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.
Man, the clouds roll in and it’s time for chili. Now, you say turkey chili and my mind rolls back twenty years ago to a hot, steamy August Sunday when I was 8 months pregnant. Lord, I was fat. All I wanted to eat during my pregnancy was eggs scrambled soft in butter for breakfast then for all my other meals I had to have any of the following: orange juice with ice, sautéed spinach in garlic and olive oil, sharp cheddar cheese sandwich on whole wheat with mayo or petite filet mignon. That’s all I wanted. It’s no surprise I gained 52 pounds! 52 pounds! Anyway, I had been cooking and baking up a storm and then freezing individual portions so we would have homemade food at the ready when the baby came. Jimmy had been traveling like a mad man and was often gone so I had a little time to prepare. The baby was due the first or second week of September and by cramming in all his trips beforehand he would be home for the birth and then for a few weeks after that. Next on my list of foods to prepare was Turkey Chili. I had been cooking all day when Jim and Dana came over to share a few laughs and a bowl of the red stuff. Having known Dana just about all my life I did not feel it was necessary to clean myself up or even bathe. Cooking with onions and garlic you can only imagine how I smelled. Like a cheap diner. They were in the study laughing and eating and calling for me to join them. On my way out of the kitchen I ducked into the bathroom for a quick winkytink. When I finished I stood up and while buttoning up I tinkled. Again. All over myself and my clothing. Ohmygosh!! I felt faint. What if it WASN’T tinkle? What if my water had broken?? It hit me like a thunderbolt what I had read in every pregnant girl’s bible, “What To Expect When You’re Expecting”. It was really quite lovely the way it was put. The book said that the water, when your water breaks, smells like “freshly cut hay”. Crazy, huh? I smelled my panties. Ohmygosh!! Could that be freshly cut hay? I screamed for Dana through the locked door, “MIIIIIISSSSSSSY!!! MIIIIISSSSSY!”. She came running. “What? What?”, she asked as I DRAGGED her into the bathroom, half naked. “Missy”, I said. “I don’t think I’ve ever really asked anything from you but I am now. Look. I KNOW this sounds ridiculous but I think my water just broke and I need you to smell this and tell me if it smells like freshly cut hay. MISSY!!!! PLEASE!!”. I thrust the panties in her face. She looked at me long. And she looked at me hard. And then she said, “OK.” As she took a whiff her eyes got big and with an ecstatic smile on her face made her pronouncement, “Oh my gosh, Missy! It smells like freshly cut hay!”. That’s my girl! I was weak with fear. “JIIMMYYY! It’s time! It’s time!”, I called. “What do you mean?”, he asked since the baby wasn’t due for another three to four weeks. I quickly explained and started making preparations to leave the house while my words slowly sank in. It was about one or two o’clock in the afternoon. With a towel shoved up between my legs off I waddled to the car. I remember what I wore. A pink sleeveless Laura Ashley sundress with tiny flowers on it and hot pink flats. The ride to hospital was absolutely surreal. Like the ride to the church the day you marry. It is life altering. At Holy Cross the nurses went through what I guessed to be the usual child-birth preparations. There was weigh in… OOOLAWD!!! An IV was started and then came a thousand questions. Here are my favorites. “Have you eaten today?” “Yes.” “When?” “About and hour ago.” “Okay. And what did you have?” ” Uh, a big bowl of chili.” All of the nurses, assistants and techs stopped mid-task. In unison they ALL yelled “Eeeeeww!! Chili!! She had chili! It’ll be everywhere!! Oh, Christ!” Apparently many women have bad reactions to some of the anesthetics etc. given to them and barf uncontrollably. But I didn’t! I never did. My doctor arrived and after a quick exam made the determination that not only was the baby breach but a dangling breach. (One leg pointing north and one pointing south.) I would have to have an emergency C-section. The baby would not live without one. I didn’t care long as long as I got my baby. They wheeled me into the operating room where all manner of machines and lights, cords and beeping things were already assembled for the performance of my life. A tall blue cloth screen was set up on my chest to block my view of the surgery. Jimmy was right there with me. All along he said he wasn’t going in, that that just wasn’t for him, that he had NO desire to cut the umbilical cord or anything else for that matter. Jimmy don’t do blood and guts. He doesn’t even do splinters. He’s a candy-ass. I felt nothing but knew my team was “down there” cutting and snipping away. All of a sudden my doctor said “I’ve got ‘im. Jim, would you like to cut the cord?” The umbilical cord is really nasty looking. Blue and red and thick and white. Nasty. I knew my man would be white as a sheet at the sight of that and ready to faint. But that man ponied right up and cut that thing right through! Just as calm and cool as if it was the fourth child. They whisked the baby off to some sort of holding table and I could see by straining my head to one side that they were working frantically. Something seemed to be going wrong. And there was no sound. I remember looking at Jimmy giving him the look that said, “Please! Please! Tell me it’s okay!! What’s wrong? What is it?” And then I heard it. That newborn “Wah! Wah!”!! I was thrilled! A boy!! A beautiful baby boy! They placed him way on my chest wearing a little Carolina blue (how did they know?!) knit hat. My first words to my precious angel were something to the effect of, “Hey, Buddy! Well, don’t you just look like you held up the 7-11? Hmm?”. It was the hat. He looked like a little robber. He was so perfect. He blinked at me. He recognized my voice! And he was mine. I was the luckiest girl in the world!!
