About Mastering and Enjoying Home Cooking. Drink, Cook, and Live Well!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What if I can not find leeks?

If you were playing golf, I doubt if an “exact patch of grass” question would come up. If you were planning to make Leek Potato Soup, you do not need permission to make Scallion Potato Soup. In practice, it would probably sell as well at your restaurant. I would not advocate calling your soup Lobster Bisque if it was devoid of lobster. You could get away with Mock Lobster Bisque if it reasonably tastes like lobster. 

Speaking of lobsters: lobsters are trapped throughout the year, so there is no “best time of the year” for Maine lobsters. On the other hand, seasonally sustainable cooking means offering patrons what is best THIS time of year without incurring environmental damaged caused by shipping food great distances. No excuses are necessary as you are doing them a favor. They get the best at an affordable price. This works equally well in you home. Who has a greater need to be frugal the restaurateur or the home chef on a fixed budget? Local, organic is better for us in either case and helps sustain local healthy food vendors.

Blogging and feedback on recipes-reviews show some people are still shy about altering many recipes. I would like to say that except for baking, substitutions are almost 100 % successful. Often they result in an improvement. I was noticing the Libby Pumpkin Pie comments where one home chef used Cream instead of evaporated milk. Sounds delicious to me.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Steve’s Turkey Giblet Madeira Gravy

This is not the easiest recipe for a turkey gravy but it is my best. Gravy is a fill-in activity on turkey day. You are in the kitchen anyway, may as well make a fine gravy. Although the gravy practically cooks all day, it is not a time consuming effort nor does it need much attention. It does have a lot of steps so please read through the entire recipe once before making. The background section “About Sauces and Gravy” in my cookbook gives better understanding.

Things you need include:
A fat separator, large colander, measuring spoons, a bowl to catch and retain turkey stock, and a large glass measuring cup (you need to see into it), a tall stock pot, large tall saucepan, a bulb baster and a whisk.

The gravy is done in several stages which are explained here in simpler form than the actual recipe so you can plan the stages.
First broil the vegetables and two turkey wings along with the neck from the bird in oven to add flavor. If you only have one oven and the bird is in it, you can either do this step the day before, roast in the BBQ with lid down, brown with a little oil in a fry pan or skip this step.
After broiling, add wings, neck, and giblets1 from the bird, vegetables, wine and cold water, red pepper, garlic, bay leaves to a large stock pot. No salt is needed as pan drippings used later maybe salty. Bring to a boil then simmer two hours.

After the stock has cooked for several hours, the stock is strained and the broth is retained. The vegetables are discarded. Some of the neck meat and all the giblets are cut very fine and retained. The other wing meat is saved for the pets.

The next stage only starts once there has been some runoff from the turkey having cooked for 5 hours. Some savory flavored fat from the turkey roasting pan is drawn off and used to make a roux - a mixture of flour and fat cooked together which will be used as a thickener for the gravy. The roux is allowed to brown.  Stock is added to the roux along with giblets.  Madeira and sherry are added, the gravy is further reduced until it has thicken enough. Turn off the heat on the gravy. We wait until the turkey is cooked and removed from oven.
Finally, pan drippings are fat separated and this along with some pan scrapings are added to the gravy. The gravy is then further reduced until ready to serve.

Turn broiler on high.

1 large onion, skin on, sliced in quarters (roasted)
2 large carrots cut into 1~2 inch pieces (roasted)
2 ribs of celery and celery leaves cut into 1~2 inch pieces (roasted)
1 turkey neck (comes with the turkey) (roasted)
Turkey giblets1 (comes with the turkey)
2 turkey wings3 (roasted)
3 cloves of unpeeled garlic crushed and a rough chop (roasted)
Any left over chicken stock from ejecting the bird
Pinch of red pepper
3 bay leaves
1 ½ quarts of water or part white wine, and water (add more if needed to cover the vegetables/turkey parts)
4 tablespoons of white flour
2 cup of white wine (optional)
½ cup Madeira or Cream Sherry
¼ cup port
Pinch of ground thyme
Pinch of white pepper
Pinch of ground sage
Kitchen Bouquet5 (optional used to darken the gravy as required)
1 teaspoon ~1 tablespoon sugar if needed to peak the flavor at the end

In a shallow roasting pan, add the roughly chopped onions, celery, carrots, garlic, along with turkey neck, and turkey wings. Broil these on high, turning the pieces with thongs until some color has been added to the wings and vegetables. This will only take 15-20 minutes depending on your broiler and the distance to the heat. If too close, things may burn. Be diligent; leave the broiler door open and peek in frequently, turning pieces as required. Now place all the fowl and vegetables in to a tall stock pot. Add any left over chicken stock, a pinch of red pepper, bay leaves, 2 cups of wine, 1 ½ quarts of cold water and the giblets from the turkey. Bring to a boil, and reduce to medium heat and cook for 3 hours. A lot of the water will evaporate into the kitchen you may wish to crack a window. Cool and strain stock through a large colander into a large bowl. After “strainings” have cooled, separate giblets, wings and neck. Remove meat from neck and dice the meat very finely along with the giblets. Place meat in the same bowl with the drained stock and retain.

