Perhaps you head to your parents’ or the in-laws’ for Thanksgiving and other holiday meals, where someone else cooks and carves the turkey. Maybe you’d also like to cook a whole turkey at home (and have a few leftovers to play with), but it’s way too much meat for your little family.
Here’s my proposed solution: go ahead and purchase a fresh turkey and then make four or five recipes with it. When properly sourced from a reliable butcher (and not shot up with strange chemicals and salty brine) turkey is a delicious, lean meat, and should definitely be taken advantage of in its season.
We’re talking turkey and holiday meals for our Eat Well, Spend Less series this month and my method for serving one turkey for four (or more) meals is one way to get the most bang for your buck. Fresh turkey isn’t cheap, but by following two key rules to savvy shopping: buying in season and buying bulk (in this case, a whole bird), as well as using every scrap of your purchase, you’ve got yourself a frugal way to eat this holiday season.
The Bird Breakdown
Assuming you have your fresh, whole turkey, the first step is to partially break it down into various components because you don’t want to roast the whole bird and then eat it slowly over a week-long period as it gets drier and drier. No way.
You’ll cook the breast first, for your ‘fancy’ meal if you like, and freeze the legs for later. From the breast, you’ll also enjoy panini with the leftovers. The scraps will go into a stock, which you’ll later use for a simple turkey noodle soup. Sound good? Let’s do the prep in 3 steps.
TIP: If your butcher is really awesome (and he should be!) you can ask him to break down the turkey for you, which is most of steps 1 and 2
Step 1: With a sharp knife, remove the wings tips (at the first joint), neck, and the ‘Pope’s nose’ (sorry, my Dad’s irreverent name for the area where the tail once was). Reach inside the bird and remove the organs from the cavity. Go ahead and get your turkey stock going with all of these scraps.
Step 2: On a sturdy cutting board, and with a sharp knife, remove the legs from the turkey. This is exactly the same way as you would remove legs from a whole chicken. If you haven’t butchered either, you can watch a clip of Anthony Bourdain wield his knife in this fun video Holiday Turkey Tips. He removed the legs around 1:35 in the clip.
Step 3: Wrap the turkey legs well in plastic wrap and freeze for another meal. Strain that stock, and you’re ready to proceed with any of the four recipes below.
Eat Well, Spend Less: One Turkey, Four Meals
1. The Main Event: Mustard & Herb Crusted Turkey Breast
I made this recipe from Shania over at Food for My Family and it did not disappoint. Simple and sensational, it made the perfect amount of roast turkey for about 6 people with leftovers for panini.
I’m crazy about cooking with fresh herbs, especially when paired with poultry, and loved that Shaina used sage and thyme to perfume her turkey. The breadcrumbs on the outside crisped up beautifully and added a nice texture to the oftentimes boring turkey breast.
Get the recipe: Mustard-Crusted Turkey Breast
2. The Weeknight Dinner: Roasted Turkey Legs with Winter Root Vegetables
Why not go with classic comfort food when you cook your turkey legs? This recipe for Roasted Chicken and Root Vegetables can easily be made with turkey legs for a quick, one-pot dinner.
If you’ve frozen your turkey legs, be sure to thaw them overnight in the refrigerator before cooking. Pat them dry with a paper towel and they are ready for roasting.
Get the recipe: Roasted Turkey Legs with Winter Root Vegetables
Alternatively, throw everything from the above recipe in your crock-pot, add 1 quart of chicken stock plus enough water to cover (a splash of white wine too) and cook for 8 or so hours into a hearty turkey-vegetable stew.
Photo by Tim Chin
3. The Sunday Brunch: Turkey, Arugula & Havarti Panini
This popular sandwich uses the leftover sliced turkey from the mustard-crusted turkey breast. You can also use any roast turkey (or chicken) you have on hand. I recently made these hot sandwiches for a casual bistro-style lunch and served them with French Onion Soup. It made a perfect autumnal meal.
Recipe: Turkey, Arugula & Havarti Panini
You don’t really need me to tell you how to make a panini, but I’ll give my tips.
- Start with the best bread you can source. I use a long ciabatta loaf or two.
- Slice the turkey thin and layer it between the best cheese you have on hand. We love Havarti, Monterey Jack and Provolone for panini.
- If you use a rich, buttery cheese such as Havarti, don’t butter the bread or your panini will be too greasy.
- Let the paninis cook slowly (I use a Breville Smart Grill). Mine go almost ten minutes and this ensures they are hot right through to the center.
- Jazz up your meat and cheese panini with a handful of fresh arugula or spinach.
- Serve with a side of cranberry sauce and pickled red onions.
4. The Everyday Lunch: Quick Turkey Noodle Soup
We’ve just come through a rough bout of head colds and this soup nourished us time and time again. I was so grateful for the several liters of turkey stock in my freezer, because once you have that, the soup comes together quickly, even if you are feeling under the weather.
I can’t think of a better way to put my turkey stock to good use and hope you’ll give it a try. Use whatever noodles you have around to round out the soup. Broken lasagna shards, whole wheat macaroni, and chopped spaghetti all made it into our bowls last week and were topped with the soup.
My apologies for the lack of a photo, but I was more concerned with nourishing my sick body (no cold meds for this pregnant lady) than snapping photos of my bowl!
|Quick Turkey Noodle Soup||
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped leeks, white part only, washed well
- 1/2 cup chopped carrots
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 8 cups turkey or chicken stock
- 2 cups noodles, cooked (I use whatever I have on hand)
- Salt & pepper
- Grated Parmesan to garnish
- Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
- In a medium Dutch oven, heat olive oil and saute leeks, carrots and celery for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add garlic and rosemary and saute for another minute.
- Add turkey stock to the pot. Partially cover the soup, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for ten minutes or until vegetables are tender.
- Add cooked noodles and season the soup with salt and pepper. Serve at once with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese.
Be sure to check out the other Eat Well, Spend Less participants for their Thanksgiving and holiday tips:
- Alyssa from Kingdom First Mom
- Carrie from Denver Bargains
- Jessica from LifeasMOM
- Katie from Good Life Eats
- Katie from Kitchen Stewardship
- Mandi from Life Your Way
- Shaina from Food for My Family
- Tammy from Tammy’s Recipes
~For more menu planning ideas, visit I’m an Organizing Junkie.~
Are you cooking a turkey soon?