Please visit my catering web site by clicking here to see the specials I am offering this Holiday season courtesy of my new confections side gig - Sweet Tooth Candy Company.
We are making amazing Peanut Brittle, Old Fashioned Butter Nut Toffee, Original Peppermint Bark, and "Lucy Paws" (also known as caramel-pecan chocolate covered turtles). All items are made to order using the highest of quality ingredients, providing you with a fresher and better tasting candy to share with your family and friends!
Great as gifts, stocking stuffers, or just to enjoy on your own. Pricing and shipping information available!
Enjoy all the sweetness this Holiday season has to offer by choosing Sweet Tooth Candy Co.!
Hey all! This holiday season I am launching a "pop up" candy company, called Sweet Tooth, offering the best peppermint bark, peanut brittle, chocolate covered toffee, and salted caramel pecan turtles - just to start! More info to be posted tomorrow. If you are interested please message me for gifts for your friends and family. And, I will ship!
Have a great Thursday night - oh, and it's five o'clock, time to pour a glass of wine!
Cheers and enjoy - back tomorrow with more!
On to day two: 24 hours later and the turkey has enjoyed its bath in the brine. Now for the air chill.
Some may ask, why air chill the bird for another 24 hours? Well, to half answer that, I ask you a question: have you noticed at your market or butcher that your options for chicken range not only from organic to all natural but also include the option of "air chilled"? Air chilling poultry is an alternative method of cooling the chicken down after it has been defeathered, cleaned, and processed, which is actually better for the bird, and for the consumer. See a small video here to explain.
In essence, I am doing a similar method for the turkey - removing it from the liquid and allowing it to rest not only to remove all of the liquid but also to preserve that "turkey flavor". Plus, I personally find it makes for crispier skin during the roasting process.
So, pat that bird as dry as you can get it. Set the bird on top of paper towels in a roasting pan in the fridge to absorb up as much moisture as possible. If you want to turn the turkey over after 12 hours go ahead! It will only help to remove all of the liquid still left behind from the brining.
Another 24 hours and we are ready to make the pancetta-sage compound butter to go under the skin!
It's turkey time, that's for sure. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite meals to plan for as well as to cook. FINALLY this year my mom is letting me have full reign over the entire menu, from apps to dessert, leaving the traditional and untraditional to my discretion.
And beyond the sides, salads, and stuffings (even the "ever necessary" Honey Baked Ham that always seems to find its way to our plate), the star of the meal, as in THE TURKEY, is always my favorite to make as well as execute.
Over the last few years I have experimented with what many have been referred to as "new", "innovative", and "creative" techniques to make the bird more flavorful, tender, and juicy. These include brining, using a compound butter, different temperatures during roasting, you get the point. The irony is that these techniques and methods have been around for decades, even centuries. For some reason now they are just becoming more main stream.
Whatever the case, I love to use all of these methods in creating what I think is one of the most flavorful and tender birds I have ever had. You can even use this recipe on other types of poultry, such as chicken. It's a four-day process, but I promise each step is worth it in the end. I choose a flavorful 24 hour brine, followed up by a 24 hour air chill in the fridge, followed by a schmearing of a herb and pancetta compound butter, and then after its last 24 hour rest, the turkey is ready for roasting.
This year, I wanted to share each step with you, one day at a time. If you want to follow along and make your turkey just like mine, you can shorten the brining and air chilling times, making a three day turkey rather an a four. Or, just save this recipe to practice on a whole chicken or save for next year!
DAY ONE - PICK UP TURKEY AND BRINE For a 14-20# turkey, defrosted, neck and giblets removed
4 quarts (16 C) apple cider or apple juice
1 1/2 C kosher salt (preferrably Morton)
1/3 C whole all spice berries
2 tbsp whole peppercorns
10 dried bay leaves
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 head garlic, sliced in half horizontally
4 quarts (16 C) cold water
(Special equipment - 20 quart barrel or a 20 quart cooler)
Making the brine: Bring 1 quart (4 cups) apple cider, salt, all spice berries, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, and garlic to a simmer to dissolve all of the salt.
