Monday, April 9, 2012

Brining, burning, dropping and drinking!

How to make the best turkey by brining, catching on fire, dropping on the floor and carving drunk…

I wanted to brine a turkey for Easter.  Never done it before, only seen it done before and never had the pleasure to taste one before, so what the hell…Then I got it into my head that I wanted to BBQ this brined bird, but alas our gas grill is kaput so the next best thing, my charcoal grill and the 3 huge logs of cherry wood someone gave me last fall…I’m a genius I think to myself with an egotistical smile spreading across my face.  I call my friends and there are now 5 coming over for dinner.  Too bad my hubby is going to miss the fun!

What to do first? Obviously put a call into my butcher at Black Angus and have them set aside a small fresh turkey, about 10 pounds.  I’ll pick it up Saturday morning.

I get the turkey home Saturday morning and I realize I don’t have any salt for the brine…duh.  I have celery salt though…here’s my brine recipe for a 10ish pound fresh turkey.

2 cups celery salt
10 bay leaves
10 whole cloves
10 whole garlic cloves, smashed
2 large onions cut into large pieces
A handful of coriander seed
A handful of fennel seed
5-10 Star Anise
Some pepper corns
Some juniper berries (optional)
Some chicken stock

Mix all ingredients and warm the liquid until the salt dissolves.  This liquid must be cold before pouring over the turkey as you don’t want to warm the turkey, which could cause some nasty bacteria to form.

I split my turkey down the back and pressed it flat so it would cook faster on my BBQ but you can leave it whole.  Remove giblets and set aside to make the gravy.  Place turkey in garbage bag and pour in brine, pour in enough water to cover the bird.  Place bag in bucket, then in fridge for 12-16 hours.

Remove turkey and rinse thoroughly so the bird isn’t salty.  Discard the brining liquid.  Put the bird in the fridge uncovered for at least 2 hours so the skin can dry out (makes for a crispier skin if you are roasting in the oven).

Now my story gets interesting.  I traipse down into our basement and find 2 hatchets.  Roll one of my huge chunks of cherry wood out the back yard and start chopping away.  I was doing a pretty good job too.  Although one chop got a little violent…Let me set the scene:

I’m rather little, so I swing my axe pretty high and it comes down with a lot of weight or else the axe will bounce off the wood like a rubber ball against a dog’s forehead.  So I give her a swing, miss the wood, the axe goes in between my legs and slips out of my hands, flies up and across the yard and ends up wedged in the neighbour’s fence…fortunately there wasn’t a cat or squirrel in the vicinity at the time.

I decide after about 30 minutes of chopping I have enough wood to host a Burning Man party.  I fill the bbq with newspaper and set it on fire, cover with charcoal then light the paper on fire again, and again, and again… finally the charcoal catches so I start to stack the cherry wood into the fire.  Then have to go into the house to get more paper and more matches, this goes on for about an hour.  Finally I have a roaring fire and the neighbourhood is full of smoke.  The grills go into the bbq and I throw on the turkey, not thinking that maybe I really should have waited until the fire went out and coals just kept the place warm.  I close the lid go in the house and fill up my wine glass and 10 minutes later decide to check on the bird – well it’s on fire.  Yup ON FIRE.  So I pull it off the fire and am able to put out the flames, well the skin sure looks nice and crisp, and I remember then and there that I have to let the flames go out before bbqing.  I take the bird into the house and put it in the oven and go and deal with the bbq.  Finally the flames are out and it is perfect for cooking.  I have to then refill my wine glass because it ended up on grass when I realized the turkey was on fire…

I take the turkey out of the oven and as I do so, I realize there is a hole in my oven mitts, the tray is pretty hot and burning a hole through my index finger and so I had to drop the turkey on the floor.  All I can say is I’m glad I just vacuumed 5 minutes previously.  The cat comes in and helps me lift it back onto the tray and cleans up the floor.  Thanks Goober for being so helpful now go refill my wine glass!

Finally the turkey is on the charcoal, I then decide to sit in the back yard, wool blanket on my lap, warmth from the bbq and study for my chef exam when it starts to rain – sigh.  One hour later the turkey is done.  I roast some carrots, make a Tarte Tatin  The rest is delicious history and one of the best turkeys I have ever eaten!  Even the dog Jack and the cat Goober stood patiently side by side while I was drunkenly trying to carve the turkey.

P.S.: Here’s my recipe for LOTS of Gravy:

Put in a sauce pot all the giblets, cut up carrots, an onion or 2, I used the tops off fresh fennel, you can also use celery, some red wine, bay leaves, thyme and finally cover with water.  Bring to a boil and turn down to medium.  Let simmer away, when the liquid has reduced by half, add cold water, do this 2, 3 or 4 times, the more times you reduce by half and add cold water the richer your gravy.  To thicken, mix together equal amounts by weight of butter (no margarine) and flour, add a little at a time until your desired thickness!  mmmmmm

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What do you do when you are waiting for your hair to turn blue?

No really, I am having a mid life crisis, but it's fun, I do have blue hair.  So what does one do when they are perking up the blue, waiting for the dye to kick in before you can rinse it out?  Why try a new chocolate chip cookie recipe of course!  

You are probably thinking to yourself, please who can surpass the one on the back of the chocolate chip package you have been making with your mom since you were a kid?  I agree, but when it comes to cookies, is there really any mistake, or harm in trying a new recipe?  I thought this particular one was interesting, chewy chocolate chip cookies made with molasses.

So here I stand in my almost new kitchen that I'm renovating myself (next blog) with hair dye setting and all the ingredients laid out in front of me.

Alas, first rule of making a new recipe, read it thoroughly BEFORE starting, so I had to scoop the sugar out of the flour, no mean feat that.  

I'm used to weighing out my ingredients for baking, it seems like a chore for most people but once you get the hang of it, it's easier and more accurate, trust me a cup of flour weighs different every time.  However, this recipe calls for cups and tablespoons so I found my measuring cups shoved in the back of the drawer, happy to see the light of day after so many years.

Now, most people don't have Cuban chocolate left overs, but I do, after all I can't just use any chocolate, it has to be top notch and interesting so that's what I used, was Cuban chocolate.  Don't fret, you too can use awesome chocolate, any specialty food store will have some interesting chocolate and even the Bulk Barn has Callebaut chocolate.

Always use the bast vanilla too:

The formula says to let the dough rest in the fridge for 20 minutes before baking, but honestly, it's 9:30 p.m. and I still have hair dye to deal with so in they go, and 8 minutes later, out they come....

Chewy Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies
8 ozs unsalted butter
2 cups plus 2 Tbsp bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp dark molasses, not blackstrap
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups dark chocolate chips or chunks


In a sauce pan, melt the butter and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the granulated sugar and molasses until no large molasses clumps remain.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar mixture. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes.

Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough for about 20 minutes, then scoop onto nonstick baking sheets. 

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. I like these cookies to be just a bit under-done. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Big, Fancy, Expensive Kitchen Store

I got a great gift this year - a gift certificate to a big fancy, expensive kitchen store!  What did I get with my gift certificate:

What is it you ask?  Well - it's a terrine mold!  Wait, what is a terrine you ask?  Well a terrine is basically layered meat, usually pork or some kind of game meat in either a pastry crust or a bacon crust or a...wait, yes meat wrapped in bacon.  

New Year's Eve is my chance to cook a multi course dinner for my friends.  One of the courses is always Charcuteire (see blog dated October 30, 2011).  I decided to make a Rabbit terrine.  <gasp> you say, well suck it up buttercup!  Rabbit is tastier than chicken, lower in fat than chicken and better for the environment than chicken!  Alas, it's about 5x the price though...sigh.

I chose my flavour profile, in this case, blood orange and cranberry.  I deboned my bunny, keeping the tenderloins intact and marinated them in blood orange and Limoncello.  I then took the rest of the rabbit and processed in my food processor with fennel, caraway, salt and pepper, 1 egg and a splash of cream.

I then seared the rabbit tenderloin in a hot cast iron pan and the marinade followed the tenderloin into the pan to create an orange limoncello syrup.

The terrine mold was lined with bacon and layered with the processed rabbit, sliced tenderloin, cranberries, blood orange slices, the limoncello orange syrup and then more processed bunny.

The bacon was then folded over and a pretty little sprig of fresh thyme garnished the top:

Finally the terrine press and lid were on and the terrine was placed in a water bath and baked in a 300 F oven for 2 hours:

The finished product was served cold with olives, sweet gherkins, cheese galore and lots of wine.  Of course it was totally yummy and the left overs were eaten in a sandwich New Year's Day for a quick dinner!

Happy New Year's everyone and happy eating!