LET'S TALK TURKEY
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6.1 LET'S TALK TURKEY; CUT AND REDUCE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING EXPENSES.
By Sharon Mills
Just before Thanksgiving turkeys are often on sale for as little as 39 cents a pound. If I have room in my freezer, I buy several: one for Thanksgiving, one for Christmas and one or two small ones for later in the winter. After Thanksgiving the price may skyrocket to more than a dollar per pound.
Once I've got a great deal on a turkey, I want to maximize my savings by using every bit of it. My one claim to fame is that I am a direct descendant of Richard Warren, who came to Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620, and a long line of New England cooks. I think the following cooking methods and recipes combine Yankee frugality and good taste.
== I usually transfer one turkey from the freezer to the refrigerator on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and by Thursday it is thawed out and ready to be stuffed. I have either saved the heels of bread, any kind, in a bag in the freezer or bought last-day sale bread for $.25 a loaf. For a 16 pound turkey, you'll need about a loaf and a half of bread, cut into cubes.
Melt a stick of margarine in a big pot and while it's melting, take the giblets and neck out of the turkey, dry the inside with a paper towel, and put it on a rack in a large, heavy roasting pan. I've found that I can't make good gravy in a disposable, aluminum foil pan.
Saute in the melted margarine a huge, chopped onion, 4 or 5 chopped stalks of celery including the inside leaves, some chopped garlic cloves and some sliced mushrooms. (The Pilgrims probably didn't use mushrooms.) Then stir in some of the bread and lots of fresh or dried herbs: parsley, sage and poultry seasoning. Mix in the rest of the bread, and moisten it with hot water or chicken broth (made with a bouillon cube). Loosely stuff both cavities of the turkey, and close the openings by tucking in pieces of aluminum foil. If all the stuffing won't fit in the turkey, you can wrap the rest in foil and heat it in the oven for the last hour the turkey is cooking.
It's important to get the heat to the center of the turkey quickly lest the guests get food poisoning, so I cook it at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes and then turn the oven down to 325 and cook for about 15 minutes a pound. This method also makes the skin brown and crispy and the meat tender and moist. The bird will never need basting. If it's done before the rest of the meal, I can turn the heat down to warm and keep it in the oven for an hour or so.
After the feast I take the meat I'll use for sandwiches and microwave instant replays off the bones and put it in a zip lock bag. I put the carcass and any uneaten wings and drumsticks in doubled plastic grocery bags, close them with a twist tie and refrigerate.
== The next day I make the broth which will be the basis of several recipes. Put the carcass in a large pot and cover with water. Add a medium onion cut in half, the inside leaves from a bunch of celery, a quarter of a cup of lemon juice, lots of dried herbs and 5 or 6 chicken bouillon cubes. (I buy all of my dried herbs, spices, extracts and bouillon cubes when they're on sale for 2 for $1.00 in discount chain or dollar stores. They'll keep in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard.) Bring everything to a boil; then cover loosely and simmer for 2 or 3 hours.
After the broth has cooled a little, remove the meat and bones with a slotted spoon or tongs. Strain the broth into a couple of large containers (gallon plastic milk jugs with the tops cut off will work), and refrigerate. Put the pieces of meat in a bowl or zip lock bag, the skin, fat and yucky stuff in the dog or cat's bowl, and the bones in the trash. When the broth has cooled, you can spoon the fat off the top and get rid of it.
At this point you have several options. You can freeze some broth for later use, make turkey soup and freeze or serve it, and/or make turkey pies and freeze or serve them.
== To make soup, pour as much broth as desired into a large pot and add a handful of rice. Slowly bring this to a boil; then turn it down to simmer. Put in some of the meat that you've taken from the bones. Then chop and add any fresh vegetables you have on hand: onions, celery, carrots, broccoli. You can add frozen mixed vegetables, corn, beans or whatever too. If you have any leftover cooked vegetables like green beans or peas, you can add them last. Since I don't cook with salt, I like to serve this soup with a splash of Chinese duck sauce. For alternatives, you could use barley or other grains instead of rice, or omit the rice and add Ramen noodles for the last few minutes of cooking time. If you want to freeze the soup, just put broth and meat in a plastic container or zip-lock bag. You can add the vegetables when you're ready to serve it.
== This recipe for turkey pie is easy, inexpensive and delicious. Put as much meat as you want into a two quart casserole dish or oven proof bowl. You can add leftover cooked vegetables or steam and add fresh or frozen ones. For each casserole, make the gravy to be poured over the meat and vegetables this way. In a heavy sauce pan melt six tablespoons of margarine. With a wire whisk, stir in six tablespoons of flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Gradually, while stirring with the whisk, add three cups of turkey broth and one cup of dry powdered milk. Slowly bring this to a boil, and stir for a minute longer until thickened. Pour this over the ingredients in the casserole dish and gently stir so that everything is covered. At this point, before you've put on the crust, the casserole can be put in the freezer.
To serve, (thaw and) heat the pie in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until warmed through. Then turn the oven up to 450 degrees while you make the biscuit topping. Sift 2 cups flour, 3 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a bowl. With a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in 1/4 cup of shortening or margarine. Quickly stir in one cup of milk or 1/3 cup milk powder and 1 cup water. Drop spoonsful of this mixture onto your hot casserole and bake at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Enjoy!