Tuesday, May 24, 2022

For a Taste of Italy and Spain, Travel to Your Kitchen

  Getting ready to travel to Italy next week, I remembered my last trip three years ago, a few weeks before the world changed and my overseas travel was limited to webinars and Instagram posts. In the fall of 2019, I visited Piedmont and Milan. 

Walking one day in the courtyard of the Duomo, that wonderful cathedral in the heart of Milan, and the next day descending hand chiseled stairs that led down to an Infernot where farmers stored produce and later wine. 

Before the discovery of the New World, Italian farmers in the Piedmont were digging deep into the sandstone underneath their homes in their own exploration of discovery, building rooms where men gathered to eat, talk and drink wine. All they lacked was air. Without a ventilation system, once the air was used up, the men rushed up those hand chiseled stairs before they passed out.

On that trip, I ate local cheeses, charcuterie, bagna cauda (an anchovy-garlic dip), spaghetti with clams, and so many dishes that made me very happy. When travel was not possible, I satisfied my "hunger" for all things Italian by cooking foods that reminded me of Italy. Last night I made pasta with Italian sausage, butter clams, vegetables and a touch of sweet butter. 

For my wife, who doesn't eat meat, I used a Chinese clay pot to make braised tofu with vegetables, the Spanish spice pimeton and San Marzano tomatoes D.O.P. That brought together China, Spain and Italy in a one pot dish.

Hot Pot Braised Tofu with San Marzano Tomatoes, Vegetables, Olives and Noodles

The cans of San Marzano Tomatoes I was gifted (see at the end, below) had enough tomatoes and sauce for several dishes. What I didn't originally use, separating sauce from tomatoes, I froze in 6 oz and 8 oz containers. Because our sons are fully grown, I cook for two. Whenever I have too much of an ingredient, I place small containers in the freezer, available when I want to create a dinner or lunch.

The San Marzano Tomatoes and sauce froze and reheated with no loss of flavor. 

Clay hot pots are available in Asian markets. Inexpensive, they require a bit of special care. Before using, each time, submerge the clay pot into clean water for 15 minutes. Purchase a wire trivet that you'll place on the stove-top burner. The clay pot goes on top of the wire trivet. Only use a low to medium flame to avoid stressing the clay. Allow the pot to cool before washing to avoid cracking.

If you can find only small clay pots, use two to prepare this dish.

Serves 4

Time to prepare 15 minutes

Time to cook 45 minutes

Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup yellow onions, washed, peeled, roughly chopped

1 cup carrots, washed, ends removed, peeled, roughly chopped

1 cup daikon, washed, ends removed, peeled, roughly chopped

1/2 cup corn kernels, cut off the cob (when available)

1 cup broccolini or broccoli, stems roughly chopped, leaves whole and florets sliced into bite sized pieces

2 cups tofu, preferably firm and organic, washed, cut into bite sized pieces

1 cup San Marzano tomatoes D.O.P., roughly chopped

1/2 cup San Marzano tomato sauce, D.O.P.

2 cups homemade vegetable stock, if none available, use water

1 cup green or black olives, preferably olives with pits

1 pound noodles, dried or fresh

1/2 tablespoon pimeton

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in hot pot over medium heat. 

Saute onions.

Add tofu and stir well.

Add pimeton and stir well. Don't burn the spice.

Add carrots, daikon and corn. Stir after each ingredient is added.

Add broccolini or broccoli stems. Stir well and cook to soften.

Add broccoli or broccoli leaves. Sir well.

Add chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce, if frozen, no need to defrost.

Add vegetable stock, if frozen, no need to defrost. If stock unavailable, use water.

Add olives, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

While the tofu is braising, bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook noodles according to the package. 10 minutes if dried, 2-3 minutes if fresh. Drain and set aside.

Remove cover and add cooked noodles.

Stir well to mix together tofu, vegetables and noodles.

Serve hot in bowls.

Please send me recipes and photographs when you make your delicious dishes using Pomodoro San Marzano Dell'Agro Sarmese-Nocerino D.O.P. and I will submit your recipe to enter a contest to win a gift basket of these wonderful D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes.


The tomatoes I used were provided courtesy of the Consorzio di Tutela del Pomodoro San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP and ANICAV.

Monday, May 23, 2022

San Marzano Tomatoes Make a Best-Ever Vegan Soup

"You say tomato, I say tomato" say Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong in their classic song about lovers who can't even agree on how to pronounce everyday words like "tomato" and "potato." But today pronunciation isn't the only issue when it comes to "tomato."

Recently, I was brought up-close-and-personal with a controversy that is raging in the culinary world. 

When is a San Marzano tomato a real San Marzano tomato? 

Widely regarded as the best-of-the-best, low-acid San Marzano tomatoes are so prized they have been given a D.O.P. designation along with Italy's other prized food products like Basilico Genovese, Acute Balsamic di Reggio Emilia and Grand Padang cheese, to name a few. 

Officially the tomatoes are called Pomodoro San Marzano Dell'Agro Sarmese-Nocerino D.O.P.   "D.O.P" means "Denominazionedi Origins Protetta" or "Protected Designation of Origin." In the EU, if a can of tomatoes says "San Marzano," the D.O.P. seal must also be visible on the label to confirm that the tomatoes and sauce inside are guaranteed to have been grown in San Marzano and harvested and packaged according to the designation (more about that later).

That seems simple enough. If the label says "San Marzano," then it must be "San Marzano D.O.P." But not so fast. 

In the United States, "D.O.P." has no meaning. U.S. domestic producers can say "San Marzano" if the seeds are from that tomato strain. So it's buyer beware. If you want a San Marzano experience in the U.S., look for "D.O.P." 

Why are San Marzano tomatoes so highly regarded?

Grown within sight of Mount Vesuvius in the Agro Sarnese-Nocerino region near Naples, the tomatoes develop their delicate flavor, sweetness and low-acidity in the rich volcanic soil, under the ever-present southern Italian sun. To receive the D.O.P designation, the tomatoes must also be handpicked, steamed, peeled and combined with sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes. 

At the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market, one enterprising farmer had identified his fresh tomatoes as "Sanmarzano." He might have found San Marzano seeds, but his Southern California tomatoes do not have the benefit of the Agro Sarnese-Nocerino terroir. 


The tomatoes are always packaged whole. If you see a label that says San Marzano "cherry tomatoes" or "diced tomatoes," that product might be of good quality but if you want a D.O.P. experience, look for that D.O.P. 

To purchase San Marzano D.O.P. products, search online. I found authentic products on Amazon, Supermarket Italy, Etaly and other online retailers and even many supermarkets like Ralph's and Von's as well as Italian shops and specialty food stores. Try Cost Plus World Market as well.

Please send me recipes and photographs when you make your delicious dishes using Pomodoro San Marzano Dell'Agro Sarmese-Nocerino D.O.P. and I will submit your recipe to enter a contest to win a gift basket of these wonderful D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes.


The tomatoes I used were provided courtesy of the Consorzio di Tutela del Pomodoro San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP and ANICAV.

San Marzano Tomatoes-Garbanzo Bean and Vegetable Soup

I knew about San Marzano tomatoes but had never cooked with them because I have used my own roasted tomatoes and tomato sauce. When I was offered several cans of San Marzano tomatoes, I was very happy. I quickly made a favorite recipe, tomato-garbanzo bean and vegetables soup. The result was excellent. The tomatoes thickened the soup and added a layer of flavor that made me a fan.

Please try my recipe and track down authentic San Marzano tomatoes D.O.P. Enjoy!


Cut all vegetables into pieces the size of a garbanzo bean.

Use homemade stock. I keep my vegetable stock in the freezer so its available whenever I want to make soup.

Serves: 4

Time to Prepare: 30 minutes

Time to Cook: 60 minutes

Ingredients

1 medium carrot, washed, peeled, ends trimmed

1 small yellow onion, washed, peeled, ends trimmed 

2 cups kale, washed, stems removed

1/2 cup corn kernels (when in season)

1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, stems removed

1/2 cup celery hearts and small leaves (celery hearts have more flavor)

1 cup broccoli florets, washed

2 cups green cabbage, preferably Savoy, ribs removed and chopped separately from leaves

6 shiitake mushrooms, washed, pat dried

1 cup canned garbanzo beans with liquid 

2 cups San Marzano tomatoes and sauce 

4 cups stock, preferably homemade

2 oz cheese rind (optional)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Season olive oil with sea salt and pepper and heat over a medium flame.

