OMG... less than 10 days before Thanksgiving! More than any other day of the year, Thanksgiving is ALL about the food. Christmas you have gifts and trees and of course the celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus. Easter has new dresses, hats and eggs (and the remembrance of what the baby Jesus sacrificed). 4th of July has firework and Arbor Day has us all going to the beach to watch all the boats floating around the Harbor.
But mention Thanksgiving and it's all about the food!
Lot of pressure on a casual cook and even more on a cook that people have expectations of near perfection. You can cook wonderful dishes 364 days a year, but if something goes wrong on Thanksgiving, you are branded for years to come.
So we will start with a MUST have for Thanksgiving and that is Chicken Stock.
Stock is very very very easy to do. Especially when you use the bones from the store bought, pre-cooked, pre-seasoned Rotisserie Chicken!
The most common issue home cooks have with a turkey is that the bird dries out. Mostly because people use that insane little pop up thermometer thing that does not measure in the right spot and is set to go off at least 180 degrees and not the 165 temperature (measured at the thigh joint near the breast). Once the thigh is at least 165, and the breast measures at least 165, the bird is cooked. Any longer in the oven and every minute dries the meat out.
So, have your stock on hand (even frozen is fine, as you can microwave the stock). If the bird comes out dry, simply slice the meat thin, have a big saute pan of stock simmering, run each slice through the HOT stick and the dry bird has moistened up. Serve fast, pre-sliced (no need for that dramatic slicing at the table, it never looks like Norman Rockwell anyway).
What great cooks know and do... they plan for the best, they work hard to produce the best, but they always have a plan B just in case. Besides, using chicken stock to make gravy makes it extra flavorful (more on that later)
Having an extra few cups of chicken stock (easily made from a Rotisserie chicken) makes that Plan B possible.
The second way a Rotisserie Chicken can save your Thanksgiving (or at least make it better) is to have all that meat available to add more "Thanksgivingness" (if it's not a word, it ought to be) to your side dishes.
Dressing (stuffing), that ubiquitous green bean casserole, Pork and Beans (Chicken and Beans), Corn bread, Candies Yams... you name it, just about any of the common side dishes would benefit from a little shredded poultry taste added.
Just enough to add a little extra "Thanksgivingness" to the dish.
And the final way a Rotisserie Chicken will save Thanksgiving is Chicken Gravy. Chances are most people do not make gravy often enough to be pros. Sometimes things happen (most often the gravy is too salty (NOTE: the drippings come out of the bird and runs through the outside seasonings. Be careful about adding salt to the dripping gravy... It may already be salty enough... but I digress...)
Now, I am not saying you should only make Chicken gravy. Go ahead, make that fancy turkey giblet gravy you only get once a year. It's great, it's perfect. But you also only make it a couple of times a year. Anything can go wrong, not the least of which is the gravy is made last...
This has the advantage of being able to be made in advance. It does freeze if your turkey gravy comes out perfect...
But then, you know that there is ever ever enough gravy for all those leftover plans any way...
OK, here's how to make Rotisserie Chicken Gravy...
First, grab that jelly resting on of the bottom of the bird and in the bottom of the tray. It doesn't matter if there are tiny bits of meat or skin... it all adds to the flavor.
Put this Gel in the bottom of a saute pan and heat away. The gel will melt and you are on your way to gravy...
Carefully de-bone the meat making sure that there is no tiny bits of bone or cartilage attached. It is fine (good actually) if there is any skin.
OK, now we have to decide if we are making GREAT gravy or just OK Gravy. The difference is in the stock. For GREAT gravy, rich and delicious (both gravies will be equally thick, but the 2 cup version of this recipe is much richer in taste). OK, for GREAT gravy I add 1-1/2 cups of chicken stock. In fact, go ahead and just make the GREAT gravy. If you find yourself in a bind and need more gravy (who knew all those extra people would show up), once you have the GREAT gravy, you can always add 2 more cups of stock (and more flour... we'll cover the flour in a second).
First, I want to mince up most of the chicken into the liquid. So I move all of the liquid and most of the chicken into a blender. Whirl away for a couple of minutes so the chicken has been incorporated into the liquid. I always leave about a tsp worth of the chicken pieces in the pan so there is a bit of texture to the gravy.
Once this is blended, return to the pan. You are 1 to 2 minutes away from gravy...
With the liquid on a low simmer, add flour a teaspoon at a time. Stir constantly. It takes about a minute for the liquid to thicken, so go slow.. one tsp at a time (for this session, it only took one tsp. But other times I needed more.
OK, now the final step is to taste. As I have already warned, there is plenty of sodium (salt) in the gravy already. You may want more and you are allowed... I do like more pepper in my gravy, but it is always salty enough for me. But, as all the cowardly recipe writers say... Salt ad Pepper to taste.
It should be about the best gravy you have ever had, FAR better than any canned gravy you may be tempted to buy, much better than those pouches, but not as good as Turkey Giblet gravy... But certainly good enough to save your Thanksgiving!
If you have never made stock... This weekend is the time (and the price of the stock you make meas the rotisserie chicken is FREE).
If you have a new side dish you want to make for the big day... Make it in advance at least once. Feeding your in-laws is NOT the day to play Iron Chef.
And make some gravy. Like I said, practice. But also, pop some of the GREAT gravy in a freezer bag and be ready. Plan for the best, work hard to produce the best, but always have a plan B just in case.
And HEY... What do you know...
52 Uses For a Rotisserie Chicken"!
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