Tag Archives: maple syrup

Another Turkey Day Trial including Butter Broth

21 Nov

img_4757

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.

img_4764

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!

img_4762

Advertisements

Paleo 101

12 Oct

IMG_1552

I like to entertain. Actually, when filing out the eHarmony personality profile years ago, “likes to entertain” was one of the things that found Rob and I compatible. In Oregon, with the close proximity of everyone in our neighborhood (well, really it was the close proximity of the width of the peninsula – there weren’t many miles to go before hitting water on either side!), we would entertain all the time. Big, late-into-the-night parties, simple girls’ nights, football get-togethers, I think once we may have even celebrated Groundhogs Day. Hey, it’s an American holiday, right?

Since moving to Jacksonville, we haven’t entertained as much. The deployments are constant, the distance from one end of Jacksonville to the other is over an hours’ drive, and we happen to live in the “country.” Which, I love, but it does make the trek out here a little long. But enough was enough. It was time for a girls’ night.

IMG_1551

After inviting a group of friends over, I was in the full get-together swing of things. The morning of the party started a little rocky with my homemade almond butter ending up on the ceiling (that little blender stopper dohicky thing is important), but the house was already decorated for the season, so the only thing left for décor was ironing napkins. Easy. For the menu, I kept true to my roots; seasonal is always best.  The weather has just started to change in JAX, exhibiting an autumnal breeze cool enough to notice there isn’t sweat running down my thighs for the first time in months.  So I thought a healthy comfort food meal would be perfect: white bean dip with cast iron nuts and stuffed bacon-wrapped dates for appetizers, and spaghetti squash with a veg ragu accompanied by a green bean, leek and apricot succotash as the main. The girls were generously bringing wine and dessert, so we were all set.

Green Bean Succotash

Martha and Ina would have been proud of my table (yay for pumpkin name plates!), and the dinner just smelled delicious. Everything was planned out swimmingly until, 5 minutes before the guests arrive, I freak out. Remembering that two of the girls coming were following a general Paleo diet, my gasp was audible. Here I am, with my veg-inspired background not at all following rule #1 of entertaining: serve what will make your guests feel special. AH! Paleo is meat-based, and the pepitas on my ragu isn’t going to cut it! Is there time to stuff a chicken in the oven? No…. Can I throw some salami on the squash? Hardly. With the doorbell ringing, I prayed to the veggie Gods for help, and the protein Gods for clemency.

My freak-out, like honestly most freak-outs, was just plain silly. We had such a good time, and the ladies loved the meal. Better than any food or wine that night was the amazing company and the growing of friendships. Which is truly the reason for any entertaining. We all had a lot in common and were able to share some pretty funny military wife stories. No boys allowed.

The Paleo diet did come up though, and after we said our goodbyes, I decided to do a little more research on the topic. So, as I sat in bed, eating a late-night dessert piece of sourdough with butter, I ironically read about the gluten, grain, legume, and dairy-free lifestyle. Through breadcrumbs on my night-shirt and with butter-licked fingers, I learned about the pros and cons of “primal” eating, and it truly inspired me.

Being one that focuses eating on a more flexitarian principle, I do experiment with different styles of cooking and eating, as long as it’s whole-food, seasonal, clean eating. So into the Paleo world I dove.

Remember the almond butter on the ceiling? Well, that was a small series of catastrophes that led to me throwing my hands up in the air (as opposed to my blender against the wall) on making homemade almond butter, and settled for almond milk instead. Loving plain almond milk but wanting to spice things up a bit, I let raw almonds, coconut chips, and a touch of maple syrup sit completely covered with water for 24 hours in the fridge. After it was blended and then strained, I was left with a beautiful, slightly naturally sweetened almond milk, and a hearty almond mash.

Almond Milk & Mash

The Paleo inspritation: almond cookies! Similarly to how I use my juicing pulp to make crackers, I couldn’t let the mash go to waste. So mixing in a quick dough of coconut flour, almond butter, a touch of maple syrup and the mash, I whipped up a crunchy and creamy Coconut Almond & Maple cookie that would leave even the biggest sweet tooth none-the-wiser. They are super easy to make, and even easier to eat.

Despite the flexitarian diet, the evening was such a blast and I look forward to the next time the girls get together. Only next time, I’ll serve marinated flank steak, and these cookies for dessert!

Enjoy!

Paleo Almond Cookies

Almond, Coconut, & Maple Cookies
(makes 12, 2-in cookies)

  • ½ c almond butter
  • ½ c almond mash left over from making Sweetened Almond Milk
    • (almond milk: 16 oz. raw almonds, ¼ c coconut chips, & 1 tbsp good maple syrup – let sit completely covered with water for 24 hours – blend completely, then strain through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh sieve for almond milk. Save the leftover mash for these cookies)
  • ¼ c coconut flour
  • ¼ c good maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together until incorporated, only about a minute. Using spoons, or a small ice cream scoop, spoon onto parchment paper or a silicone mat on a half-sheet pan.  Push down to make the cookies even.  Top with a sprinkle of sea salt, and *optional: a piece of roasted coconut.

