Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Leftover holiday turkey
Just when you think you're done with all that turkey business, along comes the question of what to do with the leftovers.   There are pot pies, stews, casseroles, and sandwiches....croquettes, salads and so on. 

The most common use of leftover turkey, most notably the odd wing, orphan leg and that old Pope's Nose? Soup.  Lovely, warming, wholesome soup. King of comfort food, a dish for any season, there's nothing like a steaming bowl of the stuff to make you feel cozy when ya need it most!

Everybody has their own version of the stuff; some like it creamed, some like it hot and spicy....there are as many variations as there are people in the world; here's just another version to add to the pile.

Broth and veggies
Make sure your stock pot is deep enough for the job, because the very first thing you need to do is boil the carcass. Soup making is not pretty work.  Done right, some parts of the process can be downright yucky!
But done right, you end up with a wonderful soup rather than a flavorless liquid with junk floating around in it.

I usually take the meat off the bone before putting the turkey away after its first serving.  Years ago folks left the cooked meat on the bone, put a damp towel over it and put it in the fridge, but in these days of CSI and forensic science, we've come to know it's not such a good idea. 

Anyway, once done with the dismantling I'm usually dog tired so I wrap the bones in plastic and put all the meat in containers and put everything in the refrigerator until the next morning. 

That's exactly what I did this time, too.  After our Thanksgiving feast, Jack cleared the table while I dissected the remains, then stored it all in the fridge for the next day. I mean, heck!  After three plus days of prepping and cooking, a good night's sleep was in order!  Besides, the L-tryptophan was kicking my butt!

This morning I woke feeling pretty good for someone who'd been on a cooking jag for the previous several days.  While the coffee brewed I began by pulling the bones out of the fridge and putting them in the big stock pot, filled the pot with water and put it on a back burner for a long simmer.
Broth set aside to cool

While that was going on, I chopped veggies and put them aside in covered bowls in the fridge. Then I enjoyed a couple cups of coffee and a piece of Sweet Potato Pie for of my favorite breakfasts!

As the carcass simmered, it filled the house with that great turkey aroma!  Two hours later those bones were cooked and the base broth was done.  I removed the big pieces by hand, reserved the still-useful pieces of meat and threw the bones away.   Then I strained the broth and poured it into a tall storage container and set it aside to cool.

I pulled out the veggies, including the ends which were reserved too, and began the rest of the process. 

I've seen lots of people make soup. Most of the time they just toss everything together with some broth and let it rip.  That's perfectly fine....but I like to go the extra distance for the extra flavor. To me cooking is more than just heating things to a palatable's about textures and flavors and dimensions and finding the best ways to bring it all together.  
Veggie ends browning

First things' first.....seasoning the soup pot.

Wing bits browning
I took the veggie ends and scraps and put them in the pan along with some grape seed oil and let them brown on all sides.  The brown bits that develop in the pan are good sources of flavor. Then I added the wing bits and browned them.
Straining the pan seasoning brew

I added a bit of water and let this simmer for about 20 minutes, then removed the big pieces and poured the liquid through a strainer.  This liquid is dark and concentrated and contains a great deal of the flavor that forms the backbone of this soup.
I shudder to think of all the yumminess that would have been lost by skipping this step! 
"Hard" veggies added

While this cooled, I added the "hard" chopped veggies (carrots, turnips and potatoes) to the still warm stock pot along with some grape seed oil.
I use grape seed oil sometimes because it doesn't add much flavor and is lighter than other oils. 

Skimming fat from broth

 Anyway, as the vegetables browned, I skimmed the base broth made from the carcass.  Because it had cooled, all the fat had risen to the surface and was easy to remove.  What remained behind was lovely and slightly gelatinous.  Perfect.
Skimmed broth

Then I added this broth and the darker reduction made earlier to the still browning vegetables and let it come up to temperature. I added some previously browned and chopped onion, celery and garlic at this point, too. Anything for a bit of taste!

Jack came down the hallway to see what was going on.  "Smells good in here!" he said, licking his lips.  I smiled, turned down the heat and covered the pot so it could simmer for about 35 minutes.

After 35 minutes
When this cooking time was done, I opened the stock pot and smiled.  It looked and smelled great!  The coloring was a rich, golden brown....vegetables done but not mushy.  It was time for the next installment; a hand full of broken up angel hair noodles, soft veggies (mushrooms, cooked peas),  the left over turkey....and, since it was available, stuffing that I rolled into tiny little balls.   

Pan covered loosely to simmer
After tasting and seasoning, a little salt and pepper, a little poultry seasoning and a dash more garlic, I covered the pan loosely and let it simmer for another fifteen minutes.
Mmmmmmm, good!
The object here wasn't so much to cook anything further as to allow the flavors to mingle.  Fifteen minutes is about the maximum simmering time you want to give the soup at this point.  Any longer and the turkey begins to dry out!  Then, after a final tasting and seasoning, you're done!

It's soup!
 Well, that's my version of Turkey Soup...a little complex, but worth the extra effort.
As always, please fee free to share your ideas, memories and recipes.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

HOLIDAY RECIPE - Stuffing, Cooking and Serving

After two days defrosting, a great bath and rub down with herb butter and a 12 hour soak in orange juice and bourbon, the turkey was finally ready to be stuffed and cooked.

But before writing about that, I thought it a good idea to talk about the stuffing itself.  As mentioned previously, I used a combination of breads made for a family dinner.  These included Cornbread, Wheat/Oat and Walnut breads.  After breaking the breads into pieces and adding dried spices and herbs (listed in previous blog entry), I let it cure in the pantry for a day so the bread could get a little stale.  That's critical to good stuffing.

The night before the bird was to be stuffed, I chopped onions, celery and apples, browned them and added them to the bread.  Next I browned some bulk sausage....guess where that went?  After that, I took some of the basting juice made by simmering giblets, added some butter and poured it into the bread mixture.  After mixing it around so that everything got a little of it, I recovered the stuffing and put it into the fridge for the final leg of its curing.

Good morning, Turkey

Preparing roasting pan
While all that rested I prepared the turkey pan - actually little more than a glorified lasagna pan- by first misting it inside with some release spray. Let's be honest, no matter how many layers of wrap you use to line it, that foil's gonna leak somewhere and pan drippings are bound to accumulate underneath.   This step makes clean-up a lot easier.  Nothing sticks!
Anyway, after that I lined the pan with aluminum foil -shiny side up-and coated it with release spray too.  Then it was time for the brown paper.

Paper rubbed with herb butter
"HOLD THE PHONE," I hear some saying,  "Brown Paper?"
Yes. Brown paper is another very important element in this process.  It is the defining difference between this recipe and any other version of making roast turkey.  It is also how my mother and her mother before her did it.  Roasting bags, aluminum foil, parchment....they all have their place, but to get a turkey that browns as it cooks but stays moist, there's nothing like a sheet of brown paper, greased on one side only with some of the herb butter, to make magic.

Once all that was ready, I came back to the turkey. I moved it near the sink, put on some plastic gloves and carefully opened the bag. A wonderful smell came forth. Citrus, spices, whiskey....a true bouquet! 
Turkey coming out
After reserving the marination liquid, I removed the plastic bag and discarded it then positioned the turkey so that smaller cavity could be filled.

First I rubbed it with some of the herb butter, then filled the space loosely with stuffing.  Rather than sewing the turkey closed, I opted to simply fold the extra skin under.  Because the stuffing was loose, it would be able to swell without causing undue pressure, so I didn't think the bird would spring much of a leak.

Before turning said turkey to its other side, I rubbed some herb butter on the underside and sprinkled it with some extra garlic, poultry seasoning and garlic.  Then I flipped the to speak.

Stuffing the large cavity
I repeated the herb butter rub, making sure to lift the skin over the breast and giving it a rub, too.  I filled these pockets loosely
with stuffing, rubbed the cavity with herb butter and filled it too.
I'm never sure just how much to make, but as it turned out there was just enough stuffing for the job.

Ready for roasting!
Rather than sew the front closed, I put half an orange in the opening, then crossed the legs over it and trussed them together with some thick thread.  Then I transferred the turkey to its roasting rack in the specially prepared roasting pan, rubbed more herb butter on the breast, legs and wings (the parts that weren't tucked under). After a final spice sprinkling, I enveloped the turkey in its paper and put it in the 320 degree oven for about four and a half to five hours.

The beauty of this method is that you don't have to baste a lot.  But I'd recommend about two to four bastings through the cooking time, and if your oven is slow like mine you might consider raising the oven temp by five to ten degrees.  Also if your oven doesn't heat evenly make sure you turn the turkey a couple times during the roasting.

NOTE: Remember that when you open the oven door, you loose heat.  So keep the openings to a minimum, keep 'em quick and make allowances in your cooking time for any time the door is opened for more than 3 minutes.   Believe it or not, you can loose up to 100 degrees for each minute that door is open!

As time passed, the house filled with an incredible aroma!  Sweet.....savory.....turkey!

Wylie T. Katz, turkey fanatic
The cat kept coming into the kitchen every few moments, sniffing the air around the oven and licking his chops. Although we don't as a rule give Wylie table scraps, turkey is one of those things that he just absolutely loves....well, let's be honest - he's a turkey fanatic!  So when it comes to the holiday meal we always give Mr. W a little treat.
He wouldn't have it any other way. 

While the turkey cooked, I tended to lasts minute things. Jack wanted mashed potatoes, so that needed being done.  But truth be told, they weren't  to be "mashed," per se.
They were to be whipped with my trusty, ancient hand mixer-featured in an earlier blog entry.
But first, those spuds had to be cooked.

Whipped potatoes
The potatoes went into the microwave after a thorough scrubbing, de-eyeing and slitting.  Since there were 15 medium and small taters, I figured it would take about 15 minutes on HIGH to get the job done.   I know there are folks who insist the only way to make mashed potatoes is to boil them after peeling.
That's a fine way to do it, too.  I just like getting all the flavor and it's more accessible by baking, steaming or 'waving.  Too many times veggies are "overboiled" and their tastiness gets lost to the boiling water. So if you do opt for this method, be careful.

That underway, I ran down my check list. Beverages were chilling. Check. Cranberries chilling. Check.
The yams had been done the day before, so that just needed reheating. Check. The cole slaw was done and only needed to be set on the table. Check.

The table.....THE TABLE!!!!!

Jack set the table
It was time for that to get done. Jack pulled the table out from behind some microphone stands and opened it out in the middle of our dining room/recording studio.  I handed him one of his mother's wonderful table cloths and smiled as he pointed to the little china cabinet with our special dishes and offered to set the them 'round.  What a sweet guy!  Check!

I just sat down with a glass of sparkling cider when the oven timer chimed. Turkey time at last!

Both Jack and Wylie stood in the kitchen doorway as I opened the oven and liberated our main course from its dark, hot chamber.  There was only one word to describe the aroma as I peeled the brown paper away from the golden brown bird....."succulent," or as Jack put it, "Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm."

Squeezing orange juice over turkey
While the turkey rested, I put the yams and some of our home made dinner bread into the still hot oven for a bit of warming.  I also put the bowl of potatoes in with a pat of butter on top of them, just to make sure they were warm too.
Then I drizzled orange juice over the resting bird, just for fun and double checked the meat thermometer.

It had been a perfect 180 degrees when first put up, and after sitting for fifteen minutes it was still within range.  Time to  carve and present.  But first I grabbed a bowl and filled it with the stuffing. "Mmmmmmm" I heard from beneath me. Apparently the cat approved, too.
Carving the bird

Carving was easy.  First the legs and wings then the breasts. I didn't cut the whole thing down right then, we were all way too hungry for that!

So I covered the rest with a damp towel then a sturdy pan lid.  The former to keep it moist, the latter to keep it away from Wylie.  After that, everything was brought to the table and we sat down to eat with a prayer of hope for those who were not so fortunate as us, and a prayer of thanksgiving for all the blessings we've been given.

To say the least, the meal was fantastic-this according to both Jack and Wylie, and in truth I had to give it a thumbs up too.

Labor intensive?  Completely!  Time consuming?  Absolutely! 
Worth it?  You betcha!   But hey! If you've ever eaten a dry turkey you know how miserable it can be!
This turkey always comes out moist and flavorful....that's true of both the dark and white meat.  This is a guaranteed moist turkey!
Please feel free to share your Turkey recipes here, and don't be afraid to try this recipe for yourself. Let me know any discoveries and modifications you make.  I'm always anxious to learn more.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

HOLIDAY RECIPE - Turkey with Stuffing Dinner TURKEY PREP

To begin at the beginning is to truly begin, so here it is.
Little City Meats
We begin with the of the show, piste de resistance, center piece of this culinary celebration....the turkey.  Arguably, fresh is always best but is not always possible.  We have a great little meat store down the street, Little City's my dream to one day order a fresh holiday turkey from that place!  
Hey. Dreams do come true!

