Tuesday, December 23, 2008

roast turkey

First let me apologize for taking so long to post. We have been very busy the last few weeks and are now entertaining relatives for Christmas.
I starting using this recipe for roast turkey about 7 years ago and it is my favorite. It does have a few more steps but it is well worth the extra effort. You will be rewarded with a juicy, flavorful and tender bird, as long as you don't overcook it. The key to a juicy turkey is to brine. For an explanation on how and why this works go to this site.


My siblings will notice right away that I fail to stuff the turkey like our father always did and they may very well disown me. We all have fond memories of sneaking a forkful of stuffing from the roasting bird while it was cooking but I prefer to cook it separately. The reason for this is if you cook the stuffing to a safe temperature, the bird will most likely be overcooked. Stuffing a turkey also increases the amount of time it takes to cook it. Sorry family!

roast turkey

1 (14-16 pound) turkey

For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 gallon apple cider
1 tbsp peppercorns
1 gallon (or more) iced water

1 apple, quartered
1/2 onion, quartered
1 cup water
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 fresh sage leaves
vegetable oil

Combine kosher salt, brown sugar and apple cider in a large stock pot, stir until dissolved. Add peppercorns and iced water. Submerge the turkey, thawed and cleaned, in the salt solution. Add more water if necessary to fully cover the turkey. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Turn turkey over half way through brining.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Combine the apple, onion and cup of water in a 2 cup size measuring cup. Microwave on high for 5 minutes.
Remove turkey from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine. Place turkey on a roasting rack, in a wide low roasting pan. Pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped apple and onion along with the water into the cavity of the turkey. Add rosemary and sage leaves. Tuck back wings and truss the legs together. Coat with a little vegetable oil. Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with a double layer of aluminum foil. Insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound turkey should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.

A three-year-old gave this reaction to her Christmas dinner: "I don't like the turkey, but I like the bread he ate." ~Author Unknown

Friday, December 12, 2008

award winning key lime pie

My husband Paul, God bless him, is not a good cook. Don't get me wrong, he's a very talented and resourceful man but cooking is not one of his many talents. Not that I'm complaining, we make a great pair actually. I do all the cooking and he does everything else. Unfortunately for him, I am not always there to cook for him. You see, he works half time in Germany. He spends 2 weeks there, and 2 weeks at home. Now according to him, he doesn't often eat out but cooks for himself most nights. He has mastered a few recipes that I believe he eats quite often. Fajitas I know is one of them. Tuna and crackers is another. Living in a foreign country can be challenging and can get quite lonely if you don't speak the language. To combat this, Paul has joined a social club in Germany. A club for people with English as their first language. They do various activities that I suspect usually involve going to pubs. One recent activity was a dessert night. Everyone was required to bring a home made, not store bought dessert. He found out about this night while he was here in the states and asked me for my recipe for his favorite dessert, Key Lime pie. He was in luck. Key Lime pie is one of the easiest desserts to make. We were not sure if all the ingredients would be available there so I bought him some graham wafer crumbs and sweetened condensed milk. "Will you need a pie plate?" I asked him. "Nope, I'll get one there". And off he went. A few days later he called home to tell me that pie plates were nowhere to be found and to ask what he should substitute it with. He settled on a spring form pan and hoped for the best. My recipe was hand written and had no pictures to help so he turned to the Internet and found this photo as his inspiration.
Now I wish he had taken a picture of his final product but I suppose he didn't know I would write about it. He also didn't know that out of 29 desserts it would win BEST IN SHOW! That's right, my husband who rarely boils water won first prize! I wish I could have been there but I suppose if I had been I would have cooked it and he wouldn't have had the chance to shine. So congratulations Paul! Now come home and make me some pie.

Key Lime Pie

Mix 1 1/2 cups graham wafer crumbs with 2 Tbsp sugar and 5 Tbsp melted butter. Press into bottom and sides of pie plate. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Cool.
Mix together well:
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lime juice
1 tbsp grated lime zest (about 2 large limes worth)
Pour into cooled crust and bake at 325 for 15 to 20 minutes. It should be set and a little jiggly in the center. Cool.
Top with whipped cream (whipping cream or heavy cream whipped with a tbsp or so of sugar)
Freezing for 10 minutes will make it easier to cut.

