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T-Day Postmortem: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Share your successes, failures, and questions!

Good - whole berry cranberry sauce w/star anise; roasted tomatoes w/toasted parmesan bread crumbs; carrots braised whole in turkey stock & butter; mushroom/leek stuffing; caramel and chocolate bread pudding.

Less good - Diestel turkey. I was so concerned about undercooking, that I overcooked. Probably by about 30 minutes. However, I could tell that it would have been delicious cooked to proper temp. Even a little dried out it was well above your average grocery bird. It had been salt cured ala Russ Parsons. I'm guessing I can "mask" the driest pieces (drumsticks, breast) by putting them in a soup?

Truly sad - Too lazy to make a crust for pumpkin pie, didn't want to buy store bought. I used puff pastry. I rolled it out and because I don't own a pie pan, I used a springform. I thought if I blind baked, it would keep the bottom crispier. But, during baking, the sides shrank, fell, and folded over onto the bottom crust on 1/2 of it. I tucked the pie filling in as best I could, and flapped the flaps over again. But it wasn't pretty. And the crust underneath wasn't crispy. Probably because of my 2nd half witted idea - to keep the top from cracking by using a water bath. I'm sure now it got between the 2 parts of the pan. Doh!

Big question - I thought I'd save time by making gravy last week. I froze it, and when I reheated today stovetop, it ended up with this curd-y texture that I couldn't whisk out, and which hadn't been there originally. I finally used a spatula to pass it all through a sieve. Why did this happen? I'm guessing something chemical/scientific to do with the roux separating from the water content... Is gravy a thing not to be frozen?

Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday and is in a pleasant food coma right now :)

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  1. "I'm guessing I can "mask" the driest pieces (drumsticks, breast) by putting them in a soup?"
    ~~~~~~
    check the recent threads that have already been started about what to do with leftovers. plenty of saucy, moisture-laden ideas there!

    4 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      Very good, was your healthy black bean dip. More then very good, excellent and a keeper. Sorry I didn't try it sooner after reading all the reviews. And took less than 5 minutes to boot.

      1. re: coll

        Heh, I just now made a batch of that bean dip with the red beans I soaked and cooked up last night. Absolutely delicious AGAIN--I've made it with black beans, kidney beans and now small reds. Enjoyed the dip nacho style over blue corn chips, heated up and sprinkled with a little Mont Jack cheese and more chopped cilantro.

        1. re: Val

          I know, I was thinking the leftovers would be the best sauce for a casserole.

        2. re: coll

          i just saw this - so happy you enjoyed it!

      2. Good -- brined a bone-in turkey breast, roasted to 155 degrees, rested to 161 degrees and it turned out to be the juiciest bird I've ever had. A pleasant surprise, and super tasty.

        Mediocre -- I tried a lot of new recipes this year. I do all the cooking and take it all to someone else's house, so I mix up the sides each year to keep it interesting for me. This year I made scalloped potatoes instead of mashed at the request of Mr. Divamac. They were too heavy as a side and I missed the mashed. I will really miss my mashed potato pancakes tomorrow. My dressing was also underwhelming (Tyler Florence recipe).

        Ugly -- The whole family filled up on hors d'oeuvres and wine and none of us really ate much dinner. Also, I refused to make dessert this year so we were stuck with only the pumpkin and apple pies someone bought at Costco. Meh.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Divamac

          Decadent-a chocolate espresso cheesecake--recipe from Epicurious. The top didn't crack!

          Great-a pumpkin pie--filling recipe from Epicurious--made with a no-roll crust--recipe from Joy the Baker: the best pumpkin pie any of us had ever eaten.

          Good-The Silver Palate corn bread stuffing with apples and sausage. Good flavors, but no one liked the pecan halves--too big, too soggy--which I'd just omit next time.

          Reliable--The sweet potato casserole and the corn pudding we've been eating for decades.

          Unappreciated--The spicy cranberry salsa that I tried on a whim (in addition to a more traditional cranberry sauce). Only one person even tried it. I think it was regarded as blasphemous.

          Bad--The zip-lock closure on the brining bag that burst open when I was turning over the turkey, so half the brine spilled out. The bird was dryish, which never happens when I brine, and I'm blaming the bad bag.

          Hideous--the clean up (second dishwasher load underway now as I ignore the tablecloths and napkins on the floor in the laundry room .)

          1. re: MommaJ

            Would love to see your pumpkin pie recipe(s). Sounds great!

            1. re: MommaJ

              Could you point us toward the chocolate-espresso cheesecake recipe too? Thanks!

              1. re: rainey

                Happy to oblige:

                The pumpkin pie:

                1. Filling--Look for "Spiced Pumpkin Pie" on Epicurious--but, per the consensus of comments, I added one additional egg and upped the spices by 50%. Note the additional egg also increases the cooking time. ( I just kept testing with a toothpick until it came out clean, but not dry.) This recipe definitely has the taste of molasses, which I think complements the pumpkin beautifully, but if that's not a taste you favor, this isn't for you.

