I’m not a turkey person. I’m not. I go for the “oysters” under the turkey that flank the turkey backbone. It’s dark meat at its unctuous finest but after that the bird is all yours. If the oysters “disappear” then I won’t be having turkey that year. I like having leftovers to pack up for Daddy and the traditional sandwiches the day following Thanksgiving but I find, without fail, I always have bags of turkey meat left over. Mammoth drumsticks pester me from their gallon freezer bags as do equally huge bags of carved white meat. “Use me! Use me!”, they taunt. Okay. Get ready to be scarfed down and enjoyed. The secret to this recipe is a good roux which takes no talent at all…just time, shugah. You must, MUST, continually whisk it in order for the flavor to bloom and to avoid scorching. Scorch or burn the roux and all you can do is throw it out and start over. It takes roughly 30 minutes to prepare. But other than that it’s easy, clear sailing. I’m not going to prepare turkey pot pie, tetrazzini, turkey soup, spaghetti sauce or anything. I’m not. I’ll toss it before I make that stuff. But gumbo? Oh, yes, ma’am! This’ll be a family favorite, I kid you not. It’s cold out and now it’s the Christmas season. Try it. You’ll be glad you did.
Did you indulge or party just a tee-tiny bit too much this past weekend? Or maybe you fell for that lie we all tell ourselves when we’ve eaten half the brownies and, thoroughly disgusted with ourselves, take action to rid the temptation by saying, “I want this out of the house. I’ll finish it and then it won’t be around anymore to tease me.” It’s so awful. And hard, too. But I’ve found if I can stick to a healthful meal plan for two or three days eating well almost becomes a habit. All of us have struggled with our weight at one time or another. College weight, baby weight and old lady weight have all been my personal nightmares. Here’s a special memory that ought to make you feel better. When I was pregnant with our son, James, I gained 52 (yes, 52) pounds. I was enormous; I looked like a walrus…except I had braces and a real tragedy of a haircut. After I gave birth I was still fat but I had the greatest treasure in the world. Anyway, one afternoon my father came over…alone. Normally he and Mom came over together or Mom came alone. We didn’t really have what one would call a “visit”, as he strode with his long legs into our house and made the following announcement. “Your mother and I are terribly worried. So I’m only going to say this once. Lose the weight.” With that, he turned around and walked out. Nice, huh? Thanks, Daddy. I can’t say his little pep talk worked, what with a new baby and nursing and all; it took a while after that to “lose the weight”. But these are the types of meals that make dropping a few pounds somewhat easier. We can do this. We’ve all lost weight before and we’ll do it again. With a little planning we can be healthy about it and keep the weight off. Fingers crossed.
I love this dish! It is incredibly satisfying and as filling as a pasta dish but without the sluggish, weighted down feeling one is left with after sitting down to a huge bowl of penne, fettucine or farfalle…not to mention the guilt, smothering like the black cloud we all know it to be. This casserole doubles extremely well, baked in a 9″ x 13″ dish. I typically double the recipe as my entire household enjoys it for lunch the following day, along with a good bit set aside for my brother and father. More fresh basil may be added if you like, as well as more grape tomatoes. The tomatoes bake-off beautifully, warm and savory, they almost melt in your mouth. The recipe doesn’t call for much parmesan cheese but if you want to stay Paleo or keep the calories out just leave it off. Truly, with all the different flavors, this dish doesn’t need it. Enjoy!
I’ve given you a couple of sides and now would like to address everyone’s star of the day…the turkey. I’ll give you more sides but this way you can organize your thoughts, kitchen and schedule and have plenty of time to wrap your head around Thanksgiving dinner if you’ve never roasted a bird before. This is one of the easiest recipes out there and I have to credit the woman who is the all time greatest disaster in the kitchen. Mama. I know I’ve told you in earlier posts how dreadful she was in the kitchen…heck, she’d tell you! But I have to give her credit for a most incredibly delicious recipe that even a small child could produce. That said, this recipe will also yield most of the ingredients for some of the best gravy you’ll EVER have. It it truly the most sumptuous, luscious gravy I’ve tasted. Bar…
How many times have we all exclaimed, “If I have to have chicken for dinner one more time I’m going to scream!”? I loathe that chicken rut. Just hate it. I’m done with that old, beat soy sauce-worcestershire sauce-garlic-ginger-honey marinade. It’s so … 2005. Never you mind because I have the answer… for one night, anyway. Turkey sausage, kale and sweet potato stew is quick to prepare, clean and feeds a crowd. If you don’t have a crowd you’ll have plenty left over to pack for next day’s lunches. I’m all about that. Somewhere between a stew and a soup, this meal is high in fiber and low in fat. It can be served with a side salad but is hearty enough that it can be served alone. And as the weather’s turned from cool to positively sweltering it turns out this dish is even tastier when it is eaten just warm. How’s that for lagniappe? If you have time, the vegetables can be chopped and refrigerated the night before preparing the stew. I alternate between organic turkey and chicken sausage, typically buying whatever’s on sale. If your family’s not finicky you can skip chopping the baby kale and toss the whole leaves straight into the soup. Or you can substitute baby spinach for the kale. I spend a little extra on canned organic cannellini beans rather than conventional canned beans. They’re not much more in cost and organic will yield a cleaner, tastier meal. In fact, I use organic products for this entire recipe. But it’s up to you. I say, just get the best you can. Also, feel free to add more or less of any of the ingredients based on your likes and dislikes. It’s an incredibly adaptable and forgiving recipe. Start to finish you’re looking at about an hour and a quarter. With 45 minutes to cook, there’s plenty of time to enjoy a quick shower and a glass of wine!
