Tag Archives: turkey

The Gravy Train

I know that with Easter coming up many people have ham on the brain and so it’s easy to wonder why I’m over here blabbering on about turkey.  I have hosted and attended Easter dinners where both ham and turkey were popular offerings so it doesn’t seem fair for ham to have the whole show.  Lamb and lasagna have long been traditions for one family I celebrated Easter with for years, without a ham in sight.  Not only in my family, but in other families that I’ve celebrated holidays with, it seems like the goal is for the host to serve enough food that we could be trapped in the house for weeks without needing to worry about nourishment, so long as the refrigeration holds.

As I mentioned yesterday it’s possible that you want to make a small turkey dinner without tying up (or even turning on) the oven, whether or not you’re entertaining and whether or not it’s a holiday.  Turkey for no reason at all always seems to taste a little better than turkey for Thanksgiving or Easter, I think.  It’s also possible that you’re serving a big turkey dinner and would rather not deal with having to whip up a gravy from pan drippings while your guests wait and the turkey is quickly moving from “well-rested” to “ice cold.”  It’s entirely possible to make delicious turkey gravy without roasting a whole turkey, and without keeping your guests waiting. Make-ahead turkey gravy solved the gravy dilemma for me at Thanksgiving, when fried turkey plus crock pot turkey breast equals zero pan drippings for gravy.  It’s every bit as fantastic as gravy you make after roasting a whole turkey, and roasted turkey wings take most of the responsibility for that.  Make-ahead gravy does take some planning ahead as you’ll make a turkey stock and that stock will need to refrigerate for at least two hours (but better to let it sit overnight) before proceeding.  At first, the gravy may seem very thin but have no fear- it will thicken considerably and quickly once it’s off the heat.  You can add a small amount of cornstarch mixed with water if it isn’t thick enough for you, but (as I learned the hard way when making this in the past) a little cornstarch will go a long way toward thickening this.  It’s a pretty forgiving gravy, though and if you over-thicken it, thin it out with some chicken or turkey stock until it has a nice, pourable consistency.

turkey gravy

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy


to make the turkey stock:

  • 2 turkey wings
  • 4 ribs of celery (including leaves), roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, cut into chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 6 C. water

to finish the gravy:

  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 C. turkey stock, strained and defatted (from ingredients above)
  • 1/2 C. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt to taste


Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large Dutch oven or roasting pan, roast the turkey wings, celery, onions, and garlic for 2 hours.

Remove from the oven and add the water to the turkey and vegetables (if you used a roasting pan, pour the vegetables and turkey into a large pot, add the water, and then proceed).

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the mixture over low heat for 1 hour, uncovered.

Strain the stock over a bowl with a minimum 4 C. capacity, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Remove the fat that has accumulated on top of the stock.

In a large pan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour.

Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes to cook out the flour taste.

Whisk in 2 C. of the turkey stock and cook until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

If the mixture does not thicken enough (give it at least 20 minutes on the stove and remove it from the heat for 5 minutes before deciding if it’s thick enough), dissolve 1 tsp. of corn starch in 1 tsp. of cold water and slowly whisk it into the gravy.

Whisk in the milk, cider vinegar, and salt to taste.

Makes 2 1/4 C.

Source: Noble Pig

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Talking Turkey

Raise your hand if any of the following have ever happened to you:

1. You have a large turkey tying up the majority of your oven space and you need to get the side dishes/ rolls/ desserts into the oven, but the turkey is hogging all of the space and won’t be ready to give it up any time soon.

2. You’re planning on serving both turkey and ham (a popular idea at Easter) and have no idea why it suddenly seems like your oven is the size of one belonging in a doll house and there’s no way both items are going to fit in there.

3. You’re not feeding a crowd, and you just want turkey for dinner and the thought of roasting a whole turkey inspires visions of eating turkey concoctions for a month to use up leftovers.

4. The thought of making a roasted turkey scares you to the point of near hysteria.

At one time or another, all of those scenarios have applied to me.  When I go to someone else’s house for a holiday I usually don’t come home with leftovers.  I love a leftover roasted turkey sandwich, and so I started tossing a turkey breast into the crock pot before venturing out and would slice it up and refrigerate it when I came home.  It gave me a great way to avoid the grocery store for a day or two post-holiday because I had turkey for sandwiches and soup, and turkey pot pie for dinner the next night.  It was like all of the leftover turkey bliss of entertaining without any of the stress of actually entertaining.  There was also a time when the thought of roasting a whole turkey terrified me, but we’re way past that now.  For our family of four, roasting a whole turkey isn’t always practical and tossing a turkey breast into the crock pot is an easy way to make turkey dinner whenever I want without having to wrestle side dishes into the oven and carve up a whole turkey.  Last Thanksgiving, the oven balancing act was avoided because Lane volunteered to fry the turkey.  I was worried that the largest bird we could safely fry wouldn’t be enough for the number of guests (including two “growing boys” from West Point and a handful of overnight guests who might want to join me in having a turkey sandwich later that night), but two turkeys would have been entirely too much.  At some holiday gatherings, both turkey and ham are served.  I don’t know about you, but my oven is definitely not big enough to simultaneously house a ham and a turkey.  A turkey breast in the crock pot has always been a great solution to any of these problems.

This is my second favorite way to make turkey (frying being the first, but not always practical).  It’s easy enough for a turkey making novice, requires no basting or tenting with foil, or shuffling around the oven.  It always turns out tasty, and juicy, and exactly like a traditional oven-roasted turkey.  There’s plenty of meat for dinner and then for my beloved sandwiches and soup, and I use a crock pot liner so there is almost no clean-up necessary.  I like a bone-in turkey breast for this, but I do tend to find that even the smallest turkey breast I’ve used has a long enough bone that I have to chop into it and crack it with a sharp knife in order for it to fit into the crock pot.  Three quarters of a pound per person is typically enough to feed each guest and have leftovers.  For four of us, I use a six pound bone in turkey breast, and it’s plenty of turkey for four dinners, four sandwiches, soup, and a turkey pot pie.  This is great way to cook once and eat a few times during a busy week.

crock pot turkey breast

Crock Pot Turkey Breast


  • 4-6 lb. thawed bone-in turkey breast (3/4 lb. per guest)
  • 2 C. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • salt and pepper


If necessary for the breast to fit into your crock pot (the lid must close completely), cut into the bone in the chicken breast using a cleaver or sharp knife so that the bone is split.

Line the crock pot with a crock pot liner (optional but recommended for easy cleanup).

Pour the chicken broth into the crock pot and place the quartered onion onto the bottom of the crock pot.

If desired, trim the skin off of the turkey breast (the skin will not crisp using this method, but does not have to be removed).

Sprinkle the turkey breast liberally with salt and pepper (you can also sprinkle with rosemary, garlic powder, seasoned salt- seasonings are entirely optional and up to you).

Place the turkey breast into the crock pot, meat-side-down and cover with the lid.

Cook on low for 7-9 hours, or high for 4-6 hours (a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part should read 170 degrees).

Remove the turkey from the crock pot and place it onto a carving board.  Allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Source: Diana Dishes original

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Academy Award

The 85th Academy Awards air tonight from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood and before I settle in to catch all of the red carpet action, I want to share a round-up of the film-inspired recipes I’ve shared over the previous twelve days.  It wouldn’t be a round-up without some Oscar trivia:

Nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) is the youngest actress ever nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role, taking the distinction from actress Keisha Castle-Hughes who was nominated at thirteen for her role in Whale Rider.  She competes against Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), who at eighty-five is the oldest nominee in the category.

The youngest actor ever nominated is Justin Henry, who at eight years old was nominated for his role as Billy Kramer in the 1979 film Kramer vs. Kramer.