A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do. ~P.J. O'Rourke

Monday, December 8, 2008

vietnamese lemongrass beef and noodle salad

This is the recipe I intended to post a few days after Thanksgiving, when everyone is sick and tired of leftover turkey. I know I was ready for something different, something completely opposite to roast meat, stuffing and gravy. This dish completely fits the bill. It's flavorful and fresh and has all the components that Asian food is known for. Hot, sweet, sour and salty. I know it's a little late to be calling this a post Thanksgiving Day recipe (I have no excuse but laziness), but better late than never right?
Some of the ingredients may be a little unfamiliar but none of them are expensive and the difference they make is well worth the cost. I found all the ingredients at my local grocery store in the produce aisle and the imported food section. Around here (Cincinnati), you should find them at Meijer, Biggs, a larger Kroger and if you are lucky to be near Jungle Jims, they would definitely have them all.

Vietnamese lemongrass beef and noodle salad

2 stalks fresh lemongrass, outer leaves discarded and root ends trimmed
6 cloves garlic
2 tbsp Asian fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 tsp sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 pound to 1 1/4 pounds skirt steak or flank steak
1/2 pound thin rice noodles
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, washed and spun dry
1 recipe nuoc cham (Vietnamese lime sauce), recipe follows
1/2 to 1 English cucumber, halved, seeded and cut diagonally into 1/4 inch slices
4 green onions, sliced
2 to 4 fresh red or green chilies, seeded and sliced very thin (I wore disposable rubber gloves for this)
coarsely chopped peanuts

Make marinade: Thinly slice lemongrass stalks. In a food processor or blender finely grind together sliced lemongrass and garlic cloves. Add next 5 ingredients and blend well.
In a large zip-lock bag combine marinade and steak and seal bag, pressing out excess air. Marinate steak in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. Turn bag once or twice.
In a large bowl soak noodles in hot water to cover 15 minutes, or until softened and pliable.
Prepare grill or preheat broiler. Bring a pot of salted water to boil for noodles.
Discard marinade and grill or broil steak 3 to 5 minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer steak to board and let stand 5 minutes.
While steak is cooking, drain noodles in a colander and cook in boiling water 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until just tender. Drain in a colander again and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Drain noodles well.
In a large bowl toss noodles with herbs, cucumbers, green onions and half of the lime sauce. Divide among 4 bowls or plates. Thinly slice the steak on the diagonal and mound on top of the noodles. Sprinkle chilies (to taste) and chopped peanuts over each serving and garnish with herb sprigs if desired. Serve remaining lime sauce on the side.

nuoc cham

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
3 tbsp Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1 garlic clove, crushed or minced
2 small fresh red or green chilies, seeded and chopped fine

In a small bowl stir together all ingredients until sugar is dissolved.

Vegetables are interesting but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good cut of meat. ~Fran Lebowitz

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

stuffed chicken marsala

I often order Chicken Marsala when dining in an Italian restaurant. It's one of those dishes that I sometimes crave. Since we don't often eat out, I satisfy the craving with this recipe. The stuffing of prosciutto and fontina cheese makes it special and is easier than you would think. My trick of wrapping the cheese in the prosciutto keeps the cheese from oozing out while it cooks.

stuffed chicken marsala

4 chicken breasts
4 slices prosciutto
4 pieces fontina cheese
flour, for dredging
olive oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup diced onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup marsala wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp flour

Cut pockets into the side of the chicken breasts. Season the breasts with salt, pepper and thyme. Place a piece of cheese at one end of a prosciutto slice and roll up, tucking the sides over the cheese. Carefully stuff the roll into the pocket of a chicken breast. Repeat with remaining chicken, cheese and prosciutto. Dip chicken breasts into flour to coat. Heat a large skillet. Add olive oil and saute chicken breasts until brown on both sides. Remove from skillet. Add mushrooms, onions and garlic to the skillet and cook over high heat, adding more oil if necessary, till mushrooms are browned. Add marsala to skillet and reduce by half. Add chicken stock and put chicken back into the pan. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes. While it is cooking, mix the butter and flour together till it forms a paste. This is called a beurre manie. Transfer cooked chicken to a platter. Thicken the sauce by whisking the beurre manie into it and cooking for a few minutes. Add fresh parsley. Serve the chicken with a long pasta like fettuccine, spaghetti or egg noodles and top with the marsala sauce.

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink... ~Epicurus

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

lemon-herb roasted chicken and potatoes

This is my family's favorite recipe for roast chicken. What makes it stand apart, in my opinion, from the hundreds of other lemon roasted chicken recipes is the addition of lemon curd. You may not be familiar with lemon curd but if you have had lemon meringue pie than you have had something very similar. It is a traditional British spread typically eaten with scones and used as a tart filling. You can find commercially produced lemon curd at the grocery store, usually in the jam aisle, but homemade is easy to make and much better tasting. My recipe is lower in fat than most and when I know I am using it in this recipe I also use less sugar. When rubbed under and over the chicken skin it creates a lovely tangy glaze.

lemon-herb roasted chicken and potatoes

1 - 4 pound chicken
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 cup lemon curd (recipe follows)
4 - 6 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch dice

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Rinse chicken with cold water, pat dry. Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breasts and legs by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat.
Combine the rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and garlic. Toss 1/3 of the mixture with the cubed potatoes in a bowl. Rub the remaining mixture under loosened skin over the breasts and legs. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under chicken.
Place chicken in a roasting pan. Rub the lemon curd under and over the skin. Tie legs together with kitchen twine.
Scatter the potatoes around the chicken in the roasting pan.
Roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and stir potatoes. Return to the oven and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Roast for an additional hour or until the thigh meat reaches 180 degrees, tested with an instant read thermometer, stirring the potatoes every 30 minutes so they will brown evenly. Remove the chicken from the oven and cover loosely with foil. Let stand 10 minutes before carving.

lemon curd

2/3 cup sugar (3/4 cup if using in a sweet recipe)
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 large eggs
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)
2 tablespoons butter

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan and stir with a whisk. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture becomes light in color (about 4 minutes).
Stir in lemon juice and butter and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes or until mixture thinly coats the back of a spoon.
Cool. Cover and chill.
Lemon curd can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen for longer storage.

We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons. ~Alfred E. Newman

Friday, October 31, 2008

baked polenta with italian sausage and vegetables

I've come to realize (already), that being a food stylist is no easy matter. This dish is so tasty and even tasty looking when it comes out of the oven, all hot and bubbly and cheesy. Unfortunately, the pictures I took did not do it justice. So I will omit the photos and you will have to use your imagination to picture this flavorful dish. The layer of golden polenta covered in spicy Italian sausage and tender sauteed vegetables, topped with melted Parmesan cheese. Mmmm... Looks good huh?
I love polenta. I think it may even be my favorite "starch", unless I happen to have some duck or goose fat at hand to roast potatoes in... mmm yummy. But you will have to wait for a future posting for that one!
The first time I bought polenta it came already cooked and in a tube. I thought it was horrible and wondered why anyone would like it. Then I discovered stone ground polenta, aka grits. You can get it in a finer grind, it's only cornmeal, but I like the texture of the stone ground. I use Bob's Red Mill brand which is usually found in the organic aisle.
This recipe is a very easy way to make polenta as it doesn't require frequent stirring like the stove top method. I like to use hot turkey Italian sausage for this dish but you could use regular pork Italian sausage if you prefer.

Baked polenta with Italian sausage and vegetables

1 1/2 cups stone ground corn grits
3 1/2 cups homemade or low sodium chicken broth (2 cans)
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1 - 20 oz package hot or sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 large red onion, diced
2 zucchini squash, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 red or yellow sweet bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 pound firm ripe tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch dice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 13 x 9 inch glass baking pan. Add the polenta, broth, milk and salt. Stir gently to combine and dot with butter. Cover with foil (non-stick foil works best), and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, stir and continue to bake for an additional 20 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.
While the polenta cooks, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up into smaller pieces as it browns. Transfer sausage to a bowl. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up any brown bits in the pan. Reduce slightly and add to the sausage.
Add another 1 tbsp oil to the pan and saute the onion for a few minutes. Add the zucchini and peppers, season with salt and pepper and continue to saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes and sausage and cook for a few minutes, until the tomatoes start to soften and the liquid is mostly evaporated. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
When the polenta has cooked for 50 minutes remove it from the oven and stir gently with a fork. Top with the sausage-vegetable mixture and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
Cover, return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes, till Parmesan cheese is melted and slightly browned.
Serves 8
I would not freeze this recipe as the vegetables can get watery but it does reheat very well in the microwave.

