Our family Thankgiving had a tasty twist this year when we opted to forego traditional oven roasting method for our turkey in favor of trying out the deep-frying cooking method after recently acquiring a new indoor electric deep fryer created by Butterball Turkey.
Our 18-pound bird was fully cooked and ready to serve in an hour, and the result was one of the most juicy and delicious turkey feasts in recent years.
After writing about our intent to try this cooking option, I received plenty of advice from readers, including some who even own this same cooking unit from Butterball.
Reader David Barocio advised with some helpful last minute reminders: " I read your article and wanted to wish you the best of luck with frying your Thanksgiving turkey. You may not get this email in time, but I wanted to throw in some input regarding that unit to see if it helps avoid problems I encountered. Make sure to plug the unit directly into the wall outlet and avoid using an extension cord. For some reason, the use of an extension cord takes away from the power the unit can produce. The manufacturer's instructions also mention this. Take care to not cook too large a bird. Although the range of the recommended turkey's weight is given on the box, being an electrical fryer, it takes the unit forever to get the oil back up to the desired frying temp once the food has been dropped in."
I believe the turkey meat prepared by this method is also more flavorful and tasty when leftover the next day.
This week, we've been enjoying our leftover turkey in a number of ways. In addition to the turkey salad I whipped up for my parents to enjoy on croissants for their lunch, my two sisters-in-law both made turkey vegetable soup.
When it comes to trying new recipes and learning new cooking techniques, our true claim-to-fame culinary stars of the Midwest remain Antoinette and Francois Pope, the Chicago couple who opened a cooking school in the basement of their South Side home in 1940 and built it into a successful operation that eventually reached millions via their mailed newsletters, cookbooks, classes and televised cooking show.
I must admit I'd never heard of the Popes. But I knew of their kitchen reputation from my friends Joann Scamerhorn and Mary Beth Schultz, who both said their moms owned copies of the cooking couple's Pope School Cookbook, first published in 1948 and reprinted with revised editions several times after. Their cookbooks remained a top seller for Marshall Field's. And just down the street from the iconic State Street flagship department store, in 1942, the Popes opened a 3,000-square-foot school at 316 N. Michigan Ave. with an auditorium for 150 students, experimental kitchens and laboratories. The Chicago Tribune reported: "In addition to homemakers, the late Gov. Otto Kerner, along with doctors, lawyers, home economists, food editors, caterers and restaurant owners attended the school."
Among the library of cookbooks and references of our farm neighbor Betty Vendl, who died in July at age 93, there was an old blue spiral binder she had passed along to Joann Scamerhorn years earlier. Upon closer inspection, inside the binder, Betty had kept all of the mailed "Creative Cookery" recipes and menu newsletters, dating back to 1951 and neatly in order, that the Popes sent to their loyal TV viewers.
Antoinette, born in Seneca, Italy, married Francois, a native of France, in the early 1920s in Chicago. She learned to cook from Francois and his parents, who were owners of a Parisian cafe. Their TV show, which also featured the couple's two sons, Frank and Robert, aired from 11 a.m. to noon on WBKB Channel 4 in Chicago (the earlier version of today's WBBM CBS Channel 2) from 1951 to 1963.
Long before Julia Child entered the broadcast field, the Popes were already encouraging "fancy cooking" and "international recipes." Francois died in 1971, while Antoinette lived to be 97 when she died in 1993.
The following recipe, for Antoinette Pope's Creamed Turkey, ideally served over toast or with her recipe for a baking powder biscuit ring, was featured in the couple's April 7, 1952 newsletter.
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups warm chicken stock
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
3 cups diced cooked turkey
1/4 cup diced pimiento
DIRECTIONS: Melt butter and when hot, add flour and blend until a smooth paste. Add warm chicken stock and blend well to remove lumps. Add milk, salt, black pepper and paprika. Cook over medium flame until thick, stirring at all times. Cook 2 minutes longer after it thickens, adding turkey and pimiento and serving hot over toast or biscuits. Makes 6 servings.