No, I'm not cooking the Thanksgiving turkey days in advance (how would that work anyway? It'd be so dry...). Besides, we're going to my parents' house and my mom is taking care of the turkey for Thanksgiving this year. That said, I roasted my own turkey yesterday afternoon, basting it every twenty minutes for four hours. I bought a turkey last year, too, even though we were having Thanksgiving with my husband's family. Am I crazy? Why go to the trouble?
Now is the best time to buy turkey. I bought this 15-lb. free-range, all-natural turkey for $1.25/pound, costing me around $18 (you can get turkey even cheaper than this, but I splurged a little for the fresh, free range turkey).When nearly $20 is tacked onto your weekly grocery bill, it seems a little excessive, but it's totally worth it. This baby is going a long way by taking care of many dinners in advance and will actually pay for itself by the time I'm through with it. Really.
Once the turkey is cooked and fairly cool, I start carving it. Okay, carving it makes it sound all nice and even. I basically hack the thing apart, cutting chunks of meat here and there and then picking off the rest. I pile all the white meat on one plate and all the dark meat on another. I always feel like some kind of scavenging animal when I do this.
My cat watched this process hungrily. I thought it was funny - had to include the blurry picture. He only pays attention to me when I'm in the kitchen.
Once I've got all the meat off the turkey - and I'm talking all of it - I start separating it into freezer bags, about a cupful of meat in each. I mostly eyeball this. You can freeze whatever portion you like. One important note: as you're getting all your meat separated, keep a big pot handy. Put all the bones, skin, fatty parts, and any meat you don't want (some of it is kind of rubbery in the dark meat) into the pot. Save this for the all stock you're going to make - details and how-to on Wednesday (this is how the turkey basically pays for itself). I filled ten freezer bags' worth of turkey - that's ten dinners right there, easy.
So what to do with all that frozen turkey? Lots. My mom used this method for many dinners, in any recipe that calls for shredded chicken. Pot pie. Burritos. Chili. Tacos. Enchiladas. Chicken rolls. Chicken noodle soup. Tortilla soup. I'll be posting recipes in the weeks to come to help you incorporate your frozen turkey in your dinner plans. For now, here's what I made last night...
I got this recipe from Everyday Food magazine. It's crazy-easy. Pile some chopped onions, hot turkey (or chicken), cilantro, and a few avocado slices in a tortilla. Squeeze lime juice on top, fold, and enjoy. So simple, so delicious.
Turkeys will be reasonably priced for the rest of December, so don't worry if you haven't gotten one yet. But I suggest you try my method. It will help you cut back on your grocery budget so you can spend your money on more festive options...