Tag Archives: sage

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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Like Teflon

18 Jan

Life really can throw us for a loop sometimes.  I’ve learned – admittedly the hard way – that it isn’t so much what is thrown, but how that situation is handled.  And the best way to handle any situation is with grace and strength, with a genuinely kind heart.  This is what Mrs. Jones has taught me.

For the last eight years, my parents’ next-door neighbors have become an extended part of our family.  We call them our “grandparents next door,” and they have called us their “girls next door.”  The Jones’ and my family would have dinners, daily chats, and we always scored the coveted spot on the lawn by the lake next to our houses to watch the 4th of July fireworks.  They told us incredible stories of their lives – places they’ve lived, houses they’ve built, military experiences, and the fact that Mr. Jones was once a spy operating in Russia for the CIA helped keep us not only entertained, but open-mouthed and amazed by his experiences.  Also, to my delight and appreciation, Mr. and Mrs. Jones would often be members of my test kitchen staff when I came up with new recipes to share.  Even if they had already eaten dinner, they would always take the invitation to stop by and have a bite.

Sadly, Mr. Jones is no longer with us to share his stories, his humor, his humility, and his friendship.

This past weekend was the Memorial Service for Mr. Jones, and despite the circumstances, I was happy to be taking a short trip back to Irvine to see my mom and to see Mrs. Jones.  The service was beautiful and it was wonderful (though not surprising) to see all of the people Mr. Jones had touched.  But aside from the beautiful flowers, touching music, and memorable shared stories, I noticed Mrs. Jones.  Lovely and elegant, she hugged every person she saw; despite the tears in her eyes, she had a smile on her face, genuinely happy that people were celebrating her husband’s life.  Unlike the feelings I had welling up inside (and showing on the outside), I never saw her break down, or lose her graceful exterior.  Yes, she was obviously sad and hurting, but she is also a true Officer’s Wife – strong yet gentle, courteous yet genuine, together and calm.  I admire her in so many ways.

I, too, am an Officer’s wife, though only 4 1/2 months into the role.  I’m also notorious among my family for reacting to situations in ways that are, well, reactive (really, just put on the sound track to The Lion King and you’ll understand).  And as my mom puts it perfectly in a way that speaks to my inner level of understanding (as only a great mother can), I need to be “like Teflon.”  Whatever slides on, slides right off.  Non-stick goodness that always looks clean and complete (if you’ve ever tried to make pancakes in a stainless steel plan, you’ll fully understand the analogy).  Mrs. Jones has got the Teflon thing down pretty well.

Mr. and Mrs. Jones loved gardening.  They understood the importance of organic and sustainable practices way before Alice, Jamie, and Emeril solidified the trend.  So the dinner I made for my mom the evening of the service would have hopefully made them proud.

Arguably, one of the best Farmers Markets in California is at UCI, where farms from all over the Central Valley and Southern California gather to sell their straight-from-the-ground goodies.  For years I was fortunate enough to live only 15 minutes away, and I would always go see the same vendors.  There was Farmer John, the Sausage Guy, the Lebanese Fruit Lady, the Snow Mountain Fuji Apple people, and the Cute Herb Guy, among many others.  It was always so easy to spend half a paycheck in such a fruitful market, but this time I limited myself to only the ingredients I would need for my Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Seared Scallops.  I’m happy to say that every ingredient I used, minus the scallops, olive oil, chicken stock, and s&p, were grown and picked around 50 miles from my mom’s kitchen stove.

I made dinner slowly that night, trying to respect the ingredients and the techniques used to prepare them.  As my mom and I sat down to our humble yet tasty dinner, we knew Mr. Jones would probably have liked to be a taste-tester once again, and we would have wanted him there.  But we had to settle for a “cheers” in his honor.

The soup and scallops were warming and satisfying, and I went to bed remembering Mr. Jones, and thinking about Mrs. Jones – her strength, her devotion, and her support of a very important man who was not only an officer and international spy, but also the father to their kids, her partner, and her friend.  So, Mrs. Jones, here’s a “cheers” to you as well.  Thank you for showing me what a true Officer’s Wife can be.

Cheers!

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Sage Seared Scallops (serves 4)

  • 1 small-med butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 large Fuji apple, diced
  • 1 large leek, rinsed and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 c low sodium chicken stock
  • Sea scallops (as many as you wish – I use 3-4 per person), foot removed
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • s&p

In a 425 degree oven, roast the butternut squash with a drizzle of olive oil and some s&p (mix with hands and place on sheet tray).  Roast until surfaces are lightly browned, turning once, about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the leeks in the olive oil with some s&p until tender, and then add the garlic.  Saute until fragrant.  Add the roasted butternut squash and the apple, and let cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, and then drop the heat and simmer for another 5 minutes.  Using an immersion blender (or a stand blender), blend the soup until it is completely smooth.  Still on a simmer, add a sprig on sage, taste for s&p, and cover.

To make the scallops, heat up the butter and the other sprig of sage in a heavy bottomed pan (cast iron works great).  When the butter is sputtering and the pan is searing hot, place the scallops (seasoned lightly with s&p), in the pan.  Do not turn the scallops UNTIL they release themselves from the pan.  If you feel the scallops tug back when you go to turn them, wait a few seconds and try again.  Otherwise you will leave a lovely layer of those precious scallops in the pan, which is so sad.  When both sides are seared (about 2 minutes each), take them out of the pan to rest for just a second.