                2. The crust recipe is not traditional, but I have an visceral fear of rolling dough, and didn't want to use a prepared crust, so this solved the problem. It's more of a tart dough, and doesn't look that pretty, but tastes very good, and is dead easy. it's here:
                http://www.joythebaker.com/blog/2009/...

                The cheesecake recipe is under "Espresso Chocolate Cheesecake Harris" in Epicurious. Per one reviewer's suggestion, I used chocolate teddy grahams for the crust instead of chocolate wafers, and the result was delicious. Warning, this is a fairly complicated recipe and took quite a while. It's extremely rich, so portions can be small and a multitude served. I used a slightly larger pan than called for, so had to be very careful spreading the crust so as not to have bald spots, but just cut the baking time down a bit and it came out perfect. Don't skip the aluminum foil wrap.

                Enjoy!

                1. re: MommaJ

                  Thank you. I've added the cheesecake to my recipe database and I'm planning it for Christmas.

                  I read through it and on at least a superficial assessment it doesn't sound particularly fussy. I judge it to be about typical for a cheesecake. ...unless I'm missing something.

                  Anyway, thanks. I'm looking forward to trying it.

            2. re: Divamac

              We had the same problem. Cheese and soup course was so good that we could barely touch the expertly made (literally, one of our friends is a chef) turkey.

              Spectacular - homemade pate with a brined pork loin in the middle, four cheeses with pears and onion jam, rainsin chutney and roasted figs, and a trio of soup shooters - heirloom tomato with quark, beet and carrot with coriander sour cream, cauliflower with bagna cauda.

              Good - the poor turkey that made the best leftovers on earth. Mashed potatoes. Mashed acorn squash. Chocolate truffles.

              The completely unloved - pumpkin tartlets, apple cobblers, green beans.

            3. Fortunately, mine was mostly good.

              Good: Diestel turkey with the dry bring. Luckily I trusted my probe thermometer and as soon as it started beeping, I pulled the bird out of the oven. Very moist and flavorful. Ruth's Chris sweet potato casserole. First time I ever replicated it exactly.

              Mediocre: The gravy I made from the drippings was just too salty. I'm a salt addict. I'll eat sea salt flecks when the mood strikes, but I couldn't deal with the gravy. Boyfriend liked it, so I guess it was a matter of preference.

              Bad: Curried cream onions from the last issue of Saveur. They weren't very flavorful, had a weird texture, and every time I looked down, I thought there was potato salad on my plate. Confusing.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Azizeh

                If you are heavy handed with the salt, throw a whole peeled potatoe in the pan with the gravy. It should help.

                1. re: mcel215

                  potato does not -- repeat *not* -- remove salt or salty flavor.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Hmm, all my friends swear it does.....

                    Haven't tried it, but will be tempted now. And my friends and I have been cooking for eons.

                    1. re: mcel215

                      alkapal is right. That potato/salt thing is an old wives' tale.

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        I think potato works in dishes where you can leave it IN and add bulk (making your dish bigger to match the amount of salt you added!). I don't think it works like a salt-sponge - taking up salt so that you can remove it (along with the potatoes) from a dish. So... I guess I think it can work sometimes, but not here!

                    2. re: alkapal

                      It's worked for me, sort of. But I used several raw white potatoes, sliced. Not a whole one, and not a baking potato. Reduced the saltiness of a broth made from country ham. Didn't **eliminate** the salt, but did reduce it.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Don't know about potato removing saltiness, but it does work to cut spiciness if you've been heavy handed with the crushed red pepper in tomato sauce

                    3. re: Azizeh

                      I made Ruth's Chris sweet potato too, from the Cooking Up A Storm (Times-Picayune post-Katrina recipe saving cookbook, love it)

                      The whole roasted sweet potatoes were so gorgeously sweet coming out of the oven that I left out the cup of sugar entirely, used half the vanilla and added a big T of chipotle in adobo (mostly sauce, not a whole pepper) Lovely light fluffy casserole, really nice. The pecan topping is delicous, and tastes great with the other stuff on the Thanksgiving plate.

                    4. The Good - wonderful 18.5 pound, dry-brined (with the addition of fresh thyme and sage) turkey, spatchcocked and roasted for 2 hours. Gravy was delish -- made ahead with stock from 7 lbs. of turkey parts, pureed roasted shallots and dry sherry. Served it in a large cheese fondue pot, which did a great job of keep it hot. And finally, a fantastic new app for me -- bloody mary shrimp cocktail. Yum!

                      The Bad -- the balsamic glaze for my roasted onions REFUSED to come together, despite the fact that I've made this recipe several times before. The sugar kept crystallizing in the butter instead of dissolving. So 5 batches of glaze later (plus 3 pans, a pound of butter and a bottle of balsamic vinegar), I just gave up and winged it. Fortunately, the onions were still delicious. But boy did that glaze piss me off.

                      The Ugly -- my beautiful herb stuffing. It's my favorite part of the meal, so I made a HUGE amount -- two big casserole dishes. Baked for an hour at 375 covered, checked it and since it looked a little wet, I took the covers off and put the dishes back in the oven. Well, damn if I didn't get caught up with everything else and totally forget about the stuffing. It got totally dried out, with hard crusty edges that I could barely cut through. I was incredibly disappointed.

                      But overall, dinner was really wonderful, made even better by all the great friends we had together. And for anyone who saw my earlier thread -- yes, I made a salad! And yes, people ate it. Though I think for most, it was out of the desire to try a little of everything, even a boring old salad. :)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        I always have dinner at someone else's house, and for many years all we had were the usuals, including gloppy vegetable dishes (some of which I made.) Finally, we decided to add in some crisper veggies and it's been very welcome -- a red cabbage coleslaw, and a greenbeans vinaigrette.

                      2. I didn't make the dinner part of the meal, but we were all amazed. Each year a family member buys a fresh turkey from a local farm, which costs a fortune. This year she made a fresh Butterball, unbrined and it was so darn good, we were all amazed. Me, especially.

                        Everything else was good, but the bird was the standout.

                        No bad parts of our dinner at all.

                        And Sasha, I make Ina Garten's make ahead gravy, but don't freeze it. I do it 3 days ahead.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: mcel215

                          I also cooked a fresh Butterball this year, about 14 lbs., and was very pleased. They are self basting.

                          The MIL commented that the white meat was "too" moist..... go figure.

                          1. re: Axalady

                            I must admit that I prefer my turkey on the dry side as well...of course, I would never tell you that outside of this forum!

                            1. re: Axalady

                              I ended up with a butterball turkey from costco and was happy. But had to settle for a little under 24 pounds which for me is on the small side for three people. Already have eaten turkey rice soup and the little thanksgiving "sliders' my dad turned me onto years ago. Cut the leftover pillsbury croissant rolls in half and add cold turkey, cold stuffing, and cranberry sauce. I pounded down five of the little suckers today. Yum!

                              1. re: givemecarbs

                                I don't understand. Three people eat more than 24lbs. of turkey? You guys must really love those day-after turkey sandwiches.

                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                  i was thinking the same thing... i cooked 15 or 16 pounds of chicken for 10 people and we had TONS of leftovers...

                                  1. re: ChristinaMason

                                    He he he! I do love me a bird with plenty of meat Christina and Goodhealth and Emme! I find a bigger turkey much easier to cook and make gravy from, and there is more in-bird stuffing to be had too. It stays hotter longer and it is simpler to get some moist white meat while making sure the dark meat is done enough. Also with a larger bird it is a better value as there is more edible meat for your money. More leftovers means more lazy yummy meals with hardly any work. And when I get tired of hot turkey sandwiches and cold turkey sandwiches (hasn't happened yet!) there is more turkey soup and turkey pot pie and maybe even turkey tetrazinni and turkey ala king. Happy sigh.

                                    1. re: givemecarbs

                                      i made a turkey with red pepper cream sauce served on linguine last night. not bad.

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        I made a turkey based shepherd's pie, started with a layer of stuffing, added in a bechamel and gravy based filling with Bell's seasoning, onions, peppers, beech mushrooms and lots of turkey. Topped with the last of the mashed potatoes and tossed in the oven for a 1/2 hour until the top browned. Very tasty.

                                        1. re: Scrapironchef

                                          I made a Mexican Shepherds Pie, turkey mixed with salsa, topped with leftover mashed chipolte yams. But the Bowl of the Wife of Kit Carson Green Chili was the best leftover yet.

                                          1. re: Scrapironchef

                                            i love the layer of stuffing! time to make some more!

                                    2. re: givemecarbs

                                      the edible yield from a whole turkey is anywhere from 40-50%, so unless you did a really poor job of carving/stripping it and left a lot on the carcass, you should have had 10-12 pounds of meat. that's not enough for 3 people??

                                    3. re: Axalady

                                      you should have offered to let her barbecue her piece over an open stove flame until it was burnt and dry to her liking.

                                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                                        ha! we like ourselves lots of meat too. We made a 24 lb for 9 of us on T-day and another 22lb the following day, just so to prolong the happiness. I even made an extra batch of stuffing, just for kicks (sadly all gone).

                                        i got a whole turkey breast + carcass leftover. we were having turkey chili yesterday and will be eating plenty through this week. mmmm....