Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Turkey Gravy

Another addition to the Holiday cooking guide: Gravy has to be the best part of the Thanksgiving meal. I mean, you can pour it on the meat, the mashed potatoes, the dressing, or sop it up with a roll.

I have never really tried to describe how to make gravy before so I have put a lot of thought into this. Have you heard of a roux before? That is a fancy French cooking term for cooking flour with fat that becomes the binder for gravies and sauces. Basically, to make roux-based gravy, there is a magic ratio of 1 Tablespoon fat (butter, oil, pan drippings) mixed with 1 Tablespoon flour and thinned with 1 cup of liquid (stock, broth, or milk).

You can make sauce using other thickeners like corn starch or egg. But if you are looking for a certain texture, the way to go is probably using a flour roux.

I have read lots of cookbooks and lots of websites and lots more cookbooks. I have been cooking since I was little kid, so gravy was one of the first things I learned. It's really easy, you just have to stir the liquid in just right to prevent lumps.

pan drippings from your Roast Turkey
Turkey Stock
salt and pepper to taste

1. Carefully pour the pan drippings into a large measuring cup or gravy separator. You want the bottom layer of flavorful juices. The top layer is just boring fat.

2. In a large frying pan, add about 1/4 cup of the bottom layer juices. Bring it up to a simmer and add 4 Tablespoons of flour. Using a whisk, continue cooking about 2 minutes. Your roux should look like pasty. This is normal.

3. Slowly add your turkey stock, about 1/2 cup to one cup at first, while whisking.

4. When that has started to look evenly blended, add some more stock, still whisking. Then add the rest of the liquid, whisk until blended well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Bring the gravy up to a boil and let it slowly boil until it has thickened, stirring occasionally. It should nicely coat a spoon.

6. Serve in a gravy boat with a gravy ladle for the ultimate classy presentation.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Turkey Giblet Dressing (or Stuffing)

Another recipe from the Holiday cooking guide, my mom's recipe for Turkey Dressing has been one of my all-time favorites.

I suppose you could stuff the bird with this, but I don't like squishy stuffing, so we always make it in a separate pan. It gets nice and toasty this way.

I just have to say here that I don't like it when people get all fancy with their dressing/stuffing. Cornbread. Rice. Sausage. Mushrooms. YUCK. Just give me some good turkey giblet dressing. Especially if I can drench it with turkey gravy.

And now I have to admit one more thing. I don't always use ALL the giblets. I have a dog, and she appreciates a little holiday dinner too so I normally use just the neck meat in the dressing, then give Sitka the chopped up heart and gizzards. (I also boil the liver separately so she can have turkey liver sauce for another meal. No, she is not a spoiled dog. Really!) But if you are in love with using the heart and gizzards in your dressing, go for it.

A note on the bread cubes. We buy good bread and then cut it and dry it ourselves instead of buying crap in a box. I like a blend of good dark rye, wheat, and a hearty white bread. I bought some Oroweat dark drye bread this year. Cube about 4-5 slices of each flavor, toss into a baking dish and let dry out in the oven overnight at about 175 or 200 F.

1 cooked turkey neck, reserved from the Turkey Stock recipe
1/2 of a medium onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
6 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
8 cups dried bread cubes
1 cup Turkey Stock (chicken broth will do in a pinch)
a dash of poultry seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

1. If you haven't already, remove the meat from the turkey neck. Chop or shred it and place in a mixing bowl. Add bread cubes to the bowl.

2. In a small frying pan, sautee the onion and celery in the butter and olive oil until softened and the onions are translucent.

Before cooking

After cooking

3. Add the onion-celery mixture to the mixing bowl. Add turkey stock and seasonings. Toss to combine. You want to moisten the bread cubes without breaking them up. If dry, add a little more stock.

4. Place in a greased 9" x 13" pan, or 6 mini loaf pans as shown here, and bake in oven. Grandma's oven was too small for everything so we had to use the mini loaf pans so they would fit around the turkey. Temperature should be whatever the turkey is cooking at (325 or 350, depending on your turkey instructions). Bake 45 minutes to an hour, or until toasty.

Almond Kringle

Kringle! This is a family tradition. My family is a little short on traditions, so the few I can grasp, I hold on tight. My mom's family is Czech, and we have lost many of the Czech traditions. I think this particular recipe is not Czech, per se, but it is in the same family as kolache or rugelach.

Kringle is a type of pastry, like a Danish. The shape is what makes it stand out. You can honestly make any shape you want, wreaths, twists, whatever, but "Kringle" means "knot" from what I remember. Whatever language it is, it's tasty.

