Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bringing Cajun Flair to a Yankee Thanksgiving

Hey, everyone!  Jolie's husband Andy here.  I'm back again with another guest post.  No liquid libations to speak of this time, though.  Nope, this post is all about Thanksgiving.  Yup, FRIED turkey, delicious cornbread dressing, and of course, yummy pecan pie.

Let's start with the turkey, shall we?  My mom's youngest brother, my uncle Mark, is a whiz in the kitchen.  They are pure Cajun (or coon-ass as we say in Louisiana) and I've learned lots of dishes, tips, and tricks from them.  My uncle moved to Florida with his family about 10 or so years ago and I've reconnected with him on Facebook these past few years.  I genuinely hate Facebook, but it really is an easy way to stay in touch with family and friends.  Ok, back to the turkey.  I caught up with my uncle to get some turkey frying tips.  We talked for about 20 minutes and he gave me the necessary pointers to ensure success.

The most important thing is safety.  Because we have Thanksgiving dinner at Jolie's parents' house, I ran the idea of frying the turkey by her mom.  She was concerned about the house/garage being burned down.  I assured her that wouldn't be an issue.  There are two important steps to making sure you don't end up with a grease fire.  First is to know how much oil you're going to need.  Do this by placing your turkey in the frying pot and fill with water until the turkey is submerged with about an extra inch above the bird.  However much water you've used, that's how much oil you need.  Next, once you heat up the oil, you have to pat the turkey down to remove excess water and SLOWLY and CAREFULLY lower the turkey into the fryer.  This could take 5-10 minutes.  Whatever you do, you can't just drop the turkey into the hot oil, it will spill over the top and you WILL have a grease fire on your hands.


Ok, now that we have that out of the way, on to the nuts and bolts.  When frying, you want a bird between 10-14 lbs.  I ended up with one that was a touch over 13.  For the injectable marinade, I ordered Cajun Injector brand Creole Butter.  I got it online and it shipped from Louisiana.  Jolie ordered a nice, big stainless steel injection syringe from amazon.com.  Thaw the turkey and inject as you normally would.  I focused more on the breasts than anywhere else.  If there's one thing I can't stand, it's dry, flavorless white meat.  I injected the turkey with the entire jar.  After that, I used some Tony Chachere's Spice N' Herb seasoning.  I sprinkled it very generously all over the skin of the turkey and inside of the cavity.  Once finished, I stuck it in the fridge to marinade.  I did this almost 48 hours prior to frying the turkey.  Minimum marinade time is 12 hours but I knew that giving it 48 would make it that much better.


At that point I got started on the cornbread dressing.  This was another of Uncle Mark's concoctions and it is very good.  I made it for the first time last Thanksgiving and it was a hit with Jolie's family.  I started by mixing up 5 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Muffin mix according to the directions.  I normally would split the mix into two pans for baking but the foil pans I picked up were too big so I just baked all 5 boxes in a big pan.  The cornbread came out beautifully.  At that point, I boiled a whole chicken in water for an hour.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Once the chicken is cooked, removed from the stock and let cool.  Do NOT get rid of the chicken stock.  I knew better than to do this and I fubar'd it by pouring it out.  In the back of my head, a voice was telling me, "you know you're going to need that stock...right?"  I ignored it and poured it out anyways.  Fortunately, Jolie had some chicken bouillon cubes and suggested I use them to recreate my stock.  So I did.  It wasn't bad at all, actually.
Next step was to brown a pound of pork and a pound of beef together on the stove.  I added in some Emeril's Essence seasoning, 5 tbsp of Cajun Power Garlic Sauce (also came from Louisiana), onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.  While that was going, I went ahead and de-boned the chicken.  I kept the chicken stock at a simmer and once the chicken was de-boned and shredded, I added it back to the stock, along with the meat mixture.  Then I added 2 large onions, 2 celery hearts, 2 peppers, and I think that was about it.  I gave the mixture about 4 hours of simmer time on the stove.  30 minutes before it was done, I added in some green onions and parsley.

After the four hours is up, remove the pot from the heat and add to the cornbread.  If you've done the cornbread in two separate pans (unlike me), just pour half of the mixture into each pan and mix with the cornbread thoroughly.  Then cover and refrigerate overnight.  Whenever you're ready to cook, just leave covered with foil and put in the over for about an hour, then uncovered for 30 minutes or so.  I was busy with the turkey so Jolie handled the oven temperature and the timing this year.  The nice thing about the recipe is it makes two batches.  After cooling overnight in the fridge, stick it in the freezer and you've already got your dressing for Christmas dinner done!


(This blurry picture was from last year’s batch. It hadn’t been cooked yet. Imagine if it looked like this, except darker and way yummier.)

Meanwhile, it's time to get the turkey into the fryer.  Add however much oil you previously measured into the frying pot.  Turn on the burner and crank it up until it hits about 375 degrees.  Once it does, VERY slowly and CAREFULLY lower the turkey into the hot oil.  It will spit and splatter, that's normal.  Take your time and don't get in a rush.  If the oil start to rise too much, pull the turkey back out a little until it calms.  After a few minutes, the turkey will be submerged.  Keep an eye on the temperature, you want the oil to stay between 325 and 350.  Cook the turkey for 4 - 4 1/2 minutes per pound.  Mine was 13 pounds and I cooked it for about 50 minutes.  Once it's finished, remove from the oil and let drain in a pan or tray with some paper towels to catch the oil.  Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before carving.


Now on to the pie.  Normally I make these pecan pies from my mother's recipe a few times a year.  I buy store bought pie crusts and have at it.  This year, Jolie made her "from scratch" home made pie crust.  That crust is so flaky and terrific.  Anyways, I was kind of worn out from doing the turkey and dressing so I asked her if she would mind handling the pie.  She graciously obliged :D


So, that's about it.  The turkey was PHENOMENAL.  There wasn't any left, all of it was eaten.  Although I botched the chicken stock for the cornbread dressing and had to re-create it, you'd never know.  It was as good as ever.  The pecan pie was delicious, as well.  Sorry for the long post, but I hope you all enjoyed it!


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