),  unbelievably good frozen custard, a dynamite neighborhood bar and restaurant, a weekly farmer’s market, and countless other great eating options (and all of them are local, non-chain businesses run by my neighbors.)

I’m also lucky to live in a neighborhood full of creative people who care about their neighbors and this community. One such example is the Empty House Studio, a temporary space for artists to create and share. Well, this past weekend they hosted a neighborhood food swap organized by the folks at DIY Del Ray, a blog written by some other neighbors that focuses on all sorts of neighborhoody and non-neighborhoody things alike.

Being wholeheartedly committed to the DIY food movement (as readers of this blog will no doubt recognize), I was excited to finally participate in one DIYDR’s regularly scheduled events.

If you’ve not been to a food swap before (and I had not), here’s basically how it works. Bring any number of things you want to share and swap. Check out what everyone else brought and decide what you’d like to trade for. (But remember, you can only trade as much as you brought.) And then let the swapping commence in fairly informal fashion as you meet the producers and negotiate your deals. My betrothed and I came prepared with loaded rice krispie treats, a boxful of canned pickles from the summer, and crusty rolls (using the no-knead recipe from Jim Leahy’s book) to swap. And we left with a boatload of stuff in exchange.

no knead rolls

no knead rolls

It seems we have a lot of similarly minded neighbors creating some unbelievable stuff. I was blown away by the diversity of what people brought. There were even some local sponsors – neighbors who have their own cake and fermented pickle businesses. Here’s a list of some of the most impressive stuff, a lot of which we came home with. And there was so much more.

  • home roasted coffee
  • brazil nut milk
  • biscotti dough ready to slice and bake
  • red onion marmalade
  • jalapeno jelly
  • elderberry and strawberry jams
  • soups and stocks
  • breakfast cookies
  • artisan bread
  • beet hummus
  • flavored salts
  • basil, zinnia, morning glory, and marigold seed packs
  • it goes on and on

There was so much stuff that we were looking for any flat surface for display of everyone’s goods.

Besides our bounty, it was also great to meet a lot of unfamiliar faces that make up this great neighborhood. It was just an excellent way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Can’t wait for the next one.

Turkey & Shrimp Gumbo

Sick of turkey yet? Chances are good you’ve gotten through all of your thanksgiving leftovers by now, but if you were smart, you saved that carcass. And there’s still plenty of goodness to mine from that pile of bones.

I made gumbo sometime over the summer, so already had a bunch of foundational items leftover in the freezer. But I’d say some of these are optional, but also mostly easily procured at your grocery. When summer was still on and okra prices were as a low as a dollar a pound, I blanched and froze a couple of quarts of them to eventually end up in a gumbo sometime over the winter. After stockpiling shrimp shells for the better part of a year last year, I also had an ample supply of shrimp stock made from boiling the shells from about 2 pounds of shrimp for more than half and hour. And I still had one lonely andouille link leftover from the first go-round. I even had some leftover pickled shrimp from thanksgiving that ended up in the pot.

But back to that turkey carcass. And a bag full of vegetable scraps – mostly celery, onion, parsnips, and parsley, again leftover from the many thanksgiving sides we prepared. Besides being the base for a ton of stock, you’ll also be surprised how much meat you’ll end up with when your stock is done. Brown the bones, skin, and other turkey scraps in your largest stock pot. Throw in your vegetable scraps and cover with water. I used close to 15 quarts of water that reduced by a couple of quarts by the end. Simmer – somewhere between 180 and 200 degrees – for a long time. I went about 5 hours because I still had dinner to make, but you could go for much longer. Strain it with a fine mesh strainer and strip the bones of all its meat. I ended up with nearly 2 pounds.

But, now onto the gumbo. First off, get a roux going. Equal parts fat and flour that cooks for a while and takes on glorious colors and flavors. I used about 4 tablespoons each of bacon grease and flour and cooked this very slowly for about half an hour, stirring very often. But you could and should go much longer and darker than I did. Then add your stocks and any additional spices (i.e. Old Bay, file gumbo, pimenton, cayenne) and boil for a while till it thickens, at least another 30 minutes. Make sure to whisk in all of that roux. Once it’s thickened up, start adding all of your remaining ingredients – shredded turkey, shrimp, andouille, okra, and anything else you got laying around that might be good in that pot. 5-10 minutes later when your shrimp is cooked and everything is heated through, the gumbo is ready.

