Savvy Singles Like it Slow — Fruit-Braised Turkey Legs

10 Apr

Alright . . . minds out of the gutter, dear readers. I’m talking today about the slow food movement, the Sunday dinner culture, the fill your home with tantalizing smells during an afternoon life while you can curl up with a book or go for a walk. We singles can miss out on these leisurely pleasures because we, falsely I posit, think we don’t have the time.

Today’s post will prove that with a bit of up-front prep work you, too, can have a slow, gentle, anticipatory meal experience. The recipe for Fruit Braised Turkey Legs is also an example of another savvy single strategy: Buy smaller portions or parts of foods common to traditional, large family feasts.

Slices of dark turkey served on a tangy bed of fruit (cranberry, apple, orange) sauce.

Slices of dark turkey served on a tangy bed of fruit (cranberry, apple, orange) sauce.

As a singleton, you CAN cook and enjoy a whole turkey, but sometimes you just don’t have the guests, the freezer space or left-over magic inspiration to confidently deal with a whole cooked turkey. After the big holidays, meat counters usually have decent deals when they cut up the customary offering into its component parts or smaller portions. The week after Easter, I was able to buy two turkey legs (just under 2 pounds in all) for about $4.00. You probably could have found a single slice of baked ham on sale, too.

Braising is a cooking term with a — what else — French origin. It first involves searing or browning the meat, game or fowl in fat on the stove top. Then the rest of the cooking happens in a covered cooking vessel (Dutch oven in the oven or stove top, slow cooker or pressure-cooker). You add some sort of liquid and simmer for a long period. This method is particularly suited to tougher cuts of meat (as it renders a more tender meal) or to a dish that benefits from a melding of flavours.

Braising ingredients --- in liquid and slowly --- renders moist, flavourful finished dish.

Braising ingredients — in liquid and slowly — renders moist, flavourful finished dish.

I have a smallish enamel-covered cast-iron covered dish (the much cheaper KitchenAid version of Le Crueset) that I used for this recipe because it tolerates both stove-top and oven heat. Unfortunately, my turkey legs were too long to brown properly in the bottom of the pan [Trial and Terror], so I performed the browning function in a larger skillet. Once the sauce/liquid base of the recipe was readied in the cast-iron pot, the legs fit beautifully on top for simmering in the oven.

My recipe borrowed from some aspects of a New York Times Turkey Braised with Cranberries recipe and a Seattle Times recipe for Apple-Braised Turkey ThighsAdding the Port was my idea!

Turkey legs, Shiitake Mushrooms, thyme sprigs, garlic, Granny Smith apples, orange zest, onion, cranberries, port, stock, EVOO, butter

Turkey legs, Shiitake Mushrooms, thyme sprigs, garlic, Granny Smith apples, orange zest, onion, cranberries, port, stock, EVOO, butter

FRUIT-BRAISED TURKEY LEGS                                                   Serves: 3

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL)                          butter,divided into 2 x 1 Tbsp uses
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL)                          extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves                                        garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • several (6 – 10)                           sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 (approx. 2 lbs/0.9 kg)           turkey legs
  • to taste                                         sea salt and pepper
  • 1 large                                           onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 lb (115 g)                               shiitake mushrooms, caps sliced (stems discarded or used for stock)
  • 2                                                    Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 8ths
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL)                       port (or other sweet wine, or brandy, cognac)
  • 2 + Tbsp (30+ mL)                    sugar
  • Zest from 1 large                        orange, plus
  • Juice from                                   1/2 to whole orange
  • up to 2 cups (500 mL)              chicken or turkey broth (or water)
  • 3 cups (750 mL)                         cranberries, fresh or frozen
Slice onion, mushrroom caps and peeled + cored apples.

Slice onion, mushroom caps and peeled + cored apples.

Instructions:

1.     Preheat oven to 350 F.

2.     In a wide, deep skillet (with oven-proof lid and handles) or a lidded, burner-proof casserole dish add 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Set on a burner, heat to medium-high. After one minute, add the thyme sprigs and crushed garlic cloves. Cook for 1 minute.

Heat and melt butter and EVOO. Add crushed garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Cook 1 minute.

Heat and melt butter and EVOO. Add crushed garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Cook 1 minute.

3.     Season turkey legs liberally with pepper and some sea salt (if using salt-reduced broth or water, use a bit more salt on the legs). Place in pan and brown (as best as possible) all sides in the hot fat. Stir the garlic to avoid burning it. Remove turkey legs to plate and set aside.

Brown turkey legs in seasoned oil/butter

Brown turkey legs in seasoned oil/butter

4.      Into the pan, add the sliced onion, mushrooms and apples. Add 1/2 cup of port and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Stir and cook until vegetables and apples are very soft, about 10 minutes. Don’t let the food burn, adjust heat if necessary.

5.     To the juice squeezed from the orange, add enough broth or water to measure 2 cups. Add to the pan, along with the cranberries and half of the orange zest. Bring to a boil. Add the turkey legs back to the pot and cover with lid.

Add cranberries, orange juice and chicken broth.

Add cranberries, orange juice and chicken broth.

6.     Using care (and pot-holders), transfer the pan to pre-heated 350 F oven. Cook for 90 minutes covered, checking every 30 minutes or so to make sure mixture continues to simmer. Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes. Add more broth or water if necessary (I did not find this was necessary).

Check pot occasionally to ensure liquid levels are sufficient and mixture is simmering.

Check pot occasionally to make sure liquid levels are sufficient and mixture is simmering.

7.     Remove pan from oven. Remove turkey legs to a cutting board or platter.  Chunks of the poultry may fall off the bone. Try to recover the big bits, but don’t fuss over this stage. After they cool a bit, slice flesh off the bones.

Remove braised turkey legs to cool and slice.

Remove braised turkey legs to cool and slice.

8.      You want the braising liquid/fruit sauce the consistency of a runny apple sauce. You want a consistency thick enough to sit the turkey slices on top but not so thin the sauce runs off the plate. Taste the sauce and adjust for salt, pepper and sugar. I added approximately 2 more tablespoons of sugar and some pepper.

After 90 minutes covered and 30 minutes uncovered.

After 90 minutes covered and 30 minutes uncovered.

9.     I needed to thicken mine a bit, so I set the pot back on the burner, added 1 tablespoon of butter, stirred well and allowed to boil down for several minutes while I steamed the green beans and uncovered the dish of Scalloped Potatoes I reheated for a side.

Adjust  sugar, salt and pepper to taste.  Add tbsp butter, boil sauce until thickened.

Adjust sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Add tbsp butter, boil sauce until thickened.

10.     Ladle a couple of scoops of sauce on your dinner plate, top with slices of the turkey and garnish with some of the remaining orange zest. I ate my first serving with steamed green beans and the scalloped potatoes. The potatoes were a nice creamy counterpoint to the tanginess of the cranberry-apple sauce. One serving went into the freezer and the third portion I’m going to try with the maple roasted sweet potatoes and pecans I planned for this week.

Creamy scalloped potatoes made a great counterpoint to the turkey with tangy fruit sauce.

Creamy scalloped potatoes made a great counterpoint to the turkey with tangy fruit sauce.

Is anyone out there a slow-cooker-recipe-adaptation-Queen (or King)? I think this recipe could be easily adapted to slow-cooking  — allowing the savvy single to go off for a hike or a ski or a movie for the longer simmering period. If you have advice in this regard, I’ll happily post your suggestions.

Savvy Single --- long and slow: Fruit Braised Turkey Legs.

Savvy Single — long and slow: Fruit Braised Turkey Legs.

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