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I Knit Around

Monday, November 28, 2005

Surviving Turkey Day

I know I was grumbling the week before last about the absurdity of cooking a 20-lb. turkey for just two people. We survived the process, though not without stress.

Our apartment building, the best we can figure, was last remodeled and the kitchens updated in the 50's. I'm fairly sure the electric stove must be newer than that, but it's still far from new.

Cooking anything elaborate generates a lot of tension, since there seems to be an issue with the heating element in the oven chosing random times to shut off. This has been an intermittent and infrequent issue, since we just don't oven-cook that much, but with this Thanksgiving and trying to spend over 5 hours cooking a 20-lb. bird, we became convinced that it's a major cause of our cooking anxiety.

Turkey Monster Ready to Roast

The Buttered Bird Awaiting Its Heated Conclusion

My review of turkey roasting techniques consistently turned up the notion of covering the bird with folded cheesecloth that's been soaked in melted butter. This surprised me, since no one I've ever had roasted turkey with had ever used this approach - to my knowledge, at least. Still, it seemed worth a try, so that's what we did.

When I cleaned out the turkey, I looked at the neck and decided not to waste any time. I dumped it straight in the crockpot, added some vegetables from the freezer, poured in some chicken broth to cover, and started it cooking. Not entirely without incident, though, about which more later.

Turkey Soup #1 in the Crock

Turkey Neck Soup

Our ornery oven tried at least three times to thwart our turkey roasting efforts. First, the original pre-heat failed; then, twice during the roasting period, when basting the bird we discovered that the oven temperature had dropped and the heating element wasn't kicking in. Turning the oven off and then setting it back to the desired temperature restored the creation of heat in each case. Our point, though, is that we shouldn't ever have to wonder if the oven is heating properly or not.

Folkcat Carves the Turkey

And She, She herself - the Grinch - carved the Roast Beast

Sorry, couldn't resist that. In the end, the turkey did roast through beautifully. We removed the butter-soaked cheesecloth for the last half hour or so to let the skin brown, which it did nicely. The meat was cooked through, and may have been ever so slightly dry, but it was nevertheless tasty.

Chive Turkey Soup

Turkey Soup #1, Completed - Chive Turkey Soup

The Fine Art of Identifying Frozen Vegetables

Apparently, it's not as easy as one would think. When I selected the homepacked bags of frozen vegetables for the turkey neck soup, I thought I grabbed one bag of carrot slices, and one of broccoli florets. I was much surprised when I first stirred the soup a couple of hours into the process, and could find no evidence of the broccoli anywhere. Yet there were all these little, grass-like green things...

As it turns out, what I thought was broccoli was actually chives. This summer, a friend had given us a huge cutting of fresh chives from her garden. I had snipped them all up and frozen them in an ice cube tray, anticipating that I'd be able to pull out a cube of chives to season a soup.

What I did not expect was to pull out the entire bag and mistake it for broccoli, thereby dumping the whole thing into the pot.

I located a package of actual broccoli in the freezer and added that. The chives I couldn't do much about - but they added a nice flavor, and a certain amount of folklore, to the finished product.

Which, of course, I'm now calling Chive Turkey Soup.

More Leftover Magic

The next day after Thanksgiving, of course, we were faced with piles of prepared food we needed to deal with. Actually, scratch that - it wasn't the Friday, we were still too toasty from doing battle with our oven the day before. Dealing with the leftovers didn't start happening until Saturday.

Gryphon took on the job of picking the meat off of the turkey carcass. When I came into the kitchen, he'd removed everything he could get easily, and had popped the still meat-clad bones into a stockpot to loosen what was left.

"Honey," I said. "You know what you're doing, don't you?"

"What's that?"

"You're making soup."

Freezer- and cupboard-diving I go, looking for what will work to make another nice soup. The main criterion was that it had to be different enough from the other one, or why bother? So we added a bunch of frozen chopped peppers and onions, and some carrots, and I decided that closer to the end of the process I'd add rice for the carbohydrate component, and some instant mashed potato flakes.

Instant mashed potato flakes? In soup?

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. But it's an old trick I learned a long time ago. The mashed potato flakes simultaneously thicken the soup, and give it a creamy texture without having to add dairy products. It does quite a good job of it, too.

Creamy Turkey Soup with Rice

Creamy Turkey Soup with Rice

A little rosemary for seasoning, some salt and pepper to perk up the flavor, and I declared this soup finished. Both soups came out tasty, but I think this one is my favorite of the two.

Thanksgiving Dinner as a Moveable Feast

My favorite leftovers by far are those that you can turn into a portable meal. Thanksgiving Dinner works perfectly.

You can work with pie dough for these little pocket pastries, but I prefer packaged refrigerator dough - either biscuit dough, or better yet, croissant dough. The version in the picture below uses Pillsbury Grands Flaky Biscuits, since I had them in the house already from our Turkey Day groceries.

If you're using biscuit dough, you have to get out your rolling pin and a little flour and roll the biscuits out big and thin. Really big and thin. If you think you've got them big enough, keep going. I roll until they're at least 5 inches across myself.

Thanksgiving Dinner in a Pocket

Thanksgiving Dinner to Go, With All the Fixings

For the Thanksgiving Dinner in a Pocket version of this, my filling will consist of the following, listed in the order I'll add them to the pocket:

  • stuffing
  • mashed potatos, if there are any left
  • white and dark meat turkey, chopped fairly small and mixed together
  • gravy
  • cranberry sauce

A small amount of each of these is placed on half of the dough. Remember that you don't want to put it all the way to the edge, since you need free dough there to seal together. Also, you don't want to put too much filling, or your pockets will burst on you. If you have vegetables leftover, you could add a bit of those, too.

Bake according to the instructions for whatever version of refrigerated dough you're using. I find that they don't take any longer to cook than the usual biscuits or crescent rolls you'd make do.

I recommend storing these in the refrigerator, or you could freeze them. They can be eaten at room temperature, or warmed gently in a toaster oven. Microwaving works, too, but tends to make them soggy and the dough may get a little tough.

Obligatory Fiber Mention

I knit a fair bit over the past week, mostly hats. I'm working out the details of converting my Inverted Cloud Hat concept into a full pattern, and it's turning out a little more involved than I might have initially anticipated. I'm planning to offer instructions that will cover three sizes and a number of gauges. So watch this space, and I'll let you know when I have something ready. If it gets very involved, I may put up the most basic Inverted Cloud Hat as I've already posted it, then offer the more complex, all sizes-all gauges pattern as a pattern for sale.

I've also postulated a double-layered, self-lining hat that would be great for really cold weather, or for yarns that are too thin to ues as a single knit layer. So I'm working on that variation as well, which I'll probably offer as a separate pattern unto itself. Stay tuned.

In Conclusion

The sunset sky as we found it after running errands on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

Sunset, Day Before Thanksgiving, 2005

As Sandy might say, All Your Skies Are Belong to Her

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