Category Archives: Main Dishes

Vegetable Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas out of the ovenThese enchiladas evolved recently from a batch of leftover grilled corn and some great summer squash that I had on hand. I offered to bring a batch of roasted corn salsa to a friend’s gathering, and when I learned he was also in need of a main dish, I thought to make the enchiladas. My chicken enchiladas are always well received- I recently served them as an accompaniment to chicken tortilla soup (that was the star because Hannah had requested it for her birthday dinner) and was reminded of how great they are to make for a relatively large group. Although my friend is not a vegetarian, he is a healthy eater who is drawn to a diet heavy in veggies. His cousin, who was actually the real host, is a vegetarian, so I figured she would appreciate the gesture. I was tempted to make homemade enchilada sauce this time around, but settled for the jar variety in the end. While I still love my “standby” chicken enchiladas, these are a great vegetarian alternative. I love grilled or roasted vegetables, but you could substitute steamed vegetables for the filling. You could also use frozen or canned corn, or add beans…really, the possibilities are almost limitless when it comes to dishes like this.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Large Red or Sweet Onion – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Medium Yellow Squash – cut into 1/4″ rings
  • 2 Medium Zuchinni- – cut into 1/4″ rings
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers (can substitute another color) – seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2-3 Ears of Fresh Sweet Corn
  • 3 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
  • 1 Medium Jalapeno Pepper – seeds and membrane removed and finely chopped
  • 3-4 TBS. Corn Oil
  • 2 TBS. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 TBS. Ground Cumin
  • 1 TBS. Chili Powder (adjust to taste)
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 10 – 12 Fresh Corn Tortillas
  • 1 28 Oz. Can of Enchilada Sauce (mild)
  • 10-12 Oz. Queso Chihuahua – grated (can substitute Monterey Jack or Mexican blend – just make sure cheese does not contain spices)
  • 1 TBS. Fresh Cilantro – chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine all of the cut vegetables (except corn), garlic, corn oil, balsamic vinegar and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper in a medium sized mixing bowl. vegetables ready to roastAllow to marinate for at least 20 minutes (as long as overnight).  In the meantime, preheat grill to medium (or oven to 375 Degrees if oven roasting). Peel the corn and remove all of the silk. Brush corn with additional corn oil and season generously with Kosher salt and Pepper. Place vegetables in a grilling basket or grilling tray. (If oven roasting, lay in a single layer on a baking dish) Add vegetables and corn to the grill or the oven. Grill, tossing (turning, in the case of the corn) occasionally, until vegetables are tender.  When corn is cool enough to handle, cut kernels off of cobs.Thru March 20 131 In a bowl, combine corn and other grilled vegetables with 1-1.5 cups of shredded cheese.enchilada roasted vegetables Preheat oven to 375 Degrees. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce into a  9×12 baking dish and set aside. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce into a pie plate or onto a plate. Heat 3-4 tortillas in the microwave for 10-20 seconds just to soften so they don;t crack apart when rolling. Add a tortilla to the enchilada sauce (in pie plate) and soak on both sides. Add about 2-3 TBS. of vegetable filling to the tortilla, roll up tightly and place seam side down into the 9×12 baking dish. Repeat this until you have used up all of the filling – you should end up with 10-12 enchiladas depending on how fat you make your enchiladas. Pour a layer of enchilada sauce over the enchiladas Cover with a layer of sauceand top with remaining cheese (you can add more if you like). Place in oven and bake until cheese is melted and enchiladas are heated through (about 20-30 minutes).  Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Easter Dinner

Easter Table 3I think I might love Easter dinner almost as much as I love Thanksgiving dinner. Both really embrace and celebrate the season, and I love food that is seasonally fitting. Unlike Thanksgiving, where I it’s almost sacreligious to vary the side dishes too much (although recent years have brought new introductions), there are a lot of side dish options which are fitting for spring and bode well for Easter dinner. I typically serve lamb as the main dish, simply because I don’t really love ham and I do love lamb. If I were feeding a big crowd, I would certainly do both. Sorrel soup is usually a tradition for us (my mother always made it as well), but spring has been so slow in arriving this year, that I don’t have enough sorrel in the garden this year and it’s hard to find any place that sells sorrel. As for vegetable side dishes – the list is almost endless…think green and fresh. This year I plan to serve sauteed snap peas with mint, but I will also serve a light arugula salad. Asparagus is probably the most traditional spring vegetable, and I’ve served that many times in the past. Starchy side dishes are also nearly limitless. Buttered noodles with fresh chopped herbs is simple but appropriate, boiled new potatoes with butter and herbs would be equally great, as would simple herbed white or wild rice. I have made risotto (with mushrooms and asparagus) in the past, however, this year I  will be serving my grandmother’s scalloped potatoes (made with canned evaporated milk). My Dad loved these potatoes and my grandmother (my mother’s mother) was always thrilled to make them. I also usually make a quiche for any vegetarian guests – asparagus and mushroom or leek is always a hit. Bread and rolls are another important component of the meal. Last year I made cheddar scallion scones and they were a huge hit, so I’ll make them again this year, but I’m also going to make popovers because they are my families new favorite. Ah, and for dessert: lemon cakeLemon Buttermilk Cake with Lavender Frosting is the standard and I will serve that again this year since it is Auntie Sarah’s favorite and also because I’ll be making one for my friend Sara, but I think I’m also going to make a rhubarb pie or tart, since rhubarb is another spring icon. Last year I served a coconut cake (now “award winning” since it won our local dessert contest on the Fourth of July).

I love decorating for Easter, and I love coloring Easter eggs. Aracauna egg for EasterBlog thru April 4 003Two years ago I decorated the table with fresh Araucana eggs (they are often called the natural Easter eggs because they are beautiful shades of blue, green, beige and even an almost pink). Last year I died Quail Eggs and I loved the way those turned out.

Mini Easter Eggs (Dyed Quail Eggs)

Mini Easter Eggs (Dyed Quail Eggs)

Click here to see instructions for Dyed Quail Eggs

Click here to see Previous Easter Dinner Menu and Recipes

 

Grilled Leg of Lamb (Recipe by Alton Brown)

I take zero credit for this recipe – normally I can’t resist adding my own personal touches to a recipe to make it my own, but in this case, I wouldn’t change a thing. Click on the link above to go to the original recipe and read some of the nearly 100 five star reviews. Many people comment that, like me, they were skeptical of the mustard, but you just can’t argue with the results. Alton’s recipe calls for a charcoal grill, but you can make this on a gas grill, just turn off the center burner when cooking. It’s important to buy good quality lamb meat; if you don’t find what you’re looking for, ask your butcher. As I’ve mentioned before, we happen to have a farm we buy from, so even though our lamb is frozen, the flavor is always outstanding. This recipe is too good to only serve once a year – it would be great to serve at any occasion.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Boneless Sirloin Leg of Lamb

For the Paste:

  • 4 Cloves of Garlic
  • 8 Fresh Mint Leaves
  • 1 TBS. Brown Sugar
  • 1 TBS. Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 5 TBS. Strong Mustard, such as Dijon
  • 2 TBS. Canola Oil
  • 2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary

INSTRUCTIONS:

Roughly chop the garlic cloves in the food processor. Add the mint and repeat. Add the brown sugar, salt, pepper, mustard, and oil and blend to a paste. Spread the paste evenly on the meat side of the roast. Roll the leg into a roast shape and tie with cotton butcher’s twine. Leg of Lamb MarinadeFire 2 quarts (1 chimney’s worth) of charcoal (natural chunk is best). When charcoal is lightly covered with gray ash, split the coals into 2 piles and move them to the far sides of the cooker. Close the lid and allow the grate to heat. Then, place the lamb, skin side up, on the middle of the hot grate. Add the rosemary sprigs to the charcoal briquettes and close the lid and grill. After 20 minutes, flip the roast and rotate it 180 degrees. Insert the probe thermometer into the roast and continue to grill until it reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the roast at 135 degrees. Remove the butcher’s twine from the roast. Cover with foil and rest it for 15 minutes before serving.

 Alternative: Lamb Chop (or Leg of Lamb) Marinade

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12-16 Small Lamb Chops (French Cut) – or 1 Boneless Leg of Lamb
  • 1 Cup Olive Oil
  • 4 TBS. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice (about 1/2 juicy lemon)
  • 8 Cloves Garlic – chopped
  • 4 TBS. Fresh Rosemary – chopped
  • 4 TBS. Fresh Thyme- chopped
  • 4 TBS. Fresh Oregano – chopped
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Pour olive oil into a glass baking dish. Add garlic, herbs, and lemon juice and mix until thoroughly combined. Add lamb chops (or leg of lamb) to pan and season with salt and pepper, turn over and season other side of meat. Spread marinade (including chopped garlic and herbs) over meat. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour (2 hours is better). Lamb chops in marinate

Easter Table 5

 

Rhubarb Tart

Rhubarb Tart

 

