Sturdley's Magical Mystical Blog

Musings on life, liberty, and the pursuit of derpiness.

Category Archives: Nutriment

Turkey Time

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Being an American, I am bound by solemn duty to observe the event in the manner of the fabled pilgrims. As the story goes, they invited a friendly group of natives to a party, slaughtered Ben Franklin’s favorite bird, stuffed it with bread and veggies, and then gorged themselves silly while singing Kumbaya. I’m not sure what sides they served. More recently, I’ve heard some folks try to dismiss this story as historical revisionism run amok. Pfft, I just think these people haven’t found enough to be thankful for and are taking their rage out on some poor defenseless puritans.

My extended family has been doing Thanksgiving dinner together for decades. Before I had so many cousins, it used to be a small gathering, but now it is usually twenty people or more. The food, though, is almost always the same. Turkey and ham are the proteins of choice. There are always mashed potatoes, cheesy potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole. My grandmother makes her own cranberry sauce recipe, which only about half the family eats, the rest opting for “the real stuff” straight from a can. She also makes the best dinner rolls. The less standard fare varies from year to year, usually depending on who is hosting the meal. For dessert, we normally have at least four different kinds of pie, and often several other options. And, of course, there are always spirits: this is the secret to a truly entertaining meal.

Because my wife and I both enjoy cooking so much, we will usually make our own Thanksgiving dinner the weekend afterward. This satisfies our cooking itch while also giving us the leftovers necessary to make sandwiches and thanksgiving leftover hash. We started out doing the traditional turkey cooking method: thaw it, stuff it, and roast it while basting every hour or so. Then my wife read an article by Alton Brown in Bon Appetit magazine.

This article advocated a few drastic changes to our process: brining the bird, using aromatics in the cavity instead of stuffing, and NO basting. When we finally sat down to eat, I was blown away. We’ve been cooking our birds this way ever since, and have even converted a few others into believers.

That’s really it for today, a few random paragraph-shaped ramblings about Thanksgiving dinner. Oh, and here’s a really simple recipe for leftover hash, which makes for a really good breakfast.

Thanksgiving leftover hash
• Turkey meat, chopped up
• Stuffing
• Mashed potatoes
• 1-2 tbsp butter
Heat the butter in a non-stick skillet.
Mix the meat, stuffing, and potatoes together, then add to the skillet, flattening the mixture into a single layer.
Fry it up until everything is nice and golden around the edges, stirring occasionally.

It’s great just as it is, but consider putting a bit of your leftover cranberry sauce on top before eating.

Tasty Things

These things are tasty.  You should cook and eat them.  That is all.

Baked Stuffed Flounder, Alton Brown.  I used whitefish since fresh flounder is not usually sold at my neighborhood grocer.

Perfect Roast Chicken, Jamie Oliver.  I chose the thyme option.  Delicious skin.

Zucchini Lasagna, Gina Homolka.  A little more work than regular lasagna, but quite tasty.  Don’t add extra salt unless you really crave that sort of thing.

Atomic Buffalo Turds, Jeff.  I usually stuff them with a mix of cheddar, cream cheese and garlic.

Perfect Pot Roast, Ree.  Forgot the fresh herbs, so I used dried.  Also added potatoes because potatoes.

Fun with Food Dehydrators

I recently purchased a food dehydrator. If you don’t have a clue what that is, it’s a machine with a heating element and a fan that you load up with some bits of food you want to dry out. You plug it in, turn it on and let it run for a few to many hours. It will dry out the food for long-term storage. I’ve had it for about three weeks, and I must say this thing is awesome. The model I bought came with:

  • 8 trays
  • 8 tray inserts for smaller items (Clean A Screen)
  • 8 inserts for making fruit rolls (which I have not tried yet… soon)
  • a packet of jerky cure + seasoning
  • a nice book about drying foods

The first weekend, I planned to make jerky, but wasn’t ready with the meat on Saturday. No problem, I went outside, cut a bunch of chives and put them in. Twenty hours later and I have a pint container of chives that are nicely dried and should last us and a few other households until the plants are back in the spring.

On Sunday, the meat had had time to brine and/or cure, so I was ready. The dehydrator came with a packet of jerky cure for about a pound of meat. That left a few trays empty, so I decided to go with Alton Brown’s recipe for a few more pounds. Three pounds of flank steak and about 6 hours later, and we’re in jerky heaven. I’ve since ordered more of the jerky cure and plan to make more soon to replenish our already dwindling supply. That stuff is like crack. (Note: I did put the finished jerky in the oven at 225 degrees for 10 minutes to ensure bacterial extermination, safety first!)

On the second weekend, I decided I should use some of my dad’s corn since he has a metric crap-ton of the stuff growing in his gardens and was out of town. Better I get it than the deer/turkeys/raccoons… Thirteen ears of corn fit perfectly in the eight-trays, and condensed down to about a pint container once dehydrated. Now I have some delicious corn for soups and casseroles this winter.

Coincidentally, that same weekend, one of the limbs on our good apple tree cracked under the weight of this year’s overabundant harvest. We pulled about 40 pounds of apples from that twenty-foot limb; next weekend’s project! The small apples went into making some juice, but the biggest and best were saved for the dehydrator. I must have sliced thirty of them this morning (I’ll consider one of those slicing/coring gadgets for next time; an hour clutching a paring knife is not good for the wrist), but they turned out to be quite a tasty snack; a full quart of dried apple slices, and the promise of much more as long as the trees don’t buckle under the weight. And not to worry, the wood from that limb is drying for use in the smoker (planned topic for future posts, stay tuned) and should be ready sometime in 2015.

I am in love with this thing. I want to desiccate all sorts of food. Fish jerky, turkey jerky, tomatoes, peppers (bell and hot), onions, garlic, shallots, potatoes, kale, herbs, I could go on. My only problem is what to choose next, and how soon to get more trays for the thing.

So, has anyone done any dehydrating and want to suggest something for me to try next weekend? Anything I should avoid?