Saturday, October 9, 2010

Turkey Time!

Monday is Thanksgiving here in Canada. We celebrate giving thanks for what we have and do it at the end (or supposed to be the end) of the harvest season. Unfortunately this year, this isn't the case as some of the farmers (those who were lucky enough to even have a crop) are still out in the fields working like Japanese beavers. This wasn't the best season for them in a lot of areas, but I'm sure they will all rebound next year.

I cook a turkey 3 times a year: Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We like to eat turkey on special occasions and I use the leftovers in quite a few different dishes afterwards. Sandwiches, stir-frys, whatever will compliment the turkey as it takes on the flavours surrounding it. Turkey also has some nice health benefits to it (http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=125). It's lower in fat than most other meats and puts you to sleep after you eat it.

When I cook it, I like my turkey moist and flavourful. You can usually achieve this by cooking it a lower temperature. I also add some water in the pan to keep the air in the oven humid. Some might call this cheating, but when we are eating my moist and juicy turkey, they are eating their dry and bland turkey. I win.

Most times I brine my turkey, but not this time. This helps a great deal if you do it properly. This link is a good source of information (http://www.the-perfect-turkey.com/how-to-brine-a-turkey.html) as it talks about how to prepare it a number of different ways. Brining helps make the proteins in the meat mesh together which helps hold in the juices and the flavor. I like what it does, but it takes a while and also a lot of space in the fridge.

Preparing the turkey is as important as the cooking process in my mind. I don't stuff the bird with traditional stuffing like my mother did. I like the bird to have a somewhat open airway through it's cavity. This way the bird cooks a whole lot faster and you won't be risking your life by accidentally eating stuffing which isn't cooked enough. The way I'm about to show you adds a lot of flavour to the bird through the ingredients in the cavity and under the skin.


Mrs. Urban Eater went out and bought a 13.5 lb (6.12 kgs) bird the other day for me to wrestle with. A nice size bird for the three of us. After thawing it in the fridge for 4 days, it was ready to be prepared. I drained the liquid from inside which accumulates from the thawing process and patted it down with paper towel, inside the cavity and on the skin. After checking the skin for pin feathers, it was ready to go. Now would be a good time to take off your rings and watch if you are wearing them.

Ingredients

1 Turkey
1 Tbls unsalted butter. You can use regular butter if it's all you have on hand
2 Sprigs thyme
1 Sprig rosemary
1 Sprig oregano
1 Handful parsley, stalks and all
4 Large basil leaves
1 Lemon
4 Cloves garlic
1/2 Onion
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
EVOO
1 Cup water

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Place turkey on a cutting board or baking sheet.
3. Place butter in a bowl along with thyme leaves from 1 sprig and mix together.



4. Put your hand under the skin to separate the skin from the breast meat. You can try to get the skin away from the leg meat as well if you want.
5. Grab some butter on your fingertips and start rubbing it all over the breast meat under the skin and onto the leg if you can get to it.
6. Place the basil leaves flat on the breast meat under the skin. This will add flavour and make it look like a perfect little Martha Stewart turkey.
7. Wash the lemon and punch a few holes in the skin with a sharp knife or fork.
8. Put the lemon, the herbs, garlic, salt, pepper and the onion in the cavity and truss the legs with the skin or use butchers twine. Even if you don't truss the legs, it will still work well as this will aid in better airflow through the cavity.
9. Add water to the bottom of the pan. If you are using a baking sheet, put the water in a ramekin or a small oven-proof cup.
10. Rub a little EVOO on the skin and put it in the oven.

Other ways to add flavour are to take a couple of carrots and celery stalks and place them under the turkey to use as a rack. This helps with the flavour of the turkey and the gravy, if you are making it. Personally, I don't eat gravy. I use cranberry sauce or a little butter instead.

