Virgin Recipe: Jellied Turkey Salad
At number eight in our countdown, and in time to give you a suggestion for something to do with leftover Thanksgiving turkey, I present:
Last year around this time I made Turkey Soufflé Salad, and shopping for the turkey on the day after Thanksgiving meant my choices were limited. I wasn’t particularly happy with the deli slices I ended up using, so I made sure that Jellied Turkey Salad would come up on the editorial calendar before Thanksgiving, and I decided that I would just have to roast a turkey breast to get a satisfactory meat component.
A week or two before it was time to get to work on the Jell-O recipe, it occurred to me that if I was roasting a turkey breast anyway, maybe I ought to just go whole hog and make an early Thanksgiving dinner. After all, I hadn’t gotten to do a Thanksgiving my way in almost 30 years. Instead of my in-laws’ library-paste stuffing, I would make the stuffing I remembered from my youth, a simple dish of celery, onions and peppers sautéed in a lot of butter, mixed with croutons, and moistened with broth. Instead of heavy mashed potatoes beaten with cream cheese (cream cheese? why?) I would make basic potatoes mashed with butter, milk, salt and pepper (and not beaten, so they’d have that “real mashed potatoes” texture). I would have jellied cranberry sauce (with the can shape), a side veg, and brown’n’serve rolls, if I could find them.
So that’s what I did (minus the brown’n’serve rolls, which were not yet available). It was actually kind of fun. Cooking a multipart meal like that has a certain rhythm to it, coordinating the timing of the various elements. It went amazing well considering how long it had been since I’d cooked a big meal like that, although it was not without a few small hiccups. For starters, the turkey took longer to roast than I had been led to believe. I wasn’t totally happy with the gravy, which was probably doomed from the start due to the natural limitation of pan drippings from a lean breast. I’d kind of like a do-over on the stuffing because I couldn’t find herbed croutons and the unseasoned ones, well, they needed seasoning. Also, I found that I am totally lacking turkey carving skillz. Still, it was a nice dinner, and Bryan made a chocolate pecan pie for dessert, and I had leftover turkey for my Jell-O.
Then my procrastination tendencies kicked in and I kind of bollixed up the timing on this, which is why there’s no video for it. (Not that I expect anyone really misses it, but I’ll do an extra “penance” anyway and make a donation to the Boston Food Bank so that somebody else can have a nice Thanksgiving dinner.) We had the dinner last Saturday, and the leftover turkey wound up sitting in the fridge until I got to work on Jellied Turkey Salad on Wednesday evening. I looked up how long leftover turkey is safe to eat, and while most sources said three to four days, I found a discussion thread on Chowhound where people were maintaining that leftover turkey is fine for upwards of a week. Okay, I thought, this will just make it exciting…
… which is good, because making Jellied Turkey Salad is a bit of a dawdle. It’s your basic prepping of the solid ingredients (I did a little extra of everything, as usual), thickening the Jell-O over an ice water bath, mixing in the solid ingredients, and chilling it in a mold. That old story, one we know so well by now. Since I was making this before we ate dinner, I nibbled at the turkey while I was cutting it up, and found that it was better as leftovers than it had been right out of the oven, and I decided that the bother of roasting it had been worth it.
The mold sat in the fridge for an extra day (what can I say, it was a rough week), so on Friday it was with some trepidation that I unmolded it, took some photos, and sat down to try a piece. Bryan got home from work while I was setting up for the photos, and he assured me that he’d eaten some of the leftover turkey for lunch and hadn’t gotten sick, so that was encouraging.
After tasting it, I’m just as glad I didn’t go to the trouble of making a video, because there were no grimaces. Jellied Turkey Salad wasn’t particularly awful. The Jell-O was too sweet, but there were enough other ingredients in there that the sweetness wasn’t overwhelming. The turkey was fine, and I liked the flavor of the chopped tarragon. As with so many of the savory Jell-O recipes, the flavors just didn’t blend together well, so each bite was a little, I guess you could say, confusing to the palate. When Bryan tried a bite, he was startled; he said it wasn’t what he was expecting.
Jellied Turkey Salad appears in the chapter titled “Salads for the Slim Life”. I imagine that, as with so many “diet” foods of the mid-20th century, the primary function of this dish is to kill the appetite. I was pretty hungry when I tried this, so I ate several bites, but I had no desire to finish my portion, let alone eat the rest of the mold. The garbage disposal got the bulk of it, and Action Against Hunger will get its usual donation.
Virgin Recipe: Fresh Fruit Salad
Fresh Fruit Salad comes around in an interesting confluence of events. It happens to be an Orange Boycott recipe (I substituted lime Jell-O for orange) on a weekend when I wound up going to a counter-protest at the Boston Common to oppose a so-called “free speech rally” organized by some right-wingers who evidently felt that this was a good thing to do even so soon after Charlottesville. Planning for this rally had been underway since before violence erupted in Charlottesville, VA last weekend in the wake of a “Unite the Right” demonstration that included out-and-proud white supremacists and neo-Nazis. While smarter people might have at least postponed a rally that was planned to include many speakers who had appeared in Charlottesville, Boston Free Speech decided to go ahead with it.
