Any other time of year and I would take a rib-eye steak without thinking twice, but from Thanksgiving until Christmas, turkey reigns supreme.
Walk through the meat section of any supermarket during the holiday season and it is apparent what the big seller is. I have to admit, any other time of year and I would take a rib-eye steak without thinking twice, but from Thanksgiving until Christmas, turkey reigns supreme.
For 11 months out of the year, I am a red meat-eater. Sure, I’ll eat chicken and pork and, dare I say, even vegetarian meals, but I am a red meat-craving carnivore.
Then, it is as if the Taste Fairy stops by when I’m asleep and tweaks my tongue or maybe uses some acupuncture needles, and poof, I crave turkey more than any other thing on the planet. It is as if I get a biological hiccup in my taste buds. Maybe it works the same as a bear’s biological clock that tells him it’s time to go find a cave and take a nap — a very long nap.
For one month, turkey becomes the center of as many meals as possible. I’m not a breakfast person; I don’t have turkey omelets or turkey sausage in the morning, but the rest of the day I am in turkey heaven. Let’s face it, half of what everyone looks forward to is the leftover turkey sandwiches.
It goes something like this: The first night the turkey is served with mashed potatoes, stuffing, squash, peas and pearl onions, cranberry sauce and one or more other side dishes, all of which are smothered in a gallon of mushroom gravy. Day 2 starts with turkey sandwiches for lunch and then a repeat of dinner from the first night, minus most of the side dishes because, well, side dishes are just that, side dishes. There are usually just enough of them for one leftovers dinner. Also, there is still enough gravy to cover everything, but you want to keep some for hot turkey sandwiches on Nights 3 and 4. I will sadden as the days pass and sandwiches get much skimpier — and then, it’s all gone.
Not to despair, Christmas comes and the whole turkey extravaganza starts again. After Christmas, the stores look like the lake after Labor Day. There might be a turkey or two still in the freezer section, but finding a fresh one becomes a pretty difficult task. As I walk past the meat cases, my taste buds slowly start to return to normal as I notice the rib eyes and my mouth starts to salivate again. Unfortunately, I also notice the price of said rib eyes and decide I had better slowly wean my way off the turkey.
It’s true that all the choicest parts of the bird are gone, but with a little work, the carcass can furnish a couple more meals. First, use the carcass to make a nice stock and then use the stock to make some soups. The stock is wicked easy to make and if you need an idea for a soup, try this and enjoy.
1 turkey carcass
2 medium onions, chopped
5 to 6 carrots, halved lengthwise & chopped
6 to 8 celery sticks, chopped
Place the carcass in a large pot. Add the carrots, celery and onions. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and let juices reduce. I usually let it reduce by half to be sure it has plenty of flavor. Strain and skim any excess fat off the top. Also pick the meat off the carcass; it is a great addition. There should be meat on the neck, wings and body of the bird.
2 T butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced
3 celery sticks, sliced
1 medium daikon radish, diced
½ head bok choy, sliced
1½ T fresh ginger
1½ t sesame oil
2 t rice wine vinegar
6 T soy sauce
24 oz. turkey stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup rice, cooked and cooled (optional)
Sauté the garlic and onion in the butter until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the carrots, celery, daikon radish and ginger. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the bok choy and let that start to wilt. Add vinegar followed by the stock and bring to a boil and, then, turn down to a simmer. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and taste. Add more of either or both as needed and finish with salt and pepper. (Soy sauce is salty so be sure to wait a minute before adding any additional salt.)
Add rice, if you want.
Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. To read archived copies of Smitty’s column, visit chefsmitty.com or TheTahoeWeekly.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 412-3598.