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Turkey Extravaganza

December 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Thanksgiving has always been my absolute favorite holiday. This holiday kicks off the start of the entire holiday season and when done right, the sets the stage and the standard for the next wonderful couple of months.

This Thanksgiving, my family hosted by preparing the star of the show, the turkey, in addition to some essential sides such as mashed potatoes and cranberry relish.

Last year, I had the notion to prepare a free-range organic turkey brined in brown sugar, spices, and the like. No one was a fan but me. The turkey was lean, tender and believe it or not, it actually tasted like turkey! Alas, everyone demanded the staple Butterball turkey this year. I was very disappointed but we did what our family asked: brought back the Butterball.

This turkey day, it was my husband’s sole responsibility to cook the turkey. After days of thawing the frozen bird, my husband seasoned the outside layer of skin with butter, thyme, rosemary, and sage. He also rubbed this concoction under the skin by the breast just to be extra thorough. Then he baked the 22-pound sucker for four and a half hours, letting it rest for about an hour before serving it up with my killer cranberry relish and somewhat dry buttermilk mashed potatoes (very disappointing). Family added to the feast pot-luck style with hearty harvest bread stuffing with pecans and cranberries, to-die-for sweet and tasty bread pudding, candied yams topped with marshmallow, Cheasapeake Bay spiral glazed ham, homemade Philly style cheesecake, and topped it all off with the piece de resistance, a chunky, creamy gravy made by my sister-in-law with the yummy, fatty drippings from our Butterball turkey. YUMMMMM!

So let’s go back to my side dishes. The killer cranberry relish. This was made with fresh cranberries, sugar, water but I added fresh fruit (apple, pear, orange) and a variety of dried fruits as well. It turned out to be sweet, somewhat tart, but not too tart, and full of rich fruity texture. The natural red color looked fabulous in a white serving bowl intermingled with the rest of the spread.

The disappointing mashed potatoes… Well, my only excuse is that they were mashed up too soon. I prepared this dish probably an hour prior to dinner and left them on the range at low heat. I think the moisture just evaporated from the dish and left it dry and wanting. Lesson learned: make the mash just before serving. I made this same dish last year and it was very moist and full of flavor. I used Yukon gold potatoes, boiling them til they fell apart when separated with a knife. Then I mashed with a masher; following up with a ricer to finely mash it to the consistency I liked. I kept the mash on the range at low-med, adding room temp buttermilk and cooled melted butter. As we had lots of it for leftovers, I have been constantly reminded about the poor quality of my mashed potatoes for days afterwards. Ek!

And yet the festivities did not end on Turkey Day because I continued to cook up a storm by roasting prime rib the following day. I got a particularly juicy cut on sale at Safeway for half the usual price. Quite a bargain for a 9 pound rib roast! When it came time to cook, my husband took over with the preparation by seasoning this with olive oil, sage, rosemary and thyme, all finely mixed in the food processor. I came in at this point to make sure it cooked ok. The rib roast was baked for a little under 2 hours at 500 degrees and then I let it rest in the cooling oven for an hour before the whole family dug in for dinner. Although prepared in such a high-temp, quick roasting style (mostly due to lack of time), the rib roast actually came out pretty good. I think most folks tend to slow cook a rib roast so it’s evenly cooked and tender. This fast and lazy approach is not part of my M.O. however my husband and I received rave reviews that this was the best rib roast we’ve made so far. The ends were well done, for those who preferred it that way. The middle was medium rare and just perfect for those who preferred it like that. It was a win-win situation.

