Braisin’ Turkey

Last month, I opened up a bottle of red wine only to find out that it had gone all corked and musty. I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I did a few searches to see if it could still be useful. After an attempt to “un-cork” the wine with plastic wrap didn’t really work, I decided to follow a suggestion of turning it into a marinade. I emptied the wine into a pot and reduced it with about a cup of sugar and three or four whole rosemary sprigs. I cooled it, popped it in a ziploc, and stuck it in the freezer. I think I ended up with about a cup and a half in the end. There it sat in the freezer for several weeks, awaiting beef or lamb or some other sort of meat that I never buy.

On Wednesday, I decided to take advantage of some of the rather ridiculous Thanksgiving sales and buy a gigantic 20-pound turkey for $10. Although it was far too big to fit in my tiny oven, I figured I could dissect it and fit the parts in that way. Thursday was Thanksgiving, of course—I went to my parents’ house and ate their amazingly good pesto-stuffed turkey thighs while my bird slowly defrosted in the fridge. On Friday (while it continued to slowly slowly defrost), I read a Cook’s Illustrated method for braised turkey and thought, “Oh, what a decent idea!” It’s been a while since I braised, which seems like rather a shame given my wonderful internet moniker.

So come Saturday morning the bird was defrosted (well, mostly—there was some blood slush still left in the cavity). With no small effort on my part (meaning christ I was sore today from wrestling with it), I was able to remove the leg quarters and breast and jam them into my (meant for no more than probably a 5 pound stewing hen) roasting pan. I didn’t really follow the CI recipe at all. Basically just the cooking temperatures and times. I didn’t brine, I used my red wine reduction instead of white, and since I abhor gravy, I disregarded the vegetables they wanted you to roast alongside the bird. There was no space left in the pan, anyway. One misstep and I would have had burns from boiling hot liquid spilling over the side of the pan.

The wings, neck, back, and innards went into the stock pot along with some chicken bones I’d been saving. A problem I find often when making chicken stock is that afterward you are left with spongy and tasteless meat. But the turkey left behind after making turkey stock still tasted quite a bit like turkey. So I removed the bones and other stock detritus as best I could and reserved the turkey meat for future use in salads or soups. It’s already nicely shredded and everything. Waste nothing!

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