Lemon Cake with Whipped Cream and Edible Spring Flowers

Lemon Cake with Whipped Cream and Edible Spring Flowers

Pork Schnitzel

pork schnitzel with spaetzelMy neighbors and good friends host a foreign exchange student from Germany. He has been enjoying Sunday family dinners with us this year and I kept promising him I would cook him a German dish. At first I didn’t really want to make schnitzel because it’s so “typical,” and I’ve made it before. However, he loved my chicken parmesan – particularly the thin breaded chicken. You can make schnitzel with a variety of meats; Weiner Schnitzel is made with veal, but I haven’t eaten veal in years. Pork is a great alternative because it’s relatively inexpensive and you can easily find cutlets which means all you have to do is pound them out a little thinner. There really isn’t a huge difference between the preparation of chicken for chicken parmesan and the pork that I used for the schnitzel. There are a variety of sauces you can serve with schnitzel, but it’s really traditional to just serve it with lemon wedges. Potatoes make a great accompaniment, but I went with a spaetzel. I didn’t make the spaetzel homemade and kind of regretted it (except for the labor). I also made roasted brussel sprrouts because they are always at the top of the vegetable request list. This is an easy weeknight meal, but it’s also great if you’re feeding a crowd because you can keep the schnitzel warm in a low temp oven and they don’t dry out too much (I wouldn’t keep them warming for more than 30 minutes or so). This recipe serves about 6, but it’s certainly easy to adjust the quantity.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 Boneless Pork Loin Chops or Cutlets
  • 1 1/2 Cups Flour
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 3 Large Eggs
  •   3/4 Cup Milk
  • 4 Cups Plain Bread Crumbs (can use 1/2 Italian Seasoned, but this is not traditional)
  • 4-6 TBS Olive Oil
  • 4-6  TBS Unsalted Butter
  • Couple Sprig Fresh Thyme
  • Lemon wedges

INSTRUCTIONS:

Place pork chops/cutlets in a plastic bag or between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound out until about 1/4 inch thick. Season pork cutlets generously with salt and pepper.seasoned pork cutletsPut the flour in a shallow dish or on a plate. Whisk the eggs and milk in another shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. Put the bread crumbs in a third dish and, if not using seasoned bread crumbs, season with salt and pepper. schnitzel dregdeLightly dredge each piece of pork in flour, then dip into the egg and then dredge with the bread crumbs.

Lay the breaded pork cutlets in a single layer on a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet or large plate and refrigerate, uncovered, for 10 -30 minutes to allow the coating to set.breaded cutlets

Heat about 2 TBS. each of oil and butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a thyme sprig and let it fry for about 1 minute to infuse the oil. Remove the thyme sprig and reserve. Gently lay 3 of the cutlets (or however many fit without crowding) in the pan and cook until golden brown and crispy (about 2 minutes, flip and repeat on the other side. Remove cutlets from pan and transfer to  paper towels to drain.Cover with foil to keep hot and cook the second batch. Wipe the fry pan out – removing any crumbs or leftover oil, add remaining oil and butter and thyme and heat, and then cook the second batch of cutlets.  Season cutlets with salt and transfer to a serving platter while still hot. Garnish with lemon wedges and the fried thyme sprig before serving. If you need to keep the cutlets warm before serving, place on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover loosely with foil and place in a low heat (200 degrees) oven.

Crispy Oven Baked Buffalo Style Chicken Wings

spicy buffalo wings plated 4My kids and I  love spicy (Buffalo style) chicken wings. My kids actually love the restaurant Buffalo Wild Wings; I hate it (for a variety of well-founded reasons). So, my solution is to make spicy wings at home. As my blog followers know, I am not afraid to fry- I have a fryer and will use it! However, for just a quick batch of wings, I’d rather avoid the mess and the hassle (and the waste of oil). Typically when I do fry, I fry in big batches that make it worth my while. Now, you might think that wings baked in the oven just won’t be good; I ask that you keep an open mind and give these wings a chance. One advantage of cooking the wings in the oven is that you can cook the sauce right into/onto the wings – of course, you add more sauce at the end- which given the wings a more in depth spice and flavor. I used fresh wings – they were on sale at my grocery- but I most often use frozen wings (sometimes labeled Wing Dings, Drummies, Drumettes). You can make this recipe with full-size chicken wings (or any chicken parts, for that matter), but I prefer the little wings. You could adapt this recipe to accommodate your favorite flavor or sauce (barbeque, terriyaki etc.) because it’s so simple.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3-5 Lbs. Chicken wings  – fresh or frozen and thawed
  • 2 TBS. Vegetable Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Non-stick Cooking Spray
  • 2 TBS. Unsalted Butter – Melted
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Hot Sauce (favorite brand – but typically a red hot sauce)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees. Spray a wire rack (I use my cookie cooling rack) with non-stick spray or coat liberally with vegetable oil. Position the rack over a baking sheet (foil lined for easy clean-up). Coat the chicken wings with vegetable oil, season lightly with salt and generously with pepper and place on the baking rack. chicken wings on rackBake for 35 minutes. baked chicken wingsIn the meantime, prepare the sauce by combining melted butter, cayenne pepper, about 1/2 tbs. black pepper, and hot sauce. spicy buffalo sauceAfter the wings have baked for 35 minutes, remove from the oven and coat with sauce (I just roll them around in the sauce bowl) and return to the oven – bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until the wings are thoroughly crisped.coat with sauce and return to ovensauce baked on wings Dredge the wings in sauce one more time before serving. Serve with Blue Cheese or Ranch dressing and a side of fresh carrot and celery sticks.

