Friday, November 27, 2015

Don't Throw out That Turkey Carcass! Transform It Instead


Got a half-gnawed turkey carcass squatting in your refrigerator? Had your fill of plain old turkey meat by now? Running out of inspirational recipes for how to disguise those Thanksgiving leftovers? Well, here's a delicious innovation, and no one you serve it to will notice it's recycled turkey meat: Turkey Curry. If you are thinking curry is too much trouble, you've got a good point, although I've got a solution for you. And if you think curry consists of merely tossing in some curry powder, you are missing out on the ecstasy of real homemade curry.

To make turkey curry, I've included some shortcuts—good shortcuts that won't compromise the delightful fragrance and savoriness of curry. Shortcuts that will make your curry come to life sooner but will still allow you to create an authentic curry.

Curry that is meat-based consists of three basic steps: Rousing the Roux; Spicing It Up; and Picking the Bones. Usually with homemade, authentic curry you will sauté the roux until it turns golden brown before adding it to your curry. My biggest cheat is this: pour the roux ingredients into the pot and let the stew itself cook the roux. (This cheat saves about 15 minutes.)

Here is how you transform your sorry turkey carcass into a gourmet treat—with ease:


Rousing the Roux
Peel two medium onions and cut into large chunks (no need to cut onions pretty or small—these are going in the blender). Peel 10~12 cloves of garlic (if you are using crushed bottled garlic, use about 2 tablespoons). Peel about 2 inches of fresh ginger root (do not substitute ginger powder—it is NOT a good cheat). Chop coarsely. Add the onion, garlic and ginger root to the blender and pour in about a half cup of water—enough to help puree the veggies. If you like a hot-spicy curry, add seeded hot peppers to the roux--jalapenos work beautifully. If this is to be served to a family, skip the peppers, though—black pepper (which you will add later on) is enough to give your curry a little bite. (You can also serve finely chopped peppers on the table, so guests can add in as they like.) Blend on high until the roux is a nice slushy consistency—like that of a snow cone (this is cheat #1—pureeing the roux in the blender saves time over chopping small and grating the ingredients). Pour the roux into a large sturdy stew pot (a four- or five-quart pot).


Spicing It Up
In the stew pot, place the turkey carcass and any stray pieces of sliced turkey meat you have. If the turkey is too large for the pot, crack it around the ribs and break it into two large pieces. You MUST use the bones to make this work. Why is it essential to use the bones? Because bones, my dear, are the crucial part of any truly wonderful meat-based soup or stew. Bones lend a depth and irresistibility to your savory dish that cannot be achieved otherwise. Plus, meat that clings to the bones is the most tender and succulent. Make friends with stew bones—they are a blessing for any savvy cook. Add a few cups of water—enough to provide a base for the curry (about 1 inch in the pot) but not too much—you don't want your curry to be watery. Pour in the slushy roux you just made. Add three or so tablespoons of butter (butter is essential too—there's not much fat in turkey).

Lastly, add in your curry spices: 2~3 tablespoons of ground cumin; 2~3 tablespoons of ground coriander; 1 tablespoon ground black pepper; 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric; 1 teaspoon of cardamom (if you have it); a teaspoon of ground fennel (if you have it). Out of all the curry spices you can use, the two essential ones are Cumin and Coriander—these are necessary to make your stew taste like curry. Others are simply good to add (like turmeric and fennel and cardamom) but not crucial. If you are using curry powder, add about 6 tablespoons or more. Newbies to curry-making are always surprised at how much spice goes into a curry. Release your inhibitions—curry takes LOTS AND LOTS OF SPICE. Be bold. It'll be okay—you will not over-spice it. Herein lies cheat #2: you are adding in pre-ground spices, rather than toasting and grinding your own spices. (Sometime when you have enough time and are feeling adventurous, see How to Make Your Own Curry Powder for the most wholesome and flavorful curry powder that you create yourself—it makes wonderful gifts, too.)

Simmer (a low boil—not a roiling boil) the turkey, spices, roux, and butter with the top off the pot—so you can watch the curry and make sure it doesn't stick; so you can stir it occasionally to mix the bones around; and so you can add water if necessary. Let simmer for about one hour. Sure, your turkey meat has already been cooked. You won't be cooking the meat, you will be cooking the roux (cheat #3), and you are simmering to maximize the flavor from the bones. When the turkey is ready, the meat will be falling off the bones. Taste the sauce and add enough salt to make it ecstatically scrumptious—expect to use about a tablespoon or so. (I recommend Vege-sal vegetable salt. Kosher salt is also yummy.)


Picking the Bones
This is the hardest and most time-consuming of the steps. But you can do this too. Just pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on some loud music, and hum along. You are magically transforming an unwanted turkey carcass into a pot of love, so be joyful. Turn off the curry. Scoop out the large pieces of turkey carcass and transfer them to a large cutting board. Let cool until you can safely touch them. Pick off any desirable pieces of meat that still cling to the bones and add that meat back to the pot. Discard the rest. Continue scooping, cooling and then picking until all the bones and stray inedibles are removed, discarding the flotsam and adding back the good stuff as you go along. While working, chop up the large pieces of meat so they will be easy to eat—nothing should be larger than an inch or so.

When you are finished picking out the undesirables, you will have a pot of delightful, savory, stewy, fragrant curry. The consistency of the sauce is a light slush—not too thick, not too thin. There should be plenty of bite-sized turkey bits. And you will be a turkey-transformation hero.

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