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