Brining the turkey

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Unorthodox use of medical tape # 152: decreasing the potential space of your turkey brining bag to increase the brine coverage of your turkey.

brining the turkey with some help from medical tape and a  binder clip

brining the turkey with some help from medical tape and a binder clip

As is most of my cooking, the brine was concocted with approximate guidelines and inspired by stuff available in the cupboard:

  • kosher salt, about 1 cup
  • honey, about 1 cup
  • sugar, about 1cup
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled, crushed and minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • some bay leaves
  • varying quantities of clove, nutmeg, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme — I honestly don’t know if these come through with everything else going on
  • balsamic vinegar to taste

All of the above were dissolved in 3 qts boiling water and reduced to a simmer for about 10 minutes. I let the brine cool for about 20 minutes, then added about 2 qts warm water to help cool it down more. When mixture felt comfortably warm (not hot enough to cook the bird) we poured it over an 18+lb turkey in the brining bag. It’s now sitting in the fridge in its roasting pan, taped up as shown above.

We shall find on Thursday whether the brine was a good idea or not. Update: turkey was ah. may. zing. And the turkey stew we made from it was the best we’ve had.

Quiche Lorraine

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Another easy baby-approved meal. Bacon for the win. Quiches and pies are fall favorites around here. (Bacon fat + pie crust = maybe not the healthiest meal, but M needs some more baby fat rolls before I worry about that.)

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“Sheesche? Sheesche?” Madeline couldn’t wait long enough for me to snap a photo before demanding a piece to eat. Hence the missing wedge.

Quiche Lorraine

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb bacon (lower sodium preferred for baby), cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 to 1/2 lb shredded gruyere cheese
  • 9-inch pie crust in a pie pan

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Over medium-low heat, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain off fat as needed, leaving 2-3 tablespoons in the pan. Remove bacon and place on paper towels to drain.
  3. Add onions to the fat in the pan and brown over medium-low heat, about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, pierce holes or slits (use a fork or knife) in the pie crust bottom. Bake the pie crust for 5 minutes and remove from oven.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper together until blended.
  6. Layer ingredients in the pie shell as follows:
    1. At the bottom, place 3/4 of the cheese and spread evenly.
    2. Spread a layer of half the bacon, then half the onions, and repeat with the other half of bacon and onions.
    3. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
    4. Pour the egg mixture over all the ingredients to fill the pie pan enough to just cover the top layer of cheese. If needed, add another egg blended with 1/2 cup of milk.
  7. Bake quiche for 30 minutes or until center is set.

Swedish meatballs

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This recipe is my version of the meatball-egg noodle dish, adapted from recipes from the Fannie Farmer cookbook, The Dirty Dish Club and Food.com. After some initial skepticism, Madeline approved. This one might become a cold-weather staple.

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Swedish Meatballs (or, Meatballs with Egg Noodles in a Sour Cream Sauce)

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz wide egg noodles
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided into 1 tbsp each for the meatballs, sauce and noodles, plus more as needed for the sauce
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley, divided into 1 tsp for the meatballs and 1 tsp for the noodles, plus more for optional garnish
  • Meatballs:
    • about 1.25 lb ground beef, pork and veal (sold at our grocery store as “meatloaf mix”)
    • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
    • 1 egg
    • 1/3 cup minced onion
    • 1/4 cup finely shredded carrot
    • 2 cloves minced garlic
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp sugar
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper
    • 1/4 cup flour for dredging
    • 2 tbsp olive oil for frying
  • Sauce:
    • 1/2 large onion, minced
    • 1/3 cup flour
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1/2 tsp onion powder
    • 1/2 tsp sugar
    • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper
    • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
    • 2.5-3 cups beef or vegetable broth
    • 1 cup sour cream

Directions:

