Tag Archives: turkey

A Very Thankful Thanksgiving

My ancestor came to this land 390 years ago. Half the colony died that first winter. Can you imagine how sad that must have been, after that long journey with all of the hardships, to finally arrive only to lose so many. The first Thanksgiving, so it is said, was celebrated after surviving a year with a harvest. Our family in this century like to celebrate our being together after much time apart and cook a killer meal. Most of the fun is being together in the kitchen with gentle jostling and teasing, collaborating and handing off tasks seamlessly, and many tastings. A common refrain is, “Are you sure that has enough salt, let me try that again!”

As a special treat this year I purchased a Happy Thanksgiving produce box from Happy Girl Farms, my first experience with them, and hauled all the produce up on the train in a duffle roller bag, also filled with wine. Of course one wheel on the bag broke as I was leaving my apartment and I had to drag that beast around like a mobster hauling a dead body, woof, what a long trip!

It was quite the adventure in what one would consider a relatively simple task of picking up the produce box. I was given an address saying there would be prominent signage near a gate in a fence of a lovely home in Castro Heights. I took a taxi after work; it was 5:30 pm and already inky dark outside. In a dimly lit street, the taxi driver said that he thought a long dark fence was the right one. Thankfully I had a tiny flashlight on my house keys and turned it on and headed towards the fence. On the fence near eye level was a quarter-sized sticker that said Happy Girl Farms, visible only after illuminating it with my tiny light. I saw a door in the fence and pushed it open, saw below me a foot-plus drop down to a dirt slope, and three boxes lying on the dirt. I carefully stepped down and promptly slid on the mud (it had rained heavily that day) and slid to a tall shrub straight below me. I grabbed at it, wrenching my shoulder injured previously from the tragic high-fiving incident at the World Series celebrations. I badly scratched and punctured my hand from the 1″ spines from the shrub which turned out to be a bougainvillea bush! But I prevented myself running into it by a fraction of an inch with my face or falling in the mud. Swearing loudly, I retrieved my keys and baby flashlight from the ground and looked around for the clipboard as instructed in the email but didn’t see anything. There was one large produce box, opened to the elements, so I peeked inside and saw some of the veggies listed on my receipt. I heaved the box off the dirt and transversed the slippery hill up to the gate and sidewalk in the pitch black dark. I managed to lift the box up to the sidewalk level. As I hauled myself out some pedestrians walked by almost knocking me back inside the gate down the slope but one man grabbed my arm to steady me. Whew. Thoroughly shaken, muddy and bleeding, I stood there for a moment, and the cab driver came over and said, “Are you okay??” He helped me into the cab and loaded the muddy box in the back, and drove me home. I called Dirty Girl and got voicemail, then rang up my mommy and whined about the things I do for fresh produce! The cab driver handed me a paper towel to staunch the bleeding and wipe up some of the mud; either it was a kindness on his part or a defensive measure to keep his hack clean. Once home, cleaned up and disinfected, ice pack on my shoulder and a glass of wine consumed (for medicinal purposes), I received a call back from a rep at Happy Girl Farms. The guy informed me that I actually came on the wrong night, despite their email confirmation that clearly said the pick up day was Tuesday. He said something about their having computer problems and asked me to check the box. I did and found that many items listed on their receipt were not in the box. He again mentioned it wasn’t my box, and so I offered to forward him their email to me. He said I could keep the box (how generous!!) and I felt rather exasperated at this point and retorted, “Look, I’m leaving tomorrow at 5 am. If you want to come by tonight and pick up this box and give me *my* box, I would be really happy with that.” After hemming and hawing a bit he said he’d refund me a portion of the price and next time they would put some flashlights in that yard. I think I will pass on using this pick up place on the premise of preserving my health from a broken ankle or bougainvillea-related flesh shredding, and spare the homeowner any litigious opportunities. Ah, the adventures of supporting local farms.

On a positive note, all of the product was fantastic. We have apples, pears, garlic and onions, carrots and parsnips, bunches of herbs, a variety of potatoes, celery and some squash. Once safely at the parents, we stashed it all in the garage and got ready for our Thanksgiving Eve dinner.

