Happy New Year

January 15, 2016

I know that I am a little late with my annual summary of favorite recipes; but I was traveling in Colombia and I was not able to really write much of anything while I was away. I hope to publish my travel posts, and additionally, I have about 5 new recipes that I need to publish. Hopefully I will be able to catch-up this week.

Best meal of the 2015.

Best meal of the 2015.


My top 5 recipes for 2015 were:

  1. Pot-Au-Feu. This was an amazing meal. The first time I have cooked with bone marrow; wow, I never knew bone marrow added so much. This recipe is an absolute must.
  2. Semi-Boneless Grilled Leg Quarters with Lime Dressing. This recipe was based upon Chris Kimball’s recipe, but I de-boned the thigh and trussed it back up (as in Julia Child’s turkey recipe). By combining these two recipes, it made a delicious 5-star recipe even better. I made the recipe many times over the summer, and had the biggest impact on my daily menu of any other recipe this year.
  3. Ultimate Charcoal-Grilled Steaks. Wow, perfectly evenly cooked steaks from edge-to-edge. The results are better than any other steak that I’ve ever cooked. It’s almost impossible to otherwise obtain such professional results at home.
  4. Authentic Baguettes at Home.  I know that I am not alone in my love of Paris, both for the food and for the sights. I made these Authentic Parisian-style baguettes that took two or three days to make; which required a few special tools and a lot of patience. I’m not sure that I will make them again; but it was definitely the best bread I made all year.
  5. Shrimp Scampi. While this recipe is for a non-Chris Kimball shrimp scampi; he recently came out with an updated recipe(which I have made, but not yet posted). His previous recipe was quite old, and lacked both punch and sufficient sauce.

Of course, the biggest (and saddest) news of 2015 was that Chris Kimball will be leaving the Cook’s Illustrated/ATK organization that he created. I hope to continue to follow him whatever his future endeavors may include.

Pork Milanese

December 30, 2015

It was during my two years living in South America that I discovered Milanesa. It’s one of the most common dishes; an unsung hero of South American cuisine. Not elegant, it’s a daily staple. Ubiquitous, and varying in details from country to country. A breaded cutlet of meat; pounded thin, and shallow fried in a pan. I ate most of my Milanese with mozzarella and tomato; milanesa a la napolitana. Looking back, it seems impossible to believe that I have never made a proper Milanese since leaving South America 15 years ago; coming very close with this Wiener Schnitzel. Today’s recipe is simpler than the Weiner Schnitzel. I ground my own bread crumbs, and made the typical three-plate assembly line; flour, egg wash, bread crumbs. The end result absorbed a little too much oil during the cooking process, and took 3-1/2 minutes per side to reach the correct internal temperature of 145-degrees; over-browning the bread crumbs. 3-stars. My kids loved it, but my health-couscousness knows that it absorbed too much oil during cooking.

A little over browned by the time it reached 145-degrees

A little over browned by the time it reached 145-degrees

I have not yet been able to visit South America again (the world is filled with so many places to visit). Finally, I plan to return to South America; Quito, Bogota, and Cartagena.


  1. Chris Kimball’s recipe for Milanese uses boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Today I used pork tenderloin because it offers more flavor and has less of a tendency to dry out. Chicken cutlets should be pounded to 1/2″ thickness in Step 2, rather than 1/4″ for pork.
  2. Today’s recipe simply grinds up pieces of bread into bread crumbs. Unfortunately, the un-toasted bread crumbs seemed to absorb more oil that pre-toasted ones. I prefer the recipe for Wiener Schnitzel.
  3. The final temperature of Pork tenderloin is 145-degrees. If you cook chicken breast, cook until 160-degrees.

Rating: 3 stars.
Cost: $5.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 5:30 PM. Finish time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here, which calls for chicken. The descriptions of how I prepared this today, using pork tenderloin, are given below:

1 pork tenderloin (about 1-1/4 pounds).
Salt and ground black pepper
5 large high-quality sandwich bread
1/4-cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2-cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
3/4-cups + 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

1 lemon
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons capers
1 large hard-cooked egg

  1. Set rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 200-degrees.
  2. Trim off any fat and remove the silver skin. Cut the tenderloin on a diagonal into 3 or 4 equal pieces. Cutting on a diagonal will ensure the pieces are oblong, instead of round. Place one piece at a time inside a gallon-sized bag and pound to an even thickness of 1/4″. Remove from bag and season cutlets with salt and pepper. Repeat pounding process with remaining cutlets.
  3. Pat cutlets dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove crust and slice bread into 3/4″ cubes. Add to food processor and process for 20 to 30 seconds until to fine crumbs (resulting in 1-1/2 cups bread crumbs). Empty into a shallow dish or pie plate; mixing in Parmesan.
  5. Place 1/2-cup flour in second shallow dish. Lightly beat eggs in third shallow dish and mix with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
  6. Working with 1 cutlet at a time, dredge thoroughly in flour, shaking off excess. Use tongs to coat with egg mixture, ensuring to coat the entire surface, allowing any excess egg to drip back. You want to ensure a very thin and even coating. Finally coat evenly with bread crumbs, gently pressing so that the crumbs adhere.
  7. Place breaded cutlets on plate to allow the coating to dry for 5 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare a wire rack, setting in rimmed baking sheet, and covering half the rack with a triple layer of paper towels. Prepare your garnishes. Slice a lemon into wedges, chop your parsley, rinse you capers to remove the brine, and separate your egg white and yolk (either crumble or pass separately through a fine-mesh strainer).
  9. Put a 12″-nonstick skillet over medium-high burner, pre-heat 3/4-cup vegetable oil until the oil begins to shimmer. Cook 2 cutlets at a time in skillet for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes per side, gently pressing on cutlets with spatula for even browning. The cutlets will be ready when they are deeply golden brown, crispy and the pork registers 145-degrees.
  10. Put cutlets on paper towel–lined side of prepared wire rack to dry (from Step 8) for 15 seconds per side. Move cutlets to unlined side of wire rack and keep warm in 200-degree oven. Repeat from Step 9 with remaining cutlets.
  11. Serve with lemon wedges and other garnishes.


