Deconstructed Turkey – Part II

This post was originally published in 2013 but thought it was worth a few more words.  Yesterday I was describing how I made my turkey to one of our guests.  She asked if she could watch as I prepared the bird for our feast.  I agreed to give her a demo as I prepped the bird.  In addition to watching me deconstruct the turkey and prepare the legs and thighs, she also watched as I minced onion, sage and celery for the stuffing, diced bacon and cleaned the sprouts for George’s favorite Brussels sprout recipe, and prepare the neck and giblets used in the stuffing.  The cranberries ans pumpkin pie were made yesterday but I did share my cranberry recipe with her.  Then she went off to get ready for her day.  It dawned on me that I had just given a mini cooking class – but without the stress normally associated with my normal classes.  Here’s a thought – Perhaps I should just invite people to come and watch as I prepare dinners if they are interested in what I am doing!

Oh, and here’s the recipe for my deconstructed turkey.

Thursday I had a Turkey epiphany!  For years I have been making our bird the same way generations of women in my family prepared a turkey; rinse it, season it, stuff it, roast it and hope for the best.  This year I decided to try something different.  I decided to make a deconstructed turkey a la Julie Child.  Over the years our big turkey complaint has been that the breast is over cooked and dry by the time the legs are done.  I read that deconstructing the turkey insures it will cook more evenly and result in a moister bird.  I know that Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners have traditions that should never be messed with but if it meant a moist turkey –  Count me in.

I followed the recipe from Cooks Illustrated and was so pleased with the results that I will never cook another intact turkey again.  Here’s the recipe with my changes.

  • one 12 – 14 lb turkey ( you can brine your turkey if you want.  I used a Butterball so brining was not recommended)
  • 3 tbl grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp minced sage
  • salt and pepper
  • wooden skewers and twine
  • your favorite dressing recipe – some things are absolutely sacred and stuffing is one of them!

Prepping the Turkey

Begin by removing the giblet packet and neck bone.  Set aside for stock.  With the turkey breast side up, cut through the skin along the leg quarter where it meets the breast.  Bend the leg back until the bone pops out of the socket.  Cut through the joint to separate the leg quarter form the turkey.  Repeat with other leg quarter.

The next step is to remove the thigh bone from the leg quarter.  Place the leg quarter skin side down on the cutting board.  Using a very sharp boning knife (or paring knife) remove the meat from the thigh bone  by slicing right next to the bone – almost as you would for frenching.  Be sure to keep the skin intact.

Removing the meat from the thigh bone

Removing the meat from the thigh bone

Once the meat has been separate from the bone bend the bone back to pop it out of the joint and separate the thigh bone from the leg socket.  Just  a tip – this is much easier to do on a chicken.  You will need to exert a little force.    Once the bone is out of the joint use a pair of kitchen shears to separate the two.

Removing the thigh bone

Removing the thigh bone

Repeat with the remaining leg quarter.  This will result in two leg quarters with the thigh bones removed.

Leg quarters with thigh bones removed.

Leg quarters with thigh bones removed.

Rub interior of each thigh with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp minced sage and 1/4 tsp pepper.

Seasoned thighs ready to be rolled

Seasoned thighs ready to be rolled

Close up the thighs by rolling together and trussing with the skewers and twine.  Use at least two skewers per thigh ( I cut my skewers in half to make them more size appropriate.  I didn’t want a ten inch skewer sticking out of the leg quarter.)

Thighs trussed and ready to be roasted

Thighs trussed and ready to be roasted

Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate for up to six hours.

Next you need to separate the back from the turkey.  Cut through the ribs from tapered end of breast to wing joints.  Using your hands, bend the back away from the breast until the shoulder joint pops.  Cut through the popped joint to remove the back.  Place the breast on a plate, cover  and refrigerate for up to six hours.

While I was butchering the bird I preheated the oven to 450 degrees F .  I placed the thigh bones and back in a lightly oiled pan and placed them in the oven to brown.  I cooked them for about 20 minutes, removed them from the oven and transferred them to s stock pot with two carrots, two celery stalks, salt and pepper.  (I left the rendered fat and the fond resulting from roasting the bones in the pan. This would be the basis for my gravy. )  I put the stock pot over a low heat and let it simmer until the bones had given up all their roasted goodness – about two hours.  I removed the bones and strained the stock.  The bones and vegetables were discarded (after I picked all the meat off the bones – Boz lucks out this week!)  The stock when back on the stove to simmer until it had reduce and had reached the flavor I was looking for.  This would go into my gravy.

