Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Turkey and gravy

So look. The things people express the most fear and bewilderment about, when it comes to big roasted dinners, is the bird and the gravy. It doesn’t really even matter very much if your turkey is a little dry, if you make gravy that’s a religious experience. And you can DO that.

This is dead easy, folks. Stop thinking about it as some sort of dark culinary magic, and just think about that roasting that turkey like you were a baking really big chicken.

You got this.

Let go of the brining, basting, smoking, deep-frying fads, and just drop your oven rack to the bottom shelf. Preheat to 500 degrees, Fahrenheit.

If your bird is still frozen solid, send someone out for a few bottles of holiday cheer, and stick it in a bathtub full of hot water. I can’t help you until it's thawed enough to pull the giblets bag out of the cavity.

Assuming it’s actually NOT still frozen, prep your bird by massaging butter and the herbs of your choice all over it, on top of the skin and beneath it, and stuff the cavity loosely with quartered apples, oranges, onions, sage, and rosemary. Use real butter. It tastes better. And it’s French. It’s fashionable to be French, again. Pop the bird into that 500 degree oven. Wait a half hour. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and relax. Speaking of the Europeans, have a little Irish Whiskey in your morning coffee, with a splat of whipped cream. I'm a big fan of Jameson's Black Barrel. But hey, use the tipple of your choice. A dollop of rum or Bailey's Irish Cream isn't bad, either. Don’t drizzle creme de menthe on top, though, because that's just nasty. Now that the bird is in the oven, dump a quart or two of low-sodium chicken or turkey broth into a two-or-three quart saucepan, and toss in the giblets from that little paper bag that was inside the bird, too. What? You didn’t find a little paper bag inside your bird? QUICK! Pull that bird back out of the oven and check the big flap of skin over the neck area. It’s there, somewhere. It’s gotten weirdly fashionable for producers to hide the giblets, in recent years. Consider it a challenge.

Toss the giblets — all of ’em — into the pan of stock, put it to simmer on medium-low, and forget about it for a while. You're using low-sodium because you're going to let it simmer until it's about half or even less of its original volume. This concentrates the flavors. If you’re bored, rough-chop a stalk or three of celery and an onion, and throw those into the pan, too.

Have a little more coffee. Add another splash of whiskey. You deserve it. Everyone else is watching the Macy’s Day parade on TV, and making churlish noises about breakfast. Let 'em wait. You're Cooking the Turkey. Work it for a little extra mileage, whenever you can. Your turkey is going to need approximately 20 minutes per pound, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Don’t screw around with the oven, that just dries things out and makes the whole process take longer.

Your stock and chopped veg and giblets are all reduced down to half or less of their original volume? Terrific! When you remove the bird from the oven to let it rest for 20 minutes (tented with heavy-duty foil, so it doesn't get cold) while you frantically get everything else ready to serve, strain that delicious reduced stock then pour it into the turkey pan over medium heat, and stir -- this is to deglaze all the delicious bird drippings and preserve their yummy essence in your gravy.

Pour the whole mess back into a pan you can deal with, and bring it to just under a boil. Have a glass of wine. You've earned it.

This is the point where a lot of people will tell you to make a slurry out of flour and water.

Don’t do that.

Use three or four tablespoons of corn starch, instead of flour, in that slurry. It's not nearly as prone to lumping, and doesn't have that weird raw-flour taste, if you mess up.  Call a dependable kid who is old enough to have health insurance into the kitchen to help. Have the kid use a wire whisk to keep the reduced stock and drippings moving constantly, while you add the corn-starch slurry a bit at a time, waiting to see how it thickens, until your gravy is the desired consistency.

Presto. Terrific bird, amazing gravy. That’s what counts the most — no one ever raves about the sweet potatoes or the green beans, right?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. May it be a day of festivity, brightness, and laughter.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

VP Corn and Black Bean Salad

I recently got home from Viable Paradise, where I go as part of the workshop staff every year. Part of my staff duties include cooking for a whole bunch of people, all week.