Turkey & Shrimp Gumbo

  • 4 tablespoons fat (turkey, butter, bacon grease, whatever you’ve got)
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 3 qt of stock (turkey, shrimp, chicken, veg, water, whatever you’ve got)
  • 1/2# andouille
  • 2# leftover turkey
  • 1# shrimp, cut into bitesize pieces if they’re big ones
  • 1# okra, cut into bitesize pieces
  1. Make a roux. Over low to medium low heat whisk the flour into your hot fat. Stirring often, cook for at least 30 minutes until the roux darkens. The darker the better, but don’t burn it.
  2. Turn the heat up to medium high and whisk in all of the stock and boil it till it thickens. At least 30 minutes.
  3. Once your stock is to the desired thickness, turn down the heat to a simmer and throw in the remaining ingredients to cook or heat through, another 5-10 minutes.

peach peel butter

Nose-to-tail, the tradition of using the entirety of a slaughtered animal is nothing new. Nor is the frugal nature of the home cook (which I strive to be) who makes the most of everything they can. But this technique was completely new to me. Taking the scraps from a peach canning project that were destined for the compost (or worse, trash can) and turning them into utter indulgence is a thing of beauty.

Last weekend, we headed to our favorite u-pick farm to get a mess load of peaches to last us through the year until next peach season. A bushel or about 50 pounds, doubling last year’s half-bushel. About 25 pounds of those peaches ended up in quart jars – 11 to be exact. And if you’ve ever canned peaches before, you know the best way to do it is to quickly blanch and peel them. Well, 25 pounds of peaches begat about 5 pounds of peels. Well, not exactly. But you try peeling 25 pounds of peaches in one shot. By the end, you too might start using a knife on the tough-to-peel ones and end up with a little bit of flesh attached to those peels.

Five pounds is a lot of anything just to throw away, so thanks to the peach peel butter recipe, that 25 pounds of peaches that begat 5 pounds of peels (and some sugar and time) begat another 7 cups  of a beautiful amber, slightly sweet peach butter that is a thing of beauty. Note, there’s no actual butter in a fruit butter. I imagine you could turn this into jam with some pectin, but I’m happy with what I’ve got.

peach peel butter

peach peel butter

I tweaked a few things with the original recipe. I used much less sugar. To the 5 pounds of peels, I added about 2 1/2 pounds of sugar. And I used a 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid, because I didn’t have any lemons, and because, well, I have citric acid. I then simmered this for 8 hours till it all broke down. A full work day. I put it on the stove at the beginning of my work-from-home day, stirring and tasting every once and while, and took it off the heat at the end of my day. (I’d guess you could probably use a slow-cooker instead of the stove.) I ended up with 7 cups, 5 of which went into 8 oz. jelly jars to be processed in a water bath for 10 minutes. (The Ball Book lists 10 minute processing time for their fruit butters, so I’ll take the chance.) The other 2 went straight into a pint jar for the fridge. Imagine this stuff on ice cream or in or on a pie or on toast or just from a spoon straight from the jar. Good stuff.

So, there you have it, real pit-to-peel cooking.

half pints of peach peel butter

half pints of peach peel butter

a $2 bunch of mint yields at least 3 different applications (and then some)

While gathering ingredients for some homemade summer rolls (another story unto itself, I suppose,) I procured the most seemingly innocent bunch of fresh mint at my local market. When I got it home, I unpacked the bunch for washing and discovered this tiny looking bunch ended up being about 10 cups worth.

As I really only needed about 2-3 sprigs for the summer rolls we were making for the next few nights, that means I had the rest of the bunch to use up. My first thought was for a basic mint pesto (throw in some walnuts, a little oil, some citrus and whizz it up) but then my mind immediately went to a more obvious pairing (and one which I already had everything I needed in the pantry) – pea and mint dip. Dip chips, vegetables, a spoon. This stuff is way tasty and will go fast.

Pea & Mint Dip

makes about 2 cups

  • 10 oz. frozen peas
  • 1/2 c. packed mint leaves
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • splash or two of water
  1. microwave the peas or about 60-90 seconds till they’re just barely warm and thawed
  2. add everything in a blender (or use a hand-blender) and salt to season and blend. Add just enough water to help with blending and to get the right consistency. The resulting dip should be smooth and of hummus consistency.
The next application was probably the most satisfying in its results. Again, my mind started in one direction, then immediately went in another. When I think of fresh mint, I mostly think of it steeped in milk for 10 minutes or so and then used as a basis for ice cream. But, honestly, I didn’t feel prepared to make any ice cream, so instead, I packed up a small food processor with as many mint leaves as it would hold, then covered with sugar, and processed for 60-90 seconds. Wowee! The sugar tastes undeniably of mint and will end up infusing all sorts of true mint flavor in a number of applications, but probably a whole mess of ice cream.