Make your favorite stuffing.

Cooking the Turkey

Note: The total roasting time will be from 1 hour 40 minutes to 2 hours twenty minutes plus time to rest, so plan accordingly.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Rub 2 tsps of oil over the breast of the turkey and place the turkey breast, skin side down in a large skillet.  Put the skillet in the oven and roast the breast for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile oil or spray the pan you intend to use to roast the bird.  Place the stuffing in the bottom of the pan and spread it out into a rectangle of even thickness.  When the 30 minutes are up, remove the breast from the oven.  The original recipe indicates you should use two wads of paper towels to take the breast out of the skillet and place it over the stuffing mix.  Paper towels weren’t going to work for me so I used my tongs.  Use whatever works for you – just get the breast over the stuffing in the roasting pan.  Remove the prepared leg quarters from the refrigerator and place in the roasting pan with the breast, covering as much as possible of stuffing not covered by the breast.

Complete bird ready for roasting. Notice the browning on the breast.

Complete bird ready for roasting. Notice the browning on the breast.

 Transfer the pan to the 425 degree F oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue roasting until the thickest part of the breast registers 160 to 165 degrees and the thickest part of the thigh registers 175 to 180 degrees, about 40 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes longer.

When I pulled our bird out of the oven I was amazed!  The skin was beautifully brown and crisp.  After allowing the bird to rest for awhile George started carving.  The breast was moist, the thighs beautifully done and, I have to admit, make a nice presentation when sliced into medallions. I regret I do not have a picture of the bird as it came out of the oven. – I was busy making gravy – but I do have a picture of the thighs

Sliced thigh ready for the serving platter

Sliced thigh ready for the serving platter

I apologize that this isn’t the beauty shot I was going for.  But hey, I was getting hungry! You can see how juicy the meat is in this picture.  And this was after the bird sat for 30 minutes.

There is no doubt that this preparation takes a little longer but there is no basting, no tenting the bird, and best of all, the moistest most evenly cooked bird I have ever had.  And, for those of you who are die hard stuff the bird people – let me tell you the stuffing was as good (moist and full of turkey flavor) as any traditional inside the bird preparation.   This is a KEEPER!

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Say Cheese!

In my last post I shared my recipe for Chiles Relleno with a picture of the finished dish.  I have had a few questions about the muffin sharing the plate with the Chile Relleno and the refried beans.  They are my Cheddar Jalapeño Corn muffins.  These are made from scratch. I find the corn muffin mixtures you buy at the store have too much sugar in them. We like our corn muffins savory. Like the stuffing for Chile Relleno you can add what ever strikes your fancy to these muffins – some ideas include green onions, shallots, caramelized onions, green or red peppers, cooked bacon, or diced ham to name a few.  And the cheese can be any hard cheese that can be grated.

Cheddar Jalapeño Corn Muffins        Makes 6 muffins

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup fine ground corn meal
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tbl unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/8 c sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 medium jalapeño, seeded and diced, divided
  • 1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
Cheddar Jalapeno Corn Muffin Ingredients

Cheddar Jalapeno Corn Muffin Ingredients

As you can see, I like to have all my ingredients measured and ready to go before I start preparing the dish.  It makes it so much quicker to complete the preparation and you know you have everything you need to complete the dish.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place paper muffin cups into the muffin baking tin.  I prefer to use the paper cups  – easier to remove from the baking tin and less mess.

Melt the butter and set aside to cool.  Using a whisk, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Crack the egg into a medium bowl and stir to combine white and yolk.  Whisk in the butter, sour cream and milk until smooth.  Add most of the jalapeño and most of the cheddar ( save just enough to top the muffins before baking) to the egg mixture.  Fold the egg mixture into the flour mixture until combined.  Do this as gently as possible to keep the muffin crumb tender. Do not overmix.

Use a disher – if you have one – or an ice cream scoop to transfer the batter to the muffin baking tin.  Leave the mounds of batter as is – don’t flatten or smooth out.  Top each muffin with cheddar cheese and a jalapeño.

Cheddar Jalapeno Corn Muffins ready for the oven

Cheddar Jalapeno Corn Muffins ready for the oven


Place the muffin tin in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 18 minutes.  The muffins should be a light golden brown.

Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then on a rack for at least another 10 minutes.  I let my muffins cool for at least 30 minutes and reheat them gently if we want them warm.

