Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey in the Crock Pot {And a Couple More Thanksgiving Recipes}

Just like with my Thanksgiving craft post, I'm late on this one, too. But I wanted to try it all out before posting the recipes, so I have a good excuse. Plus, these are all things that can be made anytime, not just Turkey Day! In fact, I will be making turkey in the slow cooker from now on - it's so moist and I really don't care if it has a golden brown skin (we never eat that part anyway, and I think the cat doesn't care what color it is, either!) So, here's what out Thanksgiving Menu looked like (the ones with stars have recipes below):
  • Crock Pot Turkey*
  • Roasted Acorn & Butternut Squash
  • Green Bean Casserole (It's my oldest's favorite)
  • Fresh Cranberry Sauce* (three ingredients!)
  • Mushroom & Sage Dressing
  • Red Mashed Potatoes w/ Garlic & Rosemary
  • Sweet Dinner Rolls*
  • REAL Pumpkin Pie* w/ Real Whipped Cream
 Crock Pot Turkey
OK, I found this recipe via The Crock Pot Recipe Exchange. It came from A Busy Mom's Slow Cooker Adventures. These are both my go-to sites for crock pot recipes that aren't the same old thing. I changed the recipe quite a bit so it included the things I think are essential to a Thanksgiving turkey. 
7lb. Turkey Breast (bone-in, skin on)
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 apple
1 onion
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (NOT salt!)
1/2 tsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. thyme
3 fresh rosemary stalks (is that what they're called?)

  1. Cut up the carrots, celery, apple, and onion into big chunks. I just rinsed them off and chopped. They're there for flavor, not to eat (they go into the woods tonight for all of the little animals!)
  2. Line the bottom of the slow cooker with the veggies and apple. Put the rest into the breast cavity, along with the rosemary. 
  3. Set the turkey into the crock pot. I bought some slow cooker bags for this one. I knew I'd be doing dishes all day long and did not want to be scrubbing the crock at midnight! 
  4. Mix up the salt and herbs. Rub them onto the breast's skin. *OPTIONAL - cut up 3-4 Tbsp. butter and set on top of the breast.
  5. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
Now, I just want to tell you about our turkey this year. Due to the long cooking time, I put everything into the crock pot the night before, then stuck it into the fridge. Hubby was supposed to set his alarm for 7am so he could wake up, put the crock pot into the cooker, plug it in, and set it to low. I expected to sleep in and wake up to the smell of turkey cooking. He forgot to turn it on!!! So, our dinner didn't get finished up until after 7pm. (I couldn't get mad - I can't tell you how many times I've done this!)

The turkey was amazing!! I am a dark meat person but, with this way of cooking it, I didn't even miss it. It was moist, flavorful, and YUMMY!

Fresh Cranberry Sauce
This is from my very, very favorite cooking star, Alton Brown. I could watch Good Eats all day, every day. I have learned so much about the science behind cooking just by watching (not trying to write everything down or memorize it all.) I've found that the knowledge just kind of embeds itself into my brain. I'll be cooking something and just know what spices to use. I also know why it's important to spend the time to cream the butter & sugars for cookies and how to make the flakiest pie crust ever. If you ever have a chance to watch one of his shows, you'll be hooked - I promise! As with the turkey recipe, I changed it just a little. Alton's recipe calls for both OJ and cranberry juice (Click on "Alton Brown, above, for the real recipe). I forgot the cranberry juice when I was shopping, so I doubled the OJ. I've never had real cranberry sauce, and my mouth was in heaven when I tasted this. The extra OJ, I think, gave it the perfect flavor.

