I reckon that right about now, you’re probably staring at the turkey carcass (here in the Northeast, it could be in the mudroom or the porch, because the fridge is so overstuffed, just like you feel….) and wondering, WHY did I think I needed a 23 pound bird???? Because you wanted leftovers. But how much turkey tetrazzini can a family face? Here’s my all-time favorite way to get another meal from that behemoth bird: Turkey and Dumplings.
I struggled with dumplings for years. I kept thinking, “they’re just a wet biscuit, how hard can they be?” But for some reason I kept stumbling all around the edges of the ideal dumpling, chasing one recipe after another, each one coming up short in some way. Some fell apart, some were leaden. There were all kinds of warnings about lid lifting and bad consequences. it was a bit like a series of bad dates.
I know that in Amish country dumplings are more like fresh noodle dough: they’re more substantial and a little bit chewy, and I love that version. But I was looking for something more ethereal. It should be pillowy, tender, light, and just right for soaking up delicious gravy or sauce from underneath. About a year and a half ago, I found my ideal dumpling recipe, and have been going to town with it ever since.
Time to work your magic with the aftermath of the Thanksgiving feast. First, let’s get the dumpling mise en place (chef's term for everything you need to cook, measured, prepped, and ready to go) set up.
First, the flour, salt and leavening go into a bowl, to be whisked together.
Cut in the butter; it should be pretty small.
If you want to add herbs, they go in next.
This is how the mixture should look.
Make sure you have your buttermilk and egg on hand; we'll come back to the dumplings once we have the pot pie part taken care of. Now for the pot pie fixin's.
You’ll need 4 cups of cooked meat.
Did you make stock from the bird? Good for you. If you refrigerated it overnight, it’s a simple matter to skim the fat off afterward.
Have any leftover gravy? If you haven’t used it for hot turkey sandwiches (another delight), this is a good place to use it up. If not, don’t fret, we’ll make the sauce we need.
Heat the butter in a large saucepan or stockpot, then whisk in the flour. The mixture should have enough flour so it doesn't look greasy.
Add the stock, a little at a time.
When you do it this way, you allow the flour in the roux to absorb the liquid gradually, and you’ll have far fewer lumps. Whisk until smooth, then add some more stock.
Add any leftover gravy.
Add a bay leaf and some thyme.
Let the sauce simmer for 20 minutes, stirring it occasionally. It will be a little on the thin side, but that’s OK, because the dumplings are going to absorb some of the liquid and thicken the whole business.
Now add the meat and any vegetables you like. Frozen mixed can come in handy here.
You have two choices here. You can put the mixture into a covered casserole and bake it at 350°F for 30 to 40 minutes, until it’s simmering, then mix the dumplings and put them on top. Or you can finish the dish on the stove, if your burners can hold a low flame without scorching the bottom of the pot. You could even put the hot mixture in a slow cooker, keep it warm, and scoop the dumpling mixture on top a half hour before you want to eat. The only requirement is that you have 2” to 3” of headroom above the top of the pot-pie mixture, and the container you’re using has a lid that fits. I slightly prefer the oven, because it leaves me free to do other things while the dish is baking, and there's no chance of scorching.
Now that the stage is set, back to the dumplings.
Add the liquid to the dry, all at once, and stir until the mixture is evenly moistened.
Now scoop the dumplings on top of the simmering liquid, leaving plenty of space around them to expand.
Put on the lid, and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes.
Try not to peek: the steam from the sauce is what cooks the dumplings.
OK, now your patience is rewarded:
Here's a real testament to the economy of cooking at home:
Buy vs. Bake
Buy: Hungry Man Turkey White Meat Dinner: $3.50/serving
Ingredients: Turkey And Chicken Broth, Reconstituted Potatoes, Cooked Turkey Meat (Mostly White), Peas, Rehydrated Apples, Water, Stuffing (Bleached Enriched Wheat Flour [Enriched With Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Cider Vinegar, Partially-Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Sugar, Salt, Baking Soda, Yeast, Yeast Nutrients [Calcium Sulfate, Ammonium Chloride], Dough Conditioners [Ascorbic Acid, Cysteine Hydrochloride, Azodicarbonamide], Flavoring), Sugar, Cranberries, Contains Less Than 2% Or The Following Ingredients: Modified Food Starch, Margarine (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And/Or Soybean And/Or Cottonseed And/Or Palm Oils, Water, Mono-Diglycerides, Beta Carotene For Color, Vitamin A Palmitate. May Also Contain Salt, Whey, Soy Lecithin, Flavor), Vegetable Oil, Celery, Salt, Carrots, Hydrolyzed Whey Protein, Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Turkey Fat, Cooked Mechanically Separated Turkey, Dried Whey, Cornstarch, Wheat Flour, Flavoring (Sautýed Vegetables [Carrots, Celery, Onions], Sugar, Maltodextrin, Corn Oil, Salt, Cornstarch, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Flavoring), Dehydrated Apples, Dehydrated Onions, Yeast Extract, Sodium Phosphates, Carrageenan, Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten, Butter, Onion Powder, Mushroom Flavor Base (Mushrooms, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Potato Flour, Butter, Maltodextrin, Flavoring, Caramel Color), Flavoring, Dehydrated Parsley, Orange Peel, Caramel Color, Spice Extract, Spice, Vanilla Extract, Cream Powder, Nonfat Dry Milk, Enzyme Modified Butter, Lipolyzed Butter Oil, Oleic Acid, Butter Oil, Lactic Acid, Butter Flavor (Enzyme Modified Butter, Acetic Acid).
Bake at home: Turkey and dumplings: $.65/ serving (the turkey and stock are free!) Ingredients? Turkey, stock, flour, butter, vegetables, spices, egg, buttermilk, leavening, and spices.