We talked about the Big Day menu while feasting on our usual Dungeness crab, sourdough bread schlepped from the city, mOm’s Louis dressing and iceberg lettuce wedges, augmented by crisp-tender asparagus spears. Truly though, any excuse to eat crab is a welcome one. Or Louis sauce. That sauce rocks!

Thanksgiving morning dawned with the fiery blaze of the liquid amber tree and frost everywhere, a brisk 32 degrees.

Just WOW. What a tree!

After lots of coffee and toasted Acme sourdough bread and butter, we hopped to work in the kitchen and I posted the menu and to-dos for each menu item on the fridge.

Our Menu:
o Dry brined turkey roasted with bacon and sage
o Granny’s “Aunt Emma’s” dressing
o Giblet gravy
o Mashed potatoes
o Potato butter buns
o Roasted whole onions
o Carrot and parsnip coins in a beef-butter reduction
o Green salad with roasted quince, pomegranate, pecans and goat cheese, with a quince syrup white wine vinaigrette
o Pumpkin chiffon pie

Mom started with the pie crust. I loved mOm’s comment, “If this pie pan could talk… It is older than you and has seen many pies.”

I started the brown sauce, part two of the three-part gravy process, and prepped the veggies and fruits for the dressing. My sis made the dressing while Mom made the filling for the pumpkin pie elbow-to-elbow with me as I prepared the dough for the potato buns. I love these buns, we all love these buns, in fact, I plan to make more tomorrow. Can you see why?

Everything was going so smoothly, we had time to take a break, take a nap and knit (just me). Around 3:30 pm we put in the turkey, and three and a half hours later the turkey was done!

Mmmm, bacon..

I decorated da boid with strips of bacon and fresh sage leaves. The little onions roasted happily under the roasting rack. Everyone was liberally slathered with butter.

My sis gently tossed and arranged the salad, I dolloped spoonfuls of butter and sour cream onto the mashed potatoes, and mom made the gravy. There was liberal sampling going on. Bliss.

This gravy is so good, you could eat it like soup.

The carrots and parsnips were perfectly done, not mushy but toothsome, cooked with beef stock and butter and reduced to a syrupy glaze.

The potatoes were creamy and showered with parsley and a lake of butter. Mmmm, butter….

The table looked so festive. My sis put a cinammon-spiced cranberry sauce in her pretty Spode turkey dish, with the spoon in a compromising position. Squawk!!!

I tried carving the turkey this year, and overfilled a platter to the point of ridiculousness with the juicy meat. And bacon.

Every single dish was outstanding. I poured an ’09 Serenade from Casa Rondeña in New Mexico (a Gewürztraminer/Reisling blend) and an ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap (a lovely gift from the winery, thank you!!). We filled out plates to match our hearts filled with love, and were too full for pie! Desultory conversation followed and then bed, with blissful turkey dreams.

Today was the culmination of a year-long dream, pumpkin pie and coffee for breakfast (and a few leftover buns slathered with butter) and the leftover turkey sandwich. And a nap. We traded stories all afternoon, about family history, and country and city living oddities. It is so delightful to relax with my family and get to know them better, year after year.

What a great holiday we had, and tonight we get to do it all over again, the only work involved will be gentle reheating!

I’m off to go hang up the outdoor Christmas lights now with my sis, with my stepdad’s supervision, another post-turkey day tradition.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Turkey? On a Weeknight? Why, Yes!!!

Yes, it *is* true. You can cook a turkey for dinner on a weeknight.

Or at least my friend A___ thought so. During an extremely hectic week she managed to hit up Costco where they had nice organic turkeys on sale. While she buzzed off to her frenetic workday her dear beau R___ brined the turkey. We don’t know what he put into the brine actually, it was one of those mysterious guy moments where they work their kitchen magic and make it look so easy. I love it when that happens! While we were on our way over to the beach house, R___ removed the turkey from the brine, rinsed it and put it on a pan with a rack back in the fridge to let dry out a bit and preheated the oven for us. Give that man a beer!!