(Oh, and this makes the perfect "sick food", too. With all of the Vitamin C, honey, and antioxidants, it really helps get over that cold fast. Plus, the tartness cuts through the mucous. Little Guy came down with a cold and has been more than happy to eat a few bites throughout the day!)
1 lb. fresh cranberries
1/2 c. fresh orange juice (I used reconstituted frozen)
1 c. honey
  1.  Mix juice and honey in a tall saucepan. You want a tall one because the cranberries will pop and they tend to spray. Also, this can boil over if you're not careful. Cleaning up cranberry/honey goop from the stove is NOT easy! Heat the juice and honey until it boils. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Rinse cranberries. Pick out the soft and wrinkled ones. Add to juice/honey mixture. Let cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until all berries have popped and sauce thickens. Do NOT cook longer than 15 minutes or the pectin in the berries will break down and it won't gel up.
  3. Let sit for 5 minutes to cool.
  4. Find a 3-cup mold. Anything will do, as long as you can invert it and let the sauce slide out. I used one of my square food storage containers. Pour the sauce into the container and let cool for another 10-15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours. You can do this a day ahead of time, but make sure you eat it within 24 hours or the sauce will begin to get watery again.
  5. To loosen from the mold, hold the container in hot water for 15-30 seconds. Put a plate over the top of the mold and - flip! - you should have the perfect-looking cranberry sauce. If it's ugly, no big deal. The taste will make everyone forget how it looks!
  6. *** You can add cloves, cinnamon, ginger, orange peel, etc. to the recipe, if you want. Add these when you add the cranberries.
 Sweet Dinner Rolls
I love dinner rolls! I have had a hard time finding a recipe that is fast, uses few ingredients, and really has a lot of flavor - until now! These are amazing rolls. They are so easy to make that my husband (who can't cook anything unless the ingredients are cold cereal and milk) did it himself one day when I was sick. By Himself! I found this recipe on Foodie's Hope and didn't change a thing!
1 Tbsp active dry yeast (this is a little less than 2 packets of yeast)
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. + 2 Tbsp. warm milk
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 egg
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose unbleached white flour (you can replace up to 2c. with wheat flour)
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. honey for glazing rolls
  1. Mix the Yeast, 1 tsp Sugar (out of 4 tbsp sugar), 2 tbsp warm milk (about 105 F), let it froth for 5-10min. Use a cereal-size bowl, because when it froths, it grows! (The kids like watching the yeast "fart" - Yeah... they're guys!)
  2. Heat 1 cup of milk, the rest of the sugar, and the butter until butter melts in the milk. Set aside until it cools down just "warm to touch" temperature. I used my thermometer to make sure it was below 105 degrees F because I've killed yeast by adding milk that's too hot.
  3. Add 1 egg to the milk and beat well. Then add in the yeast and stir. It doesn't have to be beaten in or anything.
  4. Sift 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour with salt. Make a well in the center, add milk mixture and stir. Knead it well until you get a soft dough, not sticky. Now, I hate cleaning flour off of the counter, so I just knead tit right in the bowl. You can do it either way - just make sure the gluten in the flour are working and the dough gets stretchy.
  5. Lightly oil a large bowl (I use olive oil, you can use anything you want.) Place dough in the bowl and turn it so it's coated in oil. Cover the dough with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let it rise until double, about 1 hour. You can also let it rise in the fridge overnight.
  6. Punch down the dough and lightly knead it in the bowl. Divide it in half, then divide those in half (you'll have 4 equal pieces.) Cut each of the four pieces into three even pieces - you'll have 12 total. Roll into balls and set onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise one hour.
  7. Preheat the oven at 400 F (this is the one thing I changed in the recipe. It said 425 F, but I found it made the bottoms burn.) Uncover the rolls, brush it with egg glaze for the best browned color (or with melted butter for super-soft rolls), then place the cookie sheet in the oven on the middle rack.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until they are golden. If you tap on them, they will sound hollow. Do not over-bake, they are softer when they are a bit undercooked. Cool them on a wire rack.
REAL Pumpkin Pie
I bought pie pumpkins at the farmer's market for Halloween this year. I had the kids decorate them with facial features that we cut from magazines so we could eat the pumpkins later. I just can't see how laying out $7-15 for a pumpkin that ends up as waste is good for much.) Anyway, after Halloween, we cut up the pumpkins, roasted the seeds, and I cooked the flesh in the slow cooker. I pureed it in the blender and had to add cooking water because I couldn't get it to puree without it. I was worried that the pie wouldn't set up, but Jen, Life with My BOYS, shared this recipe from Group Recipes with me. It was originally for white pumpkin pie, but I don't think it really mattered what color the pumpkins were... Oh, and this recipe makes enough filling for TWO 10" pies. I made one pie, and froze the rest of the filling for later.
I only changed one thing - I made my own pumpkin pie spice. So, rather than including all of the different spices the recipe called for, I added up the total amount of spices and just used my pumpkin pie spice mixture for the entire amount. The pie set up perfectly and the spices were perfect (if you don't like a lot of spice, cut back by about 1 tsp or so.) Oh, and I used Alton Brown's Pie Crust recipe. It's the only one I use now - it's perfectly flaky and very easy to make. If you have a hard time with pie crust, watch this episode of Good Eats. He explains everything you'll ever need to know to make crusts of any kind, with any recipe, and have them turn out perfectly every time!
4 eggs
3 c. pumpkin puree
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
6 oz. evaporated milk (it's 1/2 can - I gave the rest to the cat. He's now my very best friend.)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together. I used a wire whisk because I've found that using a mixer causes bubbles to form and you end up with a pie that has a bunch of little holes on top.
  3. Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared 10" pie crust(s) - I have a 9" deep-dish pan, so that's what I used. I cannot stress this part enough: Line a baking sheet with foil and set the pie(s) on top. My pie boiled over and I'd have had a nasty mess if I hadn't used a baking sheet. The foil saved me from lots of soaking and scrubbing, too!
  4. Set pie(s) in the oven. After 15 minutes, TURN DOWN the thermostat to 350 F. Bake 50-60 more minutes, or until the center is set. Because my pie was deep-dish, it took about 70 minutes.
  5. Cool on wire rack. We eat our pumpkin pie warm, which is how I thought everyone ate it until I moved to L.A. and people looked at me as if I had two heads when I asked them if they wanted their pie warmed. So, if you want it cold, make sure it's cooled to room temperature before putting it into the fridge. If you don't, you'll end up with that gooey, watery stuff on top. Not a big deal, but not all that pretty, either.
Everything was wonderful! It's now Friday night, and we have only enough leftovers for one more meal - for one person. I do have extra turkey and a quart of turkey stock in the freezer. I think that, with the response from my family (and the fact that even my oldest was having leftovers, and then seconds!), I need to make this meal more often. Who says a turkey dinner is for Thanksgiving only?!