Turn the heat down after 1 hour to 300 F. Do not open the door. If you are using a convection oven, turn down the heat after 45 minutes. This gives the bird a good head start and helps keep the heat up after you open the door to put it in the oven. Cook until the thigh and breast meat reaches a temperature of 165 F. It still keeps cooking after you take it out of the oven, so the temperature will still rise a little. Place the turkey on a cutting board and tent it with a sheet of tinfoil for 20 to 30 minutes. Carve and serve.


If you are thinking the butter is going to add unwanted fat to the turkey, don't worry about it. It's only a tablespoon and besides, live a little. It's alright to let yourself go a tiny bit on special occasions. Remember, moderation. Your body needs some fat. Just watch how much and what kind of fat you eat.

For side dishes to the turkey, I made mashed red potatoes with a small sweet potato mixed in with it. They were steamed instead of boiled as I didn't want to boil away many of the nutrients which this process can do. I added a little milk and butter which I heated up to lukewarm before I mixed it in with the potatoes. This is an easy way to ensure the potatoes stay creamy. If you add milk when it's cold to hot spuds, it can make them starchy and goopy instead of smooth and creamy. Add sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. I grate in 1/2 a fresh nutmeg, along with adding a little chopped parsley. You don't have to do this, but nutmeg is one of those things which is a good secret to have when it comes to making mashed potatoes. It's a nice subtle background flavour. And if you want to go even farther on the flavour train, roasted garlic is another way to make your mashed potatoes rock.

We also had corn from the mother-in-laws garden which we cut off the cob and froze earlier this month. Added to this were peas and chopped carrots from her garden as well.


Little O's Menu

This last week we introduced red seedless grapes and strawberries to her. She is taking to these very well and liked a little mild cheddar with her grapes. Cheese is a good way to fatten her up as we have been told to do, so I have been adding some Parmesan to her chopped and mashed carrots too. I also fed her a couple small chunks of salmon which were left over from our meal the night before. She ate it without spitting it out like last time. I hope she continues to like the fish as she will be seeing a lot more of it.

She is still getting her fair share of peaches, carrots, green beans and blueberries. I can't see this stopping anytime soon.

This coming week we will be feeding her some of the turkey. I'm thinking this will be fine with her, but like anything else we will have to wait and see.

Today's quote:

"Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable."

- Ina Garten, 'The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook'


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gluten-Free Chorizo Pasta Sauce

As you know, I will shop at the farmers market as much as I can, whenever I can. There is at least one place at the Calgary Farmers Market where I can buy sausages which are gluten free. It's not very often you can find this anywhere, so I thought I would give them a try.

Chorizo sausage is a great thing to eat and play with on the stove, but gluten-free? I wasn't sure at first, but we tried a small sample at the booth. The flavour is there for sure. A little different, but it's there. This could just be the recipe, not the fact it is gluten free. The more I think about it, I believe the only difference between regular sausage and gluten-free is the gluten-free is more chunky, meaning it's not as smooth in the casing as regular sausage due to the missing bread crumbs and possibly egg used as a binder. Big deal. As long as the flavour is there, I'll use it. If you don't know what chorizo is (or if you even care...), take a look - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chorizo.

Ingredients

6 Chorizo sausages, fresh not cured
1/2 Onion, red or yellow, diced
1 Red, yellow or orange pepper, diced
1 Clove garlic, minced
1 398 ml, 14 fl. oz Can of tomato sauce. I used Earthpure Organic this time as this is what I had available. I will use diced, crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce or any combination of these. I usually go with the diced or whole and a can of sauce or crushed to help thicken the sauce.
1 796 ml, 28 fl. oz can of diced tomatoes
1 Tsp tomato paste
Pinch of fresh rosemary, chopped
Pinch of fresh thyme, chopped
4 Basil large leaves
Handful of fresh parsley, curly or Italian, finely chopped
1 Tsp Balsamic vinegar
EVOO
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions

Slice sausage casing down the middle with a knife. Peel back the casing to expose the meat inside and scrape out with a spoon or use you hands. Heat a little EVOO in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausage to the pan and begin to break it apart using a wooden spoon. Keep doing this as the meat will clump constantly and you don't want it to brown.


When the sausage is cooked, almost starting to turn brown but not quite, add the onions. When the onions turn translucent add the garlic and the peppers and a little salt and pepper. At this time I also take a paper towel, pull the sausage to one side of the pan and tilt it the opposite way from the meat to absorb the fat which has come out of the sausage. Fat is flavour, but a well made sausage has the flavour in it from the spices, not the fat. You'll still have a nice flavour from the sausage afterwards. You can use Italian sausage for this recipe as well. If you do, don't add any basil as the fennel seed in the sausage will give the sauce a licorice-like flavour which basil has already. But, it's YOUR recipe, so you decide on your own. If you want more of this flavour, then go ahead with the basil. It's that simple.


After 5 minutes, add the tomatoes (whichever ones you decided on). Stir to incorporate all ingredients and add the tomato paste. At this time, add the heartier herbs, rosemary and thyme. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.


When the sauce is done simmering, stir and taste for seasoning. Add the parsley and basil. You can chiffonade or tear the basil by hand into small pieces about the size of the end of your thumb. Stir again and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar to bring a touch of sweetness to the sauce. This adds another level of flavour which will make your palate very happy. Let sit for another 15 minutes and serve over pasta.


I used linguini this time, but you could also use spaghetti, spaghettini or any thin pasta. It is a hearty sauce which doesn't require large, thicker pasta to help soak up the sauce.

The longer you let a cooked sauce sit in the fridge (I'm talking a day or two maximum), the better it gets as the flavours get a chance to come together. There is no harm in letting a sauce sit before you eat it. Just make sure you let it cool down after the cooking process before you put it in the fridge.

Little O's Menu

We had O try this sauce and she liked it. We didn't let her eat much of it because of the acidity in the tomatoes. Small doses and moderation, never a bad thing.

For her breakfasts, we have been feeding her a little more bread. We are getting a little braver with what we feed her now, and have moved towards almond butter. She likes this very much and eats it without making any funny faces. This, along with the Bosc pear and/or the apple puree, yogurt, cinnamon and rice cereal fills her up quite nicely. Makes for a good, long nap afterwards too (and the people rejoice, yay). Another thing we stumbled upon was mild cheddar cheese. After yesterdays doctors appointment and the mandate to start fattening her up (9 months old, 16 lbs, 3 oz's, 28" long), cheese is one of the ingredients which we are adding to her diet. She didn't like it at first and wouldn't eat it, but when we added small chunks to her apple puree, down it went. Apples and cheddar cheese. She definitely has an adventurous little palate. I know it's a popular combination, especially in the US, but I'm impressed with her as it is not something I thought a baby would eat. Success!

Foodie Events

The Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival (http://www.rockymountainwine.com/) is coming soon to Calgary and Edmonton. This is a showcase of local restaurants and liquor stores, and vineyards from across Canada. It's a lot of fun and usually there are some good eats, in small portions, to be had. If you are looking for high-end fare, don't go. If you are looking to have a good time surrounded by 1,500 other people looking for the same thing, then go. Definitely.

Today's quote:

"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian, wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian, lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese, garlic makes it good."

- Alice May Brock


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tomato Sauce

Back to the big city from the small city. I haven't been able to write this blog for a few days now as the in-laws only have dial-up internet. If I wrote the blog at their place, I would use up all of their allotted time. I chose to cook and do research instead.

We loaded up the car with a few different items this time. We don't normally take canned foods there, we usually bring that back. Isn't that what is supposed to happen, you bring back food from your parents place rather than take it there? One of the things we wanted to do was make tomato sauce. So, in the back of the Audi we had 3 big tins of San Marzano tomatoes.


This recipe is fairly simple as I use it as a mother sauce for anything using a tomato-based sauce. This is why I'm using San Marzanos, the quality. If I am going to have a simple tomato sauce, I want the best tomatoes I can find. This way the flavour of the sauce is never an issue. I can also use the sauce for whatever I want even without adding anything to it. When cooking with San Marzano's, you will never go wrong keeping it simple as to not add to many other ingredients which will mask the flavour of what is arguably the worlds best tomato. They are considered to be because they have more meat than other types. And if some of you think canned tomatoes are not cool, think again. They are picked, blanched and canned at their peak of ripeness. One of the best ways to eat tomatoes is from a can, so don't knock it.