Bake until golden brown and crunchy on the outside, and chewy on the inside, about 25 minutes. Let cool, serve, and devour.

Enjoy!

The Meal That Changed Rob’s Life

2 Oct

Well, not really.  But I did get him to eat salmon… finally.  Rob has never been a fish person, but living on the Oregon Coast has given him an experience with fish that has he can’t deny; the fresh fish here is downright amazing.  Fantastic.  Fabulous.

Last weekend, Rob’s parents were visiting us on their journey through a whirlwind Oregon adventure.  Driving down the Coast, they realized sooner than later that there are no “national” chain restaurants here (there’s not an Olive Garden to be seen, fortunately or unfortunately?), so experiencing new restaurants and foods was luckily on the menu.  And when they arrived, I wanted to show a true, seasonal, local Pacific Northwest meal.

But that meant Rob would have to eat salmon.

Oh my.

The Oregon Coast is utterly amazing, and a main reason is because of the food.  So when I asked Rob about how he’d feel if I cooked Chinook salmon for his parents, he surprisingly was all for trying it out again.  There have been many times I’ve asked Rob to try salmon, “Just *bleeping* taste it!” each time with no avail.  He makes his “fish face” (it’s a term of endearment), and is quite polite about it all, but has never enjoyed the experience.

“So, why now?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugged, “I just want to give it another try.”

The wife in me knew that maybe he wanted to show off for his fish-loving parents (which provoked a little audible giggle), but the cook in me was ecstatic.  Yay!  Rob will eat one of the most amazing ingredients to come out of the Pacific Ocean!

I cooked my favorite kind of meal: simple, tasty, with flourishes only to enhance the flavor of what already is.  With ingredients this fresh and beautiful, there’s no benefit to altering them, only to support them.  Like the humble adjective to the bold action verb in an interesting sentence, the specific sauces and sides add more than just color to a dish (sorry, we’re in the 5th week of school – my teacher nerdiness is bound to come out sometime).

While the fish was obviously a fresh purchase, there are things that I like to keep on hand in my kitchen that makes entertaining super easy.  Those humble sides and sauces, when seasonal and well planned, can be made ahead and create a painters palate of a menu.  For this particular dish, I took some local corn and tomatoes and did a hot sauté for a quick relish.  The creamy addition were melted red onions with green apples – sweet, tangy, and rounded out with a douse of white wine (yes, sometimes I actually do put it in the food).  Finally, and while everything is best in threes, the finale sauce was a special (and favorite) no-cook fresh strawberry, maple, and rosemary coulis.   Strawberries, believe it or not, are at the end of their season up here, and there’s something about the sweetness of a berry that pairs so Scandinavianly well with salmon.  Trust me; channel your inner Tuula and Johaan.

While putting the it’s-really-not-a-lot-of-time-but-tastes-like-it-was-prepared-for-days time into creating the special touches to add to a dish, it let’s the true star shine.  The salmon tasted like salmon, and like what cooked salmon should taste like: the smell of a foggy ocean morning mixed with cucumber and butter.  Finally, Rob understood.

While the meal was great, being able to reconnect with family was even better. There will be stories to repeat forever (like how my Irish in-laws had to go to an Italian restaurant in Ireland because, “You can only eat so many carrots and potatoes!”) and stories to be reminded of forever (I’ll leave those be).  The trip was a whirlwind, but so much fun, and we spoiled ourselves with a steady flow of great food and wine.  After all, if you can’t indulge with family, then with whom can you indulge?

Baked Salmon (serves 4)

  • 2 lbs. wild Chinook salmon (preferably fall season, Pacific Norwest rivers)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ c white wine (either a chardonnay or pinot gris)
  • s&p

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Prepare the salmon by patting it dry, then rubbing it with olive oil and lemon juice.  Sprinkle a large pinch of s&p, and place, skin side down, in a square baking dish.  Pour over the white wine, and cook until salmon is just cooked through.  NOTE: rare to med-rare salmon tends to have the best taste, but know where your fish came from before consuming undercooked protein.

Serve with the following sauces:

Corn and Tomato Relish (makes 1 pint)

  • 2 ears of corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 large tomato
  • ¼ tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • s&p

Heat the corn and tomato in a sauté pan over high heat.  Season with s&p and the thyme.  Cook for only about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes soften a bit (but do not break apart), and the corn warms through.

Melted Red Onions with Apple (makes about 1 pint)

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ Granny Smith apple, small diced
  • ½ c white wine
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • s&p

Over medium-low heat, sauté the onions, apple, and red pepper flakes in the oil until they start to soften (seasoning with s&p from the beginning will help with this process).  Deglaze the pan with the wine, picking up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan.  Reduce the wine until the mixture is smooth, and it looks like the onions have “melted” and submitted to the low, constant heat of the pan. 

Strawberry Maple and Rosemary Coulis (makes about ½ pint)

  • ½ pint strawberries, hulled
  • 1 tbsp good quality maple syrup
  • ½ tsp fresh rosemary
  • juice ½ lemon
  • small pinch of salt

 Put all ingredients into a blender, and blend until thick, smooth, and almost frothy. 

ENJOY! 

%d bloggers like this: