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Nov 23, 2011 02:16 PM

turkey tails!

I was flipping channels the other day and landed on a Thanksgiving episode of America's Test Kitchen. One of their tips was to make the gravy ahead of time, using drippings and stock made from turkey parts. Since I'm all about doing as much prep as possible in advance, and because I think there's no such thing as too much gravy, I thought this was a great idea, so I headed out to the store for turkey parts.

Since I was looking for something that would produce a lot of drippings, I was delighted to see packages of turkey tails, which are almost all fat. I bought a package of the tails (four) and one of drumsticks (two) and last night I put them in a roasting pan in a 325 oven. I took the legs out after about 45 minutes and used them to make stock. The tails I kept rendering for another hour or so, periodically pouring the drippings off. The result was not only about a cup and a half of drippings, but also something I dubbed "turkey chicharrones": chunks (I broke them apart at one point so they would render even more) of crisp brown skin over the remaining fat and collagen. Pretty darn tasty, especially with a little salt and hot sauce. Plus, as my handyman remarked, "the house smells like Thanksgiving"!

I will definitely do this again -- maybe even as a snack -- and think it might be a good solution for people who either are reluctant to brine their turkeys because the drippings are too salty, or who do brine and then discard the drippings because they're salty. And I can give the dog the turkey neck -- win-win-win!

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  1. You rock, Ruth! Have never seen these "parts" (aka as in my home as the Pope's nose). Lucky you. We've made stock with a bunch of legs and wings, totally ups the gravy quotient.

    1 Reply
    1. re: berkleybabe

      I've heard parsons nose, but we call them "last part over the fence". TOO precious! I use wings and legs for stock.

    2. I, too, love the tails, and bemoan the fact that in my area, they are particularly hard to find. None of the normal markets have them at all and they look at me strangely when I ask for them. Thankfully, one high-end place has them and I gratefully buy them at exorbitant prices (I pay .29 for the bird but $1.99 for their tails? Absurd!).

      I have a dozen and will roast them with the bird, so no more arguing with my MIL and my teenage son over who gets the best part. I already roasted up a few pounds of backs and tails and carcasses from the four birds I've already made over the past few weeks and made four gallons of stock, so I feel I'm set.

      [I wouldn't give poultry bones to a dog -- they can splinter and damage the pooch internally.]

      6 Replies
      1. re: acgold7

        I'd never seen them packaged until this year. I went out to find turkey parts for stock. First place (Mom's go to spot) had none - said someone showed up and bought all 43 pounds that they had. Second place was Whole Foods where they had only backs, and they were going for $2.49 a pound (the meat guy at least looked sheepish when I asked if that was really the price). Third place was Safeway with nothing. Last place had necks and tails at a decent price ($1.69) so I got some of each.

        1. re: 512window

          Yeah, I was surprised to see the tails, too. They were Foster Farms brand -- $1.89/lb at Lucky's (the legs were $1.99). I figure since my BIL is contributing a $$$ heritage bird to the cause, I can spend a few bucks on parts.

          Of course, that's just for my family meal. I have a friend who is basically homeless who gets free turkeys and brings them to me to roast. The frozen one is in the freezer (I'll cook it for him and his friends Sunday), but the fresh one is in the oven right now (time and fridge space were short, so I'm experimenting with the high-heat method -- I can hear it sizzling away!). He's going to be eating turkey for a long time!

          PS: In don't worry about the little neck bones hurting the dog -- she's a mutt whose digestive tract will handle anything a fox's would! The leg bones are another story.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            So just to follow-up: the high-heat method worked surprisingly well. 500 degrees for a little over half an hour, then turn down to 350 and cook for another 2-2.5 hours (for mine it was about 2) The skin was gorgeous and crisp, the meat was juicy, and the turkey I put in around 8 p.m. was rested and ready to break down by bedtime. Now the carcass can simmer overnight -- more turkey stock!

            I'm beginning to think, though, that it doesn't really matter how you cook the turkey. I've cooked heritage turkeys, fresh conventional turkeys and frozen turkeys in a variety of methods in the last few years (on a charcoal grill, on a gas grill, in an oven bag, conventional roasting, high-heat method) and although some were better than others, none of them were bad.

            I think the most important thing is not to cook it to the 180 degrees that used to be recommended. No wonder everyone's bird tasted like cotton!

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              So I just roasted my third "Thanksgiving" turkey -- another procured by the homeless friend. It came out a little tough, but I think that was just the bird, since the doneness was perfect. I didn't even use a thermometer -- I went with the "leg moves easily" test. This one was stuffed (because I think the whole reason to roast a turkey is to have stuffing) and took about 3.5 hours in a 350-375 oven. I'm just not seeing the whole "turkey is hard to cook" thing.

        2. re: acgold7

          Agree with acgold: Do NOT give poultry bones to dogs.

          1. re: PommeDeGuerre

            Raw poultry bones are perfectly fine for dogs and are recommended by a number of breeders. However, cooked poultry bones are extremely dangerous for them to consume.

            Not to get off on another subject or anything...

        3. Used to call those parts "the parts that go over the fence last"! My favorite part of the turkey and the chicken! With all that fat what could not be good! LOL!

          1. I haven't seen packages of fresh turkey tails, but do occasionally see smoked turkey tails in the local grocery store. The next time I seem them I'm going to buy them to put into the Hoppin' John.

            1. The tail is the best part of the bird. Forget a double-breast, breeders should focus their efforts on developing turkeys with tails at each end!