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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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Turkey Day Trials 2016

16 Nov

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Here we go again, folks!  It’s Turkey Day Trials, 2016!

I’m going to invite the teacher to the blog for a moment and grace all of you with a brief history of the tradition.  Turkey Day Trials dates all the way back to November 2010 with culinary experimentation to prepare for the most anticipated foodie day of the year.  It started with prepping for the first Thanksgiving I prepared, lead to grocery store meltdowns, microwaved turkey breast, Kindergarten Turkey cooking (ironically, the frustration of being volun-told to cook for an elementary school “feast” taught me how to make the best bird), appetizers and dips galore, berry mistakes, and finally, comfort food leftovers.  There have been ups and downs, but all have been fun (except last year when I had the stomach flu and could barely scarf down the stuffing).

Clearly, I love Thanksgiving.

So this year’s Turkey Day Trial kind of happened on accident.  By my husband.

Yes, credit is due where credit is due and Chef Robert II (Chef Robert I is my dad.  And it’s pronounced Ro-BEAR by the way) came up with a most fantastic, keep in the fridge all season long, use on everything Pumpkin Butter.  It’s really amazing.

The other day, I just happened to add a bit of spice to that Pumpkin Butter and used it with some braised greens and mushrooms, making one of the best accidental Thanksgiving-worthy-yes-it-will-be-on-my-fancy-table-this-year side dishes ever.  Yes, I said it – EVER.

Sig (the dog) would disagree, but pumpkin by itself isn’t all that flavorful.  It’s a little musty and calls for brightening.  Sweetness and warm spices give pumpkin its quintessential autumn flavor, and in this recipe, water is added to turn the clumpy pumpkin into that silky, smooth, glazy texture fruit “butters” are known to embody.

The Pumpkin Butter is easy: 1 can of pumpkin puree, 1 c of water, 4 tbsp sugar, ¼ c brown sugar, ¼ tsp each of nutmeg, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice.  Mix all together in a sauce pan, and heat until the puree and the water have formed a smooth, silky consistency.  That’s it! 

Now, I did mention that I spiced this baby up.  To ¼ a cup of the Pumpkin Butter, I added 5-6 dashes of my favorite hot sauce: Tapatio.  Honestly, the chili spiciness mixed with the sweetness and nutmeg-y goodness is a flavor I can’t get enough of.  Granted – important note from Chef Robert II here – if you are going to use this Pumpkin Butter in coffee for an excelled Pumpkin Spice Latte, please omit the Tapatio.  That would just be silly.

So, onto the Turkey Day Trial side dish.

Southerners loooooove their braised greens.  Collards, actually, and I just can’t jump on that bandwagon.  This isn’t for lack of trying – I’ve had collards every which way.  But I simply do not like them, Sam I am.

But, in an accidental mix up of wild mushrooms and kale, a bit of sherry vinegar, plumped dried cranberries, and a drizzle of salt and honey, I found a sturdy cooked greens dish that could kick the chlorophyll out of those darn collards any day.  Also, it speaks heavily to my Scandinavian roots and Pacific Northwest taste buds, so there’s that for the sake of full disclosure.

Kale, basking in its endless superfood limelight, is softer than collards but still cooks well keeping integrity (it doesn’t disappear like spinach) and offering a bit of sweetness.  The mushrooms, oh the mushrooms, when those buggers are cooked till they just can’t be cooked anymore, they are amazing.  Browned, nutty, addictive; they taste like the smell of the woods next to the ocean after it’s just rained.  It’s a trick I’ve learned from my mom – let the mushrooms be.  Well, my mom and Paul McCartney.

Then – wait for it – I drizzled the Spicy Pumpkin Butter over the greens.

Un.  Bel.  Ievable.

I turned that one dish into a couple different things (Thanksgiving leftover ideas coming!  Hint hint, wink wink!).  I poured the greens on top of creamed barley for an earthy grain bowl, and I also pulled out a breakfast by shmearing some cream cheese on toast, topped with the greens and pumpkin butter, then “garnished” with a fried egg.  Again – delicious.

Time is running out on Thanksgiving countdowns, but luckily these gems are no fuss.  Rob’s Pumpkin Butter and my Mushrooms and Kale are perfect for your holiday feast.

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Mushrooms and Kale
(makes a lot, but you’ll need a lot)

  • 1 bunch curly kale (usually 7-8 stalks are in a bunch), leaves only, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 pint shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 pint chanterelle mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ c sherry vinegar
  • ¼ c water
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly grated is better, but do just a bit less)
  • ¼ c dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp really good local honey
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • s&p

In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add all the mushrooms and DO NOT yet season.  Stir the mushrooms, let them absorb the butter, and then finally release their own juices (without the help of salt).  Once the mushrooms start to caramelize, lower the heat to medium-low, and stir occasionally, letting the mushrooms brown, and then brown some more.  Once they are fully caramelized (and considerably smaller) lightly season with s&p.  Turn up the heat to medium, and pour in the sherry vinegar to deglaze the pan.  Once the vinegar has reduced to almost gone, add in the water and the kale.  Season with a bit more s&p, nutmeg, and add the cranberries.  Once the kale has cooked (it will wilt a bit, still look wrinkly, and have a dark green color), and the cranberries have plumped, turn off the heat.  Drizzle over the honey, and serve. 