Add all vegetables except the garbanzo beans and liquid and San Marzano tomatoes and liquid.

Stir well and soften. Do not brown. 10-15 minutes.

Add garbanzo beans with liquid and stir.

Add San Marzano tomatoes and sauce and stir.

Add stock and stir.

Add cheese rind (optional).

Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasoning and continue simmering if needed.

Served hot with crusty bread and a tossed green salad

Friday, April 15, 2022

Devil Your Eggs for Easter or Anytime

After two weeks in New York City and the Jersey Shore, Spring weather was all over the place. Freezing cold, rain, sunny skies, gloomy grey skies and then gradually warming. Now I'm home in Pacific Palisades and the weather is ideal. A clear blue sky with a crispness in the air where we are close to the beach. 

For Passover and Easter, the forecast is good for fun, happy, family celebrations. For me, that's a good time to make deviled eggs, always a food-favorite at any meal.

 

What’s Easter without Easter eggs? Hide them. Roll them. And, best of all, eat them. Of the many dishes associated with Easter, deviled eggs have always been high on the list. Traditional deviled eggs are delicious but with some adventuresome spices, all those left-over hardboiled Easter eggs become devilishly delicious.

Our fingers stained blue, red and yellow, my sister and I loved dyeing and decorating Easter eggs. Ultimately our mother turned our colored eggs into deviled eggs with a simple recipe: peel and slice open the eggs, chop up the yolks, add a bit of mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper, then spoon the mixture back onto the egg white halves.

When we were kids that seemed good enough. But for my adult palate, deviled eggs needed spicing up. With experimentation, I discovered that hard-boiled eggs are a great flavor delivery system because they provide a solid, neutral base of flavor to which exciting flavors can be added.
Doing something as simple as adding cayenne or Mexican chili ancho powder gives the mild-mannered eggs a mouth-pleasing heat. Sweeten the flavor up a notch by stirring in finely chopped currants or borrow from Indian cuisine and mix in curry powder that has first been dry roasted in a sauté pan.
Turn the eggs into an entrée by mixing in freshly cooked shellfish. Grill shrimp or steam a few Dungeness crab legs, finely chop the savory meat and add to the yolk mixture. The result is elegantly flavorful.
This year I’m using a Mediterranean approach. Capers add saltiness and Italian parsley adds freshness. Finely chopped and sautéed anchovy filets are the secret ingredient that takes deviled eggs to another level.
Cut into quarters or halves, the deviled eggs make a visually arresting presentation. 
Caper and Anchovy Deviled Eggs
Always worth mentioning, using quality ingredients improves any dish. Nowhere is that more true than with deviled eggs. Use farmers market fresh eggs, quality capers preserved in brine and good anchovy filets. 
The easiest way to fill the egg white sections is with a disposable pastry bag. If one is not available, use a spoon to scoop up filling and a fork to distribute it into each egg white half.
The eggs and filling can be prepared the day before or in the morning. To keep them fresh, the eggs should not be filled until just before serving.
If desired, add a touch of heat with a pinch of cayenne. 
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Assembly time: 15 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
6 farm fresh eggs, large or extra large, washed
4 anchovy filets, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, washed, pat dried, finely chopped
1 teaspoon capers, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch cayenne (optional)
Directions
1. Submerge the eggs in an uncovered saucepan of cold water. Heat the uncovered pot on a medium-high flame. Bring to a simmer and boil five minutes. Turn off the flame, cover and leave the eggs in the hot water 10 minutes. Drain the hot water. Add cold water to cool the eggs.
2. While the eggs are cooking, heat a small sauté or nonstick frying pan over a medium flame. No need to add oil. Sauté the anchovy filets until lightly brown. Set aside.
3. Peel the eggs. Discard the shells. Wash and dry the eggs to remove any bits of shell. Using a sharp paring knife, carefully slice the eggs in half, lengthwise. Remove the yolks and place into a bowl. Set aside the egg white halves.
4. Using a fork, finely crumble the yolks. Add the Italian parsley, capers and sautéed anchovy bits. Stir together all the ingredients. Add mayonnaise and mix well until creamy.
5. Spoon the filling into a disposable pastry bag. If serving the next day or later in the morning, place the egg white halves into an air-tight container and the filled pastry bag into the refrigerator.
6. Prepare a serving dish. The deviled eggs can be served as quarters, halves or reformed as whole. If quarters, cut each halve in two lengthwise. Just before serving the eggs, cut off the tip of the pastry bag. Have a paring knife or fork in hand. Carefully squeeze a generous amount of the filling into each egg white piece. If needed, use the knife or fork to tidy up the filling on each egg. Any leftover filling should be eaten on crackers as a chef’s treat.
7. As the eggs are filled, place them on the serving dish and garnish with Italian parsley or arugula. Serve cold.
  
