Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Turkey Redeux

~ Old Becomes New ~
Let's just say straight up because there's bound to be hushed whispers after this post: I do not have a turkey fettish. It's just that it's the season and all. Turkeys in the yard, turkeys in the oven, and now... a little creatively named recipe: Turkey Redeux!

The Urban Dictionary defines redeux as another way to say remix, which sidetracks me back to those hoppin' multi-song disco/rap blends of my dance club days. It's this kind of thinking that makes me want to add the word "redeux" to numerous things from the 80s and 90s. Surely, anything with a "re-do" suddenly becomes freshy-fresh and new. Right? Let's try it out for kicks.

Duran Duran Redeux. Legwarmers Redeux. CHiPs Redeux. Banana Clip Redeux. See how old becomes new again? Aren't you intrigued? Don't these updated terms make you want to don a Madonna Redeux? Oh, wait. She's British now, right? Like, totally.

Hoo Boy! So silly.

Anyway, basically what we have here are some mighty fine sandwiches that will shine new strobe light on turkey -- leftover or deli. They are the result of modifications to a glorious find on one of my favorite sites, epicurious.com, when I was planning a party last year. I was looking for something different and uncomplicated. It seemed simple enough, except for the aioli.

Aioli! The name sounds more like an interjection than a food, like it should be shouted with gusto in the manner that all expletives are shouted with gusto. For example, I stubbed my toe: AIOLI! Thinking of the pronunciation (ay-OH-lee) also makes me think that's what Fonzie would have said if Happy Days had a character named Ollie. Can't you just imagine him? White t-shirt, black leather jacket, thumbs up... "Ayyyyyy.... Ollie."

Don't be fooled by the mysterious word, though. Aioli is basically fancy-pants garlic mayo. It has never, ever been my desire to make my own mayonnaise, highfalutin or otherwise. Really. Who does have this desire besides Mrs. Hellman? Idle minds want to know.

At last, what I will call Kimmers' Turkey Redeux. This recipe is not only good for any time of year, but it gives leftover holiday turkey an alternate destination besides being haphazardly slapped between two slices of white bread with a little cran jelly or Miracle Whip.

Kimmers' Turkey Redeux
4 yellow onions
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon stone ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 pounds turkey breast, preferably sliced really thin
16 slices bacon
1 avocado
16 slices ciabatta

First caramelize the onions. Start by slicing the onions into strips. Do this by cutting each onion in half. Place each half face down and slice at angles in a semi-circle. I really liked geometry class, so cutting onions at increasing angles like this always makes me visualize a protractor. I like to start at one end and work my way until I'm about a 1/3 up the half.
Then I spin the half around, cut slices and all, and start from the other end.
By doing it this way, my last few cuts are more or less straight down at the cutting board. I am very, very afraid of my knives, and this is one technique I use to keep digits safe.
When you are finished, you'll have a nice pile like this.
Heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in a nice large, heavy saute pan until the oil shimmers. Add the onions and stir to coat them all. Let them cook for about 10 minutes and sprinkle them with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir in the brown sugar, then add the red wine and balsamic vinegar. It will be soupy.
Let this cook for about an hour or so, stirring frequently. When the onions begin to stick, let them brown slightly. Don't let them burn. Scrape the pan and stir every few minutes at this point until the onions are a very dark shade of brown and all the liquid is pretty much gone, deglazing with a little more balsamic if necessary.

For my first go-round with these sandwiches, I caramelized the onions a day ahead and refrigerated them overnight. This made them rock-hard, but nothing a few seconds in the microwave can't cure. In no time flat, they were soft enough to put on sandwiches.