After we decompressed a tad, or, that is, A___relaxed, after all she had the busy day and I did not actually, I was pretty relaxed and sipping some chilled white wine I brought from the Roost. We futzed around the kitchen a bit, chatting and laughing; there is no better way to relax after a tough day to joke and laugh with friends with a little wine, the attentions of a warm, loving boyfriends (hers) and the unabashed adoration of two giant hounds. After spending some good quality time over at the beach house over the past year or so I have found that I really feel much happier when I am in full household with lots of animals and phone calls and craziness. It is especially difficult to come home to the Roost after this, despite that I love my cozy place with my modest collection of nice things and my insanely fat cat. It is so quiet and solitary here. I guess my fate is to roost alone but I think that my chicken analogy extends to the point that I recognize I would be happier in a flock. But many life lessons can be learned in the kitchen. I have learned that you may start out with a set menu but must adapt to what is fresh, what is available and what doesn’t get burnt. It is just like life, you have to make do with the ingredients you have in your life’s “pantry”, sometimes it is Top Ramen, sometimes it is prime rib. But what ever it is, you need to be as happy as you can with what you have, and enjoy the process.

But I digress. Let’s talk turkey!

A___’s place is welcome to all and additional guests were arriving shortly who were not as understanding about dining at 9:00 pm on a weeknight, or later, as we have done on occasion. Given the time constraints I suggested that we butterfly the turkey like I sometimes do with chickens when I am in a hurry. We had a recipe somewhere in the manse but couldn’t put our fingers on it at that exact moment, so I did the next best thing. I called mOm! I love it that moms know everything. If you need to know how to get a stain out of a blouse or what to do when you are feeling sick and are not sure if it’s dire or not, or how to roast a turkey in a hurry, moms are always there with an answer and a calming chat. With my mOm’s guidance, we set the oven at the suggested temperature of 450 F and the time range for cooking a bird.

I grabbed a nice knife and cut out the backbone of the turkey, which was surprisingly easy, despite a slight variance in architecture of a turkey vis a vis a chicken. Near the tail the bones are a little denser than a chicken and not quite in the same place but with a few sharp jabs I was able to cut the entire backbone and tail off. Next, I flattened the turkey by performing CPR gestures on the breastbone. Yelling “cough it up” did not help, however, but it did produce howls of laughter by my kitchen mates and a few barks from Rocky. Once the breastbone had been compressed sufficiently, I tucked the wings back and adjusted the drumsticks so that the now (more) flattened bird would fit on a baking sheet. (Sorry, no pictures, my hands were gooey.)

A___ had been chopping up carrots, celeriac and onions and arranged them on the baking sheet with some crimini mushrooms to serve as an impromptu roasting rack, plus they would double as the vegetable portion of the evening and do triple duty as flavoring of the pan juices for a light gravy. Mr. Turkey got splayed on top of the veggies, given a brief but relaxing massage with olive oil and a salt rub with Kosher salt and grinds of pepper. I also got wild and added a dash of garlic granules on top. Somehow it just felt right. Suitably relaxed, the turkey got tossed in the hot oven for 40 minutes, then it was rotated in the oven (and he was starting to brown nicely) and then roasted for another 40 minutes. After a total of 80 minutes Mr. Turkey was a deep mahogony, the meat had begun to withdraw from the ends of the drumsticks and the internal temperature was 170 F in the thigh and was a big higher in the breast. This means that we could have actually removed the bird after a total roasting time of 70 minutes, which is pretty quick for a 14 pound bird, don’t you agree?

It required manly strength to lift the bird out of the oven, and after this assistance, we girls retired him to rest on a warmed platter covered with a little foil for 15 minutes or so. The veggies were lifted off the baking sheet using a slotted spoon and set aside in a covered serving dish.

Roasted root vegetables
(shown here with some commercial cranberry sauce)

We poured off the drippings into a saute pan, where I removed the excess fat with a spoon. Meanwhile R___ deglazed the baking sheet with some red wine (a meritage of Zinfandel, Merlot and 10% Cabernet) and also a half glass of my white wine (Buena Vista Chardonnay). The winey mixture was added to the saute pan and I let it reduce a few minutes then added a light cornstarch slurry just still the sauce coated a spoon.

