Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One bird. Six meals.

Soon, I'm going to post some thoughts on cost of living as it relates to motherhood and feminism. I realize that dropping a teaser like this at the beginning of a post is totally unfair. How will anyone enjoy their Thanksgiving while sitting in anxious anticipation of such juiciness? The short version goes like this: life is expensive. High cost of living limits parenting choices. Limited parenting choices equals less than ideal family situations. Bad for society. Saving money becomes tool of liberated women everywhere. Or something like that.

In the meantime, I'm taking frugality pretty seriously around here. I recently mentioned that I love cooking, and have been considering adding some food elements to my blog. There are lots of great cooking blogs, lots of great money saving blogs - and lots that cook while saving money and stomping on one foot and saving the earth. I'm not breaking out anything really novel here. BUT. I do cook while saving money, maximizing my time,  and entertaining three small people. Perhaps this will be in the very least entertaining.

So. Let's do this.

What we're cooking: Turkey. One bird. Six meals.
It's Thanksgiving week, which means turkey is on sale. Go buy a turkey. Unless you're a vegetarian. But otherwise. Really. Even if you're not hosting. Especially if you're not hosting. I bought a fresh ten pound turkey for eight dollars with a coupon and am using it as the base for six meals. 

Meal one: Turkey dinner. Roast your turkey. Eat. Enjoy.

Meal two: Salad with turkey. Make a salad. Top with cold leftover turkey. Throw on some craisins and goat cheese. Yum.

Meals three through five: Turkey pot pie. Here's where I actually give a recipe. One that I created myself, at that. Muster appropriate awe and proceed. 

Turkey Pot Pie
5 cups roasted turkey
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
3 T cooking sherry
Salt and pepper
1/2 stick butter
3 T flour
2 cups chicken stock (or beef/vegetable)
1/2 cup half and half (or milk)
2 cups frozen vegetables of your choice - I used a mix of rutabaga, broccoli, and peas
3 ready-made pie crusts (or puff pastry sheets)
1 egg 

How to cook three turkey pot pies with three little people running around and constantly requesting help using the potty:
I try do most of my dinner cooking during the day so I have plenty of time and don't get frazzled if the time elapsed between chopping carrots and actually sauteing them takes forty-five minutes. I prepared this particular meal during pre-lunch play time, lunch itself, and then finished it up once I had everyone down for the post-lunch nap. Here's how I broke it down:

1. First I browned my vegetables. Chop and saute onions. Do this on low heat so that they don't burn while you're wiping somebody's nose. Cooking with toddlers and babies around requires slowing things down. It's noon, dinner's not til 6:30, we've got plenty of time. While the onions cook, chop your carrots, celery, and mushrooms. When the onions start to brown, add the vegetables you just chopped. Season with about a teaspoon of thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Saute until things get glossy and the vegetables soften and brown. Set aside. Be proactive, and set your frozen pie crusts out now to thaw. If you're using fresh pie crusts, congratulations.

2. Get that turkey meat. No knives here. Use your hands. If you're following my little plan (which is doubtful, but let's indulge in the idea for a minute), you've already had this bird for dinner twice. There should be plenty of meat left if you're feeding only a few substantial meat eaters (our toddlers are more of the vegetarian variety) but you're also probably at the point where you need to work for the meat that remains. Push up your sleeves and get to it. I was able to recover at least five cups of turkey. Chop it up. Dump it in a big bowl.

3. Make your sauce. I did this step while my kids were napping. It's not difficult, but it takes a minute of patience and a few more minutes of undivided-ish attention. Melt half a stick of butter over medium heat in a heavy pot. Add three tablespoons of flour. Whisk until uniform. Stir for a couple of minutes to toast the flour. SLOWLY add your stock, whisking constantly. As the sauce thickens, add a bit more, then a bit more. If you add it all at once, your sauce will be watery and you'll blame me for making up bad recipes that disappoint your entire family.  Once it's thickened and you've added your stock, add your half and half using the same method. Let this simmer while you add a teaspoon of thyme, salt and pepper to taste, and your cooking sherry. Give it a good stir and let it simmer for a minute before turning off the heat.

4. Combine the sauteed vegetables with your chopped turkey. Add frozen vegetables if you wish. I added them for some extra nutrition and substance, but I have mixed feelings about frozen vegetables. On a more food snobbish day, I would have skipped them and increased my sauteed mix. Go with whatever moves you. Pour the sauce over all of it. Mix well.

5. Assemble your pies. Lay out three pie plates. You don't have to grease them. Spread your turkey mix evenly in the plates. Roll a pie crust over the top of each one. Tuck the edges down and cinch if you wish. Get a knife. Makes slits in your crust so the steam can escape.

6. Freeze two pies. Wrap them well first. They'll keep in the freezer for at least a month.

7. The other pie is for dinner tonight. An hour before you want to eat: Heat your oven to 350. Brush the top of your crust with a lightly beaten egg. Pop that pie into the oven. Start checking around 30 minutes. I cooked mine for 45 - you're watching for a nicely browned crust and bubbly edges.

8. WAIT! You're not done! That's only five meals. I promised six. Before you clean up: grab that turkey carcass. Plop it into a large pot of water. Add an onion, chopped roughly, a few broken carrots and stalks of celery, and two bay leaves. Salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for several hours, until the liquid is cloudy and reduced by 1/3 to 1/2. Strain the liquid - now you have stock. Use it to make a turkey stew, or separate and freeze in 4 cup quantities, which is the same size as those boxes you buy at the store.

9. Okay, now you can break out the bon bons and relax. In all practicality, you just prepared 3-4 meals in about an hour's time, using refrigerator staples and leftovers. Plus, if you're lucky like me, your two year old twins are only half an hour into a THREE AND A HALF HOUR afternoon nap. Hooray momma.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Sades said...

Yum, sounds good. I have planned, roast turkey, turkey salad, turkey stir fry, and 2-3 days of turkey soup.

Oh, and I recently read that frozen veggies top store bought veggies nutritionally. Farmer's market or garden veggies won over both of those.

Sades said...

Just thought of this. If you have leftover mashed potatoes, you could throw those on top of the pot pie (instead of the crust) and have turkey shepherds pie, or something tasty anyways.