Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Fight

My studio is filled with smoke, and it's starting to drift out of the windows and over the neighborhood - it must be Thanksgiving.

I'm having my yearly Turkey fight. Kevin and Frank are collecting twenty of us orphans and having us for dinner. I volunteered to cook one of the turkeys.

I'm following Frida Kahlo's recipe from her Fiesta book. It's simple - rub with salt and pepper, roast in a 425 oven, and baste constantly with butter. The skin comes out so crispy and golden; none of the modern recipes come close. But oh my does this simple process make a mess! I haven't burned myself yet, but I'm only 40 minutes into a four-plus hour process. Give me time.

I'm experimenting with the stuffing. I found a fruit and nut stuffing from Rochelle Palermo Torres, and twisted it around a bit. It almost reminded me of a mince, and so I adjusted it a bit to make it more like my Aunt Gloria's mincemeat pies. Mincemeat cooked in a turkey sounded good. I added figs, and then went looking for meat to add. I had some rabbit and chicken livers in the freezer, and I thought: ooh, figs and liver. That's pate! And so I added them instead of meat. And so I cooked it up a few days ahead to let the flavors blend, and then stuffed my bird with the mincemeat pate stuffing.

Yeah, I made that up. Google it, you won't find it anywhere but here.

It tasted pretty damn good, though it's expanding at a rapid rate and threatening to pop my bird. A third is in the turkey. I put a paella pan under the bird to catch the drippings, and I'll cook the rest of the stuffing under the turkey & let the fat drip on it. The rest of the fat will go towards a giblet cream gravy. I might add some roasted shallots if I get motivated.

So, here's the Torres recipe, unexpurgated. I'll follow it with my expurgations and additions.

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 large Anjou pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups Sauternes or other sweet white wine
1 1/2 cups chopped pitted prunes
1 1/2 cups chopped dried apricots
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

14 cups 1/2-inch cubes crustless firm white bread (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup pecans, toasted, chopped

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears; sprinkle with sugar. Sauté until pears are golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to very large bowl; mix in cinnamon. Melt remaining 10 tablespoons butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery; sauté until golden, about 15 minutes. Add wine and next 5 ingredients. Simmer until liquid is reduced almost to glaze and mixture is soft and moist, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Mix into pears. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Reheat to lukewarm before continuing.) Mix bread and pecans into fruit mixture. Season stuffing with salt and pepper.

To bake stuffing in turkey:

Loosely fill main cavity and neck cavity of turkey with stuffing. Generously butter baking dish. Spoon remaining stuffing into prepared dish. Cover dish with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake stuffing in dish — alongside turkey or while turkey is resting — until heated through, about 25 minutes. Uncover stuffing in dish. Bake until top of stuffing is slightly crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.

To bake stuffing in dish:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Bake uncovered until heated through, about 35 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Bake uncovered until heated through, about 35 minutes.

MC's Midnight Expurgations and Adulterations

  • Make the stuffing, up until adding the bread, two days ahead. There are a lot of discordant flavors here, and they need time to blend.
  • Use 6 persimmons instead of the pears.
  • I substituted black mission figs for the prunes. Because: Figs? Yum. Prunes? Not so much.
  • Add dried cherries and seeds from one pomegranate
  • Use Cline Viognier, as I love the creaminess of this wine. I also added a cup of stock, as some of the commentary noted the stuffing could be dry.
  • Add 1 pound of chopped and sauteed rabbit and chicken livers
  • Forget the nuts. There's enough going on here already. Plus, I didn't have any nuts on hand.
It's more or less the same recipe. With the non-linear way I cook it's the closest I'll get to a carbon copy. Shoots, this is almost cloning.

We'll see how it goes in a couple hours. Everyone is a gentlemen, so they'll all say they like it. I'll know more from their looks as to how it went over.

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