Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Turkey Carnitas

When we came back from Thanksgiving, we returned with giant bags of leftovers, both stuff from the actual Thanksgiving dinner and other produce that my parents had in their fridge that they wouldn't be able to use in time. Lucky for us, Kenji had posted a recipe on Serious Eats on Thanksgiving for leftover turkey carnitas. Sounded like the perfect way to get rid of some leftovers.

Everything we used for this meal came from leftovers except for the canola oil for frying, bay leaves, and the sour orange. The local markets didn't have any actual sour oranges, but they did sell bottles of naranja agria, so I went with that. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the rest of the naranja agria so it doesn't go to waste. (Suggestions?) It was nice to be able to make a meal without spending too much money!

We pretty much followed the recipe as written (as much as possible, anyway), mostly because we've had good luck with other recipes Kenji's put up since they're the result of so much research. The biggest difference though was that the turkey meat in the recipe was all dark meat chicken, but ours was a combination of dark meat and white meat, and probably mostly white meat, since that's what was left. I didn't want to just use the dark meat and then have to figure out what to do with the rest of the white meat, so I just made it all, prepared that it might be a little drier and might need more hot sauce to counteract the drier meat. (On top of that, my family got a different turkey this year for Thanksgiving and it turned out drier to begin with, so I was prepared for the meat to be drier and less juicy than most people mentioned in their reviews.)

It was pretty straightforward to make the carnitas. The turkey, sour orange (I think I used about 2/3 cup or so), quartered onions (used 1 red and 3/4 yellow, since that's what was left over), and bay leaves get combined in a pot, and everything boils together for at least an hour until the turkey is tender and easily shredded. Once it was done, it was time to shred the turkey, and then to brown it in a skillet until crispy. Along the way, I also heated up some tortillas in the oven and made some toppings for the tacos, including sauteed onions (we had sliced onion leftovers) and an onion/cilantro/lime garnish.

The turkey carnitas tacos were pretty good, but the meat was definitely dry. I think that's a combination of the large amounts of white meat and the fact that the turkey was on the dry side to start with, so I'm not going to fault the recipe for not delivering juicy carnitas when the original meat wasn't really very juicy. We were expecting a little more flavor from the carnitas after boiling with all those ingredients for so long, but they were just okay. Combined with the onion toppings and copious amounts of Cholula and green dragon sauce though, the tacos were pretty good. While we did like the tacos, we didn't like them so much that we would roast some turkey just to make these again. But if we did have roast turkey leftovers, we might try this again. It was nice to be able to do something different with turkey leftovers.

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