Sunday, November 29, 2009

Talking turkey...

Thanksgiving is at an end, the family has returned home, football has been played, and its time to clean. We all go through the routine, we all get to do sit ups for weeks to pay for our bounty. But if the experience is the same, the why isn't the dinner? We all know what we love about thanksgiving, but what don't we know? I am taking the time now to look back on what I consider to be the three most underrated food items which may or may not be at your thanksgiving feast. You may agree with me, but be warned, by not agreeing, you only strengthen my case.

3. Fruit Salad. Lets face it. Thanksgiving is a holiday for feast and good times, health should not be a consideration. But that does not mean that our taste buds must suffer. The author of The Physiology of Taste, Brillat-Savarin points out the distinction between hunger and appetite. He states that your appetite, ability to eat, is entirely separate from your hunger, your need to eat. This explains how you can eat a food item until you are full, but upon arrival of dessert you are renewed in your desire to feast. This is the point of a sweet and tart fruit salad. Have it in a bowl on the side, use it to cleanse your palate. This will give your tongue a break and keep the meal satisfying. Not to mention a few vitamins for your trouble.

2. Cranberry Sauce. Bring 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water (simple syrup) to a boil. when sugar dissolves, add one bag (16 oz) whole cranberries. stir until cranberries pop and fall apart. Let cool. total effort? 15 minutes. Why do we bog ourselves down with a muddles canned product from the store when less effort than mashed potatoes will give you such a delight. A sweet jelly which rouses the spirits. It makes turkey sing, stuffing pop, and even lets your kids color the veggies as they enjoy. Cranberries are packed with vitamins and the smell is fresh enough to keep you in a good mood. Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, mushrooms, blah blah blah. that is a plate of grey and white. throw some bright red on there and look like you know what you are doing.

1. The number one most underrated item at your thanksgiving dinner is... Stuffing. I know, I just lost some readers because all of you know stuffing and use it often, but you don't understand stuffing, so it is extremely underrated. First of all, it is only stuffing if it is cooked inside the bird, otherwise it is "dressing". Now stuffing is delicious, we all know, but it is also dangerous. That's right, stuffing is the leading culprit in a failed thanksgiving. did you know that? Stuffing packs the bird, thus giving more mass within the turkey. This means that more cook time is required to raise the internal temperature to the proper level of food safety. Fully cooked stuffing usually means dry turkey, since the proper internal temperature makes for a greater outer temperature. You can go ahead and make your turkey juicy and delicious, but now the stuffing is not at a safe temperature. I'm sure you will be fine, but Salmonella could lurk within. I recommend dressing in the future, instead, fill the turkey with citrus and aromatics, discard after, enjoy the meal.

So you see, some things need a second look, and others need a harder look. don't change grandmas recipe, just give a little respect to your food. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Magical Fruit...

There are few foods in the world as complex and as beneficial as the small bean. It is representation of human history and is a basis in many cultures diet. Beans are as complex a carbohydrate as you can find and packs enough protein to substitute meat at proper amounts. Beans will be around longer than you and I. Its about time we all take this little friend for what it truly is, delicious.

In a previous post I already discussed the merits of adding beans to rice, but what if you just wanted beans and you wanted them in the most delicious fashion possible? Well I think I have that covered for you. Start with one bag (16 oz) or pinto beans. empty the contents into a pot of cool water and let sit at least 12 hours before you plan to cook. The newly soaked beans are swollen and ready.

Now this next step is up to you, but I think I have found the best option. You need some serious flavor. You want to add to the beans a bone, preferably with meat. Pork is the best option for this as it is salty and flavorful. Go to you local butcher and for a few dollars you can walk home with either a Ham Hock or a Ham End. Both have a ton of flavor, a good deal of meat, a lot of fat and will make your beans sing.

I chose the Ham End and your butcher would probably agree with me. Put these pieces into the beans fill with enough water to cover a few inches above beans. You want enough water that after a long boil you still have a soupy mixture. Add maybe a tea spoon of salt and put the pot to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and let it sit for one hour.

After the boil, remove the ham end and cut as much meat as you can from the bone, dice that meat up and return to the pot. Discard the bones and fat. Return to boil, then simmer for twenty minutes.

Here is your choice. You can use a slotted spoon and remove your new treasures or you can use a ladle and get the broth as well. I choose the latter. A splash of tabasco sauce, or spicy white vinegar will make the flavor sing. Enjoy it, as I'm sure this will quickly become a family favorite.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Its Alive...

When you take the remains of something to build something else, does it have to be a monster? Is it possible, or even probable that things are changing for the better or even for the good? I think that reusing is as close to good as you can get and I'm not just talking about your plastic bottles.

I'm talking about soup. Not just any soup. I mean my soup. A creation that I saw coming together and made it happen and it did not start with soup, it didn't even start with broth, no this sordid story begins with grandparents and change of plans. Id like to tell you about how a plan can come together.

Grandparents on both sides were coming over for dinner. We bought two giant (I can eat my beef, but these were mammoth) cuts of beef. If I had to guess I would say 48 oz a piece. We were going to grill them up and give meat to everyone for two days. Two short phone calls later, the guests are all skipping and we have a lot of food; Apples. My solution? Applesauce.

I mean that figuratively. The crock pot was assembled, the meat seared, a sauce made. The sauce was tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire, Cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper, a dash of soy and half a bottle rose wine. I know, sounds good. 24 hours later we are making tacos with some serious flavored meat. When that was all gone, we had about 4 cups of some serious flavored gravy.

After some soul searching (calling my chef cousin) I had a plan, I had the ingredients, I was going to make this sauce better, tastier, more flavorful than it was before. I was going to make soup. Into a pot went some olive oil, garlic, and the parts of mirapoi (Carrots, Celery, Onion) that I'm allowed to use (onion is forbidden in my house, don't complain, I already feel the loss). When that cooked up, I added the super beef sauce, a large can of chicken stock, water, bouillon to compensate the water, salt, pepper, some chicken breast(raw), and a few dash spices (I don't remember exactly). When the chicken was cooked, I removed, chopped and returned it. I then added egg noodles and peas, let this simmer until noodles cooked, then I feasted.

There you have it. A flavor explosion of a soup that is hearty, warm, perfect for these cold days. I have half the batch frozen for later consumption and the other half was eaten within days of it being done. Sometimes in life your going to have a lot of little when your looking for something big. Its up to you to make a plan, stick to it, get help when you need it, and make something big for yourself.