Thanksgiving Leftover Shepherd’s Pie

Thanksgiving Leftover Shepherd’s Pie

I don’t know about you, but we always make way more food than we need for Thanksgiving so that we can have leftovers.  I almost think that the leftovers are better than the original meal.  I know it sounds wrong, but Thanksgiving leftovers are the bomb!  Usually we have a pretty well balanced amount of leftovers.  However, this time we had more leftover potatoes than usual.  So, I decided that it was time to come up with a recipe that featured leftover mashed potatoes.  This Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Pie features leftover turkey, gravy, vegetables all topped with a nice layer of potatoes.  It was a hit and I am sure it will be a hit at your house!

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Turkey Tuesday Roundup 2015

Turkey Tuesday Roundup 2015

Well it is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and I want to give my annual quick tips. Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for any cook. Accepting or asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It can the one thing that keeps you sane during this sometimes stressful holiday. Below I have listed a few tips and shortcuts that can help ease your stress and make your thanksgiving a tad bit more joyous.  Be as prepared as possible.  I have created a sample menu and timing that you can use to make Thanksgiving as easy as possible.  Also, there are plenty of tips from what turkey to choose all the way to how to cook a frozen turkey.  Its all in there.

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Turkey Sugar Cookies

Turkey Sugar Cookies

Dana was getting inspired by Thanksgiving and wanted to make a nice treat for my son’s class.  So, she decided to make some Turkey Sugar Cookies.  That alone sounds good, but Dana added my son’s favorite candy to the mix.  Yep, Candy corns to form the turkey feathers.  These cookies are quick, easy and super delicious!  Plus, they look amazing! Super cute Thanksgiving Cookies that are perfect for any Thanksgiving Table.

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Time to prepare for Thanksgiving!

Time to prepare for Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is less than a week away.  It is time to get the Turkey and determine when to thaw it.  Frozen Turkeys are just fine.  I know every TV chef in the country says to buy a fresh Turkey, I have prepared one fresh and one thawed Turkey side by side and my guests could not tell the difference.  Here are a few tips for picking out a turkey and getting ready for Thanksgiving.

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Turkey Tuesday Roundup 2014

Turkey Tuesday Roundup 2014

 

 

Well it is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I want to give my annual quick tips. Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for any cook. Accepting or asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It can the one thing that keeps you sane during this sometimes stressful holiday. Below I have listed a few tips and shortcuts that can help ease your stress and make your thanksgiving a tad bit more joyous.  Be as prepared as possible.  I have created a sample menu and timing that you can use to make Thanksgiving as easy as possible.  Also, there are plenty of tips from what turkey to choose all the way to how to cook a frozen turkey.  Its all in there.

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Thanksgiving Menu Timing and Cooking Schedule

Thanksgiving Menu Timing and Cooking Schedule

One of the most common questions that I get regarding Thanksgiving is….”How do I get everything to be done at the same time”? This question has a lot to do with the menu that you have selected. It also has a lot to do with proper planning and preparation.  Below I have laid out a sample menu and how I would prepare for it. Using this sample menu I have planned out a cooking schedule for my Thanksgiving feast.

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Turkey Tuesday Roundup 2013

Turkey Tuesday Roundup 2013

Smoked Turkey

Well it is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I want to give my annual quick tips. Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for any cook. Accepting or asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It can the one thing that keeps you sane during this sometimes stressful holiday. Below I have listed a few tips and shortcuts that can help ease your stress and make your thanksgiving a tad bit more joyous.  There are plenty of tips from what turkey to choose all the way to how to cook a frozen turkey.  Its all in there.

Choose your turkey wisely…

Choose a turkey based on the number of guests. Average is about 1lb per person. Sounds like a lot, but remember a turkey contains bones and fat. It will roughly give you about 6-8oz serving per person. When the number of guests reaches over 12, I would rather cook two smaller birds than a giant 20lb bird. The smaller birds cook quicker, more evenly and some would say (AKA me) taste better.

Check your local supermarket and sign up for a rewards card. They always offer a bird for less than $0.75 a pound. I paid $0.39 a pound at food lion. This can sometimes mean that you can get a 10 lb bird for less than a 4 lb turkey breast. Thanksgiving leftovers are awesome so this might be something to think about.

