Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Project: PORK

This is just a copy-paste from a school project. But Marie(my beautiful and fabulous editor at StyleCoven.com said she wanted to eat it. Also, I got an 89 on it at school. It's technically an Asian F, but to white people it may as well be an A. At least that's what my Dad said... (Fellow Twinkies know what I'm talking about.)

Here we go!


stolen from FoodTease
Pork is a glorious and wonderful meat that comes from a magical animal known as the pig. It may not be a magical animal to some – in fact, it has gotten a reputation of being a filthy creature and even forbidden to eat in certain religions – but, as Jim Gaffigan once said, “It eats an apple and makes bacon, and that’s magical.” I’m pretty sure that bacon is the most-beautiful thing on earth, but we aren’t here to talk about just bacon. We are here to talk about pork and all the great things you can do with it.
Pork, unlike beef, is not broken down into “sides” when being butchered, but is usually just broken down into their primal cuts, which are:
  • ·         Jowl
  • ·         Boston butt
  • ·         Picnic shoulder
  • ·         Belly
  • ·         Side
  • ·         Loin
  • ·         Pork leg(Ham/Hindquarters)
  • ·         Hock
The pork primals are broken down into smaller cuts, called sub-primals, which are the portions that we cook off for service, for our families, et cetera. The beauty of pork is that it is truly one of the most-versatile meats on the market today. From the fatty belly to the lean pork butt(or shoulder), we can do just about anything with it.
Starting with the jowls of the pork primal, I’m reminded of the head cheese we are making in Garde Manger class. However, I know most of the jowl from my mother, an immigrant from the Philippines. The jowl is one of those ‘waste’ parts that we often forget about, since it’s right on the face of the pig. It’s commonly used in most ethnic recipes, and it is rich and dense with plentiful amounts of fat.  It makes a beautiful Head cheese, but is most-often found smoked in todays’ markets. If one were to go to the Philippines, however, you would find it cured in the form of Guanciale, a Filipino pork jowl bacon. Mom always used hers in sour stews or pastas, tossed without any cream.
Next we move onto the Boston butt, or the top shoulder. If we think about the tops of our own shoulder, we imagine a tight area where we often carry a lot of tension. Thusly, it’s a long-fibered piece of meat with little fat in it. Larding could be used to introduce some fat to the party, but Boston Butt is a favorite of many Kansas City BBQ-ers, as it is amazing when smoked over low temperatures for a very long time. Pulled pork is stringy, but when cooked slowly it’s really a beautiful dish and beautiful addition to a sandwich, salad, you-name-it.
The picnic shoulder is just below the Boston butt, and is another leaner part of the animal. It is a fairly inexpensive piece of meat and does very well for stewing or sautéing. I personally like it slow-cooked with some ginger, vinegar, bay leaf and garlic overnight, and then pulled, stuffed into a lumpia wrapper and deep-fried.
The pork belly contains the ribs as well as the belly part, which we use to cure and make bacon. There is a beautiful recipe for pork belly courtesy of the British Isles in International Cuisine, in which it is simply slow-roasted over a period of three hours, letting the fat render and the meat become caramelized. Ribs are best marinated to absorb in flavor and smoked slowly.
FilipinoFoodLovers.com is awesome too
The loin of the pork carcass is quite-easily the winner of the People’s Choice award. Not only does it contain the chops, but it contains the ever-lovely tenderloin, a long “rope” of meat that is oh-so-tender. Most prefer a light sear on tenderloins to make steaks out of, since it is such a tender morsel of meat. Many cooking methods can apply to this one, but grilling and searing seem to be a favorite, which goes for the pork chops as well. This is a part of the pig, however, that can go from juicy to bone-dry in a matter of seconds, so it’s very important that it isn’t overcooked. As far as the chops go, think of them as your pork ‘steaks’, so grill or sear accordingly.
In the pork leg we have many leg cuts, as well as the ham – which is most-famous for curing and honey-roasting(thank you, Honey roasted ham store) – and the pork leg itself is an interesting piece of meat. With the leg you have a log of nice lean muscle going on, so that means it can be tough – which means long cooking methods like slow-roasting on low temperatures or braising, which seems best to help break down the long fibers of muscle and make it nice and tender. Slow-cooked meat from the leg can even be set in a crock pot with some barbecue sauce and a little white wine and a chopped shallot for seven or eight hours and make some delicious BBQ tacos when you get home from work.
No real point. I just wanted to put up a picture of Miss Piggy...
Hocks are parts of the pig that, in theory, could be considered a waste part. It’s basically the little last bits of the leg on the pork primal, and they are a touch tricky. However, if we were to go back to a fundamentals point of view and look at another animal with a similar piece of meat – say, oxtail or something – we just have to think about slow stewing and braising, like a pork osso bucco. There is in fact a wonderful German recipe for pork hocks and sauerkraut, which is simply slowly simmering the pork hocks over a period of two hours, draining most of the water and adding kraut and some caraway seed for another quick half-hour cook. It seems overly simple, but it’s really a great way to utilize the pork hock.
Truth be told, the pig is a versatile animal that can be used for almost anything. I have, of course, a few personal favorites on how the meat is cooked, and I will probably never stop loving it. On an ending note, here’s the recipe for the Pork Chops & Fried Rice that my dad and I would make.