Ladle the soup into a wide, shallow bowl, and place the scallops (3-4) in the middle of the bowl.  Add a fried sage leave (from the searing pan) for garnish and serve with crusty bread and buttery wine.

Enjoy!

Leftovers

29 Nov

Have you ever had that feeling of happiness and sadness at the same time?  Like, when you finish reading a fantastic book, or when the lights come on after a standing ovation at the theater – it’s a feeling of complete joy but also sadness about that enjoyable experience coming to a close.  This may sound over-romanticized, but that’s how I always feel after Thanksgiving weekend is over, and this year was no exception.

My Turkey Day Trials paid off as the menu was flawless and well-prepared.  The snow day our district received the Wednesday prior was also an added bonus as I was able to get many dishes done ahead of time.  By the time the sun came up on Thursday, drying out all the snow and thawing out the ground, Rob and I were able to enjoy breakfast, watch the Macy’s Parade, watch the Dog Show, and cheer on the Patriots in the background while trussing the turkey.  The only time our schedule got tight was when I forgot to broil the yams (to toast the ever-present, much debated marshmallow topping).

As my parents knocked on the door, we had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres ready, with dinner fresh and hot on the warming tray.  It was so good to see my mom and dad again, and even better to have them stay as guests in our home.  It felt like our little house was now completely nested having such great company.

Although I may have gone overboard a bit with the food. It was my first Thanksgiving – better to have too much than too little!  Plus it made for excellent weekend-long leftovers. 🙂  Here was the menu:

Hors D’Oeuvres:
– brie cheese with onion jam and honey crisp apples
– cashews
– shrimp cocktail

Mains:
– Turkey (not stuffed, but filled with garlic, lemon, sage, rosemary, and thyme, and drenched in olive oil, salt and pepper.  I also poured a mix of white wine and turkey stock into the bottom of the roaster, so a flavorful steam would keep the bird moist).
Apple and leek stuffing
– Rob’s potatoes (silky smooth with the addition of cream cheese)
– Marshmallow yams (an old classic made super flavorful by roasting yams – skin on – adding real maple syrup to the mix, and toasting the you-know-what out of the marshmallows).

Sides:
– black & green olives
– Mandarin oranges
– Turkey gravy
– Horseradish pickled cucumbers and peppers
Applesauce
– Cranberry sauce (yes, the jellied canned kind – we wouldn’t have it any other way!)
– Dinner rolls (Alex Guarnaschelli’s recipe) with homemade sage honey butter.

Dessert:
– Pumpkin pie (since my disastrous pumpkin pie episode, I’ve made 4… let’s just say I got the recipe down).
Gingerbread, chocolate mousse, & brandied pear trifle (OMG.  Really, just OMG).
Cardamom shortbread cookies
See’s Peppermint Patties

Seriously, I think we all gained about 7 1/2 pounds each.

But this smorgasbord provided excellent leftover options, which is, arguably, the best part of Thanksgiving dinner.  The desserts made excellent accompaniments to the morning cups of joe, and the delicious buttery dinner rolls were perfect vehicles for shoveling overflowing turkey and cranberry sandwiches (with extra mayo) into our wide-open mouths.

We stayed pretty active the whole weekend seeing the sites Coos Bay had to offer.  One major highlight was the HH-65 circling our house with a fully dressed Santa Claus jubilantly waving out the side door (it’s good to have connections to people who can fly Santa around!).  We hiked, we explored, we shopped, we got rained on, and were always welcomed back to an exuberant amount of leftovers and a warm fireplace.  And when the weather got too dodgy, the games we played (or maybe how we played them) were so side-splitting funny, Seinfeld could have used us for a new pilot sitcom.

Scrabble Slam was the first requested game, which led to a flurry of thrown cards, and frenzied shouting of suitable-for-the-family 4-letter-words.  I, at one point, tried my hardest to get “poop” down on the table, but to no avail just kept shouting the word “poop” while someone else’s card took my spot.  Yeah, how’s that mental image treating you?

And then there was Slamwich.  Slamwich is the best game – ever.  I highly recommend this game to any foodie fan, or just anyone in general looking for an entertaining way to make, munch, and steal a sandwich.  My mom and I purchased the game in Florence after a day of shopping, and met my dad and Rob at the sports bar they were holding down watching the Oregon game.  Joining them, we sat at the bar, ordered a drink and appetizers, and proceeded to read the rules to this silly, silly game.  15 minutes later, we were drawing serious looks from across the room as we were slapping slices of bacon, cheering on our sandwich thieves, and calling out each other’s “slipslaps” with gusto.  Needless to say, we were quite a scene.

But our Slamwich efforts were soon squashed by the determination and competitiveness the Wii brought to the party.  Rob and my dad literally wore a spot in our wood (I lied – laminate) floor playing endless rounds of bowling.  It was hilarious!  Then the boxing and sword fighting started.  The squealing laughter of frantically punching the air and ducking from invisible punches, jabs and stabs filled the house.  At one point, I just sat back and thought, “This. Is. Awesome.”

As most wonderful things do, the weekend flew by.  Rob and I finished most of the leftovers with stuffing and turkey stuffed mushrooms and relaxed before getting ready to face another Monday workday.  Although this Monday our pants were quite a bit tighter, it was just a reminder of the fabulous family, food, fun, and fabulous Thanksgiving weekend memories.

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