Make sure your bird will fit into your oven and/or roasting pan. Sometimes large birds look good in the store, but when you get home it won’t fit into the fridge, oven and/or roasting pan. Go to the store with a plan.

Thaw the Bird

Allow the turkey to thaw for 3-4 hours per pound. So if you have a 16lb turkey give yourself about 48 – 64 hours to let it thaw. That means that it should be in the fridge as you read this.

If you are reading this on the Wednesday before or even on Thanksgiving, I have a solution for you.

How to Cook a Frozen Turkey

You can easily cook your turkey from frozen.  The step by step instructions are here.  This is a super easy method and the bird comes out great.  You can’t infuse it with crazy flavors, but if you like roasted turkey this is the way to go.

How to Cook a Frozen Turkey

Brine the Turkey

If you do have time, you might want to think about brining your turkey. Even though Thanksgiving is only two days away you have plenty of time to brine the bird. Check out my post on how to brine a turkey for instructions. If you find yourself with a frozen bird. Add it to a brine and thaw it in the fridge to do double duty and increase the speed of thaw.

Double Check the Temperature

Use a probe thermometer. Sounds fancy but it takes the guess work out of cooking. Want to know how people get perfectly juicy birds, it is based on temperature not time. Place the probe into the breast meat, making sure not to touch the bone. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove the bird from the oven, tent in aluminum foil and let rest for 20-30 minutes.

If you do not have a probe thermometer, cook the bird for 14 minutes a pound and then check the temperature in the breast with a meat thermometer. They are available at almost all supermarkets.  If it is under 160, cook for another 10 minutes and check again.  Repeat until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Don’t use the pop-up thermometer.

Pop-up thermometers are set to spring at 175 degrees. At that temperature the breast is already too dry. Plus remember that once it pops you need to let the bird rest. Yep, that turkey is gonna be 180+ degrees by the time it is served. Definitely not good.

The approximate time till eating is roughly 19 minutes a pound. Includes resting time.

Stuffing is for the birds, maybe not

I don’t recommend that you stuff the bird with stuffing. The internal temperature of the bird will not reach a temperature that is hot enough to kill the bacteria that will be absorbed by the stuffing. The only cure for this is to make the stuffing separately (AKA dressing). If you wish, you can cook the bird and the stuffing separately and then assemble them together before serving. That way you get the nice Norman Rockwell presentation.

Keys for seasoning a turkey…

Rub a mixture of olive oil and herbs under the skin and over it. You have to season the bird under the skin for the best results. See the herb paste that I made for my boneless turkey breast.

Rub the turkey

Using an injector you can pierce the outer layer and season the turkey from within. Coolness factor – by using a herb oil you can add ribbons of green throughout the turkey. This makes for an eye catching bird when you carve it.

Layer on the pork. Adding a bacon layer over the breast allows for added flavor and further prevents the breast from drying out.

Stuff the inside with aromatics. Halve an onion, some lemons and fresh herbs. Unlike stuffing these won’t be eaten and will add a tremendous amount of flavor to the finished bird.

Cooking the Turkey…

Place the seasoned turkey breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. If you don’t have a rack, make one out of carrots and celery. Make sure the turkey is not sitting on the bottom of the pan. Add a 1/2 cup of water or your favorite white wine to the bottom of the pan.

Start the turkey in a preheated 325 degree oven. Cook until the internal temperature is about 140-145 degrees.

Turn the oven up to 400 degrees and continue cooking until the internal temperature of the breast is 160 degrees.

Take the turkey out of the oven and wrap in foil. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. During this time the turkey will continue to cook and bring the temperature of the breast to 165 degrees.

Gravy tips…

Use the giblets. They package them with the turkeys for a reason. While you are cooking the turkey, simmer the giblets. Place them in a pot and cover them with chicken stock. Add an onion, a couple stalks of celery and a couple carrots. Season with a little salt, pepper, 1 tsp sage, 1/2 tsp thyme, and a bay leaf. Simmer for 2-3 hours. Strain out the solids and you have a perfect stock for making gravy.