Dad’s Pork Chops n’ Fried Rice
·         4 pork chops, marinated in:
  • o   ½ cup soy sauce
  • o   1 green onion, chopped
  • o   1 splash vinegar, preferably white
  • o   1 tsp butter
  • ·         2-3 Tbsp olive oil
For the fried rice
  • ·         3 cups cooked rice
  • ·         Enough soy sauce to color it light brown, usually 5 or 6 big splashes of it
  • ·         1 egg, scrambled in the pan
  • ·         2 green onion, chopped
  • ·         Salt and pepper to taste
  • ·         1 small lime, quartered
Grill the pork chops over charcoals, using the marinade as the basting liquid. When off the grill, dot each pork chop with ¼ tsp of butter and allow to melt. For the fried rice, simply add enough oil to the pan so the rice won’t stick, and pan-fry while tossing with the soy sauce and green onion.
For the egg, beat with a drop of water and a splash of milk, and season lightly. Then push all of the rice over to one side and tilt the pan to create a separate egg cooking section. Scramble the egg lightly and set the pan down straight to combine with the rice. Toss gently and squeeze lime juice over the top to give it one last little kick.

Knowing how to cook pork isn’t so much about knowing the animal itself, but learning to slowly master the techniques needed. Everything is technique, really, and anyone can learn it with some practice. All in all, pork is delicious and I don’t think anybody will stop eating it any time soon.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Back Home...To Bumsted's!

For all of my not-so-avid readers that do not know, I am a Tucson native. Born-and-raised in the Arizona sun, this Prickly Pear Blossom is sweet and spiky for a good bit of local food(I'm not counting the four years I lived in Lake Arrowhead, CA when I was like two). Like my parents, I'm a big supporter of the Green Movement(would it be Beige Movement in Tucson?), so I'm all about shopping locally. I like supporting local businesses and Tucson Originals, otherwise known as independently owned and operated by Tucson locals - and you can check out their website here.

So I only had five days in Tucson, and what time wasn't spent with my family and boyfriend running around like crazy chickens with our heads cut off. We did everything from shopping at Silver Sea Jewelry on 4th Ave(which is a really neat shop to check out on Facebook) to the Sonoran Desert Museum way the heck out there on the east side. But this is a blog about Bumstead's, which is not a Tucson Original, but is tasty nonetheless.



My loving boyfriend A. and I met my old high school chum Jessica at Bison Witches, which is another neat place to eat at on 4th Ave, but was unfortunately packed to the brims because it was a Saturday. Fortunately, Bumsted's was right down the street, and I'd never eaten there before - so off we went.

Bumsted's on UrbanspoonThe first thing I was semi-surprised about was how spacious it was. I mean, seriously, it went really far back. It had a combination feel of an old diner with a dive bar, only huge. It was rather dark on the inside, or maybe it seemed that way since I was being blinded by the bright sun, but there were some very comfy seats by the windows off to the right. In the middle is a rather large fish tank with a "Nemo" fish and a "Dory" fish, as Jessica described it. There were other fish in the tank as well as some coral, and it looked a bit murky to be honest, but it was still very neat to look at.

There wasn't any uniform that our server was wearing, who was a big, thick red-head with a beard, but he was very friendly and informative. My only real complaint about him is that his visits with us were few and far between, but that's the kind of vibe that 4th Ave sometimes gives. Maybe it's just me trying to defend a Tucson local legend, but I understand the service industry and I know that when it's a slow day, you sometimes can relax and chat with other customers, chat with the line cooks, etc. I generally give people the benefit of the doubt, and when someone's friendly, they get a good tip. Also, he recommended some really good ideas for the orders we placed, and was very accommodating.

