Culinary evolution via the hot turkey sandwich

by DaniGirl on January 26, 2015 · 4 comments

in Eating and thinking and thinking about eating

The request was simple enough. Beloved mentioned in passing the other day how much he loves hot turkey sandwiches for dinner. No problem, I can do that. Back in the day, this would involve storebought turkey with a can of gravy beside oven-baked fries from a bag. Oh baby, how far we’ve come!

I have still never actually roasted a turkey, although I’ll probably try that one of these days. In the name of simplicity, I decided to go with the store-baked sliced turkey from Farm Boy. Have you tried it? SO GOOD and probably the next best thing to home cooked. On the menu plan, I scheduled hot turkey sandwiches for a day I knew someone would be able to swing by Farm Boy to pick up some fresh sliced turkey. And some kale for a salad. The kale is always so good fresh from Farm Boy. And potatoes, baking potatoes for mashing, because gravy.

I knew that the gravy would make or break the meal. In years past, I would have bought a can of gravy, but I have recently started making my own gravy, and it’s been decent. I knew I’d need some stock for the gravy base, since I wouldn’t have any pan drippings. I learned this year how to make stock by boiling leftover roasted turkey (thanks mom!) for soup, and I watched Chef Michael Smith make stock from a raw chicken not too long ago on a re-run of Chef At Home. (They run an episode of Chef At Home every day on the Food Network, and we PVR all of them. Every single one. Whenever we have a night with nothing else on, we watch an episode or three. I highly recommend doing the same if you (a) are as obsessed with Chef Michael Smith as we are and (b) want to learn how to cook straightforward and excellent meals for your family.)

So you can in theory make stock from raw chicken, but at the butcher a whole chicken runs approximately $14. That seems a lot for a pot of stock when you can buy a litre carton of the organic stuff for a couple of bucks. (I know, you can probably get cheaper chicken, but I’ve become a bit of a princess about my meat and try whenever possible to buy the ethically raised stuff from Manotick Village Butcher.)

I was in the grocery store with a $3 carton of organic stock on my grocery list when I had my eureka moment. Remember when I said I’m a bit of a princess about my meat? Yeah. When I was thinking about chicken (or turkey) parts for stock, I had been thinking about nice whole roasting chickens, or at least bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. But in the meat aisle, I discovered all the sketchy bits are WAY cheaper. Deboned, skinless turkey breast is about $12 per kilo, but turkey necks and backs are about $4 per kilo, and this previously frozen wing and, erm, something was about the same. And from THAT I can make about six or eight litres of stock – which suddenly makes it both more cost effective AND more flavourful AND more healthy, because I am controlling exactly what’s in it.

You may be laughing at my eureka moment, and I’m okay with that. I’m laughing at myself because of (a) how ridiculously pleased I am with myself to have make these leaps of culinary development and (b) that it’s taken me 45 years to get here.

Here’s my $3.83 worth of turkey parts stock a-simmer on the stove:

Image: turkey simmering in a pot

Honest to god, it couldn’t be easier. You just dump the random turkey parts into a pot about 3/4 full of cold water with some carrots (I used baby carrots because that’s what I had, although I don’t usually buy them anymore) and celery that was a little coughLOTcough limp and some onion flakes because dammit, how are we out of onions again? Oh, and a bay leaf and a wee bit of sea salt. And oh my holy turkey, does it ever smell good!

You have to skim off the floaty bits every now and then, and leave it just at a simmer, not a boil, for a couple of hours. I’ll let it cool, and skim again, and then strain into two containers. One will get turned into turkey gravy with a little butter and flour for dinner, and the other will end up in a ziploc bag in the freezer until the next time I need stock for soup or gravy. If the meat weren’t the nasty bits, I’d even pluck it off the bones and add it to the freezer batch too, but, well, remember what I said about being a bit of a princess about my meat? I’ve got my money’s worth with the stock and gravy, and the rest can go in the compost.

So, is this as huge of a learning curve for you as it is for me, or am I alone in discovering what everyone else already knew?

Edited to add: Awesome tip from Foodieprints blogger Don Chow on Facebook: “if you broil the stock fodder (bones or wing) to colour (not cook) it a bit, you’ll get a darker stock…also, you can make stock in your slow cooker.”

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 cinnamon gurl January 26, 2015 at 8:59 pm

I often simmer my poultry stock for 24 hours, strain it and then set it again for another 24 hours. The first pot is good for chicken soup, the second for maybe pumpkin soup or something else where do you don’t want really chicken-y flavour. That’s how I get my money’s worth. Chicken feet are the cheapest — I can get feet from pastured chickens for like $1.50 for a bag. I add 2-4 to every stock pot and you can’t beat the flavour and extra gelatin.

It’s been a learning curve for me too…

2 DaniGirl January 27, 2015 at 7:28 am

Yeah, I had read about how it’s the gelatin in the bones that gives the stock an appealing “mouth feel” but I try hard not to think about that or I’ll get squeeged out. Totally natural part of the cooking process, I get that, but – shudder. And I had heard that chicken feet add awesome amounts of flavour. I figure I’m half way – okay, two thirds of the way! – on the spectrum from the girl who wouldn’t touch raw chicken breasts to the girl who can put chicken feet in a stock. We’re getting there! ๐Ÿ˜‰

3 Cath in Ottawa January 28, 2015 at 7:19 am

I also add a few pinches of tumeric to every pot of stock — it adds great colour and some depth to the flavour. Enjoy!

4 cinnamon gurl January 28, 2015 at 12:43 pm

I was totally that girl who wouldn’t touch raw chicken breasts too! I think I first dealt with raw chicken in around 2010 or 2011. The first time I roasted a whole chicken (and had to handle it raw) was Jan. 1, 2012. I don’t enjoy handling the feet and I don’t enjoy seeing them float up to the surface of the pot, but I can’t deny the flavour of the soup. I’m a slave to chicken soup. ๐Ÿ™‚

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