Sunday, November 22, 2009

More Turkey Talk

Paul asked me to roast a turkey this weekend and I wanted to try something new. For as long as I can remember, my family has always made a bread stuffing that actually is roasted in the turkey. And it's delicious. Over the last years I've also made cornbread stuffing, and crammed it in the turkey. It's all good. And, despite the fearmongers none of us have ever gotten sick.

Turkey prep has gotten interesting, what with brining, a real pain to do, and salting, which I haven't tried yet. Last week I watched the Barefoot Contessa roast a turkey, using truffle butter. She rubbed it on the breast meat, under the skin; I confess I have done that with chicken, only not with truffle butter. After calling a likely market for truffle butter (which I imagine is expensive) and they were out, I opted to make a compound butter. I let a cube of butter soften and used a fork to mix in fresh minced lemon thyme and a little Penzey's shallot salt. The hard part is separating the skin from the breast (it tore in a couple places - just a little) - it's darned cold under that skin too!

I've always had trouble with frozen turkeys; how long do you take up half your refrigerator while it thaws out? Well, I have my answer. I bought a 15 1/2 pounder on Monday and set it in the roasting pan to catch any juices and then set it on a shelf in my refrigerator. On Friday I cut open the wrap to let the air get to it. Saturday morning it was good to go. Per the Barefoot One I only stuffed it with salt, an onion cut into eighths, a head of garlic cut crosswise and a handful of thyme. Rubbing the turkey with olive oil helps with browning, generous amounts of salt and pepper are a must. The neck, a cut up carrot, onion and celery were put in the roaster to add flavor to the drippings. I added some chicken broth for moisture. It baked at 325 and was done in about 3 hours.

I made the gravy per my previous post and all were delicious. The turkey was moist, tender and flavorful. This is so easy I highly recommend it. Go get your turkey and gobble!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let's Talk Turkey Gravy

Making gravy has never been my favorite activity; it makes me nervous. My grandmother made great turkey gravy, and my brother Greg picked up the baton and makes it the way she did, which I just couldn't describe for you. I know it involves whisking in flour.

Then four years ago Bon Appetit magazine published an article by Alton Brown (Food TV) on Thanksgiving Day turkey and I was saved from turkey gravy hell. The link below is to his stock and gravy recipe. The gravy secret is using schmaltz manié as your thickener. Definition time: schmaltz is rendered poultry fat, usually from chicken. Manié is French, referring to the hand. The usual incarnation is beurre (butter) manié, where soft butter and flour are kneaded into a paste (by hand) and whisked into cooking liquid for thickening thereof. But Alton is making schmaltz manié, where we make turkey fat & flour balls!

The first time I tried this I made the turkey stock per his instructions and it turned out great, with enough schmaltz to make the paste I needed. Last year I tried it again and for some reason - no schmaltz! What a shock! So I used butter - beurre manié. It was delish, and buttery, but still turkeyish. This year I don't have time to make turkey stock so I will be using Swanson's organic chicken broth. I am going to see if I can squeeze turkey schmaltz out of the turkey drippings this way: lift the roasted turkey out of the pan and cover it with foil. While it's resting I will pour all the drippings into my fat separator. (I like my Oxo fat separator. Don't bother with a small one, it never worked well for me.) The fat will go into the freezer to cool off and stiffen up. I'll use the schmaltz to make schmaltz manié, and make up the difference with butter. You have to be able to weave and bob in the kitchen!
Since I won't be making my stock, I am planning to roast the turkey with the aromatics in the pan to flavor the drippings: onions, celery carrots, thyme. Whisk in the schmaltz manié thoroughly, adding a piece at a time until you have the desired thickness. Be sure to cook until
it no longer tastes like flour. It's easy. This gravy is smooth and flavorful with a white wine reduction. Alton Brown's complete instructions are here. If the link doesn't work, just go to and search schmaltz manié. It's a piece of cake, uh turkey.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Jello Country