If you are not making the caramelized onions a day ahead, mix up your imposter aioli while the onions are cooking down. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, garlic, mustard, salt, black pepper, and ground red pepper. Whisk all this goodness together and set aside.
Cook the bacon until it's crispier than flimsy, but softer than brittle. A fine line, I know. The onions should be looking a lot less soupy.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees while the sandwiches are assembled on two baking sheets. Place eight ciabatta slices on each sheet. I crammed them all onto one sheet here, but it works out better if you use two. Place 1/4 pound of turkey on every other slice (we'll call these the bottoms). Hopefully, your turkey is sliced thinner than mine is here; it just tastes better when it's thin and elegantly piled. Onto the turkey, layer the now completely caramelized onions.
Place two slices of bacon on the ciabatta tops.
Ever get the feeling someone is staring at you? My hopeful observer, AndyBobby.
Put the baking sheets in the oven until the ciabatta begin to toast. This will take about 5-7 minutes, so keep an eye (meaning a timer) on them. While the sandwiches are toasting, halve the avocado, remove the pits, and gently peel each half. Slice each half into eighths. Here's where mad math skillz kick in again, as I keep halving until I have 16 slices of even widths.
Remove the toasted sandwiches from oven without fretting that the turkey isn't warm all the way through; it's okay. Move the bacon to the bottom side, on top the onions. Slather our new-fangled mayo onto the now-naked tops. Add two avocado slices to each sandwich. Marry the tops to the bottoms in whole-wheat matrimony.
These sandwiches make a fantastic lunch. For parties, slice each one in half and arrange on a platter. Either way, it's gnarly.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Quinoa Salad

~ Shot from a Cannon ~

HotDog and I were invited to a holiday party, which was held this past weekend. It was a bring-a-dish-to-share affair, full of new friends we had yet to meet. I was in a dilemma to find a fascinating dish that would travel well, was not bound by "serve hot" instruction, and looked festive. I was off to the races digging through my Someday-I-Will-Try-This pile of recipe printouts and clippings.

The recipe below is what we took to the party, and I am still tickled by the bombardment of requests I received for it. I mean to tell ya, this recipe was in demand. One new friend in particular beseeched me to get it to her in time to make for another party she was attending this coming weekend. Henceforth, this recipe will not have photos of the step-by-step instructions until I can make it again. As if out of a cannon, it shot right from Experimental to Keeper.

A few added bonuses: It's healthy. It's vegetarian. It's gluten-free. It's a dish for all seasons.

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) Salad
1 - 12 oz. box of quinoa
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth if you prefer)
2 - 15 oz. cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 - 14 oz. bags of Hanover frozen white shoe peg corn, thawed
1 1/2 cups green onion, sliced thin
1 1/2 cups red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice (juice from about 1 1/2 lemons)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon sea salt
3/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro -or- 1/4 cup dried cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1-2 Tablespoons canola oil

Heat about 1-2 Tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add quinoa and chili powder, stirring to evenly coat the grain with oil and chili powder. Toast quinoa by stirring until the grain begins to turn a nice golden brown and gives off a nice toasty-smelling fragrance (about 5-7 minutes). Add broth. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, then remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes so all the broth is absorbed by the quinoa. Spread on a cookie sheet to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, and sea salt. Add cilantro and oregano. Stir in the black beans, corn, green onions, red pepper, and quinoa. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or as long as overnight). Stir before serving cold.

Serves approximately 16 -- great for potlucks, parties, and leftovers. This recipe can easily be halved for small gatherings, too.


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Turkey and Sage Stuffing

~ Bird Bath ~

It's embarrassing to admit that I had no earthly idea what the heck I was doing when I embarked on cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner.  Ignorance is not only bliss, but it can be courage, willfulness, and eventually resourcefulness all wrapped in one plastic-netted frozen chunk of poultry.  I proudly did all my grocery shopping on Tuesday night (yes, the one that's barely more than a day before Thanksgiving) to make sure the ingredients were just as fresh as could be.  I had no clue that would mean "just as frozen as could be" when it came to turkeys.  I'm sure you've heard and quite possibly shook your head in unbelievable amazement at stories of the poor souls who do a rapid-thaw turkey-in-the-bathtub procedure.  Oh yeah.  You guessed it.

Thank heavens that my mom came to assist me on Thanksgiving Eve.  I'll never forget her gentle surprise when she asked me to get the turkey, and I removed a 20-pound bird from my refrigerator still frozen solid.  The plan had been to prepare the stuffing, cram it into every nook and cranny of that presumably thawed gobbler late at night, and set it on a slow roast until the noontime gathering.  Up to that point, the plan did not include wearing a path between my kitchen and bathroom.  Alas, resourcefulness arrived on the scene, and I spent many hours that evening doting on my bathing beauty in its red, white, and blue wet suit of sorts.  During my repeated visits to check the water temperature and add cool water to its bath, I clearly remember intermittent fits of panic and punchiness.  Who could have ever guessed that over 15 years later I would be wishing for a picture of that bird bath?

** Insert your own imaginary photo here. **

Kids, in my retrospection let me proclaim that Thanksgiving Eve bathtub turkey thawing is a potentially dangerous method of preparing your frozen winged friend for his big day.  For safety's sake, put your avian on a slow thaw days ahead of time so no one ends up watching the Lions game in the ER.

I lucked out.  My escapades only caused us to eat a little later than originally planned, and I am still very thankful that my Turkey Day debut was a success despite the bathtub debacle.  My guests were only miserable because they overstuffed themselves at dinner.  No one was the wiser.  Sometimes ignorance is only bliss.

So, I survived a nerve-wracking lesson.  Since then I smartly employ the much safer alternative of slowly thawing a frozen turkey for the recommended amount of days in the refrigerator prior to preparing it.  I smartly make a grocery list at least a week in advance for HotDog to do the shopping.  And I still smartly prepare my turkey and stuffing the same way:  Mom's way.

Turkey and Sage Stuffing
1 thoroughly and properly thawed turkey, 10-12 pounds
3 king-size loaves of white bread
1 package of celery hearts
3 large onions
2 1/2 sticks butter, divided
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoons ground sage
1 cup chicken broth

For each loaf of bread, tear it up and divide it between two large, shallow baking pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on your oven.  Gently stir it around on the pans and bake another 5-10 minutes.  The idea is to get them nicely browned, but not too brown.

Each time a pair of bread pans is done, transfer the bread to a giant pot or bowl.  In this case, I am once again using that 16-quart monster pot I love so dearly.

In between baking your bread bits to get croutons, wash and chop the celery.  Chop the onions, too.  Melt two sticks (8 Tablespoons) of butter in a large saute pan.  Yes, it is a lot of butter, but keep in mind it will be coating your croutons from THREE loaves of bread.  Add the celery and onions to the melted butter, stirring occassionally until they are cooked through.

Rinse the bird, on the outside and inside both cavities.  Don't forget that they - whoever the proverbial "they" may be - like to shove the neck and other various parts and sometimes a packet of gravy inside those cavities.  I've heard rumors that the gravy is surprisingly good, although I've never tried it.  Take those hidden gems out and do what you will with 'em.  I have no advice here, as even cooking the extra body parts to make broth kinda grosses me out.  Set your cavity-clean bird aside to drain or pat it dry.

Add the celery/onions/butter to the croutons and stir together well.  Since it is such a large amount of bread, I like to add the sauteed veggies two or three parts at a time, stirring it together as I go.  Do the same for the salt, pepper, and sage.  I liken it to the directions on shampoo, except replace "lather" with "add a little" and "rinse" with "stir".  Add a little, stir, repeat.

Beat an egg, drizzle over the stuffing, and stir it in.  Do this three more times until all four eggs have been incorporated.  Again:  add a little, stir, repeat.  Then do the same with the cup of chicken broth.  Add a little, stir, repeat.  Using the shampoo approach is good to make sure all the bread is evenly coated and all Goldilocks.  You know.  Not too wet, not too dry... juuuuusssst right!

Now stuff that gobbler!  When I say stuff, I mean pack the stuffing nice and tight into both cavities.  Get as much in there as you possibly can.  Turn the turkey breast-side down when you are finished stuffing it.

If you bird has a large flap of skin like this one, pull it over the stuffing as best you can to close it up and protect the stuffing from getting too dry while it's in the sauna.

The little pop-up temperature gauge will be on the bottom, but it's the only way to let gravity do its thing to help the juices run into the white meat.  It's certainly not pretty, but it works.

Melt the remaining 1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) of butter.  Use a little of that butter to coat a small casserole dish or loaf pan for the remaining stuffing.

Pack the rest of the stuffing into the casserole, cover with foil, and refrigerate until you are ready to bake it.

Brush the rest of the butter all over the turkey, and add some additional chicken broth or water to the roasting pan.  Look how cute it is in its Child's Pose, all ready for Oven Yoga. 

Cover/tent it with foil and bake at 350 degrees, according to the directions on its plastic wrapper. I always add anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for a stuffed bird. Since this is an 11-pound bird, I set the timer for 5 hours. (The directions said it would need 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours.)

This is the turkey after the timer beeped.  It's a beautiful thing when the meat is falling off the bone like this. 

Just to be sure it was completely done, I checked the temperature of the thigh and the middle of the stuffing. You can see this baby is plenty hot through and through, exceeding the recommended temperature of 165 degrees for both turkey and stuffing.  Some sites will tell you that the turkey is horribly overdone at this point, but the meat from my turkeys has never been too dry.

If you prefer, you can remove the foil and bake it another 15-30 minutes to get the skin more golden brown.  Since I don't present the whole bird at dinner, I simply start putting the stuffing and meat on a platter and nibble as I go.  My preference is to plate my Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing something like this.

Now for that extra little stuffing casserole... I baked it the next evening at 350 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours.  I checked it with the meat thermometer to make sure it was super hot inside, particularly because I had touched it while I stuffed the raw turkey.

See how conscientious I've become?


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hot Mulled Cider

~ No Tricks. All Treats! ~

Halloween is the last big social event before everyone on my street holes up in their houses until spring and the warm weather has us peek our noses outside and brings us into our yards again.  Unless someone hosts a New Year's Eve or Super Bowl party, winter keeps us primarily to ourselves.

The first Halloween we were in this house, it poured down rain.  I'm talkin' the dark, no-moon-to-light-the-way, cold monsoon kind of rain.  The dogs always go bonkers when they hear a knock on the door, so we put them in the basement until the excitement was over.  It still verged on mayhem when someone knocked or the rang the doorbell, as the dogs barked each time with renewed energy downstairs.

The second year brought much nicer weather, and I had a lightbulb moment with the idea to set up a table at the curb.  We joined forces with our neighbors across the street and served hot cider along with the candy.  It has worked so well that we just spent our fourth year manning the candy and cider table.  Each year I've tried to perfect the cider.  Last year, I made this recipe and dubbed it a Keeper.  It's howling good!

Hot Mulled Cider for a Crowd
3 gallons unsweetened apple cider
3-5 large oranges, sliced
6" piece of ginger root, sliced
6 cinnamon sticks
50 or more whole cloves
2 teaspoons of fresh grated nutmeg
**optional** 1- 2 cups of rum, calvados, or apple jack

Pour all the cider into a very large pot and set on low-medium heat.

Mine is a 16-quart pot.  A doozy, I know, but it has been worth every penny of the deep, deep discount price I paid at the All-Clad Seconds sale a few years ago.  I use this pot year round for recipes like this cider, soups, pasta sauce, and boiling water for corn-on-the-cob or a large batch of mashed potatoes.  I don't know why I didn't make this investment years ago.
Love. This. Pot.

Slice the oranges and ginger.

Add the remaining ingredients to the cider.  Continue to let this simmer on low-medium heat for 2-4 hours to allow the flavors to mellow, reducing the heat to low after 1 1/2 hours.

Stir in the rum, calvados, or applejack to make a grown-up version; otherwise, leave it family-friendly.  The family version is a fantastic fall drink that helps take the chill off a brisk fall evening outside.  From a purely culinary standpoint, however, even just a small amount of rum gives the cider a smoother and deeper flavor.

Strain before serving.  We strain the cider as we transfer it to the crock pot and run an extension cord to keep it hot for the outdoor festivities.

We make the family version, serve it in disposable cups, and give the adults the option to upgrade with a small shot of rum.

Inside, I prefer to drink from a mug.  Always a hit!


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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

~ Soup and Bread Sundays ~

Our family is scattered relatively evenly throughout the country in a variety of fun destinations.  Except San Diego.  We have family in Florida, Las Vegas, North Carolina, Portland (Oregon), Seattle, Vermont, and New York.  We keep lobbying for someone to relocate to San Diego, which would complete all the vacation spots we really need.  Truthfully, we have waived our strict blood relative requirement.  You simply have to live in San Diego, be willing to hang with us (or not), and provide sleeping quarters for anywhere from three to five days, say once every two or three years.  Come on... we're fun.  Takers?  Anyone?

