We have one 17# turkey and two people, and we need a plan.
January 3, 2019 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Give us your favorite recipe(s) for cooking all the parts of a turkey and turning it into multiple meals, ideally some that we can perhaps cook and freeze? We have poultry shears, an oven, a roasting pan, an instant pot, reasonable cooking chops, and no particular commitment to Holiday Turkey Aesthetic.

Due to a series of impulsive decisions, some or perhaps all of which were made under the influence of copious amounts of cold medicine, we're in possession of a large turkey that has been sitting in our chest freezer for a year and in our fridge since Sunday. We need to cook it, and then eat it. Help us figure out a plan that will cook all our turkey in the next 24-36 hours and produce storable tasty leftovers, some of which we can maybe freeze for a day when we're less sick of turkey than we expect to be very shortly. Any and all cuisine inspirations welcome; one of us has two full days at home to tackle this project. We'll probably be braising some of it, and definitely making stock for later soup use, but beyond that our creative juices are running dry as an uninspired Thanksgiving bird. We could especially use some ideas on how to tackle the white meat, as well as suggestions on making the entire project semi-manageable. In my ideal world this bird would generate several meals with very different flavor profiles for the next few days.
posted by deludingmyself to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Our meat share gave us a turkey a month for six months so we got good at this. Our plan:

1. Brine and roast turkey - use a relatively non-flavored brine (rather than one with a really strong, specific flavor profile.)

2. Carve and eat dark meat immediately, in sandwiches, with cranberry sauce, whatever.

3. Breast meat:
- turkey pot pie filling (vegetables in a cream sauce, cube the meat. Comfort food, freezes well)
- tamales (a WHOLE PROCESS but the result is totally worth it - plus you can do whatever flavor profile you want, green chiles, red chiles, freakin' BBQ sauce (that one was a surprise but goddamn it was good) )
- Turkey fried rice
- Green chile stew

All of these freeze just fine, and the secret is in general to make the sauce and add the pre-cooked turkey very late in the process so it doesn't dry out. I need to see if our meat guy will cough up another turkey!
posted by restless_nomad at 10:18 AM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

My ongoing life struggle is trying to get myself to eat the salad greens before they go bad, so I would turn all the white meat into turkey salad that will compel me to eat the arugula and baby mustard and whateverall I've optimistically filled the fridge with. Dice it all up, freeze some, throw mayonnaise and salt and pepper plus whatever adulterants you like in the rest, eat for a week, wait a while, thaw some more and repeat. (When I'm making egg/ham/chicken/yadda "salad," I mix whatever the protein is with some mayonnaise and call it good. But if somebody else is making chicken or turkey salad and they make any kind of effort, like if they put in apples or grapes, I really love it.)
posted by Don Pepino at 10:31 AM on January 3, 2019

I would debone it and cook in a roasting pan with a bed of stuffing. I do this with chickens all the time. Juices flavor the stuffing. Wrapping the meat into shapes around the stuffing helps keep it moist.

Eating or portioning to freeze later is easy because you can slice the meat into slices/rounds.

Then you have the carcass to make soup.
posted by sol at 10:41 AM on January 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

I do this with big batches of precooked proteins for meal prep: chili, curry, and for-burrito-bowls. Make your base sauce of choice, add meat at the end, ta da.

For burrito bowls, I tend to cook down one (regular) can of fire-roasted tomatoes with a squeeze of tomato paste plus either a diced jalapeno or some peppers in adobo or something like that, canned green chiles if you want mild but the flavor profile, salt + garlic + cumin + chili powder + smoked paprika to taste, stir my cooked protein into that to simmer for a bit, turn off the heat and stir in a blop of sour cream and a fistful of shred cheese - this is important as it makes the sauce stickier. I pack lunches (keto) with that over (cooked) cauliflower rice and (either stir-fried or raw) cabbage shreds (chop them up a little so it's not too dangly), and if I have cooked mushrooms or eggplant I'll add those in a chunky dice as "beans", finish with a little more sour cream and cheese.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:42 AM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

* pulls up chair and sits down *

Right. People have given you a lot of good options here. I see that you want to cook the whole thing, so I'm going to ask you a really interesting question: Do you want to cook it all at once, or cut it up into pieces and cook like half now and half tomorrow or something?

If you're willing to entertain the notion of cutting it up, then that opens up further possibilities for you:

* You roast the breast for one meal, like a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and use the leftovers for casseroles, pot pies, turkey noodle soup, etc. Such cooked meat can be frozen for later.

* Then you use the legs and thighs in other meals; this slow cooker stew sounds like an ideal use for a pair of legs (the recipe calls for 4 thighs, but I can't see why you can't just use 2 thighs and 2 drumsticks since it's all a stew). The resultant stew can be portioned into smaller containers and frozen itself for future meals.

* Finally: to use breast meat, there are pot pies (chop up some meat and throw it together with some frozen veg and a gravy-like sauce, slap on some kind of crust topping and bake) and turkey tetrazzini (a bog-standard casserole, but hell, it gets the job done).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:11 AM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Some tinga sauce will serve you well. Food Wishes has a slower but very nice recipe for chicken tinga. Basically though it's just chipotle in adobo, cooked onions, and tomato sauce blended up and simmered with stock, and reduced. Then you put your precooked protein in to simmer and combine. So you could use boxed chicken broth to make the sauce ahead of time and freeze batches so you can thaw it as desired for individual tacos/rice bowls/whatever later, or wait and use turkey stock for it.
posted by Mizu at 11:21 AM on January 3, 2019

Someone mentioned soup above, but a turkey carcass makes a great base for loads of soup stock. The only time we don't do this if we smoke a whole bird, because the stock ends up smokey too. We'll make/freeze stock and use it whenever chicken stock is called for in recipes.
posted by jquinby at 4:36 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Turkey white meat is bland enough that it works great diced or cubed in any kind of sauce-based dish. I will use up Thanksgiving leftovers with a vague 'curry' (there used to be a real recipe, but I got it from imitating my mother, who is Irish-American so we're not doing authentic south Asian food here) -- saute onions, celery, and a tart apple all diced smallish until soft, add a couple of tablespoons of curry powder, some tomato paste and a couple of tablespoons of flour and cook a few minutes until the flour is cooked, stir in a couple of cups of chicken or turkey broth, whichever you have, and cook until it thickens some, add the diced turkey and some cream (dairy or coconut, whichever), cook until heated through and then add some lime juice to finish it off. Serve over rice.

That's just an example, but it fits in with what other people have said about looking for recipes where the protein is interchangeable -- you're making a sauce and then throwing in your turkey. So, if it were me, I'd roast it as if it were Thanksgiving, eat roast turkey for a night, then disassemble the carcass into meal-sized units of diced meat and make different sauces for them (and freeze any units you won't get to in the next week or so.) And of course make stock once you've cut the meat off the carcass.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:44 AM on January 4, 2019

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