 

Bacon Wrapped Pork Roast

Bacon Wrapped Pork Roast

Bacon Wrapped Pork Roast

When my guests laid their eyes on this delight, they gleefully asked  “Is there bacon on the pork roast?” I responded that I just figured if pork roast was great, wouldn’t it logically be even greater if it were wrapped in bacon – they liked my line of thinking! I’ve served pork roast for several of our large family dinners with the neighbors and it’s always well-liked, but for those who know me, you know I easily become bored with food. i However, it’s crazy how you can make one small change (or addition, in this case) to something, and it totally transforms it.  Pork roast can easily dry out – most often a direct result of overcooking- but the addition of the bacon eliminates that possibility. I imagine you could use the recipe with a small pork tenderloin; you would just have to cut the bacon. I served this with oven roasted potatoes and balsamic roasted brussell sprouts. I used applewood smoked bacon (it said it was thick cut, but it really wasn’t very thick – too thick would not be good), but I want to try it again with a maple or brown sugar cured bacon…yum.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Pork Roast (or loin) about 4 Lbs.
  • 6-8 Cloves Fresh Garlic- peeled and lightly smashed (to release flavor)
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 TBS. Dried Italian Seasoning
  • Salt* and Freshly Ground Pepper (the bacon adds quite a bit of salt, so use salt sparingly)
  • 1 tsp. Dried Rosemary
  • 6-8 Slices of Thick Cut Bacon (use your favorite variety/flavor)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450 Degrees. Place pork roast in the center of a broiler pan and cut 6-8 1/2 inch deep slits in the top of the roast and add garlic to the slits. Lightly rub the pork roast with olive oil – just enough to coat and allow the herbs to stick. Sprinkle the roast with herbs and salt and pepper.bacon wrapped pork roast 4 Wrap the bacon around the roast tucking the loose ends in under the roast.bacon wrapped pork roast 3 Cook for 15 minutes at 450 degrees and then reduce oven temperature to 375 and continue cooking for another 45-60 minutes (depending on size of roast) until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees. If the bacon has not crisped sufficiently, place under the broiler for a few minute until it crisps.bacon wrapped pork roast 2 After removing the roast from the oven, allow the roast to sit for about 10 minutes (to allow the temp to increase to 150 degrees and the juices to set). If you would like to make a gravy, you should have plenty of delicious drippings to do so. Place the roasting pan bottom with the drippings on the stovetop over medium heat. Make a slurry with flour or cornstarch and water and add to the heated drippings. Heat until thickened and flour is cooked – stirring constantly. Slice the pork into 3/4 inch slices and serve immediately.

Combined Family Dinner Mid-February

Combined Family Dinner Mid-February

 

Beef Tenderloin Sandwiches

Beef Tenderloin Platter

Beef Tenderloin Platter

Christmas Day at our house usually involves hanging out at home in our new pajamas (a Christmas Eve tradition). I always invite people to stop by (in their pajamas if they’d like) and I put out an all-day buffet feast. The dessert tray is usually popular, as is the shrimp cocktail and smoked fish assortment, but the real star is the beef tenderloin. Since there’s no set time for dinner, there’s no way to keep the beef hot, so it’s best used for sandwiches. I always start with a good quality, well trimmed tenderloin. I don’t do much in the way of seasoning, I cut some slits in the meat and add some garlic cloves, add olive oil (I used bacon grease because I had it leftover from breakfast – I will definitely use it again in the future) to the top of the meat, rub the meat down with salt and pepper and add some “filet herbes” that my sister-in-law brought back from France (any combination of dried parsley, basil, shives, oregano, thyme – or whatever your favorite herbs are would fine). My personal favorite accoutrements for the tenderloin are: baby arugula, sliced tomatoes, and, of course, hollandaise sauce. I put out a variety of rolls – ciabatta, French rolls, Brioche, and, my son’s favorite; Hawaiian King rolls. I arrange everything on a large platter (the colors work great at Christmas time) and allow people to assemble their own sandwiches – I’ve never had a single complaint! Sometimes it’s the simplest things that are the best (it helps to make them look good too).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Beef Tenderloin Filet (trimmed and silver skin removed)
  • 3-4 Cloves Garlic
  • 2-3 TBS. Dried Filet Herbs
  • 2 TBS. Olive Oil or Bacon Grease
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Bag Baby Arugula
  • 3 Tomatoes – thinly sliced
  • Hollandaise sauce (see below)
  • 12 Good Quality Rolls