Silver Linings Playbook is the first film since the 1981 film Reds to earn nominations in all four acting categories as well as Best Director and Best Picture.

Les Miserables is the first musical nominated for Best Picture since Chicago in 2002, and prior to Chicago no musical had been nominated in the Best Picture category since Oliver! in 1969.

Composer John Williams, nominated this year for his work on Lincoln, still holds the record for the living person with the most nominations at forty-eight.  Next in line is Woody Allen with twenty-three.

Three of this year’s Best Actor nominees: Bradley Cooper, Denzel Washington, and Hugh Jackman, have previously been named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.

For this year’s 12 Days of Oscar feature, I selected four movies that have been nominated for but did not win Oscars, four films that have won at least one Oscar, and four films hoping to win an Oscar this year.

salisbury steak

Pleasantville, Salisbury Steak

ihop sweet crepes

I Am Sam, Crepes

chef salad

When Harry Met Sally, Chef Salad (with oil and vinegar on the side!)

roasted chicken salad

My Week With Marilyn, Roasted Chicken Salad

banana ripple ice cream

The Aviator, Banana Ripple Ice Cream

cream puff

Marie Antoinette, Cream Puffs

chicago deep dish

Chicago, Deep Dish Pizza

chicken lyonnaise

Titanic, Chicken Lyonnaise

lemon butter pollock

Moonrise Kingdom, Lemon Butter Pollock

french bread

Les Miserables, French Bread

crabby snacks

Silver Linings Playbook, Crabby Snacks

mary lincoln apple bread pudding

Lincoln, Mary Lincoln’s Apple Bread Pudding

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Isn’t it Romantic

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Because of the 12 Days of Oscar, you won’t see any posts full of hearts or red velvet baked goods or a fancy dinner for two on here today.  Before you run off in search of something with a conversation heart on it, today’s film is a great romantic comedy if that helps.  The 1989 film When Harry Met Sally explores whether or not a man and a woman can ever just be friends.  Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) meet after graduating from the University of Chicago when Sally is headed to New York and her friend arranges for Sally to give her boyfriend, Harry, a ride to New York as well.  After having differing opinions on life and relationships, the two part ways in New York but have a number of encounters over the course of the next twelve years.  The most memorable scene in this movie is the one at Katz’s deli that results in an elderly woman telling the waitress “I’ll have what she’s having.”  It’s a great movie to watch today, no matter your relationship status.   When Harry Met Sally was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Nora Ephron) but lost to Dead Poets Society (Tom Schulman).

when harry met sally diner

Harry and Sally stop at a diner on their way from Chicago to New York where Harry simply orders “the number three,” while Sally orders a chef salad and apple pie à la mode, but with a long list of substitutions.  “On the side is very big with you,” Harry tells her in one scene.  I wasn’t going to attempt to recreate a Katz’s pastrami sandwich because once I make pastrami at home, Lane will likely demand it for dinner nightly.  That, and I know my limits and I’m willing to bet that nothing I make at home could touch the pastrami at Katz’s.  Instead, I made the chef salad Sally orders during their diner visit, “with oil and vinegar on the side.”

Chef salad is typically a simple combination of hard-boiled eggs, vegetables, meats, cheese, and greens.  The types of meats and cheeses vary from chef to chef and so it’s really up to you what you’d like to include.  Ham and turkey almost always make an appearance and occasionally roast beef or salami.  Some restaurants chop the meats and cheese as you would for a cobb salad, and others roll up thin cold cuts either all together or separately.  Dressings also vary but you really can’t go wrong with the simplicity of a good olive oil and a good red wine vinegar.  The hardest part of making this is hard boiling the egg (I suggest one whole egg per guest) because the rest is just assembling the components.   The sky is really the limit here, the chef salad police aren’t going to come if you add croutons or omit tomatoes.  The amounts below make a salad big enough for two people to share, or a large dinner salad.  If you’re still lacking plans with your sweetheart, get your hands on this film and share a chef salad.  If you’re sweetheart-less, get your hands on this film and have chef salad anyway.

chef salad

Chef Salad


  • 2 C. spring mix lettuce
  • 1 medium cucumber, sliced
  • 1 C. grape tomatoes
  • 2 large eggs, hard-boiled and sliced
  • 4 oz. sliced cold cut ham
  • 4 oz. sliced cold cut turkey
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced cheese of your choice (I suggest provolone or American)
  • 1/2 C. black olives, pitted
  • olive oil
  • red wine vinegar


Place the salad greens on a large plate or serving dish.