Then I carved up the bird, the skin was so crisp and the meat was extremely juicy. The breast sliced up perfectly, nary a shredding moment, and was so juicy when I pressed with the knife some pearls of savory turkey juice beaded up on the meat. Perfection!
Carved crispy turkey

Dinner was on the table in a hurry! A___ had made a roasted cranberry sauce with whole spices and her famed Persian rice. Perhaps someday I can persuade her to share the recipes. I just felt lucky to eat them!
Roasting the CranberriesPersian rice
(Can you see the little rabbits cut out of potato and onion that decorate the top of the Persian rice? They were particularly delicious and almost caused WW3 with fencing forks dueling to the bitter end)

A__ whipped up a quick salad of sliced cucumbers and radish, dill and a creamy dressing. It was perfect with the turkey and roasted root vegetables.
Cucumber Radish salad

I have a question to pose to the universe, or perhaps just a puzzlement. Despite using over 6 carrots for the root vegetable dish there were hardly enough carrots to go around. What happens when one cooks carrots? No matter how many one cooks it seems like there are never enough. Do they become the “angel’s share” like wine while they are cooking? Do aliens invade the kitchen and beam them out of the pots and pans? Have the dogs acquired opposable thumbs and had a snack? It is extremely perplexing to me.

Irregardless, between 4 adults and 1 teen, almost all of the thigh meat and a breast were consumed in one sitting. Only a 1/4 cup of the roasted cranberry sauce remained and perhaps a tablespoon of gravy. Gravy is another mysterious substance, there is never enough of it no matter how much you try to make! All, sweet mysteries of life!
Holiday dinner

We laughed and talked and toasted each other the Russian way with icy crisp vodka. A hearty toast was made to R___ for his impending birthday, and to the darling daughter for surviving finals week at school. Finally we toasted our friendship and family and our wishes of joy, happiness, peace and health for Christmas. Nostrovia!!
A frozen peace
Peace phone

The wine for dinner was a special treat for the birthday boy. A gorgeous lush Hendry Zinfandel, Block 28 from 2005. It was just released this year and is drinking well. I really prefer not to let Zins age too much as I feel they lose their lush fruitiness with the sands of time. This Zin was elegant, lightly tannic, spicy with black pepper and currant, a perfect match to turkey. If you ever get a chance to try Hendry’s wines I commend you for your good taste. George and Mike Hendry are great winemakers, not to mention that Mike is the cutest vineyard manager / winemaker I have ever met.

Holiday dinner is
(A plateful of holiday joy. Mmmm, turkey! Sorry for the cruddy pictures, I do my best with my cell phone)

A Speedy Turkey Dinner

Although I don’t have the ingredients used in the brine from last night, here is a brine that I have used and loved. Brines are like any recipe, you can add what ever you have on hand so please count this ingredient list as a guideline, with the exception of the salt to water proportions. If you are really pressed for time you can skip the brining, just be sure to season the bird well on both sides with salt and pepper and chopped herbs. I love brining poultry now because it gives you such insurance against drying out the meat if it cooks faster than you expect. I love that peace of mind, and the flavor just cannot be beat.

The Briney Deep:

a thawed 14# organic turkey
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar (omit if you are using juice)
1 gallon water, vegetable stock, white wine or a combination of them
1 Meyer lemon, sliced
1 head of garlic, sliced in half
2 apples, sliced in half, then sliced into 1″ pieces
2 onions, sliced in half, then sliced into 1″ pieces
1 T peppercorns
bunches of fresh herbs: sage, thyme, bay leaves, a little rosemary, marjoram, oregano
1 gallon cold water or half water, half apple juice or apple cider

Bring the water/broth/wine to a simmer with the salt and stir until dissolved. Add herbs, savories and spices, and cold water/juice/cider. The brine should be cold before immersing the turkey, or at least cool. In a XL Zip Lock bag or a brining bag add the turkey and the brine, press out as much air as possible from the bag, place in a large bowl or pot (insurance in case the bag leaks) and refrigerate overnight. Or, brine in the morning and cook the turkey that night.

A few hours before cooking, remove the turkey from the brine, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Let rest in the refrigerator uncovered on a rack. This allows the skin to crisp up during roasting.