But until then I went as usual to the local Safeway to take advantage of their special Five Dollar Turkey sale.  Unfortunately they didn't have any of them left, but had a few in the next higher price range. So I got a 19.85 lb Tom Turkey for $9.00!  Frozen, yes...but affordable.  Yay!  While there I trolled the aisles for any other deals and came home with most of the meal shopping done with ten days to spare!  The remaining ingredients were picked up the following day at our local green grocer and  Foods Co. market. No muss, no fuss.

Meanwhile, back at the flat.....
While the turkey hibernated in our freezer for seven days, other preparations were underway.
I made bread....lots of bread....different varieties of bread....for Jack's family's Thanksgiving dinner and our own pending feast, and planned to use some as the bread for our stuffing.  As the time drew nigh, I collected the designated stuffing breads and broke them into pieces and stored the breads in a deep container. This mixture included cornbread, walnut bread and wheat/oat bread.

Stuffing packed to cure
One secret to good stuffing is hard or stale bread, so I left mixture in the container, but loosely covered so it could "stale up."  I didn't want the breads to get "bored," just laying around languishing so I added some of dry spices so they could start developing flavor.   
     These spices included a bit of poultry seasoning of course, a dash of extra sage, dried celery leaves, dried onion flakes, dried garlic flakes, thyme, a dash of pepper and salt (optional). Naturally, seasoning is a very personal thing...each to their own! Please use spices that suit your tastes.
     Once this was done, I set it in the pantry to dry-cure.

I made apple pie and apple sauce for Jack's family's feast and still had time on my hands, so used it to catch up on the blog.  I also took this opportunity to make the herb/butter rub that would be used in the marination of the turkey.  I put some butter in a container, added fine-chopped garlic, onion, poulty seasoning, sage and thyme and mixed it all together then put it in the fridge for a little blending time.

Then, at long last, it was time to begin the turkey process!

First thing was to defrost the thing.  I'm old school on this...a standard take it out of the freezer, put it on a cookie sheet on the bottom shelf of the fridge and let it do its thing for two days, kind of girl.
So that's what I did.

Sink prepared
While that happened I took the time to really clean the kitchen, stem to stern. All this began with a thorough wiping and sweeping. That took the better part of day one.
Day two found me concentrating on the sink, stove and other work surfaces.  Preparing the sink, particularly, took a lot of TLC.  After scrubbing it with cleanser and rinsing with hot water, I went in for the kill with a coarse salt and vinegar wash followed by another hot water rinse.  No self-respecting germ or bit of dirt dared show its face after such an onslaught of purification!

Turkey taking a bath
Then it was time for the turkey to come out of its wraps, face the world and have its Grand Bath. I always inspect the critter, inside and out, looking for things like freezer burn or discoloration.  I also use my nose....sniffing for any signs of purification.
Satisfied that all was fine, I continued by pulling out the package of giblets and neck that had been nestled within the turkey's large cavity, then  put the main body in the sink and turned on the cold water.   NOTE: cold not hot water, this is very important!    
Turkey covered and soaking

There were a few bits of ice inside the cavity, so I decided to let Mr. Gobbler soak in the sink for about 30 minutes.  Since we have a cat who is a turkey fiend, I covered our soaking friend with a couple of cookie sheets while I started the giblet basting broth and gravy base.

The giblets (heart, kidneys and liver) and neck (that long thing) are very useful!  There's a lot of flavor in those goodies and I was determined to unlock that yumminess, so put them in a pan of water on the stove for a good, long simmer.  Soon the house was filling with that familiar, rich, wonderful aroma!

Piercing pathways for flavor
Then it was time to check the turkey's condition, which by then was completely thawed.  I removed the bird to one of the towels, emptied the sink and then rinsed the bird inside and out before patting it dry. Then I pierced the turkey all over, inside and out, to develop "pathways" for flavor.

