Archive for November, 2009
Terrific Tasty Turkey
Thanksgiving is the Momma of all culinary holidays. It’s the only holiday in the U.S. that is focused on 1) Giving Thanks for what we have and 2) EATING. That’s why dishes are prepared days in advance, we agonize over the turkey, and salivate over the dessert table. This Thanksgiving, I organized and cooked for 31 family members so I wanted to focus this particular post on our side dishes because they can be reused for Christmas or other holiday feasts, but I changed my mind after our turkeys stole the show!
Since we had over 30, I ordered a 16lb fresh turkey and 2 fresh turkey breasts from the local butcher. I picked them up on Tuesday afternoon and kept them cold in a cooler with ice until Wednesday afternoon. It was within the last 2 years that I learned about brining a turkey and I cannot say enough about it. The best turkeys are brined. Not only are they juicer, but they are literally full of flavor.
I do want to note that frying a turkey appears to be the “cheap” and “easy” way of preparing a turkey. I really don’t think it’s either. The peanut oil is crazy expensive (we needed nearly 6 gallons) and the entire process is time consuming. Still, it’s an incredibly good turkey and on the day of, if you have two cautious and safe people willing to take care of the actual frying while you are in the kitchen, then it is worth it because your oven is free!
Based on past experience with my brother-in-law, we used Alton Brown’s method of brining and frying the 16lb turkey. It is easy to follow the directions, the ingredients are simple, and the result is a delicious turkey. Make sure you follow the cook’s note regarding measuring how much oil you need before you brine the turkey.
I have to add a little side note here. Everyone knows that when you are planning a big event, something always goes wrong at the last minute. I didn’t mention that our Thanksgiving was not being held at my house. Nor was it being held at my in-laws house. It was being held an hour a way from my in-laws and they live 3 hours away from me. I decided to stay at my in-laws house to prep for a few days and then my husband and I drove down to the site very early Thanksgiving morning.
Our turkey frier came from another location entirely and on Wednesday night, we discovered the part that actually lowers and raises the turkey, plus holds it in place while frying, was missing. Not to panic, the men took off to find a replacement before the stores closed. No replacement was found. Instead, they returned with many…we’ll call them “parts”… to which they fashioned the missing part. It included a vegetable/fish grill pan, nuts, bolts, washers, and two very long rods. The next thing I know, they are using shears to cut down the grill pan, affixing the rods to it with the many washers, nuts, and bolts and have several others ready to help hold the turkey in place. In retrospect, we wish we had filmed it as an instructional video for You Tube for any other poor souls who find their turkey holder missing.
Our temporary turkey holder worked like a charm and our fried turkey was fabulous.
But let’s get to the other star of the show. Bacon and Herb Roast Turkey Breast – it just sounds fabulous, doesn’t it? It has bacon! It was amazing. For this one, I splurged and used the Williams-Sonoma Apple & Spices Turkey Brine. It is no longer available, but may show up again next year.
Since I had two, bone in turkey breasts, the cooking time was off and I ended up tenting the roasting pan with foil as it finished since the skin was golden brown about an hour into the roasting time. It didn’t matter. These birds were succulent, full of flavor, and created a herb and bacon aroma that filled the halls. They were beautiful. The herb paste and bacon grease basting created a golden brown crust. Inside, the meat was white, tender, and juicy. I have never roasted such a good turkey before. We used some of the leftover herbs (sage and rosemary) to garnish the serving plate.
Thanksgiving is over and you might think that I am ready to give the kitchen a break, but all I can think about is all the amazing Christmas cookies and desserts I have planned for December so stay tuned for Serving Up the Holidays, Part 3 “Decadent Desserts”!
Creme Brulee French Toast. I’m not kidding! We first had it in a diner on Hilton Head Island two years ago. Since then, I have combed the internet looking for something close to that sweet, sinful morning joy. We had some friends staying for the weekend and I found another version of the recipe to try. It was delicious. It didn’t match the diner creation, but it will be remade in this house. I prepared it the night before and my husband threw it in the oven this morning, then browned some sausage patties to pair with it. All in all, a very satisfying and easy way to share breakfast with family or friends.
