Nov 6, 2018

Thanksgiving Is Almost Here... Are You Ready?

Slow-Braised Turkey Legs
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I have written many Thanksgiving recipes but these are some of my favorites.

Turkey is such a delicious thing to eat, but unfortunately it seems that we always just serve it during the holidays. This is probably because a turkey with all of the trimmings takes all day to cook, and most people don't have that kind of time. However their is a solution, turkey legs. They are one of the best buys in the grocery store. Basically they are the drum bone and connected thigh, which are usually packaged frozen so you get two legs. This adds up to around 4 1/2 pounds of dark turkey meat and bone, which are the most moist and flavorful parts of the turkey. 

My favorite way to cook these sometimes tough legs is to slowly braise them in wine, with aromatic vegetables, the way you would any tough piece of meat. Once braised, the meat can easily be taken off the bone and used in many ways. Take a look at what you can do with the meat from slow-braised turkey legs:

Slow-Braised Turkey Legs
This is the base recipe for most of the recipes below. It is delicious served as is, or you can remove the meat from the bones and use it in a salads, pot pies, tacos, stews, soups, chili, stuffed in egg rolls or enchiladas, or for midnight snacks eaten over the sink. The turkey turns out moist, perfectly seasoned and falling off the bone.

2 frozen turkey legs, about 4 1/2 pounds, cut apart at the joint (they come 2 per package)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1 teaspoon chopped leaves, for garnish
4 sprigs fresh sage
4 fresh bay leaves
3 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish

Rinse turkey pieces and pat dry; season all over with salt and pepper. Set aside. Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat and add olive oil. Add turkey pieces, skin side down, working in batches, if necessary. Cook, turning, until pieces are browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer them to a plate and discard all but 1 tablespoon of rendered fat from pot.

Deglaze with white wine and cook for 2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot and slightly reducing the wine. Lower heat to medium-high and add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic to Dutch oven and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, sage, bay leaves, and stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and add turkey leg pieces, skin side down; cover and transfer to a preheated 375˚F oven. Cook for 40 minutes. Uncover, turn turkey pieces, and continue cooking uncovered until they are tender, 45 to 50 minutes more.

At this point you can serve the turkey pieces as they are or remove the meat from the bone. Then transfer turkey leg pieces to a serving platter. Skim fat from top of braising liquid and discard; season braising liquid with salt and pepper if needed, and spoon over turkey. Garnished with chopped parsley and thyme. Serve with mashed potatoes, starfruit chutney, green beans and/or a side salad.

Makes 4 servings, or about 4 or 5 cups of meat without the bone.

Turkey Leg Pasta Salad
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
3 cups cooked turkey leg meat, cubed (see recipe for Slow-Braised Turkey Legs above)
3 cups cooked penne pasta
1 (16 ounce) jar pitted kalamata olives, drained, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1 (5 ounce) package spring lettuce mix
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions

Whisk olive oil, vinegar, garlic and oregano until well blended; set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in large salad bowl. Gently toss with dressing. Refrigerate or serve at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings.

Turkey Leg Asian Salad
Ingredients for turkey:
2 turkey legs cooked, meat removed from the bone and shredded into 2 inch pieces, enough to make 4 cups (see recipe for Slow-Braised Turkey Legs above)

Ingredients for wontons:
2 cups vegetable oil
10 wonton wrappers, cut into ½-inch-wide strips

Ingredients for salad dressing:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Ingredients for salad:
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (see note below)
One 1-pound head romaine, torn into 1-inch pieces
3 cups watercress leaves, thick stems removed
1/2 head Napa cabbage (8 ounces), shredded
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeds and ribs removed, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips

Procedure for wontons:
In a heavy, medium saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375˚F. Add the wontons and fry until golden, 30 to 45 seconds. Drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Procedure for dressing:
In a large bowl, whisk together soy sauce, honey, vinegar, and ginger until honey is dissolved. Whisking constantly, add oils in a slow stream until completely incorporated. Taste and adjust flavor, as desired. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Procedure for salad:
In the same bowl, toss together the almonds, romaine, watercress leaves, Napa cabbage, scallions and bell pepper. Add the shredded turkey and toss until coated. Garnish with the fried wontons and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: To toast the almonds, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a 350˚F oven until lightly toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before using.

Turkey Leg Pot Pie
2 cups frozen peas and carrots
2 cups frozen green beans
1 cup sliced celery
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/3 cups milk
4 cups cubed cooked turkey leg meat (see recipe for Slow-Braised Turkey Legs above)
4 (9 inch) unbaked pie crusts

Preheat an oven to 425˚F.

Place the peas and carrots, green beans, and celery into a saucepan; cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer over medium-low heat until the celery is tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the vegetables in a colander set in the sink, and set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and cook the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2/3 cup of flour, salt, black pepper, celery seed, onion powder, and Italian seasoning; slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens. Remove from heat; stir the cooked vegetables and turkey meat into the filling until well combined.

Fit 2 pie crusts into the bottom of 2 9-inch pie dishes. Spoon half the filling into each pie crust, then top each pie with another crust. Pinch and roll the top and bottom crusts together at the edge of each pie to seal, and cut several small slits into the top of the pies with a sharp knife to release steam.