Mardi Gras is coming to a close, people. Ash Wednesday is day after tomorrow and this is the time when suddenly I begin to crave pork and beef and chicken and all manner of dishes that will be given up by me once I get that black cross of ashes traced onto my forehead. Every year I say “Oh, I don’t care about meat. I don’t even like it! I never eat it anyway.” That’s right about the time when visions of $12.00 bacon cheeseburgers, spicy, homemade jambalaya and hot, crispy chicken wings begin to pop up in my head. I pulled out my giant pot, the one big enough to bathe a baby, and set about to make the best pot of jambalaya I’ve ever had. I’ve been making this for the longest time and I think I’ve worked out the kinks. That said, no shortcuts may be taken ie: frozen bags of the Trinity which always leave you waiting for the promised burst of flavor. This iconic dish begs, no, DESERVES, to be prepared properly…leisurely, and it will reward you by delivering that slow and sultry combination of Louisiana flavors that cause you to roll your eyes back in your head. Well-made jambalaya, good jambalaya, is like finger-poppin’ music in your mouth. Layer upon layer of ingredients make themselves known, some subtly others not so discreetly. It is a one-pot marvel of unpretentious components that ultimately yield a sophisticated dinner of comfort food while at the same time an over-the-top indulgence. And it is the best possible way to celebrate Fat Tuesday. So put on some boom-boom radio or zydeco, haul out your big pot and get to it. Laissez le bon temps rouler!
Jambalaya is a great dish for a crowd. It’s best prepared in a large, heavy bottomed pot with a lid that fits well. Having all your ingredients cut, chopped and ready to go will also ensure a fantastic meal. If you’re not able to locate converted Louisiana white rice just substitute it for a good quality, converted, white, long grain rice. What cannot be substituted is the Andouille sausage. I get mine from the butcher’s and if they’re out I use Aidell’s brand which is stocked at Publix. I find using sausage other than Andouille in this dish ends up tasting like hot dogs. Not a flavor I want after I’ve been standing in the kitchen for a few hours. So put off making jambalaya until you can find the real thing. I use a mammoth, wooden spoon to stir this dish. You’ll want to use the largest spoon you can get your hands on as the ingredients become heavy and bulky as you get further into the cooking.