Make sure when you plate it, that you turn it each piece upside down so the sugary syrup sits atop. No need for any other syrup!
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
an 8- to 9-inch round loaf country-style bread
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a small heavy saucepan melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth and pour into a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking dish. Cut six 1-inch thick slices from center portion of bread, reserving ends for another use, and trim crusts. Arrange bread slices in one layer in baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit.
In a bowl whisk together eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, Grand Marnier, and salt until combined well and pour evenly over bread. Chill bread mixture, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 350° F. and bring bread to room temperature.
Bake bread mixture, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35 to 40 minutes.
Serve hot French toast immediately.
Thanks Epicurious! This was delicious!
Have you looked at your calendar lately? If you are like me, it’s filled up quickly with the demands of the season. Between family gatherings, holiday parties, children’s performances, and much more, there is hardly a moment to stop and think. That’s why I wanted to dedicate a set of articles focused on a few quick dishes that will delight guests at your party or travel easily to your friend’s house.
While the Thanksgiving turkey might be the star of the show, we don’t eat until early afternoon. That means we have a lot of hungry people milling around, trying to steal a taste of anything coming out of the kitchen. It’s important to set aside a table to keep the thieves at bay and whet their appetites. That’s why I’ve listed my favorite appetizers below. These dishes are quick and easy to make but you’ll hear guests with full mouths gushing over the taste.
Go To Appetizers
Cream Cheese and Pesto
With a tasty green pesto sauce poured over a block of cream cheese, this spread is super easy, colorful, and pleasantly addictive. Thanks to Cousin Cheri McKean for showing me this one.
- 1 8oz block of cream cheese (feel free to use low fat)
- 1 jar Pesto sauce (found in the italian aisle, check the top shelves)
- 1 box wheat crackers
Unwrap the cream cheese and set on a small serving dish. Pour just enough pesto to cover the cream cheese. Insert a cheese spreader into the cream cheese. Put the crackers in a basket or on a matching plate next to the cream cheese and serve.
This cool spread gives your table seafood flair without breaking the budget. Use the same crackers from above or try with toasts. My mom has been making this as long as I can remember.
- 3 oz chili sauce (1/4 of a 12 oz bottle)
- 1 can crab meat (lump crab is best, but any works) or two handfuls of fresh crab
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 8oz cream cheese (feel free to use low fat)
Mix all ingredients together. Spoon into a shallow dip dish and add a spreader. Serve crackers or toast in a separate dish.
Brie and Raspberry Puffs
Last Thanksgiving, a guest brought these and they disappeared so quick I only got one. Naturally, I had to recreate them again and again…and again! These work for as an appetizer or dessert – you can’t lose!
- 1 box frozen puff pastry sheets (2 sheets in a box) thawed
- 1 jar raspberry jam or jelly
- 1 small wheel of brie
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp water
I highly suggest reading up on how to handle puff pastry before starting this recipe. It’s finicky, but once you get the hang of it, it’s an incredible tool for elegant appetizers.
Preheat oven to 400. Cut brie into 18 pieces, try to make them long slices rather than pie shapes. Take one sheet, while still very cool, and separate into 9 even pieces using a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Repeat with sheet number two. Add one slice of brie to each piece of puff pastry. Add a teaspoonful of raspberry jam to top each brie slice. Fold the puff pastry over the brie and jam and press to seal completely. Repeat with all 18 pieces.
Set on ungreased cookie sheet, seal down (I like to put it on a silicon mat on the cookie sheet.) Mix egg and water together to make an egg wash. Brush the top of each pastry generously with egg wash. Bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes until golden brown. (My baking times have varied by oven, so keep an eye on it).
Elegant Cheese Platter
Who can go wrong with cheese? Enough said!
- Cheese Plate
- 1 Round Brie
- 1 block Sharp Cheddar
- 1 Block Gruyere
- 1 Pear
- 1 bunch grapes
- 1 bag walnuts (Candy them here)
Use a holiday or cheese platter. Set each block of cheese so that there are a few inches between each. Fill spaces with pear, grape bunches, and the candied walnuts. If you decide to cut up the pair, soak it in lemon juice to prevent browning. Insert cheese knives and serve alongside fresh bread, herbed crackers, or toasts.