Mint Sugar

  • fresh mint leaves
  • sugar
  1. pack a food processor with fresh mint, top off with sugar and process till mint is well distributed in the sugar.
From here it was another obvious leap to create another flavor infuser, namely some mint extract. Most flavoring extracts are alcohol based, so another real simple “recipe” here. Your average 2 oz. bottle of mint extract costs at least $5. I’ll end up with about 8 oz. and it’ll cost me about 50¢. Take some mint, through it in jar, cover with alcohol, and let it steep for a few weeks. Up to you whether you want to leave the mint in after the few weeks or not. I ended up emptying a bunch of old bottles of rum and vodka I had laying around. Again, this is all about getting some fresh mint flavor injected in all sorts of things. But, probably a whole mess of ice cream.

Mint Extract

  • 1/2 c. packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 c. vodka (or any other alcohol you’ve got laying around)
  1. pack the mint leaves into a clean glass jar.
  2. cover with the alcohol and let it steep for a few weeks.
And, while mint is sure to be amply available throughout the current months (even in our backyard garden,) my pantry is well stocked with memories of that magical $2 bunch of mint. (And soon, my freezer with mint ice cream.)

Ricotta and Bacon-filled Kale Ravioli

Another year, another triumph.

My beloved and I have developed a bit of a Valentine’s Day tradition. Either on the day, but typically a weekend day shortly before, we forego the usual formalities of a hard-to-get dinner reservation (which are also often crowded and disappointing) and plan and prepare our own elaborate meal. And there is one course that appears every year – ravioli. With a few years under our belts, experience and creativity are on our sides, so the ravioli course while a constant, is also constantly changing from year to year.

ready for their bath

ready for their bath

Accompanying this year’s ravioli were a first course of La Tur – a soft, buttery mixed-milk cheese – with homemade quince paste and crusty no-knead bread. Next was a mussel and winter root vegetable soup enriched with bacon fat. Dessert was fudgy, from scratch brownies with raspberry frozen custard from our our neighborhood scoop-shop, the Dairy Godmother.

But, ok, the real reason we’re here is to talk about ravioli. For the last several years, we’ve been using various round, square, and of-course, heart-shaped cookie cutters to form our ravioli. And the results, while really good and satisfying, have been, well, maybe a little amateurish, admittedly. So, in an attempt to up the ante, we splurged for a ravioli maker to add a little legitimacy to this operation.

ravioli all in a row

ravioli all in a row

In the weeks leading up to the dinner, ideas are thrown out regarding what we’ll do this year. I wanted to try a flavored pasta, so I proposed using kale as a base. Then, as we contemplated a sauce, we naturally tended toward something smokey and porky. And then, as if it were staring us right in the face, we thought, “what if we put bacon on the inside of the ravs?” And so it was decided. And this was no ordinary bacon. This was Benton’s bacon, one of the best bacons around from Tennessee  that we smuggled back from a recent trip to New York City. Seriously, this stuff is just about the pinnacle of all bacon, but that’s another story.

The operation was pretty simple and along with our new fangled ravioli press, we also employed a food processor for the first time in our dough making. It all just came together relatively quickly. The only laborious part being the rolling of the dough. The end result was by far our finest performance. Not just uniformly shaped and filled, but the filling was simple, but fluffy and exquisitely bacon-y.

we couldn't forget a couple of heart-shaped ones

we couldn't forget a couple of heart-shaped ones

After they were filled and boiled, we sauced them with some rich tomato sauce that was leftover from the summer that reduced on the stove slowly for several hours.

ravioli and tomato sauce

ravioli and tomato sauce

Ricotta and Bacon-filled Kale ravioli

makes about 36 ravioli, about 4-6 servings

the dough

  • 2-3 c. uncooked kale
  • 9 oz. AP flour (more as needed, also keep more on hand for dusting)
  • 3 eggs
  1. Remove and discard the stems of the kale, and cook the leaves in a about 1/4 c. of water in a covered pot until they’re tender – about 20-30 minutes.
  2. Squeeze all of the liquid from the kale and let it cool. You’ll end up with about a cup.
  3. In a food processor, chop the kale and add the eggs and give it a spin for about 20 seconds.
  4. Add most of the flour and process. The dough should start to come together after a minute or so. Continue to add more flour until the dough comes together in a ball but is still the slightest bit sticky.
  5. When the dough is formed, dump it out and pat it into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least an hour.

