The Tale of the Turbo Turkey


Like many others, this past Thursday, we prepped our Thanksgiving turkey and loaded him into the oven in plenty of time to allow the recommended 15-20 minutes per pound, plus resting and carving in order to have dinner ready at a respectable 5:30ish that evening.

Like previous years we brined it and then slathered it with an herbed butter and stuffed it’s cavity with onion, apple and lemon wedges, and in it went at precisely 11 a.m.

What was different this year? This year we got to use our 18-quart Roaster Oven. While we used it last Christmas for the duck and last Easter for the stuffed leg of lamb, this was it’s inaugural turkey and we were so excited to be able to have the oven free all day to use for side dishes and the like. From previous experience we thought the roaster ran a little hotter than a full-sized oven (we figured from the smaller space it had to heat and closer proximity of the food to the element) so we only heated it up to 325 to begin with, then decided to bring it down another 25 degrees when it continued to sizzle and pop (probably from the butter rub, but we wanted to be careful). We thought that would be enough to compensate.

(Hamilton Beach 18-Quart Roaster Oven via

There I was, happily going about my comprehensive to-do list (a must, I’ve discovered, for stress-free party and holiday prep) and checking things off right and left as the turkey roasted. I peek in to make sure everything is going according to plan and…

The turkey? Our 16 pound turkey? Was done.

After only 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Sure, it wasn’t golden-brown and picturesque done, but it was most certainly done in the sense that the leg meat was starting to pull away from the bone. And, just to be certain, we checked it’s temperature–definitely done. In fact, we used 2 thermometers (1 dial, 1 digital) just in case one was off.

Nope. Stick a fork in it–that bird was done!

And we were still 3 hours away from dinner.

Now, you might wonder, as we did, what is the best way to proceed when you’ve got a cooked turkey that needs to be held 3 hours. First of all, letting it rest for so long wasn’t a good idea as it would have cooled down too far and spent too much time in the temperature danger zone (40-140 degrees Fahrenheit, where most of the icky bacteria thrives). Completely cooling it off and reheating it before supper was also dicey as we could end up with dry, mealy meat. Not a tasty treat!

Instead we opted to turn the roaster down to 200 and hold it there for most of the afternoon. This way the turkey would be kept plenty hot (and, yes, we checked periodically) but shouldn’t dry out. And it was a success, as far as we can tell (still hot and tasty at dinner and not a bit of it was dry).

Of course, I didn’t think to take a picture until after dinner, but the next day when I used our first bit of leftovers, I did sneak a quick shot of our brunch:

Herbed Turkey Scramble with Spiced Cranberry SauceBetween plenty of leftover turkey and the dozen egg whites I had after using the yolks in the pumpkin pastry cream for pies, I concocted this quick dish of Herbed Turkey Scramble.

Simple whisk together any available egg whites (you could easily use whole eggs, too, if you didn’t have spare whites) along with salt, pepper, sage, parsley and garlic powder and pour them into a hot frying pan. Cook until beginning to set then stir in diced turkey and crumbled cheese of your choice (we used farmer’s cheese). Serve with some Spiced Cranberry Sauce, another leftover.

Simple and delicious.


So, has anyone else encountered a super-fast roasting oven?
And what do you do with all of your leftover turkey?

“Todd’s” Turkey


There is some concern in my family about the fact that I only purchased a 17.22 lb turkey for Thursday.

Now, we’re 6 people. Even discounting bones that’s a LOT of turkey per person. Last year’s bird was just over 21 pounds and we had turkey coming out of our ears. Even after my brother took some home. And we froze some for gumbo, later. Not to mention that it barely fit in our large roasting pan.

So 17.22 lbs seemed quite adequate to me.

“But Jason’s already salivating over Todd’s turkey,” Mom informs me.

This same Jason who already went to 3 other Thanksgiving dinners before mine but who still ate a plate full and was moaning in misery on my living room floor afterward. This same Jason who has to go to FOUR dinners before mine this year.

I’m not exactly worried.

But let’s get to the heart of the matter, here.

Todd’s turkey.

Last year was the first year we hosted Thanksgiving and, therefore, roasted the bird. Usually Mom’s job, it just didn’t make sense for her to have to cart a turkey across town (or, even, around the corner of town as it actually is from her place to ours). She brought a couple of sides and we handled the rest.

This was also the first holiday Todd & I were living together for, so some collaboration was in order. Thrilled to be getting a crack at the turkey but knowing I couldn’t go too far astray from the usual without shocking my family’s palate, I planned to supplement the usual turkey seasoning (quartered onions & apples in the cavity plus a few garlic cloves) with some herbed-butter coins placed under the skin.

Right about the time I voiced that idea, Todd suggested we brine the turkey. Having never done that before it seemed as good an idea as any.

The turkey was amazing.

But it was a joint effort, as I continue (as does Todd) to point out to my mother. Nonetheless, because of a bit of salt and water, the turkey of note is known as Todd’s turkey.


To Brine a Turkey

There are several ways to do this but this is ours and, hey, it’s won Todd fame with my family so it must work okay.

