Help me like dark meat.
December 13, 2011 10:38 AM   Subscribe

I want to like dark meat, really I do. I hate letting food go to waste, but invariably, when we cook a whole bird, we let the back half of it sit in the fridge until one of us throws it out.

I'm looking for anything that will help us consume dark meat. Neither my partner nor I especially like the flavor of dark meat. I grew up spoiled, I suppose, so I always just ate white meat, and am not used to the flavor of dark. It's a bit gamey and has a slimier texture.

I am, however, Super Frugal, and it pains me to see giant bags of dark meat in the fridge that we virtuously pulled off and saved, fully intending to eat it, but never actually doing so. I also pride myself on eating just about anything without complaint, so this whole dark meat conundrum goes against my character.

At Christmas, we're roasting a giant turkey, so I want to be prepared. I'm looking for recipes, tips & tricks for learning to like it. I am open to casseroles, but my partner is, ahem, more selective about what she eats, and isn't crazy about them. She especially doesn't like leftovers, although I don't think leftover meat used in something else applies here. So creative uses for any dark meat poultry would be appreciated.

Or, is it a losing battle? Should I just give up and let my cats feast after every roast bird?
posted by Tooty McTootsalot to Food & Drink (43 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The best thing to do with leftover holiday food is to take a dinner roll, slather on some mayo, and make a sandwich with cold pieces of whatever bird you roasted. It's always, always better with dark meat because the white meat is too dry the next day.

You could also consider just buying breasts and roasting those, or butchering down the bird and giving the most delicious parts to someone who'll appreciate them. (Like me.)
posted by phunniemee at 10:43 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm jealous that you have dark meat leftovers because if I had them, I would make this.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 10:44 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dump the whole thing into a stockpot, and make stock. Once you've extracted all the meaty goodnees from the leftovers, freeze the stock and toss -- without guilt -- the remnants of the bird.
posted by eriko at 10:45 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've had decent success using leftover dark meat in ad-hoc jambalaya.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:45 AM on December 13, 2011

Dark meat works very well in soup, because it doesn't dry out as easily. Same goes for pot pie, if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:45 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why don't you just start buying turkey breasts instead of an entire turkey? The thriftiness angle is negated if you're just throwing away half the meat anyway.
posted by something something at 10:46 AM on December 13, 2011 [9 favorites]

Use it plus the remains of the carcass to make soup.

To me one of the many great things about a poultry roast is the soup you get to make with the leftovers. It also means that nothing goes to waste.

I've never heard of turkey soup, tbh, but it exists and looks yummy.
posted by motty at 10:46 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: huh, weird. To me, the dark meat is for eating hot off the bird, and the white meat is for casseroles/salads/leftovers, where their blandness is oomphed over by other ingredients. The problem with dark meat leftovers is that they're a lot more prone to developing that weird warmed over flavor thing.

So...uh...embrace the dark meat for eating fresh? Think of it as moist and flavorful, not slimy and gamey. Or, use pulled dark meat for stews and chilis (green chili with poultry is great), or other applications where strong flavors will counteract the qualities of dark meat you don't like.

Or just roast turkey breasts.
posted by peachfuzz at 10:46 AM on December 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

One approach is to turn the carcass (with the meat still on the bone) into stock. Sort of a waste of that much meat, but at least it would be put to some use.

What about soup? Is the flavor still too strong for you?

Another option would be trimming the dark meat off before cooking and grinding it together with some pork into sausage. With enough herbs, spices, and fatty pork the poultry flavor shouldn't be too noticeable. A country-style breakfast sausage has the dual benefits of being heavily spiced and fresh, so no need for curing or casings.
posted by jedicus at 10:47 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You could make this:
posted by ATX Peanut at 10:49 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My wife and I have the same problem, as we both prefer white meat to dark meat. Our solution has been to pull apart the dark meat and incorporate it into something that masks the flavor a bit. A few favorites include:
  • Tossing with barbecue sauce and making sandwiches
  • Making tinga (brown the chicken in some oil in a saute' pan, add a little garlic, simmer with tomato sauce, bay leaf, and chipotle powder, and serve with tortillas, lime, avocado, and/or other favorite fixings)
  • Incorporating into chicken salad; in particular, curry or other strongly flavored varieties that mask the gamey flavor of the chicken

posted by maxim0512 at 10:53 AM on December 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The dark meat is amazing for stews and soups! And the best of all, Chicken Cacciatore. Which is actually better with dark meat turkey than it is with dark meat chicken. TRY IT. I won't take no for an answer. I'll wait here while you get the ingredients.