Top with sliced cucumber, tomatoes, egg slices and olives as desired.

Roll up the meat slices either separately or combined (you may also roll the cheese up in the meat slices) and place them on top of the salad.

Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar to taste.

Source: Diana Dishes original (inspired by the many chef salads I’ve consumed over time)

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The Assistant

Let’s just admit that we’re all familiar with Hamburger Helper.  Okay, if you’re not familiar with the boxed pasta (with powdered sauce, that you “just add ground beef!” to, while the four-fingered, gloved hand waves at you from the front of the box), just view this commercial and that should bring you up to speed.  I haven’t had Hamburger Helper since I was a kid, and once I started making my own dinners I didn’t give Hamburger Helper much thought.  I learned how to make pasta with beef or other meats, and to make complimenting sauces of various kinds without putting in much more effort than stirring up some Hamburger Helper.  Then one night last week, M informs me that “Hamburger Helper isn’t too bad if you add peas.”  After I stood there blinking for what felt like an eternity, I decided to go with that thought.  It’s only fair that if I expect them to give new things a chance, I need to give some old things a chance as well.  I wasn’t about to stir powdered sauce into ground beef and call it dinner just yet.

I remembered a recipe I made a long time ago that reminded me of  (a healthier, tastier) Hamburger Helper and decided to try that out on the kiddos.  It worked like a charm.  I even used lean ground turkey instead of ground beef, and there were zero complaints at dinner time.  You can use packaged taco seasoning but that does defeat some of the purpose of ditching the box of Hamburger Helper.  The worst thing about the nutrition content of Hamburger Helper is all of the sodium.  Since salt is prevalent in most packaged taco seasonings (it usually makes the top three ingredients in the list), you’re better off making your own, and it stores well for other uses.  Be sure to save one cup of the pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta, as the starch from the boiled pasta helps to thicken this nicely.  Also, ground beef works well for this, I only swapped in lean ground turkey because it’s what I had on hand.  This makes generous servings, so ditch the box and bring an appetite.

taco pasta hamburger helper

Taco Mac (a.k.a. I Can’t Believe it’s Not Hamburger Helper)


combine the following to make your own taco seasoning (makes 3/4 C. seasoning, store in an airtight container):

  • 4 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. paprika
  • 3 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

to make the taco mac:

  • 1.25 lbs. lean ground turkey or beef
  • 8 oz. dry pasta
  • 1 C. reserved pasta water
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 4 Tbsp. mild taco seasoning (from above recipe or packaged)
  • 3 oz. cream cheese 
  • 1/2 C. sour cream
  • salt & pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta per package directions, reserving one cup of pasta water before draining.

Over medium heat, brown ground turkey or beef until no longer pink.

Stir in taco seasoning and diced tomatoes.

Allow to simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.

Add cooked pasta, reserved water, cream cheese and sour cream.

Stir the mixture well until the cream cheese is melting and incorporated.

Simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes until sauce thickens.

Season with salt & pepper, as desired.

Makes 6 generous servings.