That’s all there is to really yummy muffins.  And these are great with chili con carne as well, or in the morning with eggs!

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Chiles Relleno!

Last night I made Chiles Relleno – my version of course.  For those of you who don’t know, the word relleno means stuffed.  So any chile pepper stuffed with any ingredient is a chile relleno.  Those poppers everyone love – yep chiles relleno.  Your filling is limited by your imagination and what’s available in your refrigerator and pantry.  During the summer I often add fresh corn to this recipe and reduce the amount of chicken.  It’s all about your personal preference.  Yesterday I made the chicken and cheese filling.When you mention Chile Relleno to alot of people they think of a pepper stuffed with cheese and deep fried – then covered with red or green chile sauce.  It seems to me if you’re going to cover fried food in liquid why fry it.  Who wants soggy breading?  Not me.  Which is why my chile relleno recipe does not include frying.  Not only does it eliminate the soggy aspect but it is lower in calories. And I swear they are just as good!  So here goes.

Chiles Relleno                                                                                             2 servings

  • 2 good size poblano chiles – pick ones that don’t have deep creases
  • 2 skin on chicken thighs
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder, divided
  • 1 tbl grape seed oil (or any vegetable oil)
  • Red Chile sauce  recipe below



Charring the Peppers

You begin by charring the poblano peppers.  This can be done over an open flame on the range or outside on the grill.  I use a roasting grate that I bought just for this purpose from the Santa Fe School of Cooking.  You can order one for yourself off their website. It’s great for roasting all sorts of vegetables.

Poblano peppers ready for roasting

Poblano peppers ready for roasting

The grate sits on top of the gas burner on my range.  You need to watch the peppers carefully as they char quickly.  You want them charred on the outside but not cooked.  DO NOT OIL THE ROASTER, if using, or the chiles.  A word of caution about these types of roasters, hey will get hot enough to glow red.  Be careful around them until they have cooled!

When the chiles are charred on all sides, remove them to a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic.  The steam will loosen the skin making it easier to remove. I usually let my chiles sit in a covered bowl for about 30 minutes. I have found the best way to peel the skin from the chiles is to use a spoon.  Hold the chile with one hand while carefully scraping the chile with the spoon.  The skin comes off without tearing the chile.


You can see by this picture that removing the charred skin reveals a beautiful green poblano ready to stuff.  Set the cleaned peppers aside while you make the filling.

Cooking the Chicken

Loosen the skin from the chicken thigh and run 1/4 tsp of chipotle chile powder between the skin and the thigh meat.


Chicken meat coated with chipotle chile powder


Heat the oil in a skillet and place the chicken, skin side down, in the hot oil.  Cook with the skin side down until the pieces release from the pan.  Then cook skin side up for another 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Pull the chicken off the bone and shred with a fork. Place the shredded chicken in a bowl with the shredded cheese.  Mix well.

Cut a slit in one side of the pepper from the stem end almost all the way to the tip.  Make a cut across the slit at teh very top of the pepper parallel to the stem.  Gently open the pepper – you don’t want it to tear – and carefully remove the seeds and membranes.  Wipe out the inside of the pepper to remove any seeds. Do not rinse the pepper to remove the seeds as you will remove some of the oils in the pepper. Carefully stuff the pepper and secure with a toothpick. Place the peppers on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil coated with PAM.

Bake the peppers in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 45 minutes or until heated all the way through.  Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Pass red or green chile sauce and sour cream or creama on the side.  If you don’t want to make chile sauce you can substitute any salsa – just bring it to room temperature before serving. dinner-done


Red Chile Sauce

  • 3 dried red hatch or similar chiles
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tbl grapeseed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Remove the tops from the dried chiles and shake out as many seeds as possible.  Place the chiles in a small bowl and cover with boiling water.  Place a smaller bowl over the chiles to keep them submerged.  They need to stay in the water until they have softened – at least 30 to 45 minutes.

While the chiles are soaking, mince the onion and the garlic.  Heat the oil in a small skillet over low heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened but not browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.  Remove the softened chiles  from the bowl  – reserve the soaking liquid – cut into small 1 inch pieces and place in a blender.  Add the onion garlic mixture and to the blender and a bit of the soaking liquid. Puree mixture, adding more soaking liquid until you obtain your desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper.

Yes, this dish takes some time to make but the end does justify the means!

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Tried and True

This morning I was paging through the November issue of Bon Appetit magazine when I came across and article about the tools the BA kitchen could not “cook the big turkey feast without.”

