In this issue:
Thanks to some great media exposure, I've almost doubled my subscriber base. This is so great. I love your letters and do my best to answer each one. This month's issue of Foodstuff is a mix of old and new. Some of you may remember Tony Silk's Best Pumpkin Pie recipe from last year. Well, I've recycled it. A few other things may seem familiar to you "oldies" as well, but it's been a whole year, so you may have forgotten all this great stuff.
For many Americans, keeping the Thanksgiving tradition alive is very important. It may even be the single most important dinner of the year. For us cooks, it's a day we really get to shine! (Isn't 'shine' a happy, positive word compared with 'work'?) The success of the Thanksgiving feast depends a great deal on organization and preparation. Make lists and do as much as you can in advance. (Carving the turkey, finishing the gravy, and serving the meal is enough to do at the last minute. Remember, because Thanksgiving is a time for us to really enjoy some time away from work, the more prepared you are, the more fun you, the cook, will have. More about this below.
CROOK & CHASE
My Crook & Chase appearance date is Tuesday, November 10th on The Nashville Network (TNN). Crook & Chase is shown twice a day, so if you miss the live show, you can tune in the following morning and watch. And if anything wild happens, you might even see it on Talk Soup! (I should be so lucky!) Of course I'll be showing how easy it is to make crème brulee.
I LOVE CHICAGO PIZZA
I love it so much, I'm going back for more. Please check out the webpage (www.cremebrulee.com) for book signing times and locations in the Chicago area next week.
El Pollo Loco is known for great chicken, but did you know about the smoky black beans? They're smooth and creamy, sweetened with molasses, spicy with chiles and smoky from ham. I'm not sure I have ever tasted beans as good as these. Prices vary according to location but start at 99 cents for a 6-ounce container and $2 for a pint. Try them, and let me know what you think.
NEWSLETTER FIND OF THE MONTH
The purpose of The Frugal Life is to assist those that have a passion for keeping what they have and learning how to live well with less. Learn how to retire early, live on one income, cook at home and do almost anything with your current possessions. A free newsletter is provided bi- monthly. (www.thefrugallife.com)
THE ULTIMATE BROTH
Save those bones! The best turkey broth, which may be frozen and used in many recipes for months, is well worth the time and effort to make yourself. By controlling the ingredients, you reduce sodium and fat often found in commercial broths. Use the stock when cooking rice, or as a base for soup, stews and casseroles.
Browning the turkey bones is one of the secrets of extra-tasty broth. Use a disposable pan for convenience and tossing later. If there is a little meat left on the bones, all the better. Cut or break the carcass into pieces, small enough to fit into a roasting pan (use the large foil ones). Add an onion or two, cut in half, a few celery ribs, and a couple of carrots washed but not necessarily peeled. Drizzle lightly with oil (peanut oil if permitted for you, otherwise omit this step). Place the pan with the bones into a pre-heated 350-degree oven, and bake for about half an hour.
Remove from the oven, pour off the fat, and place all ingredients into a large stockpot. Add cold water to just cover the ingredients. For flavoring, use fresh parsley stems (save the actual greenery for garnish), a bay leaf, and a clove of garlic. No salt and pepper at this stage, however.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Skim any foam off the top of the liquid. Simmer at least two hours. Let cool, and strain the stock.
CREAMY TURKEY SOUP
2 quarts homemade turkey stock
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
2 large onions, cut into cubes
2 leeks, washed well, cut into sections. Reserve last inch of white, and cut into fine rings
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup sliced carrots
sprig or two of fresh thyme, or pinch dried (fresh is best)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley
squirt of fresh lemon juice if desired
*cooked turkey, cut into cubes
Bring turkey broth to a boil in a soup kettle. Add all ingredients except the white rings of the leeks and parsley. Simmer until potatoes are very soft, about 30 minutes. Finish one of two ways: Process in blender or processor until smooth. Or, mash the solids with the back of a spoon in the kettle and then whisk. Add the rings of leeks and parsley, bring to a simmer, and cook 2 minutes. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper, a squirt of fresh lemon juice helps brighten flavors.
*To make a heartier soup, add cubes of cooked turkey after mashing the vegetables, and heat through.
THE BEST DARNED PUMPKIN PIE YOU'VE EVER HAD
By Tony Silk
1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 vegetable shortening
In a food processor with the steel blade, place the flour, salt and shortening. Mix, using on/off pulses, for about 30 seconds. There should be no big clumps of shortening when you are done, but you aren't trying to make it look like icing either. It should be "crumby. "
Add 2 tablespoons water and pulse for another 10 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon water and pulse for another 5 seconds. The mixture may look a little dry, especially if some of the water is on the bottom. You can add a few more drops if you are unsure, but be very careful.
Dump the whole mess onto a working surface (your workbench is NOT a good choice) and gather it up into a ball. You may need to knead it a little to distribute the water evenly. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
1 1/2 C. pumpkin
3/4 C. sugar
1/4 C. water
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 1/2 C. heavy (whipping) cream
Mix the pumpkin and the eggs together (preferably in some sort of mixing bowl). Add the sugar, water, and spices and blend well. Add the cream and stir until completely mixed.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER:
Preheat (or just heat, if you are so inclined your oven to 425° F. Take out the crust and roll it out on a well-floured board. Use it to line a 9" pie plate. Pour the pumpkin mixture in (it will rise a little, so don't fill it to the rim). Place it in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 300° F and bake for another 45 minutes or so. Don't open every 10 minutes to check on it. It is difficult to over-bake this pie. You can tell it's done when a knife inserted near the center comes out clean (it may look a little oily and have tiny bits of pumpkin on it, but that's all right). Take it out of the oven and place it on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.
1 C. heavy whipping cream
4 t. sugar
1 t. vanilla
In a cold bowl (like a metal bowl that you've left in the freezer for a while) whip the ingredients together until stiff. Be careful, if you whip too long you will have butter. Take a heaping spoon (and I'll leave it up to you to use a teaspoon, tablespoon, or ladle) and place it on a slice of pie.
FAQ's ABOUT TURKEY
HOW MUCH SHOULD MY TURKEY WEIGH?
If your turkey weighs less than 12 pounds, plan to purchase 1 pound per person. If your turkey weighs more than 12 pounds, you will only need 3/4 pound for each guest.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO THAW A TURKEY?
The easiest and safest way to thaw a turkey is to place the wrapped bird on a tray in the refrigerator. Plan about 24 hours for each 5 pounds of the bird's weight. Remember not to count the day you will be roasting it. Turkey should never be thawed at room temperature.
FRESH OR FROZEN
It's trendy to buy fresh turkeys. Like most anything else, fresh has more flavor, and if you can spare the extra time and money, it is the best way to go. But with our busy lifestyles, and our budgets, buying a frozen turkey seems like a wise choice. It's something you can do weeks in advance, and it's one less thing to do the day before. So if you do buy frozen, don't feel guilty!
I NEED MY TURKEY TODAY, AND IT'S NOT COMPLETELY THAWED. WHAT CAN I DO?
Place the plastic-wrapped turkey, breast side down, in a sink of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes.
ONCE MY TURKEY IS COMPLETELY THAWED, HOW LONG CAN I KEEP IT IN THE REFRIGERATOR BEFORE ROASTING?
A thawed whole turkey will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.
HOW CAN I GET A BEAUTIFUL GOLDEN BROWN TURKEY WITHOUT DRYING OUT THE BREAST MEAT?
Tent the turkey loosely with foil to delay browning of the breast. The foil should be removed during the last 30 to 45 minutes to allow the turkey to brown. Tenting for the entire roasting time can actually slow cooking. Another method, tried and true, was sent to me recently and it's worth sharing. "I am usually very successful with this, so here's my two cents, if you are interested in one more method. What I do, is roast it upside down (uncovered, basting every so often with chicken fat, which adds flavor and keeps the skin from tearing or cooking too fast) so the juices from the dark meat moisten and flavor the white. When it's browned nicely, I turn it over and let it finish roasting, breast side up, so it comes out browned on both sides. I season it the night before inside and out, with (kosher) salt, pepper, paprika and garlic mixture, held on by chicken fat, and am VERY careful to never break the skin anywhere- helps for major moistness. I've been doing it this way for years and it always comes out very good and moist. I use Butterball and never roast it for as long as they suggest."
DO I NEED TO BASTE A TURKEY WHILE IT'S COOKING?
Basting today's turkeys is not necessary. More importantly, basting tools, such as brushes and bulb basters, could actually be sources of bacteria contamination if dipped into uncooked or undercooked poultry juices, then allowed to sit at room temperature and used later for basting.
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY TURKEY IS DONE? CAN I TRUST THE POP-UP TIMER THAT COMES WITH THE BIRD?
Temperature should be your guide to doneness. You can use the pop-up timer as an aid, but to be sure that the turkey reaches a safe temperature, always use a thermometer. The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest portion of the turkey, but be sure it does not touch bone or the pan. Use either a meat thermometer which can be inserted at the beginning of the cooking time or an instant-read thermometer. Instant-read thermometers are not designed to stay in food during cooking.
HOW CAN I BE SURE MY THERMOMETER IS ACCURATE?
Submerge 2 inches of the thermometer stem in boiling water. It should read 212° F. If the thermometer registers above or below 212° F., add or subtract the same number of degrees from the temperature specified in the recipe and cook to that temperature. (This only works if you're at sea level. Water boils at a lower temperature the higher you are.)
WHY DO RECIPES SAY TO LET A ROASTED TURKEY STAND 15 TO 20 MINUTES BEFORE CARVING?
Standing lets the flesh of the bird firm up, allowing the carved slices to hold together better.
HOW DO I SKIM FAT FROM THE PAN DRIPPINGS?
Place the drippings in a measuring cup or similar container. Tip the container and use a metal spoon to remove the oily liquid (fat) that rises to the top. You can also buy fat separators in most cooking supply stores. Williams-Sonoma sells the Catamount Fat Separator. It quickly separates meat juices from fat with a cleverly designed glass cup. The fat in pan juices rises to the top, so its low spout pours off only the good juices. It's made from laboratory glass and is safe on the stovetop
I'VE HEARD THAT ROASTING TURKEY IN A PAPER GROCERY BAG IS REALLY EASY AND DELICIOUS. IS IT SAFE TO ROAST TURKEY THIS WAY?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, the glue and ink on brown bags are not intended for use as cooking materials and may give off harmful fumes. In addition, brown bags are usually made from recycled materials and are not sanitary.
CAN I ROAST A TURKEY OVERNIGHT IN AN OVEN SET AT A LOW TEMPERATURE?
No. Roasting a turkey at a temperature below 325°F. allows harmful bacteria to multiply. These bacteria, which can cause food poisoning, may be present in raw turkey. Fortunately, they are easily destroyed with proper cooking techniques. Roasting the turkey at 325° F. kills the bacteria yet produces meat that is moist and tender.
HELP! I'VE BEEN ASKED TO BRING THE COOKED TURKEY TO A POTLUCK. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO DO THIS?
The best way is to roast the bird unstuffed; carve the meat off the carcass, cover and chill thoroughly. To reheat at the potluck, place sliced turkey in an oven-safe baking dish, add about 1/2 cup water, cover with foil, and heat in a 350° F. oven about 30 to 45 minutes or till well heated through
I HAVE LOTS OF TURKEY AND STUFFING LEFT OVER. WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?
Before carving your turkey, be sure to remove all stuffing. The leftover stuffing can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. After dinner remove all meat from the carcass (this should be done within 2 hours of the turkey's removal from oven). Leftover turkey can be refrigerated and used within 2 days, or frozen in small portions. Be sure to label and date the wrapped packages and use within 6 months. Leftover turkey can be used in any recipe calling for cooked chicken or turkey. Stuffing must be heated to at least 160°F.
HOW LONG CAN I KEEP LEFTOVER GRAVY?
Leftover gravy should be kept no longer than 2 days. Always bring leftover gravy to a full boil before serving.
HOW TO BE A GOOD GUEST
Arrive no earlier than the time the host has announced and no later than half an hour after the time. Plan to stay about an hour after dinner unless travel plans or sleepy children necessitate leaving earlier. Bring a gift, (but if it's a food or wine gift, clear it with the hostess first, just to be safe) and write a note of thanks afterward. Offer to help set the table for dinner and to clean up afterward.
Tell the host ahead of time if you have special dietary needs--for example, if you are a vegetarian, a diabetic, or allergic to common foods. Tell the host how to prepare a dish you can eat or, even better, offer to bring that dish yourself. If you're going to a potluck Thanksgiving, bring a serving dish and serving utensils with your contribution. Remember, the best potluck dishes are those that need minimal preparation in the host's kitchen, can be served at room temperature, and require only a fork to eat.
*Go buffet. There's a whole lot less to do when you don't have to worry about a sit-down dinner. Fresh flowers and candles will help create a very elegant look. One neat trick I learned at the photo session for my cookbook was to use all different heights and elevations. Cover shoe or hat boxes with pretty and festive fabrics to create a melange of food all over the table. It really looks great. Keep things like hot rolls, and salt and pepper on the dining table. Use a roasting rack for your Thanksgiving Day turkey. A roasting rack allows the turkey to roast evenly and develop a crispy exterior, and prevents it from simmering in the fat and juices. A rack also enables the juices to drop into the bottom of the pan, forming the base for a rich gravy.
*One of the most important things you can do to safeguard your family and friends against the possibility of food poisoning, is to make sure your turkey and stuffing reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
*Cut all the meat away from the bones before storing leftovers. Never refrigerate a whole bird and try to reheat it a day later! Refrigerate turkey leftovers as quickly as possible, but in any event, do not let them sit on the dinner table at room temperature longer than two hours.
*As a general rule, turkey, gravy and stuffing should be refrigerated separately. Use shallow lidded containers for quick cooling. How cold should your refrigerator be? Just above the temperature at which lettuce freezes, or below 40 degrees.
*Refrigerated turkey leftovers (meat only, cut off the bones) should be used within 3 to 4 days. Stuffing and gravy should be used within 2 days. Dishes made from cooked turkey should be used or frozen within 3 to 4 days.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and ENJOY!