Ingredients

3 1.84 L or 62 fl. oz tins San Marzano Tomatoes
2 Large Onions, red or yellow
4 Large garlic cloves
2 Cans tomato paste
10 Large leaves basil (the San Marzanos had basil in the can already, so no need to add this if it exists already)
EVOO
Sea salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper
2 Bay leaves
1-2 Tbls cumin (if desired)

Directions

Dice onions and mince the garlic. Set aside. Open the tins of tomatoes. You have two choices here: You can either take an immersion blender and puree the tomatoes in the can or just put them in a blender. Or, you can cook them down whole. I do both, but when I don't have a lot of time like this weekend, I use the boat motor (immersion blender). If you choose to cook them down, this should take about 2-3 hours, all the while smushing the tomatoes gently with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add the EVOO to a pot over medium heat. Add the onions when the oil is hot enough. If you choose to use the cumin, add it here. The eat will add a slight smokey aroma and flavour to it. Stir, add a teaspoon or more of pepper. Add some sea salt, about a teaspoon as well to make the juices come out. This way the onions won't burn and will add a little extra flavour to the sauce. When the onions are translucent or almost clear, add the garlic. Stir and let simmer for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Be careful, watch out for back splash. Tomato sauce and oil are sometimes extremely hard to get out of your clothes and hard on the skin as you may get burned. Stir and add the tomato paste. The paste will eventually break down in the sauce as you stir it. Bring to a boil and turn to low and let simmer for at least one hour. The consistency of the sauce should be thick enough to sit nicely on a spoon without oozing off.


When I finished simmering the sauce (I let it go for 2 hours), it was time to eat. I ladled out enough sauce for 5 people, which was about 1 jar. It was served over a mix of penne and cavitapi. Drizzle a little good EVOO over top before serving.


The Mother-in-law and I then jarred the sauce. She says you have to do it while it is still hot. We ended up with 10 jars. I'm happy with the result as I can now add herbs, spices and even hamburger to the sauce to make endless possibilities for pastas or whatever. But as I said before, the sauce should be so true you could have it alone without adding anything.


Try searing off a chicken breast on both sides, add a little sauce over top of the breast, then throw it into the oven for 15-20 minutes at 400F. With about 5 minutes to go, add some fresh mozza over top. Cook until cheese is slightly browned. The dish is called Chicken Malibu. It's tasty and healthy. We have this dish all of the time.

Little O's Menu

While we were away, O had the pleasure of dining on pears and apples, which we poached, pureed and jarred for her. She really loves these two fruits which is why we keep serving them to her. We mix them up with yogurt and cinnamon. Both were organic, which were bought at the farmers market. While we were there, the vendor gave us a few Asian pears for buying so much from him. This was the first time I had eaten one of these and was impressed. O liked them as well as she had a couple of small chunks. We will definitely eat more of these as they are easy to eat and are supposed to be quite good for you (http://www.ehow.com/about_5421236_asian-pear-nutrition.html).

The pears we bought were Bosc. They were nice and sweet even though we jarred them with very little sugar and they also made very nice puree. O gobbled these down with no issues. We jarred more than we purred as we want to eat them as well. The in-laws kept quite a few jars and were impressed with them too. Good flavour and beats the heck out of the canned ones you buy in the store.

She was also treated to her first perogie and cabbage roll. This went over well as Ukrainian is in her blood on her mothers side. A little home cookin' never hurt anybody.

It was a good trip and as always it was good to see everyone. I learned how to can, which was a good thing because I will always do this with tomatoes every year now. We can have "fresh" tomatoes all year round.

Today's quote:

"Food is an important part of a balanced diet."

-Fran Lebowitz


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark