Holy moley, can you believe that Thanksgiving is right around the corner? Last week’s edition of Stretch Your Food Dollar was about cheap and easy Thanksgiving dishes. And this week we’re talking turkey. Literally.

Since I’m a vegetarian, I don’t do much by way of cooking a turkey. The Food Network, however, has several pages devoted to the subject. The most popular method from their site comes from Alton Brown. He recommends soaking the turkey overnight in a brine made with vegetable stock. Brining helps to lock in moisture so that your meat is nice and juicy after a slow roast. Regardless of your roasting method, be sure to follow food safety procedures. Thawing a turkey in the refrigerator can take up to 3 days. So plan ahead.

While I’m not a big fan of making turkey myself, I have compromised by making jerk chicken for my Thanksgiving guests. This is so easy you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this before. All you need is enough chicken leg quarters for the number of guests you have coming and enough Lawry’s Jerk Marinade to cover the meat.

Throw all of this in a disposable roasting pan with some sliced onions. Let it marinate in the refrigerator overnight, then put it on a slow roast until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. There’s hardly any prep work, and then you just throw out the pan. Could it get any easier? Not to mention cheaper. If you’ve been watching the food sales, chicken has actually gotten been under $1 a pound in recent weeks.

If you opt for the more traditional turkey, the big question on everyone’s mind is what to do with all the leftovers. How about a nice pot pie? If you’re making pies next week anyway, you could make an extra recipe of pie crust ahead of time, so all you have to do is roll out the dough.

Turkey Pot Pie
1 double pie crust recipe
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, washed and sliced
1/2 onion, roughly minced
2 cups cooked turkey, chopped
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
1 pkg frozen peas
1/4 tsp rubbed sage
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350. Roll out your pie dough and put the bottom layer in a 9″ pie pan. Poke the crust a few time with a fork, then par-bake the crust for 5 minutes. Remove the pie pan from the oven and turn the heat up to 425.

2. In a large saute pan, melt the butter. Saute your onions until they just start to caramelize. Add the flour to make a roux. Let the flour cook until it just starts to develop a nutty aroma. Slowly add enough milk to make a gravy and whisk the flour and milk together so there aren’t any lumps. Add the celery, carrots, peas, and turkey. Stir until everything is coated. Add more milk if you need to stretch the gravy. Add your seasonings to taste.

3. Put the turkey mixture in your pie pan. Roll out the top crust and put this over the top. Crimp your edges with your thumbs or a fork to seal the crust. Score the top of the crust with a knife to make some vent holes. Then put the pie pan on a baking sheet and put this in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Let the pie sit 5 minutes before slicing so that the gravy will thicken up.

Turkey Sandwiches
Last week Sarah shared a recipe for cranberry sauce that sounds pretty awesome. Why not make some kick ass turkey sandwiches by using leftover turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce?

Storing Cooked Turkey
Leftover food really shouldn’t be kept in the fridge for more than 7 days. And when poultry is concerned, you really need to err on the side of caution. So why not pack up your leftovers before that 7 day window? When the turkey has cooled enough to handle, pick it off the bones and store it in quart-sized freezer bags, then rapidly bring the temperature down by putting the bags in a sink full of ice water. Once the bags are chilled, get them into the freezer immediately. Blast chilling the meat like this minimizes the risk of food borne illness. Be sure to save your bones for making stock. These can be stored in the freezer for several months, too. You don’t have to eat all of your leftovers right after Thanksgiving. You can always use the turkey meat for recipes in the future. What about turkey tacos, enchiladas, or tamales? My family is Dutch, and Sinter Klaas is right around the corner. We make a dish called croquettes, and leftover turkey is the perfect filling. You can use your leftovers for turkey noodle soup, tortilla soup, or turkey and rice soup . . . the possibilities really are endless. With a little advanced planning and the proper food safety procedures, you can get the most from your turkey dollar without the tedium of eating the same turkey leftovers for an entire week right after Thanksgiving.

I’m saving the best part of Thanksgiving for last . . . dessert. Next week we’ll be talking about pies, and all of the other desserts we all look forward to this time of year. Until then, why don’t you weigh in on the turkey discussion. In your opinion, what is the best way to roast a turkey? And what are some of your favorite ways to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers?

Photo credit: stock.xchg