Archive for November, 2011

follow up on the pickles

November 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Nice and crisp, with a lovely little burn at the end, but too vinegary by far. Next batch will have sugar in it to balance the vinegar.

Categories: cooking

Fast and sour

November 28, 2011 1 comment

I’ve been watching a lot of cooking competitions, and a lot of the chefs are serving up pickled vegetables.  Obviously, since they often have less than an hour to cook, there must be a way of pickling vegetables FAST, as opposed to the traditional way which can take months.

That’s what the internet is for.  And google told me that quick pickling is, indeed, a thing.  And it’s easy.  Make a brine (use a recipe or improvise), bring it to a boil and pour it over raw vegetables cut into whatever size you want. You do have to use a heatproof glass container, and the results are good in the fridge for maybe two weeks, tops, and it takes an hour at least for any results, BUT it just sounded dead easy.

And I’m up for anything easy.

Clearly, this is not for preservation – this is not going to be making a brine so dense you can walk on it.  It’s more of another way to prepare vegetables. But I love pickled veggies.

So.  I purchased two one quart wide mouth canning jars, dunked them (along with a salad dressing carafe I bought on a whim) and then got a cauliflower, a quart of cider vinegar and a container of pickling spice. I got the canning jars because they HAVE to be heatproof glass.  And people use them for pickling anyway.  Google said one could use regular pickling spice.  Of course, it also said to use  a recipe but eh.

Got everything home.  Put the entire container of vinegar into the saucepan, along with a little less than two cups of water, about two-three tablespoons of salt and of the pickling spice, plus two dried Mexican pepper pods for a little heat.  Brought it to a boil while I washed out the jars and filled them with cauliflower florets.  When the brine boiled, I poured into the jars over the cauliflower, making sure to get a pepper pod in each jar.  Then I covered them and tightened the covers and let them cool.

After over an hour passed, I took off the covers (the lids of the ring and lid covers vacuum sealed, so I had to pry them off) and tasted a floret from each jar.  They were still hot, but they were crisp and sour, and there was a lovely background of peppery heat in the after taste. I sealed them up again and put them in the fridge.

I’ll taste them again when they’re cold.

Categories: cooking

Over Easy

November 27, 2011 Leave a comment

So, last Thursday was Thanksgiving. Which I’m sure most of you realized. Which means the main course has to feature a turkey. Well, doesn’t HAVE to. I know of people who eat chicken, or tofurkey, or salmon, or even (whisper) ham. Or you know, a turkey PLUS those options. In the years my husband’s brother avoided meat, I made him fish.

But by and large, we eat a very large bird composed of white meat, which cooks relatively quickly and dark meat, which does not. But it’s all one thing and has to be cooked at right temperature at the same time.

So how do you do this? Well, you can cheat. You can spatchcock it – cut out the backbone and spread the bird open, so it’s less rounded. You can cook it in parts – breast, wings, thighs, legs – until each is optimum temperature. I’ve done this, sort of – last Rosh Hashanah, with a small number of guests, I made a half bone-in turkey breast and two legs and it was perfect. I actually recommend that if you have a leg lover in your house but you don’t want to cook a whole bird.

But this is Thanksgiving and I had a reasonable number of guests, including a mother-in-law who adores turkey, so I had to make a whole, albeit small, one. In fact, it was exactly 11.5 lbs.

I wanted a perfect turkey because of both professional and personal pride. But I’m also dead lazy. I don’t do anything hard, or fussy. Seriously. I mean it.

And trussing and basting and brining and turning? Are FUSSY. Also, basting is silly. You’re pouring liquid over impermeable skin. It may make a nice skin, which is a good thing, but it doesn’t make the breast meat any moister. And stuffing herbed fat (butter, schmaltz, margarine) inder the breast skin will add a lot of flavor and be delicious but will also add, you know. Fat. And even for that, I have a suggestion.

Brining, of course, is silly with a kosher bird, which basically comes pre-brined.

Trussing only makes it look nicer, but you have to deal with the string. That does leave turning.

Turning I do, but not the “put the turkey on a rack and give it a one quarter turn every so often” way, because that’s also fussy.

Here’s the thing. You want the breast to be moist and you also want it to cook at a different rate than the dark meat. Which you want to cook thoroughly because, as I’ve learned from personal experience, undercooked dark meat is disgusting.

So what you do is cook the turkey breast side down for the first interval of cooking. You determine the interval by multiplying the weight of the bird by 14 and dividing by sixty. You want at least half the cooking time upside down – an hour or so on its back should be enough. And cook it low. Look, I like my ovens HOT. I like them over 400F. I like extremes. But for a turkey, I’m following the directions and cooking at 325F. Maybe I’ll crank the oven up high before putting it in, but as soon as it’s in, I’ll lower it down. This gives time for the heat to penetrate without overcooking.

Season the bird. However you like. Stuff garlic or parsley or rosemary sprigs into the cavity, slide lemons and herbs under the skin (or use the flavored fat – but freeze it after you flavor it. Put sliced FROZEN butter or schmaltz or margarine under the breast skin. You could probably cook it right side up then.) Dust it with pepper or paprika. Oil it. Don’t stuff it with stuffing, though. The cavity isn’t big enough and you can make it just fine outside the bird. Really. I promise.

Put the bird directly into the pan (add herbs, though. Onions and carrots if you want, too) breast down. Make sure it’s at 325. Then make your vegetables and your stuffing. How to make the stuffing? Saute onions and mushrooms (if you like them) and any other veggie you like in your stuffing. Add chestnuts or anything else you like. Saute’d sausage, even. Just get them cooked. Add a cup of stock – chicken stock, turkey stock or, as I’ve been doing, veggie stock. Make it yourself or use a good brand of store bought. Let them simmer together. Add herbs – rosemary, parsley, garlic, whatever works for you, fresh or dried. Pepper, too. Add croutons – homemade or a good brand of plain croutons – nothing herby or garlicky. You want to be in control of the flavors. SOAK them with stock. Make them totally soggy. Mix well, put in a baking dish, add more stock, and wait.

About an hour and a half before the end of cooking, turn the bird. I suggest putting plastic food bags over oven mitts and just flipping it, after removing it from the oven. Oil the breast skin and put it back in the oven. If you want to add more herbs or spices or a glaze, go for it. Take it out when it reaches a temperature of 160F. And then let it rest. Cover it in foil if you must. An hour is good. Resting is important. Lets the juices redistribute.

That’s when you put the stuffing in the oven. Add more stock if you need to or turn the oven down even lower.

You will get moist, tender breast meat that carves like a dream and perfectly cooked dark meat. You will also get a moist, flavorful stuffing that has the mouthfeel of stuffing cooked in the bird. With the plus that, if you made it with vegetable stock, your vegetarian guests can eat it, too.

Why? Because cooking it upside doesn’t just let the juices run into the breast, it also protects it from the dry heat of the oven. A rack defeats that. If you use frozen margarine, you keep the breast meat colder for a longish time, and that works as well. I just don’t want to add the extra fat and anyway, it’s fussy.

And I don’t do fussy. So I just turn it over easy.

Categories: cooking