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What to do with Turkey Thighs

I was in a rush at the market and accidentally picked up turkey thighs. What should I do with them?

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  1. turkey tacos:
    put them in a pot with a quartered onion, 5 or 6 lightly smashed cloves of garlic, cumin, 2 bay leaves, and pureed rehydrated dried ancho chiles(plus hotter ones to your taste) or a can of chipotles in adobo. Add the juice of 2 limes, 1 orange, and water to cover. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer and cover until turkey is tender. Remove from liquid and let cool. Remove and discard(or puree with hand blender, minus bay leaves) other solids in the pot and turn the light back on to reduce the cooking liquid until it thickens.
    When meat is cool, use your fingers to shred turkey meat. Remove the cooking liquid from the pot, reserving 1/2 cup or so. Heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil in the pot. Add shredded turkey meat and allow to brown and stick in places to the pan. Add reserved cooking liquid, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with warmed tortillas, black beans, green or red sauce, avocado, sliced radishes, cilantro, whatever else you like. Also great with chilaquiles, in a quesadilla, or as a tamale filling with rajas.
    turkey molé poblano is also really good, if you have the time and ingredients.

    1. I love using them in either a curry (use a lamb recipe) or marinating and grilling them tandoori-style. Either way, bone the thighs, then cut up for curry or marinate whole in a tandoori marinade. Absolutely delicious.

      1. An easy way is to roast them low & slow. Season, set on a bed of roughly chopped onion & garlic (a sliced lemon or orange is nice too. Sprinkle with red wine or a little balsamic and roast around 325 until falling apart tender. The leftover can then be shredded to use in tacos, casseroles, salads, etc. A note: if they are really big honkers I start at 450 for about 20 minutes, then down to 300- the initial high heat heats them thru and then the lower temp seems to get them evenly cooked. They are very forgiving- anywhere from 2 to 4 hours depending on oven & size.

        1. Thanks for the great ideas! They all sound fantastic. I ran back to the store to get my chicken thighs for my Tikka Masala tonight, but I still have the thighs in the fridge. I thought the turkey could work in the dish, but I was being picky. I'll make use of them tomorrow.

          1 Reply
          1. re: akp

            Why didn't you just make your TM with the turkey thighs. I've made stuff with the wrong ingredient both by error and chance. Sometimes it's not that good. Sometimes you wonder why someone didn't think of it sooner.


          2. I buy small fresh turkey when they are on sale at the holidays and cut them into parts and freeze individually to use here and there. The thighs are my favorites though. Here are a couple more ideas for you:

            It is really easy to cut the bone out, open it up a little flatter with a knife and stuff with something. Ham and cheese, spinach and feta, whatever you have on hand. One of my favorites is to do a mushroom duxelles stuffing, flavored with a little madeira and bound with a dizzle of heavy cream, roast it and do a simple pan sauce with a little more madeira or white wine and stock.

            Turkey is wonderful with Mexican mole sauce. Either make your own or buy a good one, remove the skin, pour over the sauce and bake.

            Although this isn't something you'll probably want to do this time of year, I sometimes use a thigh to make a mini, off-season "Thanksgiving" meal. I season the thigh well, make a mound of bread stuffing and the thigh on top. Really easy.

            I have also braised turkey thighs in sort of an "osso bucco" style, using white wine, and garnishing with gremolata. It works really well.

            1. I've braised chunks of turkey thigh as a substitute for veal or beef in stews, with great success. The texture with long, slow cooking is wonderful. Flavourwise, you do have to boost your aromatics a bit - I use tamari, worcestershire, and concentrated shiitake broth to boost the "beefy" flavour.

              1 Reply
              1. re: FlavoursGal

                A certain institition in New Orleans uses turkey thighs in its "turtle soup" and few people ever catch on..

              2. don't knowif you have a trader joes near you but they have these amazingly great simmer sauces. this wk, my husb sauteed 4 turkey thighs, poured over them a jar of tr j's mojito simmer sauce, and simmered, covered, for 1/2-1 hr. PERFECT!! needed nothing else!

                  1. I'm braising turkey thighs right now - just simply with some lime juice (had limes; lemons just as good) bay leaves and garlic (which I will put in later). You can add aromatic vegetables such as celery. These are simply good as meat to use in other recipes afterwards.

                    Turkey would be the more authentic meat to use in moles and such, as it is a fowl indigenous to the Americas.

                    But the thighs are also good in stews, goulash, etc.

                    When they have finished cooking, I'll return the bones to the pot and simmer them a bit longer to make some stock.

                    If you have a smoker, they are wondrous smoked - and a great alternative "ham" for people who keep kosher or halal or otherwise don't eat pork.

                    1. Turkey stroganoff or turkey paprikash is pretty tasty....turkey pot pie might be nice too. It's rainy and chilly, so I think I'm defaulting to "comfort foods" :)

                      1. Marcella Hazan's Pork Loin Braised in Milk is fabulous with turkey thighs. I actually learned this method in Italy with turkey before I got the Hazan book.
                        There is another recipe from Hazan that calls for the addition of a large quantity of fresh sage leaves to the basic milk braise that is just delicious when done with chicken or turkey thighs instead of pork.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MakingSense

                          that is fascinating. i first learned about pork braised in milk from a Spanish chef, and it's also in the Paula Wolfert SW France book. Sounds like this concept got around quite a bit, eh?!

