The Unsung Heroes of Thanksgiving: the Pie Crust and the Turkey Broth

Alex and I usually spend Thanksgiving with his parents and family.  However, this year his parents were out here at the end of October and will be back in December so decided not to join us for Thanksgiving this year.  This meant that we were at loose ends. So we decided that we would do a potluck with any of our friends (and friends of friends) that weren’t spending the holiday with family.  We offered to cook the turkey, stuffing and my famous pecan pie (it won reserve grand champion at 4-H two years in a row!) and to provide the house mainly so that we could have access to Walter’s crib when he needed to sleep.

The turkey was quite a story in itself.  It came from Petaluma and was raised by 4-H kids.  Since I did 4-H when I was a kid, I like to support the program whenever possible.  We got a delicious turkey from them last year so I figured we would try it again.  So I drove an hour and a half to Petaluma and back.  Walter was wonderful and slept both ways so I considered myself lucky.  Did I mention it came with the neck and head attached?

However, I have decided that there are tons of articles out there about different dishes for Thanksgiving and the perfect way to cook a turkey so I thought I would devote this blog article to two things that you could easily just bypass and buy, but I think the quality is superior when you do it yourself.

The Pie Crust

2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. salt
10½ T. butter*
cold water to sprinkle

Mix together the flour and salt. Then put in the butter. You can pull the butter straight out of the fridge.  It doesn’t need to be warm at all.  Work the butter into the flour mixture with your hands until the butter and flour are about pea sized pieces. Then sprinkle in the cold water until the mixture comes together. Then form it into two balls. You can freeze one ball for later.  If you would like a thicker pie crust, just use the whole recipe.

Then sprinkle flour on a surface to roll out the dough. The more flour you put down the easier it is to pull up the pie crust when you are done rolling it out.  However, the more flour tends to make the crust a bit tougher too so it is a trade-off.  Start off with more flour and then decrease as you get better.  Also roll your rolling pin in flour too. If you don’t have a rolling pin, any large round item like a nalgene or a wine bottle will work just fine too. Take the ball of dough and start to flatten it out with your hands so it has a flat top and bottom. Then begin rolling it. Roll it until it is the size of the pie pan you are using. You can check the size of dough by placing the pie pan over the dough and then adding on just a bit more to cover the sides. Then take a metal spatula and begin to push it gently underneath the crust and start to roll it up onto the pin.  You want to roll the crust onto the rolling pin and then roll it back out again into the pie plate.  The holy grail of pie crusts is to roll it back out again without having to go back and patch the crust where it has broken.  I used to be able to do this, but I am a bit rusty lately.

*back when I was a kid we used Blue Bonnet margarine in place of butter because the consistency was such that it made the pie crust easier to roll out and pick up without it falling apart.  I try to avoid it and stick to organic non-weird ingredients and use butter.  However, if you are having trouble with the pie crust, use blue bonnet until you get the knack of it.

Now if you have filling for the pie crust you and put it in and bake it.  If you need to bake the crust separately, simply take a fork and poke holes into the crust so it won’t separate from your pan and put it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.

Now to make this a super long post…..
Turkey Broth
Making broth can be a very subtle project or it can just be something that you do.  I find that I am not too interested in the subtler flavors of the broth, but do enjoy just throwing things together and doing it and not worrying about it too much.  The first step is to clean off the carcass.  You can do this with chicken, turkey, a beef roast of some sort.  Basically anything that has bones and you want the brothy flavor of it.  So in this case, my friend Ken did a wonderful job of cleaning all the meat off the bone and storing it away for use later in soup and whatever turkey leftover recipes I come up with this week.  Next you put the bones in a large pot and cover them with water.  You can also toss in spices and whatever veggies you have lying around that you want to get rid of.  I like to put in fresh rosemary, oregano, thyme and maybe some garlic and some old carrots and celery.  The key is not to put in any salt or pepper.  You want the both to stay unsalted so that you can use it in whatever you need later.  Then bring the broth to a boil and turn it down to the point where it is just barely boiling.  Then let it simmer boil for about 3 hours.  I find that somewhere around this time the broth starts to smell good and you can tell it is done.  Turn off the burner and let it sit until it is cool.  Then pour the whole mixture through a strainer and toss the bits and pieces.  I find the best way to store the broth is to freeze it in zip lock bags.  I divide it up into two cups in each bag as that seems to be about the amount you need for one recipe.  I find a spot in the freezer that is flat and lay the bags out to freeze and then stack them in freezer.  Viola now you have your own homemade broth!

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