The thing is, counter-protests mobilized pretty quickly, and the permit that was granted to Boston Free Speech mid-week required that they not carry weapons, or anything that could be used as a weapon (such as poles for flags). The organizers had to ask possible attendees not to bring neo-Nazi and Confederate paraphernalia (for appearances’ sake). Meanwhile, scheduled speakers were being uninvited (the most controversial ones) or dropping out. I guess not being allowed guns or swastikas made the whole thing not much fun for potential participants, and a few dozen rally-goers hung in there for less than an hour before being escorted away from the Common by police (for their own safety).
Bryan and I were running late, and ended up getting to the Common a short while after the rally-goers had left. The counter-protesters were carrying on with a sort of impromptu peace rally, which was upbeat and jubilant. There was a bunch of bicycle cops in the buffer zone looking bored, and beyond the buffer zone an empty space around the empty bandstand. We wandered around for a while, and the worst thing I witnessed personally was a guy letting his dog paddle around in the Frog Pond right in front of a sign saying that this was not allowed. I know there were some altercations that happened after we left, but no one was seriously hurt and the number of arrests was somewhere between “the Red Sox won a home game” and St. Patrick’s Day. I left the house expecting to fight Nazis and wound up just taking a long walk on a brilliant summer afternoon.
And then I returned home to another Jell-O recipe. Fresh Fruit Salad is, I would say, a variant on Waldorf salad. Chopped apples, halved grapes (dammit, fussing around with grapes again!) and chopped pecans get mixed into a bavarian made with lemon Jell-O, two-thirds cup sour cream, and one-third cup mayonnaise. (I know that one reader has a photo of someone vomiting copiously that he keeps for occasions like this.) This gets molded with plain gelatin (orange in the recipe, lime in my case) on the bottom and top, so that it looks more appetizing.
Preparing this was fairly routine, though I was annoyed by the timing of it. I had to leave the bavarian part in the fridge for a while, longer than it would take me to do the washing up and make the plain Jell-O, so I had to just wait around. It ended up thickening more quickly than I’d expected, so I ended up having to leave it out on the counter while I prepared the lime Jell-O. With the lime, I had to put some of it in the bottom of the mold and chill until thickened but not set (a half-hour, per the recipe), and then thicken the remaining Jell-O, spoon the bavarian into the mold, and put the rest of the Jell-O on top. I admit it, I got impatient with the first lime layer, as you can see in the photo. Time management has been a challenge for me lately, anyway, and this recipe made me feel especially inadequate.
I left the unmolding and tasting until after I’d gotten back from the gym today, so that I would be hungry and this recipe would stand the best possible chance to be appetizing. I have to say it didn’t look too bad once I’d unmolded it, and frankly, I think lime was a better choice than orange anyway.
Unfortunately, for eating it wasn’t so nice. I didn’t think it was all that bad, even though the mayonnaise flavor really predominated in the bavarian layer, but that may have been the post-gym hunger talking. I still think nuts don’t belong in Jell-O. Bryan, on the other hand, described it as “really unpleasant”, and actually picked all of the bits of fruit out of the bavarian layer and ate what he could of the lime Jell-O, leaving a nasty heap of bavarian-style jelly in his bowl.
Fresh Fruit Salad appears in a photo in the book – on a wedding buffet table where all the dishes are made with Jell-O, also featuring Salmon Dill Mousse and Creamy Bleu Cheese Salad. I feel bad for the happy couple. If it was the mother of the bride who planned this wedding, that groom is in for a bad time with his mother-in-law.
Recipe Reboot: Quick (Not Orange) Fruit Salad
For some reason, WordPress won’t let me use strikethrough formatting in the title, so let me just note that, for the purposes of the Project, the official title of this recipe is Quick
Orange Fruit Salad.
This one is definitely an Orange Boycott, given that the base Jell-O is orange, and the “salad” part is mostly orange sections. This meant that I had to get kind of creative with the substitutions.
I thought that it could be fun to go with one of the more interesting Jell-O flavors – in my stash I have boxes of flavors like mango and “Melon Fusion”, but I decided that after the narrow passage of Trumpcare in the U.S. House of Representatives this week, I wanted to get as far from orange as possible. That meant Berry Blue. Blue is, of course, the complementary (or opposite) color to orange on the color wheel you learned in elementary school.
I had to put more thought into what I was going to use in place of the orange sections, and I settled on a bit of an assortment, like a standard, non-gelatinous fruit salad. At the range of restaurants we tend to frequent, fruit salad is almost always bits of cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, grapes, and maybe banana slices and/or blueberries, so I thought I’d try for something like that. Ruling out cantaloupe on account of the color, and bananas on account of their maddening tendency to clump together, I finally settled on honeydew and a strawberry and blueberry mix from the prepared-fruit section at the supermarket.