The five gadgets included an instant read thermometer, a wide microplane, a whisk, a mesh strainer, a peeler and a potato masher.  I already own these tools in some form or another so I’m not in the market to make any purchases.  The potato masher did catch my eye.  They were recommending the OXO Steel Potato Masher.  Here’s an image so you don’t have to search for it:


Bon Appetit Recommended OXO potato masher

Bon Appetit Recommended OXO potato masher

It retails for $15 and is said to have a comfortable grip and works well if you don’t mind a few lumps.

The picture of the masher caused me to reflect on my potato masher.


My masher is not made of stainless steel. It has a wooden handle with worn green paint.  It belonged to my grandmother. It was one of the things I chose to take when my Dad closed up the house after the death of my grandfather.  That was in 1982.  So the masher has been with me for over 30 years.  I don’t know when my Gran got it – I just remember it always being in her kitchen. She made the best mashed potatoes and I hoped that by bringing the masher into my house I would develop the same lack for lump free mashed potatoes.

I did a little research on the tool but the most I was able to discover was this type of masher with a brightly painted wooden handle most likely dates back to the 50’s.  That puts the approximate age of the masher at somewhere around 60 + years of age.  Sometimes the old tried and true things are the best.  And yes, I do make pretty good lump free mashed potatoes – just ask my husband.


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Two Peas – Literally

This fall has been anything but normal when it comes to the daytime temperature.  During September and October there were days when we were 10+ degrees above normal.  Now here it is, the 10 of November and today is the first time the temperature is below 60 degrees – it’s 59 degrees F. at 3:41 pm under cloudy skies.

I have to admit I miss the nip in the air that comes with fall but the weather is a real bonus to our guests and to some of my plants.

In late August I planted some geraniums, vinca and sowed some pea seeds.  The pea package said I would have fruit in 60 to 90 days.  As peas are a cooler weather plant I had waited until the worst of the summer heat was over.  And, as I planted them in containers along a west-facing wall, they are sheltered from the wind and protected from the cold. I have been patiently waiting for peas to show up.  I’ve had flowers but the fruit didn’t seem to set.

This morning I went out to look at the plants and discovered this:

Displaying 20161110_144132.jpg

Yes, there they were.  TWO PEA PODS!  And a third on the way.  As the weather is supposed to stay warm – mid to upper 60’s through next week – I expect I will see a few more. Maybe enough for George and I to have 10 peas each.  You have to love gardening in the Southwest!

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Looks are Deceiving!

George and I belong to a gourmet group here in Corrales.  The group consists of four couples who meet on a somewhat regular basis – once every couple of months depending on travel schedules – for dinner.  We have four courses; appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert. Host duties rotate through the group.  The host couple, who is responsible for the entrée, pick the cuisine and may or may not offer recipes.  Responsibility for the remaining three courses are selected by the remaining couples on a fist come first served basis.

Last night our group met for a Basque themed meal. Our hostess let us select our own recipes based on the theme.  I had the salad course.  After some research I discovered that most Basque salads consist of chopped vegetables with an oil and lemon based dressing or a mayonnaise type dressing with a lot of garlic.   The recipe I selected used the oil and lemon dressing and consisted of the following items:

  • 6 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 2 green peppers, seeds and membranes removed then diced
  • 1 red onion diced
  • oregano
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs – whites diced and cooked yolk pushed through a sieve
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 3 tbl lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Seems pretty easy doesn’t it?  Well it is but it’s not fast.  I won’t count the time it took to boil the egg but the rest of the prep took 90 minutes!   I’ve been told by a professional chef that I have good knife skills so I can dice pretty quickly.  Still took me 90 minutes. I finished with just enough time to change clothes and do my hair and make-up before we had to leave to arrive at the appointed hour.

Since the salad had to be transported and wouldn’t be served until about 45 minutes after we arrived, I wanted to delay putting it all together until the very end.  As the cucumber was seeded and the onion and green pepper have little to no moisture, I decided to toss those ingredients along with the oregano in a large bowl.  I really didn’t want to add the tomato until the last minute so I put a layer of plastic wrap over the tossed ingredients, mounded the tomato on top of the plastic wrap and covered the bowl with another piece of plastic wrap to transport.  The chopped egg white and sieved egg yolk went into their own separate containers and the dressing, having been made ahead of time, was transported in its own container.   Just before serving I removed the plastic wrap from under the tomatoes, and tossed it all with the dressing.