Now comes one of the most important parts of the process, getting the turkey ready for marination.
I took the butter out of the fridge and opened the lid.  Mmmmmmm!
Starting from the inside, I rubbed that bird from stem to stern with the herb butter, making sure to lift the skin along the two breast sides and rub some in there too.  Pretty much anywhere that could have butter rubbed onto it or into it, got it.   Then I sprinkled additional herbs throughout and on top of the turkey.  Same rule of thumb; if it could be spiced, it was.

Then it was time for a very important decision; what liquid or liquids should I use for the marination?

Any body can soak a turkey in wine; I do it all the time.  But gee whiz!  I wanted to do something different!  I saw the remaining oranges from Jack's sister sitting in a basket and began feeling twinges of inspiration.
There was some bourbon in the cupboard. Bourbon does something wonderful to to food, it goes well with oranges and I felt like doing something wild.  Before thinking twice, I added a healthy cup or thereabouts to the marinating bag.

Marinating in the bag
Once that was done I closed the bag and tied it tight, set it breast side down in a large bowl then started it on the first of many hours of marination in the refrigerator.  Four hours later I turned it breast up for another four hour fridge soak.  I did this rotating several times during the 12 hour marination.

NEXT INSTALLMENT: Stuffing and cooking the bird.

As always, feel free to share your recipes here....simply write them as comments, include your name and email....I'll be most happy to give credit where credit is due!  And above all else, Enjoy!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

HOLIDAY RECIPE - Turkey with Stuffing Dinner PROLOGUE

Holiday turkey dinner has always been very important to me....from earliest memories when I wondered what made the windows steam through my first chance to help in the kitchen all the way to present day, this meal above all others holds great significance. I'm not alone in this, either.

Entire magazines, television programs and even newspaper sections are year after year dedicated to the cause of sharing the latest craze, gizmo and secret so it must be important to somebody!

The goal is to make a turkey that is moist, tasty, savory and at the same time pleasing to a wide range of palates. Luckily for us, this particular breed of poultry lends itself to any number of expressions be it Cajun, Deep Fried, Curried, Roasted, Grilled or name just a few.

Guinea Hen
Originally known as a Guinea Hen, the birds of our forefathers were most likely not so plump and juicy as our present day, domesticated Tom or Thomasina. But they, nonetheless, served as a good and available food source.

Present day turkey
Back in 1621, when the original Thanksgiving celebration occurred, the tables were laden with these critters to be sure, but also there was seafood, corn, nuts, berries, squash and foodstuffs that never make it to our modern celebration. Although I'd not be surprised if there were a few traditionalists that included such things as venison as part of the festivities.

As far as stuffing goes, in the middle ages it was known as "farce," from the Latin "farcire" (and French "farcir") meaning to stuff. The term "stuffing" first appears in English print in 1538. Around 1880, it seems the term fell out of favor with the Victorian upper crust, who began referring to it as "dressing."

Happily we've come to terms with who we are and what we do with our food and are more tolerant with what things are called.  And I'll argue that stuffing by any other name would still taste good, so long as it is made right!

Everybody has their own "Classic" or "Traditional" recipe.  Far be it from me to say that mine is better than any body's, because that's certainly not the case!  This method and recipe is being shared not in an attempt to change any one's ways, but to simply have it out there on the off-chance that someone might want to try it.

I also publish this in homage to my mother and the things she taught me in the kitchen, to her mother who taught mine about the secret to making turkey brown and moist, to my sister culinary cohort, to Jan and Vincent and my other cooking companions and collaborators through the years, to my home economics teacher who taught me to be courageous in the kitchen, to PBS, the Food Network and other food channels who through the years have added to my culinary education and to all cooking blogs and websites.

Warning to all - this is a multi-day, multi-stage process....not for the fainthearted or any one rushed for time.
But if you're willing to invest the time and put forth the effort, you'll be pleased with the results.

Due to the lengthy nature of this preparation, I'm breaking it up into a few blog entries....much like how it happens in real-time, spread over a few days.     

This entry covers a few thoughts and a few basics.  The thoughts we've already handled, the basics?  Here they are in Q and A format.

How much turkey should I buy?
That depends on how many people you're planning to serve and how much leftovers you want.  The rule of thumb is 1 lb of turkey per adult, anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 lb per adolescent or child....after that it's all leftovers.   Again, that's a general rule of thumb.  This doesn't include your dear Cousin Ralph who can eat a 25 lb bird all by if you are inviting Ralphie, make sure to buy two turkeys so that others have a chance at something to eat!