To Roast the Turkey and Root Vegetables:

1 pound carrots, cut into large chunks
1 celeriac or celery root, tough skin cut off with a paring knife, and flesh cut into large chunks
3 onions, cut into wedges
8 oz whole trimmed crimini mushrooms
3 T olive oil
1 tsp granulated garlic

Remove the backbone and tail from the turkey using a sharp knife. Save backbone and tail for stock or turkey bone soup! Turn the turkey over and flatten breastbone by pressing very firmly on the cartilage of the breast. Tuck under wings and tie the legs together.

On a baking sheet arrange large chunks of root vegetables and mushrooms. Place turkey flat upon the vegetables and place in a preheated 450 F oven. Roast for 80-120 minutes, rotating the pan after 40 minutes. Internal temperature of the turkey should be between 165-170 F in the breast and thigh.

Remove turkey from roasting pan and let rest, covered, for 15-20 minutes.

Meantime, remove vegetables from the roasting pan and taste for salt and pepper. Keep warm. Make the gravy (see below).

Carve turkey into serving pieces and serve on a warm platter drizzled with some gravy. Don’t forget to keep the breast and thigh bones for the stock pot!

The Gravy:

1 cup red wine
1 cup water (if needed) or unsalted chicken broth
2 T cornstarch, dissolved in 3 T cold water
dash Port
1 T fresh lemon juice

Pour off drippings from roasting pan into a sauce pan. Pour wine into roasting pan and scrape up all browned bits with a wooden spoon or spatula, pour into sauce pan. If there is not a sufficient quantity of juices to make ~1 1/2 – 2 c sauce, add water or broth. Let juices simmer for 5 minutes, taste for salt and pepper. Add Port and lemon juice, taste to balance the sweet and the acid. While juices are simmering, whisk in half of the cornstarch slurry and test for appropriate thickness (should be like half and half), add more cornstarch if necessary. Let simmer for one minute more then pour into a warmed sauceboat. Strain if desired, but I like a rustic gravy sometimes.


Next time you see turkey on sale at the market, please toss one in your cart and give this cooking method a try. You will love the freedom of good turkey in a hurry.


A Postscript:

Now as you know, hopefully, from reading my post-Thanksgiving article, there is nothing I love more than a turkey sandwich. A few days ago my hosts had a nice lunch in the Richmond district of turkey and cheese panini and A___ had been obsessing over them ever since and really wanted to have one today with the leftover turkey. Since she and R___ had some errands to do in the morning, I took it upon myself to get some of the prep work done before they returned. A___’s vision was sliced turkey and cheese on a halved ciabatta loaf with caramelized onions. Doesn’t that sound delicious?

With a Strauss Dairy eggnog latte in hand, I set about caramelizing the onions. I must say as much as I love cooking and all the tasks involved including prepping vegetables, making perfect tiny brunoise, stirring risotto constantly to attain the perfect texture, even washing up the dishes (but not the silverware), the one task I find tedious is caramelizing onions. It takes time, attention and you cannot rush the process. Even the redoubtable Cooks Illustrated’s quick version of French Onion Soup requires a minimum of 20 minutes standing there and stirring. Yawn. Fortunately there is Twitter to keep my occupied, plus the fun of trying to keep the dogs out of the kitchen while I am in there, a Sisyphean task. Some clever person out there could make a killer business by selling tubs of caramelized onions to high end grocery stores. If you do this, please send me a lifetime supply of onions as my reward for gifting you with this idea.

By the time my hosts returned home, the onions were a deep coffee brown and the dogs were dancing with joy at seeing their “parents” home. Oh, and it was their meal time. That makes anyone popular, yes?

They are getting close!

I am not going to give the recipe for the sandwich here. Anyone can make a great sandwich without a recipe!! But here’s what I did in case you want to duplicate our delicious lunch today. I lightly broiled the bread and we spread the top half with a light coating of mayo and some dijon. On the bottom of the bread half we spread the caramelized onions and topped that with slices of turkey gently warmed up in the microwave with the left over gravy. Swiss and Gouda slices topped the turkey and we ground a little fresh pepper over the top. The bread halves were placed on a foil-lined tray and broiled until the top half was just warmed (and removed at this point) and the cheese was melted and bubbling on the bottom half. We put the bread halves together and placed the sandwich back under the broiler for a moment to warm up the top of the bread and provide a little crunch. A___ had cleverly scored the top piece of the bread in two places, equally dividing it into 3 large pieces. This really made cutting the hot sandwich a snap with the bread knife. We cut each 3rd in half again and served the sandwiches with the leftover cranberry sauces.