On the road to the Genessee Country Village we passed a small but brightly colored billboard for the Jell-O Museum.Well, anyone who knows me, knows I can't pass up a lure like that. I grew up on Jell-O; Grandma Brown made a killer cranberry jell-o salad. I love strawberry pretzel jello. So after our village visit we headed into LeRoy (LEE roy or lee ROY, depending on who you ask) where jell-o was invented. We almost passed the place, there was a not particularly large sign on the sidewalk, and the museum was down a driveway behind a house. How cool is that? It's a small place with the history of jell-o for our edification. There was a display of over 20 kinds of gelatin products, which kind of surprised me; did you know agar agar gets gelatinous? I just thought it was one of those mysterious ingredients on food labels. I feel so enlightened. By the way, gelatin is made from beef and pork hides. Hope I didn't ruin it for you.

We headed to Corning next; Corning is where - drumroll please - glass is made! Ok not just glass, but also, think Corningware, Corelle... When I was growing up I thought Corelle was the only kind of dinnerware available! There is the Corning Museum of Glass, and it's a beauty. They have examples of glass gew gaws dating from before the Romans. I was all over the Hot Glass demo - our master glass blower made a pumpkin. It's not exactly an easy hobby to take up.
Corning seems like a really nice town, and in case you go... for coffee, try the Soulful Cup on Market Street. I ordered a cafe mocha (I've given up on ordering cappuccinos) and asked for foam. And I got foam. In a nice big cappuccino type cup. It was wonderful! For breakfast try Crystal City Cafe and Bakery. I've included the link so you can listen to Mambo Italiano! They have the usual breakfasts on the menu, and also pretty nice looking baked goods. Our food was good so I give it a thumbs up.

Paul and I are restless so we moved on to Jamestown, the birth place of Lucille Ball. How could I pass that up? Definitely had to hit the Lucy-Desi museum, which is small and not actually a huge deal. I will say they had recreated a couple of sets from I Love Lucy, which was pretty cool. It was strangely cool to see their apartment in color.

The night before the museum we ate dinner at Roberto's at the Ironstone, on 4th street. Did I tell you I find restaurants by searching the internet? Roberto's is a warm and friendly family owned old-fashioned style Italian restaurant. I decided to try an Italian American classic, baked ziti. It was pretty tasty, with one large, tender, tasty meatball on top. The owner, Fred Yezzi, (his co-owner wife Tammy is the kitchen honcho) confided to me that they get their meatballs from a supplier in Buffalo; they just can't make enough themselves. Paul had spaghetti and several meatballs. Their marinara is rich and flavorful and dressed the spaghetti as well as my ziti. Of course, being who I am, I can't help but think of ways to change the ziti, such as a tomatoey beschamel, more cheese, etc. But, does the ziti want to be changed? Will it still be the ziti? I'll try it and let you know.

It was time to head back to Cleveland OH, and I must say the drive back through the narrow, green, lush valleys of New York got monotonous. I live in California, I'm not used to that much green! I jest. A little. Back in Cleveland (actually Brooklyn) we spied Carrabba's across the street from our motel (Hampton Inn - I loooove Hampton Inn) and decided to try it. It's set up a lot like a Macaroni Grill, only I think the food is better. I tried their chicken marsala and it was very good - they actually use marsala wine. Since they gave us a coupon for a free appetizer if we came back and I'm a sucker for those coupons, we went back the next night - our last evening. The food was still good. I have one regret which makes me grind my teeth a bit - Iron Chef Michael Symon's restaurant, Lola Bistro, is in Cleveland and I had totally forgotten about it until I got home.

One last stop and I'm outta here. The Westside Market in Cleveland is a must for foodies. It's an inside food market - a must in the winter - and it's a wonder. There are butcher shops, pastry
shops, spices, a Hungarian meat market, coffee, falafel stand, on and on. There's a second, smaller building with fresh beautiful produce. I really wanted to get some food and cook it. Until