Chicken Cacciatore

3 bell peppers, any color, julienne
1 onion, julienne
3 cups mushrooms, chopped
olive oil
dark meat chicken or turkey, cooked
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large can (32 oz) crushed whole tomatoes
lb of pasta of your choice
romano cheese

Just saute the first 3 ingredients in a bit of olive oil until soft. Add the garlic, your dark meat and tomatoes, and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Toss with cooked pasta, sprinkle with cheese, and mangia. You can play with the recipe as much as you like...I use more mushrooms and less onion, and add a cup of chianti. You may get a little gassy from the peppers and onions but it sounds like you might be used to that, Tooty McTootsalot.
posted by iconomy at 10:58 AM on December 13, 2011 [9 favorites]

Best answer: You can shred it and add barbeque sauce for sandwiches. Add some onion slices and pickles - yum!
posted by Hermes32 at 11:03 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Send it to me. Or, you could invite me over for Christmas; I can't make it this year but I think next year is still open.

Are you anti-gaminess in general? Are there any gamey meats that you like? Can you treat the dark meat like that meat?

If you don't want to roast a breast, I think shredding and saucing is the way to go. Barbecue pulled turkey sandwiches. Yum.
posted by mskyle at 11:09 AM on December 13, 2011

Best answer: Greetings,
Could it be mainly 'warmed over" dark meat. I like it fine right after cooking but my lady and I both HATE it after a night in the fridge. it tastes almost inedible to us. The fattier the patr, the worse it is. This is why thigh meat and leg meat is so bad. I dislike it so much that I located a thread to see if it was just me.
If it is the warmed over aspect that offends you (like us) this could explain it:

"The principal source of off-flavors is unsaturated fatty acids, which are damaged by oxygen and iron from myoglobin. --- Meats with a greater proportion of unsaturated fat in their fat tissue — poultry (!!) and pork — are more susceptible to warmed-over flavor than beef and lamb."

From the book "On Food and Cooking" by Harold McGee.
posted by Studiogeek at 11:10 AM on December 13, 2011

I used to eat exclusively white meat. Since the mrs eats exclusively dark it wasn't too much of a problem, since we finished off a whole chicken at a sitting. However, I wanted to start liking other parts of the meat, so I've been working into it slowly bit by bit. The dark meat is actually pretty good, but you have to (if you are squicked like me) put in a little work, and get rid of all the gross bits (veins, rubbery bits at the end of a muscle, oddly bloody bits, etc). Once I know I am not going to run into any surprises of the crunchy, slimy or rubbery persuasion it's actually been pretty good. The dark meat is nice in a sammige, or in a risotto or in a soup, especially noodle soup. Not so good in stews or stir fries.

Here is my roadmap to poultry success.
First up, don't stress yourself, you can go real easy with this and just progress little by little. I couldn't even look at the underside of the chicken before, and now I get one stripped down pretty fast.

Start with the hidden white meat. You've got the outer, round part of the drumstick, that's basically just a cap of white meat. You've got two large strips of white meat on the back of the chicken that are basically breast meat. I want to say they are the chickens lats, god forgive me. You are also going to want to find the chickens "oysters", also on the back. They are on either side of the spine, a little like where those dimples are on your own lower back.

That's enough for now, get comfortable harvesting that meat. You are going to have an easier time stripping it off a cold chicken. As you get more comfortable with handling the cold chicken, you are going to start thinking "hmm, that looks like a nice piece there" and will pull off the bit of skin and the bit of fat, and just pop off the bit of tendon at the end with your thumbnail and throw it in your sammige pile. You will have a pot beside you as you work and all the bits of bone, skin, other unmentionables get tossed in there. Once you are done, you fill the pot with water and boil it up to a stock. Use it for your delicious noodle soup by adding back in your saved chicken, a little soysauce, some sesame seeds and some frozen broccoli.

The two of us get a proper dinner and lunch off the main bird as well as two meals of the soup or rissotto. That's 8 portions from a chicken. Thrifty and tasty :) Nomnom!
posted by Iteki at 11:15 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Turkey Curry!
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 11:30 AM on December 13, 2011

Second link doesn't seem to be working now, sorry - but there's always the good old Beeb.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 11:35 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Push past it and just eat it.

I used to dislike dark meat but once I switched to roasting whole chickens I couldn't waste the food so I started eating more legs and such. Now I prefer the dark meat.
posted by srboisvert at 11:40 AM on December 13, 2011

Best answer: Anything where it gets mixed in with other things, the meat gets shredded, and the flavor gets masked. My wife makes an amazing pot pie with some of our leftover turkey. Enchiladas would be a good use for them. Any kind of curry.

Good meat is too good to relegate to soup stock. Use the bones for that.
posted by adamrice at 11:49 AM on December 13, 2011

Best answer: Make empanadas! You won't be able to tell what kind of meat is in there when it's all mixed up with spicy yumminess. Here's a good recipe.
posted by jrichards at 11:52 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nthing soup. I make it the same way as chicken soup, and it's wonderful.

Also, a recipe my brother invented:

Turkey Too Much

1. Make a turkey that's too big for your family.

2. Next day, put the shredded leftovers in a frying pan with Too Much melted butter, and start heating it up.

3. Add Too Much Garlic, and Too Much soy sauce.

4. After it's cooked for a while and everything is browned up and heated through, serve it over Too Much rice. It's actually better if you cook it Too Long, and it starts to get browny bits on the edges.

This tastes amazing, and always disappears Much Too fast!
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:59 AM on December 13, 2011 [15 favorites]

What helps us use all the chicken and/or turkey is to clean the carcass the night we've roasted it. Don't throw the bird back in the fridge unless it's separated from the bone. (Except for drumsticks. They're pretty perfect for a lunch.)

Anyways, having the dark meat already off the bone and mixed with the white meat makes it so much easier to use in enchiladas, soup or stew, or barbecue sandwiches. The ick-factor will diminish greatly if you don't have to pick it from the bone days after baking it.

Inspired by this blog post, we'll have a week of meals from one small roaster. Stripping the bird is key.
posted by montaigneisright at 12:02 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, just eat it, with your fingers. Eat everything, skin and fat and veins and rubbery bits - it's a spectrum of flavors, and it's all good.
posted by leigh1 at 12:02 PM on December 13, 2011

This is probably a terrible thing to suggest, but have you tried cooking the dark meat for longer? I am a white meat eater myself, but am pretty OK with the most well-done portions of dark meat. It's dryer and less gamey that way. Extra-done dark meat might be useful as a bridge to get you used to the flavor.
posted by unsub at 12:10 PM on December 13, 2011

Another vote here for stock. Good turkey stock is a great thing to have in the freezer; there are so many applications. Dark meat is great for a flavorful stock, and throw in some carrots and celery stalk if you like. Be sure and use the big bones, so a lot of the gel-forming stuff comes out so the stock is naturally thick.
posted by zomg at 12:11 PM on December 13, 2011

Eat if fresh and hot. I don't like dark meat reheated so I always eat the wings and the legs for the first meal then reheat the breasts over the next few days.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:25 PM on December 13, 2011

Best answer: Turkey Tetrazzini exists specifically for this purpose. The recipe ATX Peanut linked to looks top notch.
posted by slogger at 12:33 PM on December 13, 2011

Response by poster: This is so interesting! I never even thought about the bias in my eating habits - I always eat white meat first and leave the dark for leftovers. This year I will try dark meat first and see if I like that better.

Also, chicken cacciatore, tetrazzini, empanadas, etc., are great ideas! There's an empanada place near my work, and their chicken is ground up and spiced so heavily, I have no clue if it's white meat or not.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 12:35 PM on December 13, 2011

Best answer: Shred the dark meat, mix with appropriate Mexican-style spices, and use (reheated, of course) as filling for tacos, along with some salsa, onions and cilantro.

Lefover bird makes a nice pot pie. Just combine a nice velouté, with sautéed onions, carrots, celery and left over bird; pour hot into a pie dish and cover with pie crust. Brush with egg. Cut a few vents in the crust and bake until the crust is browned. That's it. And it is superior by far to the frozen ones. To use the whole bird, just make a quick (hour) stock with the bones and carcass, then use that to make your velouté.
posted by Hylas at 12:35 PM on December 13, 2011

I make turkey soup. Put the whole carcass in a pot, with whatever meat is left. Add water, onion, carrots, celery, parsley, any other soup greens, salt and pepper and whatever seasonings you like, and cook it for a few hours Strain, save the carrots and meat and put them back in the soup, throw out the bones and greens. I put a can of tomato soup in at this point, and you can add cooked rice, barley or noodles.