After the turkey has cooked for five hours, open the oven, and remove 2 cups of liquid from the turkey’s roasting pan with a bulb-baster into a glass measuring cup. Let the cup stand 5 minutes so that the fat rises to the top of the measuring cup. Separate 4 tablespoons of the turkey rendered fat from the top layer in the measuring cup to use to make a roux.

Add 4 tablespoons of the turkey rendered fat in a large tall sauce pan over medium heat; add 4 tablespoons of flour and brown while stirring with a whisk continuously until the flour has turned a nutty brown. Be careful. You need the nutty brown color to add color and flavor but go a little too long, the butter will burn and the whole roux will turn very dark brown and bitter. If that happens start the roux over with fresh ingredients.  Remove sauce pan from heat, let cool a minute then whisk in about two cups of the strained stock. When whisked in, add all the remained stock with the chopped meat. Now add:
1/2 cup of Madeira and ¼ cup sherry
Return sauce pan to stove top and cook on low to reduce and concentrate the flavor. This should take 35 to 45 minutes. If still a little too watery, add another 10 minutes to reduction time. When the sauce has reduced, add a pinch of ground thyme, white pepper and ground sage. When the gravy is thickened to the desired consistency turn off the heat. Wait until the turkey is finished cooking.

"gravy gold" in bottom of roasting pan
The turkey, at this point, is out of the oven and resting in its pan. The last things that go into the gravy are the juices and the dark pan scrapings. These help darken the gravy’s color while adding flavor and character. Unless you have a Teflon pan, your roasting pan bottom should look something like this one. Elevate one end of the roasting pan with towels to help collect the juices from the pan. Caution: It may be hot. Collect all of the juices from the roasting pan using a bulb-baster. Separate the juices from the fat using a fat separator2 which is a handy kitchen tool. Add the juices to the gravy not the fat. Use a spoon for the scrapings4. Set the gravy back over medium heat until further reduced to the desired consistency. (If you added a lot of juice from the pan, this may take 30 minutes.) Finally check the seasoning by tasting the gravy. Add a little salt only if needed. Added extra pepper or seasonings as required. Add 1 teaspoon ~1 tablespoon sugar if needed to peak the flavor at the end to add a hint of sweetness.

  1. Giblets - the gizzard, liver, heart of the turkey. These are in a pouch and usually stuffed in the neck cavity of the turkey.
  2. If you don’t have a fat separator, you can use a bulb-baster and a large clear measuring cup. Either skim off the fat from the top or pull out just the dark juices from the bottom of a large measuring cup to another cup.
  3. The turkey wings help create a rich turkey stock, if you scaling back the recipe, maybe the turkey neck is enough. This is especially true if you choose to use a low salt chicken stock replacing some of the water of the stock. If turkey wings are not available look for turkey necks, or even drumsticks (legs.)
  4. Scrapings – the precious dark caramelized bits from the roasting pan may not occur in Teflon coated pans – see picture.
  5. Kitchen Bouquet is a bottled condiment sauce used as an ingredient in cooking, rather than as a table condiment. It is mostly used for its ability to add a dark brown color. It's generically referred to as a "browning agent." The ingredients listed are: caramel, vegetable base (water, carrots, onion, celery, parsnips, turnips, salt, parsley, and spices), sodium benzoate (less than .01 or 1% to preserve freshness) and sulfating agents.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Festive Creamed Onions

This is a recipe the family serves at special meals like Christmas and Thanksgiving and is one of the dishes that is all gone first.
2 Pounds small white pearl onions1

Blanch onions in boiling water 3-4 minutes to facilitate peeling skins. Cut off root end, squeezing onion from outer peel. Boil peeled onions in two cup of water until just firm. Retain one cup of the liquid. Prepare a heavy white sauce using:

4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
1 Cup onion flavored water that was retained
½ Cup of milk
½ Cup cream
White pepper
A pinch of ground cloves
A pinch of nutmeg

Combine the flour and butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir to prevent burning. Allow the mixture to begin to take on color then remove from heat. Add while whisking, the onion flavored water that was retained. When mixed, return to medium heat, adding the rest of the ingredients. The sauce will reach its thickest point after it starts to boil. Combine sauce and onions and serve hot.