Make a roux. Basically the start of gravy is to make a roux. Take 2 tbs butter and 2 tbs flour. Add them to a sauce pan and stir until brown in color. This will take the flour taste out of the flour and give you a rich nutty flavor as the base of your gravy. The key to a roux gravy is to use 2 tbs fat (butter) with 2 tbs flour along with 1 cup of stock.

You can use a slurry of water or chicken stock, and flour to thicken your gravy, but make sure to simmer it for at least 30 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. The slurry is a 1 to 1 mixture. 1 part liquid, 1 part flour.

Don’t for get to add a splash of that starchy potato water.

Deglaze the roasting pan with 1/4 cup of your favorite wine. Reduce and use that along with the giblet stock to make an amazing gravy.

After adding your roux, giblet stock, roasting pan drippings and a dash of starchy potato water, make sure to simmer for at least 15 minutes to allow the gravy to thicken.

Enjoy yourself…

Cooking is fun, don’t let a turkey stress you out.

The turkey and the gravy can use a bit of wine, so can you. When I cook it is a 3-1 ratio. Three glasses for me and one for cooking.  For the long cooks this can get a little dicey.  Make sure to have a backup cook on hand if you use this ratio.

A meat thermometer is the only way to cook a turkey. No checking charts or guessing based on a pop-up thermometer.

Make as many of the sides and desserts the day before. If you don’t have too much to do, you can relax with your guests and have a good time watching the Lions lose once again.

If you have any questions click the Ask Rex link in the top menu. I will be available all week, even on Thanksgiving.

Other Options for Cooking

How to Smoke a Turkey

How to Fry a Turkey

How to cook a Frozen Turkey

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Top Ten Thanksgiving Recipes – Slideshow

Top Ten Thanksgiving Recipes – Slideshow
Smoked Turkey
Click to Start
My top ten favorite recipes for Thanksgiving. Check them out and let me know if you argree!
Click Here to Start!

How to cook a Frozen Turkey

How to cook a Frozen Turkey

How to cook a turkey from Frozen

There is nothing worse than waking up on Thanksgiving morning and your Turkey is still frozen.  There is no safe way to thaw a turkey in time to eat it, so what do you do?  Well you cook it from Frozen.  Dana and I were skeptical.  We did not think it could come out great.  However, it was the moistest Turkey that we have ever had. Plus it was the easiest turkey that I have ever.  Unfortunately it was so easy, the only photo I took was of the frozen turkey. My bad.

How to Cook a Turkey from Frozen

It is quite simple to do.  Just follow these easy steps.

Preheat the oven to 325°F and cook for the specified time based on the weight of your bird.

Weight in Pounds 8 lbs 12 lbs 14 lbs 18 lbs 20 lbs 24 lbs
Time in hours Thawed Turkey 2h 45m 3h 3h 45m 4h 15m 4h 30m 5h
Time in hours Frozen Turkey 4h 10m 4h 15m 5h 6h 6h 45m 7h 30m

Below is instruction for a 12-14 lb bird.  If you have a larger bird you will need to cook it longer than the times below.

Line a rimmed cookie sheet or short walled pan with foil and place a cooling rack on it. Remove the plastic covering from the turkey and place it on the rack breast side down. Do not worry about the giblets.  Since the turkey is frozen you won’t be able to remove them.  Further turkey companies know that thousands of people forget the giblets and therefore they are made to be able to be cooked inside of the turkey.  However, we will remove them later, once the turkey has sufficiently thawed.

Cook the turkey for 2 1/2 hours. Remove the giblets from the turkey and flip the turkey breast side up.

By 3 1/2 hours the turkey should be well on its way to being cooked.  If you wish to stuff the turkey, do so at this point.  Using a large wooden spoon add the stuffing to the cavity.

At about 4 hours start checking the thighs and breast to be done. Check every 20-30 minutes for doneness.

When is my turkey done?  Safe temperature is 165 degrees.  However the table below shows when to pull the bird when cooking from frozen.  Based on this cooking strategy the thighs cooked faster, but this may not always be the case.  Make sure that you pull the turkey when the thickest part of the breast and the thickest part of the thigh are at least 165 degrees.

