21 November 2010

Friendsgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving is 4 days away, and Friendsgiving was just last week. Neither would be complete without TURKEY!
The Friendsgiving invite put full disclosure out there: I had never made a turkey before, so I promised to have some deli turkey and sandwich bread just in case, haha! I lied, though - I had no back up plan that day! I basically obsessed over how to roast a turkey for the week before Friendsgiving and gave it my best go. I came across 2 different recipes/methods for making the turkey: the first that involves refrigerating the bird overnight w/o it's wrapping found at Simple Bites, and the other where you roast the bird breast side down so the juices all drip into the breast while cooking - I can't find the link to the site right now, but when I do, I'll edit this post. It was basically a 24 hour process - I started to prep the night before. Actual cooking day, took about 15-20 minutes to prep, and then roast away. Between the two, I totally NAILED it! My house semlled delicious, the turkey was moist and seasoned just right. AND it was gorgeous. Recipe WIN.

This is what I did. I was cooking for 14. Combined with the apps and all the delicious side dishes everyone brought, there was plenty of food to stuff us that night AND have enough leftovers to bring home a full meal each!

Roast Turkey

15 lb fresh turkey
1 stick butter, room temp
large yellow onion, quartered
2 large carrots, snapped into pieces
2-3 ribs celery, snapped into pieces
1 lemon, quartered
fresh rosemary
fresh thyme
fresh parsley (I got both curly and flat leaf, mostly for decoration purposes)
Special equipment: roasting pan, meat thermometer (preferably the probe kind like this)

The night before: Make space in your oven for the bird! Remove the giblets (keep in a ziplock bag - use to make the gravy). Rinse the turkey very well inside and out. Pat dry with a paper towel. Lightly salt the inside of the turkey. Lightly salt the outside of the turkey. Spread an entire stick of butter around the entire outside of the bird. Put bird breast side down onto the rack in the roasting pan. Put back into the fridge overnight. No, don't cover it with anything - just put it on the rack and throw in the fridge. The point is to dry out the bird a bit.
(See : it's breast side down)

The day of: Take the bird out of the fridge and bring up to room temperature (took me about 2 hours). Drain/wipe up the liquid that's in the pan.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly salt the inside of the bird again. Shove the inside of both cavities with a couple sprigs of parsley, then an equalish amount of the onion, carrots, and celery, and the lemon. You'll probably use about half of what's in the ingredient list. Shove a handful of parsley and 2 sprigs each of thyme and rosemary into any leftover space between all those veggies. Try to make it kind of even. Lightly salt the outside of the bird again. Toss the leftover onion, carrot, celery and lemon into the bottom of the pan.

Stick the probe part of the thermometer into the thickest part of the bird (into the inner thigh near the breast), but don't allow it to touch the bone. (If you're using an instant read thermometer instead of the probe, first, don't leave it in the bird while cooking --  insert and check the temp when it comes out of the oven.) Roast at 400 for 30 minutes. Drop the temperature to 350 and roast for approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees.
(OMG look how golden!)

Take the turkey out of the oven. Flip the breast to right side up. Be very careful and use your oven mitts - sure they'll get a bit dirty, but much better than burning yourself!
(Someone needs a tan!) 
Put back into the oven and roast until the breast is golden - about 15-30 minutes - and the temperature reads 165 degrees. Take out of oven.
Tent with foil. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes. I'll say it again - let it rest! Two things happen while it rests: The turkey will continue to cook up to about 170-175 degrees, which is safe eating temps, and it allows time for the juices to redistribute throughout the bird.

To decorate (see first picture): Line plate with the parsley, and a few sprigs of the thyme and rosemary if you like. Put bird on it. I added these mini pears I found because one of the desserts was a pear and blueberry crisp. You can also use crabapples, slices of lemon, mini pumpkins, or anything really!

To carve the bird: I should have cut the legs and thigh off first, but I forgot, lol. Instead, I cut the the entire breasts free from the bird, then cut slices so everyone got the same amount of skin. My cutting was very messy, but everyone got plenty to eat.

This bird had flavor! It wasn't too salty, wasn't dry, the skin was golden and delicious... Total success! If I can do it, so can you!

One pretty important note: This recipe is for a 15 lb bird. Cooking times obviously vary according to the size. Use the Simple Bites link for a good idea of how long to roast different size birds.

