How to Make Homemade Gravy

WIN_20151118_181452Easy peasy! Today’s post is more “technique” than “recipe”. If you’re roasting a turkey, baking a ham, or cooking any other large portion of meat in the oven, you may as well make homemade gravy! Let’s get started.

WIN_20151118_180101Ingredients (Makes 2 cups)

Drippings from roasting pan

1 tablespoon cornstarch

water

Directions

WIN_20151118_180349Step 1) After you remove your turkey (or other meat) from your roasting pan, scrape all of those funky looking drippings into a sieve placed over a saucepan (see photo). Discard the solids in the sieve.

Step 2) Measure the liquid from the drippings. You need approximately 2 cups for gravy, but you may not have two cups of liquid from the roasting pan. No worries! If you have one cup of liquid from the pan, add 1 cup of broth (chicken broth works for turkey drippings) or water. Make sure you don’t add more water than liquid from the pan. For example, if you only have 1/2 cup of liquid from the drippings, then you can add 1/2 cup of water or broth to make 1 cup of gravy.

Step 3) Bring your liquid to a gentle boil.

Step 4) In a small container (a coffee mug works well), combine 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Whisk together until absolutely smooth… there should not be even one tiny little lump in the cornstarch mixture! Alternately, you could use a small plastic container with a tight fitting lid, and shake the cornstarch/water mixture until smooth.

WIN_20151118_181250Step 5) Slowly drizzle your smooth cornstarch mixture into the boiling liquid and stir! Keep stirring with gentle boiling until gravy mixture thickens. This should take about 5 minutes.

Step 6) If you want thicker gravy, use an additional tablespoon of cornstarch and repeat steps 4 and 5.

DO NOT ADD POWDERED CORNSTARCH DIRECTLY TO THE GRAVY WITHOUT FIRST BLENDING WITH COLD WATER. Seriously. You will end up with a weird, lumpy mess. I, ah, know someone who made this mistake once because she was, ah, in a hurry. Or so I’m told. It was gross. Or at least that’s what a little bird told me.  😉

You’ll notice that we didn’t add any seasoning to our gravy. This is because I’m assuming that the meat you roasted was seasoned, and those seasonings have already flavored your pan drippings. Taste your gravy. If it’s bland, add salt and pepper a PINCH at a time, tasting after each pinch. You can always add more salt and pepper, but once it’s in there, it’s in there. Don’t overdo it.

That’s all! Easy peasy!

Rosemary Lemon Roast Turkey

WIN_20151118_175731For many years, I was apprehensive about roasting a turkey. I’m not really sure why. The first year I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in my own home, I ordered a turkey from a deli – precooked, with ready-made gravy on the side! At the time, it seemed like a brilliant idea. Now, I don’t understand what the fuss was all about.

Roasting a turkey is really, really easy. Before we get started, here are a few pointers. Other cooks may disagree – if so, please join the turkey conversation by posting a comment below!

  1. If there’s not a big price difference between fresh and frozen, buy a fresh turkey. They’re juicier, which is wonderful because roasting is a dry cooking process. I bought a fresh turkey at Aldi for 99 cents per pound.
  2. Unless you have 5 or 6 days to allow a frozen turkey to thaw in your refrigerator, you need to buy a fresh turkey. I have never… not once… seen a frozen turkey fully thawed after only 3 days in my refrigerator (which is what the directions on the turkey wrapping often promise).
  3.  Bigger is not better. If you’re feeding a lot of people, consider buying two small turkeys (10 – 12 pounds each) instead of one, massive bird. Smaller turkeys roast more evenly, and because they require less time in the oven, they are less likely to dry out.
  4. You don’t need a special roasting pan, a baster, a “turkey bag” (to cook a turkey in plastic??), or any other strange turkey paraphernalia. A 10 pound turkey will fit in a 9×13 cake pan. A larger turkey will fit on a jelly roll pan, or any baking sheet with sides at least 1 inch high.

Let’s get started!

WIN_20151118_131852Ingredients (Serves 8)

1 small, fresh turkey (10 – 12 pounds)

2 lemons

6 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

WIN_20151118_1336221/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons butter (not margarine), melted

Directions

Step 1) In the kitchen sink, remove your turkey from the wrapping. Find the bag of giblets and remove it from your turkey. Check both ends of your turkey for that bag of giblets!

Step 2) Rinse your turkey with cold water on the inside and the outside. Lift the turkey and turn it upside down to drain for a moment. Pat the turkey dry with a clean kitchen towel (and put that towel immediately in the hamper, so you don’t accidentally use it for anything else).

Step 3) Place your turkey in a pan or on a roasting sheet. Rub salt and pepper onto the skin.