The kitchens are tiny, the workshop is on an island (lovely and idyllic Martha's Vineyard), and ingredients may or may not be available from one day to the next; as a result, I especially prize recipes that have the inherent flexibility not only to scale-up well, but to adapt to missing or substituted ingredients gracefully.

This is one of those recipes.

Mac's VP Corn and Black Bean Salad

  • 4-6 ears of fresh corn It was the tail-end of the season, but we got our fresh corn at Morning Glory Farm, and were very happy -- but if good fresh corn isn't available, frozen will do, or even canned)
  • 1 16 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed (I usually use about half-pound of dried black beans, though, soaked overnight then simmered in chicken or veg stock until tender)
  • 1 medium-to-large sweet onion
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro (I've made this recipe with curly parsley, too -- it's that flexible)
  • 1 large ripe mango (frozen will work, too, though - you want the amounts of corn, black beans, and mango to be roughly equivalent to one another)
Peel, clean, husk ingredients as needed, small-to-medium dice, so everything is about corn-kernel or black-bean sized.

  • 4-6 fresh limes, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (you can use granulated or powdered, if fresh is too strong for you)
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar (I like sugar-in-the-raw)
  • 1 tablespoon or so each of Oregano, Thyme, Parsley, Sweet Basil, to taste (fresh is best, dried is fine too, though)
Throw all the ingredients in a big bowl, dump the dressing over top, stir gently, let marinate as time permits (a couple of hours, at least, for best results) -- Stir again, right before serving.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Best Ever Lemon Meringue Pie

This recipe comes from a lady from Sunburst, Montana who has gone from this earth.  I found it in a cookbook called Recipes From the Aschim Family Ancestry.

My husband and a number of his friends, who had the privilege to grow up in her community and experience her baking, all swear this is the best lemon pie they have ever eaten.

Since my husband is in his mid-seventies and remembers this from early childhood, when they had community gatherings, I have no idea how old the recipe really is, but if you like Lemon Pie, he and his friends swear this is the best ever.

Kate Aschim’s Lemon Pie

2 cups water
1 ¼ cups sugar
4 Tblsp corn starch
Rind of lemon
6 Tblsp Lemon juice
Butter (size of walnut)
pinch of salt
3 egg yolks

Stir sugar and cornstarch together; add water and cook in a double boiler. Add beaten egg yolk and cook until clear. Pour into baked crust.

Never Fail Meringue:

2 Tblsp sugar
1 Tblsp cornstarch
½ cup water
Put in a saucepan and cook until clear. Set in cold water to cool.

Beat to a soft mound:

3 egg whites
1/8 tsp salt

Add 6 Tblsp sugar and beat well. Add cooled cornstarch mixture. Continue beating until meringue stands in stiff peaks. Spread over custard. Bake at 350 degrees for 17 minutes or until light brown.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Recipes: Antique and Modern

I just got back from the Pacific Northwest and spending a couple of week with Mac. It is good to keep in touch, but especially good to touch. It was a little cool, but all in all, very nice weather.

I shared a recipe with Mac and would like to share it with the blog. I think it is a lot of fun to know how our ancestors cooked and equal fun to convert those recipes.

This is simple recipe for a simple, inexpensive dessert. Indian pudding, then and now.

INDIAN PUDDING (1828 recipe)

1 cup (not quite full) molasses, 1 cup (not quite full) cornmeal, 1 egg, 1 heaping spoonful of butter or fat, salt, ginger or cinnamon to taste, all beaten together. Full quart of sweet milk put on to boil and the ingredients stirred in. Take from fire and add not quite a full cup of cold milk. Pour into pan onto lumps of butter. Bake one hour. Extra good.

This is the way they did it. I tried it like this.

INDIAN PUDDING (today's recipe)

4 cups plus 2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cups molasses (a New England friend uses Maple syrup, yummy)
2 eggs beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger or cinnamon (I tried using both together, taste similar to pumpkin pie)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Heat 3 cups of milk in top of double boiler (can use microwave). Mix 1 cup of milk and cornmeal. Stir into hot milk. Combine the molasses, beaten eggs, butter salt and spice and add to cornmeal mixture. Cook over low heat intil mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and add remaining 2/3 cup milk. Pour into a buttered 2 quart casserole and bake 2 hours. Serve warm or cool with whipped cream

This is the sort of thing Mom would do with us, when I was little. We'd look at old recipes for pies, cakes, pancakes, bread -- anything you can think of, really, that people have eaten for generations. Then we'd make the recipe together, and experiment with ingredients and amounts.  So it was extra fun and a little like time traveling to make Indian Pudding together in my mom's RV kitchen.*

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Chocoholic Brownies

This is a great recipe for all of us chocolate lovers (what's not to love about chocolate?)

Melt 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (real chocolate, not chocolate flavored chips) with 1 stick of butter or margarine (not the soft spread). I use the microwave, but it can be done on the stove over low heat.

Stir in, mixing well after each addition:
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (optional)

Spread on a sprayed or greased 8x8 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
To test for doneness, an inserted toothpick will come out crumble-moist. Do Not overbake. Cool before cutting.

Now you're ready to enjoy a chocolate delight.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Yummy Scalloped Pineapple

I recently had the joy of spending Easter in Denver with two of my daughters and their families (Mac couldn't make it, bummer). Anyway, we had a lovely Easter dinner after the beautiful Easter service at Galilee Baptist church. Easter isn't really the only time I go to church. We had a friend of my daughter and some of her husband's family join us and, all in all, had a great day. I met a new friend and we all visited and played games and just had lots of fun after the great meal.

Speaking of the great meal, my daughter served a recipe that I had never experienced, scalloped pineapple. That's what I want to share with you. It made a great side dish to go with the honey-baked ham, YUM.


1/2 cup margarine, melted
4 cups bread crumbs (we used King's Hawaiian Sweet bread)
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 15 ounce cans of pineapple tidbits in juice, DO NOT DRAIN

Mix together and bake in a greased casserole dish
We used an 9" x 9" pyrex dish.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

I know this sounds like pineapple bread pudding, but tastes nothing like any bread pudding. The bread isn't particularly noticible, but the pineapple and custard are excellent. Don't know that I'll just use it to accompany ham. Might try is as dessert with a little whipped cream topping.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Favorite Swiss Steak

My apologies for taking so long to post again. We have been out of a service area for my mobile broadband, lolling on the lake for a couple of months. Hope everyone had a great holiday season and now we're ready to cook something different. This is my recipe for Swiss Steak.


2 pounds (or so) of steak (best if using less tender cuts of round or chuck, The oven and the tomatoes tenderize it nicely.)
Salt & pepper to taste. I also sprinkle with a little garlic powder and thyme.
Pound with steak hammer (or edge of a saucer), pounding into the steak as much flour as possible. Brown steak in small amount of cooking oil(do not fully cook). I like Canola oil. Remove from skillet and place in one layer in a baking pan or oven safe Pyrex.

Saute using 1 tablespoon of remaining oil:
1 diced onion
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of original Ro-tel tomatoes with green chilis
(if Ro-Tel are not available can substitie anothe can of diced tomatoes and a couple of chopped jalapenos)
Pour tomato mixture over browned steak,cover with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Serve over hot rice. I get a little lazy with the rice and use Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild rice, and microwave it. I really like the seasonings in the rice with the flavor of the Swiss Steak. Should serve six, or lefteovers are great, reheated.
Hope you all enjoy it

Friday, December 31, 2010

Hot Buttered Rum at Home

Since Mom already kicked off the holiday season with some of her own homemade favorites, I thought I'd contribute my own recipe for Hot Buttered Rum batter. I'm not normally a rum drinker, but discovered this particular elixir after a long day spent snowboarding, some years ago.

So here's how you make your own incredibly scrumptious and decadent batter, at home. Then you don't have to worry about driving, afterwards, either...

As always, feel free to experiment with your own variations, add a little extra of whatever you like, or take out whatever you don't.