The menu was rather large(almost too large, to be honest), and had a very creative amount of names to their food. The hot subs section was dubbed "A Hot Affair" and all of the meatloaf dishes were named after - ha ha - Meatloaf songs. All of the burgers were named after mullets(wtf?), and the sense of humor continued throughout the menu. I think there was even a sandwich in there called M.I.L.F, which was some kind of turkey sandwich with avocado on it...or maybe not.

Anyway, the menu was big and random, but was funny enough to make me laugh. Jessica, instead of ordering one big entree, opted to just order a couple of small appetizers to nibble on - the mac n' cheese and chicken fingers - and I had the Michael Bolton Bleu Burger, which was a burger with bacon, blue cheese, grilled onions and had a marinated portobello mushroom cap as the protein - but the waiter was nice enough to have them replace it with an Angus beef patty instead.

The food took forever to make(like, over 25 minutes), but was uber tasty. And the portion sizes were huge. I was nowhere near hungry enough to eat the amount of food I was given, but as far as bang for your buck goes, it's a Winner. I mean, $10 for a huge burger that had to be eaten with a knife and fork and a huger than huge amount of fries? (Safe to say I took half of it home, but that's another story.)

The mac n' cheese got cut out of the shot :(
The Mac n' Cheese was unimpressive, but portioned well. The pasta was cooked fine and was basically just shredded cheese tossed in butter and hot pasta. It was baked in a little ramekin and nicely presented on a lettuce leaf on a larger plate. It was really kind of a slap-together thing, but passable. The chicken was nicely cooked and tender, and had this really great seasoning on it that I can't quite describe. The presentation was very nice too.

And the burger? Insanely good. Blue cheese melted nicely(which is kind hard to do right sometimes), bacon was cooked very well, and the burger was juicy and tender. Nice big toasty warm bun. The waiter was great enough to bring me a steak knife to cut into that bad boy.

So all in all, Bumsted's is a great place. If you're starved and want a big f#cking sandwich or a place to hang out with your friends, go there. They play a lot of great music(especially if you're into Lady Gaga!), and have a pretty chill atmosphere. So definitely go. And tell me how the other 98% of the menu is.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Recap

So Thanksgiving was amazing. Like, historically so. Those of you who saw my twitter posts(if you're not following me, you can do so here at Twitter.com/WannaBGourmande), I made a gravy so awesome that my dad thought it was soup(and he recently went vegetarian). I also made a beautiful Fennel Vichyssoise(which I will be posting the recipe for in a future blog(probably tomorrow, but most-likely later today)), a slew of pot de cremes, and the turkey.

There were about 20 or so of us in Grandma Janie's house, so we made two turkeys. Dad said it was the best turkey he's ever had(but he's my dad so he has to say that), and the family of mine that had some said it was amazing, too. My aunt even asked what my secret was. Well, the secret is brining, and it's in my previous blog, which you can find it here.

At 9 am, after two or three turns in the brine overnight, I took the turkey out and patted it dry. A little trick to browning meat is drying it properly, so remember that. Then I roasted:

  • 1 red onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 gala apple, quartered
  • 1 garlic clove
...all in the oven at 400 degrees on a sheet pan for 5-7 minutes, or just until it got a little soft. I wasn't looking to cook it, just soften it a tad to get the flavors released. Then, take a container of whole cloves and stick each piece of apple with two. So you should have 8 cloves. That's ALL YOU NEED. Stuff the garlic, onion and apple into the cavity of the turkey(DO NOT STUFF IT) along with two sprigs of tarragon.

Once that is done, set it in your roasting pan. Then rub a palm-full of rubbed sage powder all over the bird, and crack some black pepper over the surface. THEN(here comes the cool part) take a large, relatively square piece of tinfoil and fold the corners together to form a kind of triangular shield. Mold the shield to the turkey breast. If you have to, make another triangle shield to cover the breast portion entirely. We want to create a barrier because, let's face it, the dry turkey breast on Thanksgiving is one of the things that we don't have to deal with anymore.

With the oven still at 425, pop your turkey in and let it hang out for 30 - 45 minutes, just until it's browned on the surface. THEN(here comes another cool part) we open the oven door and slide out the turkey to place our shield on the breast. This will keep it moist without having to sacrifice the beautiful and iconic browned turkey color that we all adore. Slide it back in the oven and lower the temperature to about 325 degrees and continue roasting for the duration of the cooking period.This dual-temperature cooking method will allow us to keep the bird moist and cook it all the way through.

