I am not one that cooks turkey on Thanksgiving only. My family loves turkey so we have it when it goes on sale during the year. For the most part I cook the "hotel style" turkey breast as my family does not care for dark meat. Choose a whole turkey or the hotel style breast according to your budget and the price. Turkey is a versatile left-over and can be utilized for makeover meals in a variety of ways.
To aide in the browning of the skin, make a small dish of softened (room temperature) butter. Pull the skin up and away from the turkey add the butter under the skin and rub the remainder of the butter all over the exterior of the bird. For additional flavor add any finely chopped fresh herb or dried spice to the softened butter. Season the whole turkey or turkey breast exterior with salt and pepper. If I make a whole turkey I stuff the bird with chunks of onion celery and carrot, or if I make the Hotel Style Turkey Breast, I add the chunks of vegetable to the roasting pan. This helps keep the bird moist and adds tons of flavor to the gravy.
Cover the turkey with either foil or the top of your roasting pan. During the last hour of cooking add canned Turkey or Chicken Broth and begin basting about every 10 to 15 minutes until the skin is deep golden brown.
|Instant Read Thermometer|
When the instant read thermometer (left hand photo) reaches 162 degrees, you can remove the turkey to a cutting board or platter and cover the turkey will foil to let it rest. The temperature will come up to 165 degrees during the resting period.
While your turkey is resting, make a gravy with the pan drippings.
- When your turkey is fully cooked remove from the pan to rest. Make a slurry with cornstarch and water or turkey or chicken broth (approximately 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/2 cup liquid). Set aside.
- Remove the chunks of celery carrot and onion with a slotted spoon.
- Set your roasting pan on top of the stove. To make sure you have left-over gravy, be sure and add plenty of water or additional broth to the pan. If your liquid has lots of fat, use a fat separator and transfer the liquid to a sauce pot. Over medium to medium high heat, bring the liquid up to a boil.Using a whisk, and with a circular motion stir the liquid and pick up all of the pan drippings from the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Bring the mixture up to a boil. At this point I like to add in some Gravy Master® .
- Pour in the slurry mixture a little at a time and keep whisking until you have the consistency of the gravy you like. The more slurry, the thicker the gravy. Turn the heat back to low and cook for 1 - 2 minutes more while still whisking. Remember this: you will never know how thick your gravy will be until it comes up to a boil.
- If you prefer a blond looking gravy add in some half and half or cream, or, skip using the Gravy Master® . I think the Gravy Master® imparts nice flavoring, however it's up to you.
How to make homemade Beef Gravy
I have simple rules for making delicious gravy each and every time.
- Start with a good piece of beef that has a good fat cap and good marbling throughout the beef. If the beef does not have a good fat cap (Eye of the Round Roasts are a good example), ask your grocery store butcher if he/she can provide you with some. To secure the fat cap, tie it to the roast with butchers twine.
- Always add chunks of onion, celery and carrot to the roasting pan.
- Add beef broth at the very end of the cooking time when doing "roasted beef" or at the beginning if making a braised pot roast.
- When your roast is fully cooked to your liking, remove from the pan to rest. Make a slurry with cornstarch and water or beef broth (approximately 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/2 cup liquid). Set aside.
- Set your roasting pan on top of the stove over medium to medium high heat and add water or broth. If you want to make sure you have left-over gravy, be sure and add plenty of water or broth.
- Using a whisk, and with a circular motion stir the liquid and pick up all of the pan drippings from the bottom and sides of the pan.
- If your liquid has lots of fat, use a fat separator and transfer the liquid to a saucepan.
- Bring the mixture up to a boil. At this point I like to add in some Gravy Master®.*
- Pour in the slurry mixture a little at a time and keep whisking until you have the consistency of the gravy you like. The more slurry, the thicker the gravy. Turn the heat back to low and cook for 1 minute more while still whisking.
* Gravy Master® is available at your grocery store. I use this in all of my homemade gravy, whether I am making beef, poultry or pork gravy. It adds flavor and gives the gravies a darker color.
Tips: You can substitute flour, Wondra® or Arrowroot for thickening agents. You won't know how thick your gravy will be until it comes to a full boil.
How to make Rice
Making rice is simple and is a good alternate to potatoes. One two pound box of long grain rice yields approximately 19 servings. Cost of the rice is generally under three dollars for a 2 pound box. Compare that with a boxed rice mix that generally is $1.49 and up per box and yields about 4 servings and you readily see the cost savings.
For most of my cooking I use long grain white rice. What makes it delicious is what I put in it. I always use broth in place of water to impart flavor to the rice.
Here is my basic Rice Recipe:
1/4 cup diced onion (yellow or any that you like)
1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. oil (vegetable, olive oil - whatever you have on hand)
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 cup long grain white rice
salt and pepper to taste
2 pinches dried basil*
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tbsp. dried parsley flakes*
Melt the butter and oil in a sauce pan over medium low heat. Add the onion and stir. Cook the onion until it becomes translucent and add in the rice. Stir to coat the rice and add in the dry spices and the broth. Mix well, put the saucepan lid on and let it come up to almost a boil on medium high heat. When you see the first bubbles, turn the rice down to a simmer and keep the lid on during the cooking process. Check it at about 15 minutes, stir, and taste to see if you need a little bit more stock. The rice is generally done in 18-20 minutes. All of the liquid should be absorbed and the rice tender.
*Cooking on a budget meals - the dried spices will be the long range cost savers. However, if you prefer fresh herbs you could finely chop them and add them at the end of the cooking time.
Play with this basic rice recipe to achieve and compliment the flavors you are looking for in your dinner meals. For instance:
To make a Middle Eastern style rice add in turmeric, curry powder for an Indian style rice. If you are experimenting with Cajun or Creole cooking there are spice mixes already prepared and available now in most any market or grocery store. It is probably more cost effective to make a small batch for yourself from your pantry of dried spices. Keep your spice mixture in an air tight container and it should last up to 6 months.
Making your own Cajun or Creole spice mixes is easy. Generally the main ingredients would include: salt, pepper, paprika, granulated garlic, cayenne pepper and onion powder along with dried oregano.
To give your rice dish a special flair, add texture and flavors with the addition of the following:
1. Reconstituted dry fruits such as raisins, apricots, dates, etcetera.
2. Chopped nuts
3. Fresh chives, scallions or finely diced bell peppers. The diced peppers would be added during the cooking process, while the chives or scallions added at the end.
Remember, cooking on a budget doesn't mean you have to sacrifice flavor or the way a dish looks.