16 November 2010

Friendsgiving app # 2: stove top stuffed mushrooms

That's right. STOVE TOP. As in the best stuffing out there.

A quick aside: Stove Top is THE stuffing. None of this cornbread stuffing... or sausage and sage stuffing... or oyster stuffing (oysters? really?). No. Absolutely not. Stove Top chicken stuffing goes with all things poultry or holiday or anything that requires awesome delicious stuffing.

Okay so I like Stove Top. So much that it never quite occurred to me to use it in, like, any other way. That's a partial truth - I once made a bruschetta chicken bake with it, but that was years ago and I totally forgot about it until Ang. and I found this cookbook:
Oh. My. Gawd. How the hizzle did we never think to use it in all those different ways? Answer: because Stove Top is that good on its own :-) Anyways, this is the first recipe that caught my eye, and thus we made it for Friendsgiving. And by we, I mean my brother, Ang., and I all had a hand in making it, lol. See - stove top bringing people together! Friendsgiving win!

Stovetop and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms
from that Kraft mini magazine

1 1/2 C hot water
1 6 oz package Stove Top for chicken
24 oz white mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 1/2 C shredded mozzarella
1 C grated parmesan
salt to taste
Heat oven to 400.

In a large bowl, add hot water to stuffing mix and stir until moist. Pop the stems from the mushrooms and chop the stems, putting the caps onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

In a large pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushroom stems and garlic. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes or til tender. Add spinach and mix. Take off heat. Mix into stuffing. Add cheeses and mix well.

Spoon into mushroom caps. (To make it uber fast, I used my smallest cookie scoop to do this.) Bake for 20 minutes.

Ridiculous and easy. You can bet I'll be making these again and again!

15 November 2010

food and fun for Friendsgiving

What is Friendsgiving? It's Thanksgiving, but with friends! No family drama, no kids, just you, your friends, and the huge Thanksgiving meal that brings you all together. It's usually celebrated a couple weeks before actual Thanksgiving to avoid the hectic holiday season. I'd love to say I came up with the idea, but nope, I was fortunate enough to be invited to one a few years back, and the tradition lives on. Basically it's a huge potluck where the host makes the bird and everyone brings traditional Turkey Day sides. Well, not necessarily traditional - one year we did an Alternathanksgiving, where we all made a twisted recipe of a traditional meal - i.e. I made mashed cauliflower instead of taters, mmm. If you've never been to a Friendsgiving, I highly recommend starting that tradition with your friends!

Over the next few days/weeks I'll start posting the recipe from this year's Friendsgiving, which will, of course, work perfectly well for offiicial Thanksgiving! I kinda started with my Friendsgiving recipes yesterday when I posted about the meringues, but instead of dessert this time, how about an appetizer recipe for caramelized onion dip:
I made this the day before and let it sit in the fridge. That really allowed the flavors to marry, and it made actual Friendsgiving Day a breeze! This is a snazzy version of a typical sour cream and onion dip - the caramelized onions are so sweet, but it's balanced out by the kick of the cayenne pepper. Serve it with some kettle chips and enjoy an easy make ahead app good for pretty much any party!

Caramelized Onion Dip
adapted from Ina Garten

2 large yellow sweet onions
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 bar (4 oz) cream cheese
1/2 C mayo
1/2 C sour cream\

Quarter onions then slice into thin pieces. Heat butter and oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add onions and stir until soft. Add salt and peppers. Continue to cook on just a bit lower heat than medium, stirring once in a while for 25 or more minutes until it caramelizes - you want them to get to this color.
Try not to eat them right out of the pan :-) Allow to cool.

Use a blender to mix the cream cheese (room temp so it's easier to blend), mayo, and sour cream. Once the onions are cool, mix them in. Add salt or pepper to taste, but keep in mind the heat of the cayenne will get a little stronger as it sits. Refrigerate a few hours or overnight so the flavors have time to marry.

Serve at room temp. Makes about 2 cups.

