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Another Turkey Day Trial including Butter Broth

21 Nov

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It’s always fun this time of year to watch all the Thanksgiving shows and read the magazines and ogle at all the lovely decorations that publishers set up probably back in July while sweating their you-know-whats off.  It definitely gives people the sense – the feeling – that something special is in the air.  And if a show or a magazine actually inspires someone to recreate the look, or the dish, or the decoration, then they’ve done their job.

And each year it seems like there is some fad or idea that weaves its way through our nation.  Some of those things have stuck around (surprisingly, I can’t believe people are still deep frying whole turkeys), and some thankfully fade (no MSG-injected birds, please).

This year, it seems the stuffed turkey breast roulade is the thing to make. I did this a couple of years ago for a Friendsgiving, and it was beautiful once cooked, sliced, and plated.  If you are one of those people that can’t look into the cavity of a turkey without gagging, let alone stick your arm up in that thing, then the roulade is for you.  Compared to a whole 16 pounder, the roulade takes much less time to cook, and with the right amount of butter, seasoning, and herbs, it still makes the house smell delicious.

Even with all that being said, it’s still not my favorite way to cook turkey.

My parents used to joke when I was little that I needed a divided cafeteria tray for my Thanksgiving meal.  Sometimes, I would have three plates in front of me – my dinner plate, salad/relish plate, and a bread plate – all because I didn’t like my food to touch.  Can you believe that?  Me.  With Thanksgiving food OCD.  The gravy could not and would not touch anything but the mashed potatoes.  And putting veggies even close to the turkey?  Ludicrous.  I would eat the cranberry sauce last (I still do that), and would always take more stuffing then I could finish.

When it comes to stuffing and roulading a turkey breast, it’s fun and all, but too much Thanksgiving food touching.

My secret it out.

To balance my vulnerability here, I’ll provide a little bit of fairness to this strange squabble (and mind you, this is a blog, so there really isn’t an argument unless you call this arguing with myself, in which case there are some other issues at hand besides food touching).  People love white meat, especially turkey white meat.  Now, these people may change their mind once they try one of those big ol’ turkey legs from a cart at Disneyland, but I digress.  The thing with turkey breast is that they are bland, especially without a bone.  Thus, all the fuss around the stuffing, and the butter, herbs and spices – sometimes possibly a brine – that are needed to make a Thanksgiving turkey a tasty treat.

So for this part of the Turkey Day Trials, I thought about what could keep a turkey breast tasty, after the cooking, without stuffing it.  Whether you are a bone-in or boneless fan, stuffed or plain Jane, something just had to work for all stages and styles of turkey breast to make it the easiest to cook yet tastiest to eat.   Then, the Sage Butter Broth was born.

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I’ve used the trick of pouring a bit of chicken broth over cooked turkey to help it keep moist.  But what about all of the flavor that everyone loves on the outside (or inside, if stuffed) of the bird?  With that in mind, I made a butter broth.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Butter.  Broth.  And you heard it here first, folks.

I made the Sage Butter Broth by whisking 1 cup of low sodium chicken broth, a good 1/2 tsp of sea salt, a large sprig of sage and ½ a stick of unsalted butter together over medium-low heat in a sauce pan.  After the mixture had emulsified into one and was fragrant with sage, I poured it over the cooked (and rested) sliced turkey breast.

I had cooked my turkey breast (I always use bone-in) simply with some salt, white pepper and butter, but it was that Sage Butter Broth alone that made the turkey so flavorful and juicy.  I even kept it a secret from my family – I mean, taste-testers.  It was my dad – I mean, the tall man at the table that said it first, “This turkey is so juicy.”

So now, it’s decided that the Sage Butter Broth will be on the ever-so-most-important back burner this Thanksgiving.  Making all the meat herby and buttery and juicy and delicious!

Enjoy!

*****

Oh, you all are so, so lucky.  The hubs cooks again!  Maybe my Turkey Day Trials have started to rub off on people because Rob has created another fantastic addition to our Thanksgiving table: Grilled Acorn Squash (I asked him if he would want to write a blurb, but he politely declined, so I’ll do my best to recreate his masterpiece).  For all you grillers out there, he halved an acorn squash then seasoned it with olive oil and s&p.  He cooked it flesh-side down first (about 10 minutes), then flipped it, all on indirect heat (he says that detail is important).  After about 20 more minutes, the squash was tender and ready for a make-shift glaze of butter, brown sugar, bourbon, maple syrup, and lemon juice.  After glazing the flesh of the squash, he left it to caramelize for about 5 more minutes, then cut it into fourths and plated it.  These grilled squash are legit.  They are not-your-standard-pilgrim-yeah-Squanto-only-wishes-he-thought-of-this DELICIOUS.  Enjoy!

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A United States Coastie

26 Mar

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My dad and I share a lot of “likes”: smoked salmon with dill and capers, classic rock, unplugged alternative rock, a good beer, a great wine, The Lawrence Welk show, dancing, going to bed early, stars, and road biking, to name a few. Biking stands out as a long-time memory, as I grew up watching my dad strap on those funny shoes and click away on some race he was doing that weekend, 50, 65, 100 miles no problem. I, too, eventually had the biking itch, and while I never rode competitively, I think I can hold my own on a bike.

On some long rides, as we clicked in and started down the pine and eucalyptus-lined greenbelt to reach the road leading to the hilly, California beach canyons, Dad would sternly remind me, “Eat before you’re hungry, and drink before you’re thirsty. Or else you’ll bonk.” Eating on a bike isn’t exactly gourmet, but calorie quality is a necessity.  Bananas, granola bars, and peanut butter M&Ms are all perfectly unbonkable foods.

When Rob became a serious fixture in my life, Dad was quick to ask if he rode. He did, and was quite good in fact. Even when Rob was “out of shape” he could fly passed me up a hill in a lower gear no problem.  I think even my dad was impressed.

So last weekend when we decided to take a leisurely 10-mile ride to try out the new fixie Dad has worked for me, it was odd to see Rob almost a quarter mile behind us, peddling like the dickens.  He had just gotten a new chain, and was giving it a test-ride as well. But there was no reason for such a lag, especially on these flat, Jacksonville country roads.

When we arrived to our destination (Chili’s for lunch), Rob realized his brake had been rubbing on his tire the whole time.  A convenient excuse!  But a legitimate reason nonetheless.

Lunch, sans bananas and peanut M&Ms, was nice and filled us a little too much to feel extremely comfortable on a road bike.  As we pushed through the gut-bomb feeling and picked up the pace (this time, Rob right in line), it seemed all was smooth sailing.  That is until I heard Rob’s voice from a ways back.

“We’ve got a problem!”  he yelled. I echoed the same to my dad a couple feet in front, and we slowed, turned, stopped, clicked out, and looked back. There, with another legitimate reason to fall behind, was Rob, holding his brand new chain, hanging limp, completely snapped.  There was no way to fix it (the guys tried as I watched), and they finally came to this conclusion:

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Well, they don’t call Rob a Coastie for nothing!

After the eventful ride, a good dinner was definitely in order.  Rob has started to take a liking to shrimp (Yay! Woohoo!  Hallelujah!), and of course, anything fried in these parts warrants a decent meal.  But to keep things on the lighter side, I got a little creative with my Boom Boom Shrimp.

Using a local U-15/20 shrimp (these are good medium-sized buggers, weighing in at under 15-20 shrimp per pound), I peeled and deveined them myself.  There’s something about sitting on our back porch in the early spring sunlight, peeling shrimp, sipping tea, with Sig at my feet watching the golfers go by; definitely antebellum-esque.  After the shrimp – and my hands – were cleaned, I lightly drizzled over some beautifully green grapeseed oil, and more liberally sprinkled Old Bay. Yep, we went old school, folks.

After a relaxing seasoned and oiled spa treatment in the fridge, the shrimp were ready for the jacuzzi – a quick and very light douse of s&p seasoned flour, and into a shallow, coconut oiled cast iron pan they went.  Coconut oil is 1) healthy, 2) tasty, and 3) holds a shallow pan-fry well because of its high smoking point (however, I would not use it for deep frying.  That’s when rice bran oil or peanut oil get their 15 minutes of fame).

Taking only a minute or two per side, the shrimp get pink, plump, curled, and crispy. It’s amazing that only a tiny bit of flour and a good quality oil can produce a “fried” shrimp that could probably stand up to other beer-battered Boom Booms of these parts. We had a trio of sauces; my favorite was my Strawberry BBQ sauce, while Dad and Rob loved the Asian-inspired sweet ginger sauce.  With a not-so-Southern cole slaw on the side, the meal was perfect, and filling – especially after such a hard ride!

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Boom Boom Shrimp
(serves 4)

  • 2 lbs. medium shrimp (go for a local, wild source, not farmed), peeled and deveined (keep the little tails on for easy grabbing and eating)
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • ¼ c coconut oil
  • 1 c flour
  • s&p

Put the cleaned and deveined shrimp in a large bowl with the grapeseed oil and Old Bay. Mix well, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 3 hours.

To prepare the frying process, heat the coconut oil in a heavy bottomed pan (I use my cast iron skillet) until the temp reaches 320, and season the flour with s&p.  Lightly dredge the shrimp in the flour, shaking off the excess before placing in the oil. After about a minute, flip the shrimp, and then let cook for another minute until curled, pink, and cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, and quickly season with a sprinkle of salt. 

Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce, and an unoaked chardonnay.

Enjoy!  

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Getting Saucy

7 Jun

It’s testing time again at our school.  That means taking an amped-up-for-the-end-of-the-school-year-knowing-summer-is-just-around-the-corner child and sitting them in front of a computer screen to answer math and reading comprehension questions.  If you listen hard enough, you may be able to hear the groans and exasperated sighs, from both kid and teacher.  But if you listen even harder – yes, put your ear to the screen – you will hear the sounds of joy from realizing hard work really does pay off.   Again, from both kid and teacher.  And just in time for the summer.

I always get a little nervous around testing time, hoping and wishing that the students put forth the brain power they’ve gained this year to show improvement.  For some, I’ve even taken to practicing my willful ESP: choose A, you can do it, A, A, A, no – don’t change your mind!  For the most part, the kids care so much, and want to do well, too.  So, while the existential teacher side of me continues to send vibes, I fully well realize the kids are the ones doing all the work, and there’s no reason to worry.  I love the look they get after getting those high scores – it’s a look I wouldn’t have gotten at the beginning, or even middle of the school year, but now their comfort level is such that their at-home personas are clearly visible.  After seeing their own success, their eyes, body language, and even sometimes verbal expression give me a mixture of, ‘Wow!  I’m aweeesome!’ all the while maintaining their oh-so-very-cool confidence of ‘See Ms. T, I tooold you!’

So being that it’s almost summertime, after all, and the kids are getting wonderfully spunky and saucy in their attitude and personalities, so am I.

Rob and I have been craving summer foods.  Our Wintergreen Farms CSA basket should be arriving within the next couple weeks (from which my 42potatoes name came about), and we are antsy with anticipation.  Summertime foods are down-right fantastic and our hunkering is even surviving the occasional cold blasts of coastal wind, still reminding us that where we live is not exactly considered “tropical.”  But that doesn’t stop us.  No Sir-ee.

Thinking about bar-b-qued food, the first thing that comes to mind is not chicken, fish, nor veggies – it’s sauce.  Yes, sauce.  Saucy sauce.  Finger-licking sauce.  Makes anything delectable, sauce.  Makes the napkin tucked into a shirt a fashion statement, sauce.  Makes evidence of devoured food on lips and chin sexy, sauce.  You know what I’m talking about.

I’ve been all about the sauces lately, mostly because I’ve also been all about the BBQ.  Rob and I have been grilling veg, meats, and most recently, chicken; and to the delight of our stomachs, our neighbors just made grilled moose burgers that were out of this world.  It is putting us in the summertime mood, and making me just as rambunctious as my summer-awaiting kiddos at school.

As Rob stood over the grill last Saturday (looking very Tommy Hilfiger in his khaki shorts and flip flops, beer in one hand and  oversized manly grill spatula in the other),  the menu consisted of grilled spring and summer veg (zucchini, summer squash, asparagus, and mushrooms), chicken legs and wings, and peaches, all with their own special sauce.  The veg got a light drenching of a sweet basil balsamic that was just tangy enough to have a mouth-fight with the smoky char from the grill.  The chicken sat in my go-to dry rub for a while before being lathered and painted with an amazing sweet and spicy strawberry BBQ sauce.  And then the macerating peaches got a hot caramelization from the grill and then cooled off with a frothy cream infused with honey and mint.  The sauces were simple, easy, and made the simple main ingredients shine.  And the smell of that BBQ… it just can’t be beat.

So, with summer vacation right around the corner and the hint of 72 degrees in the air, the kids will continue to get more saucy over the next week, I guess I will, too!

Strawberry BBQ Sauce (makes about 4 c sauce) 

  • 1 tbsp butter 
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 c very ripe strawberries, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp organic sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped 
  • 1 1/2 c ketchup
  • 3/4 c dijon mustard
  • 2 chicken stock
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • couple sprigs of thyme 
  • s&p

Let the butter melt over a medium pot sauce pot, and add the diced onion.  Season with a pinch of salt, and saute until translucent.  Add the strawberries and the sugar and let cook until soft and mushy.  Add in the garlic, and stir until you can smell it, then add the ketchup, mustard, chicken stock, and herbs.  Season with a bit of s&p and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, and then to a quick simmer, and reduce the sauce – stirring occasionally – until the sauce is syrupy and completely coats the back of a spoon.  

Strain the sauce over a fine mesh strainer, smooshing the ingredients so that all of the liquid strains out.  

Pour into a serving bowl and use on your BBQ favorites!  

Enjoy!

 

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