Excited this morning to realize I had leftover white rice, wilted greens, and mild artisinal sausage in the fridge (from three totally different meals). A half hour later with an egg simmered to perfection and some seasonings…a delicious congee breakfast! Lovely memories of traveling in Asia right now. The power of food to conjure experience.
I’m saddened that my first long post was prompted by unpleasantness, but I’m trying to turn that around in a constructive, joyful manner. Yesterday, radical animal-rights proponents viciously attacked me and several fans of the Facebook version of The Burlesque Butcher in response primarily to this picture:
Granted, it is an arresting image–slightly macabre and not something one sees every day: a woman lovingly kissing a roasted hog’s head. That woman is me, of course, and the action was captured this past summer at the end of another successful hog roast after I had spent at least two hours breaking down and portioning a 130 lb. hog for an event crowd of over 100 very appreciative people. I was full of emotion on so many levels…elated to have splurged on a proper sustainably raised and humanely treated hog for the second year in a row, proud of breaking down a hog carcass faster than I ever had before, melancholy because I knew this year was the last year for the event–a pending divorce and move away from the house I had lived and entertained in for a decade meant the 10th iteration of our annual hog roast was the last. And so, ever one to play to the camera, I picked up the hog’s head and gently kissed it on the snout–out of reverence, out of respect, out of admiration, out of joy, out of amusement.
To then have complete strangers attack me as barbaric, tragic, and worse, was not something I expected. For many months, that picture has served as my avatar for a variety of different forms of social media and not once did anyone object. Most people, knowing me and my near obsession with how improperly most livestock is treated and how much of each precious animal gets wasted because people no longer want to take time with cooking or eat the so-called cheap cuts, saw the love in that picture, the beauty, the gentleness. This was a hog whose favorite food was the expired and spilled chocolate milk from the dairy at which he was raised, a fun fact I had just learned when at the farm to pick him up two days prior. This was a hog who got to run around with his siblings in a large pen, dotted with mud puddles to swim in. (The dairy explicitly started raising hogs for meat just so they could productively use non-sellable milk from their lovely grass-fed cows instead of having to throw it out–it doesn’t get much better than that.)
And so I and some of the amazing fans who came to my defense got called psychopaths, sociopaths, murderers, attention hounds, “f*cking desperate for attention”, ugly, old, unhealthy, tasteless, shameful, would-be cannibals, and “more than a little dysfunctional” (that last one from someone who purported to be a mental-health professional, yet was making gross assumptions based on a handful of images). One woman hoped that I would be murdered (I deleted that comment, banned the poster, and reported her as abusive). Another woman accused me of mocking animals and “killing for pleasure”. I shudder to think at the insults that these same individuals would have flung had I instead posted, for example, this dynamic picture of me sawing open the pig skull to, in proper nose-to-tail fashion, serve the brain to interested party-goers (sadly, the brain had not been cooked long enough to eat–the fire had been a bit too low at the head end of the hog, and I was wary of taking it out of the skull and cooking it a bit more, given that it had been essentially sitting at what may well have been a danger zone temperature for the 6 hours of hog roasting).
Curiously, this assault on my page and my fans occurred while I was making turkey stock from the carcass of my Festivus party turkey–honoring the bird from beak to tailfeathers as much as is possible with a commercially produced Organic Valley turkey (obviously it was lacking things like the feet). I know these propaganda-blinded activists will never be convinced that meat eating can be done in a respectful and sustainable way, but it floors me that they can’t see I’m one of the good guys. If more people ate the whole animal, not just select parts, we would kill far fewer animals each year. And so here are some suggestions for getting the most out of your leftover turkey carcass, if you still have one sitting in your fridge.
I’m hoping my readers know how to make stock, so I will skip that explanation for now (but if you don’t, leave me comments to that effect and I can do a stock-making post sometime). So I added water to what’s in this picture, and let it do its thing. But you can get more than just stock or soup out of the carcass. One thing I do that I think many don’t is strip every bit of meat, fat, skin, etc. from the carcass after simmering. Some of this goes to the dog and some to me and/or whoever I might be cooking for.
Before I settled down to strip all the meat off the bones, I skimmed off enough soup for a late lunch, heated it to a simmer in a small pot, shredded a bit of the turkey from the soup, added some chopped carrots, and then immersed some pre-packaged gnocchi (which are a great! quick alternative to dumplings–you can’t always make every element from scratch).
Then I set to the task of stripping every bit of useable meat, skin, fat, and cartilage from the bones. I keep two containers–one for human consumption and one for the dog–some meat is too dry and all the skin, fat, etc. is too soggy. The dog, in fact, had been drooling the entire 6 hours the stockpot simmered on the stove–he knows he always gets treats on stock-making days. What one ends up with looks like this: a large pot of golden, rich stock; a container of shredded turkey perfect for putting back in the soup (although not all of it is suited for this purpose) or doing some creative repurposing; a container of treats for the dog; and a small bowl of bones.
It’s always astounding to me how little actually ends up getting thrown out (and yes I know there are good uses for the bones–the reality is that sometimes one can only do so much).
So what to do with all this shredded, somewhat spent turkey that has been picked from the carcass? I used to adhere to the line of reasoning that the carcass had given all its essence to the stock and just gave the dog all the soup-soaked meat. And yes, it can be kind of sawdusty in texture after being simmered for 6 hours (not to mention the fact that often the parts that go in the stock pot are those that got overcooked, like the ends of the wings), but with a little cooking magic, tasty concoctions can be achieved.
One of my favorite uses for this meat is to make croquettes–you add back flavor and moisture. (Another is turkey, noodle, and veggie casserole with lots of creamy sauce.) Here’s how I make croquettes (and sorry for not having step-by-step photos…I was hungry and documenting slipped my mind):
Shred some meat fairly fine. Add some grated onion (the grating helps disperse the moisture from the onion better throughout the mixture), some torn parsley leaves, some breadcrumbs (I prefer panko, but you can use whatever), an egg or two or three depending on the volume you’re making, s & p, and paprika. Mix together and gradually add in a bit of liquid until you have a consistency that will hold together into a patty (I prefer heavy cream, but milk works fine as would broth or even water). Form into patties and fry over medium heat in a combo of butter and oil until nicely browned. Serve with leftover jus, gravy, demi-glace, or just naked. A runny fried egg is nice on top too!
And of course, since I got to eat my dinner, Magellan the Newfoundland gets his too after so patiently waiting!