Did you get what you wanted for Christmas this year? I did! There was an All Clad deluxe slow cooker with nonstick aluminum insert under my tree.
*Hey, we can't all want an official Red Ryder carbine action 200 shot range model air rifle for Christmas. And I'm much less likely to shoot my eye out. But more likely to burn myself, so I guess that's a wash.
Turkey thighs are perfect for the slow cooker. They have enough fat and connective tissue to make them hard to overcook. Even better, turkey thighs have a big, meaty flavor to match the sweet beer and onion sauce.
*Hard to overcook is the key to slow cooking, because it means simmering for hours on end. I cringe when I see a slow cooker recipe with lean protien, like pork loin or chicken breasts. All I can think of is dry, dry meat.
I pull the skin off the thighs before cooking, a trick I learned from Cooks Illustrated. Turkey skin doesn't add anything to the recipe. Or at least, not anything good. After the long, slow cooking the skin comes out flabby and chewy. All it does is add extra fat to the sauce, which I don't want anyhow.
The final trick is to keep the liquid to a miniumum. There isn't much evaporation in slow cooking, so watery sauces are a real danger. I add a quarter cup of flour to thicken the sauce as it cooks, and only one bottle of beer for liquid. The turkey and onions give up more than enough liquid while they slow cook, and the result is a thick, creamy sauce of beer and onions.
If you are a dark meat fan (like me!), this recipe should be in your arsenal.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Turkey Thighs with Beer and Onions
- 4 pounds turkey thighs (about 4), skin removed
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 large onions, sliced thin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 12 oz beer (Amber lager, brown ale, or porter work best)
- 2 bay leaves
1. Prep the turkey: Peel the skin from the turkey thighs, and put them in the slow cooker. Sprinkle them evenly with the salt and pepper, then rub with the Dijon mustard to coat.
|Ready to smear the mustard on the turkey|
2. Brown the onions: In a fry pan, heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions and 1 tsp kosher salt and cook until the onions are softened and starting to brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the tomato paste. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan until the onions and paste are well browned, about five more minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and thyme, and stir until the flour is moist. Pour in the beer, add the bay leaves, and increase the heat to high. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits into the beer, and cook until the beer is simmering, about 3 more minutes. Pour the beer and onions over the turkey thighs in the slow cooker.
3. Slow cook the turkey: Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours or high heat for 4 hours.
4. Serve: Move the turkey thighs to a serving platter, and cover with 2 cups of the beer and onions from the pot. Serve, passing the rest of the beer and onions on the side.
*You will want something to soak up this wonderful sauce; serve with a side of egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Dinner rolls are a good addition as well. I like to serve this with green vegetables; I chose peas and a green salad.
*Beer: What beer is best? Something with a lot of flavor, but not very bitter. I usually use Eliot Ness Amber Lager or Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from Great Lakes Brewing Company. (They're my local brewery. I like to support the home team, so I usually have them on hand.) I also recommend Ommegang Abbey Ale from Cooperstown, NY; this Belgian style ale has the perfect flavor combination for the recipe. As a bonus, the extra large Ommegang bottle leaves beer for the cook to drink.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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