And on the final day of our eating marathon, we had plans to eat with friends who spent half a day (12 hours) preparing a turducken (chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey) dinner. It was quite an ordeal! The turducken was prepared with (the discoverer of turducken) Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun recipe. (Quick Side Note: Chef P founded the K Paul Restaurant in New Orleans which I have personally been to and I have to admit, it was definitely quite delicious and worth the wait. I say worth the wait because I swear every time I passed by that restaurant, there was a line outside the door.) At any rate, the turducken was quite yummy although I think I prefer all three fowl prepared and served separately. In my opinion, the best part of a duck and chicken is the crispy, flavorful skin and you just kind of lose all that with the two birds stuffed inside the turkey the way they are. The skin and meat all melded into one moist, spicy Cajun style dish. But I felt the loss of crispiness and the unique duck-like or chicken-like flavor was a huge one. Not that I’m disappointed in the dish at all. Far from it. It was still pretty good don’t get me wrong but I’m not as big a fan as I thought I’d be… Who’d have figure?! At any rate, the sides were outstanding! The mac and cheese was creamy, cheesy and easy to pile on. The side salad with roasted cashews, sliced pears and fresh spinach was nice and light, a perfect accompaniment for the turducken. The natural and fresh minced cranberry relish topped with sweet mandarin oranges was gorgeous and tasted like it looked. And the rest was just a blur at this point because I was stuffed to the gills after days of eating all of my favorite holiday foods done up in all the creative ways folks can think of.

Can you tell that I just love this holiday?! And I really can’t wait until the next eating frenzy, come Christmas! Bring it on!

Jimmy John’s Deli in Minneapolis, MN

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment

So today I arrived in downtown Minneapolis, MN for a work-related meeting. Hungry, I explore the neighborhood around the Hilton Minneapolis Hotel. It’s about lunch time and I spy a Melting Pot Restaurant, a Hell’s Kitchen, and Jimmy John’s a deli. I’m craving a sandwich, I think.

So after sitting down and wolfing down half my sandwich, I think: OMG, the seven grain bread that this deli uses for their sandwiches is like nothing I’ve had before at a deli. About 1 inch thick and full of healthy goodness, it definitely makes my turkey sandwich (turkey, sprouts, tomato, cheese, mayo, and peppers) POP! Already quite satisfied with just the half sandwich, I’m saving the other half to snack on later. The bread looks like it will not get as soggy from the mayo after hours of sitting. We shall see.

I can’t wait to see what else is around. I’ve heard Brit’s Pub is a little piece of London. There are also a number of steakhouses down the street so I’ll need to check out the menu for anything that stands out as a gotta-have meal.

Fall Weather Soup Recipes

October 20, 2009 Leave a comment

As summer comes to an abrupt end, the weather has shifted for the worse. With the cold and dreary weather, I’ve been inspired to make lots of quick and hearty soups. Most recently, smoked turkey drumstick and kale soup, an easy go-to recipe for a quick weekday meal. The majority of the 30-minute cook time is reserved for stewing the drumstick to get the juices into the broth. The kale cooks rather quickly once the broth is flavorful enough. Salt and pepper is added to taste. Chili flakes are optional.

Another easy soup recipe is chicken and rice soup. Boil some chicken (I like the dark meat of chicken thigh and drumstick but when I’m feeling particularly healthy, I use chicken breast) and lightly salt to flavor the broth. For more flavor, you may want to boil the chicken in chicken broth or add chicken bouillon/flavoring to the water. After the chicken is cooked, remove and tear the meat into chunks. Add a small amount of uncooked jasmine or other white rice (about half a cup to 3/4 cups). Add chicken chunks and simmer the rice soup for 15-20 minutes. The rice should be tender and soft. Add salt and fish sauce to taste. You may add finely chopped green onion and cilantro to top off the dish. The total cook time is usually 20-25 minutes for me.

My final go-to recipe is beef noodle soup or pho. For a large pot (about 8 servings), I buy the beef bones at the grocery store for under $5. The bones go into a big pot of water and sit on medium high heat for about an hour. Season with salt. Also, if you want to get a more complex tasting pho, you may add a couple cinnamon sticks, some star anise, a peeled stub of ginger root, some garlic cloves and a whole onion. For more flavor, you may add beef bouillon or pho flavor (which you can get in jars at most Asian stores). When done, pour some broth over cooked rice noodles. Add the optional beef meatballs, thinly sliced beef (that can cook in the hot broth), shrimp, cilantro and thinly sliced white/yellow onions.

Enjoy the fall weather!

Categories: Food, Recipes Tags: , ,

Upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday!

