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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Turkey Stock

Roasting a turkey results in many delicious leftovers, but none so delicious as the deep, brown turkey stock that results from cooking down the turkey bones with aromatics.

When I was a kid we used to call this "bone soup". Turkey stock is much more flavourful than chicken stock I find. The soup it makes is delicious.  

I use my slow cooker to make stock. This lets me slowly simmer the ingredients for days rather than hours. The house smells incredible during this time.

Add your cooked turkey carcass to the crock pot. I usually leave the meat on the wings for this but the rest is just bones.  

Add some onions and carrots (no need to peel them), and some celery. I also used parsley stems and some thyme and a bay leaf.

Fill the crock pot with cold water and plug it in. Then let it simmer on low for at least 24 hours. Here it is at that point.

I like to leave it for 36 hours. When it will look like this:

Now it is a little messy to drain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer.

Press the liquid out of the bones and vegetables then dispose of them. They've done their job.

This is nice and dark and delicious but full of fat. Put it in the fridge overnight and the fat will rise to the top and harden to be easily scraped off.

Use this stock to make soup, gravy, or in place of chicken stock when you want lots of flavour. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Roast Turkey

Living in a 2 person household doesn’t usually hold me back much in terms of my cooking. To be brutally and embarrassingly honest, most recipes for 4 serve the two of us just fine, with leftovers for my lunch the next day – maybe.
So instead of doing math, I often just make a full box of pasta or an 8 person serving of stew and freeze or reuse the leftovers somehow.  I don’t mind eating the same thing twice in a row.
But sometimes you make one meal and it serves you for a whole week!  That’s what happens when I cook a turkey.

I do this every couple of months or so. I see a good deal on turkey and cook one up for just the two of us. Sometimes I can get one that’s just the size of a large chicken, but this time it was about 11 pounds and it literally fed us for a week!

I really like turkey and I like that it is easy, flavourful and healthy. But the caveat is that the side dishes I like with turkey are so bad for you, so the opposite of what is healthy to eat, that it ends up cancelling out the healthy lean protein. I might as well be eating brisket. 

I come by this honestly. I come from a family that takes Thanksgiving (and Christmas) very seriously. I’m 3rd generation Canadian with distant roots in Scotland and Ireland, but my eldest aunt married a Ukrainian man over 40 years ago and brought his food traditions into our family. I love having an inherited food tradition, even if it has nothing to do with my actual heritage. At Thanksgiving we have turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, rolls... and pierogies, cabbage rolls and meat sticks (fried pork skewers which I hope to explain another time).

So all this turkey and starch makes for a mighty white plate at Thanksgiving (and Christmas). Honestly, I can take or leave mashed potatoes, but turkey without pierogies seems like sacrilege to me. And I’m finally starting to warm up to gravy after years of avoiding it. And the rolls of choice at Thanksgiving (and Christmas) (and my turkey dinners) are brown-n-serve white gluten bombs that I would normally avoid like the plague but taste so good with turkey dinner and even better as turkey sandwich lunch.

All this is a very long-winded introduction and explanation to why I love roasting a turkey. I’ve tried many, many different methods – brining, low & slow, high heat roasting, and I always love the results.  Plus, turkey can be had so cheaply most of the time and makes so much, it is easy to experiment.  The only thing I haven’t tried is a heritage or organic bird, which I’m sure would be tasty, but if I’m spending $60 to $120 for a turkey instead of $8 to $18, I’ll probably be a little less relaxed about the prep and serving and have more than one guest at the table. 

This roast turkey dinner was high heat roasting. My 11lb turkey roasted for 2 hours at 450 degrees and rested for 30 minutes while I made the gravy, potatoes and Brussels sprouts. It didn’t take much more prep than a small roast beef or a roast chicken. The difference is, I got lunch and dinner for a week out of the leftovers.

The only thing that does take some planning is thawing the turkey. If you can thaw it in the fridge for 4 to 6 days, that’s ideal. I decided to do this somewhat last minute so had to put the turkey in a cold water bath to thaw for several hours. After that, I just rinsed the turkey and removed the innards. Honestly I don’t know what comes in the little sack (kidney & liver?) and I usually just throw it out, but I do use the neck.

