I like stuff.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005: The Revenge - Of the leftovers

So Amanda's got a cold, and I've still got way too many leftovers (some have
been sent to live in exile in the freezer), so I'm making turkey noodle

Started off by sweating a mirepoix (that's equal parts diced carrot, onion,
and celery, you uncultured swine!) in some olive oil and kosher salt. Dusted
it with a bit of flour and then broke up a fair amount of white meat.
Stirred until the meat was at temperature.

Figuring some gelatinous goodness wouldn't be so bad, I dumped in a little
leftover gravy and then added a quart each of chicken stock and vegetable
stock. Threw in a couple bay leaves, some rosemary, salt and pepper and it's
currently simmering on the stove, covered over low heat.

In about 15-20 minutes, I'm going to dump in a couple cups of egg noodles
and recover, simmering again until the noodles soften up.

And then, I'm probably going to eat it.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005: The Revenge - Final

2 days.
14 hours of cooking.
30 minutes of eating
1 hour of cleanup.

Verdict was that there were no specific faults this year.

Stick a fork in me. I'm done.

Thanksgiving 2005: The Revenge - Turkefaction, Phase 3

So the alarm finally went off with what I considered a trustworthy reading,
so I pulled it at 161.

After a brief fight getting it out of the pan, the turkey went into
hibernation for its half-hour nap:

At this point, things get vague. A lot of stuff happened, but very little of
it is too fantabulous. Made stuffing from a mix. I got the green bean
casserole (just like the Campbell's Food Scientists used to make!) and the
potatoes into the oven. Prepped some prefab dinner rolls for the oven.

As for the gravy angle, I removed the apple and onion bits, as well as any
weird bits of turkey still hanging on, smashed up the garlic with the back
of a fork, and deglazed the pan with some wine and added some chicken broth.
Thickened it with a corn starch slurry. Huzzah.

Around the time of topping off the potatoes, it was noted that there was a
crucial step missed. In damage control mode, I poured about a cup of milk
over things and stirred them a bit to integrate them better. Topped it off
with the cornflakes and butter and ended up going about 12 minutes longer
than previously expected.

Thanksgiving 2005: The Revenge - Turkefaction, Phase 2

So right after the timer went off, Amanda called and said she would probably
be home at a different time than I expected. Oh well, trudge merrily along,
stalwart soldiers of the kitchen.

So at the beginning of phase 2, here's where we're at:

Note that we've got the beginnings of some browning. Good stuff. Time to put
the heat sheilding on, and insert the meat thermometer (I gots one of them
digital ones) into the thickest part of the breast. Avoid hitting bones or
going all the way through.

About halfway through phase 2, I sacrifice some oven temperature for getting
the pseudo-stuffing out of there. Grab a fork and pull it all out.

I like to pull the apples and one of the onion quarters out and put them
back in the roasting pan (not the turkey). Break up the onion a bit. This is
just adding to the once and future gravy (and for this reason alone is why I
toss the lemons.)

Just for laughs, I clocked this stuff at 110 degrees. This is why I don't
stuff the bird. It's just too much hassle to get everything to finish

Anyhow, let's see how things are looking:

Yup. Gotta clean the oven.

Now ultimately, you shouldn't remove the probe until after the bird has had
a rest, but the alarm went off and I had doubts, so I took my chances at
having a moisture pump and reinserted it. 11 degree difference. D'oh!

So it's back in.

When the alarm goes off again, we'll be moving along to Phase 3: Hibernation

Thanksgiving 2005: The Revenge - Turkefaction, Phase 1

Alright, so I'm starting to feel a little cramped for time. Better get
moving on the hot turkey action.

First off, the plan is to treat raw poultry as poison, along with anything
that touches it. So I do as much prep work before the bird enters the

So that aside, let's talk about stuffing. I like it. I just don't like it in
the bird. But I do something with that gaping cavity:

If the mood lighting is too rough, that'd be an apple, a lemon, an onion,
and garlic.

For preparation, I like to cut the apple and the lemon in about 8 equal
sized chunks, and quarter the onion. I peel all the garlic, reserving a few
of the irregular pieces:

The rest of the garlic goes in the roasting pan. I like to make a little
design, but ultimately, I put the bird right on top of this, so a little bit
of uniformity is nice.

Everything else gets dumped in a bowl with a few tablespoons of water and
microwaved for a minute and a half. Sure, this does make them a little more
uncomfortable to deal with, but even though I never plan on eating this
stuff, I don't want them to be microbe sponges either.

As for the rest, I like to get about a tablespoon or so of softened butter
ready, about 4 sprigs of rosemary, and chop the remaining garlic.

Now for the bird. Once I pull it from the brine, I give it a quick rinse and
inspect it to make sure I got rid of any allspice or peppercorns that got
stuck in it. Into the roasting pan, squarely on top of the garlic. I
typically fold the wings underneath.

In about equal proportions, put as many apple, lemon and onion chunks inside
as will loosely fit. Don't pack it in.

Start working the skin over the breasts and break the membranes holding it
to the meat. Once you can get in there, stash a sprig of rosemary, some
butter and some chopped garlic in both sides. Remember, the skin is
watertight, so anything that can be put in underneath it is going to
actually add some flavor.

Wash hands. Set oven to 500 degrees. In that order.

So the downside of putting things under the skin is it makes a slightly less
aesthetic turkey:

That's alright by me.

Last step before it goes in is to make some heat shielding for it. This
isn't going to go on just yet, but it's a lot easier to form it when the
bird is still cold. The idea is to get the white meat covered, as it's going
to be done before the dark meat.

Don't bother with the thermometer yet.

Once the oven is up to 500, turn down the heat to 350 and throw the pan in.
Let it roast for about 20-30 minutes. This is about browning, and it's a lot
easier to get it done now than later when you're at the edge of doneness.

When the timer goes off, it's time to move to phase 2.

Thanksgiving 2005: The Revenge - 3.141592654...

So after last year's pie debacle, I made sure to check three or four
versions of the recipe, and I'm trying again.

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup biscuit making mix
1/2 cup sugar
1 T butter
1/2t Pumpkin Pie Spice
1t Vanilla
2 eggs

Combine in a mixing bowl.

Really makes you think of the holidays, don't it?

Stir until smooth

or Worse?

Pour this into a greased 9" pie dish and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes

I would've put it in the fridge, but I'm completely out of space.

Thanksgiving 2005: The Revenge - Massacre at Potato Ridge

So the other day I confessed to making scalloped potatoes right out of a box
I'm not proud. But I can now reveal that I knew I'd be doing this, so I
figured I'd save myself some time then.

I got this recipe from Amanda's mother, and I don't know if it's ever been
written down before, so some details might be a little hazy.

First, get some potatoes. I used 4 medium russets. If you don't precook them
at all, you're going to have either very crunchy potatoes or a very crunchy
sauce. So we're going to boil them. Don't bother peeling or anything, it
just wastes time.

So, be sure to inform your potatoes of their impending fate, and see if you
can't get anything out of them.

Talk, damn you!

One of the downsides of doing all this cooking alone is that I'm starting to
lose a bit of sanity.

Once those guys are fork-tender, take them out and let them cool down. Once
they're cool enough to touch, you can get those peels right off with a
gentle rub with a clean towel. Trust me, they want to come off.

Let them keep cooling, as they'll be a bit easier to slice cleanly when they
get closer to room temperature.

I made mine go through a police-style lineup after the boiling didn't give
any results.

"Number one, step forward!"
"Give me the keys, you...."
You get the idea.

In the meantime, mix up a cup of sour cream with a can of condensed cream of
chicken soup. Slice up a mess of green onions. Grate some cheddar cheese.
The "canonical" version of this recipe says you'll need about a cup of
cheese. Everyone uses more. I get a half-pound block and just grate the
whole thing.

Slice up your potatoes in about 1/4" slices. Butter (or spray) a casserole
dish and lay down the first bed of potatoes. I then sprinkle some green
onions on top of this, cover with the sour cream/soup mix and cover with
cheese. Keep layering until you run out of potatoes.

Partway through, this is what it's looking like:

I've now covered this and stashed it in the fridge. This is going to go into
a 350 degree oven until it's good and piping hot. Before it's quite done,
this gets covered in cornflakes and some melted butter, so don't worry if it
isn't pretty right now.

Be aware that there is probably nothing healthy about this dish. It does
taste good, though. I'm tempted to submit it to Cooking Light just to see
what happens. The rejection letter could be pure comedy gold.

UPDATE: Apparently there was some crucial step I missed. I'm not sure
exactly what it was. I fixed it by pouring about a cup of milk over the mass
and stirring a bit to integrate.

Thanksgiving 2005: The Revenge - Arrr! The Briny Deep!

So being a regular watcher of a certain television food program, I've had it
beaten into me that brining meat does good things for its finished texture.
Really good things.

So I tried it out last year, and I'm recreating the same. Except this time
I'm cooking the brine first (which was a step I missed in my haste last
time. This year's model should actually accentuate the flavor some as well.)

Let's begin:

Put the following in a reasonably sized stock pot:
Two quarts vegetable broth
2/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 sprig rosemary
1T whole Peppercorns
1T whole Allspice Berries
1t ground ginger

There, just like this:

Well, close enough anyhow.

Bring that to a boil, and stir it a bit to make sure everything's dissolved.
Take it off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

Note that the brine has a rather pleasant aroma that should help you forget
about the part of the day you spent exorcizing demons of meals past from
your refridgerator.

Be sure to remove the neck and organ sack from the bird, and put your turkey
in a large enough container so that you can cover it with liquid and still
get the lid on. Pour the brine over the bird. Fill up any remaining airspace
with ice, and then top it off with water until everything's covered. Put it
in the refridgerator for at least 6 hours.

I wanted to put an eyepatch on it, or some other pirate theme, but I decided
it wouldn't do anything for the food, and probably ruin a perfectly good
eyepatch. Save that guy for workplace antics.

I settled on the turkey being a distant relative to the parrot.

Be sure to wash your hands frequently. Raw poultry's got great potential for
really bad mojo.

So I'm left with some extra turkey parts. Look how unhappy they are:

Ok, so that was probably totally uncalled for. Just be glad I didn't arrange
them in an obscene way (and you know I totally could have)

Well, the cat's got to eat as well, and seeing as I haven't yet washed the
pot from the brine yet, I put some water on to boil and threw them in for
about 15 minutes.

If you're familiar with my cat, you'll know that she both has a serious
turkey and gravy addiction (I never should've given her some scraps last
year) and that she is a total slob when she eats. I don't give her this sort
of thing very often, as it's probably not super-healthy for her, but if I'm
eating well, she might as well too.

So once the extra parts cooled down enough that I could rip into them by
hand, I pulled apart anything that would come loose into smallish pieces
(about the size of a marble) and gathered that all up to give to her
tomorrow. I figure any piece I can break up that way she's less prone to
leaving in the middle of the kitchen floor for me to step on, with bare
feet, late at night. There was about enough to fill up an old single-serving
yogurt container. I'll probably keep it limited to about 1/3 of that

The remainders of that were tossed. Oh sure, I could've made turkey stock,
but my freezer is already pretty full, I've still got the carcass for that,
and when all is said and done, the raccoons that live in my dumpster need to
get fed as well.

Everyone wins.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005: The Revenge - Cranberry Sauce

One of the things I really do prefer made from scratch rather than a can is
cranberry sauce. (You'll see plenty of other ingredients from a can later.
Not this time.)

When I was growing up, my mother found a recipe for "Cranberry-Orange
Relish" on the back of a bag of fresh cranberries. So we tried it out (one
of the not-so-many occassions I actually was involved in the kitchen as a
lad), and it became a tradition of sorts: Thanksgiving morning, I'd get
yelled at to get in the kitchen to help out, we'd take a couple halved
oranges and a couple bags of cranberries, dump in the food processor, and
then start adding sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. When we finally got it to a
taste that was deemed acceptable, it was gritty with undissolved sugar and I
was tired of the whole affair. The final part of the tradition was the
discovery that through too many tastings, we'd desensitized ourselves and it
was still supremely puckering to the ill-prepared diner.

I made it last year. In a moment of regret, I must say that it got forgotten
in the fridge. Made a good condiment for leftovers (especially turkey

I also made regular cranberry sauce, and it too, shamefully, was forgotten.

So I said "screw the relish!" this year, and just went for the sauce. Amanda
said she wasn't overly fond of the bits of skin and seeds in last year's
model, so I did it a bit differently. This recipe came off a bag of a major
cranberry producer.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 12oz bag fresh cranberries.

Combine sugar and water and heat until boiling. Add cranberries. Reduce heat
and stir occassionally for 10 minutes.

That's about it.

This year I passed it all through a fine mesh strainer.

So there's the before:

And the after:

This left me with a bunch of cranberry pulp to pull out of the strainer, and
in a moment of frugality, decided to use it for mulch rather than tossing
them. Granted, they'd given their all, but in case the acidic content is
still too high, I dumped them in with my collection of dead strawberry
plants. (Note to self: Buy new strawberry plants)

Thanksgiving 2005: The Revenge - Purchasing of foodstuffs

Last year, I ended up hitting the grocery store three times in the day
before and the day of cooking, and blew a pretty substantial wad of cash on
the meal (fortunately, the cost was spread over a week or so of tasty

This year, figuring that I could save myself some dough and some time, I
itemized every stinking thing I though I'd need. And then pruned the list
for duplicates, adjusting quantity as necessary. And then took stock of what
I actually already had. The final list came down to about a page.

Deciding I wanted to miss the better part of the last-minute bloodbath, I
blew off work (this is why I never have vacation time stored up) and headed

But, not feeling so good about the $2.84 Wal-Mart roasting pan from last
year, I upgraded to the $8.44 Wal-Mart roasting pan. I want to paint flames
or racing stripes on it or something, but I don't know what sort of toxic
addition that might add, so it looks like I'm going to pass. Picked up some
cleaning-supplies and a cheap fine-mesh strainer, and counting the 20
minutes in line at the checkstand and I was out of there in half an hour.

Across the street to Albertson's. Grabbed a cart (which Amanda usually won't
let me steer, because I'm a madman, but she wasn't around! Ha!) and started
my first pass of the store. Quickly realized that I should've better ordered
my list, because I ended up hitting the same aisle four or five times. Got
all the nonperishable goods, helped a few other customers, and then started
for pass 2: The perishables. Went pretty quickly except for being waylaid by
a nice asian man in amongst the turkeys that did not understand the sign
saying "Buy One -namebrand- Turkey, Get One Free (must be identical turkeys.
Minimum $25 purchase)". Neither did he understand the employee at the
butcher section's explanation, nor several other customers. I did agree that
wasn't sure how identical the turkeys needed to be, and whether the turkey
had to be minimum $25, or his whole store purchase, but when he started
repeating himself, I showed my cowardice and ran. Off to the checkout.

Total shopping time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

So it's still a bit early to determine if I'll be heading back, but it looks
pretty solid. Had to do some serious excavating in the fridge to get
everything in. Came in just slightly over half the cost of last year's run.

And I think I set a new record on my grocery store loyalty card (saved

Thanksgiving 2005: The Revenge

So I made my first attempt at making the traditional Thanksgiving fare last
year, and with a couple small glitches, it came out reasonably well.

Let us examine the bounty:

The couple exceptions being the mistake at the green bean cannery in which
the sodium content went off the charts. I didn't even add any salt, and it
tasted like green bean casserole jerky. I ended up making it again the next
night (with careful taste testing)

The other was a transcription error that omitted the sugar from the pumpkin
pie. I double checked my sources, and this again was not my fault. It
must've been pretty nutritious, though, because by the time I'd steeled up
the courage to go have a slice as a "squash pie" sort of entree, it had been
entirely consumed by mold. Lesson: refridgerate that sucker.

So I'm going for the same menu this year, but I'm going to document all the
steps this time around. Should beef up the content around these parts,

Monday, November 14, 2005

Grissini recipe request

I realize that I've not flexed my baking muscle recently.....well, ever.

I think I'm looking for a good recipe for Grissini.

Anyone got something?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

salmon, taters, broccoli


Nothing suggest to me how often I'm actually cooking at home than knowing
that I'm posting everything I cook on here.

And the last post is from almost a month ago.

Anyhow, on tonight's menu:

Packetized salmon
Three Cheese Scallopped potatoes.
Steamed Broccoli.

I admit it. I'm cheating on the potatoes. I'm using a mix. Heap your scorn
upon me. In my defense, I topped them off with some panko and some butter
about 5 minutes before taking them out of the oven.

The Broccoli I'm doing in my standard way: Wash broccoli. Put in bowl. Add a
few tablespoons of water. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Poke holes in
top. Microwave. I don't feel guilty here. The big problem with the microwave
is that it 'taint so good at getting anything hotter than the boiling point
of water (That'd be around 212F or 100C). Browning and caramelization happen
at much higher temps. This makes it lousy for those activities. Steaming, on
the other hand is no problem in my book.

As for the salmon, each packet consisted of olive oil, salt, pepper, 4 thin
slices of lemon, 4 green onions, a couple teaspoons of minced garlic and a
6oz salmon fillet. Wrapped tightly in foil. About 15 minutes in the oven at

Verdict to come in update.


Tasty. As usual, probably could've put a bit more salt on the fishes.