Source: adapted from delish, with taco seasoning from Annie’s Eats

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Hot Turkey

Early on in our relationship, Lane and I agreed on one thing instantly- the Thanksgiving turkey is fried.  I know that I’m sharing this a little late to help with anyone’s Thanksgiving, but I’m hoping that anyone who plans to serve a turkey at any upcoming December holiday get-togethers finds this useful.  I love a deep-fried turkey, and I love the added bonus of having the oven available to make side dishes.  I just don’t love turkey enough to let it take up all that real estate in my oven when I’m trying to get dinner for a crowd on the table.  My father used to fry our turkey, and they were the best turkeys ever.  If I’m a guest somewhere and they roast theirs in the oven, that’s great as well.  When I’m hosting, the turkey is fried.  Okay, there may or may not be a turkey breast roasted in the crock pot, but the star of the show is the whole fried turkey.

Because I had boxes to unpack, a house to clean, shopping to do, and sides to contend with, most of Lane’s questions about turkey preparation were met with an occasional “mm hmmm,” or “sure, whatever you think.”  I can’t take any more credit for the turkey than I can for the sweet potato pie.  Lane dealt with the hordes of Desperate Housewives hopefuls at the local-ish Stew Leonard’s in order to procure the perfect fifteen pound fresh turkey.  He salted the turkey (we’ll get to that in a moment), seasoned the turkey, arranged for his nephew to stand by with a fire extinguisher, and fried the turkey to absolute perfection.  The turkey was juicy and tasty and best of all, prepared far away from my kitchen.

Roasted or fried, Lane used to brine his bird.  I have never been a fan of brining, mainly because I never have anywhere that’s a good place to trip over put the brining cooler or a refrigerator with enough space to house the turkey while it’s being brined.  Also, brining actually results ultimately in water loss, which results in a less juicy turkey (the article where Lane got the idea to salt the turkey explains this far better than I can here).  Salting the turkey eliminates this issue because while the salt initially draws water out, it eventually brings the water back into the meat.  Other than salting it, we sprinkled it with some Penzy’s 4S seasoning and then deep-fried it.  Granted, salting the turkey instead of brining it doesn’t eliminate the issue of needing a place to store the turkey until cooking time, but if you’re going to have that issue no matter what you do, then salting is the way to go, whether you decide to fry or roast your turkey.

deep fried turkey

(Salted, Not Brined) Deep-Fried Turkey

Ingredients (for fifteen guests, with leftovers):

  • 15 lb. fresh (or completely thawed frozen) turkey*
  • 1 C. kosher salt
  •  about 1/4 C. Penzy’s 4S (or other dry seasoning of your choice)
  • 3 gallons of peanut oil, for frying**


Remove the turkey from its wrapping, remove the neck and giblets, and pat dry with paper towels.

Sprinkle salt onto the turkey liberally, it should resemble snowfall on the turkey.  Be sure to get the salt under the skin onto the breast and thigh meat as well.

Place the turkey on a platter and cover loosely with plastic wrap or cheesecloth.

Rinse the turkey if desired (we did not rinse, and the turkey wasn’t overly salty at all).

*Before proceeding, ENSURE THAT THE TURKEY IS COMPLETELY THAWED. Putting a turkey that is the slightest bit frozen into the hot oil will cause splatters (or even explode), which could cause a fire.  Also, ensure that the equipment you’ll be using to fry the turkey is far away from the house and on a level surface, and that you have an extinguisher handy.

** To determine the amount of oil you will need in order to properly fill your deep fryer, put the turkey into the empty fryer.  Add enough water to cover the top of the turkey.  Remove the turkey and mark a line where the water is.  Remove the water and dry out the fryer completely.  Be careful not to add too much oil to your fryer.

Sprinkle the 4S or desired seasoning onto the turkey.

Following the manufacturer’s directions for your turkey fryer, heat the oil to 350 degrees.

Carefully lower the turkey with the end-where-the-head-would-be first (using the hook that should have come with your fryer), making sure the turkey is fully submerged.

Fry for 3 minutes per pound, plus five additional minutes.

Remove the turkey allow it to rest, loosely covered with foil, on paper towels for twenty minutes before carving and serving.

Makes 15 generous servings, with leftovers.

Source:  Salting directions from The Food Lab

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