 
 
 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

The Super Bowl Needs Super Food

These are my favorite Super Bowl recipes. I've posted them before. I'm posting them again. Enjoy the Game.

If you've watched teams do battle all year, not knowing which teams will make it to Sunday's Super Bowl, the match-up of the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals is either your bucket-list-dream matchup or a big disappointment.

Since I live in LA, you can guess how I feel.

For the Game, I'll make favorites that can stand the test of time. Pork ribs and Vietnamese-style chicken wings. Delicious hot or room-temperature, I can serve them at half-time and any that are left will be delicious at game's end.

Kimchi Chicken Wings

Chicken wings are sold whole, the drumstick only or the two-bone part. If you prefer one part of the wing over another, buy only those. The whole chicken wing will be less expensive and the wing tips can be roasted and used to create stock.

I cut up the wings because the whole chicken wing is too difficult to eat. 


When you can, find preservative-free kimchi. I have been enjoying Mommy Boss napa cabbage kimchi. Read the label carefully because there are different kinds of kimchi, I would recommend only using cabbage kimchi without dried shrimp.

Serves 4

Time to prepare: Marinate overnight, prep 20 minutes, bake 60 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds chicken wings

1 cup kimchi, without preservatives

1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar, depending on taste

1 medium yellow onion, washed, pat dried, peeled, root and stem removed, thin sliced from root to stem

1/4 cup kimchi liquid

1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Thinly slice kimchi and mix together with onion slices, brown sugar, kimchi liquid and olive oil.

Add chicken wing parts to marinade. Mix well. Place in a covered bowl or sealed plastic bag. Refrigerate over night.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare a roasting pan. Line the bottom with aluminum foil. Because the drippings are sticky (and delicious!) I place a Silpat sheet on top of the aluminum foil so I can easily retrieve the delicious bits of caramelized onions and kimchi. Place a wire on top of the aluminum foil and Silpat sheet.


Place the chicken wings on top of the wire rack, allowing space between each part to allow for even cooking. Reserve the liquid marinade with the onions and kimchi.

Place wings into preheated oven.

While the wings are roasting, place the reserved marinade into a small sauce pan and reduce the liquid by 1/2 over a low heat.

Remove wings from the oven after 30 minutes.

Turn wings over and baste with reduced marinade, placing onion and kimchi slices on each wing.

Return to oven.

After 30 minutes, remove and check for doneness. The onions and kimchi slices should be lightly browned and beginning to crisp. The wings should be tender. If not, return to oven and continue baking. Check every 10 minutes for doneness.

Serve hot as an appetizer or on top of steamed rice. The wings are delicious at room temperature, perfect for a picnic. However they are served, have a good supply of napkins available.

Slow Roasted, Brown Sugar Pork Ribs
My mother taught me to make pork ribs with a thick coating of sauce sweetened with brown sugar and raisins. Eating those finger-licking ribs was one of my favorite childhood memories.
Everything changed on a busy research trip to Abilene and Fort Worth, when I ate at 25 restaurants in 36 hours. I fell in love with West Texas BBQ.
At restaurant after restaurant, I watched grill masters lay bundles of mesquite into their subcompact-car-sized smokers. With the heavy metal doors open, the wood crackled as flames enveloped the logs The grill masters seasoned their racks of pork ribs with thick, grainy coats of brown sugar and spices rubbed onto the meat.  Waves of dry heat radiated from the smokers. But the heat that would cook these ribs would come not from an open fire but from smoldering mesquite embers.
When the doors were closed, the blazing logs were starved of oxygen. The flames died and a delicate smoke filled the air. At that moment the grill masters loaded in the racks of ribs coated with sweetened dry rub. Hours later, the ribs were removed, their outer coating thickened to crispness, creating what grill masters call “bark.”
I loved those ribs even more than the ones from my childhood.
At home, without the benefit of a smoker, I experimented for years to duplicate that sweet-crispness. Nothing could ever recreate the wonderful mesquite smokiness but I did succeed in making ribs with bark as good as any I enjoyed in West Texas.

