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Sous Vide Turkey Breast (or Thanksgiving…Round Two!)

We had a wonderful thanksgiving…including our four cranberry sauces…with 15 friends at 3 different houses.  The evening was wonderful and the food delectable including two different turkeys (one smoked) and incredible sides and of course dessert!  Apparently, that just wasn’t enough for us.  Since we had quite a bit of cranberry sauce left…we decided to do Round Two (downsized a bit!) on Sunday.

First…let’s give credit where credit is due…

This is our official Thanksgiving feast.  Complete with turkey, brussels sprouts, beets, green beans, salad, two gravies, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, four cranberry sauces and of course, stuffing.  My plate looked like this…

I may have overdone it…but that is what thanksgiving is for!

Now for round two!

We purchased a (fairly) reasonably sized bone-in, skin-on turkey breast to sous vide.

We dried it off, seasoned it well with salt and pepper, placed it in a vacuum bag, added a few pats of butter and a bunch of fresh thyme, and sealed it up.

Before getting started, we turned on our thermal-immersion circulator to get it up to the temperature that we wanted – 149º F.  Once it was ready, we dropped the turkey in and set a timer for 2 hours and 30 minutes.

We were so taken by the stuffing that our friend Paul made…we just had to remake it.  I may have mentioned in the past my issue with soggy foods – and stuffing generally falls into this category…however, I had trouble resisting this one…it has green olives!  Let me repeat…it has GREEN OLIVES!  What’s not to love!  We had  no trouble finding the recipe since it was in one of the recent Bon Appétit and is all over the internet!  Since we followed the recipe exactly (making only a half batch), I won’t write out the entire recipe here…all you need to know is that it’s called Italian Mother-in-Law Dressing and is very good!

I cooked up some chard, then onions, dried out some bread, chopped some olives, toasted some pine nuts and tossed it altogether with some rosemary and thyme!

We had one lonely sweet potato on hand, so I diced it up, steamed it a bit and then added some butter and fresh thyme.

The stuffing went into a buttered casserole dish and had the final broth and egg mixture drizzled over the top before getting covered and placed into the oven.

Cleo tends to be very interested in what we’re doing in the kitchen and has become quite bold as of late and thinks this perch on the couch is just perfect for her.  I’m not sure I agree!

Apparently I did not take any photos…but we also had some mashed potatoes cooking.  Rather than mashing, we used a food mill that was handed down from my parents.  I’ll be honest, it has been a while since I have made mashed potatoes that good!  They were so smooth and of course, it doesn’t hurt that they are really just a vessel for butter, cream and salt!

Two and a half hours later, we pulled the turkey out of the water bath.

Once you open the bag, discard the thyme and remove the skin (we saved this and cooked it up a day or two later…it crisped up nicely!).  Once the breast was removed from the bone, I cut slices and drooled a bit.

We set the table and opened a lovely rosé from Frog’s Leap that we purchased on a visit in April to Napa.

And then it was time to plate it up…oh, we also had gravy…and don’t worry…all four cranberry sauces were on the table ready to be enjoyed!

The turkey was very moist, tender and flavorful.  Until we are serving more than just two of us at our house…the sous vide option is just too easy and dependable to not do.  This is definitely just the first of many sous vided turkey options!

Oh…I almost forgot.  Let’s discuss cranberry sauces!  I personally loved the chutney.  I think it has found a way into my recipe box for future thanksgivings…it is savory and a little different while still maintaining that tart flavor that you want from your cranberry sauce.

At our feast, the chutney and the raw orange relish (a Connelly family recipe) were the favorites.  The standard cranberry sauce (another Connelly family recipe – Thanks Dad!) also had its followers.   But I have to say, I know the Mama Stamberg’s recipe is beloved by many an NPR listener, but it was just not a hit.  Perhaps there were too many options!

I hope you all enjoyed an abundant Thanksgiving and were surrounded by friends and family.  Anyone else have more than one thanksgiving?






Duck Confit Sous Vide

Guest Author: Woody (with technical help from Liz)

We’ve had good success cooking beef, chicken, and fish sous vide, but we finally decided to tackle duck confit.  The basic idea behind a confit is that duck legs are immersed in duck fat and cooked in a low oven until all of the connective tissue (collagen) is rendered to gelatin.  Then the legs are pulled out of the fat and fried in a pan until the skin is crispy.  This is usually one of those foods that one doesn’t make at home.  It requires a huge amount of duck fat, not a problem for a restaurant that goes through dozens of ducks/night, but far more than would make sense for the home cook to keep around.  While it’s possible to purchase this much fat, we’ve been dying to try making duck confit using a sous vide method.  The benefit here is getting the duck cooked correctly (maximum rendering of collagen without making the protein excessively dry), while using far less fat than the conventional method because the legs are sealed in a vacuum bag with little volume to fill.

Following loosely on the recipe and timing provided in Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure...

Cure 4 duck legs overnight in kosher salt, seasoned with several cloves of crushed garlic, 40 black peppercorns, 4 bay leaves, 10 thyme sprigs. The cure is really important for developing flavor, but helps with food safety as well, because the legs require a long time in the bath.

Wash off the salt.  Dry and place in a vacuum bag.  Add 4oz. duck fat.  Make a bouquet garni with a few of the bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns and thyme, rinsed and patted dry from the salt cure.

Bouquet garni at bottom right, looking like a giant spliff…not that I would know what that looks like.

Creative method offered by Keller.  The problem with simply adding herbs and spices to the bag during sous vide cooking is that they  inevitably end up in contact with only one portion of the meat or vegetable.  The flavor is not always uniformly distributed beyond the portion of the food that they are touching.  Keller’s fix is to make a bouquet garni using plastic wrap in place of the traditional outer leek leaves with herbs bundled inside and the ends cut off to allow fluid and flavor transfer.  The herbs and spices do not contact the food directly, but can communicate their flavors via the duck fat in the bag.  This method worked very well and has clear applications beyond duck confit.

Cook for 8 hours at 82.2° C or 180° in the circulating water bath.  Just 8 hours until duck perfection!

Pull legs out of the vacuum bags (careful to save all the duck fat, which can be gravitationally separated from any other juices) and crisp the skin using propane torch.  The torch is faster than pan frying and worked well because the legs were already warm through from the water bath.  The torch also allows the browning of all the good nooks and crannies.  This has become our favorite method for browning meats post-bath.

We ate the confit alongside a potato gratin, and a watercress salad with a sherry vinaigrette, topped with a poached egg.

It was incredibly tasty, and we still have two confited legs stored/preserved in a container of cooled duck fat in the fridge.

We’re planning to use the “leftovers” for a duck and potato pizza, or maybe some duck tacos.

Thoughts…?  Ideas…?  What do you think we should use the leftover duck confit for?

PS:  Cleo really REALLY liked the smell of all that duck fat!

sneak peek…

a sampling...a tasting...just a sneak peek of what is to come...

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