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Turkey: The Beast for the Feast

Many of us eat turkey only twice a year:  at Thanksgiving and the Yuletide feast. What is it about these traditional family meals that calls for turkey over rack of lamb or a nice London broil?  A very informative article by Michell Tsai on explains it this way: “They were fresh, affordable, and big enough to feed a crowd. Americans have long preferred large poultry for celebrations because the birds could be slaughtered without a huge economic sacrifice.”

A reformed Scrooge purchases the Prize Turkey for the Cratchit family.

A reformed Scrooge purchases the Prize Turkey for the Cratchit family, in the classic film starring the inimitable George C. Scott.

Goose was another popular option for the holiday feast, but Charles Dickens relegated the goose forever to second class entrée with his classic story, A Christmas Carol. When visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present, Ebenezer Scrooge had witnessed the Cratchits rhapsodizing over their Christmas goose:  “Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family.” And yet Dickens had Scrooge choose the prize turkey from the poulterer’s booth to send to the Cratchit family following his night of ghostly epiphany.  The implication was that the turkey clearly far surpassed the cheap and humble goose.

And so it was.

Today we celebrate with turkey and follow the holidays with creative uses for turkey leftovers, it being a rather large bird. Eleven’s chefs have come up with their own delicious solution to the leftover question, with Ozark flair.  And so, in honor of holiday tradition, we offer you High South Turkey Rillettes and Sweet Potato Pickles. –LD

High South Turkey Rillettes

Eleven Chef Bill Lyle whips up some Turkey Rillettes.

Eleven Chef Bill Lyle whips up some Turkey Rillettes.

3lbs turkey leg meat on the bone: drumsticks and/or thighs 10oz. duck or goose fat 3 large fresh bay leaves 8 sprigs of fresh thyme 2 sprigs of fresh sage 8 cloves of garlic, peeled approx.  500-700ml turkey or chicken stock 3-5 tsps cognac, to taste 3-5 tsps lemon juice or vinegar, to taste salt & pepper

  1. Place meat snugly inside a heavy-based pot.  If it won’t fit easily, cut it into smaller pieces.  Add fat, herbs, and garlic and just enough stock to cover.  Season with salt (unless using pre-cooked or smoked meat).
  2. Simmer gently, uncovered, until most of the water content has evaporated away and the meat is falling away from the bone.  If the meat was pre-roasted an hour will be sufficient, otherwise you may need two to three hours to cook through.  Turn the meat over occasionally.
  3. Remove the meat and when cool enough to handle break or cut it into 1 inch pieces, removing the skin, bones, sinews etc.  Shred the meat into strands using your fingers or two forks.  Or blitz it in a food processor.  You can also add in the sage leaves (not stalks) and garlic cloves if you like.  Mash everything together well.
  4. Pour the liquid contents of the pot through a sieve into a jug.  Let it settle and then spoon or pour off the top layer of fat into another jug, leaving the meaty juices in the first.
  5. Mix spoonfuls of fat and meat juice into the rillettes until you have a moist paste.  You probably won’t want to use all of the juice or fat.
  6. Taste and season with salt and pepper and dashes of bandy and vinegar.  It should taste well-seasoned and rich, but with a brightness to alleviate the fattiness.
  7. Pack into bowls or jars.  Pour leftover fat over the top to seal the surface.  Chill for a couple of hours (or preferably a couple of days) in the fridge before serving.  Serve with toast or baguette and something zingy such as a relish or pickle.

Sweet Potato Pickles

Sweet Potato Pickles

Sweet Potato Pickles

1 orange 4 large sweet potatoes 8 whole allspice berries 3 whole cloves 3 whole star anise 1 tablespoon pink peppercorns 2 Ceylon cinnamon sticks 2 cups cold water 2 1/2 cups rice vinegar 1/2  cup sugar 1 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup kosher salt 1 large red onion, sliced

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove exterior peel of the orange, avoiding as much of the pith as possible. Set zest aside.
  2. Cut orange in half and juice it into a small bowl.
  3. Peel sweet potatoes and slice them 1/4-inch thick on a mandolin.
  4. Toast the whole allspice berries, cloves, star anise, peppercorns, and cinnamon over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  5. On a large piece of cheesecloth, place the toasted spices and the orange zest. Tie this into a sachet.
  6. In a small pot, bring the water, vinegar, sugars, salt, and orange juice to a boil.
  7. In a nonreactive container (it will need a lid), combine sweet potatoes and red onion and place sachet on top.
  8. Pour the hot brine over the top of the potatoes, onion, and sachet, and use a couple of plates to submerge the mixture.
  9. Allow the pickled sweet potatoes to sit in the refrigerator for at least 7 days. They are good for up to 6 months, but the sachet should be removed after 10 days.


Linda DeBerry
Senior Copy Editor / Publications Manager

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