Once all of the salt has dissolved, add mixture to vessel and continue to add 3 more quarts of apple cider and 4 quarts of cold water (or ice if using cooler).
Slowly submerge the turkey, leg side up (neck side down) into the brining liquid.
And let brine/marinate for 24 hours.
Next step tomorrow - we will remove the turkey and allow to air dry!
Happy first night of the Four Day Turkey Experience!
For some obscure reason I always have a song stuck in my head. Maybe because I am always listening to music whatever I am doing. I used to have speakers at my desk at work just to have music on in the background. Even if the TV is on in the living room one room away, I will turn on my iPod while cooking in the kitchen. I always have a radio station tuned while driving. Hell, I have the TV tuned to a music station as I type right this right now.
But listening to music has never been an inspiration in cooking for me. As in, I don't hear music and say, "damn, that Frank Sinatra song inspired me to make a mean Bolognese sauce". If you are like me and actually pay attention to lyrics, you will understand most are written about love, sex, drugs, tangents, dreams (you get the point) - not, in fact FOOD. Only exception in my book would be Jimmy Buffet's "Cheeseburger in Paradise", and although the whole song is devoted to a time, place, and feeling about a cheeseburger, it never once has drawn me to either eat one or make one.
But last week, while driving to the supermarket, changing the radio channels as I always do, one extremely random yet specific line from Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" played across the airwaves. The line: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme.
To be honest, I don't even like Simon and Garfunkel, let alone do I know any words to the song, even more I don't even know what the song means. Except I know that line.
But, I realized as familiar as I was with the line from the song and the herbs themselves, I hadn't, to my knowledge, ever cooked with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme all together at once. So, with "chicken" on my list of grocery items to pick up and a garden overflowing with the "fabulous four" team of herbs, I decided to make a lovely compound butter to rub under the skin and add a little lemon and shallot as well.
And for the first time, I turned to a song for culinary inspiration.
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1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp sage, finely chopped
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon, separated
2 sticks (8 oz) butter, completely soft at room temperature
1 small roasting chicken (giblet package removed if included)
salt and pepper
special equipment: roasting rack (optional)
|Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon zest, and shallot|
In a bowl, combine parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, shallot, lemon zest, lemon juice, and butter using either a whisk or a plastic spatula (can also be done in a food processor). Blend until smoothly incorporated.
|Compound butter using herbs, lemon zest, and shallot|
Using spoon, spatula, or hands, smear herb butter underneath skin, moving butter down to the drumsticks, making sure that the butter is evenly distributed on the chicken meat under the skin. Any left over butter can be lightly smeared on the top of the skin. Season generously with salt and pepper. (Place the excess lemon in the cavity of the chicken, and truss the chicken if you want but it isn't necessary).
Place the chicken on the roasting rack or straight into roasting pan and place in oven for 20 minutes, allowing the skin to slightly brown and crisp up. Turn down the oven heat to 350F and roast the chicken for 1 hr 15 mins or until thermometer inserted between the thigh and body of the chicken reads 160F. Remove chicken from oven and cover loosely with foil for 10 minutes to allow juices to settle. Serve as desired.
All in all, this chicken was simply divine. Easy enough for a weekday dinner, but even better as leftovers the next day.
|Coca-Cola Braised Pork Shoulder with Sauce and Creamy Chive Polenta|
While cleaning out the refrigerator the other day, I came across a few cans of this:
As I am not a soda drinker, and as this stuff is rarely in our house, I thought best to put it to some culinary use rather than pour it down the drain. Also finding a few pieces of bacon in the fridge, I began thinking about the sweet yet "caramel-y" flavors that come from Coke and how they probably would balance really well with pork, evoking memories of the brown-sugar "candied" bacon I had made a while back. I immediately remembered a friend of mine telling me about her crock pot pork shoulder she makes using nothing more than a can of coke for the liquid. I found some chicken broth, bought some pork shoulder, and crossed my fingers that this would be a hit of a recipe.