What are the proper turkey cooking times? 

Turkey Oven Roasted at 325°F
Type     Weight     Approximate Cooking Time
                               Unstuffed              Stuffed
Turkey (whole)     8 - 12 lbs.     2 3/4 - 3 hours     3 - 3 1/2 hours
Turkey (whole)     12 - 14 lbs.     3 - 3 3/4 hours     3 1/2 - 4 hours
Turkey (whole)     14 - 18 lbs.     3 3/4 - 4 1/4 hours     4 - 4 1/4 hours
Turkey (whole)    18 - 20 lbs.     4 1/4 - 4 1/2 hours     4 1/4 - 4 3/4 hours
Turkey (whole)     20 - 24 lbs.     4 1/2 - 5 hours     4 3/4 - 5 1/2 hours
Breast (half)     2 - 3 lbs.     50 - 60 minutes   
Breast (whole)     4 - 6 lbs.     1 1/2 - 1 1/4 hours
Breast (whole)     6 - 8 lbs.     2 1/4 - 3 1/4 hours
Drumsticks     3/4 - 1 lb.     2 - 2 1/4 hours
Thighs     3/4 - 1 lb.     1 3/4 - 2 hours
Wings     6 - 8 oz.     1 3/4 - 2 1/4 hours
Note: Start with turkey at refrigerator temperature. Remove the turkey from the oven when the
meat thermometer reads 175°- 180°F; the temperature will continue to rise as the turkey stands.

Grilled Turkey
(internal temperature 180°F)
Type                                                      Weight   
                                                 Approximate Cooking Time
                                                  Unstuffed     Stuffed
Whole turkey (indirect heat)     8 - 12 lbs.     2 - 3 hours   
Whole turkey (indirect heat)     12 - 16 lbs.     3 - 4 hours

Note: When grilling with Indirect Heat generally the coals (or burners on a gas grill) are heated to a high heat.
When grilling with Direct Heat the coals (or burners on a gas grill) are heated to a medium heat. Use these heat settings unless you have a recipe that states something different. See how to test the grill temperature.

Turkey Cooked at 350°F in an Oven Bag
 Type                                Total Weight       Approximate Cooking Time
Regular-Size  Oven Bag 10" x 16"       

Whole turkey (unstuffed)     8 - 12 lbs.     1 1/2 - 2 hours   
 Whole turkey (unstuffed)     12 - 16 lbs.     2 - 2 1/2 hours
Whole turkey (unstuffed)     16 - 20 lbs.     2 1/2 - 3 hours
Whole turkey (unstuffed)     20 - 24 lbs.     3 - 3 1/2 hours

Large-Size Oven Bag 14" x 20"     Turkey-Size
Whole turkey (stuffed)     8 - 12 lbs.     2 - 2 1/2 hours   
 Whole turkey (stuffed)     12 - 16 lbs.     2 1/2 - 3 hours
Whole turkey (stuffed)     16 - 20 lbs.     3 - 3 1/2 hours
 Whole turkey (stuffed)     20 - 24 lbs.     3 1/2 - 4 hours

Oven Bag 19" x 23 1/2"

Turkey breast (bone-in)     4 - 8 lbs.     1 1/4 - 2 hours   
Turkey breast (bone-in)     10 - 12 lbs.     2 1/4 - 2 3/4 hours
 Turkey breast (boneless)     2 1/2 - 3 lbs.     1 1/4 - 1 3/4 hours   
Turkey breast (boneless)     5 lbs.         2 - 2 1/4 hours
Turkey breast (boneless)     8 - 12 lbs.     3 - 3 1/2 hours
Turkey drumsticks     1 1/2 - 2 lbs.     1 1/2 - 1 3/4 hours   
Turkey drumsticks     2 - 3 lbs.         1 1/2 - 1 3/4 hours

Oven Bag Instructions: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add 1 tablespoon flour to the oven bag and distribute evenly on the inside of the bag prior to inserting the turkey. Brush the turkey with vegetable oil or butter. Remove the turkey from the oven when the meat thermometer reaches 175°- 180°F. If using a turkey-size oven bag for a turkey smaller than 12 lbs., gather the oven bag loosely around the meat allowing room for heat circulation; then close the bag with a nylon tie, and cut away any excess oven bag.

Next installment, Bird Prep!