For the dough
4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
4 cups AP flour

For the filling
1 cup almond paste
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar

For the topping
1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water
3 T. slivered blanched almonds, divided
extra white sugar for sprinkling

1. Proof your yeast in the warm water with 1 teaspoon sugar for about 10 minutes. It should foam up quickly.

2. Combine the milk, sugar, salt, and butter in a glass bowl. Microwave until you melt the butter. Combine the butter mixture with about 2 cups of the flour, beaten eggs, and proofed yeast. Using an electric hand mixer, beat on low to combine.

3. Now, using a wooden spoon, mix in more flour about 1/3 cup at a time, until you have a soft dough that isn't very sticky. You may not need to use all 4 cups of flour. I used about 3 3/4 cups for this batch.

4. Lightly sprinkle your work surface with flour. Knead the dough until it has become elastic, about 10 minutes. If you are unfamiliar with kneading, you will go in a fold-turn 90 degrees-press-repeat pattern to knead.

5. Grease a large bowl. Place dough in the bowl and let rest, covered, in a warm place until doubled in volume.

6. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Mix almond paste with butter and sugar until evenly combined. It will be grainy. This is OK. (Fresh almond paste straight from the tube should be soft and spreadable. If it's hard, it's old.)

7. Remove dough from bowl. Punch down. Cut into three, evenly sized lumps.

8. Roll one lump of dough out into a long rectangle, about 4" x 30" (or as long as you can get).

9. Spread about 1/3 of the almond filling on the dough rectangle.

10. Roll up along the long side to make a very long tube. Twist and arrange into a pretzel shape with the seam down on an ungreased cookie sheet.

11. Brush the top with the egg white wash. Sprinkle generously with the extra sugar and slivered almonds.

12. Repeat steps 8-11 to make two more kringles.

13. Let kringles raise about 30 minutes, or until they have roughly doubled.

14. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown, top and bottom.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Turkey Stock

Continuing the Holiday cooking guide, I present Turkey Stock. Useful for making incredible Turkey Gravy and Turkey Dressing (or Stuffing, if you prefer it by another name).

By the way, the recipe below works equally well with chicken parts to make chicken stock.

giblets from one turkey (minus the liver)
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
about 1 quart water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place neck, heart, and gizzard in a 2-quart saucepan. Do not use the liver because it will make your stock cloudy and gritty.

2. Add carrot, onion, and celery to the pot. Cover it all with the water.

3. Bring pot a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer about 1 hour.

4. Remove neck, heart, and gizzard. Reserve for dressing recipe.

5. Strain liquid into a large measuring cup. Discard vegetables.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Oven-Roasted Turkey

TURKEY! I love turkey! I mean, I really LOVE turkey!

This is my favorite time of year, food-wise by far. I get to have turkey, and leftovers using turkey, and cranberry sauce, and's all sooooo good.

And I think I may have misled some people of Facebook about my turkey-cooking expertise. I am not a turkey novice. I have cooked many in my time. I have to admit that this year was my first year being in charge of the whole Thanksgiving meal. I am typically the kitchen donor (you know, people come to my place and cook) so the roles were changed this year.

We ventured to the throbbing metropolis that is Winnemucca to spend Thanksgiving with Justin's grandmother. My folks joined in as well. Their original plans to go to Arizona were thwarted by a buzzrd that insisted on committing hara-kiri using my dad's brand new Escalade as his method of death.

This post is the first of my holiday cooking guide. And just for reference, this year was my first time cooking a "fresh" turkey that was not the previously frozen variety. It was damn good!

1 turkey
1 stick of butter, melted
garlic salt

1. Clean the turkey. Remove the bags of giblets and set aside (you will need them for stock and dressing). Pluck any feathers left behind. Trim excess skin and fat from the openings.

2. Pat the turkey dry.

3. Sprinkle turkey liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic salt, inside and out.

4. Massage the outside of the turkey with about 2/3 of butter. Pour remaining butter into the cavity.

5. Arrange turkey in roasting pan with breast up, wings tucked, and legs tied together with twine.

6. Place in the pre-heated 325 F oven. Time depends on size. My tukey was 18.5 lbs and it took exactly 4 hours. (Read the info that came with your turkey for cooking details.) I do not recommend starting hot (450 ish) and then reducing the temperature. I have found this dries out the bird.

7. You will need to baste or rub extra butter on the breast and skin during cooking about 3 times. I used 1/4 intervals. So for my turkey cooking 4 hours, I checked it after 1 hour and applied more butter. After two hours, I applied more butter and covered the breast with a piece of foil to keep it from over-browning.

8. To test for doneness, I give a leg a twist. If it easily twists away from the meat, then I check the breast meat. Poke it and check that the juices are clear. If yes, it's done. If the juices are still pink, give it another 15 minutes.

9. When done, remove turkey from oven and let rest while you make gravy (recipe to come).

10. Carve and serve.