Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Easy Thanksgiving Turkey



My family celebrated Thanksgiving a few days early this year because I have to work this holiday.  We also didn’t want Aiden to miss out on his first Thanksgiving meal. He couldn’t quite chomp down on a turkey leg yet but he certainly gobbled up some shredded turkey meat.  Maybe next year he’ll have enough teeth to go for a whole leg. 




When I’m busy juggling the main dish with anywhere from three to four side dishes and dessert, I like to keep things simple and make them as foolproof as possible.  I used the same turkey recipe that I have been using for years-- a rosemary-butter stuffed turkey.  I like to enhance the flavor of the turkey without overwhelming it with too many spices or herbs.  With both the butter and olive oil and frequent basting, the meat turned out succulent and tender.  The usual accompaniments were gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta, roasted acorn squash, and roasted butternut squash with balsamic honey.  


Everything was gone except for the turkey carcass and a few pieces of meat enough for a sandwich.  It’s exhausting to spend the whole day cooking but incredibly satisfying to see everything gobbled up in less than an hour.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  






Roasted Rosemary Turkey


20 lb turkey (neck, heart, and gizzard reserved for gravy)

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup fresh rosemary leaves plus 4 sprigs

2 tbsps salt

½ tbsps pepper

1/3 cup olive oil

1 orange (halved)



1. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator before roasting, clean, and pat dry.  Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.

2. With a spoon, mash the rosemary and butter together until well combined.

3. Use a knife to gently loosen the turkey’s skin.  Stuff the mixed rosemary and butter evenly underneath the skin.

4. Combine the olive oil, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Brush the entire turkey with the mixture.

5. Fill the cavity with the orange halves and rosemary sprigs.

6. Place turkey in a roasting pan, breast up, and roast for 4 hours.  Baste every 45-60 minutes so the skin will not dry out.

7. Flip the turkey at 1.5 hrs so it can cook evenly, and flip it again at 3 hrs.  After the second flip, place a large piece of aluminum foil over the breast to prevent it from burning.

8. Roast the turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh reads 170˚ F and and juices in the thigh run clear when pierced with a fork.  

9. Transfer the turkey to a platter. Tent it very loosely with aluminum foil, and let it rest for at least 45 minutes before serving.



Turkey Gravy


Neck, heart, and gizzard

1 cup of chicken stock

2 cups of water

½ stick of butter

¼ cup of all purpose flour

½ cup of pan juice from turkey drippings

Salt and pepper to taste



1. Remove neck and giblets and put into a large saucepan.

2. Add chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat and let simmer until reduced to about 2 cups.  Strain and reserve.

3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk flour over medium heat for 5 minutes. 
4.Add the reserved turkey stock and pan juice and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and let simmer until thickened and ready to serve.  Season, to taste.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Crack Coffee



You’re probably wondering what the heck is crack coffee?  “Cafe sua da” or Vietnamese iced coffee of course!  My friends and I call it crack coffee because it’s quite addictive.  


At our house, cafe sua da is an integral part of our morning ritual.  Both my husband and mom can’t live without it.  And one cup is never enough.  Growing up in Vietnam, I remember going to the supermarket with my mom and we couldn’t take a few steps without seeing another “quan cafe” or coffee shop.  Men congregate at the coffee shops as early as 5 A.M., getting their morning fix and enjoying a game of chess before starting their busy day.  


Although the French colonists introduced coffee to Vietnam in the mid 19th century, Vietnam has become one of the leading coffee exporters in the world.  Vietnamese are quite proud of their coffee and cafe sua da has become a quintessential drink of Vietnam.  Coffee is both a social and cultural part of Vietnamese life.  If you get a chance to travel to Vietnam, take in the cafe scene in Saigon.  It’s quite an experience.  Cafes cover every corner of the city  in the form of casual street stalls and rooftop patios to independent coffee houses.  No longer are the men dominating the cafe scene but University students, both guys and gals have integrated this into their daily ritual.  They drink coffee as a mean to catch up with friends and hang out.  


At its purest from, “cafe sua da” is made with Vietnamese dark roast coffee individually brewed with a “ca phe phin” or small metal drip filter.  At our house, we prefer Cafe Du Monde with chicory and Trung Nguyen premium blend.  The coffee slowly drips into a cup containing condensed milk, then stirred and ice added.  No sugar.  No cream.  Although most drink it with condensed milk, a small group prefers Ca Phe Chon, also known as civet coffee beans, at an outrageous price of $700 per kilogram.  Personally, I don’t prefer my coffee coming from an animal’s other end no matter how good it is.  My aunts who recently vacationed in Hanoi told me  that Hanoi people prefer their cafe sua da with a dollop of yoghurt or cafe sua chua.  We can’t wait to try this variation!  For now, we’ll share with you our recipe for cafe sua da.  Enjoy!




Cafe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee)

2 ½ to 3 tbsps Vietnamese coffee (Cafe Du Monde with chicory)
2 tbsps condensed milk to taste
½ cup of boiling water
ice

1. Pour condensed milk into a small glass.
2. Remove lid and metal screen from coffee filter.  Add coffee.  Gently twist screen back on until it stops.  Don’t push screen all the way down or it will take longer for coffee to drip, unless you prefer a strong brew.
3. Place filter over the glass and add boiling water.  Place lid back on filter.
4. Let coffee drip for 5 minutes or until all the liquid has drained from filter.  If coffee stops dripping sooner, gently loosen the filter to relieve pressure.
5. Once coffee has finished dripping, remove filter.  Mix coffee and condensed milk together with a spoon.
6. Add ice, stir, and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Beets Harvest


My dad planted these beets at the end of March and they started to peek out of the soil a few days ago.  Everyone in the family was excited to see these little gems.  