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. ~Lewis Grizzard

Monday, October 27, 2008

hurricane hanna linguine and scallops

I belong to a group of 5 wonderful friends that we affectionately call the Yayas. I know. We stole it from the Rebecca Wells book, "the divine secrets of the yaya sisterhood". It's kind of corny but we all read the book and since we didn't have a name it kind of stuck. It fits. I can say "well the Yayas are going to do this or that" and it's easier than "well the friends that live all over the country and that I see every year are going to do this or that". Besides, our bond is so close that it indeed seems divine.
We didn't grow up together like the characters in the book. We all met in Texas, where none of us were from. There is a definite us and them feeling in Texas. Those that were born there and couldn't imagine living anywhere else and those that arrived later in life and wondered "where in the world did I land?". Most of us met at a church in the outskirts of Dallas and kind of glommed onto each other like fellow foreigners tend to do. After a few sun-baked years we began to move away, one by one. It was on a trip to Charlotte where two of my friends had moved to that our groupness, our Yayaness cemented. We knew that our friendships were important and we vowed to continue to meet yearly.
This year we met in Charleston, South Carolina. We like to go to places that have beaches, fun shopping and great restaurants. Charleston seemed like a perfect place to visit and it was, except that we were visiting during hurricane season. I suppose we thought, "what are the chances that we will be affected? Hurricanes can hit in many different places". We booked our non-refundable beach front condo. Perfect! Except Hurricane Hanna was heading straight for Charleston. Seeing as we only get together once a year this seemed like a reasonable risk to take and off we went.
For most of our time in Charleston the weather was perfectly agreeable. We headed for the beach as soon as we got there and got caught up in each other's lives. We ate in lovely courtyard restaurants and did the obligatory horse drawn carriage tour. But Hanna was coming and the restaurants were boarding up. As the clouds, wind and bands of rain started to roll in we headed for the grocery store and bought our provisions. I usually cook one meal for the group anyway and this was a good time for it. Which brings me to the recipe.
Technically, the storm was down-graded to a tropical storm by the time it hit us but tropical storm hanna linguine and scallops doesn't have the same ring to it as:

hurricane hanna linguine and scallops

I adapted this recipe from one I found in a Cooking Light magazine. My version has a little more cream and cilantro and a little less ginger. I also give a slightly larger portion of pasta to soak up the flavorful sauce. The result is a wonderful, unexpected taste compared to a typical pasta dish and is now my favorite recipe. The recipe is for 2 servings so you will have to do some math if you want to serve more. I know, it seems a great sacrifice to use a whole cup of wine, 1/3 of a bottle, but you will not be sorry.

1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter, cut up into small pieces
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt (I always use kosher or sea salt)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces (dry weight) hot cooked linguine
olive oil
8 to 12 ounces large sea scallops, dried well with paper towels
salt and pepper
chopped cilantro

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium skillet; bring to a boil. Simmer until liquid is reduced to1/2 cup (about 5 minutes). Drain mixture through a fine sieve into a boil, reserving liquid; discard solids.
Return wine mixture to skillet. Add cream; cook over medium heat 1 minute. Add butter, stirring until it melts. Stir in tomato, 1/4 cup cilantro, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Add linguine; toss well and keep warm on very low heat.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add enough olive oil to keep scallops from sticking, about 1 tablespoon. Sprinkle scallops with a little salt and pepper and arrange in hot pan. Cook for 2 minutes on each side or until nicely browned and cooked on the inside.
Divide the linguine into 2 shallow wide bowls and top with the seared scallops. Garnish with more cilantro.

*Make sure that you dry the scallops very well and do not over-crowd the skillet. I made that mistake on one occasion and they simply wouldn't brown. Although still tasty, the scallops lacked that lovely brown crust that makes food so tasty.

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. ~Voltaire