Friday, November 28, 2008

Family, Food and Chestnuts Roasted On An Open Fire

We had a great Thanksgiving Day and are looking forward to a couple more days of relaxing with family and friends. We ended up having 22 which is a record, I believe. We had to be creative to get everyone a seat. The family is outgrowing the "kids table" phase, so we did the best we could.

We cooked a 21 lb turkey with onion, celery, sage and thyme stuffing. The crowd made light work of it, but thankfully I have cooked a turkey breast, so I have plenty of leftovers.

We did desert buffet style. We had pumpkin pie, three kinds of apple pie, lemon merange pie, cheescake and more. I think it was the biggest desert selection at our house so far.

After all the feasting was done, I made a fire in our fire pit and looked at the Jupiter and Venus which were next to each other in the early evening sky.

We capped off the night by roasting up some chestnuts in the fire.


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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Adam Sandler Sings the Thanksgiving Song

A little something to keep you entertained while I'm cooking.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

I just finished the shopping for Thanksgiving. We are having 22 at our house, as my wife's tribe descends to the Shore from North Jersey and a few others show up for the feast. We have a pretty traditional meal. I have posted it here for you edification.

Thankgiving w/ the Meyer Family

Shrimp Cocktails
Assorted Relish Trays
Roast Turkey
Celery, Onion and Thyme Dressing
Mushroom Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Mashed Rutebega
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Corn Pudding
Green Bean Casserole
Brussle Sprouts Tossed with Brown Butter and Toasted Bread Crumbs
Cranberry Sauce
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Roll
Cheese Cake
Mixed Nuts
Roasted Chestnuts
Apple Cider
Egg Nog

Several things I have learned to do over the years that you might be interested. First off, I brine the turkey. It makes a big different and is well worth the extra step. There are several recipes for brining turkey on the internet, however most of them are to complicated. If you want to read about the simple way I brine my turkey follow the link. Also, I do a make ahead gravy. You can learn about this following this link or the one link to gravy above.

This has been a challenging year for many people and I know that we still have some challenges ahead. However, when you consider the abundance we have been blessed with in this nation, even in tough times, we have much to be thankful for. More than that, we live in the free-est of lands, power transfers from presidents and party without a shot being fired or any blood being shed. Most importantly, each of us have people in our lives to love and be loved by, and just about anyplace in this land you can find a place to just pause and take in some beauty (for free). Have a great Thanksgiving Day everyone.


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Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

two turkey wings
1 large onion quartered
2 large carrots
1 t. thyme
1 t. sage
8 cups of chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of wondra flour

Put the turkey wings and the onions in a dutch oven. Roast at 350 degrees until the turkey is dark brown. Move the dutch oven to the stove top. Add the carrots, the thyme and sage. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil and scrape off all the browned bits from the pot. Reduce pot to a simmer, cover and cook for several hours. Remove the turkey wings and vegetables from the gravy. Put aside about 2 cups of the gravy for stuffing and for deglazing the turkey roasting pan. Mash together the butter and the wondra flour. Bring stock back to a boil, put in bits of the flour and butter mixture and cook until the gravy is quite thick (it will thin out when you add the juice from the roasted turkey). Taste and add salt and pepper. Put in the refrigerator and allow to chill. Remove the fat from the top of the gravy. On the day you are serving the turkey, pour off the juices from the roasting pan and de-fat if necessary. Deglaze the pan with the reserved gravy base. Add this and the poured off juice to the thickened gravy mix.


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Easy Instructions on How to Brine a Turkey

Equipment Need

Large plastic garbage bag
Laundry Basket

Brine Ingredients
1 c. kosher salt and 1 c. brown sugar per gallon of water

Remove the package of the neck and giblets,etc. from the turkey and rinse the bird. Place the plastic bag in a laundry basket, place the bird in the plastic bag. Dissolve the salt and sugar in a gallon of water, pour over the bird. Repeat this till bird is just covered. Gather up the bag and tie it with a twisty tie. Put into a cool place overnight.

Before cooking, remove the bird from the brine and allow it to dry thoroughly before prepping it for cooking.


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Monday, November 24, 2008

North African Chicken Stew

This is something I created. I tried to emulate the flavors of North Africa without having to go to an exotic grocery store. I used the thighs, drumsticks and wings I processed in my 2 chickens, 3 meals, 5 mouths to feed post. I browned the chicken in olive in oil, deglazed the pan with some chicken stock, removed it to a baking dish and added green olives, raisins, onions, tomatoes, pine nuts and seasoned it with oregano, cuman, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, allspice, salt and pepper. I baked it until the chicken was falling off the bone and served it over cous cous. It came out great. Christine says its a keeper.