I’ve given you a couple of sides and now would like to address everyone’s star of the day…the turkey. I’ll give you more sides but this way you can organize your thoughts, kitchen and schedule and have plenty of time to wrap your head around Thanksgiving dinner if you’ve never roasted a bird before. This is one of the easiest recipes out there and I have to credit the woman who is the all time greatest disaster in the kitchen. Mama. I know I’ve told you in earlier posts how dreadful she was in the kitchen…heck, she’d tell you! But I have to give her credit for a most incredibly delicious recipe that even a small child could produce. That said, this recipe will also yield most of the ingredients for some of the best gravy you’ll EVER have. It it truly the most sumptuous, luscious gravy I’ve tasted. Bar none. And that’ll be my next post. So let’s get on with it. It’s very important that you read ALL your recipes in advance so prep time can be accommodated stress-free. You don’t want to start on your cornbread dressing Thanksgiving morning to read that your dried cranberries were supposed to be slumbering in brandy all night! Also in advance and after determining how many mouths you will be feeding you need to decide whether to prepare a fresh or frozen bird. Remember, a frozen turkey can take 2-3 days defrosting in the refrigerator. Leading brand, injected with flavored broth or plain, store brand? Which ever you decide upon you will see on the outside of the turkey a table listing roasting times based on the weight of turkey. You might want to rinse that off and set it aside while you’re preparing the turkey for the oven or at least write down the weight of your bird and the suggested roasting time down on your notes. Spray some non-sticking cooking oil in your roasting pan. Making about a two-inch layer, place onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of the pan. Try to make it somewhat even as this will serve as your roasting rack. Take the neck, gizzards and giblets out of the turkey, throw out the little bag they’re in and transfer all of the innards to a plastic ziplock back. Label the bag and throw it into the freezer. You can use it another time for other dishes. Rinse both cavities well and pat the turkey dry with paper towels. A wet turkey will steam. A dry turkey will roast. Place the dry turkey in the roasting pan and liberally salt and pepper both the inside and out of the bird and fold the neck skin under the bird. Stuff the large cavity with the onion, lemon and bay leaves. Tie the drumsticks together with kitchen twine and twist the wings so they sit under the body. It’s kind of unnatural, the twisting part, but it’s really okay and the wings will roast more evenly. If you’re concerned the breast meat may turn out too dry use your hands to gently separate the breast skin from the meat being careful not to tear it. Slather butter under the skin onto the meat as far back towards the wings as you can. Feel free to flavor the butter with finely chopped fresh herbs, garlic paste, whatever sounds good to you. Pour a cup or two of chicken broth or stock into the pan. Put the turkey in the middle of the oven and roast at 425° for 30 minutes. After the first 30 minutes drop the temperature down to 350° and roast the bird according to the table on the package directions. If you’re roasting a fresh bird that comes without the roasting table figure on the following:
20-25 minutes per pound for birds up to 6 pounds
15-20 minutes for 7-15 pounds
and 13-15 minutes for birds 16 pounds and larger
These are suggested times for unstuffed birds. I don’t stuff my turkey because it never holds enough and so I always have to have a separate dish of dressing to serve. Baste the turkey with the pan juices about every 30 minutes or so. To check if your turkey is done pierce the skin of the thigh. If the juices run clear the turkey is done. If the juices run red give the bird a bit more time in the oven, checking regularly for doneness. Some people jiggle the the drumstick to check if it’s loose but this usually means the turkey is overdone. If you use a thermometer insert it into the middle of the thigh making sure not to make contact with the bone. Roast to a temperature of 180° to 185°. After removing the turkey from the oven let it rest at least 20 to 30 minutes. This will not only keep the juices intact but also allow for easier carving. Upon sufficient resting time transfer your bird to the carving board or platter. Use your hands and a heavy carving fork or whatever’s easiest for you, just do it fast so you don’t lose any precious juices. Save all the vegetables and pan juices to make your gravy. You’re almost there!!!
In just a few days western Easter will be celebrated. Here in south Florida the weather is as always…brilliant blue skies, soft, cool breezes and that blinding, white sunlight so typical of this time of the year. It’s always been that way. As children Easter was one of our favorite holidays. There wasn’t the pressure and stress of Christmas, we got pretty, new outfits and best of all was the CANDY!! In our house the only time candy in large quantities was allowed was Halloween and Easter. There were never cookies after school. We had apples, oranges and bananas. Mama never exclaimed “Let’s bake a cake!”. Mama’s idea of a good cake was the one she was about to pick up from Las Olas Bakery. No. There were never sweets in our house. And it wasn’t just Mama. Dad leaned towards vegetarianism and would give Mama a hard time if she brought home any kind of baked good. “Cookie”, he’d say, “don’t give them that stuff. It’s bad for them. It’s junk.” “Okay, Jackson.” And that was the end of that. Every once in a great while she’d sneak into the house those mini grocery store donuts that came in a bag. We all called them “dancing teenager donuts” because there were boys and girls in silhouette, the girls in minis and the boys in skinny pants and loafers all dancing across the bag. It looked like they were all doing the “Pony”. But on Easter there was candy all over the house!!