the filling

  • 16 oz. ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 3-5 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled
  1. Put the ricotta and bacon in a bowl.
  2. Beat the egg separately and then add to ricotta.
  3. Mix to combine, then whip vigorously with your spoon for about 30 seconds till the filling fluffs a little bit.

the ravioli

  1. Cut your dough into 6 equal portions and roll out sheets in a pasta machine. They should be as thin as you can get them without tearing. Set each aside in a floured towel.
  2. Fill your ravioli. If going free-form, lay out one sheet of pasta and spoon about a teaspoon of filling equally spaced on your sheet and then lay another pasta sheet over, pressing out the air around the filling and cut out ravioli with a knife or cookie cutters, pressing on the edges of each ravioli to be sure they’re sealed. If using ravioli maker, just follow the instructions provided (like we did.)
  3. Flour the ravioli and return to the floured towels.
  4. Repeat 2. and 3. till you’ve used all of your pasta sheets and filling. You can roll out any scraps of pasta you accumulate along the way to extend your production.
  5. Cook as many ravioli as you plan on serving in gently boiling salted water for about 5 minutes till the pasta is cooked through.
  6. Freeze any leftover, uncooked ravioli.

about a year’s worth of mustard

Another in my series of simple recipes with lots of variation  – a basic spicy, grainy, beer-based mustard that is versatile in all sorts of ways. Hot dogs and sausages, corned beefs sandwiches, encrusted fish, soft pretzels, salad dressing. You name it. Play with the seasonings and alter to your tastes or the final application.

the sum of its parts - a whole lot of mustard

the sum of its parts - a whole lot of mustard

The gist of the recipe is this – put everything in a jar, let it sit for 2 days to soften the mustard seeds, then blend for several minutes to the desired consistency.

This recipe’s going to make about 3 cups of mustard, so consider making a 1/2 or 1/3 batch. But, this stuff survives the passage of time quite nicely. Keep in mind, in the first couple of days, this will be pretty intensely spicy and, well, mustardy. After a couple of days it’ll mellow out.

hibernating for a couple of days

hibernating for a couple of days

My variation for this batch were an old bottle of Bell’s HopSlam – an intense imperial IPA that comes around only once a year, smoked salt, and a few dashes of cayenne. I used about 2/3 brown mustard seeds, and 1/3 yellow. And half the vinegar was cider vinegar for some sweetness and the other half was red wine.

Spicy Mustard

  • 12 oz. beer (whatever you’ve got, dark is good but not a necessity)
  • 1 c. vinegar (red wine, white wine, cider, again, whatever, just not balsamic)
  • 1 1/2 c. mustard seeds (brown and/or yellow)
  • 1 1/4 tbsp. salt
  • up to 2 tsp. of any other seasonings (think spicy like clove, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper)
  1. place all ingredients in a quart-sized jar, cover, and leave to sit on counter for at least a couple of days to soften mustard seeds
  2. after 2 days, blend with hand bender or food processor for several minutes till you achieve the consistency you want – go smooth or leave it grainy

makes 3c. of mustard

My Fakesgiving

Thanksgiving’s always been my favorite holiday, when the foci are food, football, family, and friends. Because of some good planning, some years I get to celebrate Thanksgiving multiple times, as is the case this year. Sunday would be the first for the season – a Fakesgiving, as it were, joined by some of our best friends (and some of the best cooks we know.) I give you a story rife with challenges, but long on success.

the impressive spread (and chefs)

the impressive spread (and chefs)

Not one to shy away from cooking challenges, I took it upon myself, as one of the hosts for this year’s Fakesgiving, to my first whole turkey. No practice run. No nets. Do or die. Obviously, I would smoke it. As I am oft to do, I consulted by main smoking resources – Charcuterie and the Virtual Weber Bullet for the best approach. After some runs around town – including a short-term relationship with a cheap-o self-basting bird from the local Giant, I ended up with fresh, free range turkey from the local Whole Foods.