If you have a favorite appetizer you are willing to share, please add it in the comments below!!
This afternoon, my husband called me with a longing in his voice. After several minutes, I discovered that he and some coworkers had been discussing various mac and cheese recipes and he was craving what he calls my “Uber Mac and Cheese”. Ironically, I had been thinking of making it this week anyway, so it was settled, Uber Mac for dinner tonight.
Uber Mac has evolved over the last couple of years from an attempt at recreating Hard Rock Cafe’s Twisted Mac. There are several elements to this particular mac and cheese dish that I think set it apart from hundreds of mac and cheese recipes while staying true to a comfort food classic. They include using corkscrews instead of elbow pasta, adding spices with a kick, and a crunchy panko bread crumb topping. Tonight’s version only included sharp cheddar, but I love adding fontina when the budget allows. Hard Rock includes sautéed red pepper bites which I like to include, but it means another dirty pan and another 5-8 minutes of cooking time, so I tend to leave it out on weeknights. It does add fabulous color and flavor for a weekend dish.
While I am still refining my recipe, I’m willing to share the version I made tonight and I hope you can take it and make it your own.
Serves 6, makes great leftovers!
- 1 box Muellers corkscrew pasta
- 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup milk (I use fat free just fine, but have used whole with similar results)
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp butter or margarine
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp hot sauce (I used Tabasco, but use your favorite)
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
Grease a casserole dish with cooking spray or butter.
Preheat oven to 350.
Bring a 2 quart saucepan to a boil, 3/4 filled with salted water. Add pasta and cook for 8 minutes. While pasta is cooking, melt butter together with flour in a separate small saucepan over med-low heat until you have a good paste. (I don’t make a roux, but it does thicken the sauce a bit.) Let cook another minute to ensure flour taste has been cooked off. Add 1 cup of milk. Continue to stir constantly. Add spices, including some salt and pepper. Begin adding small handfuls of cheese, making sure to stir each into the sauce until melted. When all the cheese has been added, you should have a fairly smooth sauce, orange in color and it shouldn’t stick to the pan. Remove from heat.
Remove pasta once it has cooked its 8 minutes and drain.
In a small skillet, heat olive oil to medium heat. Add Panko bread crumbs and stir occasionally until they are a golden brown. Keep an eye on them, it will happen suddenly.
Put the drained pasta in the greased casserole dish. Add the cheese sauce and slowly mix until its incorporated into the pasta. This keeps you from dirtying another bowl. Top with the toasted bread crumbs. Slide into the oven, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Serve immediately or it can sit and wait remaining fairly hot for up to half an hour. I served with a salad, but have paired well with various chicken, pork and beef as the main course.
UPDATE: 1/9/2010 – Four Cheese Uber Mac
Last night, we had some friends over for comfort food. With leftover cheeses from the holidays, I decided to do another variation on Uber Mac. It was so rich and creamy! Here’s the variation on the sauce – make the same pasta with toasted panko bread crumbs:
Start with 4 tbsp butter and melt it well over med heat. Whisk in 6 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp at a time to make the roux. Make the roux over med heat. Add in 1.5 cups of milk (I used skim). Season with 1 tsp dry mustard, 1 tsp paprika, 1.5 tsps crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Whisk it all together over the med heat, but then turn down to low/med low. Make sure the sauce is a med thick sauce, not pulling away from the sides. If that happens, add a little more milk.
Slowly add 3/4 cup shredded havarti, allowing to melt completely before adding 3/4 cup shredded fontina. Allow that to melt completely, stirring constantly and then add 3/4 cup shredded gouda. When the gouda melts in, add 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar. When all cheese is incorporated and you are satisfied with the seasoning and taste, take it off the heat and mix it well with the cooked pasta. Put it in the greased baking dish and top with the toasted panko bread crumbs. Bake in oven set at 350 for 25 mins. Delicious!!