We had a 20 lb bird, so it took about 2.5 hours to get it to the sweet spot of 140 degrees in the thigh meat, which is really where you want to check. Always use a thermometer when checking for meat doneness. There are actually super-neat probe thermometers that can go inside the oven with a long wire, while the gauge sticks outside on the oven or countertop and goes off with a beep when its at the right temperature. You can find them at Bed Bath & Beyond for about $20. This is a good model right here.

Anyway, once the thermometer reaches about 150 degrees, simply turn off the oven off and leave it for another 20 minutes. The residual heat in the oven and in the bird will continue to cook the bird, and will leave it so moist. It will look like this once its done.

it's like ZOMG perfect an' stuff!!!!1!
To make the gravy, remove the bird from the pan and set it on a cutting board lined with aluminum foil(to catch extra juices), and pour all the drippings in a sauce pot. Use a ladel or a soup spoon to skim off all but a few tablespoons of the fat. Mix the fat with an equal amount of flour and drop that in the drippings. Cook over a low simmer for about 6-8 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Add about two cups of room-temperature milk once that's all done and let simmer longer to develop more flavor. It should simmer for about 10 minutes with the milk, but never boil. Taste often for seasoning, but you shouldn't really need any, since the turkey is seasoned already. Whisk often.

Anyway, once everything was all done, we packed up and went over to Grandma Janie's house. Here's what we ate:

  1. 2 turkeys(one was mine, one was Grandpa Jim's)
  2. 2 stuffings(one was Grandma Janie's, one was Aunt Evonne's)
  3. Roasted squash with pumpkin seeds and balsamic vinager
  4. Mashed potatoes
  5. Green bean casserole
  6. Sweet potatoes
  7. Grandma's homemade rolls
  8. 2 different kinds of gravy
  9. Fennel vichyssoise
  10. Ambrosia
  11. Cranberry relish
  12. Kale salad
  13. Wild rice dried fruit pilaf
  14. Roasted cauliflower
  15. Pecan pie
  16. Pumpkin Pie
  17. Pot de Creme
  18. Sweet Potato Pie
So there you have it. Thanksgiving at my Grandma's house. A. was with us and said it was probably one of the best Thanksgivings he's ever had. I couldn't really move much after that. I'm pretty sure they had to carry me out. Or at least assist. Anyway, we're going over there in a few hours for leftovers. It will definitely be awesome, especially considering there was a lot of gravy and my turkey is still going to be super moist after the brining.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes - Part 3.5 - Brining and Other Nifty Skills

Remember how a few days ago I covered turkey and its own little anatomy? I realized recently that I didn't even tell you guys how to brine things. Well, since I'm not a terrible person, I'm going to tell you how right now, using my own notes from Garde Manger. What's "garde manger", you ask?

Garde Manger is French for "keep to eat." Basically, it's preserving and smoking and making sausages and things like that. It's got little to nothing to do with recipes, but is all about techniques and skills on how to do very useful things. It is basically the cold side of the kitchen that makes terrines, salads, gazpachos, pates, sausages and house-smoked bacon, etc. Actually...


Garde manger
·         Created profession began with the need to preserve food
·         The practice of food preservation is much older than the term garden manger

COLD & SAVORY!!!
1.       The Chef
2.       The Kitchen
3.       The craft of Garde Manger itself
Preserving Things

Fat -> CONFIT!
1.       Cure food
2.       Simmer in fat
3.       Pack the food IN the fat
4.       Allow it to mellow out/rest for at least a week

Cured
1.       Ready to eat cured food
2.       Cooked by the consumer cured food
3.       Dried after cured cured food!
Wet cures vs. Dry cures
Brines vs. Rubs!
·         20% salt…stick to 1 gallon water : 1 cup salt

Pickling
·         Brine w/ acid
·         TCM ->tinted curing mixtre
·         TCM #2 -> sodim nitrate