  1. Clean out a good-sized cooler that will hold the turkey with space around it for liquid and ice.
  2. Line the cooler with a fresh (unscented) tall kitchen bag.
  3. Divest the turkey of it’s neck and giblets, give it a good rinse and place inside the bag inside the cooler.
  4. Combine kosher salt and water (1 cup per gallon) as needed and add to the bag inside the cooler, making sure to completely cover the turkey.
  5. Tie up the kitchen bag, fill the space around the bird with ice.
  6. Let sit in this brine (topping off the ice as needed and, if it’s a really big bird, turning it once) for 24 hours or so.
  7. Rinse the turkey and season at will prior to roasting.

Last year our turkey was a little icy on the inside, still, but this actually worked in our favor as it helped keep the temperature of the turkey-and-brine below 40 degrees. If you’ve got room in your fridge (and if so, I envy you), you can brine it in a bag (or 2–no spills allowed!) or large container in the fridge. I’ve even seen where it’s suggested to use a crisper bin if the bird will fit.

You can also add other seasonings to your brine, but we went with simple last year and had excellent results.

The Rest of the Table

What will appear alongside Todd’s turkey, this year? Here’s our menu:

Baked Brie en Croute with Figs and Honey
Spinach Dip and Crackers

Buttered and Brined Turkey
Cornbread Dressing
Turkey Gravy
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Broccoli and Cheese
Eggplant & Zucchini Gratin
Rice and Pigeon Peas
Garlic Green Beans
Parker House Rolls
Cranberry Sauce (jellied and whole berry)

Ambrosia Salad
Pecan Pie
Amaretto Pumpkin Pie w/Gingered Pepitas
Caramel Apple Cake

Yes, I know, we’re only 6 people. And 2 will have eaten several times before they make it to our evening supper. And 1 still isn’t 100% sure he’ll make it if work intervenes.

But the leftovers will be glorious.

Feed Your Ears

Make sure to check out the November episode of Random Acts Radio: Grab a Spoon. There’s over an hour of food-related tunes to keep you company in the kitchen or on the road. Sage (and safe–that was a typo too good to pass up) Thanksgiving wishes  to all, and may all your waistbands be elastic.

Episode 7: Grab a Spoon


Extra pretend points if you think of Friends at today’s title 🙂 Not so much if you think Matrix.

I was really impressed with the number of songs I found for this episode–once again I had so many that it was tough to pare this episode down to just over an hour! Of course, when one of your keywords is ‘eat’ you learn just how many times those 3 letters show up in sequence in the course of music listings (hint: “featuring”, “death” and a host of other things had to be weeded through to find a few honest-to-goodness food songs). It’s not all bad, though–I found some great things hiding here and there for the next 2 podcasts!

In all, I probably listen to about 300 songs for each podcast and then pick out the dozen or so songs that best amuse me, rock it out or just amuse me. Here’s this month’s tasty morsels:

Food–Dierdre Flint
Thanks–Youngblood Brass Band
So, Thanks–Tom Smith
Pockets Full of Gold–Danika Holmes
A Girl Should Never Eat Alone–Clayton
Healthy Eating–Dan Elson
Salad of Doom–SJ Tucker
Eat You Now–The FuMP/Robert Lund &
My Baby Likes to Eat–Alec Berlin
French Fries Overdose–The Great Potatoes
Salt–Diedre Rodman/The Lascivious Biddies
Let’s Eat Home–Linda Baker
Everybody’s Family is Messed Up–Kristen Kitko
Twisted Family Ties–Delina
Sorbet Girl–Subplot A
Gluten Free Blues–Kyle Dine
Sugar Bomb Baby–Industrial Salt
Coffee to Go–Alice Leon/The Alice Project
Cold Turkey Sandwiches–Sealed Weasels

Wondering how you make turkey gumbo from leftovers and bones? I got you covered over at Nibbles ‘n Bites.

Almost Meatless Experiment


It was my turn to cook this week and, as the cookbook testing is mostly done, it was time to find some new inspiration. In a stack of books under my bedside table was Almost Meatless by Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond. I’d picked it up as part of a book club last year, given it a cursory glance and set it aside to be completely forgotten until a week or so ago when it surfaced as I was looking for a different reference.

The premise of the book is cooking with a more mindful attitude towards ingredients and less of a dependence on animal products without going strictly vegetarian–a nice compromise for us omnivores. The inside flap touts the benefits of the book as “health-, budget- and eco-conscious” eating without sacrificing flavor. Sounds good to me!

Thai Coconut-Curry Soup

Thai Coconut-Curry Soup

We took one recipe from each chapter and worked our way through the book, beginning with Thai Coconut-Curry Soup. It’s a very light soup and I was a little concerned about the lack of body as it relied on chicken stock with just a little bit of coconut milk as a finish. In fact, this was a downside to the recipe as it did not use a full can of coconut milk and it’s a bit of a pain to store leftovers–I’d much prefer a recipe to use items in their whole units.