Spicier Chili con Carne

December 20, 2015

I made Chris Kimball’s Best Ground Beef Chili two months ago. While I loved the flavor, I was disappointed in its utter lack of heat. Today, I added a four types of peppers to help amp up the spiciness. While still too mild for my taste (my two sons cannot handle too much heat), I was nevertheless much happier with the overall results. Grinding our own chiles makes a huge difference in this recipe; elevating the recipe into a special meal. The ingredient list is very long; you will definitely need to make a special trip to the grocery store. Sometimes my supermarket runs out of Ancho (and Guajillo chiles), so I recommend buying them in advance. 4-1/2 stars; still needs more heat.

Original recipe needed to be spiced up

Original recipe needed to be spiced up

Also it is worth noting that the Ancho chiles in the recipe are used to make home-ground chili powder. When I first made this recipe two months ago, there was a discussion about why this recipe does not re-hydrate the chiles; the answer being that we are making chili powder; not chili paste.

In the past I have been unable to find Ancho chiles, which are dried poblanos and are very, very mild. I have substituted Guajillo chiles, which are a little hotter, and can also be hard to find.  In either case, I would recommend not exceeding 1 ounce, as Chris Kimball’s original recipe was a little too earthy. I’ve reduced the Anchos in today’s recipe from 6 down to 4.

Today I added the following additional ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 Jalapeno peppers

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $12. (not including garnishes).
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

1/2-pound dried kidney beans (or 29-oz can)
1/2-pound dried pinto beans (or 29-oz can)
2 pounds 85% ground chuck.
2 tablespoons water
3/4-teaspoon baking soda
Salt and pepper
4 dried ancho chile (1 ounce)
1 ounce tortilla chip, crushed (1/4-cup)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper.
2 medium onions, diced.
1 celery stalk, diced.
1 red bell pepper, diced.
2 Jalapeno chilies, chopped fine.
15-oz can tomato sauce
29-ounce can diced tomatoes
1-1/2 cups water (or chicken broth)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 Lime, cut into wedges
Coarsely chopped cilantro
Chopped red onion
Additional garnishes: diced avocado, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, tortilla chips and/or steamed white rice.

  1. For best results, soak 1/2-pound of dried kidney beans and 1/2-pound of dried pinto beans overnight. Use 1-1/2 tablespoons salt for a 1/2-gallon of water.
  2. Set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 275-degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, add beef, 2 tablespoons water, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4-teaspoon baking soda. Toss until thoroughly combined, and set aside for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, remove the stems for the chiles and tear then into 1″-sized pieces. Set a Dutch oven set over medium-high burner; Add chiles and toast for 4 to 6 minutes until they become fragrant, stirring frequently. If the chiles begin to smoke, then reduce the burner. Allow to cool in the bowl of a food processor.
  4. Add tortilla chips, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, coriander, oregano, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper, and 2 teaspoons pepper to bowl food processor. Process for 2 minutes until it becomes finely ground. Empty spices into a small bowl.
  5. Process the tomatoes with their juice in the food processor for 30 seconds until smooth.
    Dice your onion and peel your garlic.
  6. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the empty Dutch oven, set over medium-high burner. Add diced onion and 2 teaspoons salt; at cook for 6 to 10 minutes until have given off their water; stir occasionally. Press garlic directly into pot and cook for just 1 minutes.
  7. Add beef mixture from Step 1. Cook beef for 12 to 14 minutes; breaking up meat into 1/4″-pieces as it cooks. The beef should begin to brown and a fond should begin to form on the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add spice mixture from Step 3 and continue to cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes; to bloom the spices.
  8. Add 1-1/2 cups water (or chicken broth), 2 teaspoons sugar, tomato puree, and pinto beans and their liquid. Bring up to a boil, and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits. Cover with lid, move to pre-heated  oven. Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is tender and chili has slightly thickened. Stir occasionally to prevent the chili from sticking.
  9. Uncover chili and let it sit for 10-minutes. Meanwhile, prepare any of your garnishes.
    After 10 minutes stir to re-incorporate any fat that has risen to the top and add 2 tablespoons cider vinegar. Adjust seasoning with salt to taste.
  10. Serve, passing separately the lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and other garnishes; sour cream, cheddar cheese, guacamole or diced avocado, julienne-fried flour tortilla, or sliced scallions.
I used a mixture of pinto and kidney beans

I used a mixture of pinto and kidney beans

Creamy Mocha Pudding

December 14, 2015

Over the years I’ve made hundreds of desserts, but surprisingly, this is my first batch of homemade pudding ever. Perhaps because instant Jell-O has degraded pudding into something that we, an Americans, never make from scratch anymore. It comes as either a dry box mixed with milk, or in shelf-stable, pre-made little plastic cups.