I have to admit the completed salad, is served mounded on a platter and garnished with the egg whites, almonds and topped with the sieved egg, look really impressive and tasted great.

I’ll definitely make this again but I may start a bit sooner!


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In Honor of My Sister

Anyone who knows my sister, Linda,  knows she loves France, or more accurately, Paris, France. And while I only dream of dining in Paris she has done it on several occasions. But I love to indulge in French cooking.  French cookbooks take up the largest percentage of my cookbook collection.  You can just imagine my excitement when the May issue of Saveur arrived in my mailbox!  A WHOLE issue dedicated to the cooking of France.  I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen.  But where to start.  I opted for two recipes based in the Provence region.  I know, not Paris, sorry Linda.  I made Honey Glazed Pork Roast with Apples and an Apple, Carrot and Celeriac Salad. These recipe looked so good, and were  so approachable in terms of ingredients (not always the case in recipes found in Saveur) that I had to give it a try.    Oh, and the most exotic ingredient – dry apple cider.  If you live in a an area with a good liquor store the cider will be no problem.

So here’s my version of the two recipes:

Honey Glazed Pork Roast with Apples  serves 4

A word about the cider.  I did some research online and elected to use Strongbow cider made in England.  American “dry” ciders seemed to include berries or fruits in the press and some even add sugar – the very opposite of Dry.  And a word to the wise.  Do your own research.  I went to a large liquor store and was told by one of the women that all hard cider were dry.  A more knowledgeable sales person confirmed my research that indicated I should stay with the Strongbow and avoid American ciders.

Honey Glazed Pork ingredients ready to go

Honey Glazed Pork ingredients ready to go

  • 1  2 1/2 lb pork loin roast, tied
  • 2 tbl honey
  • 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 6 tbl unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut into wedges – 16 wedges total
  • 5 Gala or Fuji apples cored and quartered ( any other sweet tart apple may be used)
  • 2/3 cup dry apple cider – I recommend Strongbow
  • kosher salt and pepper – preferably fresh ground

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Season the tied pork with salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan. drizzle the honey over the pork and arrange the rosemary and thyme on top.  Scatter the cubed butter over the top of the meat and herbs.  Place the onion wedges around the pork. Add the cider to the pan and bake until the middle of the pork registers 120 degrees F., check after 45 minutes – may take a bit longer at higher altitudes.

Place the apples around the pork and return to oven.  Continue baking until the apples are tender and the and the pork is golden brown.  The meat should register 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.

Apples added to the pork and onions

Apples added to the pork and onions

Remove the roast from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes. At this point you can slice the pork, place on a platter and serve with the onions and apples or you can plate each serving individually.  Either way you should drizzle the meat, onions and carrots with the pan juices just before serving.

Roast, apples and onions resting prior plating.

Roast, apples and onions resting prior plating.

Apple, Carrot and Celeriac Salad serves 4

  • 2 Gala or Fuji apples – core removed and cut into 1/4 inch matchsticks
  • 1 tbl fresh lemon juice
  • 8 oz peeled celeriac, cut into 1/8 inch matchsticks
  • 3 tbl golden raisins
  • 2 medium carrots cut into 1/8 matchsticks
  • 3 tbl vegetable oil
  • 1 tbl apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbl Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and pepper – preferably fresh ground

In a large bowl, toss the apples and the lemon juice and let stand for 5 minutes.  Add the celeriac, carrots and raisins and toss to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk the vegetable oil with the vinegar and mustard until it is emulsified. You could also place the oil, vinegar and mustard in a covered jar and shake until emulsified.  Pour the dressing over the apple/vegetable mixture and combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Note:  Celeriac is difficult to peel as the skin tends to be thick and tough.  You may find it is easier to peel with a paring knife as opposed to a vegetable peeler.  And a word to the wise – If you have a garbage disposal do not use it to dispose of the peels.  You may end up rodding out the sewer line between the kitchen and the street.  Trust me on this one.

I would suggest using a mandolin to cut the carrots and the celeriac.  It produces a more uniform cut and may be safer than trying to slice the celeriac into 1/8 inch matchsticks.

So there you have my Provence dinner.  And for my friend, whose husband expects to see potatoes on the plate, mash some Yukon gold potatoes and serve with the pork, apples and onions.

Plated Honey Glazed pork roast with Yukon Gold potatoes

Plated Honey Glazed pork roast with Yukon Gold potatoes.


That’s what I did. I made the salad when we had the leftover pork two days later.  Totally new meal!

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