AND I ended up with one of the best pork shoulder recipes I have ever tasted let alone created.Who would have thought - inspired by a soda.
3-4 # pork shoulder, boneless, cut into "baseball-sized" chunks
salt and pepper
2-3 slices bacon (or 2-3 tbsp olive oil)
2C chicken broth
3 cans coca-cola
|Boneless pork shoulder|
|Pork shoulder cut into baseball size chunks, seasoned with salt and pepper|
Heat a large cast iron "dutch oven" over medium heat, add bacon to pan and cook bacon, allowing fat to render out completely. When bacon is cooked, remove from pan (you do not need to do bacon step - can just heat olive oil listed above in ingredients).
Begin searing the pork in batches (2-3 pieces at a time) to brown evenly on each side; remove browned pork and set aside while browning off all pork.
Add chicken broth to pan, scraping up all bits on the bottom of the pan.
Add each can of coke slowly as the carbonation will make it bubble up pretty fast.
Add pork back to liquid, making sure that the liquid either completely covers or just barely covers the meat (add more chicken broth or coke if necessary). Bring liquid to a simmer, place lid on top of pot, and place in oven for about 3.5 to 4 hours, until the pork is extremely tender and easily shredded.
At this point, you can serve the pork in its whole shape or shred for any other use.
FOR BEST RESULTS: Turn heat off and allow pork and liquid to cool to room temperature. Store pork in refrigerator overnight in cooking liquid. When ready to serve, remove desired amount of pork from cooking liquid and place in baking vessel with a few spoonfuls of cooking liquid. Preheat oven to 350F and place pork in oven to heat through and create a "light crust", about 12-15 minutes. Serve with sauce.
That night, we devoured dinner. The slow braise left us with one of the finest, most tender, most moist and utterly delicious pieces of pork shoulder I had ever had. The sweetness from the soda permeated the meat, begging us to come back for bite after bite. Served with a drizzling of the sauce over a mound of polenta, we felt we were eating like king and queen for the night. And I owe it all to a lowly can of Coca Cola.
|Looks like mashed potatoes, right????|
I think that cauliflower is an extremely "underestimated" vegetable. If there were a "Tug O' War" rope fighting over this veg, I would be on the side rooting on "give it a try!".
It just so happens that at a past dinner party, a guest happily forked at the velvety-side in accompany to his salmon and remarked, "Lesley, these mashed potatoes are delicious. What did you do to them?"
My response, "Thank you, but it's cauliflower."
My guest, perplexed and bewildered, dumbfoundedly gazed at me as if he were asking me, "how could this be? It can't be cauliflower!"
I gave the "eyebrow-raised, smile on the face, 'fooled-you' " look right back at him, affirming that yes, in fact what he thought were mashed potatoes was CAULIFLOWER.
At this point, other guests began to question me, and then each other; was this really cauliflower? It was like utter befuddlery.
But the truth of the matter was I had made a side dish of cauliflower puree with sauteed leeks that most people discerned as mashed potatoes.
Deliciously nutritious, this cauliflower puree has become a staple in my house - the sauteed leeks only make this smooth puree even more flavorful. Move over, mashed potatoes, there is a new side in town.
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12 - 16 oz cauliflower florets, broken up into similar sized pieces
1 garlic clove
1-2 thyme sprigs
1/2 -3/4C chicken broth
1/4 C heavy cream or milk
2T (1oz) butter
salt and pepper
1 leek, dark green removed, sliced down middle and cut into 1/4" slivers
2T (1oz) butter
salt and pepper
In a medium saute pan, add cauliflower, garlic, thyme, and chicken broth. Heat over medium high heat until broth begins to boil. Cover and reduce heat to low and allow cauliflower to simmer in broth, about 5-7 minutes, until cauliflower is extremely tender. Remove from heat (discard thyme and save or discard garlic).
Meanwhile, for the leeks, heat another saute pan with the butter over medium heat and add the leeks, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook the leeks slowly to allow them to caramelize gently, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
While leeks are sauteeing, add cooked cauliflower, excess liquid, garlic clove (optional), butter, and cream or milk to food processor and process until smooth. It should look like mashed potatoes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To reheat, add puree back to a saute pan over medium to medium low heat and add the sauteed leeks; fold all together and season again with salt and pepper.
I absolutely crave braising my food during the cooler months of the year. Pork shoulder, beef short ribs, chicken thighs - you name it - it's a reason to keep me in my favorite room of the house (ahem, the kitchen) with a glass of wine, waiting with drooling pleasure as my meat cooks ever so slowly with herbs and aromatics, creating a tender, moist dish full of robust flavors in the end.
Fellow Foodie and I have recently taken to Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home mostly because we have been cooking so much from our garden and Jamie just happened to have a cooking show about recipes from his garden on The Cooking Channel. We were intrigued by this different but utterly delicious recipe for Jamie's Favorite Hot and Sour Rhubarb and Crispy Pork with Noodles. Combining the braising technique with some lighter and very interesting flavors, we thought we would give it a go, changing up ours a bit to our liking.
Where Jamie's calls for pork belly, we opted for the inexpensive pork shoulder which was just as delicious. And the flavor combination with the rhubarb and other asian-inspired ingredients was a sure hit with our taste buds as well as our guests.
If you like pork shoulder and are up for something new and different, I strongly suggest you give this recipe a whirl.
(note: rhubarb is definitely a Spring season produce item, most commonly thought of as a fruit but is actually more like an herb; it looks just like red celery stalks and has a fantastic sour flavor that when cooked becomes slightly sweet with the appropriate acidity - if you can find it this Fall try this recipe, or put it in your "to do" list for next Spring).
3 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into small baseball-sized chunks
1 lb (about 4-5 large stalks) rhubarb, cut into large chunks, about 1"
4 tbsp honey
4 tbsp soy sauce
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 fresh red chilies, halved and deseeded
1 heaping tsp Chinese five spice powder
2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
about 3-4 cups chicken broth (roughly 1 x 32oz box)
Canola or peanut oil
Salt and pepper
Soba or udon noodles, boiled according to directions on package
A couple of green onions/scallions, thinly sliced
Toasted sesame seeds
Fresh lime wedges
(this recipe can be made in a slow cooker/crock pot as well - I prefer the oven method for this recipe)
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a food processor, add the rhubarb, honey, soy sauce, garlic, chilies, Chinese five spice, and ginger. Blend together until mixture is pretty smooth.
Meanwhile, cut your pork shoulder into small baseball-sized portions or chunks.
Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a large dutch oven or baking vessel over high heat; add the meat and the rhubarb marinade and enough chicken broth to slightly cover the meat. Bring mixture to a simmer, remove from heat, place lid on top (or cover with foil) and place in preheated oven for 2-3 hours (or longer) until pork is extremely tender and "shreds" when you fork at it.
Remove pork from pan and allow to rest a bit, about 20 minutes. Cut pork into small chunks.
In a saute pan over medium high heat, add 1-2 tbsp of oil and add each smaller pork chunk to the oil to crisp up on each side, about 30 seconds a side. When desired caramelization is reached, remove from pan and set aside.
Serve pork over noodles garnished with some green onions, sesame seeds, and lime wedges with a drizzle of the cooking liquid from the braise.
This was one of the most unique meals I had made in a long time, and the flavors and textures left not only us but also our guests to sneak back into the kitchen for seconds, not knowing if it was the tang of the rhubarb, the caramelization of the pork in the saute pan, or just the well roundedness of all of the flavors melting together that they liked the best. Try this recipe next time instead of your traditional carnitas recipe for an exciting and flavorful departure your taste buds will thank you for.