High heat versus slow cooking

Mix of kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar, cumin, coriander and cayenne for dry rub slow roasted pork ribs. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Mix of kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar, cumin, coriander and cayenne for dry rub slow roasted pork ribs. 

Cooking with high heat is exciting. There is great pleasure in watching the pyrotechnics of an outdoor grill as sizzling fat catches fire.  Roasting at low heat in the oven lacks that excitement.
And yet, what happens in an oven set at 250 F has its own kind of magic. In the darkness of the oven, the waves of steady heat melt the fat inside the rack, tenderizing the meat and gently fusing the dry rub to the outside of the ribs.
The best magic of all is that the oven does the work. No standing over a blazingly hot grill on a hot day. Once the oven door closes, there is nothing to be done.
Walk into the kitchen and a savory-sweet aroma scents the air. Pull the baking tray out of the oven and press a finger against the outside of the rack. The soft pliancy of the meat has been replaced by a jerky-like crust as sweet as a crème brulee topping.

Slow-Roasted, Dry-Rubbed Pork Ribs

Rack of pork ribs, trimmed. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt
Cooking time depends on the size and thickness of the rack.
Buy good quality pork. Asian and Latin markets are often a reliable source of fresh pork products. Unlike the ribs sold in upscale supermarkets, the ribs in these markets will most likely be untrimmed.
Above the actual ribs, the rack will have a top portion with boneless flap meat and a section with thick bones similar to country style ribs.  Another smaller piece of flap meat will stretch across the back of the rib bones.
Requiring only a sharp filleting knife and a few minutes, removing the flap meat and the top portion is not difficult. The flap meat is excellent to use in stir fries, slow roasted in the oven or grilled on the BBQ.
A white membrane is attached to the outside of the flap meat. Use a sharp filleting knife to separate the meat from the membrane and discard.
The flap meat and country style bones can be prepared in the same manner as the ribs.  They will cook more quickly and should be removed from the 250 F oven after a total of 2 to 3 hours depending on thickness.
While the rack of ribs does not have to be turned over, the flap meat and country style bones should be turned over after one hour for even cooking. After another hour, use kitchen shears to cut off a small piece of meat to test for doneness. Return to the oven if the meat is not yet tender.
To eat the country style ribs, have a sharp paring knife handy to help cut out those hard to reach tasty bits tucked between the bones.
The ribs can be cooked ahead and reheated. In which case, do not cut apart the ribs until ready to serve. Reheat in a 300 F oven for 15 minutes.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 6 to 8 hours
Resting time: 5 minutes
Total time: 6 hours, 35 minutes to 8 hours, 35 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
1 rack pork ribs, 4 to 5 pounds, washed, dried
3 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup cumin
¼ cup coriander
½ teaspoon cayenne (optional)
Directions
1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 250 F.
2. Select a baking pan or cookie sheet that is 2 inches longer than the rack of ribs. Cover the pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place a wire rack on top of the aluminum foil.
3. Lay the rack of ribs on a cutting board, bone side up. Use a sharp filleting knife to remove the tough membrane on the bone side of the rack. Let the knife help you lift the membrane. Use your fingers to pull the skin off the bones and discard.
4. Do not cut off any fat.
5. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
6. For easy cleanup, lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the cutting board. Place the rack on the cutting board. Layer a thick coat of the dry spices onto both sides, covering the meat and bones.
7. Reserve left-over dry rub in an air tight container and refrigerate for later use.
8. Carefully place the rack of ribs on the wire rack meat side up.
9. Put the baking sheet into the preheated oven.
10. Roast six hours. Remove from oven. Use kitchen shears to cut off a small piece and taste.
11. The outside should have a jerky-crispness. The meat inside should be moist and tender. The tapered end of the rack where the bones are small will cook faster than the rest of the ribs. Use the kitchen shears to cut off that section before returning the rack to the oven for another one-two hours. Be careful not to dry out the meat.
12. Once the ribs are cooked, remove from oven and let the meat rest five minutes.
13. Cut between the rib bones and chop into pieces any flap meat without bones. Serve hot with a green salad, Cole slaw, baked beans or freshly steamed vegetables.
 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving Essentials - Brined Roast Turkey, Corn Bread Stuffing and Mushroom Gravy