Step 4) Poke a few holes with a paring knife in each lemon. Insert rosemary sprigs into several of the holes in each lemon, as shown.

WIN_20151118_133827Step 5) Insert one of the rosemary lemons completely inside of the turkey. Rest the other rosemary lemon near the opening of the turkey cavity.

Step 6) Coat the outside of your turkey with melted butter. Don’t use so much butter that it drips all over the pan (try to avoid that), but make sure at highest part of the turkey is covered. The butter will spread down the sides of the turkey as it roasts, sealing in flavor and giving the turkey skin a golden color.

Note: We are buttering our turkey skin instead of basting. It’s easier and prevents the meat from drying out. A buttered turkey will have a slightly darker color than a basted turkey (or a turkey in a bag), and the skin will be crispy. The end result is delicious!

Step 7) Showtime! Place your turkey in a preheated, 325 degree oven on the lowest rack possible. Your turkey needs to slowly roast until a meat thermometer poked into the thickest part of the turkey (but not against a bone) registers 165 degrees. Your turkey might have a little red timer attached (see photo) – this timer will pop out when your turkey is done. It’s STILL a good idea to check the temperature. Your turkey needs to reach 165 degrees in order to prevent food-borne illness!

How long will your turkey need to roast? That is the million dollar question! Every turkey and every oven is a little bit different. At 325 degrees, a 10 – 12 pound turkey will require approximately 3 hours of roasting time. Check your turkey after 2 1/2 hours, but don’t open the oven door before then!

Step 8) Let your roasted turkey rest on the countertop for 15 minutes before carving. A “tent” of aluminum foil (just a very loose covering of foil) can be used to prevent heat loss, but that’s not entirely necessary.

Enjoy your roasted turkey!

PS  – Don’t wash that pan! In our next Crowded Earth Kitchen post, we’ll show you how to make gravy with the drippings on that turkey pan!

Six Meals from a $6 Turkey (Part 4 of 4): Savory Turkey Salad

WIN_20140915_132521

Savory Turkey Salad

Are we tired of turkey yet? Good. We should be. That means we’ve been cooking abundantly with a nutritious, seasonal food, just as cooks have been doing throughout human history.  The difference is, we have freezers now, so  we don’t actually have to eat turkey for days or weeks in a row in order to be economical and health conscious cooks.

After making three turkey soups, turkey Stromboli, and turkey bread pockets, you should still have a little bit of turkey left.  Pull it out of your freezer some night, let it thaw in your refrigerator, and make this simple salad for lunch!

Ingredients (Makes 1 entrée salad)

1 cup cooked, chopped turkey

1/2 cup chopped apple

1/4 cup shelled, roasted walnuts

2 tablespoons diced celery

2 heaping tablespoons vanilla yogurt

1/4 teaspoon crushed herbes de provence

2 cups spinach leaves

Directions

Combine all ingredients except for spinach leaves.  Toss with a fork until well combined.  Arrange turkey mixture over a bed of spinach leaves.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and garnish with lemon peel.  Done!

I hope you’ve enjoyed saving money and stocking your freezer with our Six Meals from a $6 Turkey series!  Next time on Crowded Earth Kitchen… dessert!

Six Meals from a $6 Turkey (Part 3 of 4): Stromboli and Bread Pockets

WIN_20141027_185019

Turkey Stromboli

If you’re cooking your way through our Six Meals from a $6 Turkey series, you already have an impressive stash of winter soup in your freezer (or, you’ve made friends with plenty of neighbors!).  Today we’re going to build up our supply of healthy, frozen foods even further with two bread-based meals: Stromboli and Bread Pockets.  These meals are simple to prepare, and will provide a hot and hearty dinner on a busy winter night… all for pennies a serving.  What’s not to like about that?

Ingredients (Makes 1 large, 4 serving Stromboli -and- 2 large, individual size bread pockets)

1 recipe of Simple Bread, prepared through Step 5.  We need the Simple Bread dough for today’s recipes, not fully baked loaves of bread!

4 cups cooked, shredded turkey

2 cups fresh spinach leaves

1/2 cup diced bell pepper (red is pretty, but green is often less expensive and tastes the same)

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

WIN_20141027_180510Directions

Step 1) Take a little more than half of your Simple Bread dough, and roll it on a lightly oiled surface into a rectangle.  I made my rectangle of dough approximately 16 inches long and 10 inches wide.  As you can see, it wasn’t a perfect rectangle… and it still turned out just fine.  Don’t stress about the measurements – just make a rectangle.

Step 2) Layer spinach leaves, 2 cups of shredded turkey, diced bell pepper, and 1/2 cup of Monterey Jack cheese in the center of your rectangle, leaving a 1 inch border on all sides.

