Save that Turkey Broth for Next Year’s Gravy!
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Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, as far as I’m concerned. It’s all about food, family and celebration, without the stress of all that endless nervous fidgeting about What-to-Get-Whoever. Ugh.
That being said, hosting Thanksgiving and the next day is a LOT of work. My daughter-in-law always brings something yummy, and my youngest daughter bakes for me, but sometimes she’s not around to do so.
My stress-free solution is to start at the first of November, and spend a bit of time nearly every day in the kitchen, working on The Feast. Usually half an hour a day is enough to get me well on my way to Thanksgiving Day without having a panic attack.
I like to make dishes that can be made ahead and either frozen or put in the fridge several days before. By the time Thanksgiving Week rolls around, I’m in good shape. I even set the main dining room table days ahead of time.
My first two projects are easy: turkey broth for the gravy and pie crust for the pies and the quiche for the morning after.
Making the broth is super simple but will make a huge difference in the taste of your gravy.
Get your hands on a couple of big turkey legs. You can find these, packaged, in the poultry section of any store. In a stock pot or a slow cooker, put the legs, an onion, celery and carrots, all roughly chopped. Well, all except the turkey legs, that is. Obviously. Salt and pepper, and add plenty of water to cover all.
The amount of water you use will pretty much depend on how much gravy you plan on making.
Simmer this for a day or two or until the color of the broth is a deep, dark brown. This will be a lot stronger in flavor and color than a broth you’d use for turkey soup.
When it looks good, drain the broth into a bowl and cool. Then cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for a day or so.
At this point, the broth will be very firm and gelatinous. This happens because the collagen in the bones thickens the broth. The fat should be a firm layer, sitting on top of the broth. When the fat has solidified on the top, take a slotted spoon and scoop off the fat, onto a paper towel. I usually give it a good bang to release it, so if you have nice countertops, do this on a large cutting board. Personally, I would chuck my countertops in a minute, so I don’t really care, one way or another.
When you’ve removed almost all of the fat, let the broth stand at room temperature for a bit, so that you can pour it into mason jars. Label and fill, leaving at least an inch of space at the top. Secure with metal lids and freeze until the day before Thanksgiving, or whenever you make your gravy.
Another thing you can do this early on is to make the pie crust dough. Once you’ve made it and shaped it into 2 disks, you can wrap them well in cling wrap, then put them in a good quality freezer bag and freeze flat. Make sure you label this bag or you may not be sure if it’s pizza dough or something.
If you’ve never made pizza dough and have no intention of ever doing so (pity), don’t worry about the label.
This is a foolproof pie crust recipe. The title says “Test-Kitchen Piecrust,” so I’m assuming it’s from “The American Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.” But I’m not sure. I get free magazines from the library, so it’s anyone’s guess. But one thing is for sure: I’m not great with pastry, and these always turn out very nicely. Well, except for that one disaster…. (see below).
Test Kitchen Piecrust
This makes enough dough for 1 double-crusted or 2 single-crusted 9 to 10 inch pies.
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces, divided
2 ½ c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar (omit if this is for quiche)
½ c. ice water
Lay out three-quarters of the butter pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until hard, at least 30 minutes. Refrigerate the remaining butter.
Combine flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add refrigerated butter and pulse to combine, about 10 times.
Add frozen butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some blueberry size clumps.
Add ice water and immediately pulse until water is JUST incorporated, about 10 times. Squeeze a small amount of dough to make sure it holds together. Pulse a few more times, if needed.
Lay out two pieces of plastic wrap. Empty half of dough onto each piece. Bring edges of wrap together to gather dough. Press into round disks.
Roll out disks, still wrapped in plastic, to ½ inch-thick rounds (8 inches in diameter).
Wrap again well with plastic wrap, and put in your freezer bags to keep, until you’re ready to make your crusts, up to one month.
I have had only two Cuisinarts in 33 years. The first was just too small, once all the kids started arriving (in our lives, that is; not at the house!). Mine is the 14 cup Cuisinart and I love it Here’s your Amazon link. http://amzn.to/2iQZzuV
Here is a photo of my pie crusts from last year. I ordered these cute little leaf cookie cutters on Amazon and I think they’re adorable. Here’s the link, if you’re so inclined: http://amzn.to/2z6ertC
Later on in the month, if you have the freezer space, you can take out as many disks as you want to work on and refrigerate in the fridge. After you’ve done your pie crust however you like, put the UNCOVERED pie crust in the freezer and freeze until nice and hard. Only then can you cover loosely in saran wrap and stick back into a freezer bag.
Now your decorated crusts will be ready to pull out, fill and bake.
A word of caution from one who learned the hard way. One year, I went to all the trouble to make these fancy pie crusts, but I made the HUGE mistake of leaving them out on the counter while I made the pumpkin pie filling. Ugh! The soft pie crust melted all over the floor of the oven, filling the entire house with fatty smoke, ruining the pie crusts and ruining the bottom of the oven, to boot. So, straight from freezer to oven, placed on a cookie sheet, and you’ll be fine.
I have two more little gadgets you might want to try.
The first is an oven thermometer. When I recently tested my oven, I discovered it was 25° off! Rather than having Bill spend his weekend time adjusting the thermostat on the oven, I just set the temperature accordingly.
Another fun gadget is this pie crust edge protector. These are silicone and adjustable to fit many sizes of pie plates. Do yourself a favor and adjust the sizes (or make a note with a sharpie on them. Leave a little room for the extra room the actual pie crust will take up. Then, when your crust starts to get a bit too brown, you can pull out the oven rack and gently top it with this protector. You don’t want to have to mess around with finding the right size when your pie is still cooking. Just be gentle and the silicone shield will fit right over your pretty pattern loosely, without damaging all of your hard work.
Here is the link for the oven thermometer: http://amzn.to/2z4UDqn
Here is the link for the silicone pie crust shield: http://amzn.to/2z4ShIf
I’m going to follow my own advice and work on my Thanksgiving Dinner, next-day brunch and lunch, nearly every day from now until then. I know how happy I’ll be that I did!
Cheers – Vicky