sylke: (salt)
[personal profile] sylke
I don't do a ton of cooking through the year. Since Tiffany moved in with us, she loves to cook for people, and she cooks many evenings during the week. When the big holidays come around, though, I like to take over the kitchen and have at. This year came out pretty fantastic. Chopping most of the veggies and doing the cranberry sauce the day before was a brilliant idea, and both the pies were made the day before, not by me. My MIL made a lovely custardy pumpkin pie that's not your typical back-of-the-can recipe, and my husband made a pecan pie from pecans grown on his uncle's farm. This is ridiculously long and doesn't even include recipes for either pie, the gravy, or the potatoes. So, cut tags galore!

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THE TURKEY:
I used this brine because I had it on hand and this technique from Thomas Keller to roast a 17.5 lb local free-range happy hippie turkey. Clarifying the butter is important because the milk solids can scorch at those temperatures whereas pure butterfat won't, and milk solids can release water that will steam the skin instead of letting it get really crispy. I was skeptical but it actually worked beautifully. At 450°F, a temp probe in the deep part of the breast read 150°F right at 2 hours. Unfortunately I'd timed everything for it to take 2.5 hours, so it had to rest for an hour instead of half an hour. Could've been hotter, but it ended up at least still being plenty warm. Now, I did end up flipping the turkey halfway through because I used 2 full pounds of carrots, 2 onions, and 4 stalks of celery, due to personal preferences of those eating, and that many veggies under the turkey meant there was going to be rather less airflow than Keller would've intended with his cooking. Another issue I encountered? Brushing clarified butter on a chilled turkey makes it solidify, which means attempting to salt the skin then just lets the salt bounce off. I only had the turkey out of the fridge for half an hour instead of the full recommended hour, but I don't know that that would've made enough difference as the butter still solidifies as room temp. Reviews on the turkey were positively glowing about the flavor and the skin and the juiciness. Not sure which parts of that formula are the most important ones, so there may be more turkey experimentation in our futures.

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OYSTER DRESSING:
My grandmother always makes oyster dressing for the holidays because that was one of my grandfather's favorite dishes that his mother made. Grandmom always was anxious about it coming out Just Right, but I thought she always did a great job with it. I haven't actually had her dressing in a while since with my grandfather's health and mental faculties declining, she hasn't been making it for both Christmas and Thanksgiving every year and it's been years since I was with family at a time she was making it. However, I do have the recipe, and I'm getting closer each time, between what Nathan and I can both remember about her version. This year, the 4 year old demolished what we put on his plate, which I was surprised at. Then I realized that he probably didn't end up with an actual oyster and just had broth-soaked crackers on his plate. No wonder. This year was the closest I've gotten so far. I think a little more broth next time and I'll have it right. It's very much a recipe of "until done" and "enough so it looks right". I made a homemade stock out of the turkey giblets and used that to soften the crackers initially, and since the fat had already been mostly siphoned off the turkey drippings, I just added some of the drippings in when I needed additional liquid.

Turkey Stock (generic recipe based off Alton Brown):
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 turkey neck, cut in half
1 set giblets, liver optional (I left it out--some sites said it makes a bitter stock)
1 small onion, quartered
1 medium carrot, quartered
1 stalk celery, quartered
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups water
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Heat the oil in a 4 1/2-quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the neck and backbone and saute 5 to 6 minutes or until browned. Add the giblets, onion, carrot, celery and kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion gets translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour in the water and add the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and black peppercorns. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the stock reduces to 3 cups. (I ended up going almost down to 2 cups.) Strain the stock through a strainer and cool slightly. Discard all solids but the giblets. Put giblets in the fridge because not everyone wants chopped giblets in their gravy but the cats may be interested. But put some gravy on it or something, because not even the cats were interested in dry chopped gizzards.

Oyster Dressing (from Josie Herring)
2 boxes of crackers. Westminster Square Crackers are the best substitute Grandmom's been able to find since Oneeda stopped making crackers.
2 cups concentrated chicken or turkey broth, warmed
1/2 stick (+ ~1T) butter
1 pt oysters (with their liquor)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500°F. Yes, that hot. Crumble the crackers into the pan, just roughly breaking up the crackers into 3-4 pieces each. Use the warm broth or stock to moisten the crackers, adding additional broth as needed. Keep in mind the juice from the oysters will soften the dressing a little further, so err slightly on the dry side but not too dry. Add the half stick of butter, let it melt, mix it in. Taste for salt and add if necessary. Fold in the oysters. Dot with butter (or turkey fat if you have it solid, but I didn't). Put in a greased 3 1/2 qt dish that can withstand high heat, and put in the oven to brown the top. If you used a Pyrex dish, you can tell when the underside is browned, too.

I did mine in the toaster oven because my oven was busy being not-500-degrees, but the toaster oven I found out too late only goes to 450°F. I put the dressing in anyway for about 10 minutes and it did fine. Could've gotten browner on top, but it was acceptable. I'd like to use a tad more broth next time, though.

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PARKER HOUSE ROLLS (Alton Brown again)
(Oh my lordy. It's a good thing I'm too lazy to make these things all the time. A-maaaazing. Turkey on the rolls as leftovers are so, so good.)
Nonstick or oil spray
8 ounces warm whole milk (100 degrees F)
2 1/4 ounces sugar (about 1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
15 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, 3 ounces at room temperature, 1 ounce chilled and cut into 16 small cubes

Since it's baking, I actually did use the scale for everything but the butter instead of the volumetric equivalent.

Put the milk, sugar, yeast, flour, egg yolks, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine on low speed for 1 minute. Change the paddle attachment to the dough hook and rest the dough for 10 to 15 minutes. It'll look really sticky.

Add 2 ounces of the room temperature butter and mix on low speed. Increase the speed to medium, watch your sticky good turn into an actual dough ball pretty quickly, and let it mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and you are able to gently pull the dough into a thin sheet that light will pass through, about 8 minutes. At least, that's Alton's description. Really, you want it good and gluten-y, and mine pulled away from the sides after about 2 minutes so I let it keep kneading. Actually, with how the butter went in, it never really stuck to the sides in the first place. The dough isn't going to be super stretchy like pizza dough, but it should be elastic enough to get some stretch.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll and shape with hands to form a large ball. Relish in the feel of awesome stretchy dough. Return dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm, dry place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the bowl and roll into a 16 by 3-inch log. Use a bench knife to cut the dough into 1 3/4-ounce portions, about 16 rolls. I did measure the rolls on the scale since I'm bad at cutting evenly, so all the rolls were between 1.5 and 1.9 oz. Using your loosely cupped hand, roll each portion on the counter until they tighten into small balls. Working 1 at a time, use a rolling pin to roll each small ball into a 3-inch circle or oval. You'd rather be a bit too small than too large in this particular instance. Use the side of your hand or a small dowel to make an indentation across the middle of the circle. Place a small pat of chilled butter into the center of the indentation, then fold in half and gently press to seal the edges. Place the rolls (Alton says "top-side down" but mine were sideways, there wasn't really a "top") onto an oiled half sheet (I sprayed with pressurized oil and rubbed it down), spacing them evenly. Melt the remaining 1 ounce butter and brush the tops of the rolls. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, dry place to rise until doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes.

At this point you can either bake immediately for service or parbake to be frozen for future use.

Baking immediately:
Preheat the oven to 400°F, probably starting right after you shape the rolls for the second rise. Remove the plastic wrap and bake until the rolls are nicely browned on top, 8 to 10 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking. (Alton says until they're 200°F in the middle, but I'm so not putting a temp probe in my breads. That's just silly.)

Remove the pan to a cooling rack and cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Brown And Serve:
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Bake until the outside of the rolls just begin to set but have not browned (the internal temperature should be about 185 degrees if you're temping your bread), about 30 minutes. Remove and cool on the pan for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the rolls from the pan and place on a cooling rack until they are room temperature, 30 to 40 minutes. Place the rolls in bags and freeze for up to 3 months.

To finish browning, thaw the rolls for 60 to 90 minutes and preheat the oven to 400°F. Oil a baking sheet. Place the rolls on the prepared sheet pan and bake until the rolls are browned (and should reach an internal temperature of 200°F). Rotate the pan halfway through baking, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pan to a cooling rack and cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

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BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON (from Sunny Anderson)

4 strips thick-cut bacon
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved (or 2 9-oz bags of pre-halved sprouts)
1/2 large onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook bacon in a large skillet (I used cast iron) over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, then roughly chop. In same pan with bacon fat, melt butter over high heat. Add onions and Brussels Sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, until sprouts are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and toss bacon back into pan. Serve immediately.

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CRANBERRY SAUCE
1/2 cp OJ
1/2 cp water
1/2 cp white sugar
1/2 cp light brown sugar
12 oz cranberries

Rince cranberries and pick out bruised or damaged ones. Put everything in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook about 10 minutes or so, until most of the cranberries have burst. Let cool and put in fridge to chill.

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STUFFING
Now, this one surprised me at first since we grabbed it off Epicurious but the last ingredient is a pre-packaged stand-alone product. Then at a second look, the recipe is sponsored by Campbell's (which I assume owns Pepperidge Farms), which is why one of the ingredients is a commercial product.

Caramelized Onion with Pancetta and Rosemary Stuffing (from Campbell's)
6 tablespoons butter
2 large sweet onions, diced (about 3 cups)
1 package (4 ounces) cubed pancetta (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup sherry
1 package (14 ounces) Pepperidge Farm® Herb Seasoned Stuffing

Recipe says to do this at 350, but I had other stuff that needed to be done at 400 and this was just to finish heating it, not even to brown the top, so 400 was fine. Melt butter, add onions and cook for at least 15 minutes until caramelized. If you dice your onions small, you might be done in 15 minutes. More likely, give yourself a bare minimum of 20 minutes, and 30 minutes to be safe if your pieces are sizable. Stir in pancetta, garlic, celery, and rosemary, and cook until pancetta is browned. Stir in broth and sherry, heat to a boil. Remove from heat, add stuffing, and stir gently to moisten. Spoon into 3-qt casserole dish, cover, and bake until hot (about 30 minutes).

This came out really moist, moreso than I'm used to for a stuffing recipe, but the flavor was good. If I were doing it again, I'd probably use less broth.

*******************

Tiffany took care of the gravy and the mashed potatoes, and made the stuffing for me. She did the potatoes in the crockpot which was awesome for not needing a burner or a pan taken up by the potatoes. Plus, they could be done well ahead of time and just reheated. For the gravy, she took the pan drippings (we didn't want the veggies soaking in pan drippings anyway and just getting mushy) and let them separate, and used just the turkey fat for her roux, adding some of the remaining drippings to help the flavor later in the process since the turkey broth we got from the store was hella weak.


Overall, total success. Delicious, the toddler ate a bunch, everyone *raved* about the turkey, and we have so, so many leftovers of delicious things. I don't really want to know how many pounds of butter went into that dinner.
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