Step 3) Roll up your Stromboli the long way, to make a long, thin loaf.  To do this, gently lift one of the long sides, and fold it into the center so that the edge of the bread dough is covering half of the turkey filling.  Then, fold in half again so that the other long edge is on the bottom of the loaf.  Fold the short ends under.

WIN_20141027_183946Step 4) Place your Stromboli on a large baking pan which has been lightly oiled and sprinkled with cornmeal.  The cornmeal is really useful in preventing bread dough from sticking to the pan!

Step 5) Bake your Stromboli in a preheated, 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Carefully remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.  [Stromboli may be wrapped and frozen whole (when fully cool!), but I prefer to slice the Stromboli into 2 inch slices, and freeze the individual slices.  To reheat, just place the desired number of frozen slices on an oiled baking sheet and set the baking sheet in an oven which has NOT been preheated.  Set your oven to 350 degrees.  When your oven reaches 350 degrees, check your Stromboli – they should be hot and delicious!]

Step 6) While your Stromboli bakes, roll your remaining Simple Bread dough into two circles, approximately 9 inches in diameter.

WIN_20141027_181430Step 7) Combine ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, and onion in a medium bowl.  Mix well.

Step 8) Add 2 cups of shredded turkey and 1/2 cup shredded cheese to the sauce mixture, and toss with a fork until combined.

Step 9) Place half of the turkey mixture on each circle, keeping the mixture on HALF of each circle.  Leave a 1 inch border.

Step 10) Fold each empty half circle over the other half, where the turkey mixture is located.  Pinch the edges together to form two sealed, half-circle shaped bread pockets.

WIN_20141027_182634Step 11) Set the bread pockets on another baking sheet which has also been lightly oiled and sprinkled with cornmeal.  Let sit until your Stromboli is removed from the oven, then place your bread pockets in the already hot, 375 degree oven.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Step 12) When bread pockets are fully cool, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil and freeze.  Reheat the same way you would reheat the Stromboli, as directed above in Step 5.

Join me in two days for one final turkey recipe.  See you then!

 

Six Meals from a $6 Turkey (Part 2 of 4) Three Soups Day!

picture323

Thanks to our most recent kitchen adventures, we now have refrigerators full of broth and turkey.  It’s time to turn most of that broth, and some of that turkey, into three delicious soups!  Today we will prepare big pots of the following three soups:  Sweet Potato Kale, Turkey Dumpling, and Vegetable Barley.  You will have plenty for now and even more for later, so share!  Accompanied by homemade soup, tomorrow would be a great day to meet the new neighbors or go visit that old friend.  Your kitchen will soon be filled with the fragrant and soothing winter aromas.  Are you ready?

picture318Sweet Potato Kale Soup (makes 12 cups)

This soup is a colorful, nutritional powerhouse!  While sweet potatoes and cannellini beans are nutritious in their own right, few vegetables are as packed full of vitamins and powerful antioxidants as kale.  This leafy, picture311cruciferous vegetable really is a “superfood.”

Ingredients

8 cups of turkey broth

6 cups chopped kale

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 cups cooked cannellini beans

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Directions

Step 1) Simmer broth and sweet potatoes in a large pot until sweet potatoes are tender (not mushy), about ten minutes.

Step 2) Add kale and cannellini beans.  Simmer a few more minutes until warmed through.

Step 3) Place 1 cup of soup in blender, along with onion, salt, and pepper.  Puree and return mixture to soup pot.

That’s it – so easy!  This soup freezes well, and is delicious served with a hearty slice of sourdough bread.

~

picture321Turkey Dumpling Soup (makes 12 cups)

Dumplings are a cold weather comfort food best enjoyed fresh.  If you are going to freeze this soup, freeze it without the dumplings.  The dumplings themselves will only take a few minutes to make, right before you enjoy them!

Ingredients

8 cups of turkey broth

3 celery ribs, chopped, including leaves

3 carrots, chopped

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/3 cup milk

4 cups diced (cooked) turkey

picture315Directions

Step 1) Combine broth, celery, carrots, and onion in a large pot.  Bring to a gentle boil.

Step 2) In a small bowl, combine flour, pepper, allspice, and baking powder.  Add oil and milk.  Mix with a fork until just picture319combined.

Step 3) Using two teaspoons, drop dumpling dough into gently boiling soup as shown.  Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.  Do not stir or lift lid for 10 minutes.

Step 4) Stir in diced turkey and heat through.  Enjoy!

~

picture323Vegetable Barley Soup (makes 12 cups)

Barley makes a satisfying, low cost addition to plant-based meals.  A good source of fiber, barley also contains important minerals such as manganese, selenium, and iron.  This soup freezes well, and actually tastes best after the flavors have been picture312allowed to blend for a day or two.