A post from several years ago with recipes for the way we prepare the turkey, stuffing and gravy. This year we bought a 20 pound organic turkey to serve 16 people. With all the appetizers, sides, salads and the salmon we're making, that should be the perfect size.

Thanksgiving was my mother's favorite holiday. She loved the chance to have her family and friends seated around the table, catching up, telling stories, and eating favorite treats.

Most of the time I do the cooking since I work at home and because we have a kitchen the size of a New York closet. Thanksgiving is my wife's day and I happily step to the side, working as a sous chef, assisting her in executing a meal that usually serves between 15-20.

Even though Thanksgiving is a lot of work, the key is organization. Writing up a menu is the first step, then a shopping list, and finally a time-line for the day before Thanksgiving and the day of the meal.

Along with those first steps, we cover the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil so clean up after the meal is easier. Cleaning out the refrigerator makes room for the turkey after we pick it up from the grocery store and so there's space for all those delicious left-overs after the meal.

Besides shopping at the grocery store we visit our local farmers' market to pick up fresh vegetables for the sides dishes: beets, sweet potatoes, lettuce, celery, carrots, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, corn, leeks, and onions.

But the most important part of the meal is the turkey and no turkey is complete without a great stuffing.

Corn Bread Stuffing with Sausages, Dried Apricots, and Pecans

Over the years my wife has developed a crowd-pleasing stuffing with a contrast of textures: soft (corn bread), spicy (sausage), chewy (dried apricots), and crunchy (pecans).

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 boxes corn bread mix
3 celery stalks, washed, ends trimmed, leaves discarded
1 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, pat dried, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 stick sweet butter
1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock
4 Italian style sweet sausages
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Make the corn bread the night before and leave the pan on the counter so the corn bread dries out. Use any cornbread mix you like. My wife uses Jiffy. It's inexpensive and tastes great. The instructions are on the box.

Saute the sausages whole in a frying pan with a little olive oil until browned, remove, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Pour off the excess fat. Add the celery, mushrooms, onion, and garlic into the pan with the stick of butter and saute. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, then add stock and summer 15 minutes.

Cut the cornbread into chunks and crumble into a large mixing bowl. Add the apricots, pecans, and the saute. Stir well and set aside until you're ready to stuff the turkey.

Roast Turkey

The most difficult part about cooking a turkey is size. Even a 15 pound turkey is larger than any roast you'll ever cook, so it's important to have somebody around to help strong-arm the turkey.

The rule of thumb about cooking time is 15-20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees but there are so many variables, you can also use a roasting thermometer and, our preferred method, jiggle-the-leg and if it almost comes off, the turkey's done.

There's a lot of talk about whether to brine or not to brine. In the Los Angeles Times, Russ Parsons argued for what he calls a "dry" brine, which means salting the turkey inside and out, then wrapping it in a sealable bag and refrigerating it for one to two days.

To prepare your turkey, in addition to the roasting pan, you'll also need pliers. I'm amazed at the work it takes to remove the heavy plastic gizmo that holds the legs neatly in place. 

Yield: 20-25 servings

Time: 7-8 hours

Ingredients

1 turkey, 23-25 pounds
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Unwrap the turkey. Remove the packet with the liver, neck, heart, and giblet. Use a pair of pliers to remove the piece of wire that holds the legs. It can be a real pain to get the wire off. Wash the turkey inside and out. Pat dry on the outside.

Reserve the liver to make a turkey chopped liver. Put the neck, heart, and giblet into a large saucepan with a lot of water, at least five inches higher than the turkey pieces. Replenish whatever water boils off. Simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat on the neck falls off if you touch it with a fork. Strain the stock and reserve to use for gravy. Pull the meat off the neck and save to make turkey soup. Use the giblets in the gravy.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

The next step is easier with a friend. Drizzle olive oil on the outside of the turkey. Using your hands spread the oil over the entire bird, front and back. Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper inside the cavity and on the outside.