As always, please feel free to share your recipes'll be given full credit for your contributions.
Happy holidays!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

THOUGHT FOR FOOD - Thanksgiving Day Thoughts

Well, here it is....T day.
Foodies everywhere have been practically living in kitchens, preparing their stellar dishes and filling the air with wonder!  The holiday season is upon us, actually the winter holiday season...if you consider there are many "cluster celebrations" throughout the year.  Including solstices and equinoxes, various religious, national and local holidays as well as family celebrations, we're a partying kinda crowd!

I am going to be back-loading a few blog entries, which include the apple lattice pie and various bread explorations that took place on the days leading up to today.  Time is one of those things that gets hard to juggle.

The cooking took place on the dates that are claimed on the were taken at the time, too.  It's just that there wasn't much left of me by the end of the day, once the kitchen was cleaned up.

For today....the recipe is simple. 

We as a people, regardless of race, color, creed, sex or sexual preference, age or other declarative, need to remember that we are all part of this universe.....all part of that which makes each of us meaningful, individually and collectively.

We are all related.
But being related doesn't mean some get to take others for granted or that each, to their ability, can and should contribute something to their society. Most of us do.

Even those who seem to be "unemployed" or "homeless."  Most are trying to eek out a living, be it begging, busking or day labor.

Even those who seem derelict were made by that same Commonality that made us all.

So as we sit down to our meals, from that sandwich under the railroad trestle to that opulent nine course Thanksgiving Belly Buster, let's pause to be mindful and grateful for our blessings....which includes one another and all of life- all our Relations.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie

Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie

I love pies, don't you?  Cakes are okay too, don't get me wrong.  But biting into a pie is like taking your mouth to a party!  The textures, tastes and contrasts make it a very popular desert option on most menus.

Holidays in my childhood home meant pies.  Usually apple and pumpkin for Thanksgiving, pumpkin and mincemeat for Christmas.  My father's mother even got her nickname from her popular rendition of the stuff - Nanny Pumpkins.

With all that history behind me, you'd think I'd be gearing up to make the traditional desert too.
Usually I do make at least pumpkin.   Mincemeat is usually a vegetarian version - recipe coming soon!
Jack had even asked about pumpkin pie.  We talked about it.  I was even planning on making it.
But did I?
As fate would have it, I'd completely forgotten to get pumpkin, canned or otherwise, during the holiday food shopping trip.  I did however have an overabundance of Beauregard Red yams and even a few cans of Princella's in the guess what kind of pie got made?

Having covered pie crusts in a previous blog entry, I'll skip all but a few important details.
1) Make sure everything is cold - water, flour, shortening, salt......bowl and rolling pin too!
2) Spread waxed paper over your rolling surface - clean up is a lot easier!
3) Don't overwork the dough!  Let it rest in the fridge between steps!
4) Don't add all the liquid at once!  Watch for subtle changes as you mix!

Once your dough is prepped, let it rest in the fridge before rolling it into the pie pan.

Cooked yams in the bowl
Rather than boiling the yams, I wash them, score them with a knife and microwave them.  Depending on how many you're using (four being the minimum), cooking time (on HIGH setting) could be anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes.  Good rule of thumb is to check after 10 minutes.

Oh! Make sure you have enough piecrust for 2 pies!

Once the sweets are done, scoop out their innards into a bowl and let them cool slightly.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Place a cookie sheet on the shelf being used for baking, this will help cut down on spill-over.

Hand mixing the yams
NOTE: Due to yam's fibery nature, I've found it better to use a food processor rather than a hand mixer for making this pie. But if you don't have one, mix it a lot and check the texture often!

2 cups cooked sweet potatoes or 1 1/2 can cooked sweet potatoes
2 eggs well beaten
1 1/4 cup milk (or liquid from canned sweets with 3 1/2 Tablespoons of powdered milk blended into it)
2 teaspoons bourbon
3/4 cups brown sugar (or 2/4 cups brown sugar and 1/4 cup white sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt o substitutes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 Tablespoons melted butter

Bourbon, milk and eggs
Food processor
Combine all ingredients in the food processor if you have one. Otherwise, put the yams in a mixing bowl and have at it! Hand mixing may take about five minutes or so. Food processor at high setting may take about three to four minutes.  Check the texture.  If it's still a little "stringy," process it for an additional two minutes.  That should take care of it.