Ingredients

8 cups of turkey broth

1 cup pearl barley

3 carrots, chopped

3 celery ribs, chopped, including leaves

6 cups chopped kale (or, collard greens make a tasty substitution)

1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt-free seasoning blend

Directions

Step 1) Bring broth and barley to a boil in a large pot.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Step 2) Add carrots, celery, kale, pepper, and seasoning blend.  Simmer until carrots are tender.

Done!  If you have leftover turkey broth, freeze it in small (2 cup) containers.  Broth makes a savory addition to many recipes, and your checkbook will thank you for avoiding those overpriced cans at the market.

Six Meals from a $6 Turkey (Part 1 of 4)

picture292You will never find a less expensive turkey than you will in the month of November.  I used a supermarket coupon delivered right to my mailbox, and picked up a 12 pound turkey for $6.  Over the next four posts, we will make six entrees, each serving four people (with leftovers!), with this $6 turkey.

That’s $1 a night for a family, or 25 cents per person.  Are you with me?

Today we’ll bake our turkey, divide the meat into four portions (freezing three portions), and we’ll make a whole lot of turkey broth.  Don’t worry, this requires very little attention – you won’t be trapped in your kitchen all day.  On November 7th, we’ll make large quantities of three different soups, perfect for freezing or sharing with loved ones.  November 9th we’ll make an awesome turkey Stromboli for dinner, and also a few BBQ bread pockets to freeze for hot lunches later this winter.  November 11th we’ll lighten things up with a savory, main dish salad.

Let’s get started!

Ingredients for Today

1 thawed turkey, approximately 12 pounds

salt

pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions

Step 1) Make sure your turkey is not frozen.  Most supermarket turkeys are sold frozen, and take a few days to thaw in the refrigerator.  I let mine thaw in the fridge for 3 days.  Whatever you do, do NOT leave a frozen turkey at room temperature in an attempt to make it thaw faster.  This can make you sick.

Step 2) Realize that your turkey is simply an ingredient, and will be picked apart in short order.  Your turkey will not be starring in a live performance of a Charles Dickens novel, so don’t get all stressed out and precious about it, OK?  Nobody cares if this turkey is perfectly browned, or perfectly shaped, or perfectly carved.  Nobody.  It just needs to get done.

Step 3)  Place your turkey on a large pan with sides.  An official roasting pan is great if you have one.  A jelly roll pan or other large pan will work fine, too.  Just make sure your pan has sides.  Make sure there is nothing weird inside of your turkey, like a plastic bag of gravy (not that I’ve, er, ever forgot to check).

Step 4) Brush your turkey all over with a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil.  This will help keep your turkey moist.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on your turkey.  This is as fancy as we need to be.  It’s an ingredient, remember?

Step 5) Place your turkey in a preheated 325 degree oven for 4 hours.  This is a bit longer than a thawed, 12 pound turkey should take, but I don’t like to take any risks with undercooked poultry.  If you have a meat thermometer, stick it in the meatiest part of your turkey, but not against a bone.  When your turkey is done, the temperature should be at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

picture293Step 6) Using a carving knife, and then using your fingers, pull all of the meat off of your turkey.  Take your time – this isn’t difficult, but will take a little while.  Divide the turkey into four, quart size containers.  You can separate light meat from dark meat, or mix it all up, whichever you prefer.  Place three containers in your freezer, and picture294save one for soup day!

Step 7) Place your turkey carcass in the largest pot you have and cover with three gallons (12 quarts) of water.  If you don’t have a large enough pot, you can divide your turkey carcass approximately in half, and cover each half with 1 1/2 gallons (6 quarts) of water.  If you have any vegetable scraps in your freezer (onion peels, carrot ends, that sort of thing), add them to your pot.

Step 8) Bring your pot to a boil, then reduce heat and cover.  Simmer for at least 8 hours… the longer, the better!  While your broth is cooking, gather up a bunch of storage containers (I use quart size yogurt containers).  Also, make room in your refrigerator and/or freezer.

Step 9) Using a ladle, a sieve, and your patience, strain all of the broth into storage containers.  Refrigerate and/or freeze.  You’re done for today!

Planning Ahead

On Soup Day (two days from now), we’re going to turn this broth and one portion of turkey into three different soups.  You’ll need the following ingredients on hand:

1 large bunch of kale (or other green, if you prefer)

1 bag of carrots

1 bunch of celery

2 sweet potatoes

2 onions

1 can of cannellini beans

1 cup of flour

1/3 cup of milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

salt, pepper, baking powder, allspice, and salt-free seasoning blend

See you in two days!