Monthly Archives: November 2012

Thanksgiving for Two


The measure of my success on Thanksgiving Day is how many times I have to call my mom (if she’s not physically with me). This year was one of the maybe two or three times I’ve cooked Thanksgiving away from home and away from that maternal safety net, where fears of undercooked birds and dried-out dressings are calmed.

This year, I only called her three or four times. Which is a success! That is between my first-ever attempt at making Parker House Rolls (recipe to come), gravy issues and an organic turkey that came out of its 8-hour brine a strange purple-blueish color:

Have you ever noticed color differences with organic turkeys?

I switched from Whole Foods to Costco this year and probably saved $5-$10 on an 11-pound organic bird. My Costco didn’t let me down! Mom helped me figure out that the strange not-yellow/white/pink bird was probably closer to what a real turkey should look like before it’s pumped full of hormones and processed. I would highly recommend Costco as I’ll be getting my birds there indefinitely!

I took a chance on a new turkey recipe this year, since it was just Grant and me and we didn’t have kids/other people to impress. Bon Appetit had an article about neo-traditionalist turkeys, basted with a soy/mirin butter sauce. The cover photo was so beautiful that I just had to try it and thank goodness I did – this may be my go-to turkey recipe from now on.

The turkey comes out such a deep golden amber – almost mahogany – and the well-seasoned meat and drippings make for some excellent gravy!

A few turkey rules that I always follow, before we get to the recipe:

  1. Smaller is better – once you get above 16 lbs they are impossible to cook evenly (according to many reputable sources, including my taste buds).
  2. Brine – I just did 2 c. salt dissolved into 2 gallons of water – brined for 8 hours (Cook’s Illustrated warns not to do it more than 4 hours due to over-salting).
  3. Dry overnight – Once out of the brine, I pat the turkey dry, put it in its roasting pan and into the fridge overnight – this dries out the skin so it roasts nice and crispy.

Adapted from Bon Appetit…I probably should have made and blogged about this weeks ago, like all the professional bloggers. But I am a humble at-home cook with no time or patience for doing Thanksgiving early or – gulp – twice!

The Neo-Traditionalist Roast Turkey

Ingredients:

  • 1 10-14-pound turkey, giblets and neck removed, brined and fridge-dried overnight, then left at room temp for 1 hour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce (I used regular – oops!)
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 3 sprigs rosemary

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 450°. Set a rack inside a large roasting pan. Pour 4 cups water into pan (note: I used chicken broth!). Tuck tips of wings under bird. If turkey is not brined, rub bird inside and out with 3 T kosher salt. Season inside and out with pepper and place on rack in pan. Place onion and celery in cavity. Rub 3 tablespoons butter over turkey. Roast turkey, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, stir remaining 3 tablespoons butter, soy sauce, and mirin  in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth. Add rosemary. Cover; keep glaze warm over lowest heat (not simmering).
  • Reduce oven to 325°. Baste turkey with pan juices; add more water or stock if needed to maintain at least 1/4-inch liquid in pan (I probably used 6 c. of stock total). Roast for 30 minutes; baste with pan juices. Brush lightly with glaze.
  • Continue roasting turkey, basting with pan juices and brushing with glaze every 30 minutes, and tenting with foil if turning too dark, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 165° (juices should run clear when thermometer is removed), about 2 3/4 hours total. (Note: I couldn’t get mine above 155 degrees, after 3 1/2 hours, so I took it out and it was fine. The juices were running clear).

Let stand at room temperature under foil tent at least 30 min, or until ready to carve.

Meanwhile, I heated up/finished all my sides, made a quick gravy and dressed up the turkey for its head shot. I usually just throw whatever herbs I have left over onto the plate. But if I were home, I would have been fancy with some berries or something.

Proof that my eyes are bigger than my stomach…I ate half of this:

Hope you all had safe and successful Turkey Days – I probably have two more days’ worth of leftovers to go – not bad.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones

And just like that, Thanksgiving is here. The bad news is that I can’t seem to hold on to the days that slip further and further into early sunsets; the good news is that I am in full nesting mode, which means lots more baking projects and – of course –  Christmas music! Christmas and early Pearl Jam/STP, randomly. I just need to find the right Pandora station that combines both. Purchasing the yearly no-commercials deal was the best thing I’ve done this year.

I’ve posted before about how much I love the combination of pears and dark chocolate. And when you fold this love into a scone, you get the moist chunks of pear with the crunchy richness of chocolate all in a buttery cakey thing.

Scones are fun because they require little work as far as breakfast pastries go. Just mix everything, pat it into a disk and cut out the pieces. Bake, nibble, smile.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen…I sometimes find problems with her recipes, just like in my own, so I changed a few things here and there. The big thing was making smaller scones so the recipe went further (than just 6 scones).

Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones

Ingredients:

  • 3 firm pears (about 1 pound – I used Bartlett)
  • 1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated or coarse for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt plus additional for egg wash
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (3 ounces or 85 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or chips)
  • 2 large eggs, 1 for dough, 1 for glaze

Heat oven to 375°F. Peel and core pears. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange pear chunks on parchment and roast until they feel dry to the touch and look a little browned in spots, 20-30 minutes. Slide parchment paper with pear chunks onto a cooling rack (or into fridge) and cool to lukewarm. Leave oven on. Line baking sheet with another piece of parchment.

Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Toss in cooled pear chunks, bits of butter, heavy cream and 1 egg (Note: Next time I will cut in the butter first, after the dry ingredients, as the chunks don’t incorporate evenly when added with the pear. Once you work in the butter, add the pear and everything else). With the paddle attachment, mix the dough on low speed until it just comes together. Don’t overmix. Add the chocolate chunks and mix for 5 seconds more. It will look lumpy and messy.

On a very well floured counter, pat out dough into a 6-inch round. Cut into wedges (6-8) and transfer to baking sheet at least two inches apart. Whisk remaining egg in a small dish with 1 teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt. Brush each scone with egg wash and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar.

Bake scones until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Perfect with your morning coffee. Store in air-tight container at room temperature. They’ll taste good for 3 days or so.

Enjoy, friends!

Crock Pot Beef with Broccoli

I love Crock Pot days because the aromas wrap around you like a blanket as soon as you enter the house. The perfect welcome from cold nights and long days at work.

Asian flavors are my secret to creating interesting dishes with the Crock Pot. Otherwise, the typical pot roast or beef stews just get a little old. But soy! Sugar! Sesame oil? Now you have something different.

This slow-cooker version of the classic cheap Chinese dish recreates the thick, dark gravy but doesn’t give you the chewy texture you get from beef strips stir-fried with broccoli. Instead, the beef is fork tender and full of hours worth of flavor.  Warm and satisfying from your nose to your toes.

I ended up cooking the broccoli separately and serving it over the rice, but the recipe has you cook it with the beef. I simply didn’t get home in time for this step.

Crock Pot Beef with Broccoli

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 lb. boneless beef chuck roast, sliced into thick strips
  • 1 c. beef stock
  • 1/2 c. soy sauce
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 2 heads worth of broccoli florets
  • Cooked rice (I used brown rice)

Place beef in Crock Pot.

Combine in small bowl the stock, soy sauce, brown sugar, oil and garlic. Pour over beef. Cover and cook on low, 6-8 hours.

In a cup, combine cornstarch with 2 T cooking liquid until smooth. Pour over beef and stir to combine. Add broccoli, cover and cook on high an additional 20-30 min. or until broccoli is cooked.

Serve over hot rice.

I topped mine with chopped scallions for an extra bite – highly recommend it. And a few sprinklings of sesame seeds.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo