Archive for the ‘Fowl’ Category

When you’ve had all the turkey-cranberry sandwiches and reheated mashed potatoes that you can stand, it’s time to make croquettes with the Thanksgiving leftovers.

Croquettes are essentially breaded and deep-fried anythings.  Usually, these anythings include bechamel sauce as a binder.  The key, then, to post-Thanksgiving croquettes is to make a big ol’ batch of rather thick bechamel and to mix it with any and all of the leftover Thanksgiving vegetables and/or turkey.  The recipe for the Rather Thick Bechamel:

  • 1/2 c olive oil and/or butter
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 3 c milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • nutmeg for grating

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the oil (and melt the butter, if using) over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour to make a roux.  Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, to cook some of the rawness out of the flour, about 2-3 minutes.  Whisk in about 1/2 c of the milk until smooth, then whisk in the rest of the milk.  Reduce the heat to low and add the bay leaf.  Peel and smash the garlic cloves and toss them in as well.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes; the bechamel should feel like thick cream.  Grate in a little nutmeg and some black pepper; add salt to taste.  Remove and discard the bay leaf and allow the bechamel to cool.  It should set up like that paste you remember eating in kindergarten.

This year, by food-processing the bechamel with an equal amount of filling, I made turkey croquettes; sweet potato and almond croquettes; and mushroom, arugula and Fontina croquettes.  (Don’t overprocess the croquette batter:  You want the filling to have some texture, hence the almonds mixed with the sweet potatoes.)  I also made potato croquettes with leftover mashed potatoes, but I didn’t add any bechamel to this:  I just stirred in an egg and a handful of flour to give the potatoes some more structure.

At this point, if you’ve gone through all of these steps, you’ve done plenty of the work for the day.  You could put the croquette batters in the fridge (or freezer) and wait until later before assembling the croquettes.  However, if you’re ready to press on…

Create a frying station like you see in the picture above.  Get out three medium mixing bowls and a large baking sheet; line the baking sheet with parchment paper.  In the first mixing bowl, add several handfuls of flour; stir in some Seasoning Salt.  In the second bowl, crack two eggs and stir them together.  In the third bowl, add a bunch of bread crumbs.  Take a spoonful of croquette batter (vegetarian croquettes first, please).  Drop the batter into the flour; toss it around to coat, and try to work it into roughly a dumpling shape.  Put the croquette in the egg and toss to coat.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the croquette to the bread crumbs; toss to coat completely.  Place the croquette on the baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining croquettes.

Again, at this point, you could call it a day and freeze the croquettes until tomorrow, or until next Thanksgiving.  If you’ve gone too far now to turn back, pour an inch of oil into a cast-iron skillet and place it over medium heat.  When the oil is shimmery, CAREFULLY place five or six croquettes in the oil, starting at the back of the skillet.  When they’re golden brown on the bottom, after 2-3 minutes, carefully flip the croquettes and cook on the second side, about 1-2 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet; you can keep the croquettes warm in a 200 degree oven while you cook the rest.  Serve hot on a bed of greens with leftover cranberry sauce (preferably homemade cranberry-orange relish).


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Pan-Seared Turkey Liver

This one’s just for the Militant Carnivores.

It’s two days until Thanksgiving.  You’ve put the turkey in a stockpot full of maple brine.  You’ve taken the giblets and added them to the contents of your chicken stock bag and are roasting them in a Dutch oven, along with garlic, onions, carrots and celery, until they’re nice and browned so that you can make a big batch of turkey stock.

And you’re left with the turkey liver.  You know it can’t go into the stock pot, as it will make the stock bitter.  And there’s certainly not enough of it to make into a separate dish to put on the Thanksgiving table.  What to do?

Stop feeling guilty, that’s what.  This one’s for you—just for you.  Toss it in a hot cast-iron skillet, sear it for about 45 seconds per side, drizzle it with a little vinegar, add a grind of pepper and a pinch of flaky salt, and eat it with some toast or crackers.  Pour yourself a glass of chilled red wine.  You’ve been working hard.  You’ve earned a little chef’s treat.  Enjoy.

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Chicken and Dumplings

Someday, I may understand the point of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Today, however, I don’t see the point in spending $6.99/lb. on something that tastes like a combination of tofu and cotton.  To get the most value out of my chicken, I’ll do what people have done for centuries:  Start with a whole chicken and squeeze every drop of flavor out of it.

On this particular occasion, I bought a pre-cut chicken, but it’s just as simple to start with the whole thing.  I put all of the chicken in my roasting pan (which is easily one of my Top Ten Most Important Kitchen Tools), added a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted it at 400 degrees.  I turned the pieces over after about twenty minutes; when everything looked nicely cooked, I took it out of the oven and sat down to a dinner of roast chicken.

I then cut the remaining meat off the bones and reserved it.  I then tossed the bones and skin back into the roasting pan along with a few of the usual suspects (garlic, bay leaf, onion, celery, carrot) and put it back into the oven.  After a half hour, I added some water to deglaze the pan and then let it roast some more.  (Everything above the water continued to get nice and roasty, while the water kept the fond, the caramelized bits on the pan, from burning.)  Once everything was roasted satisfactorily, I added water to cover and put the pan back in the oven for a few hours, adding more water as needed.

Now I had cooked meat, now I had stock and I hadn’t wasted a single ounce of chicken.  The next day, I was ready to make chicken and dumplings.  Here is where the recipe actually begins.

Chicken and dumplings (and its cousin, chicken pot pie) is great comfort food and speaks right to my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.  Like onion soup, it’s great on a cold winter evening, and not that much work if you plan ahead and follow this simple blueprint:

Day 1:  Roast something (onions for onion soup, chicken for chicken and dumplings).  Make stock in the roasting pan.  Reserve the something and the stock.

Day 2:  Assemble the dish.  Eat.  Feel warm and content.

  • 5 T butter, separated
  • 2 c plus 1 T flour, separated
  • chicken stock, made from 1 roast chicken carcass and the contents of the veggie stock bag
  • leftover meat from 1 roast chicken, chopped/torn/shredded into bite-size pieces
  • 1 c milk (I used skim, but knock yourself out with the high-octane stuff)
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 handful of parsley

Melt 1 T of butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Stir in 1 T of flour to make a roux; cook, stirring, over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, whisking so that the roux is thoroughly incorporated into the stock; turn the heat to medium-high and heat just until it starts to boil, about 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and stir in the chicken.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

Add the remaining butter to the milk and heat until the butter melts.  Mix the remaining flour in a mixing bowl with the baking powder and a hefty pinch of salt.  Stir the milk-butter mixture into the flour mixture, combining thoroughly.  Using a spoon (if you’re dainty) or your hands (if you’re like me) and put golf ball-sized pieces of the dough right on top of the chicken stew.  (Try to leave some space between the pieces, but just cram them in there if you have to.)  Cover the Dutch oven and cook on low for about 15 minutes; the dumplings will plump up beautifully.  Garnish with parsley and enjoy.

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