Once the turkey is rinsed, put it on a rack in a large roasting pan. With this method, limited seasoning seems to be the trend. 

I added salt and pepper and some dry sage and thyme and no oil. I did put a cup of water into the bottom of the pan and toss the neck in as well. You can throw a cut onion or lemon inside the turkey but I used nothing this time. 

If I don’t have any leftover turkey stock in the freezer to make gravy, I might use the neck, an onion, carrot and celery stalk to boil a quick turkey stock on the stove while the turkey roasts. But this time I had lots of stock so I just threw the neck into the roasting pan to flavour the drippings.

To my husband’s eternal chagrin I am an enemy of stuffing and dressing. I think wet bread is disgusting. So he only gets stuffing at Thanksgiving (and Christmas) and I don’t have to deal with the hassle. That lets me rest and relax while the turkey roasts and just prep the potatoes and veggies to start cooking once the turkey comes out of the oven.

This time I boiled about 6 medium, peeled, Yukon gold potatoes and sliced Brussels sprouts, tossing them with oil, garlic powder and salt and pepper.

For the gravy I warmed turkey stock, then added it with a bit of wine to the pan drippings. I strained it and then added a flour & water slurry to thicken it then let it boil for 20 minutes or so to thicken up.

Meanwhile I drained the potatoes and added them back to the heat to dry out, then poured in warm milk and butter and salt and pepper into the pot and had my husband use a hand beater to whip the potatoes.

The turkey was sitting under foil all this time. Once the potatoes were ready and the gravy was done, I started to carve it with an electric knife that is a miracle for carving beef and poultry into nice thin slices. I sliced the breast but kinda tore the thighs apart and gave us each a little white and dark meat, potatoes, gravy and Brussels sprouts.

Leftover creations:
Meal two – turkey, pierogies, gravy, rolls, broccoli
Meal  three – lunchtime turkey sandwiches
Meal four – turkey pot pie
Meal five – turkey soup

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Short & Sweet Sunday - Rice Salad

Here's a colourful and tasty grain salad to serve at a potluck or as a side dish. 

The recipe comes from an unlikely source: Disney.

Basically just mix cooked rice with black beans and corn, plus tomatoes, onions and peppers, including a jalapeno pepper.

Make a simple dressing of lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and mix it with the hot rice, then add beans and corn and toss to combine. Once it is at room temperature, add the vegetables and some cilantro or parsley and mix together.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Single Serving Miracle Brownie

I don’t eat dessert often. My husband always says he’d rather have another serving of dinner than dessert and I sort of agree. After dinner I’m rarely in the mood for something sweet and if I am, I’d rather have a boozy coffee or cocktail than cake or pie. I do love to bake though, and if I’m having a dinner party I love to make a special sweet treat for the end, but with only two of us in the house it makes very little sense to spend time and effort on dessert when we don’t love it and don’t need the calories. 

That being said, I am a big fan of chocolate and I’m a fan of single serving desserts that take very little effort, so this little bite of magic is just perfect!

The first time I made it, I forgot the flour and ended up with a warm chocolate pudding that, while delicious, was by no means a brownie. I also used frozen yogurt because I had no regular yogurt and once I added the flour, it turned out beautifully.  

The next time I had normal yogurt but added a little too much coffee so it didn’t set up properly (as you can see in the picture) but it was still good.  All this to say this “recipe” is very forgiving and there’s no need to fear messing it up because with such small portions you can just start again.

In a small bowl or ramekin combine:
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 pinch salt
1/16 teaspoon baking soda

Once combined, mix in:
1 tablespoon yogurt (fat free is fine)
1 tablespoon cold coffee

Stir to combine.
Then fold in 10 chocolate chips.

Microwave for 46 seconds on high then let cool for 10 minutes (that’s the hardest part).
You’ll end up with a rich, thick cake.  It is a miracle!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Chicken Mango Curry with Coconut Risotto

Inspired by some 3-ingredient recipes in Chatelaine Magazine I, of course, had to make things a little more complicated. I have tried risotto a few times but never felt the effort was worth it. Spoiler alert: it's not worth it here either. Rice cooked in coconut milk mixed with some toasted coconut would have been just as good for a fraction of the effort. But this was a nice, flavourful, colourful dinner.

First, for the coconut risotto:

Warm the coconut milk with some vegetable stock in a small pot. This may be one of the grossest looking things I've ever photographed. 

Saute some shallots in olive oil in a large pan.

Then add the Arborio rice and coconut and toast lightly. 

I toasted longer than necessary. You want a light golden colour, not brown.  

Add some wine to the pan and stir until it is absorbed, then add the coconut milk mixture a ladleful at a time, letting the liquid absorb after each addition.

Once the liquid has absorbed...

... add another ladleful of liquid.  

It should take about 35 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente.  

Now for the simple chicken curry. This really is a 3 ingredient dish.  Well, 4 if you count the olive oil.

Coat chicken thighs or breast pieces in curry paste and sprinkle with a little salt.  Brown them in hot oil for around 3 minutes per side.

Slice or cube the mango. I like to use this technique where I score the flesh then turn it inside out to slice it off the skin in cubes because it looks so otherworldly.  

Add the mango to the chicken with a 1/2 cup of water and cover and simmer about 5 minutes.

Once it has simmered, remove the lid and let it simmer a few more minutes until the sauce thickens up a bit.

Serve the chicken curry alongside the coconut risotto.  Delicious!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pork Squash & Fennel Stew

Sometimes a recipe can be revelatory.  Even life changing.  It can make you look at an ingredient in a whole new way or shock you with how simple ingredients can become something spectacular.  This week I want to share two such recipes. The first is a multi-ingredient, long-simmering stew. The other is a quick, single serving microwave treat. Both are simple to prepare, delicious and could possibly change your life. 

This recipe for pork stew with squash and fennel comes from Epicurious. The pork takes on a wonderful spicy flavour from the cayenne, ginger and nutmeg and the squash and fennel make it a wonderful, hearty winter dish.

I’ll be honest; pork shoulder is a pain in the butt to trim. Coincidentally it is also called Boston Butt (who knows why?)  

It is a very fatty cut of pork but all that fat gives it a lot of flavour.  I like to trim it well but if you’re making this a day ahead you could leave a little more fat on and skim it off easily once the stew has been refrigerated. 

Trim the fat off the pork and cut it into cubes. 

Mix the sage, cayenne, nutmeg, ginger, salt and pepper to coat the pork.  

The recipe calls for ground ginger powder but I used fresh grated ginger. I also like to grate fresh nutmeg. The nutmeg nut is pretty cool inside and gives great flavour.

Let the pork sit, coated with the spices for 30 minutes while you do some serious chopping.  

Chop 4 ounces of pancetta...

2 cups of onions and 3 garlic cloves...

Then peel and cube a butternut squash...

...and 2 cored fennel bulbs.

In a totally rad enamelled cast iron pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil...

...and brown the pancetta for about 3 minutes. 

Once it’s a little crisp remove it with a slotted spoon.

Next add one layer of pork to the pan. 

Once it is brown remove it from the pot and add brown the rest of the pork and remove.

Now the bottom of the pan is getting nice and brown but don’t worry about it. Add the onions and garlic and soften them for a few minutes.

Magic time. Add one cup of wine to the pot with the onions to deglaze it. Scrape the brown stuff off the bottom as the wine bubbles. Liquid with acid in it is great for deglazing. It cleans things up in no time and that brown stuff is super delicious.

Next add a can of tomatoes and 2 cups of chicken stock to the pot and get it bubbling. 

Then add the browned pork and pancetta and submerge it in the liquid. 

Cover and place it in a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour.

After an hour, add the squash and fennel to the pot and let it simmer another 30 minutes.

Serve the stew over hot noodles topped with some fennel fronds for maximum deliciousness.