Chat Leftovers: Dry turkey

June 25

We Americans love our barbecue. We also love the sides that come with it. This week, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin explores three traditional side dishes from three prime barbecue regions of the country. There are recipes, of course, and there’s plenty of time to shop for them before Fourth of July get-togethers.

Also in Food, Jane Black visits author and fish expert Paul Greenberg, who’s on a mission to get Americans to eat more sustainable seafood. And to use it wisely: He turns one fish into three economical main courses. Recipes there, too.

We have a new installment of Cathy Barrow’s Canning Class. This week, she tells us how to make a rhubarb-mango chutney. Even if you’ve never canned before, Cathy’s clear, simple directions will get you started with confidence.

Jim and Cathy both will be on hand today for the Free Range chat. Starting at noon, we’ll be answering your questions and checking out your opinions on all things culinary. It’ll be the best hour you spend all day — apart from the one you spend reading about barbecue, fish and canning, that is.

So be there! Just to tide you over until chat time, here’s a leftover question from a previous week’s discussion.

We cooked a whole turkey on the grill at too high a temperature, way overcooking it. Do you have any suggestions for what we can do with this dry meat? I mean really dry: The meat under the skin is like jerky. Chopping it small and mixing with tons of mayo isn’t cutting it. I was thinking of freezing it in broth and using it for soup, but I’m not sure that would help.

Do you have a dog?

Because really, the meat you describe would be practically inedible for humans — or at least dramatically unpalatable. A dog, however, would love it mixed in with kibble. (I suspect a cat would be equally thrilled.) At my house, even the most unappealing bits on a rotisserie chicken carcass are picked off and frozen for later pooch consumption.

But let’s say you don’t want to see your turkey go to the dogs. Your idea of soup is a good one, though possibly not exactly the way you imagined it. If it were my dried-out bird, I’d forget about eating the meat, but I’d use it (and the rest of the carcass) to make dynamite stock. Rich, flavorful, smoky turkey stock — sounds great. You could use it for making soup, or for cooking dried beans, or gumbo, or any number of things. One caveat: Taste the stock first before you use or freeze it; if it has a strong smoky flavor, you might ultimately want to combine it with a non-smoky stock to keep it from being overpowering.

As you discovered with your mayonnaise attempt, mixing the meat with fat doesn’t help. There is no effective way to rehydrate overcooked muscle. You can submerge it in liquid, but as you probably know from eating commercial canned chicken soups, the meat’s texture will still register as dry no matter how wet you make it.

Here I feel obliged to disclose that Livestrong.com disagrees with me. That Web site touts a 10-minute method that it says will “make the meat look and taste as though it was perfectly roasted.” Call me skeptical, but I haven’t tried it, so I can’t say whether it works. In any case, your turkey sounds too far gone to benefit from it.

Days have gone by since you asked the question, so maybe you’ve disposed of the bird (in one way or another) by now. But here’s hoping you can use this information next time. Scratch that — here’s hoping you never have to!

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