Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In the Stocks

For me making your own stock is about one thing and one thing only: gravy.

There are a ton of recipes that call for huge amounts of ingredients so that you have enough turkey stock to spare for stuffing and the like. And that's great, it really is, but since we're trying to not kill ourselves (or our pocketbook) this year we're going to stick with making just one quart. Besides, once we collect the pan juices after the turkey is done that is going to give us a little bit more delicious liquid to work with.

Oh, make sure that when you buy a turkey it has the giblets in there so you can make this wonderful concoction.

Ok, so stock is so simple that I'm at a loss for more words. Let's just get started.

I love the way the turkey neck looks in this picture. It makes it look like I'm cooking a dinosaur. Last words. Promise.
Easy Turkey Stock
Makes about 1 quart

Turkey giblets
1 1/2 quarts of low-sodium chicken stock
1 small onion
1/2 parsnip
1 carrot
1 celery stalk, leaves and all
2 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of your knife
2 bay leaves
a pinch of dried thyme
a pinch of pepper

1. Make sure your vegetables are all super clean. Don't bother peeling anything and if you want cut your veggies in a couple of big chunks but there's no need to get any fancier than that.
2. Put all ingredients in a 2.5 quart pot and cook over medium-high heat. Allow stock to boil and then turn down the heat to medium.
3. Let stock boil down to about 1 quart, this will take about 2 hours or so. The more you let it boil down the less you'll have but the more wonderful and intense the flavor.
4. Strain your stock into a container and save for later. You now have liquid gold.
I guess I do have a couple of last words. Don't salt this. It's easier to control the salt at the end of the dish for which you made the stock. For example, worry about salting the gravy, not the stock. Or worry about salting the stuffing, not the stock. The end.

Cranberries Simple-Sauce

It's ok for some things to be complicated such as our taxes and modeling real estate deals. Cranberry sauce is not one of these things. It should be easy and simple and compliment the turkey not fight it for attention.

I modified the following recipe from an Alton Brown recipe that I've always really liked. It's easy, simple and so quick to make. The only thing I didn't like about Alton's recipe is the proportions. It makes a TON and unless you're feeding a your entire extended family, you're never going to need that much. Even for leftover sandwiches. So here goes.

Simple Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

1/4 cup 100% cranberry juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
1 (12oz) bag of cranberries, get rid of the icky ones

1. Heat the cranberry juice, orange juice, and honey and bring to a boil. Once it's boiling bring the heat down to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Add cranberries and let them simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. ONLY15 minutes, otherwise the sauce will start to break down and it'll get watery and bleh.
3. Take sauce off heat and smoosh a few of the cranberries with the back of a spoon (only if you want to).
4. Once sauce has cooled a bit you can put it in a mold so that you can slide it out on Thanksgiving day and cut it into pieces or you can stick it in a dish and spoon it out.

Voila! Now just don't stick your finger in it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

So It Begins....

Thanksgiving is upon us!!!

I feel like there are two important food holidays in this country. Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day. Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday. I know I should say Christmas, but I'm sorry, it's Thanksgiving. There is so much food, so much fun to be had, family and friends are around, it's not that cold, the leaves are pretty. It's awesome.

During this month the magazines at the grocery store are plastered with phrases like, "Thanksgiving? Stress No More!!" Which I thought was weird. If ever there was a time to stress over a meal it's this time. Stop stressing about regular weekday meals and start stressing about Thanksgiving, say I. It's ONE day of the year, let's all save the instant potatoes for any other Thursday and bring out the real Yukons for Thanksgiving. I mean c'mon on people, is that all our assigned day of gratitude means to you? A glob of canned cranberries? No!

Ok, let me calm down. Truth be told, I don't think any meal should be that stressful (nor do I think you should ever use instant potatoes). And to be perfectly fair I think that what those magazines are trying to get at is that "If you plan your Thanksgiving carefully, it will be stressful no more." Which (finally!) brings me to my point.

Thanksgiving planning can be fun! Thanksgiving cooking can be great with family and friends around to help! Thanksgiving is not the time to show off!!!

If you're hosting, chances are that people are coming over to be fed cozy, familiar, real things. Food can be a powerful tool in helping you let people know how much you love them. Make the mashed potatoes from scratch your husband knows and loves. Make that sweet potato casserole that always makes your sister smile. Make the stuffing you know you'll be sneaking out to eat at midnight. If ever there was a time to label a meal as "comfort food," this meal is it.

Fight it, just fight the urge to make the pumpkin souffle. Too many things can go wrong...

Really the key to a stress-free Thanksgiving is to plan early, start early and use paper plates. I have already started and in the next few days I'll be posting the things I've made in hopes that they'll be useful, if not this year, then maybe next. For now, here is Thursday's menu:

Bacon-crusted Turkey
Apple Pomegranate Green Salad
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Yam Casserole
Sausage and Herb Stuffing (gluten-free, no less)
Sauteed Kale with Roasted Veggies
Marinated Tomato Salad
Simple Cranberry Sauce

What are your Thanksgiving faves?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tacos para el Desayuno

We eat a lot of tacos around here. It's just a fact of life. When in doubt, we put stuff in a corn tortilla. Let it be noted: A CORN tortilla. Flour tortillas are ok, I guess, if you're from Texas, but there isn't anything that compares to a (properly) warm, soft, earthy corn tortilla.

While we're on the topic let's talk about how to properly heat up a corn tortilla. Ideally we would all own a comal (pictured below). A comal is a flat cast-iron pan-thing I keep on my stove at all times. It really does the best job but as a substitute you may use a dry non-stick skillet or griddle. You can put oil in there but then you start getting into different territory and we're just talking about the pure taco tortilla.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT ever microwave a tortilla, corn or otherwise. You might as well eat it from the trash. Harsh but true. You will not find mincing (haha) of words around here.

Ok, now that that's out of the way we can talk about this breakfast recipe. I'm actually loathe to call it a recipe, it's more of a breakfast idea. Still, I will walk you through how I make my eggs just in case some of you have a hard time making scrambled eggs. Don't laugh, it can be hard to make good scrambled eggs.

I'll elaborate on the wonders of Sriracha some other day. For now, just go find it in the Asian aisle.

Scrambled Egg Tacos with Bacon and Sriracha
Makes 2 tacos

2 eggs
splash of milk
oil spray (such as Pam)
3 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

1. Heat a small non-stick pan on medium heat. Lightly cover pan with oil spray. Also, heat the skillet you will be using for your tortillas
2.. Thoroughly beat eggs in a small bowl with a fork. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add a small splash of milk (I like to use milk because it will lighten your eggs without making them mushy, like water would).
3. Add eggs to heated pan and swirl around with your fork. Let them sit and cook for about 30 seconds and swirl around again. Repeat a couple more times until eggs are just barely set and springy.
4. Depending on the size of your skillet, place one or two tortillas in skillet and heat until tortillas are soft and pliable.
5. Place about half of the egg in one tortilla, then the other half in the other, sprinkle Sriracha and bacon and enjoy. There might be some leftover eggs, but that's what dogs are for.

I know that breakfasts can be a little stressful and even worse, boring, when we take into account everything else we have to do during the day. I hope this simple idea can open up your mind to many more breakfast taco variations. Please share your awesome ideas!