Ways to cook turkey when you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving

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This post is sponsored by Canadian Turkey. As always, all opinions are my own.

Growing up in a South Asian household, we never had a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner. It wasn’t until I was a bit older and into cooking myself, that we had our first whole turkey dinner around Thanksgiving time. When I got married and moved into my own house, I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner. For the past five years, we’ve had some form of a “Thanksgiving dinner” with a whole turkey (except for one of the years where I was super pregnant and too tired). Our dinners are always Desi-ed up, with spicier flavours and a few side dishes to appeal to the older generation as well.

Now, I totally get it if you’ve never had a Thanksgiving dinner or still aren’t convinced on why you should. This year, I wanted to share how you can still take advantage of getting a whole turkey at an affordable price and cutting it up to make two delicious, South Asian inspired recipes.

Most grocery stores and butcher shops will carry whole turkeys this time of year at a reasonable price. If you don’t want to cook the turkey whole, you can still get one and section it to use the meat in various recipes. Turkeys are generally larger than other poultry choices and deliver a lot of meat for the price. Whole turkeys can be cooked for a few dollars per pound, and are a perfect choice for batch cooking meals or freezing leftover meat that comes in handy as an everyday meal starter.

The Canadian Turkey website has an excellent guide on how to section a whole raw turkey. I will be completely honest when I tell you that I have never sectioned a turkey before. I was a bit nervous as this felt like something only my mom would be able to do. One of the tips it gives before you even start cutting is to ensure your turkey is well chilled to help make the cutting easier since the tissue is a bit stiff.

After reading through the instructions and looking at the pictures, I was able to successfully section the turkey. For the most part, it was pretty straightforward. I struggled the most with trying to separate the drumstick from the thigh the first time around because I kept trying to cut through a bone. Once I figured it out, it was a lot easier the second time.

One of the best things about roasting a whole turkey is having delicious leftovers that are perfect for feeding your family later on during the week. It’s like making two meals in one! Turkey leftovers give you so many options for making a new and tasty main meal for your family. And don’t forget that the leftover bones make amazing stock or soup!

After sectioning the turkey, I was left with:
About 4 pounds of turkey breast, cut into cubes (I froze 3lbs and used 1lb for the Mini Masala Pot Pies recipe below)
2 wings, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs
The turkey carcass (I used the remaining scraps to make turkey stock and freeze into cubes for later use) I felt like I unlocked another level of adulthood after successfully sectioning a whole turkey. I was especially happy with the fact that I was able to put together two delicious meals AND still have more turkey for me in the freezer.

See below for recipes that not only pack South Asian flavour but were also baby and toddler approved. My 3-year-old enjoyed Tandoori Turkey and my 11-month-old loved being able to eat the Mini Masala Turkey Pot Pies on her own. Turkey is a nutritious option for all ages, especially because it is high in protein and low in fat.

Mini Masala Turkey Pot Pies

This recipe is a family favourite. You can use a muffin tin but the clean up is a lot easier if using silicone muffin cups. Make the masala turkey mixture the day before to save on even more time. This is a great lunchbox item.

Makes: 12 mini pot pies

Ingredients 

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chili powder
½ tsp red chili flakes
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 lb turkey breast, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 cup spinach, chopped
4 oz cream cheese
4 sheets of puff pastry

Directions

  • In a pan, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add spices, chopped turkey breast, and chopped tomato. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until turkey, is cooked.
  • Add mushrooms and cream cheese and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat and set aside. (This can be made the day before to same time).
    Preheat oven to 350oF.
  • Using 2 round cutters or lids (one the size of the muffin tin opening, and another about 2 inches bigger) cut out 12 small circles and 12 large circles of puff pastry.
  • Place larger circle of puff pastry on the bottom of the muffin tin or silicone muffin cup, followed by 1.5 Tbsp of masala turkey mixture. Cover with smaller circle of puff pastry. Using a fork, seal the edges and cut 4 holes at the top of each mini pie.
  • Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, until pastry is browned.

 

Tandoori Turkey Legs & Wings

When sectioning the turkey, I kept the wings whole so that they would require the same cooking time as the turkey legs and thighs.

Ingredients 

⅓ cup tandoori masala
⅔ cup plain yogurt
⅓ cup olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
2 turkey legs, turkey thighs, and wings

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350oF. In a small bowl, mix together tandoori masala, plain yogurt, olive oil, and lemon juice.
  • In a large bowl, add masala mixture to turkey legs, wings, and thighs. Using hands, ensure masala is evenly coated.
    Place in a baking tray and bake for an hour, until turkey is cooked through and skin is crispy. Remove from oven and garnish with cilantro.

 

If you’re still planning on making a whole turkey, here are 10 other great ways to Master Thanksgiving Prep and planning

1. For an easy way to ensure extra-crispy skin, unwrap your turkey the day before you are planning to cook it and leave it in the fridge overnight. The extra drying time will add the perfect crispiness to your turkey.

2. Make sure you use a good quality meat thermometer to ensure you cook your turkey to the perfect doneness without overcooking. Test your thermometer a few days ahead of time to make sure it is working properly.

3. Consider cooking your turkey in parts – breasts, thighs and drums – for a quicker, foolproof way to get the meat cooked perfectly.

4. Get a head start on your meal! You can prep all of your staples like onions, celery and carrots up to 3 days beforehand. Dice and store in storage bags. Green beans, squash and salad greens can be washed, trimmed, and chopped beforehand. Store these in storage bags for ready-to-cook sides.

5. For a large crowd, consider hosting a buffet-style meal. Spread your dishes out in the kitchen or dining room and let people self-serve and mingle while they eat for an easier-to-serve, fun meal with a casual feel. 

6. To reduce cooking time, cook your stuffing on the side. This way you can get more of your favourite crunchy bits while cutting down on cooking time in the oven.

7. Plan ahead and make a ‘smart’ shopping list. Organize it by staples you can buy in advance and perishables you need to buy a few days before, then organize according to sections of the grocery store. This will make grocery shopping a breeze and save you precious time.

8. Look for make-ahead sides that you can make a day or two beforehand and taste delicious re-heated. Bookmark a website with tasty and reliable turkey recipes and resources, like www.canadianturkey.ca, so you’re ready for the big day!

9. To plan for leftovers, order a turkey that is several pounds bigger than what you need. Extra turkey can be stored and frozen to use for quick and easy meals later on.

10. Leftover turkey freezes well. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for a quick start to a weekday meal. Visit www.canadianturkey.ca for recipe inspiration and create salads, soups, pastas or casseroles in a snap!

Looking for additional tips, recipes, Turkey Basics videos and tips? Visit canadianturkey.ca for more cooking inspiration.


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