Cooking

The Fine Art of Biscuits

Biscuits Supreme

Biscuits are easy to make. They really are. Fast, too. You can mix up  a batch of biscuits in the time it takes the oven to preheat.  Yet, I know  people who seem to struggle with them. The other night, a friend and I were talking about the secret to  a light and flaky biscuit.

So what goes wrong? How do you make light, flaky biscuits every time?

For the moment I’ll assume you have a decent recipe. There are a lot of great biscuit recipes out there. I know people that have treasured family recipes. Biscuits that have been made the same way for generations.

Assuming also, that the baking powder is fresh*, there has to be some other reason that some folks just seem to struggle with biscuits.

The problem is, more than likely, over-mixing the dough. When I talk to someone who tells me that their  biscuits are always heavy or tough, I first ask about how they are put together.

Once the dry ingredients have been mixed and the fat cut in, there is just liquid to be added. I prefer to chill whatever fat I am using.

At this point the dough should be handled just enough to hold together. A light hand means a light biscuit. The same is true for making scones. The more you knead the dough, handle the dough and roll the dough, the less flaky biscuits become.

Don’t treat biscuit dough the way you would a yeast-based dinner roll. The two are very different in how they are handled. Yeast-based doughs benefit from kneading and “working” the dough. Biscuits are the opposite.

Even when cutting out the biscuits, it will help if you cut  them out as close together as you can. That way you have fewer scraps to re-roll. Every time you roll the dough out- it becomes a little tougher.

Here is a recipe for one of my favorite biscuits. They are light and very flaky. Is there anything better than a fresh, warm biscuit with some butter?

Biscuits Supreme

2 c. flour
4 t. baking powder
2 t. sugar
½ t. cream of tartar
½ t. salt
½ c. cold butter, shortening or coconut oil – you can even use lard
2/3 c. milk

Stir together dry ingredients and cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add milk all at once. Stir until dough sticks together and knead on lightly floured surface 10-12 strokes. Roll or pat to ½ inch thickness. Cut with 2-21/2 inch biscuit cutter and place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in 450-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 10-12.

*If your baking powder might be old, you can test it. Place a couple of tablespoons of boiling water in a cup. Add a teaspoon, or two, of baking powder. The mixture should bubble vigorously. If there are no bubbles, or very few bubbles, you might want to get a new container of baking powder.

Homemade Mustard Recipes

Homemade Bavarian Mustard

I love making food gifts for the holidays. I often make cookies or other baked goods. But not everyone wants sweets. For those friends and family, I often make them homemade mustard. I have included recipes for 4 of my favorite mustards.

I wasn’t a big fan of mustard, when I was a kid. I am now. I enjoy using all types of mustard in all sorts of dishes, not just on hot dogs.

Mustard is great on sandwiches and sausages. It is a versatile  ingredient for salads, salad dressings, marinades and all sorts of sauces.  I lean towards spicy brown mustard myself.

I also enjoy making my own mustard. That way, I can tweak the seasonings.

So here are four of my favorite homemade mustard recipes. If you never made mustard before- you might want to try. It is easy, and fun. All of them are stored in the fridge- and will keep for months. For gift-giving, look for decorative jars or cracks to put them in.

 

Horseradish Mustard

1 c. dry mustard
3/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/3 c. dry white wine or dry sherry
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 T. dried minced onion
2 t. caraway seeds
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. coarse ground mustard
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 T. prepared horseradish

Combine all ingredients, except eggs and horseradish in top of double boiler and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Whisk in eggs and cook over simmering water until mixture has thickened and eggs are cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in horseradish. Pour into sterilized jar, cool and cover. Store in fridge for up to 3 months. Makes 2 cups.

Bavarian Mustard

3/4 c. beer
2/3 c. dry mustard
2 T. sugar
2 T. cider vinegar
2 t. salt
1-t. celery seeds
1/2 t. fresh grated ginger or 1/4 t. dry
1 egg, beaten

Combine all but the egg in the top of a double boiler and let stand 2 hours at room temperature. Stir in egg and cook over simmering water. stirring constantly until mixture thickens and egg is cooked, about 10 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars and cool before covering. Store in fridge for up to 2 months. Makes 2 cups.

 

Spicy Mustard

1 c. dry mustard
2/3 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. vinegar, flavored with herbs or garlic
1/2 c. sugar
2 t. salt
1 t. basil
1 t. chili powder
1 t. dried minced garlic
1 t. oregano
1/2 t. cracked pepper
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Mix all ingredients, except eggs, in top of double boiler and let stand 2 hours at room temperature. Add eggs and cook over simmering water, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and eggs are cooked, about 10 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars and cool down before covering and refrigerating. Keeps in fridge for up to 2-3 months. Makes 2 cups.

French Herb Mustard

1/4 c. dry mustard
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. white wine or dry sherry
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. tarragon
1/4 t. dill seed
1/4 t. celery seed
1/4 t. ground cloves
3 egg yolks or 1 whole egg

Combine all ingredients, except eggs, in top of double boiler and let stand at room temperature 2 hours. Whisk in eggs and cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, until mustard thickens and eggs are cooked, about 5 minutes. Store in crock or jar in fridge for up to 1 month. Makes 1 cup, recipe can be doubled.

 

My Favorite Cashew Brittle

Homemade Cashew Brittle

If you need a great food gift- perhaps something to bring to a holiday party- this brittle might just be the answer. This is also a wonderful option when you just don’t have a lot of time. It is fast and easy to make.