I loved adding large spoonfuls of cranberry sauce into my sandwich. I do admit I have an addiction to the ubiquitous jellied cranberry sauce in the can, but this roasted cranberry sauce was really incredible. The combination of the crunch of the bread, the ooziness of the cheese, the tender moist turkey, the unctuousness of the onions and the cool tang of the cranberry sauce was divine. The only thing that could have improved this sandwich would have been leftover stuffing, however that’s a post-Thanksgiving Day tradition, alas. Or, perhaps next week, when I get the urge to have turkey again in a big hurry.

Panini love!

A big thank you to my dear friends for such a wonderful dinner and lunch and all of the good times.

Have a great weekend!

When Leftovers are The Point

All of the focus this time of year is on the Thanksgiving meal. However, in my mind, the leftovers are the thing.

Of course, I don’t mean to minimize the importance of The Main Event. The triumphant withdrawal of Big Bird from the oven; the care and devotion to the creation of the perfect gravy; the in-kitchen show of carving the bird with the inherent snacking on slivers of crispy skin and thigh meat (oops, that fell on the counter! We’ll just have to take care of that!); and the multiple trips back and forth delivering steaming dishes of delicious family favorites to the dining table. At last we are all seated, aprons removed, hair combed, and we start to joke that none of the ladies had time to put on any makeup *again* this year. We say grace, one of two times this nonsecular utterance occurs, and despite 50% of us at the table being nonobservant, it is always a moving and bonding moment. Then, the fun begins! Turkey! Stuffing! Mashed potatoes! Sweet potato souffle! With orange sauce! Getman cabbage (it’s tradition). Gravy over everything! Aspic salad! It is all so delectable, so perfectly prepared, so appreciatively consumed. But never more so than the following day. The first turkey sandwich.

Ahhh, leftovers!

I seriously wait *all year* for that turkey sandwich. This year, around 11 am I started watching the clock, ticking down the minutes to my beloved sandwich. I even played it ever so nonchalantly to the casual observer. I took a leisurely shower. I knitted a sock. I stretched. And at 12:15 pm Pacific Standard Time I announced, rather offhandedly, “Hmm, I’m feeling a little peckish. Would anyone like a turkey sandwich?”

Without really waiting for any answers I pounced on the leftovers in the fridge, feverishly pulling out the bird, jellied cranberry sauce, the dressing – the good bag with the dressing from *inside* the bird, mmm – and the mayonnaise. I sliced sourdough leftover from our Turkey-eve crabfest. I assembled the perfect combination of light and dark meat with a smidgeon of ultraflavorful skin. The sandwiches were so fat that I had to wrap them in wax paper.

We assembled in the normally blazing lit family room, now dim from a storm, hearing the rain drum on the roof and watching the raindrops plink in the birdbath. We attack. There is no conversation.

There is only this space in time, this combination of flavors, the chewing…. Ahhhhh….

Mom tells us the story how Grandpa B asked her one day-after-Thanksgiving as she was packing up us kids for the 7 hour drive home if she would like some sandwiches for the road. “Sure, Daddy, that would be nice.” (I love it that she always called him Daddy.) Somewhere around Coalinga she opened the sack of sandwiches, and there they were, this assembly of turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce. It was divine. And it still is.

We feasted on Thanksgiving Dinner Parts 1 through 3, and perhaps enjoyed these postscripts even more than the first night. Then I suggested that we perhaps assemble a turkey pot pie for Night 4? I was asked to elaborate on my idea. The Council deliberated, then concurred, there was to be a turkey pot pie.

But not just any pot pie, shades of Swanson or of even Marie Callendar’s. Our pot pie would be a symphony of turkeyness, a compilation of moist nuggets of brined, herb butter roasted meat, savory chunks of winter vegetables, bound with leftover gravy and crowned with buttermilk biscuits. My sis found a great recipe for roasted pear and blue cheese salad in her local paper. Our menu was complete.