Enjoy!

Politics, Holidays, and Artichoke Dip

9 Nov

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Holy cow.

What a whirlwind.  We’ve been in November for 9 days.  And it’s been nuts.

Let’s just look at this empirically, shall we?  With the start of November, first there was the take down of Halloween.  Halloween has just gotten too spooky.  Seriously people, enough already with the blood and goo and violent paraphernalia.  We are not the real life Walking Dead and I do imagine if a live zombie came lumbering and grumbling your way, you might poop yourself and run (it’s always a good time for an oxymoron or two).  So what’s with the increasingly growing gore of Halloween?

Growing up, my mom and I would visit local craft shops set up in parking lots and fields and ogle at all the cute pumpkin, scarecrow, turkey, and charming broomsticky things representing the start of the autumn season.  Somehow, that innocence seems to have been forgotten.  Nowadays, we’ve gone straight from this growing grossness of a spooky, dead-loving holiday to – wait for it – Christmas?

It was August 30th when I saw my first sign of Christmas.  Rob and I were in Costco and they had just displayed their wrapping ribbon.  We stopped, looked at the ribbon, looked at each other, and with a slight head shake (and most possible eye roll), kept walking.  The day before Halloween, we saw our first Christmas commercial.  However after discussing it (yes, we discuss these things), we decided it didn’t officially count because the real commercial showing Christmas is upon us is the one with the Hershey Kisses bells ringing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Yes, I am coining that as the official sign of Christmas – Hershey’s Chocolate, you’re welcome.  Anywho, despite my love, adoration, borderline slight obsession with Christmas (our house blows up into a reindeer, elk, and moose bedazzled wonderland), it’s frankly not yet time.

While the commercial world tries to build up this monstrosity of constant technology, and gimme, gimme, gimme attitudes, and desensitizes children from the innocence of these holidays – clearly, the teacher in me has a bone to pick – I am determined to not let November fly by in a disingenuous prelude to Christmas.

Also, in between good riddance-ing Halloween, avoiding a premature Christmas celebration, and fitting in the best historical foodie celebration our nation celebrates, there was probably one of the most stressful, surprising, amazing, horrible, and memorable elections our nation has probably ever seen.

Over the last few years, our national hard drive has been doused with water, sparking shards of entitlement and division and teaching blame-to-everyone-else-rather-than-accountability across our land.  So this morning, after turning off the tv around 1:45am and then still staying up way too late with anxiety and anticipation, I roused myself to full awareness around 4am to a historical headline.

And despite anyone’s political affiliation, I think most can agree that this election pushed the giant reset button on that national hard drive (and finally those horrible commercials can stop).

So, taking slow steps through this significant day, I mindfully look at my little home adorned with the peaceful signs of the season: pumpkins made from old draperies found in a southern mountain store in NC, red maple leaf placemats, and my personal favorite, antique 14-carat gold rimmed, hand-painted dessert plates adorned with turkeys, pheasants, and mallards.  They are all now in their showcased place, ready for their 43,830 minutes of fame (that’s total minutes in November, and math is cool).

By golly, all of this calls for a damn good dish.

While we are just starting to wake up to a morning chill here in North Florida, I feel the need to plunge head first into everything autumnal, even if it means I need to turn my air conditioning down to a sweater-wearing degree.  It’s also the season for entertaining, and my mind is racing with great ideas for great food with great people – no matter what the celebration.

Like this Artichoke White Bean Dip.  It’s simple, it’s easy and it is oh-so-good.  Hardly an indulgence, it’s not as dairy-filled as many artichoke dips tend to be.  Being dip-worthy, spread-worthy, put-on-a-sandwich-or-mix-with-tuna-fish-worthy, this has become a new standard for easy, crowd-pleasing recipes.

So in between tonight’s news reports claiming disbelief at what just politically happened, and the constant Pier 1 Christmas commercials, make this dip and serve it to a friend or two (with a cocktail, of course).  Its warmth and depth will comfort you with Autumn, helping bring the season back to the heart of what it is meant to be.

Enjoy it.

Warm Artichoke White Bean Dip
makes about 28 oz, enough for a whole crowd (or one hungry night)

  • 9 oz (usually 1 box) thawed, cooked artichoke hearts
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ c apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp half and half
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • s&p
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • shredded cheddar cheese to top *optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor, mix all above ingredients except for the olive oil.  Make sure everything is well incorporated and taste for seasoning.  When mixed, pour into an oven-proof baking dish (a ceramic pie dish works well).  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil (and cheese, if using), and put in oven until the top is browned and the mixture is hot throughout. 

Serve with crudités, bread, pitas, crackers, or simply a spoon (save the spoon for home-alone times, not so much entertaining). 

Enjoy!

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