  1. Meatballs (start the mix several hours ahead or the day before): 
    1. In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, carrot, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 tsp parsley. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
    2. Form 1-inch meatballs, dredge them in flour to coat all over, and set aside. I spray my hands with a bit of cooking spray to prevent them from getting too sticky.
    3. In a large pan, melt 1 tbsp butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Lightly brown the meatballs on all sides and remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan. The meatballs do not need to be cooked through at this point. Unless your pan is very large, this step will probably require working in batches.
  2. Sauce:
    1. With the pan on medium-low heat, add the minced onion to the pan and caramelize the onions, about 20 minutes. You can start the noodles while you are waiting.
    2. Combine the flour, paprika, onion powder, sugar, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, and cloves in a small bowl and set aside.
    3. Add 1 tbsp butter to the pain and stir to melt.
    4. Add the flour mixture to the melted fat and onions and stir quickly to form a roux. If the fat seems too scant for the amount of dry ingredients, add more butter. Continue stirring the roux for 2 minutes.
    5. Add the broth, stir well, and bring to a bubble.
    6. Add the meatballs, cover the pan, and reduce the heat, allowing the meatballs to cook through.
    7. Once the meatballs are cooked, turn the heat very low so that the sauce is not bubbling. (High temperature might cause the sour cream to curdle.) Stir in the sour cream and turn off the heat. Continue stirring to mix well.
  3. Noodles: Prepare the egg noodles according to their directions. Drain most of the water and return the noodles to their pot. Toss with 1 tbsp butter and 1 tsp parsley.
  4. Assembly: Place noodles on serving dish. Spoon sauce and meatballs over the noodles. Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh parsley.

 

“Peek boo!”

With Madeline strapped in her booster seat (so as to stay out of my way), I began to assemble her teepee. She kept squealing “Wow! Eeeee!” as it took shape. Then Daddy inadvertently set her loose and she started playing in it before I was finished with assembly (note the ouch-waiting-to-happen slippage on the wood floor). For our small apartment, I suppose this teepee is an acceptable use of 9 sq ft.

Iced pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

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Mama’s primary accomplishment on this cloudy drizzly day:

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These are for Madeline’s class party on Friday. Amazing things get done when mommy has the day off! Between the pumpkin puree and the reduced amount of sugar (compared to regular chocolate chip cookies), these treats qualify for nutritious snacks in my book.

The recipe is from Very Best Baking:

Iced Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • vanilla glaze:
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp milk
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. PREHEAT oven to 375° F. Grease baking sheets.
  2. COMBINE flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in pumpkin, eggs and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.
  3. BAKE for 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
  4. FOR VANILLA GLAZE: COMBINE powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract in small bowl; mix well. Drizzle or spread glaze on cookies.
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Thanksgiving 2012

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This year was our first married Thanksgiving. For weeks, Chris had been excited to roast his first turkey, and I was equally excited for stuffing! We made a game plan, did our grocery shopping, and went to bed (relatively) early the night before so we could get started at 7am. Thursday morning came. Game on.

Well, the first hiccup came early — I had trouble sleeping, so we slept in an extra hour. We adjusted and got right back on schedule, though. (Yes, we made a schedule.) As it turns out, we learned a number of things:

  • Chopping the vegetables the night before means we don’t have to get started until 8am. Whoo hoo!
  • Our 24-pound turkey took about 5.5 hours to cook. By about 3 hours, enough fat had drained off to baste it.
  • We do not have a platter big enough to hold a 24-pound turkey. Fortunately, a smaller platter on a baking sheet will suffice.
  • Potholders can also be trivets.
  • The day is not nearly as busy as I thought. We had breaks to to watch Star Trek, set the table, and so forth. It was easier than cooking for the party we just had! (Then again, we had over 30 people there.)

I also took notes on miscellaneous adjustments to our schedule and recipes. Here is the result of our Thanksgiving Matrix (which obviously is not formally a matrix, but sounds niftier than Thanksgiving Chart):

ThanksgivingMatrix

the Thanksgiving Matrix, stained and annotated as we used it to guide us through our first Thanksgiving!

And here is the resulting feast:

Having slept well with the aid of turkey somnolence, we dismantled the bird this morning. Henry also helped, sort of.