I don't like dark meat but this is good. Luckily my husband is a dark meat fan so what is left on the bones is a mix.

Or you can put the turkey leftovers out for the brother did once and a buzzard came!
posted by mermayd at 12:37 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love dark turkey meat, so there aren't many leftovers, but when there are, I shred it, stick it in a hot cast iron skillet, wait until it gets nice and brown and crispy, and put it in a salad, finished with a basic vinaigrette drizzled on top. It's also good in stock, but I find that there's already enough meat on the carcass to make a good stock.
posted by smorange at 1:42 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dark meat makes excellent Thai curries. It can stand up to being simmered in coconut milk for a while, and the spicy curry flavors will cover up the dark meat flavor you don't like. You can substitute it for any curry that calls for duck meat, I particularly like using chicken thighs for Thai pineapple red curry.
posted by TungstenChef at 1:58 PM on December 13, 2011

Nthing soup, soup, soup - also risotto. That slimy texture you don't like means that the meat is less likely to dry out and shred than white meat is - so much that I buy chicken thighs in preference to breasts if I'm making soup or risotto. The strong flavour works well in anything where the flavour is necessarily diluted with other ingredients, so I suspect that you could also use it in a pasta sauce like chicken.
posted by andraste at 2:21 PM on December 13, 2011

Home-made pot pie is the bomb.
posted by bq at 2:31 PM on December 13, 2011

If you look at older cookbooks you may notice that they have different "done" temperatures for dark and white meat. This isn't about food safety (as everything is dead at 160° regardless of where it is on the bird), its about preference.

I think somewhat over cooked dark meat is tastier. When you're cooking a whole bird, I go to 160° in the breast, and use the dark meat in leftover dishes that get cooked again. Enchiladas are a great example. Chicken salad would not be.
posted by fontophilic at 3:09 PM on December 13, 2011

Best answer: Consider also replacing the beef in a Shepherd's Pie recipe with turkey.

Another thought: how are you cooking the turkey to begin with, that the white meat tastes good but the dark does not? There are lots of ways. You might try an alternate cooking plan than the one you've been using.
posted by koucha at 4:25 PM on December 13, 2011

All the above-- I'm saving this thread!-- plus turkey hash. Potatoes, lots of onions or, preferably, shallots.
posted by BibiRose at 4:35 PM on December 13, 2011

I love dark meat too and eat it first! But there's usually some leftover. Enter: turkey stroganoff! Onions, mushrooms, turkey chunks, sour cream, worscheshire, fresh parsley, (salt, pepper, etc) served over egg noodles. mmmmm.....
posted by kirst27 at 4:52 PM on December 13, 2011

I always end up turning left over dark meat into chicken/turkey pot pie. Just jam the recipe full of all sorts of fun veg and you are set.
posted by machine at 6:46 PM on December 13, 2011

If you're open to it, de-boning the turkey and making it into a roll means you get white and dark meat together both hot and tasty and later for leftovers. Also because of the way you roll the turkey, you don't get those long stringy pieces of drumstick, but a cross section, which helps with the texture.
posted by looli at 7:27 PM on December 13, 2011

Best answer: Chilaquiles! (This recipe makes four big servings; if it's just the two of you, make it through step two, then divide the sauce you've made in half. Half goes in fridge for tomorrow, and half goes on to step 3.) I throw a couple cups of spinach or kale (and Bayless includes it in his recipe from the book). I'm pretty sensitive about that warmed over flavor, but chilaquiles is such a Pow! kind of recipe the meat barely registers (and I'm careful to remove fat/gristle.)

I'm getting better about dark meat myself, and I find it much easier to eat dark chicken meat than turkey. If you both prefer chicken to turkey, perhaps it would be easier to experiment with dark chicken meat.
posted by queseyo at 8:01 PM on December 13, 2011

Best answer: Dark meat can also be good with a mole sauce - just add the results to enchiladas or whatever else you'd like. I've been happily surprised by the quality of some store-bought mole, you might have good luck finding Doña María locally but if not then Amazon has quite a few options.
posted by ethand at 6:33 AM on December 14, 2011

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