Last post I talked about what I did with all my excess pork from cooking greens. That might not be a pertinent subject for everyone so today I’ll pass along a couple of things to do with the hacked-on hull of the giant holiday bird. No doubt you’ve got a picked-over turkey carcass somewhere taking up room in your already crowded fridge or countertop. Let’s try to remedy that.
First you need to really get in there and pick off as much meat as you can find. Don’t try this with a knife. Use your fingers and coax out all of that meat that is hiding in places your carving knife couldn’t reach.
When I was a kid, my grandfather told me that I left a “beggar’s banquet” on the bones of my Sunday fried chicken. I looked at my plate and at his and saw what he meant. His plate was a pile of nothing but bones. All the meat was stripped away as if an army of ants had surgically removed every trace of flesh. My plate had some bones too, but they were far from clean. There were ragged bits of meat and crunchy skin in abundance. I wanted to be just like him so from that day I cleaned a chicken bone the way a cat cleans a fish skeleton in a cartoon. If there was a morsel of meat to be found, I would seek it out. That’s how I want you to treat this turkey – scrape, pinch, tear, coax and cajole every little bit of meat away from the bones and save it in a container for later. There are two reasons for this level of bone-picking. First, you don’t want all that meat to go to waste and second, the less meat on the bones, the clearer the stock you’ll make from the carcass.
Once the turkey skeleton is clean to a point that Mr. Jesse would approve, break up the bones into fist-sized pieces and scatter them in a single layer across a sheet pan and roast them until golden brown.
Use the browned bones along with aromatic vegetables to make a hearty turkey stock which will be your base for a classic turkey and dumplings. Done properly, this dish only needs three main ingredients; turkey stock, turkey meat and dumplings.
There are a couple of shortcuts (canned biscuits and flour tortillas) you can use if you don’t have time to make dumplings from scratch, but hey…it’s the holidays and rolling out dumplings will afford you the added bonus of being able to escape more of the holiday “family-time” that might lead you to over-indulging the spirits of the season.
I’ve found that using my friend Regina Charboneau’s biscuit dough recipe and just “overworking” it a bit makes a great dumpling. I’ve included her recipe along with directions on how to modify it for dumplings.
Dark Turkey Stock
1 carcass of a cooked turkey
1 bunch celery
2 large carrots
1 large yellow onion
4 cloves fresh garlic (rough chopped)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 whole bay leaves
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
Pick and reserve as much meat as possible from the cooked turkey. The less flesh, the clearer the stock.
Break up the turkey into pieces no larger than your fist and place them in a large roasting pan.
Using a vegetable peeler, cut the celery, carrots and onion into long, thin strips and spread them evenly around the turkey bones.
Season the bones and vegetables lightly with salt and black pepper then roast them in the oven until well browned. You can push this step to make richer broth. Don’t worry if the vegetables look dry, as long as they aren’t burned they’ll do just fine.
Transfer the contents of the roasting pan into a deep stock pot and add the garlic, thyme, bay leaves and vinegar, plus enough water to cover the bones by two or three inches. If there are some browned bits in the bottom of the roasting pan, loosen them with a little water and add it all into the stock pot.
Bring the water to a heavy simmer, but not a rolling boil. Reduce the heat and allow the stock to lightly simmer for four hours.
Strain the liquid through a fine sieve (with cheesecloth is better) into a large mixing bowl and rapidly cool it by filling a heavy, gallon-sized freezer bag with ice and stirring it around in the hot stock until it comes to at least room temp. You may have to empty and refill the bag to accomplish the rapid cooling. Don’t skip this step or (even worse) place the hot pot of stock in the fridge. This is for your own safety. If you are going to immediately use the stock, you can do so without cooling, but that would be the only exception.
Taste the stock and adjust for salt and pepper, but remember that if you are using this stock to cook with, less salt is better. You can always add more seasoning to any finished dish. You just don’t want the addition of stock to over-salt your final dish.
Regina’s Butter Biscuits
(and how to make them into dumplings)
My dear friend Regina Charboneau makes some of the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted. The secret is not overworking the dough. To make dumplings that will hold up to the boiling and simmering of stock, I break her rule and overwork the hell out of them.
4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup baking powder
¼ cup sugar
1 stick salted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
3 sticks salted margarine, chilled and cut into large cubes
1 ¾ cups buttermilk, chilled
Combine the flour, baking powder, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and run on low for 15 seconds.
Add the butter and margarine cubes along with the buttermilk to the mixing bowl. Turn the mixer on medium and let it run for 10 seconds.
Scrape the dough from the bowl and transfer to a well-floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should be silky and firm. (This is the “overworking” part. If you want to see how she makes her biscuits light and flaky, you can find her recipe here http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016985-reginas-butter-biscuits)
Rest the dough under a towel for ten minutes and then roll it out to a consistent ½ inch thickness.
Using a 2 inch pastry cutter, cut the dumplings and place them on a floured sheet pan. Re-form the dough scraps and repeat the rolling and cutting process.
Use the dumplings right away or freeze them for up to two months.
Turkey and Dumplings
2 quarts dark turkey stock
1 quart cooked turkey meat (roughly chopped)
24 frozen dumplings
1 bunch green onions (finely chopped)
In a stock pot, combine turkey stock and turkey meat and bring to a simmer.
Add dumplings to simmering broth and increase heat until broth just boils. Reduce heat and simmer dumplings, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.
Serve hot, garnished with green onions.