Our major meat source is turkey. Every few months, I cook up a big one and get as much as I can out of it. I roast it in the oven and then cut the breast meat into 4 or 5 pieces and store it in bags in the freezer. I pick all of the dark meat and back meat off of the bones and use it to make turkey salad or turkey pot pie or use it in stir fry. I cook down the bones to make stock and only discard the skin and fat.
Roasting the Bird
My method for cooking birds has been much improved by a book Logan got us for a wedding present last year, The Foodie Handbook by Pim Techamuanvivit. It’s more like a magazine or blog (as I believe it started out) than a cookbook with the photography and wide-ranging entries, but it does have some great little cooking tips and pastry recipes and the like.
The chapter on how to cook a perfect roast chicken is spot on. Basically, start with as good a bird as you can find. Rub it up with salt, rosemary and butter, and stuff it with onions and lemon slices. Roast whole heads of garlic in the pan as you cook the bird, and create a jus from the drippings by adding some vermouth or red wine and a bit of vinegar. She also recommends trussing the bird, which sounds intimidating. But as she assured me, it really isn’t so bad, and it makes the bird more manageable to turn and keeps juices all locked up tight.
I think really spending time with the bird first to massage the butter and seasonings into the skin and taking care to truss it up tight as well as the 3-turn roasting period have really improved my results. Techamuanvivit recommends starting the bird out on one side, resting on the leg; turning to the other side on the leg; and finally putting it breast up at the end. This makes the legs all nice and crispy and keeps the breast meat moist. When you remove the bird from the oven, she recommends resting it at an angle breast-down so that the juices will all flow back into the typically dry breast meat.
But enough about the roasting. Whatever way you get your meat, turkey pot pie is a satisfying way to use all those tiny tidbits of dark and back meat and any other leftover pieces to create a great comfort food meal.
Making A Stock
I start out by picking the meat from the bones. It can really make a mess, but I kind of enjoy it. Tearing the bird apart by hand and with a small knife makes me feel more connected to my food. I feel like I appreciate it more seeing how it was put together before I eat it. Or maybe I just like to play with my food.
I then make a stock with the bones. Make sure to cut off as much fat and skin from the bones before using them to create a stock, but it’s okay if there’s a bit of meat in there. Put the bones in the biggest pot you’ve got, and just barely cover with water (you can always add more later if the water level gets low, but you don’t want to over-dilute the stock). Some recommend adding a bunch of seasonings when you cook it down, but I usually just use a bit of sea salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for a couple of hours. Don’t let it boil, and stir occasionally. It’s also important to skim off any impurities that rise to the surface. It should be ready in an hour or two. Just keep an eye on the bones to see when they’re spent.
To remove the bones, I grab the big ones out first with tongs, and then strain the stock using a wire strainer lined with a Viva paper towel. This makes sure to get all the little bits and bobs out of the stock and make it nice and pure. After it cools, I store the stock in old yogurt containers in the fridge or freezer depending on how soon I plan on using it. A fat layer will form on the top. This will keep the stock fresh until you’re ready to use it. You can just spoon it off the top later.
Creaming the Turkey
For the turkey pot pie, you’ll need 1 yogurt container full of bite-sized meat pieces and 2 cups of stock. My methods are slightly adapted from Joy of Cooking. To begin, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 1/2 a cup of whole wheat flour, and whisk together. Keep whisking constantly for 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 cups of your stock. Next, whisk in 1.5 cups of skim milk. I use powdered milk and mix it up as needed for recipes.
Put the pan on medium heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. Continue whisking! Don’t stop! Make sure and keep the mixture from sticking to the sides. Scrape the bottom often and whisk out lumps. After 1 minute, add in the turkey and 2-3 tablespoons of sherry or port or whatever else you’ve got. Cook for 1 more minute and then remove from heat.
At this point, you can add in the spices of your choice. Joy of Cooking recommends lemon juice, salt and pepper, and some nutmeg. Blake and I had our own ideas, however. We added some freshly grated ginger (a couple tbsp), a dash of maple pepper (Thanks, May!), garam masala, 1 tsp thyme and 1 tsp garlic salt.
Quick Drop Biscuit Crust
- 1.5 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 a cup whole wheat flour
- 2.5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
- 5-6 tbsp cold butter
- 1 cup milk
You can make this dough ahead and cover it and put it in the fridge for later. Just don’t leave it in the fridge too long, or it will dry out.
Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt together. Drop in the butter cut into slices. “Cut” the butter into the flour mixture by using two butter knives at once or a pastry blender. Make sure it doesn’t get so hot in your work space that the butter melts. The idea is to make a rough mixture of the butter and flour without forming a paste. The final result should look like pea-sized bits of butter mixed into the flour mixture. If it’s getting too hot, you can always pop the bowl into the fridge to firm it up again.
Add the cup of milk and stir it in with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are just barely moist. You can then knead the dough about 10 times, continually scraping up from the sides to collect it all together.
Turkey Pot Pie: It All Comes Together
- creamed turkey
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- Quick Drop Biscuit Dough (or pastry dough or other biscuit dough)
- 2 tbs olive oil or butter
- 1 medium onion
- A couple carrots
- A couple celery stalks
You’ll need a big, shallow baking dish (about 13″ x 9″ or so) and a frying pan to cook down the veggies. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Begin by chopping up a medium onion, some celery, and some carrots if you have them. Cook these down in 1.5 tablespoons of butter or olive oil until they are just barely soft (about 5 minutes.) Pour the creamed turkey you made earlier into the baking dish and mix in the veggies. Mix in some frozen peas you’ve thawed out.
Form small drop biscuits and layer them over the top of the mixture. You could also use any other type of pastry dough or biscuit dough to cover the top. Just cover it as well as you can. It’s okay if there are small gaps between the biscuits.
Put it in the oven for about half and hour and then you’re set! Just make sure the mixture is bubbly and the biscuits are a golden brown.
It is a lot of steps to make this meal from scratch, but it is very rewarding.