Tuesday, January 17, 2012

...It tastes like... Victory! Part 1

This last Sunday, I conquered two of my own culinary hurdles.  These two things had given me all kinds of trouble in the past, ending in one problem or another, always with something that didn’t quite taste or look right.

The sad thing is that they’re both pretty easy.  So, why did it take me so long to get them right?  Who knows.  Maybe it was my own pride. Whatever the reason, I feel more confident today for having come through the battle victoriously!

The two problems?  Turkey gravy and a peach cobbler.

I know, right?  These are like the simplest things ever!  My gravy would turn out lumpy or runny.  My cobblers would be dry and powdery or gloopy mush.  It was tough to make them just the way I wanted them.

So, these next few posts are all about this victory!

Bacon-Draped Turkey with Gravy

14” deep Dutch oven

14-16 coals below, same above

The Brine

  • 1 10-12 lb turkey hen
  • ~2 cups brown sugar
  • ~2 cups kosher salt
The Turkey
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1lb package of slice bacon
  • 3-5 medium to large potatoes
The Gravy

8" Dutch Oven

~10 coals below
  • Some of the Turkey Broth
  • ~2 tbsp flour
  • enough water to make it runny when mixed

I had planned on cooking the Turkey on Sunday, so on Friday night I took it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge.  That gave it a little bit of thawing time before the brining, the next day.

On Saturday night, I got down our big orange drink cooler (the perfect size and shape for a turkey) and washed it out very thoroughly.  I dumped in the sugar and the salt.  I put in about four inches of water and stirred it all up until everything was pretty much dissolved.  Then I opened up the turkey package and put it in the cooler.  I filled it up with enough water to pretty much cover the turkey (it floats a bit), and had it been summer, I would have put some ice in the cooler, too.  Since it was winter, I just put the whole thing out in my garage, where temperatures were forecast to be in the low 30’s.

After church on Sunday, I lit up some coals.  I got out the turkey and put it in the bottom of the 14” deep Dutch oven.  My initial intent was to put a layer of potatoes under it so that it would be up above the liquid drippings, but the turkey was too big to allow that.  So, the potatoes came out and the turkey went in, right on the bottom.  I rubbed on some salt, pepper, and paprika.  Over that, I drizzled half of the honey.

Then, I opened up the package of bacon and started laying the strips in a sort of weave pattern across the top of the turkey.  When it was all spread over, I poured the rest of the honey on top and let it seep in between the bacon strips.

This went out on the coals for a good 3 + hours.  While that was cooking I cubed up the potatoes into 1” chunks.  These went in the pot around the turkey.

I maintained the coals in the side fire to keep the Dutch oven hot.  I suspect that the turkey wasn’t totally thawed when I put it in, so I let it cook to past 180 degrees.  By the time the turkey was done to that point, the bacon was pretty much crispy, too.  I had worried that it wouldn’t be, because of the moisture in the dutch oven, but it crisped up great!  In the future, I would have some extra honey on hand to pour on toward the end of the cooking as well.

As the end approached, I got out my basting syringe and sucked up a lot of the juices from the bottom of the Dutch oven.  This, I put into my 8” Dutch oven, and put on some more coals.  I put the lid on, but kept only bottom heat.  My intent was to get it simmering.

With the lid on, it didn’t take long to simmer.  I mixed about 2 Tablespoons of flour with a bit of water, enough to blend them together, but to keep it very runny.  I poured some of the flour mixture into the simmering broth, and whisked for a few minutes.  I watched the thickness carefully.  Sometimes, I’ve added too much flour and it has cooked into a gel.  I kept adding and stirring, adding and sirring, waiting several minutes in between each pour, to watch for results.  Before long, it was the right consistency.  Thick, but still fluid, and not clumpy.  I didn’t add any seasonings, as I felt that the turkey broth itself already carried much of that.

When my guests had arrived, and the turkey was done, I brought it in and let it settle for a few minutes.  It was tricky to carve, because the bacon was crispy, and it crumbled.  Next time I do this, I’ll pull the bacon off first, carve the meat onto a serving plate, then crumble the bacon bits onto the turkey pieces.

I served the potatoes as is on the side.  It would have been very easy to make them into a mashed potato dish, too, but I didn’t this time.

In the end, it was yummy.  I’m not sure that it was the best turkey I’ve ever done, but I still liked it.  The victory of the gravy poured over the meat and the potatoes was particularly delicious, though!


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.

1 comment:

  1. This recipe sounds really fascinating. I'm missing your sessions on accellerated mentoring. Arent' they doing that any more? As I read your recipes I'm wondering why I couldn't do the same recipes in the oven rather that on the coals?



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