Bake in the preheated oven until the crusts are golden brown and the filling is bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes. If the crusts are browning too quickly, cover the pies with aluminum foil after about 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 2, 9-inch pot pies.

Turkey Leg Shepard's Pie
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely crushed herb-seasoned dry bread stuffing mix
1 cup cooked, diced turkey leg meat (see recipe for Slow-Braised Turkey Legs above)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups mashed potatoes (I use Yukon Gold potatoes)

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over low heat. Blend in the flour. Slowly stir in evaporated milk and water, then season with salt, pepper, and onion powder. Stir sauce over low heat for 5 minutes.

In a separate saucepan over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Blend in the dry stuffing mix. Place the turkey in the prepared baking dish. Pour the sauce over turkey, then sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Spread mashed potatoes over cheese. Top mashed potatoes with the stuffing mixture.

Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven.

Makes 6-8 servings depending on how hungry you are.

Easy Turkey Leg Enchiladas
2 cups shredded Cheddar and Monterey cheese blend
1 onion, chopped
1 (2 ounce) can sliced black olives
24 (6 inch) corn tortillas
1 (19 ounce) can red enchilada sauce
4 cups cooked turkey legs, chopped (see recipe for Slow-Braised Turkey Legs above)
Refried beans
Sour cream
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the cheese, onion, and black olives.

In a small skillet, heat enough oil to lightly coat one tortilla, and cook until soft. Remove and dip in enchilada sauce to coat.

Add turkey and cheese mixture to center of tortilla, roll and place in the prepared dish. Repeat until bottom layer of pan is covered with enchiladas. Spread enough sauce over bottom layer to cover.

Repeat process with a second layer; spread remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with remaining cheese mixture. Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is melted. Serve topped with sour cream and refried beans on the side (see recipe).

Makes 6 servings.

Turkey Leg Chili
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 pound cooked and chopped turkey leg meat (see recipe for Slow-Braised Turkey Legs above)
2 cups chicken broth
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons shredded Cheddar cheese

Heat vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and stir in chopped onion. Cook and stir until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the turkey leg meat, chicken broth, tomatoes, black beans, kidney beans, refried beans, garlic, chili powder, paprika, oregano, cumin, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Sprinkle each bowl with a teaspoon of Cheddar cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

Turkey Roll-ups
2 eggs
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
1 cup cooked wild rice
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 cups cooked turkey leg, chopped (see recipe for Slow-Braised Turkey Legs above)
2 bunches Swiss chard, or large curly kale, trimmed

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, garlic, pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt and parsley. Stir in brown and wild rice and turkey. Set filling aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. If any Swiss chard leaves are longer than 12 inches, cut them in half crosswise. Flatten out any large stalks with a fork to allow for even blanching and easier rolling. Immerse 4 to 6 leaves at a time in boiling water and blanch for 1 minute. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet as done and allow leaves to drain and cool slightly. 

Arrange 1 leaf on a work surface, smooth side down. Place 3 to 4 tablespoons filling in the center then roll up, starting with the large end of the leaf and folding it over the filling to roll up like a burrito. Repeat process with remaining leaves and filling, placing rolls seam side down in a steamer basket. Steam for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the rolls reaches 160°F. Transfer to plates and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Turkey Leg Rice
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 pound cooked turkey leg meat, cut into 1 inch cubes (see recipe for Slow-Braised Turkey Legs above)
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, drained

In a saucepan bring water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute bell pepper, celery and onion until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add turkey leg meat, stewed tomatoes, and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until hot. Serve over hot cooked rice. Makes 6 servings.

Makes 6 servings.

Turkey Leg with Squash Stew
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 leeks, trimmed, chopped and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds kabocha or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 cups shredded turkey leg meat (see recipe for Slow-Braised Turkey Legs above)
2 cups frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leeks and bell pepper; cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in broth, squash, thyme and cumin; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
Add turkey and corn; return to a simmer and cook until the turkey and corn are just heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add lime juice and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 6 servings.

Turkey Leg Barley Soup
Turkey stock ingredients:
5 quarts water, or as needed
2 turkey legs (drum bones & thighs cut apart)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onion
3 stalks celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
10 whole black peppercorns
1 pinch dried thyme, or to taste
1 bay leaf

Turkey leg soup ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 onions, diced
6 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup barley
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pinch dried thyme
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large bite-size pieces

Bring water and turkey leg parts to a boil in a large pot; add 1 1/2 cup chopped onion, 3 stalks celery, 1/2 cup chopped carrot, peppercorns, 1 pinch thyme, and 1 bay leaf. Simmer, skimming excess fat and foam from top of stock as needed, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Add more water to stock as it evaporates. Remove turkey leg parts from stock and cool. Pull meat from bones and shred; refrigerate until needed. Strain stock and return liquid to pot.

Mix 1 1/2 pounds carrots, 2 onions, 6 stalks celery, barley, mushrooms, 2 bay leaves, salt, marjoram, black pepper, and 1 pinch thyme into turkey stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer soup, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes, then add potatoes and simmer for 45 minutes more. Add turkey meat to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

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