                        2. One of the best things I ever made was this:
                          -- bone turkey thighs, (leave skin on), cut in half, and pound to even out the thickness
                          -- marinate in lemon juice, garlic, oregano and olive oil
                          -- charcoal broil until done
                          -- serve with pipian mole

                          1. All those recipes sound very tasty - yes, when I was studying in Italy, tacchino (in roast and other incarnations) was a common meat, especially at the university cafeteria. I was glad to get it, as it is far less fatty than most other cheap meats on offer there, and it seemed more salubrious.

                            Fresh sage is indeed wonderful with poultry. The mole recipe looks wonderful as well.

                            The hordes of stray cats outside the "mensa" (cafeteria) sure enjoyed the leftover turkey as well...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: lagatta

                              Sage, wonderful sage!!! Until I spent time in Italy, I never appreciated it. It was that dreadful powder that cooks pulled out at Thanksgiving to sprinkle into stuffing. Leftover from the year before, it was dry as dust from the bookshelves and just as tasteless.
                              Once I learned how wonderful it was, I started growing bushes and bushes of it in my garden and cooking with shocking amounts of it. Well, shocking for an American, I suppose. Thirty or forty sage leaves is fine for a good pork or poultry braise.
                              A beautiful garden plant and a wonderful addition to the kitchen. So underappreciated.

                            2. You could always make turkey adobo. sounds like a meal I could get in to easily!

                              1. If you're ever wanting a good long-term project, turkey thighs make a wonderful confit. Use exactly the same procedure as for duck legs - best to remove the skin. I used Paula Wolfert's recipe from "The Cooking of South-West France", because she encourages the use of a crockpot and I wanted the process to be less demanding of attention that the stovetop version, but Julia Child and Tony Bourdain have good recipes too.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  I do the Thanksgiving For One idea...after seasoning with s-p and usually Williams Sonoma turkey herbs, roast at 375 for 75 minutes...then do either some stuffing, or creamed onions....yummy.

                                2. make turkey ossa bucco.. just substitute the turkey for the veal shanks

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: stumbling glutton

                                    I made a turkey osso bucco once. Giada had a recipe up on food network's website that had over a hundred 5-star ratings. But when I made it I got a strange texture. I didn't braise it long enough, maybe?

                                    Turkey Osso Buco with Parsley and Rosemary Gremolata Recipe

                                    1. re: AsperGirl

                                      I tried turkey osso buco once -- and I vowed to never to that again -- the slicing of the thighs leaves your osso buco chock full of small bone fragments -- not small enough to swallow, but enough to make it a total pita to eat.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        I left mine intact, like a lamb shank. Since there weren't strips of connective tissue running through the muscle fibers, like a lamb or veal shank would have, the texture of the cut meat was strangely uniform, but flexible, when sliced, almost like spam.

                                        Maybe I should have done what you did, and slice it. But then, you had bone chips!

                                        1. re: AsperGirl

                                          This had been sliced by the butcher -- much like veal osso buco is sliced. I bought it thinking hey -- great! Osso buco at a budget price! Mmm, not so much. It was tasty, but a hassle to eat.

                                          (No way would I want to tackle a big thick turkey thighbone!)

                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        No. Do you have a good recipe for them?

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          The problem with turkey thighs and other [parts is parts] is that the supplier is often not careful with the freshness. Sometimes I get only the ones still frozen. The same goes for chicken parts. Pleas avoid the the chicken leg quarters [thigh drumstick combination] often they are really stale. When everything is fresh, everything is good.

                                        2. Confit! They make the most delicious confit! Clean them up, dry and salt them and put to age in the fridge for a few days uncovered. Then bring to room temperature while you heat your lard or duck fat (or both) in the big crock pot - you need to be following a good recipe here, probably Paula Wolfert's - and then slip them in and let cook at the required temperature for the required time. They should then sit in the fridge, submerged completely in fat, for at least a week, better yet two. To serve, pull from the fat and sautée in what clings to them just to crisp the exterior, and serve with a lovely green salad. Or frites, if your repertoire runs to that.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            Exactly, it is why l keep my goose fat from years' past. l try to buy the really giant ones, the texture is even better when cooked this way.

                                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                              I only just now noticed I was repeating my post to this thread from four years ago! Hardly the first time that's happened …

                                              If I could just remember to do it, after next Thanksgiving, when Whole Foods still has a lot of good organically-raised thighs in their meat case, I should get several and confit them for use during the year-end holidays. The carnivores in the family prefer dark meat anyway, and I think my French ma-in-law would really like turkey done this way.

                                          2. I braise them with prunes or apricots (or both!) -- both prunes and apricots have an affinity for braising with meats, particularly turkey and pork -- the sweetness plays nicely with the flavor of the meat, and makes for a delicious winter dish.