Bogota, Colombia

January 16, 2016

There is a common misconception of people who have never visited Colombia that it is one of the most dangerous places in the world; fueled by Tom Clancy novels and images of Pablo Escobar. Regardless of how true those images may have been in the past, today’s Colombia is a place of incredible beauty and sincere friendliness. The country was filled with hustle and bustle, but even in the main tourist areas, I heard only Spanish. The country feels genuine; not spoiled by foreign tourism.

started in 1807 during Primatial Cathedral of Bogotá was begun under Spanish rule and completed after independence in 1823

Primatial Cathedral of Bogotá was begun under Spanish rule and completed after independence in 1823

The main tourist areas of Candelaria and Monserrate are beautiful and filled with Colombians enjoying themselves. The center is extremely colorful, and filled with far more museums and restaurants than I had time to visit. I would have especially liked to visit the National Museum, Gold Museum, and the Gabriel Garcia Marquez cultural center (one of the principal reasons I learned Spanish was to read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” in Spanish).

One of Bogota’s most beautiful sights is the panoramic view of the city from the heights of Montserrate. While I would have liked to try the foot path, the elevation gain of over 1,560-feet (500m) is formidable. I chose the teleferico (gondola), especially because I had not yet acclimatized to the 10,000-foot elevation.

It was my birthday, and we celebrated with a wonderful lunch/dinner in the restaurant at the top of the mountain. Our waiter suggested taking this photo of everybody admiring the view; and later we joked that it was a trick and that he would run away with the camera while our backs were turned. But our waiter was right; it is one of my favorite photos of the entire trip.

I would recommend going up in the late afternoon, so that you can see the view both in the daytime and nighttime. The view from Monserrate in the nighttime is spectacular; and the lines to go up in the nighttime are usually double, triple or quadruple the length. The mountain was all dressed up for the holidays and was especially colorful.

The next day we went hiking in the Natural Park of Chicaque, about 30 minutes outside of Bogota. It was a full-day hike. While the first half of the day was all down hill, the afternoon was extremely strenuous as we climbed the nearly 2000-feet back to the canyon’s rim.

 

 


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.

Comments:

  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

Garnishes:
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.


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