November 17, 2008 Leave a comment

Yippee! My favorite holiday is fast approaching and this year, we’re hosting turkey day dinner.

Ever since we decided to have dinner at our house, I’ve been researching the best recipes for turkey because it needs to be just perfect! I decided to use the Cooks Illustrated roasted brined turkey recipe in addition to another recipe that calls for some extra brining ingredients. I went with Cooks Illustrated because their chefs tested all the different methods of preparing and roasting a turkey to seek out the most juicy, tender and delicious turkey so I’m pretty confidant that they got it right and are giving me the best method to roast my bird perfectly.

In preparation for the big day, I ordered my free range 18-20 pound turkey which I’ll pick up from Whole Foods on Tuesday. Then, I’ll brine my bird overnight and let it dry before roasting it in the oven on turkey day. I hope it comes out as wonderful as the recipe promises!

Other dishes on our turkey day menu are mashed baby yukon potatoes (made with the usual ingredients and riced instead of mashed), gravy (from my father-in-law’s recipe and usually made by my sister-in-law), sausage, artichoke and parmesan stuffing, and homemade cranberry sauce. Family members will bring other dishes and wines to supplement. I can’t wait!

Boilermaker tailgate chili and buttery cornbread from allrecipes.com

November 17, 2008 Leave a comment

On Sunday, I had a craving for some yummy chili with cornbread. So I thought I’d cook some up for the Redskins and Cowboys game Sunday night.

That afternoon, I went on a scavenger hunt at a number of local grocery stores to find all the ingredients for the boilermaker tailgate chili (rated top chili on allrecipes.com, if you do a sort by rating). Ingredients included a little bit of everything: ground beef chuck, Italian sausage, chili beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, yellow onion, celery, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, green chile peppers, bacon bits, beef bouillon, beer, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, dried oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, dried basil, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, white sugar, corn chips such as FritosĀ®, and shredded Cheddar cheese.

After two hours at Costco, Giant, and Trader Joes, I came back home and began to work on my chili. This dish took 2 hours to cook and it was worth all the effort I put into it. The chili was quite delicious, with a little kick to the dish, although it was not as spicy hot as I’d prefer (I didn’t want to risk the heartburn with the baby and all:) To top off the dish, I added corn chips and cheese.

Additionally, while the chili was simmering, I made the cornbread using the buttery cornbread recipe (also found on allrecipes.com, rated third best). The cornbread was buttery and not as grainy as most cornbreads tend to be. I liked the cornbread because it tastes alot better than the jiffy mix but I think I’d like to try another recipe with buttermilk/cream for comparison; this recipe only called for milk and butter.

All in all, it was a wonderful dinner to accompany a rather disappointing game. Skins lost to the Cowboys!

Favorite recipe websites

October 26, 2008 Leave a comment

Thanksgiving is coming up and this year, my husband and I (although I think it will mostly be me) are making dinner! To prevent me from going into full panic mode, I am looking up recipes for the turkey, side dishes and dessert that have been tested, tried and rated high among fellow foodies.

Some great recipes websites I have found so far are:

1. allrecipes.com: the recipes have so many reviewers

2. chowhound.com: I just signed up as a member and enjoy the recipes, restaurant reviews, blogs and forums

3. gourmet.com

4. williamssonoma.com

5. americastestkitchen.com and cooksillustrated.com (although a couple of recipes are available, most need to be accessed through an online subscription)

If you know of any other websites, please comment and add them to my growing list of recipe resources.

Categories: Food, Recipes Tags: , , ,

Hot margarita

October 24, 2008 Leave a comment

A month ago, I got this quick and simple recipe from a friend of mine in Portland, ME and I’d thought I’d share it. Thanks Anna T!

1. Add whole hot chili peppers to a bottle of tequila.

2. Let sit for about 1-2 weeks to get the tequila nice and spicy.

3. Make margarita with tequila using your own recipe.

4. Optional: drink with chips and guacamole.

Yes, you might have guessed it: Although I am enjoying a pleasant evening at home sipping hot tea, I’m also missing the occasional evening cocktail or glass of wine. Three more months until I can drink again. Can’t wait!