Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Esalen Kitchen Talks Turkey
Category:
Food

If you’ve ever been at Esalen during Thanksgiving week, you’ve probably noticed that our Thanksgiving feast is the best, ever. That’s because we love Thanksgiving. We put tons of love into sharing our favorite dishes, from our own traditions, with the Esalen community. We also use good organic, heritage turkeys that have way more flavor than your standard Butterball turkey. Since they’ve had a more active life, they’re a bit smaller and have more muscle development, which means more connective tissue. We take extra care to cook them in a way that won’t dry them out.

Over the years, we’ve worked out how to make this feast for 300+ people and still retain the magic, cozy comfort of a home cooked meal. When cooking a Thanksgiving feast for a crowd at home it’s a great idea to use some of the tricks that the pros use, since this meal requires bringing a lot of things together at the same time. It can get pretty hectic if you don’t have a strategy.

We’re going to share with you a great way to deal with the turkey equation (essential when cooking 25 turkeys, as we do) that will allow you to master several important elements of the big meal, and turn typical challenges into opportunities for greatness.

Common Turkey Challenges

  1. Different parts of the bird cook at different rates, and we want them all to be perfect.
  2. Really good gravy takes some time, and yet happens after the bird is roasted.
  3. Great stuffing is dependent on the flavors that result from roasting the bird, and yet most people no longer cook the stuffing inside the bird. This means that you’ll want really good turkey stock to make your stuffing. However, if you’ve roasted your bird whole, and carved it to serve, you’re not in a position to make that good stock until after dinner, when it’s too late.

In order to address these three realities, professional cooks who are cooking for a crowd will generally dispense with the homey fantasy of pulling a whole roasted bird out of the oven while the guests gather ‘round the table (and whipping up a little pan gravy in the roasting dish) and opt instead for a more organized and comprehensive approach to dealing with the bird(s). This means that we take the turkeys apart prior to cooking them.

We want the best of everything, we love full utilization, plus we want time to spare, since no one can be in two places at once. After all, if we have a choice between stressing out in the kitchen Thursday afternoon or hanging out with our loved ones drinking wine, we’ll take the second option.

The Turkey Plan

Step 1: Thaw and Prepare the Turkey

Get your turkey far enough in advance that you can thaw it in the fridge for a couple of days, and still have at least one day to spare. On Tuesday or Wednesday, take apart the turkey. First, remove the legs and thighs from the body. There are good videos online that show how to do this. Then, you’re going to wing tips, and then remove the breast, both sides together, with the bone in. There are good videos on YouTube that show how to do this, as well. Brine the breasts, legs, thighs, and wings with salt sugar and spices as follows, and save the parts for making stock in Step 3.

Step 2: Brine the Turkey

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon Water- 1 gallon
  • 1 cup Salt- 1 cup
  • ½ cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • Spices, such as…
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 4 Whole Cloves
  • 2 tsp Juniper Berries
  • 2 tsp Allspice berries
  • 1 tbsp Whole Black Peppercorns
  • About 8 pounds of ice

Method

  1. In a stockpot, combine everything but the ice and bring to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temp. Then chill for a couple of hours in the fridge.
  3. When the brine is cold, add the ice and dump it over the turkey parts. You’ll need a bucket or a large stockpot for this. Make sure that the turkey parts are submerged in the iced brine, and store it overnight in the fridge (if you have room) or a cool spot. If you do this on Wednesday, your birds will be ready to roast on Thursday morning, and you can spend a few hours on Wednesday making stock. If you butcher and brine your bird on Tuesday, you’ve got an extra day for stock making.
Step 3: Make the Stock

Ingredients

  • Roasted Turkey Parts
  • Water (or better, chicken stock) to cover
  • 4 Whole Heads of Roasted Garlic
  • 8 Whole Roasted Shallots
  • 1 Yellow Onion, large diced
  • 2 Large Table Carrots, large diced
  • 3 Stalks of Celery, large diced
  • 1 Bunch Scallions
  • 1 Bunch of Parsley Stems (use the leaves for stuffing or finished gravy)
  • Several Sprigs of Thyme
  • 1 Sprig of Rosemary
  • 3 Bay Leaves