Preheat oven to 500 Degrees. Cut 6-8 slits into the top of the tenderloin (deep enough to hold garlic clove) and place 1/2 peeled garlic clove in each slit. Drizzle olive oil or bacon fat over the top of the meat, season well with salt and pepper and “rub” it into the meat. Add the dried herbs to the top of the filet. Place the filet in a broiler pan and put in the preheated oven. Immediately turn the oven temperature down to 400 Degrees. Cook the tenderloin for 35-55 minutes (the time will depend on the size – particularly the thickness – of the filet until the internal temperature reaches 140 Degrees for medium rare. If your tenderloin has a thinner “tail” you will be guaranteed some more well-done meat. If you prefer, you can cut off the tail and cook it for a shorter period of time to keep it medium rare. When tenderloin has reached desired temperature remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Slice beef (thin, but not too thin), and place in the center of a platter. Surround the beef with the arugula and tomato slices and serve with a side of Hollandaise or your favorite sauce (you can use plain or flavored mayonnaise or a horseradish sauce).

For the Hollandaise Sauce:

  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • 2 TBS. Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Stick Unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper (optional)

Combine egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne in a blender; blend until combined. In a small saucepan, heat butter until bubbling, but do not allow to burn.With the lid on, turn the blender to medium speed; remove the blender lid insert, and, in a slow, steady stream, add butter to blender. It is important that the hot butter be added slowly so that it cooks the eggs in the sauce.

Simple Caprese Style Pasta

Caprese Style Pasta

Caprese Style Pasta

My Caprese Pasta Salad has been pinned quite a bit on pinterest and it’s always a summertime favorite for barbeques, concert in the park picnic dinners, or just casual dinners at home. In the colder months, however, I don’t make as many cold salad dishes, but we still enjoy pasta with all of the Caprese elements. I made this for my “Caprese Pasta loving friend’s” birthday dinner. It looks great on a platter, and the colors are very festive, so it’s a great dish to serve for a holiday crowd. It’s great for entertaining because it comes together so easily. You could toss the pasta with a bit of cream sauce, but my family loves it just generously coated with olive oil, butter, salt and pepper, and, of course, Parmesan cheese. You can also toss together all of the ingredients, but I like the look of it with the pasta in the center surrounded by the other Caprese ingredients. The ingredient measurements are flexible – adjust according to your taste.  (Serves 6-8 as a side dish)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Lb. Pasta (Bowties, Ziti, Rigatoni, or your favorite pasta shape)
  • 1 – 1.5 Cups Chopped Fresh Basil
  • 1.5- 2 Cups Chopped Tomatoes (can use cherry tomatoes cut in 1/2)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Lb. Fresh Mozzerella Cheese – cut into bite sized cubes
  • 4-6  TBS. Butter- melted
  • 2 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 3/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese – grated
  • Salt and Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cook pasta to just beyond al dente phase, but don’t allow to get too soft. While pasta cooks, you can chop ingredients. When pasta is drained, toss with melted butter, olive oil salt and pepper and Parmesan cheese until well coated. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Arrange the chopped tomatoes, basil, and cubed mozzerella around the perimeter of a large serving platter and then add the pasta to the center. Serve immediately.

Caprese pasta Ashlees bday dinner table

 

Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce

Chicken and basil cream sauce

Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce

We love having Matt, our foreign exchange student from Brazil, live with us, but I must confess that he is a challenge to cook for. He does not eat a single vegetable or fruit – you should have seen the look on his face when he saw the chicken stir fry I made for my son’s birthday dinner! He literally picked the chicken out of the pan and noticed he had a “green thing” in the mix; he said “Oh no Kath, can you get it off my plate?” I just view it as a new cooking challenge; or maybe a challenge to get him to embrace some fruits or vegetables (he did eat some apple cranberry tart the other night). So, I had some leftover chicken breasts from the stir fry dinner and I know he likes cream and cheese sauces, so I threw together a revised version of my chicken in creamy pesto sauce. I did warn him that there were “green things” in the dish, but I promised they were not vegetables but herbs to add flavor. He accepted that and enjoyed the pasta- it may be baby steps, but it’s progress!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2-3 Boneless Chicken Breasts
  • 2-3 Cups Heavy cream
  • 2 TBS. Unsalted Butter
  • 1/3 Cup Parmesan Cheese- grated
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Basil – chopped
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Lb. Cooked Linguine, Fettuccini (or other favorite pasta)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cut chicken into bite size pieces (I prefer thin slices) and season generously with salt and pepper. In a large saute pan, melt butter. Add chicken to pan and saute/brown until fully cooked.brown chicken Add cream and chopped basil to pan and simmer, stirring occasionally,  over medium until cream is reduced by about 50%. chicken basil cream reducingAdd cheese and stir until cheese is melted and fully incorporated. Serve over pasta* – garnish with additional basil if desired.

*If you prefer, add cooked pasta directly to the saute pan and toss until liberally coated with the sauce – this will help to further thicken the sauce.

Let’s Talk Turkey: The Basics

Herb Roasted Turkey

Herb Roasted Turkey

OK, this is kind of cheating, because this is a re-post from an earlier post entitled Turkey 101, but I find that blog viewers don’t always look at previous posts, so I thought now would be a good time for a reminder on the basics of that Thanksgiving favorite…turkey. This year I am hosting two Thanksgivings – the first entitled Friendsgiving, and, you guessed it, it will be a random gathering of friends – most of whom only know me. For this gathering I’m expecting between 14-20 people and I’ve ordered a fresh Heritage breed Bronze Broadbreast from Walnut Hill Farm in Shelby, MI I requested a large one, and the grower asked if I wanted her largest. Duh…. of course! My Tom currently weighs in at about 35 Lbs. and is expected to dress out to about 30 Lbs. Vikki (the grower) refers to it as “an impact turkey” because it is so large that it will make a definite impact when presented (I hope my platter is large enough)  He will be “processed” on Saturday, November 23 and I will pick him up at the farm that evening – only to cook him the following day. Doesn’t get any fresher than that! This is a photo of a turkey that Vikki cooked the first year they raised birds – it weighed over 40 lbs.40 Lb Turkey How awesome is that? I found this farm through Local Harvest and I’m so glad I did. I’ve purchased “fresh” Amish turkeys in the past from my favorite somewhat gourmet grocery store in the past, and they’ve always shown evidence of having been frozen (ice crystals on the inside) – to me, frozen is not fresh. The recipe that I’ve included guarantees a moist and tender bird because you add chicken stock to the roasting pan. Because I am absolutely guaranteed that my turkey is as fresh as you can get, I am not concerned about a dry turkey and will skip the chicken stock. The first year I cooked one of the turkeys we raised on our farm (many years ago when I had a farm in New Hampshire), I literally had to ladle juice out of the roasting pan because it was going to spill over. Fresh turkeys give off a lot of juice – and, yes, that is a good thing!

For those of you who may be intimidated by the task of cooking a turkey, I promise you, it is one of the easiest things to cook. Here are a couple of tips and some observations that newbies might appreciate:

Q: What size turkey should I buy?
A: Typically 1 lb. per person is the guideline. This allows everyone to have their fair share at dinner and allows for some leftovers. Notice the operative word some? I love leftovers, so I always figure at least 1.5 lbs. per person.

Q: Is there a big difference between a “fresh” turkey and a frozen turkey?

A: I will have to say that, in the past, we always special ordered a “fresh” Amish turkey from our specialty grocery store, but every year there was evidence that the turkey had been frozen (and was sometimes still partially frozen). So, if that’s the case, why not save some money and buy a frozen turkey? One reason is the amount of time required to thaw a turkey.

Q: How long does it take to thaw a turkey?
A: There are two ways to safely thaw a turkey; one way is in the refrigerator, and the other is the cold water method. NEVER thaw a turkey at room temperature. To thaw a turkey in the refrigerator, you need to allow 24 hours for every 5 lbs. of turkey. This means it can take up to 5 days to thaw a large bird. Remember, that’s valuable refrigerator space with a holiday approaching. To thaw a turkey in cold water, allow 30 minutes per lb. of turkey. Simply place the bird (in it’s original sealed package)in a bath of cold water (you can fill your sink or buy a rubbermaid container or use a large stock pot). Change the water every 30 minutes.

Q: What’s the difference between “all natural,” “free range,” “Kosher,”
“Heritage Breed,” or “injected?”

A:Well, that’s a complicated question, and one that has already been addressed on another blog which I follow : serious eats. I did purchase two (no that’s not a typo – I am roasting one turkey and smoking the other) Heritage Breed turkeys this year from our favorite pork farmers (no, pork is not a typo – they partnered with a turkey farmer this year) at Melo Farms. The heritage breeds have become quite popular (they just sound sophisticated), but our reasoning is that we know the turkeys were raised in a humane way because that’s what Melo Farms is committed to. I will have to let you know how they turn out.

Q: What is the best way to cook a turkey?

A: I have to admit that I only have experience roasting a turkey in the oven. The reason is that I just love roasted turkey so much that I haven’t wanted to give it up and possibly risk being dissatisfied. What that’s old expression…”if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”? I have, however heard wonderful things about deep fried turkeys, but that whole deep frying thing intimidates and scares me a little. This year we invested in a smoker and bought a rotisserie attachment for the grill, so we are going to try that. We practiced on a whole chicken the other night and the results were outstanding.

Q: Should I brine my turkey?

A: I am a big fan of brining. My mother never brined, nor did my Great Aunts who often hosted us for Thanksgiving, and their turkeys were always pretty good. However, I tried brining a couple of years ago after I saw a brining mix at my local specialty grocery store. I will have to say – I will never go back to unbrined. It’s tempting this year because I am convinced that our free range, humanely raised turkey is going to be superior, but I don’t want to risk it. I read a very interesting blog article (same blog as above) that suggested brining was futile, but I wasn’t convinced. However, if you want to make a more informed choice check this out: The Truth about Brining . Unfortunately, I don’t have a good brining recipe because I just buy the mix.

Q: How long does a turkey need to cook?

A: The general rule is 18-20 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird (reduce by 1-2 minutes per pound if the turkey is over 15 pounds), or 15-18 minutes per pound for an unstuffed bird (reduce by 1-2 minutes per pound if the turkey is over 15 pounds). I never trusted those little pop-up plastic things, so I always check the temperature with a reliable meat thermometer. The stuffing must be at least 165 degrees, the breast should be 170 degrees, and the thigh meat should be 180 degrees. Some will argue that the turkey will continue to cook while it rests (which is true, and you should always let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes – just enough time to make the gravy), so you can go a little lower on the internal temperatures. My response to that is that this is poultry – I don’t mess around with poultry, especially when I’m feeding it to the people I love the most in this world, my family.

Q: At what temperature should I cook my turkey?

A: I preheat my oven to 425 degrees and turn it down to 350 degrees when the turkey goes in. As you can see from the photo, this will result in a nicely browned turkey (I like it that way – good crispy skin). Sometimes I will just lay a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top of the bird if it’s getting too brown.

Q: Is it better to stuff the bird or cook the stuffing separately?
A: I say do both. I don’t worry about bacteria in the stuffing because I check the temperature of the stuffing. I’m not the biggest stuffing fan, but everyone else in my family is, so I make a ton of stuffing. Everyone always wants the stuffing out of the bird because it is extra moist. However, you can only fit so much stuffing into those cavities, so I stuff the bird and cook the extra on the side (add extra liquid to the stuffing that goes in the oven). An important note: remove the stuffing from the bird before storing the leftover bird in the refrigerator – stuffing left in the bird is a recipe for salmonella.

Q: How often should I baste the turkey?

A: In an ideal world, one in which you had nothing else going on, you would baste every 15-20 minutes to ensure a juicy bird. However, most turkeys won’t even start to give off juices until nearly an hour of cooking. I always keep an inch of chicken stock (or turkey stock if you have it) in the bottom of my roasting pan (I have a wire rack in the roaster that keeps the turkey elevated, so it’s not sitting in broth). Some people say this results in a “steamed” turkey, but just look at the picture above and you can see that there’s nothing “steamed” about that bird. I check the liquid level about every hour (adding more if necessary) and will baste when I do that. When it gets down to the last two hours, I stop adding broth and let what’s in the pan reduce. This method results in a very moist turkey, and it allows me to cook the giblets and the neck bone alongside the turkey, which makes for great gravy.

Q: Some people suggest rinsing or cleaning the bird before cooking, what does that mean?

A: Because I used to raise my own turkeys and they were slaughtered on my farm, I am very familiar with the processing of a turkey. Not every butchering operation has the same standards of quality control that I have. I always check my turkey over for any leftover pin feathers (small little feathers that get overlooked). If you find any, use a pair of clean tweezers to pull them out. Also, I check the cavity of the bird. For most grocery store turkeys, this is where the giblets and neck will be placed. They are typically in a paper-type bag (probably a result of so many people forgetting to remove them from the cavity), and you’ll want to remove those. I usually inspect the organs and decide if I want to use them – they add great flavor to gravy – and I always cook the neck alongside my turkey. After removing the bag of goodies and the neck, I just run my hand on the inside of the cavity and make sure there’s not extra loose “stuff.” If there is, I pull that off and discard it.

Here’s my basic herb roasted  turkey recipe:

Herb Roasted Turkey

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 TBS Fresh Rosemary (or 1 1/2 TBS. dried)- chopped
  • 3 TBS Fresh Thyme (or 1 1/2 TBS. dried) – chopped
  • 3 TBS Fresh Tarragon (or 1 1/2 TBS. dried) – chopped
  • 1 TBS. ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1  15- to 21-pound turkey, neck and giblets reserved
  • Fresh herb sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 4 cups canned low-salt chicken broth

INSTRUCTIONS:

Calculate total roasting time based on the following: 18-20 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird (reduce by 1-2 minutes per pound if the turkey is over 15 pounds), or 15-18 minutes per pound for an unstuffed bird (reduce by 1-2 minutes per pound if the turkey is over 15 pounds).

Mix first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Pat turkey dry with paper towels and place on rack set in large roasting pan. If not stuffing turkey, place herb sprigs in main cavity. If stuffing turkey, spoon stuffing into main cavity. Tie legs together loosely to hold shape of turkey. Brush turkey with oil. Rub herb mix all over turkey. Place turkey neck and giblets in roasting pan. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead if turkey is not stuffed. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before roasting.)

Position rack in lower part of oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Drizzle melted butter all over turkey. Pour 2 cups broth into pan. Put turkey in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 350 degrees. Roast turkey 45 minutes. Remove turkey from oven and lightly cover breast and legs with foil. Baste turkey every 30-45 minutes and add more broth if level goes below 1 inch. Remove foil from turkey for the last 1 hour of roasting; add more broth to the pan if necessary. Continue roasting turkey until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180 degrees – breast should register at 170 degrees. If turkey is stuffed, stuffing should register at 165 degrees. Transfer turkey to platter; tent with foil. Let stand 30 minutes. Reserve liquid in pan for gravy.

Steak Salad

Sirloin Steak SaladThis is a classic kitchen sink recipe – it was a combination of ingredients I had available; the result was great. My daughter came home while I was eating my salad and I thought she was going to steal it right out from under me – instead she just said “I know you’re planning on making me one of those.” As always, I encourage you to modify based on the ingredients you have on hand, but remember to include a variety of flavor elements, including, if available, savory, sweet, salty, spicy. One unique ingredient that I used which may be hard to find is a rosemary pistachio cracker which I broke into small pieces and used almost like a crouton. I loved the crunch and the flavor it added – see what happens when you experiment with what you have in the cupboard? I’m including a picture of the crackers – they’re worth looking for – they are delicious smeared with goat cheese. For my local followers: they are available at Westborn Market.Pistachio rosemary crackers 002While the steak would appear to be the star of this salad, I would argue that it is the veggies that make the salad. The steak was a simple NY Strip seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked to medium rare on the grill. You can use a variety of cuts (or even substitute chicken or salmon), but make sure you use a tender but flavorful cut. As for the veggies and other toppings – I used yellow tomatoes from my garden (love the low acid and sweet flavor), English cucumbers, fresh radish slices, goat cheese, and mixed spring greens. I topped the salad with a homemade cherry balsamic vinaigrette, but use your favorite dressing. My daughter suggested using more cheese – I would agree. I think it would have been even better with blue cheese crumbles, but goat cheese is what I had. Again, I loved the addition of the rosemary pistachio crackers, but as an alternative, you could add nuts and croutons. As with most of my salad recipes, I haven’t included measurements – use whatever amounts suit you.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Spring Salad Mix (or your favorite greens)
  • Radishes – thinly slices
  • Fresh Tomatoes (yellow, or your favorite variety)
  • English Cucumber – sliced
  • Goat Cheese
  • Rosemary Pistachio Crackers – crumbled
  • NY Strip Steak – grilled to desired temperature (shown medium rare)- trimmed and thinly sliced

Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  •  1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Cherry Balsamic Vinegar
  • 5 TBS. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 heaping tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a jar or container with a lid. Shake well until all ingredients are well combined.