I had the idea to make chocolate pudding a year ago, when I made this Coffee Flan. Then a few months ago Cook’s Illustrated published an updated pudding recipe (their previous recipe was 15 years old). Today’s pudding is made with real ingredients and is delicious. There are several variations, but I love the addition of Coffee flavor to chocolate. The recipe took under 30 minutes to make (plus 4 hours to cool). 4-stars. Great flavor and texture, without the skin on top that mars my memories of my childhood pudding.

Delicious pudding with 30 minutes of work

Delicious pudding with 30 minutes of work

Later this week I plan to make chocolate mousse with my son, for his high school French class’s Christmas Party. I am saving a bit of the pudding to compare flavors between the two desserts. Obvious the mousse with have a lighter texture.

Comments / Issues:

  1. I don’t have Kahlua, so I skipped substituted an equal amount of Brandy. The brandy worked well to give it some depth, but overall the mocha pudding lacked coffee flavor.
  2. The first time I made this recipe the pudding did not set, because I tried to set it in an ice chest rather than the refrigerator. The 4 hours of setting time in Step 6 must be undisturbed refrigerator time; I would even suggest putting in the bottom shelf of the refrigerator because it is the coldest part.
  3. I tried making this recipe using a round of parchment as specified in the recipe, but it was difficult to measure the correct diameter Instead of parchment I will try plastic wrap (to avoid necessity of measure and cutting.)

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $5.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 1:30PM. Dinner time 6 PM.
The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cup sugar (3-1/2 ounces)
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon Kahlúa
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
2-1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup brewed coffee
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

  1. In a very small bowl, mix together vanilla extract and espresso powder; set aside.
  2. In large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, Kahlúa, and salt. Whisk in yolks and cream until fully incorporated, making sure to use a rubber spatula to scrape corners of saucepan. Whisk in milk and coffee until incorporated.
  3. Set saucepan over medium burner; cook for 8 to 12 minutes, whisking constantly. The mixture needs to be bubbling over its entire surface. Cook for 30 seconds longer, then remove from heat.
  4. Add butter and chocolate to pot. Whisk until melted and becomes fully incorporated.
  5. Remove from burner and whisk in vanilla mixture.
  6. Pour pudding through fine-mesh strainer into bowl. Press lightly greased parchment paper or plastic wrap directly against the surface of pudding. Set on bottom shelf of refrigerator to cool and thicken for at least 4 hours.
  7. Whisk pudding briefly and serve.



Better Chicken Marsala

December 9, 2015

Of course we have all had Chicken Marsala in restaurants; it’s one of those ubiquitous staple of Italian-American cuisine. Today’s recipe is a good solid recipe, everything is well cooked and tasty. But overall, Chicken Marsala is a well-worn path to known flavors. This recipe executes everything well; especially the quick sear on the chicken before re-heating the cutlets in the sauce. Too often the flour coating turns gooey from too much time in the sauce. I can only give this recipe 3-1/2 stars; better than average (3-stars being average). In the end, there is no big-flavor payoff for the many steps.

Very solid Chicken Marsala

Very solid Chicken Marsala

Chris Kimball recommends spending a little extra for a moderately priced dry Marsala ($10 to $12 per bottle). You will use about two-thirds of the bottle. He also recommends serving this with some form of starch; potatoes, white rice, or buttered pasta.

Rating: 3-1/2 star.
Cost: $24.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 4:30PM. Dinner time 6 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it for this Thanksgiving is as follows:

2-1/4 cups dry Marsala wine
4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1-oz dried porcini mushrooms
4 (6-to-8-oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and pepper
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3-oz pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into 6 pieces)
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley

    1. Rinse porcini mushrooms, and add to medium-sized saucepan. Add 2 cups Marsala, and 4 teaspoons gelatin in with the porcini and set over high burner. When it comes up to a boil, reduce burner to medium-high and allow to vigorously simmer for 8 minutes until it has reduced by half.
    2. In the meantime, trim away any pockets of fat and cut each chicken breast in half crosswise. Next cut only the thick halves in half again, horizontally, creating all 3 cutlets of approximately the same thickness. Put cutlets between sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound so that they are an even 1/2″ thick. Put chicken in bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.
    3. After the Marsala has reduced by half strain through a fine-mesh strainer and use a rubber spatula to press down and extract as much liquid as possible; throwing away the spent porcini.
    4. Empty the Marsala back into the saucepan, adding 2 cups chicken broth, and bring up to a boil. Lower burner to medium-high and allow to simmer for 10 to 12 minutes until it has reduced to 1-1/2 cups. Set liquid aside.
    5. While the liquid is reducing is Step 4, Add 1/2 cup flour to a pie plate and dredge one piece of chicken at a time if the flour. Gently shake to remove an excess flour. Set chicken onto a wire rack that is set over a sheet pan.
    6. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to a 12″-regular skillet. Pre-heat over medium-high burner until it begins to smoke. Add 6 pieces of chicken to skillet, and reduce burner to medium. Cook the first side for 2 to 4 minutes until it turns golden brown. Flip chicken and continue cooking for 2 to 4 minutes until the second side turns golden brown.  Remove cooked chicken to the wire rack.
    7. Repeat Step 6 with the remaining 6 pieces of chicken and another 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
    8. While the chicken cooks cut pancetta into 1/2″-pieces. Slice the crimini mushrooms thinly, and prepare shallot and garlic.
    9. Reduce burner to medium-low and add diced pancetta. Cook for about 4 minutes until brown and crisp; stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom to loosen and brown bits for the bottom of the skillet.
    10. Add crimini slices into skillet with pancetta, increasing burner to medium-high. Cook for about 8 minutes mushrooms begin to brown; stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the skillet.
    11. Use a slotted spoon to remove mushrooms and pancetta to a clean bowl.
    12. Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and minced shallot to skillet; cook for 1 minute until softened. Add tomato paste and minced garlic; cook for just 30 seconds.
    13. Begin to add your components back to the skillet. Add the reduced Marsala, 1/4-cup of Marsala from the bottle, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano. Bring up to a simmer, then add the chicken back to the sauce and allow to reheat for about 3 minutes; flipping halfway through to ensure both sides are hot.
    14. Remove cutlets to serving platter.Remove pan from burner and whisk in 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into 1/2-tablespoon-sized-pieces) and 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley. Add parsley and cremini mushroom mixture. Stir until mixed and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper according to taste. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

Julia Child’s Deconstructed Thanksgiving

November 29, 2015

If you like dark meat, this will be the only turkey recipe you will ever make from this point forward. Removing the thighbones, then trussing the thighs up using skewers and string, makes the dark meat the absolute best part of the entire evening. This was my second year in a row making Julia Child’s Thanksgiving. Last year I posted the turkey/stuffing combination, and this year I also wanted to include the gravy recipe; the 3 recipes go perfectly together. This post is intended to ease the juggling between the three recipes; integrating the timing of each step was the biggest challenge.

Traditional Thanksgiving meal

Traditional Thanksgiving meal

By separating the turkey into three major pieces, some of the most fundamental Thanksgiving issues are solved. (1) Getting the dark meat cooked properly without overcooking the white meat. (2) getting real turkey drippings into the stuffing. As a bonus, this method cooks the turkey in about half the time, freeing up my oven to cook rolls, pies, and gravy the rest of the day. There are a few issues (discussed below), but overall this technique provides a delicious turkey. It was the best dark meat I’ve ever eaten. Chris Kimball agrees, saying “this is now my new, absolute favorite.” 4-1/2 stars. I hope you all had a delicious Thanksgiving.

Most beautiful dark meat ever

Most beautiful dark meat ever

Start the evening before Thanksgiving, taking care of most of the prep work in about 1-1/2 hours. Cut the turkey into three major parts, (1) breast/wings, then (2) cut off each leg/thigh quarter. At first, I misread the instructions and started to cut off just the leg; not the entire leg quarter (i.e. including the thigh), but realized my mistake before I did any damage beyond the skin. The recipe only brines the breast/wings. It salts/seasons the leg quarters separately.

Shopping List for Turkey, Stuffing and Gravy:

  • Turkey (between 1-1/2 and 2 pounds per person)
  • 24-ounce loaf of hearty white sandwich bread (e.g. Arnold’s or Pepperidge Farms)
  • Fresh sage (enough for 2-1/2 tablespoons)
  • 5 onions
  • 7 celery ribs
  • 1 carrot
  • 6 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (about 4-ounces)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 ½ cups chicken broth (28 0unces)
  • 2 cups dry white wine (2/3-rds bottle)
  • Wooden skewers

Issues / Comments:

  1. Cutting off leg quarters, not just legs. As I mentioned above, I almost cut off just the legs in step 2. The recipe calls for me to remove the “leg quarter”.
  2. Because the wings overhanged my 12″ skillet, the juices dripped down to the oven floor and filled the house with smoke. My solution is that I recommend putting a foil-lined baking sheet below the skillet to catch the juices. If it starts to smoke you can just swap it out for new foil. Fortunately, my guests had not yet arrived.
  3. I was surprised that it took me a full hour to deconstruct and prepare the turkey, most of the time was separating the leg quarters. The back was pretty easy to remove using kitchen shears.
  4. The recipe calls for a 12-to-15-pound turkey. I bought a 19-pounder because of the number of guests, but my turkey took double the time to cook than stated in the recipe. In the end, we ate an hour late, but only because I cut the resting time down (more than I should have).
  5. If your turkey weighs more than 17-pounds you will have to remove the stuffing before the turkey has finished cooking,
  6. While Chris Kimball tries to have the white and dark meat ready at the same time, it was not the case. The dark meat took longer, but that gave the breast an extra 10-to-15 minutes to rest. The beautiful thing about this recipe is that I was able to remove the white meat while the dark meat came up to temperature.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $25.  ($10 of which was by 21-lb turkey; which was subsidized by my supermarket)
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 12 Noon. Dinner time 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it for this Thanksgiving is as follows:

The Evening Before Thanksgiving:
1 Turkey
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage (remaining 2 tablespoons will be for tomorrow)
Salt and pepper
Wooden skewers
1-1/2 pounds hearty white sandwich bread (e.g. Arnold’s or Pepperidge Farms)

  1. Expect to spend 1-1/2 hours this evening on preparations. Mince enough fresh sage to yield 1 teaspoon and set aside until you are ready to season/truss the thigh in Step 5.
  2. Remove turkey from packaging, and remove the giblets and neck (from inside the body cavity). Reserve in a gallon-sized plastic bag (or in a large Dutch oven), which will be used tomorrow along with back and thigh bones to make the gravy.
  3. Put turkey breast-side-up on your largest cutting board. Tuck the wing back just to get it out-of-the-way. Working on one leg quarter at a time; remove the thighs/legs (the entire leg quarter in one piece). Cut through the skin around the quarters where it attaches to breast; which will allow you to better see the actual meat. From the front of the turkey (near the wings), use a boning knife to cut deeply along the bone, freeing the thigh meat; until your knife reaches the hip bone. Bend the entire leg quarter back so that the bone pops out of the hip socket, then you can continue to cut the meat away and remove entire quarter.
  4. To de-bone the thigh (just the thigh, not the drumstick), use the tip of your boning knife to cut along the length of the thigh; there is usually a thin line of fat that will show you where the bone is. Then cut around the tip of the bone and work your knife underneath the bone to expose the joint between thigh and leg. Cut through the cartilage and remove thighbone; adding bones to your bag/pot for the gravy. Repeat to remove the second leg quarter.
  5. Rub interior of each thigh with ½ teaspoon sage, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  6. Poke 3 skewers through skin/meat to close up the thigh where your removed the thigh bone. Wrap some kitchen twine around the wooden skewers to tightly close the thigh into a nice, round piece of boneless meat. Set on a large plate, cover, and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours until ready to cook.
  7. Trim away and discard any excess skin from around the neck. Trim away and discard any large globs of fat from the skin.
  8. To remove the back bone from the breast, flip the turkey over breast-side-down. Use kitchen shears to cut through ribs (following vertical line of fat where breast meets back) until you can’t cut anymore. You’ve reach the bone near the wing joint. Repeat on other side of backbone.
  9. Use a little force to bend the back-section away from the breast, and the shoulder joint should pop out of the socket. Cut between the bonds to separate the back from the breast, and add the back to the bag/pot for making gravy.
  10. Dissolve 3/4-cup salt into 6 quarts of cold water in a large container (I used my 8-quart stock pot; so reduced to 1/2 cup salt and 4 quarts of cold water). Submerge breast in brine, cover and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours until ready to cook. Refrigerate reserved bones.
  11. Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes (including the crust). Spread on-top 2 rimmed baking sheets and bake at 300-degrees from 30 to 40 minutes until it becomes dry and lightly browned. Stir a few times during baking and empty into the largest bowl you own. Set aside until Thanksgiving day.
  12. While the bread drying out is in the oven, you will have time to pre-mix your pumpkin pie filling. If you are going to make dinner rolls or bread, then mix your biga.

Thanksgiving Day:

Stuffing Ingredients:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
3 onions, chopped fine
6 celery ribs, minced
1 cup dried cranberries
4 large eggs, beaten

Gravy Ingredients:
2 onions, chopped coarse
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 celery rib, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3-1/2 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
2 cups dry white wine
6 sprigs fresh thyme

  1. At 8AM. If you are making dinner rolls or bread, start the dough early in the morning. The dough needs time to rise, and you need time to bake the bread without conflicting with your turkey roasting schedule. Also, I had extra rolls to serve hot around lunchtime.
  2. At 11AM: If you want your pumpkin pie shortly after dinner, this is your last free oven time to bake it. It is also possible to put it into the oven around 4:30PM (while the turkey rests); but the pie won’t be cool enough to eat until about 7:30PM.
  3. At 12 NOON: Set two over racks to the lowest and second lowest positions; pre-heat to 450-degrees. Put reserved turkey bones, onions, carrot, celery, and garlic in large roasting pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and toss to combine. Roast, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 50 minutes until everything becomes well browned.
  4. At 12:30PM: Remove the breast from brine and pat dry using paper towels (leaving the leg quarters in refrigerator for now). Tuck the wings behind back. Finely chop 3 onions. Melt butter in 12″ non-stick oven-safe skillet over medium burner. Add chopped onions and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have softened and are just beginning to brown
  5. Meanwhile, mince 2 tablespoons of fresh sage and 6 celery ribs. Add minced celery and sage to skillet, plus 1-1/2 teaspoons pepper. Continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes until celery is softened. It is essential that the vegetables have time to dry out in the skillet or your stuffing will turn to mush. Empty vegetables into your large bowl with the bread cubes. Set aside until Step 9.
  6. AT 1PM: Transfer your gravy ingredients from the roasting pan to a large Dutch oven and set aside until Step 8.
  7. Reduce oven temperature to 425-degrees. Use paper towels to wipe out non-stick skillet. Brush surface of breast with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and set turkey breast with the skin-side-down into skillet. Roast at 425-degrees for 35 minutes; placing a foil-lined baking sheet on the rack below turkey to catch any drippings.
  8. For the gravy, add 3-1/2 cups chicken broth, 3 cups water, 2 cups white wine and the 6 sprigs fresh thyme to the pot with the roasted turkey/vegetables from Step 6. Bring up to boil over high burner, then reduce to low and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, until it is reduced by half.
  9. At 1:30PM. Add 1 cup cranberries and 4 beaten eggs to bread mixture and toss to combine (mixture will be dry). Empty stuffing to 16″x13″ roasting pan, then use a rubber spatula to form an even 12″x10″ rectangle. The turkey will be set on-top of stuffing to protect it and prevent it from burning.
  10. Remove the breast from the oven and use paper towels to pat up the hot juices from the top of the breast. Use wads to paper towels to flip over and set over two-thirds of stuffing.
  11. Brush leg quarters with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and arrange over the remaining stuffing. Lightly season legs and breasts with salt.
  12. Use your rubber spatula to tuck and exposed stuffing under the turkey, so that it is almost entire covered.
  13. Bake for 30 minutes at 425-degrees.
  14. At 2:30PM. Reduce oven to 350-degrees and continue cooking turkey for between 40 minutes and 2 hours.
  15. For the Gravy, empty the contents of pot through fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Use the back of a spatula to press solids to render as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. If you have more than 4 cups of liquid continue reducing until you have 4 cups. Empty the liquid into a fat separator. Allow to settle for at least 5 minutes (until Step 20)
  16. If your turkey is more than 16-to-17-pounds you will need to remove the stuffing before the turkey has fully cooked to prevent it from becoming too greasy. Put stuffing into an oven-safe pyrex casserole dish and continue baking until nicely browned. Also continue cooking turkey in the roasting pan on a v-rack.
  17. At 3:30PM to 4:30PM. Begin to check the internal temperature and remove when the breast registers 160 to 165 degrees and thighs reach 175 to 180 degrees; Remove each piece individually as each piece attains the proper temperature.  Set onto a cutting board and tent with aluminum foil.
  18. In my case, parts of the skin was not crispy. I broiled the leg quarts to crisp up the skin. Rotate turkey as necessary to crisp the entire skin.
  19. Allow turkey to rest for 30 minutes before carving. While turkey rests, use a spatula to stir stuffing and scrape up any browned bits. Evenly rearrange stuffing over the entire roasting pan and keep warm in the turned-off-oven.
  20. While the turkey continues to rest, finish making your gravy. Separate 1/4 cup of fat to medium saucepan. Put over medium-high burner and cook until bubbling. If you do not have 1/4 cup of reserved turkey fat, then supplement with unsalted butter. Whisk in 1/4 cup flour and cook for 2 minutes, constantly whisking, until it becomes honey-colored. Gradually whisk in hot turkey liquid and bring to boil. Reduce burner to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
  21. Remove skewers and twine from leg quarters. Carve turkey. Before serving stuffing, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. and arrange in center of large serving platter. Serve.
The breast also roasted up wonderfully moist.

The breast also roasted up wonderfully moist.

Thanksgiving Cooking Guide

November 25, 2015

Here is a summary of many of Chris Kimball’s Thanksgiving options. A few of the posts are not his recipes, but I’ve nevertheless included (for my convenience). I still am afraid to risk my Thanksgiving turkey using Chris Kimball’s November 2012 recipe for Grilled Turkey; if anyone has tried, please post a comment with your results.

The best turkey options are:

  1. Julia Child’s Deconstructed Turkey. While I was resistant to departing from the tradition of roasting the turkey whole, this recipe came out fantastic last year. This recipe elevates the dark meat to become the star of the dinner. Classic stuffing with sausage.
  2. Herb Roasted Turkey, which I’ve rated 5-stars in the past. It is brined in salt water for 4 to 6 hours, then air-dried, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours to get crisp skin. The herb paste adds great flavor, but the recipe calls for a relatively hot oven (400-degrees) so I doubt this will work on my big turkey.
  3. Old Fashioned Roast Turkey.  This is one of my favorite turkeys. It is draped with salt pork, which constantly bastes the turkey during baking. Also, it salts the turkey instead of a wet brine.
  4. Brined Roasted Turkey. For many years I brined my turkey to help keep the turkey from drying out. Chris Kimball’s formula is 1 cup salt per gallon cold water for 4-to 6-hour brine or 1/2 cup salt per gallon cold water for 12-to 14-hour brine. The hardest part is finding a stockpot or clean bucket large enough for the turkey.


  1. Traditional turkey gravy. This was part of Julia Child’s deconstructed turkey.
  2. Best Turkey Gravy. A classic recipe for turkey gravy.
  3. Make-Ahead Dripping-less Turkey Gravy. This recipe was developed by Cook Illustrated because it’s associated turkey recipe was cooked too hot to yield usable drippings. So if you don’t have drippings, here is the solution.

Cranberry Sauce:

  1. Cranberry-Orange Sauce. Don’t make a standard cranberry sauce, when a little bit of triple sec and orange zest make it so much more interesting.
  2. Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce. I made this recipe for years, which is 100 times better than canned cranberry sauce.


  1. Fluffy Mashed potatoes. Cut potatoes into 1″ chunks. Rinse, Steam for 10 minutes, Rinse again, Steam for 20 more minutes until done. It requires my Dutch Oven, but I’ve had dinner guest that raved more about these potatoes than the 5-star main course.
  2. Holiday Scalloped Potatoes. A nice 4-star alternative to standard mashed potatoes.
  3. Master Recipe for Mashed Potatoes. Requires boiling potatoes with their skins on, then peeling hot potatoes. For 15 years Chris Kimball has told us to make mashed potatoes this way.
  4. Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Peeled before cooking, then boiled in half-and-half normally added at the end of the recipe.

Pumpkin Pie:

  1. Matt’s Pumpkin Pie. Make the filling the night before for the best flavor. This recipe is based upon King Arthur Flour recipe. My son Matt took over the pumpkin pie baking responsibilities in 2011. For him, it’s a labor of love.
  2. Libby’s Pumpkin Pie. For a long time this was my “go to” pumpkin pie recipe, until I discovered the King Arthur recipe.
  3. Chris Kimball’s Pumpkin Pie. I could never bring myself to put yams into a pumpkin pie, so have never made it.

Colombian Arepes de Queso

November 23, 2015

Lately, I have been busy at work and only heard the sad news about Chris Kimball’s departure from ATK today. He has always been the driving force behind the magazine (and later the TV shows), and I remember appreciating his methodology the first time I saw Cook’s Illustrated in 1994. While I guess this has been brewing for a few months (since summer), I never imagined that it would come to this. I know companies like to think that nobody is indispensable, but that opinion is often more of a hope than a reality. I guess we have to wait for a few months to find out about Chris Kimball’s “future endeavors”. I hope it is just a change in venue, and that I will be able to continue to cook his recipes for many years to come. The news is sad.

I first ate Arepas 20 years ago while biking through Colombia, and loved their simple deliciousness. Years later I read about stuffed arepas (which tend to be from Venezuela). Today, after 20 years, was my first time making arepas on my own.  This morning’s recipe does not come from ATK or Chris Kimball at all. It is thanks to a recent trip to Miami that I was able to buy “Pre-Cooked Corn Meal”. My technique still needs honing, but they came out delicious for a first try.


  1. Cook’s Illustrated has a description about the different types of Corn Meal here, The bottom-line is make sure that the bag says it is for arepas. Masa harina is a completely different product. The brand that I pictured is apparently the most popular.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $2.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 10:00 AM. End time: 11:00 PM.

Chris Kimball does not have a recipe for arepas. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

2 cups water
2 cups masarepa flour (12 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted or softened butter
8 to 10 slices of Muenster cheese (Today I used grated mozzarella with a little shredded Parmesan)

  1. Soften butter in microwave for between 30 to 40 seconds.
  2. Add water to a large mixing bowl, mix in 1/2 teaspoon salt until dissolved. Slowly add in arepa flour until just comes together. Stir butter into dough and knead until evenly combined. Cover masa (dough) with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Divide you dough into 8 equal parts. I used a scale and measured 3-1/2 ounces per arepa.
  4. Working with one arepa at a time, roll into a ball and gradually work into a flatten disk; fixing the edges as they break. Put between two sheets of plastic and use the curvature of your cupped hands to form perfect disks. Press a second small cutting down on top of arepa to evenly flatten to approximately 5-inches across. Use cupped hands to fix any of the edges. Set aside and put plastic wrap between the arepas as you stack them.
  5. Pre-heat your griddle or large skillet over medium-high burner. Flick water onto the griddle and it will be ready when the water “dances”
  6. Cook on dry griddle (without any oil whatsoever) for 12 to 15 minutes without moving until slightly browned on the first side (see photo). Flip and top with cheese (which will slowly melt). Cook the second side for between 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately, or keep in a warm (but turned off oven) if you need to make them in batches.

French-Style Pot Roast

November 21, 2015

I made this French pot roast for a group of my closest friends. While the original recipe called for a 4-to-5-pound roast, I bought a 6-1/2 pounder; following the general guideline of 1/2-pound per person. While the roast did stretch to feed all 13 people (a majority of whom where kids), I felt that I short-changed some of my guests. I assume I underestimated the loss and shrinkage during cooking.

Delicious, but slices came apart.

Delicious, but slices fell apart.

My biggest complaint was the texture was too “fall-apart-tender”. The picture on the Cooks Illustrated website made me think that I would get tender beef while still retaining enough cohesiveness to get nice, clean slices. The presentation suffered a bit.  Next time I will be careful to cook towards the shorter end of the cooking time; and make sure that I slice it with my sharpest knife. Fortunately, the flavor made up for the “pile of meat” presentation. The flavor of the beef and sauce was well-balanced, but the carrots were not very popular. While I thought enjoyed the carrots, it seemed most people didn’t appreciate them. Overall, 4-stars.

Rating: 4.
Cost: $40.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 11:30 AM. End time: 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1 boneless beef chuck (5-to-6 lbs)
1 Table kosher salt
1 bottle red wine (Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir)
10 sprigs fresh parsley leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 ounces thick cut bacon.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut on bias into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups frozen pearl onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup water, plus 1/4 cup cold water to bloom gelatin
10 ounces white mushrooms
Table salt
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin (powdered)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

  1. Pull apart the roast into 2 pieces and trim away fat. Season meat with 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Set on wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet, and allow to stand for 1 hour at room temperature.
  2. With 15 minutes to go, set a large sauce pan over medium-high burner and simmer the bottle of wine until it has reduced to 2 cups. Also tie your parsley sprigs and thyme sprigs together into a bundle using kitchen twine.
  3. Use paper towels to dry the beef and generously sprinkle with 1-1/2 teaspoons of ground pepper. Use 3 to 4 pieces of kitchen twine around each roast to prevent it from falling apart during the long cooking time.
  4. Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 300-degrees.
  5. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/4″-wide match-sticks. Set a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner and cook bacon for 7 to 8 minutes until crispy. Remove bacon to a plate lines with paper-towels and reserve until Step 7.
  6. Empty and discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat; and return pot to medium-high burner. When the fat begins to smoke, brown the roasts on all four sides for a total of 8 to 10 minutes. While the beef browns, finely chop your onion. Remove beef to large plate and set aside.
  7. Turn down burner to medium, add chopped onions to pot and allow to soften for 2 to 4 minutes; using the moisture the onions give off to begin to de-glaze the pot. Add mined garlic, flour, and crispy bacon from Step 5. After 30 seconds add the reduced wine, 2 cups beef broth, the herb bundle and bay leaves. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  8. Add browned roasts (and any accumulated juices) back to the pot. Bring up to a simmer over high burner, then put a large piece of aluminum foil over the pot and cover with lid.
  9. Bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours until a fork easily slips into the meat. Use tongs to turn beef every hour, and add carrots to the pot after 2 hours.
  10. About the time you add the carrots, Put a large skillet over medium-high burner. Add pearl onions, butter, sugar, and 1/2 cup water, Bring up to a boil, then cover and reduce burner to medium. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the onions are tender, then uncover and increase burner to medium-high and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the liquid completely evaporates.
  11. While the pearl onions cook, wipe your mushrooms clean, trim away and discard the stems. Cut small mushrooms in half, and large mushrooms into quarters. After liquid evaporates and mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon table salt. Continue cooking for 8 to 12 minutes until everything becomes browned and glazed. As the beef is ready to come out of the pot (in step 13) use a little of the braising liquid to de-glaze the skillet.
  12. Separately, place 1/4 cup cold water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top to allow it to soften.
  13. Remove beef to cutting board, tent with aluminum foil. Allow braising liquid to settle for 5 minutes, then skim and fat off the surface. Fish out and discard herb bundle and bay leaves.
  14. Add in onion-mushroom and bring up to a simmer over medium-high burner. Reduce for 20 to 30 minutes until it measures 3-1/4 cups. Taste sauce and adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Stir in softened gelatin.
  15. Remove and discard kitchen twice. Carve into 1/2″-thick slices with a sharp, non-serrated knife. Serve beef slices with vegetables along side, sprinkled with minced parsley and sauce poured on-top of meat.
Tie your beef into two min-roasts

Tie your beef into two min-roasts

Asparagus with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette

November 8, 2015

I served this as a side-dish to a wonderful French meal (see Boeuf à la mode, Onion Soup). While the asparagus was naturally tasty, the sauce mostly fell off and left plain asparagus. As I think the recipe needs to be judged on whether or not it enhances it’s deliciousness, as written, I can give the recipe only 3-stars. However, you will not be unhappy with the end results.Who doesn’t love broiled asparagus?

More delicious than the 3-stars indicate

More delicious than the 3-stars indicate


  1. Over the years Chris Kimball has flip-flopped on calling for thick versus thin asparagus. This recipe dating from 2001 calls for thin asparagus. Later in 2012, Chris Kimball said that thick asparagus are better for the broiler. Way back in 1993 she said that steamed are better than boiled. In any case, I followed the recipe as it was written and used thin asparagus.
  2. You should always snap off the tough ends when cooking asparagus. Chris Kimball says to hold the asparagus halfway down the stalk; then with the other hand, holding the cut end between the thumb and index finger about 1″ from the bottom; bend the stalk until it snaps. Each stalk will break in a different place depending upon how tough the stalk is.

Rating: 3-stars.
Cost: $8.50.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low.
Started: 5:40 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared the soup today are given below:

2 pounds thin asparagus spears (2 bunches)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 large shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Adjust oven rack so that it is 4 to 5″ from broiler element. Pre-heat broiler.
  2. Line a heavy rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay out the asparagus and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss until evenly coated and lay out into a single layer.
  3. Broil for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned; shaking the pan halfway through cooking so that they cook evenly.
  4. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and arrange on a serving platter.
  5. While the asparagus cools, add shallot, lemon juice and zest, thyme, mustard, and olive oil in small bowl. Whisk and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle over asparagus and serve immediately.

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