We each had our own baskets used year after year as we did our Christmas stockings. I no longer have my basket; Dad probably threw it out. But it was magnificent. All of our Easter baskets were!! Mine was a rich, eggplant purple, large in size and deep. Perfect to hold lots of trashy Easter candy. I remember one particular Easter season when I was maybe eight or nine years old my mother and I had a heated argument. Well, MY end was probably loud and heated…Mama never raised her voice at us. I remember being white-hot angry, incensed and yelling to her, “I hate you! I’m running away and you’ll never see me again!” Can you imagine saying something so hateful to your mother? Well, I did say it. She calmly continued loading the dish washer and replied, “That’s fine, Cielo. Be careful.” Now, remember. This was almost 50 years ago. Children didn’t have or care about luggage. When you traveled your mom assembled your wardrobe and packed the bags. Fury fueling my ill temper I tore to the garage in search of a suitcase. There were only large, cumbersome, leather bags tidily stacked to the ceiling. None would do. I was desperate. And then I spied our four Easter baskets Mama had set out in preparation for the coming Sunday. I grabbed my purple beauty and ran to my room. Throwing in a top and a pair of shorts I made my way to the kitchen. If I was to be on my own I would need food. The only problem was in our house there never WAS any food. What to do? What to do? I know!!! I grabbed the only food available. And, conveniently for me, portable! Oranges, apples and bananas were stuffed into my basket and I was ready. Muttering under my breath and slamming as many doors as possible I made my grand exit. Mama paid me no attention. I hooked my basket over the handlebar of my bike, flipped my kickstand back and was off! Adrenalin racing through my body I rode my bike almost standing up. I’d show them. They would N.E.V.E.R. see me again. We lived four bridges off Las Olas, the main drag, and at eight years old I was not yet allowed to leave the islands. “Who cares?”, I thought, “I’m on my own!” Over the bridges I sped and made a right onto Las Olas. As I passed Nurmi and Isle of Venice I felt the basket getting heavier and heavier. And it kept banging up against my tennis shoe, my knee and the bike, oranges and apples bouncing precariously. As I crossed the little fixed bridge after Navarro Isle I had a scary thought. Well, scary for an eight year old. Right at Jody Cabot’s house the thought occurred to me, “IT’S GETTING DARK.” It’s getting dark. I slammed the bicycle pedals in reverse and came to an abrupt stop. I had nowhere to go. There was no consideration or hemming and hawing in THIS 3rd graders mind! I spun my bike around so fast and took off for home. I remember having the thought, “I’ll runaway tomorrow.” Ha! And every time I pass the Cabot house, which is now townhouses, the thought still crosses my mind, “Yup. It’s getting dark.” No one said anything or even noticed when I came BACK into the house, old , purple Easter basket swinging across my arm. And Easter came as usual. That year, in addition to masses of bad candy, our parents gave the four of us BUNNIES!!
Sweet, fluffy bunnies! After the thrill wore off I was somehow responsible for them. Months later it had become too much for this 8-year-old. I wasn’t playing with them so they had become wild and their pen had that awful animal pee stench. I came home from school one day and the bunnies and their pen was gone. “DAAAAAAd!!! The bunnies are gone!” “‘I know”, Dad replied, “You didn’t take care of them so I gave them to Rodell”, (our lawn man). “I heard him say as he was leaving something about rabbit stew tonight.” Thanks, Daddy. But Happy Easter everybody!
This recipe is for Puerto Rican roasted turkey. It is just sublime! The flavors explode in your mouth and give new meaning to the same old holiday bird. This method of serious marination works on whole and breast of turkey as well as chicken. The longer it marinates the better it is. I marinated this breast two days in the refrigerator, turning it over and massaging the spices in some more after one day. After rubbing the marinade all inside and out I placed the bird in a clean trash bag and squeezed as much air out as I could. This gave the flavors more of a chance to be absorbed and also the meat didn’t take as much room in the refrigerator as it would have had I put it in a baking dish. The turkey breast wouldn’t stand up since it was missing the rest of his body so I loosely wadded up four sheets of aluminum foil and placed them around the meat thus steadying it. It you choose to roast a whole turkey a Mofongo Stuffing takes this dish over the top! And I promise I’ll post the recipe for that soon!!
Pavochon or Puerto Rican Roasted Turkey
1 turkey or turkey breast
6 or 7 cloves of garlic, mashed to a paste
adobo, preferably with culantro and achiote, you can find this in the spice section of your grocery store
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon pepper
vegetable oil, just enough to rub all over the turkey, coating well
1. One or two days before roasting the turkey rub all over, inside and out with the adobo. I use roughly one teaspoon for every pound of turkey.
Mix together the garlic paste, oregano and pepper and cover the inside and out with it.
Place in the refrigerator until your roasting day.
Take the turkey our of the refrigerator and hour or two before roasting so it will come to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 325°.
If you’re going to stuff your turkey now is the time.
Coat the entire turkey with the vegetable oil.
Cover the whole turkey with an aluminum foil “tent” and put in oven.
I cook a 4-6 turkey about 3 hours. I cook a 6-8 pound turkey about 4 hours. I cook an 8-12 pound turkey about 4-5 hours. Since every oven is different check your bird as it gets closer to completion.