this 15 pounder barely fit in the smoker

this 15 pounder barely fit in the smoker

Next up was putting this bird in a salty brine. After struggling to fit this 15 pounder into a 2 ½ gallon Ziploc, there was only one remaining option for vessels large enough to hold the bird. So, it was into the cooler with 2 gallons of brine  and 8 pounds (equal to another gallon of water.) The brine was pretty much as Ruhlman prescribed, except I tuned down the salt since most of the other brine recipes I read had about ⅓ less salt than his. And so she sat in the basement, in water and ice for about 30 hours, from Friday night to Saturday night.

the long soak

the long soak

One more important lesson to learn. Trying to find charcoal when it’s not summer is a challenge. Sure, you could be 4 pound bag of lighter fluid injected briquettes for 10 bucks, but I was not going to settle. After visiting 4 or 5 different supermarkets, I ended up driving to my nearest Lowe’s where they had a near endless supply of 16 pounds of the old standby, Kingsford, for 8 dollars a bag. I got two, just in case the smoking itch arose during the dead of winter.

Sunday morning, I fired up the bullet and took it to places I never took it before. Usually, “smoking”  (or barbecue) happens around 200°-250° Fahrenheit. All recipes I looked out suggested getting your smoker up to the 325°-350° range. Sounds simple enough, but it turned out not to be. The first difference was to not put water in the water pan (water in the pan helps hold the lower temperature.) Instead I lined the empty pan with foil (which would then catch any drippings that would go into the gravy.) The rest of the next 2 or so hours was spent regulating temperature. And it wasn’t easy to keep that thing so hot. I was seemingly constantly feeding it with fresh briquettes, wood (cherry, maple, and pecan), and opening vents to get it hot enough. I actually never it got it to hold at 350°. It spent most of the time closer to 300°. I was nervous this would dry out the bird (lower temp, meaning longer cooking time) but hopefully the brine would save me. After about 2 hours, I decided to check it’s internal temperatures for the first time. And wouldn’t you know it? It was only about 10 degrees from done. In the next 30 minutes, it coasted right up to 160° in the breast, 175° in the thigh.

perfect

perfect

When I pulled it out, it was a thing of beauty. Just perfect looking. It took maybe an hour for me to give in and say, “F’ it, I’m carving this up,” using the excuse that it would heat up more easily for our guests, if I cut it up beforehand. And, you know what? I nailed it. This turkey was seasoned, cooked, and tasted just perfect. Tasty, smokey, and moist. Despite the uphill battle, in the end, it all seemed so easy and so rewarding.

The rest of the items I prepared for the meal were cider vinegar braised mustard greens with speck and prosciutto (recipe below,) smoked almonds (that had to be enriched with some smoked salt to actually get any smoke flavor in them), and smoke-roasted potatoes (that kind of just tasted like potatoes from a campfire.) Lastly, was the gravy.

The gravy started a couple days earlier when I made a makeshift stock comprised of the neck and butt of the turkey and some vegetable scraps (leeks, carrots, and parsnips) from the bag of scraps in the freezer for just this purpose. Again, with some help from Ruhlman, I started with a roux of some of the turkey fat from the stock, some butter, some onion, and 5 tablespoons of flour. Then whisked in a quart of my stock and added a handful of quartered mushrooms. When the turkey was done, I poured some of the drippings from the smoker, and the gravy was complete.

As expected, our dinner guests rounded out the rest of the meal just as boldly as I had. Our table literally could not accommodate everything we had, which meant the coffee table had to double as a buffet station for the things that wouldn’t fit. A killer Thai-influenced sweet potato soup, a from-scratch green bean casserole, buttery and cheesy mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts with grapes, sausage prune and kale stuffing, pumpkin cheesecake, pecan pie, and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

And because I waited too long to find a cheap plane ticket to see my family, I’ll find solace in the leftovers that crowd the fridge and will feed me for at least the next week.

In addition to all of the leftovers, I’ve also now got a large ziploc (yes, the same bags the whole bird wouldn’t fit in) full of bones and assorted scraps – the makings of what I can only imagine will be some amazing smoked turkey stock.

A couple of basic recipes, so you can try to throw some of this together for your Thanksgiving. Enjoy.