It was the same with the chicken–she called for a single bone-in breast which then got shredded. For economy, we purchase our boneless, skinless chicken breasts in large packs, break each over-large breast in half and repackage them 4 to a pouch before freezing them. Since we’d just purchased chicken the week before it was simpler (and less wasteful) to use a package of our own in total (since defrosting and refreezing is ill-advised), about a pound, which we used cut into chunks instead of cooked and then shredded.

Smoked Turkey Nachos

Smoked Turkey Nachos

Minor quibbles aside, the soup was perfect for a summer supper–nice and light with plenty of flavor from the basil, mint and lemongrass. Rice noodles do a good job of bulking out the soup into a satisfactory meal (though I suggest you break them up quite a bit before adding them to the broth so that you only need a spoon and not also a fork to try to manage the over-long noodles). The soup was even better the next day, for lunch, as the flavors had developed even more overnight.

The second recipe we tested was the Smoked Turkey Nachos. In a bit of culinary synchronicity we’d just had a smoked turkey breast the previous weekend and there was MORE than enough leftover to shred for this application (even if the recipe called for smoked turkey legs). I’d originally thought this better for a weekend supper but it was certainly substantial enough for dinner during the week. Layers of tortilla chips, sauced turkey, black beans and cheddar cheese baked in a casserole were easily eaten with the fingers, fresh out of the oven, but better with a fork the next day when the chips softened a bit and it became more of a taco salad idea.

Pineapple Fried Rice

Shrimp and Pineapple Fried Rice

Next was the Shrimp and Pineapple Fried Rice. A fair amount of prep goes into this dish–making the rice ahead, chopping the vegetables and cleaning the whole pineapple into two bowls. Now, even though it’s supposed to serve 4 (and it does, quite generously) the directions call for splitting the pineapple in half, lengthwise, and carving out two bowls. Only 2 bowls? Unless they are supposed to be large enough to act as serving dishes (mine were not) it seems a bit unfortunate that only 2 of the diners get the benefit of this presentation. As we were only two, it wasn’t much of an issue. And we had a delightful time demolishing the remaining pineapple in the hull of the bowl for dessert.

The rest was held for the next day’s lunch. Here’s where we run into a bit of a bump: the leftover rice became quite mushy–to the point I couldn’t stomach it–because of the enzymes in the fresh pineapple. This was very disappointing. In the future we’ll do either 1 of 2 things: hold out the pineapple destined for the lunch portions and mix it in just before re-heating or use canned pineapple which, I suspect, would not do as much damage. Just as canned pineapple can be used in gelatin whereas fresh cannot (the heating in the canning process destroys the enzyme, allowing the gelatin to gell), it might hold up better in this preparation as well.

Sweet Potato Chorizo Mole

Sweet Potato Chorizo Mole

Finally, Sunday night’s supper was Sweet Potato Chorizo Mole. Another casserole with just a touch of meat (in this case, chorizo) but fist-fulls of flavor! Again, we’d had chorizo in something else during Todd’s menu so already had enough in the fridge for this recipe. We also still had some Mexican chocolate with chilies leftover from our cruise the previous year. Sweet potatoes are always a favorite at our house, along with corn and black beans. It takes over an hour in the oven to cook the slices of sweet potato through, but the wait is worth it. Served with lime wedges and creamy slices of avocado, it really doesn’t need anything else.

Another way to do it, if you’re in more of a hurry, would be to prepare the mole sauce as directed but cube the potatoes, boil them as the mole simmers and combine them into a stew. Top with cheddar cheese once in the bowls and the time for this recipe could go from 1.5 hours to, maybe, 30 minutes.

We’ve still got 3 more recipes to try this week: Shabu Shabu Soup, Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara and Albondigas.

Turkey Gumbo


Everyone has their own favorite ways of using up the leftover Thanksgiving turkey. In our family, it’s steaming turkey gumbo ladled over a pile of fluffy white rice. (Yes, I know, brown rice is healthier but this is a once a year thing, folks; fluffy and brown rice don’t meat too often as far as I know!)

There are as many different ways to make gumbo as their are people who make it. Here’s my way.

Turkey & Sausage Gumbo

First you make a roux from

2/3 c olive oil
2/3 c flour

Cooking to just past blond stage–enough to cook the flour completely and develop a little thickening power but without adding too much color to the gumbo.

Add in

2 onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 green onions, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced

and cook for 5-10 minutes before adding

1 lb (or more) smoked sausage, sliced
1 turkey carcass with some meat left on the bones
2 smoked turkey wings (optional)
2 Tbsp parsley
1 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 c white wine

and then enough water to cover the works. For very large turkey carcasses you may need to break it in half so as not to water-down the gumbo just to cover all the pieces.

Simmer for 45 minutes or so, then add

2 cups of cooked turkey, or whatever you have left

and continue to cook for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in

3 Tbsp file powder

and let sit for 5 minutes before serving over white rice.

Mom’s the one who likes to use the smoked turkey wings, especially if we’re shy on actual leftover turkey besides the carcass. (I know, carcass isn’t a very appetizing word but it makes a very appetizing soup!)