I love having family and friends over for Thanksgiving. This year we had a special treat – visitors from out of the country! Our niece-in-law is from Sweden and her brother is in town. He, in turn, had a friend couple up from California. The wife of the couple was born in China. The three of them met at school in Germany. So we had representatives from Sweden and China by way of Germany. It made us miss our daughter-in-law from South Africa that much more. But they were enjoying time with friends in St. Louis.
As much as I love Thanksgiving, I’m not a big fan of Thanksgiving food; but you have to take the rough with the smooth. I’ve cooked turkeys for years – with mixed results. It’s the same old story; cook the bird hot enough to finish the dark meat and the white meat dries out. Last year and this I’ve come up with a solution – Turkey en Cocotte (Turkey in a pot). We trade off the beautiful golden brown skin and dark meat for deliciously juicy tender bird. And the gravy is a joy of its own. I picked up the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. This is their free site – but registration is required; it’s worth registering because they have a LOT of great recipes to augment their TV and radio shows. I’ve created a copy for my own use you can find here.
The foundation is a mirepoix to make a wonderful gravy.
A breast over seven pounds will be too big for the pot; even one a six and a half pound turkey will be too high. Use some shears to cut out the backbone along the ribs. I saved the cuttings for the pot to help the gravy. I use these Oxo Good Grips. They easily cut through the ribs and back bone.
We brown the mirepoix and turkey in some olive oil on the stove top. Be warned; it’s tough to take a good picture of raw poultry; but I need to show you how to do this, right?
It’s a little tough turning an almost seven pound turkey breast in this pot. And you have to keep turning to get the browning and avoiding burnt spots. After browning about 15 minutes, layer over some aluminum foil and then place the lid on top. This helps maintain a good, tight seal leading to a juicy turkey. Pop it into a pre-heated 250° oven.
I love Ol’ Blue – my 8 quart Le Crueset pot. It’s my favorite cooking tool – and I have way more tools than I need. These pots are expensive but they give a good even heat and last a long, long time.
I checked the temperature at the 1 1/2 hour mark; it was only 138° so it went back in for another 15 minutes. As long as I’ve been cooking I’m surprised how quickly meat jumps that last few degrees in a short time. It was well over my target of 165° 15 minutes later. But it was juicy and tender so no harm no foul (fowl? get it? hah, hah!) It went under a foil tent for a few minutes to rest before carving.
At this point people started arriving, including my awesome bro-in-law who deep fries a turkey every year. They are always delicious and this year was no exception. He told me he bumped the temperature of the oil by 25° and shortened the time. The turkey was fall-off-the-bone tender.
Things get a little busy when the turkey comes out. The turkeys need to be carved and the gravy needs to be made. My niece-in-law and her brother volunteered to make the gravy! They were nervous but my recipe spells out the process.
First we simmer the pan juices for 15 minutes to get rid of most of the liquid. Then some flour goes and is whisked constantly for 5 minutes. Then home made chicken broth is slowly whisked in and the pot is simmered another 15 minutes more or less.
Finally we pass the gravy through a fine mesh strainer to remove the vegetables and aromatics.
At the same time I finished carving the turkeys
Everyone brought something so the eleven of us had a feast. Now, I dislike brussel sprouts but my nephew roasted a tray of them after coating with olive oil and salt and pepper. He got them nice and dark – they were GOOD. The roasting gives a nice sweetness to overlay that brussel sprouty flavor.
Carla tweaked her delicious mashed potato recipe. She warmed the milk and butter before mixing with the spuds. To keep them warm, she put the mashers in a metal pan that she then sat in a large skillet of simmering water. This worked much better than our usual warming method of using a slow cooker – that seems to dry out the spuds too much.
Carla’s sisters are awesome; they stayed around a bit to help clean up. We had the kitchen spotless when the turkey was in the oven.
After everyone left Carla and I basked in the day. Although our own kids couldn’t be there it was a delight to have our nephews, niece-in-law and their friends.