It's hard to say when our Soup and Bread Sunday tradition started.  I believe it was inspired by the the most relaxing Christmas ever, which was about six years ago.  While a lot of couples/families are run ragged as they scurry from house to house on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we were blessed with absolutely no plans.  D2 was spending Christmas with his mom, and no other family members were within a three-hour drive.  HotDog and I decided we would like nothing better than to make a pot of homemade soup, broil some buttered ciabatta, and watch movies in our PJs all day.  In a world of crammed calendars full of appointments and obligations, that day was a tremendous gift in itself.

We could not risk never experiencing the magic of our Soup and Bread Christmas again, so we parlayed it into Soup and Bread Sundays.  As soon as the weather starts to cool and our Steelers start pre-season play, we are hankerin' for our soup and bread home opener.  Every week with the exceptions of a bye-week or Monday or Thursday night game, we assemble around the television before kick-off with our bowls and blankets, like black-and-gold bedecked bears filling our bellies for hybernation.  However, we don't hybernate; we cheer and yell and high-five and jump up and down.  Well, maybe a catnap at half-time...

Soup's on!  Meet our franchise player.

Kimmers' Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
1 whole fully-cooked grocery store rotisserie chicken
3 medium onions
4 Tablespoons butter
1 pound carrots
1 celery stalk or package of two celery hearts
1 Tablespoon thyme
1 Tablespoon oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2-48 ounce cans of chicken broth
double batch of Grandma's Homemade Noodles

This recipe cooks as you go.  For those of you who like to prep, consider setting out all your ingredients as prepping mission completed.  Ta-da!

Take your beautiful rotisserie chicken and pull all the meat off the bones and skin, placing every scrap of that tender meat in a bowl.  Don't worry about tearing it into bite-size pieces; we'll get to that later.  Set these succulent chicken chunks aside.

Place a large soup pot on low-medium heat and begin melting the butter.  As it slowly melts, chop the onions.  Place them in the melted butter and let them saute.  Wash the celery and cut it into slices; add to the onion and stir.  Peel the carrots and slice them into coins.

Add them to the onions and celery, stirring here and there as they saute, too.  Sprinkle on the thyme, add the bay leaves, and give it a good stir, keeping all the veggies evenly coated with the butter.

Like all herbs, fresh oregano is always better than dried.  Luckily, I had some on hand, so I de-leafed a few sprigs and placed the leaves in a prep bowl.  Then I took my kitchen shears and chopped the oregano into tiny pieces.  This photo was supposed to focus on the oregano and not the stonehenge of carrot tops in the background, but you get the idea.  Add the oregano to the pot of goodies and, of course, stir it in.

Then do the same chopping technique to the chicken in its bowl.  Much easier than standing and tearing it into bits, eh?

Guess what.  Yep, add the chopped chicken to the pot and stir some more.  This recipe is really an exercise in stirring.  Feel the burn!

By this time, especially if you are a slowpoke peeler and chopper like me, the onions are translucent; the carrots are softening but still firm.  Add the broth, salt, and pepper and increase the heat to medium-high, bringing the soup to a slight boil.  Stir in the dried or almost-dried double batch of Grandma's Homemade Noodles to the soup and continue to cook at a slow boil.

While the noodles are soaking up all the scrumptious flavors of your soup while they bloat to homestyle delight, start preparing your ciabatta.  No matter what soup we make, HotDog's broiled buttered ciabatta is a constant.  With great care and a wonderful bread knife, saw your ciabatta into slices about 3/4" thick.  Slather on a little butter and place buttered side up on a baking sheet.

After the noodles have cooked for about 15-20 minutes, start taste-testing them for doneness when no one is looking.  Your house will smell heavenly, so whoever sees you will want to sample, too.  When the noodles are just about the right degree of softness/firmness, put your ciabatta about 4-5" below the broiler flame in your oven.  They usually take about 5 minutes to develop a nice shade of golden brown.  Keep an eye on them, though, and remove when they look like they could take the blue ribbon in a toast-making contest.

Love when a meal comes together like this!

As I took these last photos in the kitchen, HotDog and D2 were already cozied up to the tv in the living room.  HotDog yells out, "I hope you wrote down what you did!"  Knowing it was headed for the blog, I responded, "It's a Keeper, isn't it?"  He heartily agreed.

Then as I'm enjoying my soup, D2 goes for Round Two.  I laughed but was secretly tickled on the inside when I saw his heaped-up bowl.

This recipe makes about eight generous bowls of soup - plenty for seconds and delicious leftovers!


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