To put in the stuffing, either my wife or I holds the turkey upright and steady while the other loosely packs the stuffing inside the large cavity, one handful at a time.

Use 8-12 metal skewers and kitchen string to close the large cavity. Carefully turn the turkey over so you can put stuffing into the top area. Use 6-8 skewers and string to close that cavity.

Use any kind of roasting pan. Whether you use a disposable aluminum foil pan or an expensive stainless steel roasting pan from William Sonoma, the result will be the same. The important thing to remember is the pan must be at least 2" wider than the turkey, otherwise as the bird cooks, its juices will drip onto the bottom of your stove and make a mess. To insure that the turkey browns evenly, you'll need a wire rack.

Place the turkey on the rack, breast down and put into the oven. After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.

After that, every 30 minutes, baste the turkey with the fat that drips down into the pan. If the skin starts to brown too quickly, put an aluminum tent over the top.

After 3 hours, turn the turkey over. With a large bird this is easier said than done because now the turkey is not only heavy, it's very hot.

Another set of hands is a big help here. My wife and I have choreographed this crucial moment. I lift the roasting pan with the turkey out of the oven, placing it on the cutting board. Michelle stands at the ready with a pot holder in each hand. As I lift the rack with the turkey, she removes the pan. I flip the rack with the turkey onto the cutting board, having first put a kitchen towel along the edge to prevent juices from falling to the floor.

We pour all the juices and fat from the pan into a basting bowl, scrapping off the flavor bits on the bottom of the pan to make gravy.

The rack goes back into the pan. The turkey goes onto the rack, breast side up. After a good basting, the turkey goes back in the oven, covered with an aluminum foil tent.

As the turkey continues to cook, if the wing tips and drumstick ends brown too quickly, wrap them in aluminum foil.

Continue basting every 30 minutes. When the turkey is finished, remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Carve the turkey on a cutting board, removing the wings first, then the legs, thighs, and the breasts. Either place the pieces on the platter whole, to be carved at the table, or sliced for easy serving. Open the cavities and spoon out the stuffing.

Mushroom-Giblet Gravy

While the turkey is cooking, start the gravy.

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 turkey giblet, cooked, grizzle removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, tarragon, or Italian parsley
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, finely chopped or sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups turkey stock
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Saute the giblet, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add turkey stock and the flavor bits you scraped off the roasting pan, simmer and reduce by 1/3. Taste and adjust the flavors. If too salty, add more stock and a pat of sweet (unsalted) butter.

Reheat before serving.

Turkey Stock

When you're eating Thanksgiving dinner, odds are you aren't thinking about your next meal, but I am. Admittedly, it's a bit obsessive, but before I sit down to join the dinner, all the bones and scraps go into a large pot filled with water. By the time we're clearing the table, the stock is finished.

Turkey stock is rich and flavorful. Perfect for making soups, stews, and pasta sauce, and like chicken stock, freezes beautifully.

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 1 hour
Ingredients

1 turkey carcass, skin, scraps
Water

Method

Put the carcass into a large pot. If any of stuffing makes it into the pot, all the better for flavor and richness. Cover the bones with water. Simmer 1 hour. Strain and refrigerate. Pick the meat off the bones to use in a soup or stew.

The stock keeps in the freezer for six months.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

It's Never Too Soon to Think about Thanksgiving Left-Overs - Turkey Stew with Dumplings

To make Thanksgiving a success, a time line is essential. We started one last week. We planned the menu, which meant we could put together a shopping list. After I had visited my favorite markets, Super King Market (6501 San Fernando Road, Glendale Ca 91201) and the Santa Monica Whole Foods on Montana Avenue, I had what we need to make our feast.

Included on the time line was what comes next. After Thanksgiving comes Thanksgiving left-overs, which some in our family say is the best part of Thanksgiving.

Open faced sandwiches with turkey and my homemade turkey liver pate. Turkey soup made from the stock of Thanksgiving's bones and bits. And, my favorite, dumplings and turkey stew. The absolute best comfort food. 