Now, I realize that few other people in this world will have access to a quart of turkey gravy to the degree of perfection such as my mom creates. I cry for you. Someday my family will allow me to share with the world the 30 minute plus FlipVideo I shot of mom making gravy this year. But until that day you will have to make do with the gravy you have on hand. And I am sorry if this sounds smug. But really. Mom’s gravy is truly exceptional, exquisite even. One could seriously serve it it a cream soup dish with a spoon and people would forget all about the turkey. But if you love your gravy, more power to you and I sure hope you make too much next year and then make this pot pie.

Operation Pot Pie commenced. My sis stepped out into the dark garden with shears and a flashlight to gather any viable herbs and to hopefully catch a glimpse of the frog that still hadn’t hibernated yet. Mom sauteed sliced mushrooms and thinly sliced leeks in butter while I chopped all the winter veggies I ran across in the crisper into large chunks. I took over the skillet and sautéed the vegetables until they were meltingly tender in the olive oil saved from frying the crispy shallot with rosemary garnish for the Turkey-Day green beans. My sis chopped herbs and passed them to Mom who was assembling the biscuits, then she filled a small bowl with hunks of turkey until it was brimming. We warmed them gently in the gravy and added grinds of pepper. Everything was gently folded together, tasted for seasoning, and tasted several more times just to be absolutely sure it was good (and it was, really, really good) and spread into a large casserole dish. The biscuits, flavored subtly with fresh herbs, were gently laid on top and the pot pie was baked until the biscuits were golden brown on top.

It was hard to wait 10 minutes to avoid molten gravy induced burns.

We dispensed with using forks and spooned up a corner of the herby biscuit and a mound of the rich filling. The sweet and tangy salad was a perfect foil to the pot pie, and the gold medal award-winning local wine went equally well with each dish. Please look for the Van Ruiten Old Vine 2006 Zinfandel at your local wine shop.

Sometimes leftovers surpass the original meal. Our turkey pot pie certainly surpassed the usual defintion of “leftovers”. As PodChef says, “Leftovers are a gift.”

My Family’s Turkey Pot Pie

3 cups turkey, cut into large chunks but small enough to fit comfortably in a soup spoon
1 quart of turkey gravy
1 cup peas
2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
1 leek, white and light green portions thinly sliced
2 Tbl butter
3 ribs celery
5 carrots
3 parsnips
A large onion
2 Tbl shallot and rosemary infused olive oil
4 cloves roasted garlic, minced

Note: these vegetables are what we had on hand, so please use whatever combination and quantity of vegetables you like. We agree that in our family an abundance of carrots and onions are crucial, as is the addition of peas.

In a large skillet, melt the butter and sauté the mushrooms and leeks until tender and remove to a large mixing bowl. Cut celery in half lengthwise and chop into 1″ chunks. Scrub carrots and parsnips well, halve if large and cut into 1″ chunks. Chop onion. Add olive oil and add carrots, celery and parsnip and a dash of water, cover and let steam for 5 minutes. Remove cover and add onions and sauté 5 to 10 minutes mote, or until very tender. Add to the bowl and add peas and garlic. Toss well and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat the gravy in a saucepan and when hot add the turkey. Stir gently and combine with the vegetables, taste again for seasoning (and try not to nibble so much) and pour into a 9×13 casserole.

1/4 c chopped mixed herbs (optional)
1 c AP flour
1 c cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp soda
1 stick butter (1/2 c), chopped or grated
3/4 buttermilk

Note: double the recipe for the pot pie or use as is for great breakfast or supper biscuits. We did not double the recipe and wished we had!

In a food processor, place all dry ingredients and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse a few times to combine. Then pour in buttermilk and optional herbs and pulse several times. The dough will be a crumbly mass. Dump onto a floured board and form onto a rough ball with your hands. Using a pastry cutter, divide into 12 (or 24 if doubling) pieces. Gently form these pieces into balls then flatten into discs 3/4″ thick.

Place biscuits on top of warm filling and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown on top and the stew is bubbling.

I am asking my sis to send me the recipe for the salad so I can share it with you here. We punted and used apples instead when we discovered the pears were off, and realized that the apples were better suited for the turkey pot pie. Sometimes all things happen for a reason!

Now I have to wait another year for leftovers…..