Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lessons Learned - I’m Still Thinking About Thanksgiving

I decided that when I started blogging again I would give us all something new to look at. It’s still the same me, but I wanted a fresher, brighter look. I’m also posting #Tipsfortoday on Twitter and Instagram…maybe not EVERY day…but many.

I have so much to tell you, but I’ll start with this – a revolutionary change I made to my Thanksgiving agenda. (I know! It was months ago, but now you can say I told you so!) After being told that an 18.93 lb. turkey might be too small for 15 people, I did what you all have been doing for decades. I bought an extra turkey breast AND I BRINED IT!!! It was my first time ever!

My big objections to brining a whole turkey were:
  1.  It would be too salty to stuff. (I’m one of the few dinosaurs left who still stuffs a turkey.)
  2. The magical drippings would be too salty to use for gravy.
Both of those things are still true, but since I was only brining the breast, THEY DIDN’T MATTER! I used the simplest recipe I could find for the brine and I cooked the breast at 350°F for a little less than 2 hours, the day before Thanksgiving. (The thermometer registered about 162°F.) I let it cool, wrapped it in foil and tossed it in the fridge (on a plate). The next day I sliced it SUPER thin, which is not easy with a half-hour-out-of-the-oven whole turkey. I heated the sliced turkey up in a sauté pan with stock and I served it with the regular turkey. I actually thought it was better. It was SO moist and exciting that I will NEVER not do that again!

Others lessons I learned:
Always make clear notes for next year.
I found a note I had made about the stuffing. It said, “Make more stuffing.” That was easy enough.

But then I found an incomprehensible post-it on my chowder recipe. It was some complicated formula of ingredients that didn’t match the recipe at all. HUH? I decided to ignore it and make my usual Corn and Clam Chowder, to which I add scallops on special occasions.

Note: This is a recipe that I make in the midst of the most heavy duty, meal of the year. That's why I don’t bother with fresh clams. Any other time, it would be wonderful to steam fresh clams in the yummy onion, potato and butter base and have all the natural juices be part of the soup.

Sue’s Corn and Clam Chowder (serves 6)

1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 tsps. unsalted butter
2 cans chopped clams
At least 1 bottle of clam juice, stock and/or milk or cream made up to 4 cups of liquid
1 medium Idaho potato, peeled and diced
1 cup corn, fresh, frozen or canned
optional: 12 sea scallops or 4 handfuls of bay scallops

Melt butter in medium to large saucepan. Add onion and carrots and cook until completely softened. Do not brown.

Drain juice from canned clams into measuring pitcher. Set clams aside. Add clam juice, stock, milk and/or cream to make 4 cups of liquid. (To the canned clam juice, I usually add one bottle of clam juice, about a cup of vegetable stock and then milk and bit of cream until it measures 4 cups.)

Stir in diced potato. Bring to the boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes. (You may make the soup up to this point a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Add clams, corn and scallops, if using. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes just until scallops are cooked and soup is hot. Serve, making sure each serving has 2 sea scallops or a good amount of bay scallops.

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One more lesson learned. No one needs to make 7 pounds of sweet potatoes for just one meal. No matter how many people you're serving!


Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Sue! I brine my turkey although I don't stuff it. The drippings are salty, but I make some unsalted turkey stock to use for the gravy so it all turns out right. America's Test Kitchen brines the turkey and puts the cut-up bird on top of the stuffing in the roasting pan. But the stuffing is unsalted. My parents did their turkey this way and said it all turned out beautifully.

Sue said...

Thanks, Tom.
I can't bring myself to spatchcock my turkey on Thanksgiving. BUT the idea of roasting the turkey on top of the stuffing is absolutely brilliant! That solves so many cooking and flavor issues. I actually feel like running out and trying that right now. There is ALWAYS something new to learn, isn't there?

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Good to see you posting (and commenting) again. I found it funny that you're talking about Thanksgiving now. I'm just as bad. I was planning my Christmas dinner for 2016 before I had 2016 on the table!

Sue said...

Hi Rach!
I know! Thanksgiving was ages ago, but I'm still thinking about how great that brined turkey was. And I totally start planning next year's menu while this year's is still fresh in my mind.