The basics are straightforward. Cooked turkey meat. A handful of favorite vegetables. A cup of white flour. A bit of half and half. A cube of butter. Homemade turkey stock. A few seasonings.

Simmer. Cover. Uncover. Serve. Easy and delicious.

Homemade Turkey Stock

During Thanksgiving dinner, a large stock pot sits on the back of the stove. A steady flame brings the water to a slow-boil and, as I carve, I add bits of bones, skin and the parts we don't eat into the pot. As we share a feast, passing plates around the table, refilling wine glasses and looking with excitement at the dessert table, the stock pot does it work. Water becomes turkey stock and as the slow-boil does its work, the stock thickens and becomes lusciously nourishing.

When the liquid has been reduced by half, the flame is turned off so the stock can cool. A quick pass through a colander to remove the bones and bits and we have pure turkey stock. Allowed to cool to room temperature, the stock goes into the refrigerator in 16 ounce covered containers to allow for easy refrigeration or for freezing. 

Kept in the refrigerator, the stock is good for up to four days. Stored in the freezer, the stock will retain its qualities for up to six months. One tip, when you remove the frozen stock from the freezer, take off the lid and rinse the top of the frozen stock with water to remove any ice crystals, which can add an unpleasant flavor.

Another tip, use the left over meat and skin for your pet. Our son's dog, Fig, loves chopped up turkey meat and skin added to his daily bowl of prepared food. We freeze 6 ounce containers of the left over turkey so we can chop off pieces, defrost and give him a treat during the week.

Farm-to-Table Vegetables, Turkey and Dumplings

Use a good quality organic turkey and buy farmers market produce when available. 

If you have dried whole shiitake mushrooms, use them. They add a distinctive flavor, different from the delicate flavor of thinly sliced shiitakes.

Use vegetables you love. And lots of them. English peas. Squash rounds. Kabocha chunks. Roasted sweet potatoes. Green beans. Kale. Shredded cabbage. Chopped turnips. My preference is to tilt the balance towards the fresh produce, plating great mounds of vegetables with a leg and a wing or two pieces of breast.

The dish can be covered and served the next day or divided into smaller covered containers and frozen for up to three months.


Yield: 4 servings

Time to prep: 15 minutes (if you already have turkey stock as described above) or 1 hour (including time to make turkey stock)

Time to cook: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes - 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

4 cups cooked turkey meat, cut into quarter sized pieces, no bones
1 medium yellow onion, washed, ends trimmed, outer skin removed, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 cup green beans, washed, ends removed, cut into 1" long pieces
1 cup broccoli florets, washed and cut into 1" pieces or broccoli leaves, washed, shredded
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, washed, stem end trimmed, thinly sliced or 2 cups dried whole shiitake mushrooms, washed
1/4 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
1 garlic, peeled, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup celery, washed, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2" pieces (optional)
4 cups homemade turkey stock, as described above
1 large carrot, washed, trimmed, peeled, cut into 1/2" thick rounds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne powder (optional)


Dumpling ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour, white
2 tablespoons sweet (unsalted) butter, cut into fine bits
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 scallion, washed, ends trimmed, green and white parts finely chopped or 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped (optional)
1/2-1/3 cup half and half, cream or whole milk


Directions

Turkey stock can be used when made fresh or when thawed after having been frozen, as described above.


In a mixing bowl, add flour, cut up butter, scallion (or Italian parsley), baking soda, sea salt and black pepper. Using a fork, mix well. Slowly add milk, stirring until thickened. The resulting mixture should be like thick batter. If the mixture is too runny, add a tablespoon of flour. Cover and set aside.


In a large pot, heat olive oil and sauté onions and garlic (optional) with oil until softened. Add cooked turkey and vegetables. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add turkey stock.  Stir and simmer 20 minutes.


To make the dumplings, use two soup spoons to create small rounds of dough. Drop each dumpling into the simmering liquid. Make room for each dumpling so they do not touch because they will expand as they cook. Use all the dumplings batter and cover.

Adjust the heat so the stock simmers but does not boil.

Cook 30 minutes and serve immediately. Place several dumplings into each bowl, adding a protein and a good helping of vegetables with several tablespoons of sauce.

Serve hot.

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