1 qt good vanilla ice cream, thawed til gooey (For this, I like to use the kind made w/ eggs, and good like Schwan's -- not quite as good as Haagen-Daaz)
1 lb. softened, salted butter
1 lb. brown sugar
1 lb.powdered sugar
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 T ground cinnamon

All amounts are approximate.

Cream the sugar and spices into the soft butter, then cream into the softened ice cream. Generally, I'll warm everything in a double boiler until the mixture is smooth and there's no grainy bits of the brown sugar, because it's completely dissolved. Sometimes, I'll omit the confectioner's sugar, because I don't happen to have any in the cupboard, too, for that matter -- so I just add in a little more brown sugar, instead.

You take a big dollop of the batter (more or less depending on taste) and plop into your favorite mug. Pour a healthy splash of Myers Dark Rum over it (at least an ounce, I prefer two) Fill with boiling water, then stir gently - you want that foamy goodness on top to sip rum through.

Top with a sprinkle of fresh-ground nutmeg, and/or garnish with a cinnamon stick, if you feel a little fancy.

Repeat until you need to put your head down somewhere soft. Store the leftover batter in your fridge—it'll generally keep a lot longer than it will actually last. If you have worries on that score, though, you can store it in the freezer quite easily and almost indefinitely.

Happy New Year, eveyone!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Smoked Salmon Chowder (local to Boundary Bay Brewpub)

There's a local Brewpub called Boundary Bay that makes the most incredible Smoked Salmon Chowder. And since we did a roasted chicken with cornbread dressing and all the other trimmings just last month, we decided our Christmas meal might be a good bit simpler, leaving us time for a hike this afternoon.

Here's the infamous chowder recipe—slightly modified—since we're not feeding an army, we've scaled the portions down from the original recipe linked above. Measurements are approximate--so feel free to adjust as needed:

2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1 1/2 cups onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 T fresh chopped garlic
1 1/2 cup clam juice
1 1/2 cup white wine (we're using SilverLake Sauvignon blanc)
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup smoked salmon (approx) I like VIS Seafoods' traditional smoked salmon

In a large, heavy-bottom Dutch oven, sauce or stock pan (5 quart is the size I use) combine the wine, clam juice, and thyme. Add the diced vegetables and boil until tender. Reduce heat to a simmer.
Warm the cream (you can actually do this in a microwave - but be careful not to boil or scald, and if you're aghast at the calories, you can use whole milk). Melt the stick of butter, whisk the flour into the melted butter to make a roux, (keep your heat low, you're looking for white-to-blond roux, not darker—so be careful not to brown the butter or flour) and add in the warmed cream. 
Making sure the clam juice/wine/veggie mix is not actually boiling, add the cream roux into the soup pot, stirring gently. Add the flaked salmon. Let simmer another 15 minutes or so, then serve. This is marvelous in bread bowls, or with crusty hunks of warmed baguette, and the rest of that bottle of white wine you used in the chowder stock.

Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dessert Again

The weather has warmed back up here in Texas, 72 degrees on the 10th of December, WOW!! So, I'm not thinking hot drinks, today. I do have a wonderful recipe for a cake that is great for the holidays when you're having friends over. Don't want to do this for just a few people. It is super rich and about a thousand calories per bite, but double yummy. it really easy and pretty impressive tasting. Company raves about it. As a matter of fact, the recipe is called "Better Than Sex Chocolate Cake", but I'm not sure about that claim. You be the judge.


One box of German chocolate cake mix (mix & bake according to the package
directions,in a 9"x13" pan.)
1 can of Eagle Brand condensed milk
1 jar of caramel ice cream topping
1 bag toffee chips
1 tub of Cool Chip (can use low fat and sugar free)

When the cake is baked and cooled, poke holes in it over the entire surface about 1 inch apart. You can use a wooden spoon handle or use your fingers. Nobody will know.

Pour the can of Eagle Brand over the entire surface and allow to soak in.

Top that with the caramel topping and sprinkle with toffee bits to your preference.

Frost that with the Cool Whip and sprinkle on more toffee bits.

Chill in refrigerator for a couple of hours before cutting.

Be prepared for it to disappear quickly.

This one is okay for Kids, except for a possible sugar high.