1.  When buying onions, consider size and possibility of some being bad. If small diameter, there is considerable waste during peeling. Buy three pounds to compensate.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Seasonal Fruit and Berry Quick Desserts

It is that time of year, seasonal fruit and a holiday spirit create an oportunity for cobblers, crisps, crumbles, brown betty’s, charlottes, torts, buckles, grunts, slumps, sonkers, and pandowdy’s.

Cobbler - Cobblers are an American deep-dish fruit dessert or pie with a thick crust (usually a biscuit crust) and a fruit filling (such as peaches, apples, berries). Some versions are enclosed in the crust, while others have a drop-biscuit, pieces of crust or crumb topping.

Crisps and Crumbles - Crisps are baked with the fruit mixture on the bottom with a crumb topping. The crumb topping can be made with flour, nuts, bread crumbs, cookie or graham cracker crumbs, or even breakfast cereal. Crumble are the British version of the American Crisp.

French apple charlotte - A classic apple charlotte has a crust of buttered bread slices filled with caramelized apples. Altenatives are made from sautĂ©ed sugared apple wedges topped with buttered bread and inverted from the pan like a tarte Tatin. The version given below is my mother’s recipe.

Betty or Brown Betty - A Betty consist of a fruit, most commonly apples, baked between layers of buttered crumbs. Betties are an English pudding dessert closely related to the French apple charlotte. Betty and Brown Betties are popular baked desserts from colonial times.

Grunts or Slump - Early attempts to adapt the English steamed pudding to the primitive cooking equipment available to the Colonists in New Englans resulted in the grunt and the slump, a simple dumpling-like pudding (basically a cobbler) using local fruit. Usually cooked on top of the stove. In Massachusetts, they were known as a grunt (thought to be a description of the sound the berries make as they stew). In Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island, the dessert was referred to as a slump.

Buckle or Crumble - Is a sheet cake made with berries or fruit added to the batter. It is often made with blueberries, or apples, or peaches. The topping is similar to a streusel, which gives it a buckled or crumpled appearance.

Pandowdy - It is a deep-dish dessert that can be made with a variety of fruit, but is most commonly made with apples sweetened with molasses or brown sugar.First mentioned in print in 1805 in New England. The topping is a crumbly type of biscuit except the crust is broken up during baking and pushed down into the fruit to allow the juices to come through. Sometimes the crust is on the bottom and the desert is served inverted.

Sonker (aka zonker) - A sonker is a North Carolina deep-dish pie or cobbler served in many flavors including strawberry, peach, sweet potato, and cherry. The community of Lowgap at the Edwards-Franklin House, hold an annual Sonker Festival First Saturday in October.

Kae Ottesen’s Apple Charlotte

Fresh white bread as required, all crusts cut off
1 stick softened sweet butter
5 large peeled apples
¾ cup castor sugar
Pinches of salt now and then
Little nutmeg
Drops of lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Butter well a soufflé mold. Butter the bread on both sides. Tear into 1 inch square pieces and cover sides and bottom of mold. Grate one peeled apple for the bottom, cover with a little sugar scant hint of nutmeg, 2 drops of lemon juice, a small pinch of salt. Cover with bits of bread, add another grated apple, and repeat the process as before and continue until mold is full. Dot generously with butter and top with a little sugar. Bake at 350F for 40 to 50 minutes or until nicely brown. Serve hot or cold serve with French Clotted Cream.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Whipped (Mashed) Potatoes

8 Large russet baking potatoes
¼ Pound butter
Kosher salt and white pepper to taste
Whole milk
1 ½ Cups sour cream (optional)
Garnish optionally with a pinch of paprika

Peel potatoes and cut into 1 ½ inch wide pieces trying to keep the pieces a uniform size so the potatoes cook evenly. Place in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of cold water. Add a teaspoon of salt per quart of water. Bring potatoes to a boil and cook until just fork tender. Drain and allow to steam and excess moisture evaporate, and then mash. Return pot to stove-top for five min­utes on medium heat to drive off excess water while stirring. Remove from heat, add butter, and milk and whipped until smooth. Add seasoning. (Include blanched mashed garlic for garlic whipped potatoes.)

Optionally, level whipped potatoes in a flat glass baking dish and top with sour cream. Bake in oven at 325 F before serv­ing. Garnish optionally with a pinch of paprika.

1. If you have the time, bake pierced potatoes in a 400 F oven until tender instead of boiling. Bake potatoes are nicely fluffy. Allow the baked potato to cool somewhat to peel their skins and remove any discolored sections with a knife.
2. Starting a boil with cold water promotes even cooking.
3. While peeling, potatoes can be held in a slightly acidulated water to prevent discoloration.
4. If the whipped potatoes need to be held any length of time, paint top surface with cream and cover with tin-foil. They are best eating straight off upon preparation.