It is often said that one’s greatest strength is also our greatest weakness. For me, in the retail food world, the holidays exemplifies the best and the worst of cooking professionally.
It is the time that you bond with your colleagues, where you learn to trust them because you need them in the thick of the busiest times of the year. You get to provide customers with the food that will be on their holiday table, and that is a great honor.
But the downside, is that the days before Thanksgiving and Christmas are some of the most taxing of the entire year, both physically and emotionally. It takes a tremendous amount of planning to organize hundreds of holiday orders, each with their own very specific and important details. And long days go into making that food, packaging it, connecting it to the one who ordered it and fixing any problems that come along the way.
Then Thanksgiving morning comes along, and if your lucky and your restaurant or store is closed, you rise from true, replenishing sleep and feel the joy that comes from a tough job, well done.
But one day is not enough rest for me and, if I don’t have to work, I’m not going to leave my house on “Black Friday,” and don’t even talk to me about leaving the house at 6pm on Thanksgiving evening. I boycott this new consumer holidays because I don’t want to be the financial incentive to encourage businesses to be open and therefore forcing a worker to staff a register. Instead, it is a day for the restorative effect of quietly being at home, a more involved recipe, and putting all those leftovers to work. I love squirreling away meals for the lead up to Christmas. Usually this takes the form of Turkey Pot Pies, but this year, it is Turkey and Dumplings.
We’ve been making this soup for a while now at the restaurant. It freezes well and even after being on the menu for almost a month it is still deeply satisfying—always the benchmark for a good dish. The dumplings are not the traditional dumplings but instead paté au choux, the French dough also used in éclair and gougeres. I’ve found that this dough requires a bit more work at the beginning but is much more stable and reliable than the traditional dumplings.
And all the while, stretching my back, thinking about the holiday hubbub on its way, and the quiet that will come the day after New Years. But best form of busy-ness until then.
At the restaurant we poach these dumplings in salted water ahead of time and then crisp them to order, floating the browned dumplings in the broth. This makes for a nice touch but the dumplings are also perfectly well suited to being poached in the turkey broth and served that way. It should go without saying that this recipe can be made with chicken as well.
- 1 turkey carcass
- 2 onions
- 5 cloves garlic
- 10 sprigs of thyme
- 2 C white wine
- 1 bu carrots
- 1 batch of dumpling dough
- Pick all the meat from the leftover turkey and roughly chop
- In a large stock pot, cover the turkey bones with water and bring to a boil
- When boiling, turn down and simmer until the broth is golden and tastes of turkey
- Meanwhile, slice the onions thinly and mince the garlic
- Tie the thyme with butchers twine
- Heat a glug of oil until shimmery and then fry the thyme in the oil
- Turn to low and add the onions and garlic with big pinches of salt and pepper
- Sweat until translucent
- Add the white wine and cook until fully reduced
- Cut the carrots into large chunks
- Add the carrots and 2 C of the stock and simmer until tender
- Strain the rest of the turkey stock
- Add the picked turkey meat and strained stock
- Taste and adjust seasoning
- Roughly chop the parsley
- Poach the dumplings in the turkey stock according to the dumpling recipe.
- Serve with a big pinch of the chopped parsley
To make the dough, the key steps are to bring the water, butter and salt to a boil and melt the butter completely. Then add the flour and make a thick paste. The flour will “fir” the bottom, literally make it look furry, and should cook long enough to take away the raw flavor. I find it best to simply keep your nose handy, and when it smells of cooked flour, that is good enough for me. With the addition of the almighty egg, the paste magically becomes a silky, glossy dough. After a 30 minute nap, poach the dough in simmering water to make light, cheesy dumplings that will not fall apart even after hours in a soup.
Pro Tip: have the poaching water close to the top of the pot. The further the dumplings have to drop the higher the splash and that hurts. Also, dip the knife in the poaching water to help slick the cutting surface and create less drag.
- ¾ C water
- 3 oz butter
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 C all purpose flour
- 1 T Dijon mustard
- 2 T parsley, chopped
- ½ C swiss cheese or parmesan
- 3 lg eggs
- Combine water, butter and salt and simmer
- Stir in flour with a wooden spoon until dough firs the bottom
- Stir 5 min until it steams and you can smell cooked flour
- Transfer dough to a mixer and add mustard, parsley and cheese and mix
- Mix on low adding eggs 1×1 until proper texture—should slide off a spoon
- Fill a pastry bag (or zippered plastic bag) and let dough rest 30 min
- Fill a medium sized pot with salted water and bring to a simmer
- Cut the tip from the bag and with a pairing knife cut the batter as you squeeze it out though the hole. This takes some practice, but do it several times in a row and you’ll get the feel for it.
- The dumplings will sink to the bottom of the pot and then float to the top
- When the dumplings begin to turn themselves over, they are done. Scoop them from the poaching water with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on a cookie sheet.