It's November now and the air is crisp, the leaves are turned, and hunting season has begun. Oh, what fun. Oh, yeah. I can hardly wait. Getting up at 3 o'clock in the morning, donning all that rubber gear that might get you arrested under different circumstances, driving to the swamps of Chelm to sit in a duck blind in freezing water for hours ... waitasec. What's wrong with this picture? Jews don't hunt, that's what!
Not a problem. We can fix _that_, with a little planning. And none of the inconveniences, er, pleasures of the mighty Nimrod. And the cat won't miss my company for the day--Frack regards me as merely the organic part of her feeding system anyway. Again, here's another recipe that does by itself; that is, you just put it together and what do you have? Bibbity-bobbity-boo! (Am I dating myself, or what?). So don't be wary of the idea of this dish taking three days, there's really nothing to it.
The French have a history of "faux" or "mock" foods. Foods that resemble other and sometimes more expensive foods. For example, boned and stuffed chicken thighs can become a faux breast--and in fact, you can get a lamb roast and make a fake "venison" with this same marinade below (just use red wine instead of white and marinate for 5 days and not the three listed!) grumpgrumpgrump. Here I am, trying to do something elegant and one of the testers had the NERVE to call this particular recipe Rhinestone Turkey! But this is _my_ column, and I do not have to address this base and unwarranted canard. That's that with that. harrrumph.
Whatever one may say, this is dark and dense meat, and lends itself well to this treatment.
For a family dinner, you can leave the meat on the thighs. For company, I'd carve them--slicing parallel to the bone with a small sharp knife--unless you _really_ know your guests it's not the bestest of ideas to watch them dealing with the last bits and one false move will have that bird flying again. Lay out the slices on the platter slightly overlapping and garnish the platter with the traditional apple slices, orange "bows," parsley sprigs. For extra-fancy, add a bit of sugar to tarragon vinegar _and_ a few sprigs of tarragon (or a schprinkle of dried) and pour this over seedless grapes while the turkey is marinating as a side relish. I'm gonna write out the fave way around here to make a not-so-cloyingly-sweet mashed sweet potatoes below.
A note about the ingredients: juniper berries are expensive. But.
They're in the class of what I call "necessary luxuries." That is, things that are $$$, but you only need a little so the use for any individual dish isn't that much. They can also be used in other things such as soups, stews, and braises. If I were you, I really would make an effort to obtain them, but if it's truly impossible, then substitute gin for half of the white wine specified.
Also, you're going to see here something we rarely work with in the slow food realm: packaged and prepared foods. Well, using a few tablespoonsful of catsup is going to be much easier and less time-consuming than "peel, seed, dice, simmer, puree, and then season and simmer 3 tomatoes," and the same with the raspberry jam. This sauce is a variation of the traditional game sauce called "Grand Veneur."
4 turkey thighs
3 carrots (no need to peel), chopped coarsely
3 stalks celery (including leaves are fine), chopped coarsely
6 cloves of garlic, smashed a bit (just take the flat of a knife and give 'em a good bonk)
2 onions, chopped coarsely
1/2 bunch parsley
10-15 juniper berries (slightly crushed--I just take a glass and squish the bottom of it around on 'em a little bit) 15-20 black peppercorns (slightly crushed, same as above)
5 whole cloves
3 bay leaves
1-1/2 tbsp. dried "bouquet garni" or "Italian herbs"
1 qt. dry white wine (approximately)
2 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp. raspberry jam
3 tbsp. catsup (horrors!)
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2-3 heaping tsp. cornstarch with about 2 tbsp. reserved marinade
Here's the easy part, not that nothing here's not easy: assemble all the Marinade ingredients in a large bowl (non-reactive: that's cook-talk for "anything but metal") and pour it over the turkey thighs. It's important the meat be completely covered, so if it isn't, add some more wine. As a safety note (also to keep the meat from drying out) it needs to be submerged all the time in the marinade. I just took a plate slightly less than the diameter of the bowl and put it on top of the mixture. Put it in the back of the refrigerator.
Once or twice a day (or once a day, or never--you know your schedule) give the ingredients a stir. Make sure the meat is covered by the marinade. Let this concoction sit for three days. See? Told you it makes by itself. Easy-sneezy.
Now for the exciting part.
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.
Take the thighs out of the marinade (save a few tablespoons for the sauce) and pat dry. Place meat on a baking tray and roast for one hour.
That's it. Just roast. If you feel like you _have_ to do something, then baste every once in a while. One time I tried this recipe, a friend called to complain about her plumbers and her roofers and her whatnot and I forgot to do it. It didn't seem to make a difference.
While the birds are in the oven, make the sauce.
Put everything but the cornstarch and reserved marinade in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. In a glass or small bowl, add enough marinade to the cornstarch to make a thickish slurry; it should be about the consistency of heavy cream. The cornstarch isn't going to want to cooperate at first but you can mash it into submission by using a spoon to work the lumps against the sides of the bowl.
The next part is a two-handed operation: slowly dribble the slurry into the boiling sauce (for safety, since we're using liquid the raw turkey has been in, make certain it's boiling) and whisk continuously. A small balloon whisk is ideal for this (if any of you are noticing; I'm being sneaky. You're building a kitchen with proper kitchen tools as we go along. There's no need to go out and equip everything all at once. I digress.). Whisk away, as the slurry goes into the sauce. Unlike flour-based sauces, it will thicken instantly. When the last of the slurry is poured in, give the sauce a final few whuppings and turn the heat down to simmer for about five minutes to "cure" the sauce. Taste for salt and pepper. Strain the sauce--if in a hurry, you can skip this, but it will give a satiny sheen to the sauce as well as improve the texture.
1. Assemble ingredients
2. Marinate turkey thighs for three days (always keeping meat covered with the marinade)
3. Bake turkey
4. Make sauce
5. Optional: carve turkey thighs
MASHED SWEET POTATOES
This is an extremely forgiving recipe, so the quantities I'm jotting down here are approximate. Butternut/Acorn squash can also be used in this, and pumpkin, but they do take longer.
2 large "Garnet" sweet potatoes (the orange kind, sometimes called yams, which they aren't). The large "Beauregard" sort is also useful here. The point is to get about 2-1/2 cups of puree.
1/4 cup margarine (more may be needed, depending on the dryness of the potato puree and water content of the margarine used)
4 tbsp. mirin (Japanese sweet rice cooking wine) or cream sherry
1/2 tsp. ginger (optional if using mirin)
salt and pepper to taste
Peel the sweet potatoes and chop coarsely.
Place in large pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes.
Drain the water out of the pot (remember to pour away from you and lean back a bit to avoid any steam). Turn heat down to low and return pan to the stove.
Get out the potato masher. Add margarine and mirin/cream sherry to the pot. When margarine begins to melt, mash the potatoes, adding more margarine if the mixture is too dry. Add salt and pepper to taste and that's all there is.
1. Peel sweet potatoes and chop coarsely.
2. Cook potatoes.
3. Mash potatoes with cream sherry/mirin and margarine. Season to taste.