14 November 2010

meringue kisses

Meringues are some of the simplest and most versatile cookies to make. Cookies? Confections? Whatever, lol. I say simple because the most basic merginue only has 2 (maybe 3) ingredients: egg whites and sugar... and maybe salt (or cream of tartar) as a stabilizer. Versatile because you can flavor them pretty much any way you can imagine - use a vanilla bean, extracts, zests, spices, etc. This time I made one batch and split it into vanilla and chocolate.
I found out AFTER I made this recipe that meringues generally fall into two categories: The kind that creates something of a crisp shell and a marshmallowy center. I associate this texture more with pavlovas (basically a topped meringue, lol) than cookies. These are also delicious, and you get the contrasting textures which is interesting. There's also the kind that's crisp all the way through, which is my favorite because it kind of crumbles then melts on your tongue when you eat. And apparently it tastes kinda like the marshmallows you get in kids cereals, lol. I attained both textures when I made these -- I got the marshmallowy one first, then decided I wanted it crisp, so I dropped the oven temp to 200 and baked for another 25 minutes to dry it out. Turned out just the way I liked it!

Two tips: First, since you just gotta say it when it comes to making meringues: CLEAN BOWL! CLEAN UTENSILS! Clean = Successful :-) Second, did you notice how my chocolate ones kind of cracked? I shouldn't have opened the oven door so many times. And to avoid cracking as they cool, I turned off the oven, cracked open the oven door, then let them cool slowly that way.

Meringue Kisses

3 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 C superfine sugar (food process granulated sugar for about 30 seconds to make superfine), divided
1 vanilla bean, split and caviar scraped
1 tbsp cocoa powder
Special equipment: stand mixer (preferably), and 2 piping bags and tips (one for each flavor)

Preheat oven to 300. Line 2 pans with parchment paper.

Mix vanilla caviar into 1/2 of the sugar and set aside. Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and beat at medium spead until foamy. Turn mixer to high. Add the plain sugar slowly, a table spoon at a time. Then add the vanilla sugar little by little, all while the mixer is running. Beat until glossy and stiff peaks form (check by sticking a spoon in and pulling out real quick - peak should stand straigt up like in the pics above. Also, make sure your mixer is OFF before you do that!) Also, check that most of the sugar is dissolved - if you rub it between your thumb and finger, it shouldn't be too grainy.

For the vanilla meringes, fill first piping bag with half the meringue. To make the chocolate ones - fold the cocoa powder into the 2nd half of the batter. Once it's even, fill other piping bag. Pipe 1-1/2" rounds onto baking sheets. (Should make approximately 30 of each.) Bake for 30-35 minutes. If you like marshmallowy center meringues, turn off oven, crack door, and allow to cool. If you want it completely crispy, drop the temp to 200 and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, then turn off oven, crack door, and allow to cool.

Store in an airtight container.

I put some out at Friendsgiving, then paired them up in little baggies for guests to take home:

13 November 2010

spicy steamed shrimp for one or more

The inspiration for this meal actually came from a dive of a restaurant in Fairfax. Like really dumpy dive. But we went one day for $2 seafood, and I got the shrimp. It was surprisingly delicious - spicy and perfectly cooked. There wasn't a whole lot to it, so it wasn't hard to figure out the recipe and make it a couple weeks ago for girls night... but we scarfed it down so fast I didn't get any pics, lol.

I've been getting busy again planning for the holidays, and I needed an easy fast meals for just me, so here we are again! This was so fast to put together... 2 minutes of prep (not including boiling water), and 9 min to steam, then ready to eat! Even better, while this meal was steaming, I chopped some onions for another holiday treat (recipe to follow, stand by!). Multitasking is good. So is this spicy Old Bay shrimp!
Spicy Steamed Shrimp for One

1/2 lb raw easy peel shrimp
2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
cocktail sauce and lemons, if desired

> pot and colander that fits inside it w/o touching the bottom

Fill a pot of water 1 or 2 inches with water - enough that your colander/steamer won't touch it. Stir in 1 tbsp of old bay. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Mix shrimp with 1 tbsp of Old Bay. Put into steamer colander, put in pot, cover, and steam for about 9 minutes.

Sprinkle with more Old Bay if you like it spicy (I do!), serve with some cocktail sauce and a sliced lemons if you like. Enjoy!

Good thing about this -- you can easily multiply the recipe for more people. Serve it as an app, even. When you're steaming, just watch the shrimp. They should turn bright pink and curl into a nice capital C. You don't want it to curl up too much aka overcook or it'll get rubbery.