Friday, November 25, 2011

After Thanksgiving

Hope everyone had a good dinner, turkey or not. I was just going to chill out this four day weekend but decided to go the turkey route on a whim. My son's wistful questioning of whether we will be having turkey was the catalyst. This time we went with a fresh turkey (diestel heidi) from Whole Foods. Whether it is the 'natural' part or PW's brine, the meat was much flavorful and tasted almost like chicken this time! Almost is the word. Another family brought their turkey and my son proved the point by going for seconds on ours:-))) Their gravy was way better than mine though...I am not going to write the whole turkey process again here but will add some notes. I see these notes are helping me to repeat the good results.

Basted the turkey with canola oil instead of butter and kept the windows open so going to 500F did not activate the smoke alarm. Next time I will bast a little more conservatively or use canola butter as the skin got a little more charred than desired. Inserting the thermometer after the 500 F step and poking until I found a reading in the breast area which was closer to 100F helped. I think another meter for the thighs may be needed for a larger turkey. It was a thirteen pounder this time. Alton Brown's video is good as always. I'll note down PW's brine recipe here with small changes I made since it was a last minute decision to go with it. I also used a new gravy recipe which, while better than my last one is still not there yet. It is not the recipe's fault methinks. I just need to try small adjustments until we find our own taste because the better gravy from our friends followed similar steps as my last try. They also added chilies while cooking and removed after wards. Having a fat separator for next time may be a good idea.

One thing about the meat thermometer you can do if you don't use it more than once or twice a year  is to take the battery out when you store it so it will not get damaged. We had loved the stuffing from last year and it came through again. Bought some sliced brioche loaves which went amazingly well with the turkey dinner! PW's mashed potato is as awesome as it was last time.  Our cranberry sauce came out as good as last time as well. A colleague talked about a tandoori turkey recipe that they used which came out good. I might try that next time (need not be next year) and will let you know if I do. Everyone got busy eating and so didn't get much time to take more pictures. The split Turk was all I could manage:-)

Turkey Brine (from PW)
In The Mix
turkey - 1 washed, pat dried and emptied of neck and giblets (13 lbs is what we had this time)
kosher salt - 1 1/2 cups
brown sugar - 2 cups
vegetable stock - 2 quartz
water - 2 quartz
fresh squeezed orange juice - from 1 orange
garlic - 1 cloves, crushed and minced
dried bay leaves -4 to 5
rosemary - 2 to 3 sprigs
orange peel - from 2 tangerines ( this is an awesome ingredient for the brine)

ice - 30 cubes
water - 1 gallon

How To Do
Boil all ingredients except the 1 gallon of water and ice in a large pan and completely cool down.  Pour into brining bag placed in a 5 gal. bucket. Add the 1 gallon of water and half the ice. Put the turkey breast-first into the brine and add the rest of the ice. Zip up the brining bag and place all in the refrigerator. Add weights if the bird floats up. Take out and completely wash in cold water after about 16 hours.

This Year's Gravy (from
In The Mix
vegetable oil - 1 tbsp
turkey necks - 2 cut into 2-3 pieces ( got an extra neck from the meat dept. as there were no wings)
red onion - 1 large diced
carrots - 2 large, cut into 4 pieces
celery - 2 stalks, cut into 4 pieces
garlic - 2 cloves sliced in half
dry white wine - 1/2 cup
chicken broth - 4 1/2 cups ( my gravy got too thick and so i added more)
dried thyme - 1/4 tsp
all purpose flour - 1/2 cup
water - 3 cups

How To Do
In a stir fry pan, heat oil and shallow fry the turkey pieces for 10-15 minutes until they turn color.
Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic and cook for another 10 minutes till veggies and turkey get browned. Move all to a large bowl.

Add wine to the pan, stir to loosen brown bits, and put turkey and veggies back. Add water, thyme, broth and boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. The stock is extremely tasty at this point. I wanted to give up the gravy idea and just wanted to keep it as a soup instead!

Things didn't go as smooth once I added the flour because the meat I had didn't have enough fat. I added the flour without thinking about it which made clumps and took a few sieves to clean-up. I am just getting the hang of it. With two gravy experiences under my belt I might be luckier next time making it more tasty...
Anyway once done simmering, strain into a fat separator or measuring cup and let the liquid sit for a few minutes. Once fat gathers at the top, skim it to get a 1/4 cup and discard remaining fat if any. Add this to the pan and add the flour slowly. Maybe a fresh pan may not have clumped the mixture. Fry the flour mix till golden brown and add the strained gravy. Mix well, let boil and reduce to gravy consistency. Once cooled it is ready to go with the meal or into the refrigerator to be heated when needed.  I had to add more broth when I took it our for reheating since it had gotten too thick.

Once all got done, the house was cleaned up and we got  time to rest a little and enjoy the view before guests arrived. Just forgot to click more pictures at this time..... Baking the bird is lots of fun and I love how the house feels when all of this is going on along with H and the kiddos. Until next time then and no, I didn't go shopping today. I am waiting until those shoes I want go on sale. I'll take a pair in the dark brown please:-)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Banana Nut Bread

Holidays are kicked off here at home with Halloween. I am just about now finished with my job of identifying and eliminating candy wrappers stashed in unknown locations. My girl the sweet connoisseur has found her home in this celebration of candies. This year the kiddos mixed and matched available stuff to become a fashionable bunny and Harry Potter cum Death Eater.

Bananas are one thing we keep eating and it's gotten out of hand lately since now my husband (H) has totally joined the banana bandwagon. He finds it the best kind of snack in the current state of affairs. Luckily H does not take much shine to the baby bananas that I adore. Plantains (nenthrapazham) are more his thing. This week we had a bunch too many of the regular Chiquita bananas and some of them got overripe. I cannot eat an overripe banana if my life depended on it. I like'em just ripe. Any black spots and they are off my edible food chart. H loves them in this stage but he can only do so much by himself. Enter banana nut bread! I have made it before for my cake-in-a-jar attempts but that was a while ago. Searched and found this recipe at which had hundreds of reviews and several suggestions. I followed most of those and got a here-this-minute-gone-the-next kind of recipe! You can assume that I had to struggle to get even this last piece to take a picture! Kick off your holiday season with this very comforting bread. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Happy Thanksgiving!

In The Mix
white sugar - 1 1/2 cups (add 1/2 cup more if you prefer it more sweet)
brown sugar - 2 cups
shortening - 1 cup
eggs - 3
ripe bananas - 2 mashed (over ripe gives the best results)
all purpose flour - 3 cups
buttermilk - 1 1/4 cups
baking soda - 1 1/2 tsp
baking powder - 1 1/2 tsp
vanilla extract - 1 tsp
chopped walnuts - 1/2 cup or less (optional )

How To Do
Preheat oven to 350 F.

Take the sugars and shortening in a bowl and beat for 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and beat well after each. Instead of mashing beforehand I just added the bananas at this time in small pieces and gave it a good beat to mix it all together. This won't work if the bananas are not over ripe. Then you do have to mash. Add buttermilk and vanilla and use a whisk from this point to combine. Add in flour, baking powder and soda. Stir in nuts now. I didn't because none of us like nuts in the soft texture. I liked one idea that said to sprinkle some on the top of the bread along with sugar to give it a twist. Didn't try it this time though. Pour the batter into 2 greased 9x5 inch pans. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a fork inserted into the middle returns clean.

Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes. Dump out onto a platter and try to get at least one piece before all that soft moist goodness disappears while you watch!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Meat Ball Curry

"What in the world?" you might say. Could it be that our recently turned health advocate is posting this obviously loaded recipe, trying to pass it off as healthy? I get it, I get it. Still, what I am about to tell you just might boggle the mind. Or not!  as my son says to most anything lately:-) By the way, middle school can be tricky and I am glad he is managing well so far.

There is no concrete evidence, but based on the different cuisines I have tried after coming here I would say the Indian curry evolved into its current state through a path that is more medicinal than culinary. If we search long enough there should be many articles attesting to this. Who else in their right mind would dig for a turmeric or ginger root under the ground, then clean, dry and pulverize it just to put a 1/4 tsp or so into what you are cooking unless it's been prescribed as necessary? In most other cuisines the main food itself is the star. Its taste not made obsolete by the presence of overpowering spices. When done in moderation even outsiders will be able to enjoy Indian food. When we go out for lunch from work no one votes for Indian food. The consensus is that the food is so heavy that once you have it you have to go home to sleep instead of going back to work:-) It is slowly changing with all the new awareness on Indian food here through blogs and cooking shows. Those who grew up on Indian food don't really realize this comparative heaviness because from childhood our tastebuds and psyche have been conditioned to acknowledge these flavors as "the food".  The whole enchilada of Indian cooking with spices must have originated from the rich and ancient ayruvedic/medicinal traditions that India has which first trickled into and later flooded mainstream cooking. I can proselytize all I want but when the taste bud is looking for authentic Indian taste it will not bow down to the milder versions that easily.

So how does this help? Since I have established that it is medicinal rather than culinary, spicy really means healthy and therefore good for you:-) Good. eh? It is the chili, oil and salt that you need to be careful about and everything else is fair game unless you have specific allergies. So when my son's friend's Mom from Tamilnadu talked about her awesome meatball curry I didn't have to put the thought aside with regret because of this enlightenment.. This meatball curry also appears in a cookbook (Veettammakkoru Kaithoozhi)  by Sr. Dolores Kannampuzha that my HMom had sent long ago. I followed my friend's recipe as well as the book to get where we are. The red meat in question falls into the eat in moderation category and keeping it there is what enabled us to go for this with glee.

In The Mix

For The Meatballs
ground beef - 1 lb.
red onion - 1 medium sized
ginger - 1 " piece
green chili - 5
cinnammon, cardamom, cloves powder mixed in equal measures  - 1/2 tsp
egg - 1
bread crumbs - little less than 1/2 cup

For the Gravy

medium red onion - 1 sliced
ginger - 1" piece sliced thin
green chili  sliced in rounds - 2 or more as needed
curry leaves - 1 sprig
coriander powder - 4 to 5 tbsp
turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp (what did i say?)
black pepper powder - 1 tsptomato - 1 medium diced
potatoes - 1 big cubed small
coconut milk - 1 cup from can diluted with 1.5 to 2 cups of water
warm milk - 3/4 cup
salt - as needed (1 tsp is all it took!)

 How To do
Chop the ginger, chili and onion for meatball finely in a chopper or by hand. Add to the ground meat in a bowl. Break the egg into this and mix all together. Add in the powders,  bread crumbs, salt and combine. Now roll into small balls the size of gooseberries and keep aside.

For the gravy, heat oil in a pan and add onion, ginger, green chili, curry leaves and saute well. Add curry  powders and 1/4 cup water to mix all together. Add diced tomatoes and saute for a while. Now add potatoes and saute together in medium to low heat.

Once the aroma starts rising add diluted coconut milk and salt as needed. Remember to be done with all your stirring needs by now as we don't want to upset the applecart once those delicate balls are added. Add more hot water at this stage if needed and boil everything. Once you are ready for the deed and identified enough space in the gravy to add meatball, start doing just that. Add the balls gently and one by one. If you need to combine the balls don't use a spoon. Rotate the pan on its handles as needed. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until meat balls and potatoes are cooked. Now add the warm milk and gently boil before removing from heat. Of course give it a small whirl to get all mixed up well. Pour over hot soft rice and dig in! I haven't tried it but it must be good company for our Appam. Hmm..  Yum..Maybe next time.