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Roast the rest of the turkey (back, neck, wing tips, giblets, any trimmings) until deep brown and crispy.
  3. Put the roasted parts in a stockpot, and deglaze the roasting pan right into the pot. All of the crispy brown business on the pan is called fond, and it’s the key to good stock. Cover the roasted parts, and fond, with cold water or chicken stock, and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for three hours, skimming off any foam that forms on the surface.
  4. After three hours of simmering, add all of the vegetables and herbs to the stockpot. We’ll simmer another hour to extract all of the wonderful flavors from the roasted garlic and shallots and veggies and herbs. Then, we’ll strain the liquid off, and that’ll be our stock. Make sure to reserve stock for however much gravy you’re going to want, the rest is for the stuffing. The solids left in the pot are compost. If you’re interested, you can add another batch of water or chicken stock to the pot, simmer for one-two hours, and get another batch of roasted turkey stock. It’ll be weaker than the first batch, but comes in really handy for stretching things if you end up running low when you’re making your stuffing, or for making turkey soup on Friday with your leftovers.
  5. This stock is now ready to elevate your stuffing. Since everybody has a favorite stuffing recipe, we’ll defer to whatever traditional recipe is your fave. Just know that regardless of what goes in your stuffing, this stock is going to take it to a whole new level. If you get your stuffing kit all prepped on Tuesday or Wednesday, it’s as simple as tossing the bread and other stuff in a pan, pouring over the stock, and popping it in the oven on Thursday.
  6. Now, we roast the bird.
Step 4: Roast the Turkey
  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Remove the bird pieces from the brine. Thoroughly pat them dry, then rub them with fat. We use duck fat, but you can use butter or olive oil just as well.
  3. Cook the turkey at 500 degrees until the skin is deep golden brown, then reduce the heat to 325, and roast until the thickest parts of the breast have an internal temp of 160 degrees, and the legs and thighs have an internal temp of 180 degrees.
  4. Once the turkey is done, we’ll arrange the breast, legs, and thighs on a platter, and cover loosely with foil, to rest a bit, and get to making the gravy. You can do this early, don’t worry, if your turkey cools down too much, you can always get it piping hot again with a few more minutes in the oven.
  5. Pour the fat off of the roasting pans and reserve it. Deglaze the fond from the roasting pans with a dry, drinkable white wine, and add all of that fond to the stock.
Step 5: Make the Gravy

Ingredients

  • Turkey fat
  • Flour
  • Hot turkey stock, to which we’ve added the fond from the roasting pans deglazed with wine
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. In a saucepan, heat up a couple of tablespoons of the turkey fat, and add a couple tablespoons of flour to make a roux.
  2. Cook the roux for a couple of minutes until it’s smooth and not lumpy.
  3. Add the stock, gradually at first, whisking to make sure that the roux is fully incorporating, and not leaving any lumps.
  4. Once you’ve added all of the stock, simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the gravy is thickened, and there’s no taste of flour. Season with salt and pepper.
Step 6: Enjoy!

Now you’ve got a perfectly roasted, flavorfully seasoned, crispy skinned turkey; a rich, smooth, intensely flavored gravy, with a perfect balance of roasty umami, warm spices, cooling herbal notes, and acidity (from the wine) to bring all of the flavors into focus; and delicious, moist, flavorful stuffing.

And remember, all of this is done ahead of time (in the morning, or the day before) leaving you time on Thursday afternoon to hang out with loved ones.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Esalen Kitchen Talks Turkey

About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Category:
Food

If you’ve ever been at Esalen during Thanksgiving week, you’ve probably noticed that our Thanksgiving feast is the best, ever. That’s because we love Thanksgiving. We put tons of love into sharing our favorite dishes, from our own traditions, with the Esalen community. We also use good organic, heritage turkeys that have way more flavor than your standard Butterball turkey. Since they’ve had a more active life, they’re a bit smaller and have more muscle development, which means more connective tissue. We take extra care to cook them in a way that won’t dry them out.

Over the years, we’ve worked out how to make this feast for 300+ people and still retain the magic, cozy comfort of a home cooked meal. When cooking a Thanksgiving feast for a crowd at home it’s a great idea to use some of the tricks that the pros use, since this meal requires bringing a lot of things together at the same time. It can get pretty hectic if you don’t have a strategy.

We’re going to share with you a great way to deal with the turkey equation (essential when cooking 25 turkeys, as we do) that will allow you to master several important elements of the big meal, and turn typical challenges into opportunities for greatness.

Common Turkey Challenges

  1. Different parts of the bird cook at different rates, and we want them all to be perfect.
  2. Really good gravy takes some time, and yet happens after the bird is roasted.
  3. Great stuffing is dependent on the flavors that result from roasting the bird, and yet most people no longer cook the stuffing inside the bird. This means that you’ll want really good turkey stock to make your stuffing. However, if you’ve roasted your bird whole, and carved it to serve, you’re not in a position to make that good stock until after dinner, when it’s too late.

In order to address these three realities, professional cooks who are cooking for a crowd will generally dispense with the homey fantasy of pulling a whole roasted bird out of the oven while the guests gather ‘round the table (and whipping up a little pan gravy in the roasting dish) and opt instead for a more organized and comprehensive approach to dealing with the bird(s). This means that we take the turkeys apart prior to cooking them.

We want the best of everything, we love full utilization, plus we want time to spare, since no one can be in two places at once. After all, if we have a choice between stressing out in the kitchen Thursday afternoon or hanging out with our loved ones drinking wine, we’ll take the second option.

The Turkey Plan

Step 1: Thaw and Prepare the Turkey

Get your turkey far enough in advance that you can thaw it in the fridge for a couple of days, and still have at least one day to spare. On Tuesday or Wednesday, take apart the turkey. First, remove the legs and thighs from the body. There are good videos online that show how to do this. Then, you’re going to wing tips, and then remove the breast, both sides together, with the bone in. There are good videos on YouTube that show how to do this, as well. Brine the breasts, legs, thighs, and wings with salt sugar and spices as follows, and save the parts for making stock in Step 3.

Step 2: Brine the Turkey

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon Water- 1 gallon
  • 1 cup Salt- 1 cup
  • ½ cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • Spices, such as…
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 4 Whole Cloves
  • 2 tsp Juniper Berries
  • 2 tsp Allspice berries
  • 1 tbsp Whole Black Peppercorns
  • About 8 pounds of ice

Method

  1. In a stockpot, combine everything but the ice and bring to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temp. Then chill for a couple of hours in the fridge.
  3. When the brine is cold, add the ice and dump it over the turkey parts. You’ll need a bucket or a large stockpot for this. Make sure that the turkey parts are submerged in the iced brine, and store it overnight in the fridge (if you have room) or a cool spot. If you do this on Wednesday, your birds will be ready to roast on Thursday morning, and you can spend a few hours on Wednesday making stock. If you butcher and brine your bird on Tuesday, you’ve got an extra day for stock making.
Step 3: Make the Stock

Ingredients

  • Roasted Turkey Parts
  • Water (or better, chicken stock) to cover
  • 4 Whole Heads of Roasted Garlic
  • 8 Whole Roasted Shallots
  • 1 Yellow Onion, large diced
  • 2 Large Table Carrots, large diced
  • 3 Stalks of Celery, large diced
  • 1 Bunch Scallions
  • 1 Bunch of Parsley Stems (use the leaves for stuffing or finished gravy)
  • Several Sprigs of Thyme
  • 1 Sprig of Rosemary
  • 3 Bay Leaves

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Roast the rest of the turkey (back, neck, wing tips, giblets, any trimmings) until deep brown and crispy.
  3. Put the roasted parts in a stockpot, and deglaze the roasting pan right into the pot. All of the crispy brown business on the pan is called fond, and it’s the key to good stock. Cover the roasted parts, and fond, with cold water or chicken stock, and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for three hours, skimming off any foam that forms on the surface.
  4. After three hours of simmering, add all of the vegetables and herbs to the stockpot. We’ll simmer another hour to extract all of the wonderful flavors from the roasted garlic and shallots and veggies and herbs. Then, we’ll strain the liquid off, and that’ll be our stock. Make sure to reserve stock for however much gravy you’re going to want, the rest is for the stuffing. The solids left in the pot are compost. If you’re interested, you can add another batch of water or chicken stock to the pot, simmer for one-two hours, and get another batch of roasted turkey stock. It’ll be weaker than the first batch, but comes in really handy for stretching things if you end up running low when you’re making your stuffing, or for making turkey soup on Friday with your leftovers.
  5. This stock is now ready to elevate your stuffing. Since everybody has a favorite stuffing recipe, we’ll defer to whatever traditional recipe is your fave. Just know that regardless of what goes in your stuffing, this stock is going to take it to a whole new level. If you get your stuffing kit all prepped on Tuesday or Wednesday, it’s as simple as tossing the bread and other stuff in a pan, pouring over the stock, and popping it in the oven on Thursday.
  6. Now, we roast the bird.
Step 4: Roast the Turkey
  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Remove the bird pieces from the brine. Thoroughly pat them dry, then rub them with fat. We use duck fat, but you can use butter or olive oil just as well.
  3. Cook the turkey at 500 degrees until the skin is deep golden brown, then reduce the heat to 325, and roast until the thickest parts of the breast have an internal temp of 160 degrees, and the legs and thighs have an internal temp of 180 degrees.
  4. Once the turkey is done, we’ll arrange the breast, legs, and thighs on a platter, and cover loosely with foil, to rest a bit, and get to making the gravy. You can do this early, don’t worry, if your turkey cools down too much, you can always get it piping hot again with a few more minutes in the oven.
  5. Pour the fat off of the roasting pans and reserve it. Deglaze the fond from the roasting pans with a dry, drinkable white wine, and add all of that fond to the stock.
Step 5: Make the Gravy

Ingredients

  • Turkey fat
  • Flour
  • Hot turkey stock, to which we’ve added the fond from the roasting pans deglazed with wine
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. In a saucepan, heat up a couple of tablespoons of the turkey fat, and add a couple tablespoons of flour to make a roux.
  2. Cook the roux for a couple of minutes until it’s smooth and not lumpy.
  3. Add the stock, gradually at first, whisking to make sure that the roux is fully incorporating, and not leaving any lumps.
  4. Once you’ve added all of the stock, simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the gravy is thickened, and there’s no taste of flour. Season with salt and pepper.
Step 6: Enjoy!

Now you’ve got a perfectly roasted, flavorfully seasoned, crispy skinned turkey; a rich, smooth, intensely flavored gravy, with a perfect balance of roasty umami, warm spices, cooling herbal notes, and acidity (from the wine) to bring all of the flavors into focus; and delicious, moist, flavorful stuffing.

And remember, all of this is done ahead of time (in the morning, or the day before) leaving you time on Thursday afternoon to hang out with loved ones.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Esalen Kitchen Talks Turkey
Category:
Food

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About

Esalen Team

Esalen Kitchen Talks Turkey

About

Esalen Team

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