Thanksgiving, 2012

Some notes from this year’s Thanksgiving festivities.

Willie Bird Turkey

Regarding the Turkey, for the last couple years I bought heritage breed turkeys. While these were tasty, I found the cost/benefit for them didn’t really work out. They are very, very expensive for a Turkey that pretty much tastes like any other Turkey. So this year, I went with an Organic, free range, plain old, Willie Bird from Santa Rosa.

For all of my adult life, I have approached the turkey by separating the leg/thigh half from the breast and cooking them separately, a trick I learned from Julia Child’s The Way To Cook. For some, I guess there is a little disappointment in not presenting a whole bird to the table, but for me the benefit of being able to cook the dark and white meat separately has always outweighed that. It also significantly reduces the cooking time of both halves.

However, this year I took this a step further. Mrs. Flannestad found a recipe in Parade Magazine, of all places, from Mr Mario Batali:

Mario Batali’s Stuffed Turkey

Tacchino Ripieno — for non-Italians, that means turkey stuffed with chestnuts and prunes — is chef Mario Batali’s favorite way to cook turkey because, he says, it never comes out dry. It features a crisp-well-seasoned skin, can be baked in an hour, and may be cut straight through, just like a regular roast.

Turkey Breast stuffed with Prunes, Chestnuts, and pancetta! How could we NOT make this recipe?

I more or less followed the recipe, though I did buy a whole turkey and bone it out myself. What can I say, I like dark meat.

Boned Out Turkey Pieces

I found I really only needed about half the amount of stuffing which the recipe made. I also didn’t quite pay attention, that Mr Batali instructs you to separate the two breast lobes and stuff them separately. Stuffing the whole breast added a little time to the roasting. One big advantage to this recipe, is you can use most of the bones and giblets to make turkey stock before thanksgiving day and have it ready to go for gravy.

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For the Leg/Thighs, I took out the thigh bones and cured them overnight in a mix of sugar, salt, and ground porcini mushrooms. Then the next day, I stuffed the thigh cavities with some of the prune stuffing and tied them up.

For dressing, I bought a rustic sourdough loaf a couple days before and cut it into cubes. I sauteed maitake and cremini mushrooms and also some mirepoix. Then mixed them with the cubed bread, moistened with stock and cooked the leg/thighs on top of the dressing.

Sweet Potatoe Pecan Pie

This year’s pie came from Alton Brown: Sweet Potato Pie with Pecans The only liberty I took with Alton’s recipe was roasting the sweet potatoes and to use Goat Yoghurt, instead of cow.

Strange, how dogs seem more attracted to raw Turkey than cooked…

Monty, Paying Attention

Dinner 07-11-2012

Very successful weeknight dinner, just putting it up so I don’t forget the dishes, mostly.

Roasted Bone in chicken breasts marinated in Lemon, Marjoram, and Thyme. Bulgur cooked in a weak chicken broth with Garlic, Bay Leaf, and Thyme. Finished with roasted pecans and pan drippings. Watermelon, Arugula, Roasted Pistachios, Feta, and Basil in a White Wine Vinegar and chile vinaigrette.

Pea Soup

This version of pea soup turned out quite well, so I am writing it down so I don’t forget.

Pea Soup

250g Dried Marrowfat Peas*

1 Piece Smoked Pork Hock
Bouquet Garni

1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
Dried Tarragon
1 Teaspoon Paprika
pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Butter
Dry White Wine or Vermouth
Salt and Pepper

Sour Cream

METHOD:

Sift peas for possible debris and rinse. Soak dried peas overnight in twice the amount water as peas. Pour peas and water into a pan and add the pork hock and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer until tender, (probably about 3 hours, depending on the age of the peas,) adding liquid as necessary.

Heat another large pan and saute the vegetables and spices in butter. Deglaze pan with Wine or Vermouth and remove from heat.

When peas are tender, remove pork hock and bouquet garni. Puree peas in a blender or food processor. Add pureed peas to vegetables and stir to combine. Remove any meat from hock, chop and add to soup. Bring to a simmer, adding more liquid if necessary. Check seasonings and add Salt and Pepper to taste. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and serve with crusty bread.

Makes about 2 quarts.

*Available at specialty shops catering to expatriates from the UK. Split peas would be OK, too, but not as flavorful.

Pasta Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011

Wednesday is traditionally pasta and a bottle of wine night at the Flannestad Household, aka “Spaghetti Night”.

One of the dishes a coworker of mine made at Botticelli’s in Madison, Wisconsin was a pasta dish with Chicken Pieces, Chicken Stock and herbs. Ostensibly, a way to use up the chicken tenders leftover from butchering chicken breasts, I found it to be quite tasty and have been making variations on it for nigh on 20 years.

A few years ago I set about making a “green” version for St. Patrick’s day with a pureed sauce made from Dino Kale.

Tonight, I’m trying to use up some leftover grilled chicken thighs and legs from a grilling exercise a couple Saturdays ago.

Dino Kale (aka Tuscan Kale, Blue Kale, lacinato kale, and many other names) is one of my favorite greens. Actually, it’s about the only Kale I like, with great flavor and a not too long cooking time.

Stem, wash and chop the kale. Chop some mushrooms. Dice a Mirepoix and mince some fresh herbs. Saute mushrooms until tender, add mirepoix and saute until the onions are clear.

Deglaze the pan with Dry White Wine or White Vermouth. I like to use vermouth for deglazing pans, as it helps to go through bottles of White Vermouth faster. Happened to have Dolin Dry in the house at the time, which is a bit pricy for deglazing. Eric Seed likes to point out, Noilly Prat is actually preferred by the French for cooking. I have found Dolin Dry works equally well for cooking, it is just a lot more expensive. And, as Julia Child used to say, one for the pan, one for the cook. Or was that Graham Kerr?

After the wine has cooked down to a syrupy consistency, stir in a tablespoon or so of flour, cooking briefly over low heat. Stir in a cup of Chicken Stock, add the Chopped Kale, cover and cook until tender.

Enjoy a refreshing beverage and an appetizer while the Kale cooks. In this case a delightful, and quite pungent, washed rind cow’s milk cheese from Ireland. Purchased at Canyon Market it is called Ardrahan and comes to the US via Neal’s Yard.

Monty would also like some cheese, please! The stinkier the better!

Drop the pasta in boiling salted water, heat up some crusty bread, and stir some chopped chicken pieces and fresh herbs in to the dish. Open a bottle of wine and pour a glass for your sweetie and yourself. Check the salt level of the dish. Once the pasta cooked, remove it from the boiling water and stir it into the sauce. If the sauce is a little over reduced, include some of the pasta water.

If your lucky, you’ll hear the garage door open just as your plating this up, and your significant other will be greeted with a glass of wine and a delicious plate of Pasta with Kale and grilled chicken.