Thursday, November 25, 2010

Emmo's Thanksgiving Recipes 2010

I hurriedly jotted down some notes on the dishes I made last year at Thanksgiving, and I found that they took a lot of interpreting to remember what exactly I had done. That's fine on things that weren't quite right (like my cranberry sauce), but was unfortunate on things that had gone well. Thus, I'm posting the recipes I used this year, if only for my own benefit... but maybe you'll like them, too. (To save typing, I'll link to recipes where possible and just explain changes I made.)

Reading through Canal House Cooking Volume 2, I came across a recipe for dry-brined turkey. I wouldn't have been able to do a wet brine this year anyway (as I did last year) because my 25-pound bird was too big for my largest pot, but it turns out dry brining is totally and completely awesome. The Canal House recipe is a take on the recipe published in the LA Times here, and following either recipe should give you the same moist, delicious, crispy-skinned result. On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I rubbed the turkey with kosher salt (1 tablespoon salt per 5 pounds of bird), wrapped it tightly, and put the wrapped bird in a garbage bag in the fridge. I turned it over every day, then took it out Wednesday night.
I unwrapped the turkey...
... then put it in the roasting pan in the fridge, uncovered, until it was time to cook on Thursday.
Just before putting the turkey in the oven, I brushed it with a little rendered turkey fat for extra crispiness. I inserted my remote digital thermometer in the deepest part of the thigh (not touching the bone), and threw the turkey in the oven.
I started with a half hour at 425°F before dropping the temperature to 325°F until the thermometer measured 165°F. At some point during that time, my oven broke. (Awesome!) Luckily my bird made it to temperature before residual heat was gone, but I missed out on some of the browning I would otherwise have had. Nonetheless, the turkey was amazing.
The skin was extremely crisp, and the breast meat (which is the part I tried for dinner) was tender and juicy. This is the only way I'll do turkey from now on.

Cranberry Sauce:
My cranberry sauce last year was good with dinner, but was too strongly flavored to go with my sandwich the following day (and that sandwich is, of course, the only reason I make the damn cranberries...). I decided to simplify things this year and based my cranberries on a recipe from Saveur for Cranberries with Port. I ended up modifying this a bit. I had 32 ounces of cranberries (I get carried away at Russo's sometimes...), which is almost 3 times the amount called for in the recipe, but I only used 1.5 times the amount of sugar (1.5 cups) and twice the port (2 cups) plus a cup of water.
I simmered the mixture until the liquid became like a syrup and cranberries were popping...
... then tossed it in the fridge until it was time for dinner.
These were delicious and will be great on my sandwich, but next year I will probably scale back the sugar even more. I like my cranberries a little more tart and a little less sweet, but this is definitely a good starting point.

Did I mention that I was dealing with a sinus infection while doing all of this cooking? Because I was, and it resulted in a couple mistakes. The one that worked out best was an error in baking cornbread for the stuffing. I was planning to make a double batch of cornbread from boxed mix, but when I poured the second package in with the first it turned out that the second package was actually buttermilk biscuit mix. It was too late to do anything about it at that point, so I decided to bake it anyway (adding one egg and a scant cup of milk, then baking at 400°F for 20 minutes). The result was sort of awesome, and was great in my stuffing. I think I'll do this on purpose next year.
I found another box of cornbread mix in the pantry, so I baked that up, too (wanting there to be "real" cornbread as well as my weird combo bread in the stuffing).
The other ingredients are celery, onion, leeks, (Amish) butter, sage, thyme, and water chestnuts.
I substituted some rendered turkey fat for some of the butter, since I wasn't planning to stuff the bird (for timing reasons)... and I guess not stuffing the bird officially makes this "dressing" rather than stuffing... but whatever.The bread is all cubed, which should give you about 12 cups of bread cubes.
Into a pan goes 6 ounces of butter and 2 ounces of turkey fat. When these are melted, I add 4 cups of chopped celery, 2 cups of chopped onion, 3 cups of chopped (cleaned) leeks, and 3 mounded tablespoons each of thyme and sage. When the veggies are soft and everything smells fantastic, I throw in the sliced water chestnuts and stir to combine.
This mixture is combined with the bread cubes and put into a dish to bake. (It would be fantastic in the turkey, too, of course.) Unfortunately, I put the stuffing/dressing in the oven (along with the Brussels sprouts, below) after the oven had broken but before I realized it had broken. There was enough residual heat in the oven (particularly in the pizza stone, on which I set the baking dish) to heat the stuffing/dressing through, but not enough to get the top extra crunchy like I like it.
I think this is the best stuffing I've made yet (inspired, as always, by the stuffing my mom always made). I am quite happy to have made such a big batch so I can enjoy the leftovers... Mmmm...

Brussels Sprouts:
I decided to switch up my usual Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots and try an actual recipe this year: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta from Epicurious. I suspect this is a decent recipe, but it's hard to fully judge since my oven was broken when the sprouts were supposed to be roasting (so they turned out a bit on the raw side). I don't mind mostly-raw Brussels sprouts, but it was non-ideal. I'll try to roast the leftovers in the toaster oven today and see if it's not too late to fix things. It's a simple recipe, with every ingredient except salt, pepper, and olive oil in the title of the dish.
The pancetta is chopped and the garlic minced, then everything is tossed together with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
These would look nice and caramelized if they'd been able to roast in my broken oven, but instead they aren't particularly amazing-looking.
The garlic dominated the dish, which may also have been remedied by proper roasting. Still, I think I prefer the smokiness of Blood Farm bacon to the pancetta and the subtlety of shallots to the aggressive garlic, so I'll be going back to Emily-style Brussels sprouts in the future.

I wasn't even going to make potatoes, but I had to make gravy for the stuffing anyway so I figured I might as well. Once I found the recipe for Whipped Mashed Potatoes with Celery Root, though, I was actually looking forward to my potatoes. I love celery root, and the addition of cheese (I substituted Parmigiano-Reggiano for the gran padano in the recipe) and thyme was kind of brilliant.
The (peeled, diced) celery root is simmered in half and half and butter along with the thyme for about 20 minutes, while the (peeled, diced) potatoes (I substituted Yukon Gold for the Russets in the recipe because... well... I love Yukon Gold potatoes and don't care for Russets...) simmer in salted water until just tender. The potatoes are drained and the thyme removed from the celery root mixture, then everything except the thyme and cheese is passed through a food mill. I added the cheese to the bowl once there was a layer of potatoes there so that it could start melting but not stick to the bowl when it did so. (The recipe calls for the celery root mixture to be puréed in a food processor, but after a long day of cooking and cleaning I was in no mood to clean my food processor again and decided to just pass everything through the food mill instead. I have no regrets.)
The mix is stirred together and seasoned with salt and pepper (I used black pepper, because I saw the flavor pairing better with this dish than the recommended white pepper).
I kept the potatoes warm over a double-boiler until it was time for dinner, then dished them up.
These were totally awesome. I love the complexity that the celeriac and cheese added to basic potatoes, and will make this as a side dish again in the future for sure.

So, that was my 2010 Thanksgiving Feast (other than dessert, which will has its own post because it was so awesome and adorable). I'll be baking homemade focaccia (in my toaster oven, I guess) today for sandwiches (like I did last year) and will be making Turkey Pozole again with the turkey stock I make with the carcass. (Look for that recipe here in the next couple days. It's awesome.) Good stuff...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Where I've Been...

Just in case anyone randomly checks this blog and wonders why nothing new ever gets posted, the answer is simple: laziness. Or, "exhaustion" might be a friendlier (if excessively dramatic) way of putting it... I started posting recipes here largely for my own benefit. I hate when I make a dish and it turns out perfectly, but a month later I have no idea what it was I had once done to make it so perfect. By posting recipes here with the actual amounts of ingredients that I use, I give myself a reference for future cooking (and, by having it online, I can access said recipes from anywhere). The problem with this is that in order to post the recipes for what I actually do, I have to measure the ingredients as I use them. Sometimes, like when I made batch after batch of hummus before arriving at what I consider to be the perfect recipe (the perfect Emily-style recipe, at least), I enjoy the process of tracking what I do and how the changes I make turn out. Most times, though, I cook as a break from using my brain so much at work, and what I enjoy most is just throwing a bunch of stuff together in semi-arbitrary amounts until the dish tastes the way I want it to.
For those reasons, I have every intention of posting recipes here again... but it's going to be when I'm a little less tuckered out from work stuff and life stuff, so it's bound to be erratic at best. Sorry about that.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chicken and Asparagus in a Creamy Lemon Dill Sauce

It's starting to feel like spring around here, and when I sat down to menu-plan on Friday I knew instantly what I wanted to have for dinner to celebrate. This dish is extremely easy to make and comes together in ~15 minutes after the prep work is done. I like to do the prep in the morning when I'm in a putzing-around-in-the-kitchen mood (which is less likely to be there when dinner time sneaks up on me). The bright lemon and dill are perfect with the asparagus, making this a great (and actually really healthy) spring dish. I don't remember where I first saw the recipe that later became this, but I remember that they had you boil the crap out of your asparagus, so it was olive-green and mushy by the time you sat down to eat it. Not cool. You can simmer for a bit longer if you prefer, but I like to throw the asapargus in at the end for just long enough to heat through.

Chicken and Asparagus in a Creamy Lemon Dill Sauce
   1 teaspoon oil
   4 - 5 shallots, minced
   6 chicken breasts, cut crosswise into ½” wide strips
   2 8-ounce cans sliced water chestnuts, drained
   3 cups chicken broth
   zest from 4 lemons
   juice of 4 lemons (see note)
   4 - 6 tablespoons flour
   1 3/4 C fat free sour cream (or full-fat if you're in the mood)
   1 teaspoon sea salt
   3 pounds asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut on diagonal into 2” lengths
   1 cup chopped fresh dill

In a large nonstick pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Increase the heat to high, then add the chicken and water chestnuts and cook, stirring frequently, until a majority of the chicken is turning opaque, about 4 minutes.

Combine the broth, lemon zest, lemon juice, flour, sour cream, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Things will be looking pretty bland at this point:
Add asparagus to the skillet and simmer until just heated through. Stir in the dill and serve (over rice if desired).
Serves 6-8.

Note: The only juicer I ever use and, in my opinion, the greatest juicer ever invented, is the aluminum juicer pictured above from the good people at WearEver. You can pretty much only find them at eBay or antique stores, but I highly recommend that you run out and find one. You can thank me later.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Scorching Chile Chicken

This dish is definitely in my Top 5 Favorite Lunches. I make it ridiculously often (so much so that Stef used to tease me about it in Melbourne) but never seem to get tired of it. This dish also once magically cured Alicia when she was sick, so it apparently has medicinal value in addition to being very healthy. On top of all that, it's actually extremely easy to make (and not just in the Emily-style way...) despite the seemingly-long ingredient list. The only real prep is chopping 2 onions, a few cloves of garlic, and some chiles. The rest is just a matter of dumping stuff in a pot, then letting it cook slowly in the oven (or, slightly higher-maintenance, simmer on the stovetop...).
Everything in this recipe is very much "to taste," and I don't think I've ever had it taste the same way twice. I used Red Curry Paste for the first few years that I made this, but in Melbourne I ran out of Red Curry Paste and had to substitute Penang, only to discover that I love this dish even more that way... For this batch I used 2 tablespoons of crushed red pepper flakes, 6 serranos, and 6 red jalapeño chiles and it turned out rather scorching indeed.

Scorching Chile Chicken
   For Spice Paste (adjust for desired degree of “scorching”-ness):
      3 tablespoons tomato paste
      3 cloves garlic, minced
      4 - 12 serrano chilies, finely minced
      1 - 3 tablespoons crushed dried red chilie flakes
      2 tablespoons Penang curry paste or red curry paste
      2 teaspoons chile powder
      1 teaspoon paprika
      1 teaspoon salt
      1/2 teaspoon sugar
   For the Chicken and Sauce:
      1 tablespoon oil or chicken fat (chicken fat is vastly superior but not always readily available...)
      2 - 3 tablespoons cumin seeds
      2 onions, chopped
      4 bay leaves
      1 tablespoon ground coriander
      1.5 tablespoons ground cumin
      1/2 teaspoon turmeric
      2 14 ounce cans diced tomatoes
      1 - 1 1/2 cups water
      6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
      1 tablespoon garam masala
   To Serve:
      Plain whole milk yogurt

Combine all ingredients for spice mix and set aside.
Heat oil in a large pot and toast the fry the cumin seeds 1 – 2 minutes. Add the onion and bay leaves and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the spice paste and cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the ground coriander, cumin, and turmeric and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the chicken and garam masala. Cover and simmer 25 – 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Alternately, pre-heat oven to 375°F and bake for 60-90 minutes. When the dish is finished cooking, I like to remove the chicken from the sauce and chop it into small bite-sized pieces, then return it to the sauce to soak up all that spicy goodness. Serve with yogurt to calm the burn.

Serves 6 generously.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Grilled Salmon Soft Tacos with Lime-Marinated Shrimp

I was having a bit of a Mexican food craving on Saturday, but also wanted something fresh and Spring-y to celebrate the (isolated) gorgeous day that was happening. Thus, I decided to grill up some salmon, marinate and grill some shrimp, make up a big batch of pico de gallo, make a variation on guacamole, and make a batch of corn tortillas to aid in the consumption of all of the above. This is hard stuff to write recipes for since it's really just throwing a bunch of stuff together until it tastes right, but here's an attempt. "Recipes" are given for each component, which can then be made into tacos:
or served without the tortillas as a relatively fancy-looking dish:

Season the salmon with salt and pepper, then grill until barely cooked through (or to your preferred doneness). I like to do the grilling all on just the skin side (or with the salmon on a piece of lightly-oiled foil if it's skinless) to remove the risk of any sticking-to-the-grill catastrophes. I prefer skin-on salmon, but Costco only sells skinless so I often end up going with that...

Combine the zest of 3 limes with the juice of 1-2 limes, 3-4 tablespoons of minced cilantro stems, 3 cloves finely minced garlic, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon sea salt in a large zip-top bag. Add 2 pounds peeled deveined shrimp and allow to marinate for a few hours. Thread the shrimp onto skewers and grill until just cooked through.
Pico de Gallo:
Combine 5 large tomatoes (diced), 1 red onion (chopped), 3 serrano chilies (finely minced), with chopped cilantro and lime juice to taste.
Avocado Relish/Guacamole:
All components of this are carefully cut into small dice, but they're the exact ingredients I use when I make guacomole, in which case I just chop everything and mash it together with avocados. Either way is delicious, this way is just prettier: Wrap 2-4 serrano pepeprs in foil and roast in a 400°F oven until very soft. To remove the roasted pepper flesh I remove the stem and, starting at the tip, scrape the length of the pepper with the back of a knife. Nine times out of ten the flesh will pop out the stem end, leaving the skin behind. (When this doesn't work, you have to get in there a little more to remove the flesh from the skin.) Run your knife through the roasted chillies and set aside. Finely dice 1/4 of a red oinon and one large tomato, then combine in a bowl with ~2-4 tablespoons shredded cilantro, a sprinkle of sea salt, and roasted chillies and lime juice to taste. Toss these ingredients together thoroughly so that there will be less mixing to do once the more delicate avocados are in the bowl. Finely dice 3 large avocados and add to the bowl. Gently toss all ingredients together until well-combined (being careful not to mash the avocados) and season to taste with additional lime, chillies, and/or salt as needed.
Corn Tortillas:
I follow Rick Bayless's recipe exactly when I make tortillas, so I will just link to it here rather than trying to paraphrase. I had actually been having some trouble the last couple times I made tortillas (they weren't puffing like they used to) and after re-reading the recipe I realize it was because I'd been skipping the part about using two different temperatures of pans. I did it the way Mr. Bayless explains this time and had a 100% success rate with puffing.
Homemade tortillas are about a million times more delicious than store-bought and are fairly low-maintenance (once you have the tools). I highly recommend giving them a try when you get a chance.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bun Cha and Ga Chanh Roti

These are the two dishes I make when I'm craving Vietnamese food. Both are extremely easy to make and really delicious. I usually serve the pork in a lettuce wrap or combine the lettuce wrap ingredients into a salad. I serve the chicken on its own so that the subtle lime leaf flavor remains the star of the dish. Both of these dishes are going to give you some serious charring on the grill (due to the palm sugar in the pork and the honey in the chicken marinade) so keep an eye on them as they cook.

Hanoi Grilled Pork (Bun Cha)
   For Pork:
      6 tablespoons palm sugar
      4 tablespoons fish sauce
      2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
      2 large shallots, finely chopped
      2 teaspoons salt
      2.5 pounds boneless pork loin, minced
   To Serve (See picture below):
      lettuce leaves, torn
      8 oz. bean sprouts
      julienned cucumber and carrot
      cilantro, basil, and mint leaves
      Dipping Sauce (combine fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chilies to taste)
Gently melt the 2 tablespoons of palm sugar with 3 tablespoons of the fish sauce in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring all the time. Allow to cool a little, then transfer the mixture to a bowl and combine with the garlic, shallot, 4 tablespoons palm sugar, the remaining fish sauce, and salt. Add the minced pork, mix thoroughly, then cover and leave to stand for 3 - 5 hours or, preferably, overnight.

Shape the minced pork into 12 flat patties, place them on a preheated grill and cook for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through.

To serve, use lettuce leaves as a wrap and fill with pork, veggies and herbs then dip in the dipping sauce.

Serves 6.

Grilled Lime Chicken (Ga Chanh Roti)
   4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
   2 tablespoons clear honey
   2 tablespoons fish sauce
   2 green onions, chopped
   2 cloves garlic, chopped
   16 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
      salt and pepper

Mix the chicken in a bowl with the honey, fish sauce, and salt and pepper. Leave to stand.

In a small food processor or blender, mix the green onions, garlic, and lime leaves, adding a little water if necessary. Make sure the lime paste is completely smooth, then add to the chicken. Stir well then cover and marinate for at least 2 hours or, preferably, overnight.

Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers and season with salt and pepper. Place on a preheated grill and cook until just cooked through.

Serves 4 - 6.


By the way, in theory you could cook both dishes under the broiler in your oven, but in case you need proof of how much better I think these taste cooked with fire, this is what my grill looked like when I went out to start cooking:

Monday, March 2, 2009

Curried Chicken Soup with Carrots

I hadn't made this soup in a couple years, but I have a lot of carrots around lately for some reason and it reminded me how much I used to love this soup. It's extremely easy to make, extremely healthy, and has a really unique flavor (in a good way). This batch turned out better than I ever remember it tasting before, so I'm glad I wrote down approximately what I did so that I can replicate it in the future...

Curried Chicken Soup with Carrots
   1 teaspoon oil
   2 pounds sweet onions, chopped
   1.5 pounds carrots, chopped
   2 tablespoons curry powder
   1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
   1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
   1/4 teaspoon cayenne
   6 cups chicken stock
   1/4 cup flour
   6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small bite-sized pieces
      fresh cilantro leaves, to serve

Heat the oil in a large pot over high heat, then add the onions and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots soften and the onions begin to color (about 30 minutes). Add the spices (curry powder through cayenne) and stir to combine. Transfer about 2/3 of the mixture to a blender (can do more or less than this, depending on how many carrot chunks you want in your final soup) along with the flour and about 2 cups of the chicken stock, then blend until smooth. Meanwhile, season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the soup pot. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the chicken starts to color. Add the mixture from the blender along with the remaining chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the soup is slightly thickened and the chicken is cooked through. Serve with fresh cilantro.

Serves 6.