North African Chicken Stew

2 T. olive oil
one large onion coarsely chopped
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. salt
3/4 t. black pepper
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. cayenne
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/4 t. ground cloves
4 each, skinless chicken thighs, drumstick and wings
1/2 c. chicken stock
3/4 c. pitted green olives
1/3 c. raisins
1/4 c. pine nuts
1/2 t. oregano

Sweat chopped onions in 1 T olive oil. Mix together the cumin, ginger, 1 t. salt, 3/4 t. black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne, allspice, and gloves. Sprinkle this mixture liberally on the chicken parts. Brown the chicken parts in the rest of the olive oil, being sure to get a good carmelization. Deglaze the pan w/ the chicken stock. Put the onions in a backing dish and the chicken on the top of the onions. Add the tomatoes, the pan juices, the olives, raisins, pine nuts and oregano to the dish, cover w/ tin foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove tin foil and bake for another 15 minutes or so to allow sauce to reduce and thicken up a bit. Taste sauce and correct seasoning. Remove for oven, allow to sit for about 15 minutes. Serve over cous cous.


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Thursday, November 20, 2008

2 Chickens 3 Meals 5 Mouths to Feed

In my ongoing battle of the budget in my house hubbie responsibilities, I have come up with a way to use 2 chicken to serve 5 people 3 meals. Whole chickens are sold at Costco in two packs for 89 cents a lb, so this is definitely the most inexpensive way to buy and prepare chicken if you have some extra time and good sharp knife.

I start by removing the thighs, legs, and wings (remove the wings with the little piece of breast meat that is in front of the wish bone attached). I now have 12 pieces of chicken for one meal. I made a "North African Chicken Stew" out of these pieces that I am going to post about another day.

Then I remove the chicken breasts from the frames. I now have 4 large chicken breasts. I can slice these in scallopini for chicken milanese or do chicken marsala or anything else you use chicken breasts for. Because these are larger than the chicken breast you buy boned, four is plenty to serve five. I figure each serving would be 5 to 6 ounces--more than enough. The chicken breasts go in the freezer for another day.

Finally I put the frames, the necks and gizzards in a stock pot with aromatic vegetables, cover with water and cook all day for the base of a hearty soup. After the broth is poured off and put in the fridge for defatting I pick as much meat as I can off the bones. You would be surprised how much meat is still on the chicken frames.

So if you are interested in saving some money and have maybe a 1/2 or so for preparation, follow my directions for 2 chickens, 3 meals and 5 mouths to feed.


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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Check Out This Link

My fellow Jersey food blogger, and queen of all things tomato, has a great post on foodie gifts for the holidays called 10 Inexpenive Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Foodie. I especially like the salt cellar.

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Lemon Garlic Shrimp and Bow Ties

There a couple of little tricks to make a great shrimp and pasta dish. First, I always start with raw shrimp with the shells on. The frozen bags of shrimp come in an "easy peel" raw packaging and these are the ones I use. After gently thawing the shrimp, I peel the shrimp and make a stock of the peels by covering them with water and simmering them with parsley, a shallot and a couple of stalks of parsley. The second trick is to use the right cooking technique for the shrimp. The shrimp need to be as dry as possible. Then they should be cooked over high heat in small batches in a small amount of olive oil. If you are not careful to dry the shrimp and cook them quickly they will give off a lot of juice and will boil in their juices. This results in a rubbery and tough shrimp instead of the tender crisp shrimp you are looking for. The shrimp should be cooked on one side until slightly brown, turned over and cooked until just opaque.

With your perfectly cooked shrimp and stock, you can do all kinds of good things. For this dish, I made a sauce from tons of garlic (you can never use to much garlic in my opinion), shallots, stock, fresh lemon juice, crushed red pepper and butter. It tossed some bow tie pasta with the sauce, added the shrimp and served. It was very tasty.

Lemon Garlic Shrimp and Bow Ties

1 package frozen raw "quick peel" shrimp

1 shallot, halved
2 stalks of parsley
1 bay leaf
4 pepper corns
1/2 t. salt

2 T olive oil
2 shallots, diced
6 cloves of garlic minced
1/4 t crushed red pepper
3/4 cup shrimp stock
juice from two lemons
2 T butter

1 box fafalle (bow tie) pasta
1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water
2 T chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Thaw the shrimp according to the package directions.

Peel shrimp and put peels in a small pot, cover with water, add the shallot, parsley, bay leaf, pepper and salt. Simmer for a half hour or so.

Saute shrimp in small batches in a small amount of olive oil per batch.

In the same pan as the shrimp were sauteed, cook the shallots in a bit of olive oil, then the garlic and crushed red pepper. Add the stock and reduce by half. Add the lemon juice and reduce by half again. Turn off heat and melt butter into the sauce.

Add the cooked pasta to the pan w/ 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Cook the pasta in the sauce until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the shrimp and the parsley and toss together. Makes 4-5 cook size servings.


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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Perfect Pan Seared Steak with Frizzled Onion Straws

I had a hankering for a steak the other day. Grilling season is over so I prepared the steak in a way that I learned from an article I read by Julia Child years ago. This is a perfect way to do steaks if you want them quick or if the grill is put away for the winter.

Start with the most beautiful steak you can find at the grocery store. It should be 3/4 to an inch thick and have lots of marbling. For my steak I found a beautiful porterhouse, and to make it even better the store had them on sale. The only other piece of equipment that you need is a heavy black iron skillet. I have found this to be the best pan for searing. The key to a good pan seared steak is a heavy skillet, high heat, and the patience to not fuss with the meat while it is searing so a good crust forms.

The way I test for doneness is by pressing on the meat and looking at the color of the juice coming to the surface. Here is a link that teaches you how to test for doneness using the feel of the palm of you hand called the finger test. Also, the juice coming to the surface should be clear, and bright pink.

After the steak is done, it should rest for about ten minutes. While it is resting you can prepare a sauce from the pan using shallots, red wine and butter or just pull up the fond using some melted butter and whatever juice the meat gave up while resting, which is what I did in this case. I served the steak with frizzled onion straws, which made it extra good. I have tell you, it was one of the best steaks I have had in a long time.

Pan Seared Steak

1 T olive oil
1 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick well marbled steak
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
2 T butter

Sprinkle steak on one side with a generous amount of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Coat the bottom of a heavy skillet with olive oil. Put over high heat and preheat until oil just begins to smoke. Place steak in pan, seasoned side down. Season the other side of the steak. Leave it undisturbed in the pan over high heat for 5 to 7 minutes. When the meat can be moved without sticking it is seared. Turn over the steak. Cook undisturbed for another 5 to 7 minutes, until steak tests to desired doneness using the finger test and juices have begun to run clear. (This should be medium rare). Remove steak to a warmed plate and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in pan and scrape up all the brown bits (the fond). Cook this until butter is foamy. Pour any juice the steak has given up while resting back into the pan and cook for a bit. Pour this sauce over the steak. Pile frizzled onions on top of the steak.

Frizzled Onion Straws

1 medium onion
2 T wondra flour
1/2 t salt
1/4 t white pepper

Slice onions against the rings into very thin slices. Separate the slices into straws. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss onions with the flour mixture. Fry onions in two inches of oil over medium heat until golden brown. (Cook in several batches if need to avoid overcrowding the pan). Remove for pan and drain on a paper towel. (Onions will crisp up as they sit).


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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Easy Oatmeal Cake

A rainy, chilly day, and the house is filled with the warm aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg as a delicious oatmeal cake cooks in the oven. This an easy recipe of the classic cake. I love oatmeal cake all by itself or topped with a broiled topping of my favorite combination -- nuts, coconut and brown sugar. I use d combo of pecans which are rich and flavorful and almonds which give a crunchy texture.

Oatmeal Cake

1 1/4 cubs boiling water
1 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the boiling water over the oats and soak for 10 minutes. Grease a 9 x 13 pan. Cream together the butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs. Mix together the flour, baking soda, and spices. Add alternatively with the butter mixture the flour mixture and the soaked oats. Beat well. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until you finger doesn't leave a dent.

Broiled Nut and Coconut Topping

3/4 cup brown sugar packed
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans and almonds are my favorite)
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons of butter, softened
3 tablespoons milk

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and sprinkle on top of cake. Put under broiler for 5 minutes until bubbly.


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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What to Cook During Band Season

One of the great joys of our kid's high school years has been their participation in The Brick Township High School Marching Dragons. My oldest, a Jr. music ed major at Montclair State University played the trombone and was the drum major during his senior year. (You can see Rob in the third picture. He is trombonist with the long blond hair.) My middle son is a Jr. this year and plays the saxophone. His girlfriend is the captain of the color guard. So from about mid-October, our life is spent following the Dragons around the State of New Jersey. This past weekend the Dragons competed in their Division Championships in Allentown, PA. They did great job and came in third place out of eight bands. I posted a video of them from earlier in the season. They actually were much better at the championship as they added some more complex marching and tightened up the music.

The question for all marching band parents is "what to cook during band season", because the kids and often we are never home. So the answer . . . lots and lots of pizza. For this reason, I haven't been doing a lot of blogging during this time, but I am back and hope my dear readers will start to stop by here again more frequently.

Have Fun!