Thighs Breast
175-180 degrees 165 degrees

My 14lb turkey was done at about 4 1/2  hours, the thighs were 178°F, the breast was at 165°F and the skin was golden brown.

Once your turkey is at temperature, remove the bird from the oven and cover it with foil.  Let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.  I like mine to rest for at least 30 minutes.

How to cook a Turkey from Frozen
Author: 
Recipe type: Turkey
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
 
The perfect way to roast a turkey from frozen. Frozent turkeys are cheaper and the results are by far better.
Ingredients
  • 1 14-16lb turkey
  • 1 cookie sheet
  • 1 cooling rack
Instructions
  1. It is quite simple to do. Just follow these easy steps.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  3. See http://www.savoryreviews.com for cooking times based on weight.
  4. Below is instruction for a 12-14 lb bird. If you have a larger bird you will need to cook it longer than the times below.
  5. Line a rimmed cookie sheet or short walled pan with foil and place a cooling rack on it. Remove the plastic covering from the turkey and place it on the rack breast side down. Do not worry about the giblets. Since the turkey is frozen you won't be able to remove them. Further turkey companies know that thousands of people forget the giblets and therefore they are made to be able to be cooked inside of the turkey. However, we will remove them later, once the turkey has sufficiently thawed.
  6. Cook the turkey for 2½ hours. Remove the giblets from the turkey and flip it breast side up.
  7. By 3½ hours the turkey should be well on its way to being cooked. If you wish to stuff the turkey, do so at this point. Using a large wooden spoon add the stuffing to the cavity.
  8. At about 4 hours start checking the thighs and breast to be done. Check every 20-30 minutes for doneness.
  9. When is my turkey done? Safe temperature is 165 degrees. However the table below shows when to pull the bird when cooking from frozen. Based on this cooking strategy the thighs cooked faster, but this may not always be the case. Make sure that you pull the turkey when the thickest part of the breast and the thickest part of the thigh are at least 165 degrees.
  10. Cook till the thickest part of the thighs and the thickest part of the breast is at least 165 degrees and the skin is golden brown.
  11. Once your turkey is at temperature, remove the bird from the oven and cover it with foil. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. I like mine to rest for at least 30 minutes.

 

Turkey 101

Turkey 101

Well it is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I wanted to give a few pointers.  Let me know if there is anything that I have left out.

Choose your turkey wisely…

  • Choose a turkey based on the number of guests.  Average is about 1lb per person.  Sounds like a lot, but remember a turkey contains bones and fat.  It will roughly give you about 6-8oz serving per person.  When the number of guests reaches over 12, I would rather cook two smaller birds than a giant 20lb bird.  The smaller birds cook quicker, more evenly and some would say (AKA me) taste better.
  • Make sure your bird will fit into your oven and/or roasting pan.  Sometimes large birds look good in the store, but when you get home it won’t fit into the fridge, oven and/or roasting pan.  Go to the store with a plan.
  • Allow the turkey to thaw for 3-4 hours per pound.  So if you have a 16lb turkey give yourself about 48 – 64 hours to let it thaw.  That means that it should be in the fridge as you read this.
  • Use a probe thermometer.  Sounds fancy but it takes the guess work out of cooking.  Want to know how people get perfectly juicy birds, it is based on temperature not time.  Place the probe into the breast meat, making sure not to touch the bone.  Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.  Remove the bird from the oven, tent in aluminum foil and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
  • If you do not have a probe thermometer, cook the bird for 14 minutes a pound and then check the temperature in the breast.  If it is under 160, cook for another 10 minutes and check again.  Repeat until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
  • Don’t use the pop-up thermometer.  They are set to spring at 175 degrees.  At that temperature the breast is already too dry.  Plus remember that once it pops you need to let the bird rest.  Yep, that turkey is gonna be 180+ degrees by the time it is served.  Definitely not good.
  • The approximate time till eating is roughly 19 minutes a pound.  Includes resting time.
  • Don’t stuff the bird with stuffing.  The internal temperature of the bird will not reach a temperature that is hot enough to kill the bacteria that will be absorbed by the stuffing.  The only cure for this is to make the stuffing separately (AKA dressing).  If you wish, you can cook the bird and the stuffing separately and then assemble them together before serving.  That way you get the nice Norman Rockwell presentation.