Place pie crust in pan and pour this mixture into it.  This mixture is enough for two pies, so prepare two shells.
Once the pies are poured, place them on the cookie sheet in the oven.  My oven is wide enough to fit both pies on one shelf.  If yours is not, use two shelves or-even better-cook one pie at a time.

Let the pie bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees then immediately lower the heat to 300 degrees and bake it for an additional 50 minutes.  Then its done! Let cool on a wire rack for a bit...if you can wait that long!
Time for pie!

Please feel free to share your ideas, memories and recipes on this site via the comments box.  All credit will be given where it is due...and I promise to try the recipes too!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Breadly Speaking

Bread baking for the holidays!!!!   I don't know of a better way to warm up the house on a chilly day (or night) than to crank up the oven and fill the space with that sweet aroma that only comes with the baking of bread!

For Thanksgiving at Jack's sister's house this year, we were asked to bring the bread.  I didn't want to just stop by a store and pick up some biscuits...that would have been okay, but GEE!

Rather than do that, I decided to make a selection of wholesome whole grain offerings....2 corn breads, 1 whole wheat/oat and a whole wheat walnut loaf.  It took a few days, but I loved every minute of it!

The whole wheat/oat bread is a yeast based so it takes a bit longer than the others, which could be classified as Quick Breads. So I started with that.

BREAD A THON  PART ONE - Whole Wheat Oat Bread

1 1/2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup LUKEWARM water - for activating the yeast
1 teaspoon molasses or brown sugar - for activating the yeast
2 1/4 cup HOT water - for softening the oats
1/2 cup unprocessed oats or oat bran
1/2 cup white flour (pure gluten flour will make it rise higher)
1 Tablespoon salt or salt substitute
1/4 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup molasses
6 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (as needed)
2 Tablespoons powdered whole or nonfat dry milk 

First things first....the yeast. I have a very fine opinion of yeast and want to treat it very well throughout the process of it becoming bread.  So I'm careful to make sure the water used for activating it is Lukewarm....not too hot, not too cool. 
Yeast starting to foam
After foaming 15 minutes
I like to feed the yeast with molasses or brown sugar rather than regular sugar.  Either one of these works and seems to get the little yeast critters foaming like crazy!  
After activating the yeast,  put it somewhere warm-not hot! Let those yeasties honker down on that molasses or brown sugar and let it rip!  First time I did that, I was amazed!

The oats or bran need some attention, too. Put them in a small bowl, pour the 1 1/4 cups of HOT water over them and give the whole thing a stir.  I let this rest and moved on to the dry ingredients.

While that was going on, I combined the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  
Hint :  Make sure these ingredients are well blended. This is a good time to add any dry base seasonings, too.   
Blending wet and dry
Then I started adding the wet ingredients - starting with the oats then mixed with a spoon.  This dough can be blended with a sturdy upright mixer with a dough hook, too.   

After that I added the oil, molasses and finally the yeast.  Note that I added the yeast last.  It's a personal preference....not sure why but it's how I've always done it.  Then it was more elbow grease until the dough left the sides of the bowl.
Ingredients well blended-no longer sticking to sides of bowl
Dough division
 Then I turned the dough out onto a slightly floured piece waxed paper,  divided into two equal portions and tucked each portion into its very own greased loaf pan, covering each with a towel for a 30 minute rising nap.   
Bread on the rise!
 During this time, the dough should rise....maybe even double its original size!  Ain't yeast just awesome?!

Grow little yeasties, grow!
The 30 minute rising time was a great opportunity to clean up a little then take a that's what I did!
A little coffee, a little soapy water and the kitchen no longer looked like a disaster area! That done, I double-checked the oven settings, made sure the bread had risen enough, removed the towels then put the filled loaf pans on the on a mid-oven shelf and let them bake for 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven. 

Once done, the loaves were placed on a wire rack to cool before packaging for transport.
Breads cooling on a rack
  These loaves didn't rise a lot...I didn't have any gluten flour, so didn't expect them to grow much more than they did...but they were delicious!  The wheat acted as a perfect foil for the oats sweetness, and like all good breads it had that crunchy exterior and soft even had enough flavor to stand up with or without butter!  Yum!

Feel free to share your recipes, too!  As always, Enjoy!