Basic Smoked Turkey

(lovingly adapted from Ruhlman’s Charcuterie)

2 gallons water
3 cups kosher salt
3 oz pink salt (curing salt with nitrite)
¾ cup sugar
5-10 garlic cloves
2-3 bay leaves
4 tbsp black peppercorns
large handful of assorted herbs (I used tarragon, thyme, and rosemary)

1 gallon (about 8#) ice
15# turkey

  1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large pot and heat until sugar and salt are dissolved. Let chill overnight.
  2. Put turkey in a cooler and pour over the brine and add the ice. Let the turkey soak in the brine for 24-48 hours. (If you’ve got another large vessel and space in the refrigerator, feel free to replace the 1 gallon of ice with water and you can brine in the fridge.)
  3. Remove turkey from brine and leave uncovered in the refrigerator for 6-12 hours.
  4. Remove turkey from refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
  5. Get your smoker up to 350°
  6. Smoke / roast for 2-3 hours until internal temperature of the breast hits 160° and the thigh 175°
  7. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Cider vinegar braised mustard greens

2-3 oz of smoked or cured pork product, diced (prosciutto, speck, bacon all work)
3-5 cloves of garlic
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 large bunch of mustard greens, chopped (substitute kale or collards)
¼ c. cider vinegar
¼ c. water

  1. In a large pot on medium low, render the pork (about 8-10 minutes)
  2. Add the garlic and red pepper and saute for about a minute
  3. Add the greens, vinegar, and water.
  4. Cover the pot and braised the greens until they tender (about 45-60 minutes)

Parsnip soup (or any cold weather vegetable, for that matter)

One of my favorite things to cook and eat is soup. In cold months, it’s hot soups made of root vegetables, in the warmer months it’s cold soups with ingredients like tomatoes or peas. A lunch of soup and crusty bread is just about one of the most satisfying meals ever. And I’ve found that the soup actually improves after a day or two in the refrigerator.

Parsnip soup garnished with crispy red onions

Parsnip soup garnished with crispy red onions

Most Saturdays particularly in the fall or winter, after a morning visit to the local farmer’s market, I put a pot on for the day’s lunch. Whether it’s winter squash, sweet potato, or carrot, this basic recipe suits them all and is rife with possibilities for variation and experimentation. Vary the main ingredient with any root vegetable or squash. Vary the herb selection. Thyme is always a good choice, but so aren’t sage and rosemary (but use either sparingly) or bay or chives or parsley. Add heartier herbs at the beginning; softer herbs at the end. The recipe below doesn’t have much in the way of spices, but you can use all sorts of spices from cayenne or paprika to ginger or cinnamon depending on what you want in the end. How about Spicy Sweet Potato with cayenne and cinnamon and coriander?

Use stock. Use water. Or, as I did here, use a combination. Lastly, consider an interesting garnish. Some crunchy contrast to the smooth, blended soup is always nice. Crackers, croutons, or crispy, sauteed vegetables like your main ingredient, or mushrooms, or shallots all provide some contrast in texture.

This time out there were some good looking parsnips at the market, so it seemed like an obvious choice, as it is one of my favorites. My not-so-secret (and completely optional) ingredient here is some serrano ham (courtesy of Cheesetique, by way of a 99¢ “serrano butt”.) You can use bacon or some other smoked pork product in its place, or just leave it out entirely.

Note there’s no cream or dairy in this recipe. That doesn’t mean it isn’t creamy. The potatoes are the key. Their starch helps thicken and smooth out the soup. But, by all means, leave them out and add some cream or milk or yogurt at the end instead.

As with all of my recipes, seasoning throughout the process with salt and pepper is implied.

'Snips and onions sautéing away

'Snips and onions sautéing away

Parsnip soup

  • 1 1/2 # parsnip, diced
  • 2 c. onion, diced
  • 1/2 # potatoes, diced
  • 4-5 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 tbsp. chives, chopped
  • 3 sprigs of tarragon
  • 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 2-3 c. chicken stock
  • 2-3 c. water
  • 2-3 tbsp. serrano ham, sliced thinly (optional)
  1. Heat a large pot over medium-low heat and add the ham, butter, and onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the diced parsnips, and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft.
  2. Add the water, stock, thyme, and potatoes, and turn the heat to high to bring just to a boil. The liquid should cover all of the vegetables by about 1/4″ – 1/2″ depending on the size of your pot.
  3. Once the soup has reached a boil, turn the heat down to low or medium-low until it is barely simmering.
  4. Simmer the soup for at least an hour, maybe even two. I use a piece of parchment paper cut to the size of the pot to cover, but you can achieve the same effect by partially covering the pot to allow some evaporation, slowly.
  5. After your soup has simmmered for a while, add the chives and tarragon, and blend with a hand-blender.
The parchment lid

The parchment lid