We grew three varieties--chioggia, touchstone gold, and red ace.  The touchstone gold beets were sowed later so they haven’t peeked out of the soil yet.  In case you wonder where we got the seeds from, High Mowing Seeds is our favorite source for organic seeds.  


The beets and the young beet greens went into different types of salad while the larger beet greens were sauteed with garlic.  


These small beets were tender and full of flavor unlike supermarket beets that are larger but woody and unpleasantly starchy.  We can’t wait to harvest the rest!  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cookbook Review: Relae a Book of Ideas


Wow!  What an incredible cookbook!  I was expecting something similar to NOMA, North, or A New Napa Cuisine and it was not.  I was thoroughly impressed with how well written and refreshing it is.  In a market saturated with restaurant cookbooks that are recipes driven, chef Puglisi defied the norm and created a cookbook meant to inspire today’s as well as tomorrow’s chefs and home cooks.


I enjoyed reading about his perseverance to open Relae on a run-down stretch of one of Copenhagen’s most crime-ridden streets, Jægersborggade.  It was an eye-opening experience to read about his journey as a chef and restaurateur whose main goal was to bring impeccable, intelligent, sustainable, and plant-centric food to a homey atmosphere instead of the pretentious conventional fine dining restaurants with 4 hour tasting menus.   


Through a series of essays, he showed us the creative process behind his work and ideas that ground his kitchen.  He wrote about everything from products and producers, benefit of filtered water vs tap, creating different textures, ingredients (ie.  jerusalem artichokes, buttermilk, butter, chicken, elderflower, crab apple, anchovies, coastal fish, etc), techniques (ie. fermentation, pickling, cooking in butter emulsion, making nut milks,etc), combining different flavors, leaf to steam cooking, and so much more.  At the bottom of each topic that chef Puglisis wrote about, he puts the recipes and page numbers related to the topic.  He wanted the readers to comprehend the ideas behind the dishes served at his restaurant and how connected they are to carrying the dish through.  

After a series of essays about ideas, chef Puglisis presented the dishes served at the restaurant and the inspiration behind those dishes.  The dish is accompanied by a picture so readers can see what the final product looks like.  The essay about the dish and picture don't have the ingredient list and instruction.  The actual recipes are in the appendix section at the end of the book.  Every recipe is accompanied with a thumbnail of the dish so you don’t have to flip back and forth between the essays about the dish and the recipes themselves.  I doubt that I will try to replicate his recipes due to difficulty in sourcing ingredients.  However, I will adapt some of the techniques that he wrote about such as using reduced wine to enhance the acidity of a dish.  The man is literally giving out his restaurant’s secrets!   
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This book is a labor of love for chef Puglisi.  Instead of writing a cookbook full of recipes, he focused on inspiring people to cook the way that his own philosophy is rooted in.  This cookbook is a book of ideas and different than any conventional cookbooks that I have seen.  This book will inspire you for years to come. I hope chef Puglisi wins an award for this cookbook.

*I received this book to review complementary of Bloggingforbooks 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cookbook Review: A Kitchen in France a Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse


I first discovered Mimi's blog, Manger, about a year ago when I was searching for a cherry clafoutis recipe. Ever since, I have been a faithful follower and couldn't be more excited when she announced that her book was coming soon. If you're a follower of the blog, you'll see her seasonal, unfussy approach to French home cooking reflected in this book.

At first glance, I was afraid most of the recipes were a little more involved since I had limited experience with French cooking. Having made some dishes from her blog before, I decided to peruse the book a few times before marking recipes that I was ready to take on. So far, I have made these dishes:

crepes with salted butter caramel (simple but delicious, you don't need a crepe pan)
fava bean soup (I'll skip the mint next time)
roast chicken with creme fraiche (amazing, I found that rubbing salt and pepper on the chicken first before rubbing the creme fraiche gave me better result, pair it with roasted potato for a complete meal)
pan-seared chicken breast with spring onions (I wasn't too excited about this one, kind of bland compared to her other chicken dishes)
tomato tart (if you're short on time, use store-bought crust. The crust got a little soggy so make sure to add extra flour at the bottom to absorb liquid from tomato)
mustard roasted poussins (I used chicken thigh. It's becoming one of my favorite chicken recipes.)
butternut gratin (a new recipe for butternut squash, will definitely make this again for Thanksgiving or Christmas)

All of the recipes that I have tried so far are are well written and not too complicated for a home cook like myself.

I would love to try these recipes in the future: coq au vin, duck confit parmentier, aniseseed sweetbreads with glazed turnips, bouillabaisse, pistacho sabayon with strawberries and meringues, seared foie gras with grapes and figs, pork cheek raviolis with cepes, calvados and creme fraiche apple tart (would make a great dessert for Thanksgiving or Christmas), garden cake (when berries are in season again), coffee cream puffs, chestnut veloute, salted butter creme caramel, and chestnut ice cream.

Other recipes that seem interesting but probably unrealistic for me to hunt down the ingredients would be black locust flower fritters (wouldn't even know where to get these), calves's liver a la bordelaise (need a good butcher shop), and escargots a la bordelaise.

This is a wonderful collection of well written recipes from Mimi's kitchen. I truly enjoyed her stories of food, people, and life in the French countryside. Her husband's beautiful photography not only augmented her stories but transported me to Medoc. What makes her even more likeable is her embracement of her Chinese heritage and desire to introduce that to her children. The end of the book features a few recipes that she makes annually for Chinese New Year which I will definitely try since I haven't made anything similar except for wonton soup.

My only gripe is thirty percent of the recipes in the book are found on her blog so this book gets 4 stars instead of 5 for the review--something to consider before buying this book. Overall this is a wonderful book for cooks who love French home cooking. This book is inviting, comforting, and full of soul. I was truly inspired to get into the kitchen and start cooking more French dishes.