The recipe also calls for halved green grapes, and that was the key point where I did follow instructions. This part was kind of annoying, cutting the grapes in half. It reminded me of making Frosted Fresh Grapes, and I decided that, really, any preparation of grapes beyond washing them and pulling them off of the stems is a waste of time.
The preparation of Quick
Orange Fruit Salad was mostly straightforward. The recipe includes the addition of a dash of salt and two teaspoons of lemon juice to the gelatin, and I went ahead and did that. This is supposed to be quick-thickened by the addition of ice in place of the cold water, but I guess the temperature in the kitchen wasn’t quite cool enough yesterday because, once again, this technique didn’t quite work, and I ended up thickening it over an ice-water bath. Once that was done, I added the fruit, put it in a pretty serving bowl, and was struck, as I put it into the fridge to chill, by the aquamarine color of the Berry Blue Jell-O and how it made me think of a fish bowl. I started wishing that I’d cut the honeydew slices into little fish shapes, and…. Nah. Life’s too short.
For me, this turned out to be a perfectly nice dessert. I didn’t measure out the fruit and probably added more than the recipe called for, but this just meant that it seemed more healthful. The grape halves sank to the bottom, but that wasn’t a big deal once I’d dished out a portion. The Berry Blue flavor was better than I remembered, but maybe the addition of the salt and lemon juice had something to do with that. It reminded me of Smarties (the American kind, not the British kind) or Sweet Tarts. I found that I really liked the color, too. It reminded me of summer, which is taking its own sweet time coming around this year. Also, it kind of matched my hair’s current “accent” color, as my trainer pointed out when I was telling him about this earlier today, which is why I included a somewhat rare photo of myself tasting the Jell-O. However, to my colorblind spouse, Berry Blue Jell-O is a weird sort of blue-gray. “It doesn’t look like food!” he protested. I’ll be eating the lion’s share of this one.
The apron I’m wearing in that photo was sent up to me this past week by R–, a former student/researcher in our lab who’s now working on his Ph.D. at Yale. The shiny red cerebrum reminded him of my brain-shaped Jell-O mold, and he couldn’t resist the kind gesture, for which I’m grateful.
It’s been kind of a gloomy week, between the weather and the GOP trying to kill and/or subjugate us 99%ers, so small kindnesses have meant a lot. A Facebook friend whom I’ve never met in person was good enough to share positive feedback after viewing the video of my Rock Camp band’s performance (luckily we were first in the lineup; I kind of feel like I owe a beer or other beverage of choice to anyone who makes it all the way through the song), and, most importantly, he took my interest in pursuing music seriously.
The interesting thing about my Facebook friend is that he’s politically conservative, and we’re both trying not to cut people off because of political differences. I know some people who are doing that, and I understand that they have their reasons, but (rather uncharacteristically, to be honest) I’m trying not to be so quick to give up on some large portion of humanity. It’s nice that some people are affirming my (admittedly shaky) faith in people.
Memory Lane – Frosted Fresh Grapes
Originally posted September 8, 2009
I’m able to write this from memory, without any notes (this was an early point in the Project, before I’d started making notes), because this sticks out in my mind as one of the dopier recipes in the book. At first, I kind of dug the concept, pretty sugar-frosted grapes that look like this:
Frosted Fresh Grapes is a recipe from a bygone era – an era in which people didn’t have to worry so much about raw egg being contaminated with salmonella. It says to lightly beat an egg white, dip the grapes in the egg white to lightly coat them, and then dip them in lemon Jell-O powder to frost them. Now, maybe that was kosher in 1974, but this 2009 lady was not going to eat grapes dipped in raw egg white*.
There is such a thing as powdered egg white. It’s pasteurized, therefore safe. No salmonella**. The idea is to just add water, and voila! Egg whites! If only it really was that easy. The powder did not dissolve readily. In fact, I seem to recall that it never did fully dissolve, but after a while I wound up with a liquid that seemed to be the consistency of egg whites, so I went ahead with the dipping process.
It did not go well. The egg white was very drippy and didn’t seem to want to form a thin, smooth coat on the grapes. As a consequence, the dry Jell-O went on as a lumpy, uneven coat, and of course the reservoir of powder developed lumps that made it more difficult to work with. It was a frustrating process, and the results weren’t pretty.
Reading a Food Network recipe for sugar frosted grapes as I was writing this, I felt a bit foolish. Dip all the grapes at once, swish ’em around, and then strain off the excess? Of course. Tumble the moistened grapes in the sugar like Shake’n’Bake? Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?
Then again, who eats this stuff, anyway? Last I heard, grapes are nature’s Skittles.
* The astute and careful reader will note, eventually, that there are recipes involving egg whites beaten into meringue but not cooked that I have not only prepared from raw eggs but also eaten. All I can say is, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.
** I’m thinking about this too much. “Salmonella” sounds like the name of a character in some benighted sequel to “Finding Nemo”.