Keys for seasoning a turkey…

  • Brine the Turkey.  Even though thanksgiving is only two days away you have plenty of time to brine the bird.  Check out my post on how to brine a turkey for instructions.
  • Rub a mixture of olive oil and herbs under the skin and over it.  You have to season the bird under the skin for the best results.  See the herb paste that I made for my boneless turkey breast.
  • Using an injector you can pierce the outer layer and season the turkey from within.  Coolness factor – by using a herb oil you can add ribbons of green throughout the turkey.  This makes for an eye catching bird when you carve it.
  • Layer on the pork.  Adding a bacon layer over the breast allows for added flavor and further prevents the breast from drying out.
  • Stuff the inside with aromatics.  Halve an onion, some lemons and fresh herbs.  Unlike stuffing these won’t be eaten and will add a tremendous amount of flavor to the finished bird.

Cooking the Turkey…

  • Place the seasoned turkey breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan.  If you don’t have a rack, make one out of carrots and celery.  Make sure the turkey is not sitting on the bottom of the pan.  Add a 1/2 cup of water or your favorite white wine to the bottom of the pan.
  • Start the turkey in a preheated 325 degree oven.  Cook until the internal temperature is about 140-145 degrees.
  • Turn the oven up to 400 degrees and continue cooking until the internal temperature of the breast is 160 degrees.
  • Take the turkey out of the oven and wrap in foil.  Let sit for 20-30 minutes.  During this time the turkey will continue to cook and bring the temperature of the breast to 165 degrees.

Gravy tips…

  • Use the giblets.  They package them with the turkeys for a reason.  While you are cooking the turkey, simmer the giblets.  Place them in a pot and cover them with chicken stock.  Add an onion, a couple stalks of celery and a couple carrots.  Season with a little salt, pepper, 1 tsp sage, 1/2 tsp thyme, and a bay leaf.  Simmer for 2-3 hours.  Strain out the solids and you have a perfect stock for making gravy.
  • Make a roux.  Basically the start of gravy is to make a roux.  Take 2 tbs butter and 2 tbs flour.  Add them to a sauce pan and stir until brown in color.  This will take the flour taste out of the flour and give you a rich nutty flavor as the base of your gravy.  The key to a roux gravy is to use 2 tbs fat (butter) with 2 tbs flour along with 1 cup of stock.
  • You can use a slurry of water or chicken stock, and flour to thicken your gravy, but make sure to simmer it for at least 30 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.  The slurry is a 1 to 1 mixture.  1 part liquid, 1 part flour.
  • Don’t for get to add a splash of that starchy potato water.
  • Deglaze the roasting pan with 1/4 cup of your favorite wine.  Reduce and use that along with the giblet stock to make an amazing gravy.
  • After adding your roux, giblet stock, roasting pan drippings and a dash of starchy potato water, make sure to simmer for at least 15 minutes to allow the gravy to thicken.

Enjoy yourself…

  • Cooking is fun, don’t let a turkey stress you out.
  • The turkey and the gravy can use a bit of wine, so can you.  When I cook it is a 3-1 ratio.  Three glasses for me and one for cooking.
  • A meat thermometer is the only way to cook a turkey.  No checking charts or guessing based on a pop-up thermometer.
  • Make as many of the sides and desserts the day before.  If you don’t have too much to do, you can relax with your guests and have a good time watching the Lions lose once again.
  • If you have any questions click the Ask Rex link in the top menu.  I will be available all week.

Other Options for Cooking

How to Smoke a Turkey

How to Fry a Turkey

How to Smoke a Turkey

How to Smoke a Turkey

Ever since I got my first smoker, I have been smoking everything but turkey.  I never had the guts to try to smoke a Turkey for Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is one of those meals that you cannot screw up.  However, after this year of competitions and gaining more experience with my smoker, I wanted to try it.  I must say, smoking a turkey is simple and fun.  Plus, it tastes amazing.  I have no idea why I have not done this sooner.  Smoking a turkey opens up space in your oven for side dishes and also makes it so that your oven does not have to be on all day.  With a few simple steps, your turkey will come out perfect every time.

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