Pellicle
Just hang it and let it air dry! Wooooooot

Smoking
Flavor & preservation
Smoking gives awesome flavor and preserves…also been found that when we smoke meat it keeps animals away…good to know!
·         Hot Smoking
·         Cooks
§  180 to 250 degrees
·         You’re only going to smoke for about the first 30 mins…and after that you’re just roasting. So keep that in mind!
·         The number one thing you want to taste is the Meat, then the rub/flavor, then the smoke
Stuff you wanna smoke stuff in…(or possibly  not)
·         100% Lump Hardwood
§  *(compressed hard wood)
§  Nitrates + Humidity = Smoke Ring in the meat!
§  Keep your wood dry
·         Woods to use
·         Hickory
·         Medium: Cherry, pecan, maple
·         Light: apple/pear/orange wood
·         Other stuff…
·         Brickettes
§  Chemicals, and they burn hot and fast…stuff that you don’t necessarily want around your food!
·         Cold Smoking
·         Doesn’t cook, but flavors
§  60 to 80 degrees
·         Pan smoking
·         Number one thing is that you can get in BIG trouble by over-smoking stuff

Anyway, that's what Garde Manger is all about. But back to brining. 

 The basic ratio for brining is 1 gallon of water per 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of sugar. So it goes Water:Salt:Sugar in a 16:1:1 ratio. That's a basic, basic ratio. As far as technique goes, you boil the water with the salt and sugar until completely dissolved. After that, you let it cool by either adding a few cups of ice or just letting it hang out on the stove, off the heat, and let it come to room temperature. Don't worry about any bacteria forming in the water, because of the salt content.

After this is cooled sufficiently, immerse your turkey - breast side down, please - and either use a plate to weigh it down or a brick wrapped in plastic wrap. If you can't find space in your hugely-stocked fridge full of Thanksgiving delight, you can pop it all in a cool spot in your garage, or any other cool dark space. If you'd like to make extra efforts on keeping it cool, use those cold packs you can find for keeping box lunches cool in the brine. It won't affect the flavor at all, but you can put them in a plastic bag if you're feeling a touch paranoid.

As far as introducing some more flavors to your brine, here are things that work for your hard boil:

  • Whole peppercorns
  • Bay leaves
  • Thyme sprigs
  • Elder berries
  • Whole cloves
  • Dry rosemary sprigs
  • Whole garlic cloves
 Some things you don't want in a brine are things that won't stand up amazingly to a super-hard boil. Also, these are things that have more delicate flavors that you'll want to save for rubs and infusions.

  • Saffron(which is also STUPID expensive)
  • Rubbed sage/sage sprigs
  • Tarragon
  • Paprika
  • Oregano
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Ground black pepper
  • Garlic salt
With these tips and tricks, you can create a beautiful brine.  The general rule is the longer the better, so a 12-hour brine for big turkeys are best.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ginger Sue's is AMAZING

It's very unassuming on the outside. No, really. If you didn't know what you were looking for you would probably pass it without even knowing what had happened. It's such a little door - probably to hold in all the flavors, just like Wonka's chocolate factory - and it opens to such a possibility.

You're first greeted with a warm palette of colors, warm autumnal reds with yellow, browns and golds. It's not lavish. It's meant to look like a beautiful Southwestern/Creole kitchen. In its simplicity of design, you feel like you've stumbled upon something special. A. and I were seated by a friendly brunette waitress, which seemed to be one of many. (Seriously, there were a lot of pretty little brunettes that were there that day.) The coffee was fresh, which was a good sign, and the staff was very friendly and engaging. None of that glazed-over dead-in-the-eye stuff of so many people I've seen here. It was refreshing.

The menu seemed heavily influenced by Cajun/Creole ingredients. Everything from Cajun crepes to andouille sausage pasta specials, from breakfast to lunch of tenderloin or pancakes. They had french toast and eggs benedict. I personally couldn't resist the call of the hollandaise sauce, I settled for the crab benedict, rather than the salmon benedict(which almost got me,  had I not had so much dang smoked salmon in Garde Manger class lately). Classical French meets Cajun/Creole meets America. That's a wonderful description of their cuisine, I think.

A. got the tenderloin, which was breaded very nicely and served on a rather large plate of veggie accompaniments as well as a tasty apple-peppers slaw. It was moist and thin, and didn't give that normally heavy feeling that many tenderloins sometimes give. You know, the kind where you know you've eaten too much bread and you can do nothing about it?

The crab benedict was great. The eggs were poached perfectly and the hollandaise sauce, although just a touch under-seasoned, balanced out the homefried potatoes that came with it. Good toast on the English muffin, good amount of crab vs. egg...all in all, it was a successful and creative dish. Both A. and I were stuffed when the waitress asked if we'd have pumpkin pie for dessert. I couldn't resist, but I couldn't speak - fortunately, I have the most wonderful boyfriend in the world who suggested that we split it.

Ginger Sue's on UrbanspoonAll of their pies and desserts are made in-House, which is always admirable. The crust was nice and tender, and the custard of the pumpkin pie itself was nice and spicy with that same smoothness that we all desire in a custard pie. The real trick to custard pies is low heat with a long and slow cooking time. You can tell that a lot of love went into this pie, and it showed. Ginger Sue's is easily my new favorite breakfast place in historic downtown Liberty, MO and you'll be sure to see me back there for the rest of the menu sometime soon. If you'd like to check out more of their info, go to UrbanSpoon. 90% of people who have been there love it.  No need to be shocked.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes - Part 3, Turkey

The turkey.
The big bird.
The big cheese, so to speak.
(Although, ironically, there was little to no cheese at the first Thanksgiving but the star was venison, not turkey.)

There are many, many ways to prepare this superstar player in the Thanksgiving game, and we're going to explore several of them. Here at the Wannabe Gourmande's house, we like options. But first, let's look at a few fun and simple facts about the domesticated turkey:

Domesticated turkeys are too big and fat to fly, whereas wild turkeys can fly for short distances.

Mature turkeys have about 3,500 feathers; the Apache Indians considered them to be a timid bird, so they would never eat them or use their feathers for arrows.

Benjamin Franklin thought that the turkey was so American that it should be the national bird to signify America, instead of the eagle.

Okay, now that that's over, let's look at the anatomy of the domesticated turkey.

The breasts of the turkey are way too big for flight or any practical usage for any animal that would exist in the wild. Fortunately for us, this means big white breast meat that's lean and easy to cut for leftovers. I think that's why people like white meat. Just easy to cut. I personally prefer dark meat(the legs, thighs, etc.). This is great for us, but when roasting for long periods in the oven. It's too high on the bird to stay moist while all the rest of the bird is cooking, so when oven-roasting, the solution is simple: brine that bitch.

A brine is a solution of salt, sugar, and spices that's been boiled and cooled. It's like a marinade only totally better. Alton Brown on the "Romancing the Bird" episode explains it best, but for the purposes of saving you the trouble of hitting ctrl+T and YouTubing it, allow me to explain:

The bird is sitting in a salty solution of flavorings. Salt draws out moisture first, but that's only the first part. The moisture level inside the bird is now even with the water outside, and water is doing osmosis back and forth between the turkey and the water, carrying the salt and flavorings in between. the salt and flavor, however, gets trapped inside the bird along with all this excess moisture. So now after a good long soak(overnight is best), the breast of the turkey(as well as all the other yummy parts) will stay fabulously moist.

Going back to my notes from school, there are actually ten different cooking methods, broken down into three categories: Dry, Moist, and Combination.

Dry
Braised turkey legs are nice
  1. Saute
  2. Deep-fry(there's no water involved, so technically this is a dry method...trust me, I asked myself in class.)
  3. Grill
  4. Roast
Moist
  1. Boil
  2. Parboil
  3. Blanch
  4. Steam
Combination
  1. Braise
  2. Stew
The turkey is a big, massive thing that can be(technically) cooked in all these ways, but for a moist bird you want to carve at the table, you'll probably want to stick with roasting or deep-frying.

I never deep fry turkeys because I'm a big fat pair of testicles when it comes to that and I'm constantly afraid that this will happen, but here's some tips I learned from my friend Don(a guy I know from school):

  • Regulate the temperature and check it often so the oil doesn't boil over and catch fire
  • Thaw the bird completely and thoroughly(otherwise it will probably explode)
  • Pat the outside and inside of the bird dry thoroughly before immersing in the hot oil
Teaching geeks to cook since 1999
So I'm sorry to tell you that low and slow is not the way to go. It's best to start off with a high temperature to brown the skin(around 400) for about an hour and then cover(either with a shield of aluminum foil molded to the turkey breast or the cover for your turkey pan) and cook on a lower temperature(about 350 to 325) until the turkey is done. You're looking for about 170 degrees when stuck into the deepest part of the bird. Alton Brown has some great tips on it, and you can actually watch many of his episodes of Good Eats on YouTube.

But let me say that you should probably leave the stuffing out of the picture. No, seriously. I know I'm probably going to offend some people by saying not to actually STUFF the bird, but not only does it rob the bird of moisture, but it adds mass and cooking time and soaks up juices for Salmonella to develop. So just do dressing and use the cavity to introduce some new flavor.

Traditional aromatics are called mirepoix, which is a 2:1:1 ratio of onion, carrot and celery. You don't have to cut them up nice and pretty, just break them up to be small enough to stuff in the turkey. (I would grill the onion a little bit to bring out some flavor, but whatever.) The turkey's cavity brings out a great deal of possibilities. Some ideas are:
  • Apple halves
  • Orange/citrus peel
  • Celery stalks
  • Grilled peeled carrots
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Sage leaves
  • Rosemary sprigs
  • Thyme sprigs
  • Tarragon sprigs
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Garlic cloves
  • Onion halves
I am totally hot and lightly seasoned for you
Another option of introducing flavors is rubs. Many rubs can be found nowadays for great prices in your local supermarket premixed. You can also be creative and make your own. Just do me a favor and keep the salt content on your rubs LOW. You want to do this because a.) the brine will already season your bird, and b.) salt draws OUT moisture onto the skin and therefore will prevent proper browning for your turkey in the oven.

Also, don't baste. Unless you're the Olympic Gold Medalist in basting speed, the constant opening and closing of the oven doors, changing of pressure and temperature will just ultimately harm your bird and keep it from cooking properly for a very long time. So just save yourself the trouble and leave it alone and let it get all hot and sexy on its own. This guy has the right idea.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes - Part 2, Cornbread

Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without side dishes or salads or soups(maybe?), but there is a staple that is such a...well, staple that it's often included without even needing mention. I speak, of course, of rolls. Either soft yeast dinner rolls or cornbread skillets, a table isn't complete without bread.

"Challah" atch'yo girl!
I mean, seriously. In the food world, bread is amazing. Everybody loves it, and it costs - like - not even a dollar to make a few loaves. The world has been shaped and even some cultures are undeniably recognized by their breads. The French have the baguette, the Jews have Challah, the British have scones, and we have...Wonder! Yay!

My point is that we can't have Thanksgiving without bread of some kind, and in Culinary school I have cooked a lot of bread. Not to my chagrin, mind you! I love bread - and I love it even more when any skinny/fat girl says "Eeew bread is so bad for you!"

Bitch, please. If this stuff was really that bad for me, I'd be dead in a ditch somewhere. I love bread so much more violently out of my hatred for those girls.

(By the way, for those who don't know, I define a Skinny/Fat girl as a girl that doesn't want to lose weight in a normal healthy way such as eating right and exercising over an extended period. No, this is the person that takes drops under the tongue and eats a 500 calorie-a-day diet to lose 30 lbs in 30 days - which just seems FREAKISHLY unhealthy to me. I also define that bitch as the 20-lb-dripping-wet-ho that says "Oh no Tiffany, you're not fat - I'm fat!" THOSE are skinny/fat girls. I'll probably reference those more in my blogs in the future. Anyway.)

They're so shiny with butter! They almost look plastic!
But, no, I love bread. All kinds. This particular bread dish I would like to share with you is the twist on a classic: Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins! It screams cornbread classico, but with a bit of a twist. This recipe is straight out of my notebook from Culinary school, and the best part is that it's only a tad spicy, for those sensitive folks out there.

Of course, feel free to take this cornbread muffin recipe and make it your own. The beautiful part of this recipe is that you can pretty much add anything, with a few minor adjustments here and there, which we will discuss later. But you can add any little ingredient to this recipe and make it your own - and let it become your new Thanksgiving Tradition for your family to enjoy through generations. And don't worry, nobody has to know that you got the recipe from a 23-year-old girl with chipping toenail polish.

Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins
Muffin Method

  • 12 oz cornmeal
  • 12 oz pastry/A.P. flour(mixed if possible)
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 24 fl. oz buttermilk
  • 6 eggs
  • 8 fl. oz oil
  • 6 oz corn kernels
  • 6 oz grated cheese(we used cheddar/pepperjack)
  • 4 oz jalapenos, brunoise
(Please measure via weight using a scale. It will work out SO MUCH BETTER.) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare your muffin tins by greasing the cups or by lining them with paper liners. Seed and finely dice the jalapenos, and set aside. If buttermilk is not readily available, you can easily create it by combining the necessary amount of milk with a few teaspoons of rice wine vinegar(my personal favorite) and letting it sit for at least 15 minutes at room temperature on the counter.

Don't ask me who's in the background. I forgot.
Combine all dry ingredients together in a large bowl, ideally via sifting. Whisk together the buttermilk, cheese, eggs and oil. Keep the corn kernels and jalapenos to the side, as they will be mixed in last. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients.

Stir a maximum of 12 times, scraping the bottom of the bowl. You don't want to get rid of lumps. You only want to combine the ingredients - they don't call muffins 'quickbreads' for no reason! Fold in the corn kernels and jalapenos right at the very end, mixing a minimal amount of times.

Portion the batter into the prepared amount of tins as quickly as you can. Time is important, because baking soda and baking powder are time-sensitive, and the longer you wait, the less fluffy-muffiny-goodness you have. Therein, make sure that EVERYTHING is ready, because you don't want your batter sitting and going flat while you prepare your muffin tins. So do be deliberate. An ice cream scoop is ideal for portioning quickly, but two large spoons will do just fine in a pinch.

Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes then lower the oven to 350 until done, about another five minutes, if that. You basically just want to watch until they are GBD, or "golden-brown delicious" around the edges. Test with a toothpick, but be brief when you do. Every time you open your oven, you lower the temperature and change the pressure of the baking conditions, which can harm your final product, and that's not what we want.

Once removed from the oven, make sure to let them rest in the pan for at least 10 minutes before overturning them. After that little period of rest, you can take them out of their tins and let them hang out on the counter, ideally on a cooling rack. I understand that not everybody has them, but they're not even ten bucks at a local Walmart, and really worth the investment for superior baked goods - or at least baked goods that can cool faster and go in your mouth sooner.
Ignore the red stuff. Or not.

Serve these warm with a compound butter of your choice. These are seriously awesome.

For those of you who don't already know, a compound butter is just butter that's been whipped together with flavorings such as lemon juice, minced garlic, herbs and spices, or other tasty things to make everything seem a tad more special. My personal favorite is honey butter, which is so easy and so tasty that you'll want to keep a batch or two on hand in your fridge for bagels and toast. Also, most compound butters freeze perfectly, so they can be made in advance in blocks. For an extra kick, pipe them on a plate with a star tip to get that "Wow" factor.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes - Part 1, Succotash

So my glorious editor at the illustrious StyleCoven.com Facebooked me the other night asking me if I knew of any delicious recipes for Thanksgiving. "Of course!" I said with a little laugh. "What did you have in mind. And by when do you need it?"

With the wonderful and fabulous 'cackle' that belongs only to Marie, she said "Blow me away with your genius."

That was pretty much it and the end of our conversation. Marie and I first met in Los Angeles several years ago at a Coven meeting celebrating Mabon in North Hollywood. I was buying a black dress for the ritual and she came right over to me, all 5' 2" of her, and pushed my bosoms up saying "Oh, good, darling! Now we need some fishing line to perk these girls up, and wear combat boots with it." Being a wide-eyed and aspiring fashion designer at the time, I immediately fell in love with her. But enough about that.

Thanksgiving began circa 1621 when the Plymouth colonists shared their autumn harvest meal with the local Native Americans, the most-famous of which is probably Squanto. He was the one to teach those stuffy Brits how to live off the land, harvest and plant, catch fish and what have you. Truthfully, the first Thanksgiving feast did have turkey, and more wild game birds such as duck and goose.

However, if you want to talk about authenticity, the big hit at the first Thanksgiving was venison! Not that there wasn't a lot of food, mind you. They had all sorts of things like pumpkins, eel, lobster, oysters, cod, bass, gooseberries, cranberries(but not cranberry sauce because they didn't have sugar), and lots more! They also didn't have stuffing, but they did use dried corn that was made into cornmeal and succotash, which is a kind of  thick soup that they ate all winter. Succotash itself is kind of a staple of New England cuisine, nowadays.  So why not use it as a new staple in your Thanksgiving feast? Not only is it rich in veggies, but it is oh-so-rustic-chic.

Many succotash recipes vary nowadays, but they will always contain corn and some kind of beans, usually Lima beans. I got this recipe from Martha Stewart, the ultimate Domestic Diva.

I told you it could be chic

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, seeded, deveined, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 medium zucchini, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 ten-ounce packages frozen lima beans, rinsed under warm running water and drained
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (4 ears)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon picked fresh thyme leaves

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion; cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add bell peppers, zucchini, lima beans, and corn. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in herbs, and serve.

Succotash is perfect for an appetizer or side dish. And the best part about it is that you don't have to wait til Thanksgiving to have it. This glorious dish can be made all winter, and is just perfect.