This chili is super good. I have a special ingredient that just makes it rock! Chipotle peppers in adobo. They’re sold in all supermarkets in the Hispanic, (AKA “taco”) section. And like all dishes with tomato involved, it’s better the next day and freezes well. And can be pretty low in fat. I wouldn’t say the chipotles are screaming hot but they’re considerably spicy and that’s from someone who likes really spicy, hot food. So hold back a little bit and taste as you go along. You can always add more but if you add too much…well, good luck getting it out!
Turkey Chili (or Beef)
yield: one big pot
2 20 ounce packages ground turkey or the equivalent for beef. I use Jennie-O ground turkey.
1 large onion chopped
3 cubanelle peppers or two green bell peppers, chopped
7-8 finely chopped fresh garlic cloves
2-3 tablespoons chili powder
1 7 ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
2 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes, I use San Marzano
3 15 ounce cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot spray insides with nonstick spray.
Heat pot to medium high and add ground turkey. DO NOT break up the pieces! You want the turkey to brown and stay chunky so don’t mix the turkey yet. If using ground beef if can be broken up as it keeps its shape better.
After 4-5 minutes gently turn the meat over to brown the other side.
When the turkey or beef has cooked through add the onion, chopped peppers and garlic. Lower heat to medium and stir as needed.
Empty chipotle peppers and sauce into a deep vessel or deep bowl. Using the empty chipotle can, pour 2 cans of water into the bowl and puree very, VERY carefully. I use an immersion blender but a regular blender or food processor is just fine. Be very careful not to get the mixture on your fingers and please don’t touch your eyes! This stuff is hot and you’ll cry for days. Well, maybe not days but for a while anyway.
To the pot add 1/4 of the chipotle mixture. You can eyeball it.
Add the whole tomatoes with juices and break up the tomatoes with your mixing spoon.
Add kidney beans and tomato paste. Break up the tomato paste, mixing well.
Taste for any salt or pepper needed and add any chipotle mixture needed, again tasting as you go.
Add water if you want it thinner. Add 1-2 tablespoons of cornmeal if you’d like it thicker.
Simmer on low for 30-45 minutes or until flavors have melded.
Tell my godson he’s having meatloaf for dinner and his face will fall. His shoulders will slump and his eyes will have that “dead man walking” stare. I understand. We’ve all suffered from CNMD (Chronic Nasty Meatloaf Disorder) at one time or another. But tell MY boy he’s having turkey meatloaf for dinner and all of a sudden the day’s getting much better. He always asks with anticipation “with whipped butternut squash and asparagus? Awesome!”. I love using turkey because it’s much lighter and no matter how hard you mix it, it will not toughen up. What is important is to season the mixture well because you know how bland ground turkey can be. I usually always use quick, not instant, oats instead of bread crumbs. Might as well make it healthful when you can. The oats just disappear into the mixture just like the bread crumbs. Last night, however, I found myself out of oats. Damn. And after a full day of work, I am NOT going back out into the dark for anything. Anyway, I knew there had to be something I could use and after rooting around…voila! Le Wheat Germ. Works great, loses itself in the mixture and, also, packs a healthy, nutritional punch. Last night’s meatloaf was covered tomato paste but I often make it with a peppercorn crust. Both produce a phenomenal sandwich the next day. And the recipe doubles well.