I was given this recipe at a craft show a few years ago. The brittle is cooked in the microwave. No special thermometers or equipment required. Just a glass bowl and a few minutes of your time. It could not be simpler.  It is really good, too.

You can use other nuts, if you prefer, or peanuts. You can add a little cayenne pepper, if you want a spicy version. You can also dress it up with a drizzle of chocolate, once cooled.  So many ways to enjoy it.

 

Stored in a covered container, in a cool, dry place, the brittle will stay crunchy for weeks.

 

 

 Homemade Cashew Brittle

2 c. cashews*

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. corn syrup

1/8 t. salt

1 t. butter

1 t. vanilla

1 t. baking soda

Butter or oil a large baking sheet and set aside. In a 3-4 quart glass bowl combine the nuts, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Remove from microwave, stir well and return to microwave. Cook 3 more minutes in microwave. Remove and stir in butter and vanilla, stirring until butter has melted. Return to microwave and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from microwave and stir in baking soda. Stir until well blended and pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Spread out quickly, then allow to cool. Once cool, break into pieces. Store in a cool, dry place. I normally store it in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.

* I used salted cashews but feel free to experiment with other nuts

Note: Use high power setting on microwave.

Cinnamon Shortbread Cookies- Gluten Free

Gluten Free Cinnamon Shortbread

These shortbread cookies are a favorite of mine. They have a nice crunchy texture and a wonderful cinnamon flavor.  They are also gluten-free, so everyone in my family can enjoy them. Just in time for holiday baking.

If you, or someone you love, can’t have gluten, the options are getting better. Even a few years ago, it was hard to find decent gluten-free baked goods. Now they seem to be everywhere.

Gluten-free home baking has gotten easier too. Rather than mixing up numerous ingredients, you can buy a bag of gluten-free flour, ready to bake with.

There are some differences. I find things made with gluten-free flour brown faster. I often bake at a slightly lower temp, or for a shorter time. This recipe has already been adjusted for that.

Last night I made a shortbread-type cookie and was really pleased with the results. Not because these cookies are OK, but because these cookies are GREAT. I would make them again in a minute. Super crisp and not too sweet, they were also very easy to make. Gluten-free flour is getting easier to find, too.

 

Cinnamon Shortbread Cookies- Gluten Free 

1/2 c. butter, softened

1/2 c. sugar

1 t. vanilla

pinch of salt

1 c. gluten-free flour

2 t. cinnamon

extra sugar for topping the cookies

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Stir in the flour and then stir in the cinnamon. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Flatten the cookies out by dipping the bottom of a glass in some sugar and pressing down on the dough. To help the sugar to stick to the bottom of the glass rub a tiny bit of butter on the bottom of the glass. I used the paper the butter was wrapped in. After you dip the glass the first time the sugar will stick to it. Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes- or until golden around the edges. Cool on wire rack. Makes 30.

Cranberry Juice and Cranberry Roll-ups

Cranberry Juice

I bought quite a few bags of cranberries right before Thanksgiving. I popped a few in the freezer to enjoy later. I also wanted to preserve some of them in a couple of other ways. I decided to can cranberry juice. I used the leftover pulp (after I strained the juice) for cranberry fruit roll ups.

The juice came out great. Nothing like store-bought. It was really easy, too.

I started with 5 (12oz.) bags of cranberries. I measured them out and added the same amount of water- each bag was just under 4 cups of berries so I added 3 1/2 cups of water for each bag. I brought this mixture to a boil and let it cook until the berries starting popping. I strained the juice twice. First time through a fine strainer and second time through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Set the pulp aside for now.

I returned the juice to the pot and brought it up barely to a simmer. To sweeten it, I added 6 oz. of frozen apple juice concentrate and less than a cup of sugar. Once the juice was up to a simmer, I let it cook 5 minutes and then ladled it into clean, hot quart canning jars. I filled them to about 1/4 inch from the top, wiped the rims and closed the jars. I also used the last of it to fill a pint jar. Processed in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Ended up with 4 quarts and 1 pint for my efforts.

After making cranberry juice I was left with a lot of pulp. I didn’t want to toss it, so I decided to make cranberry fruit roll ups with it. I ran the pulp through the coarse blade of my food mill. I then sweetened just a little- less than a cup of sugar. I  spread the mixture on plastic wrap placed on the trays of my dehydrator. I ended up with 7 in the end. I dried them at 120 degrees for 6 hours. They should be pliable but not sticky to the touch when done. A  friend stopped over today and got a chance to taste them. He said he liked that the roll ups were not too sweet- they had a nice tartness to them. Once finished, I rolled them up in the plastic wrap and will store them in the fridge. Honestly, they aren’t going to be around long.

Cranberry Roll-ups- wrapped in plastic wrap

 

Cranberry Rosemary Vinegar

Cranberry-Rosemary Vinegar

This is a favorite food gift of mine. It is so festive and it tastes good, too.

I happen to love cranberries. I buy a lot of them this time of year. They are in season, so the price is good. I buy extra, and throw a few bags in the freezer to enjoy all year long

I make all sorts of baked goods with them, the cranberry sauce we have with Thanksgiving dinner and a  liqueur made with cranberries and vodka.  Cranberries make wonderful relish and jam and add a great tartness to baked goods. I even preserve some by making, and canning, my own cranberry juice.

I also preserve some by using cranberries to flavor vinegar. By adding rosemary, the end result is a great tasting vinegar that is perfect for winter salads. It is also a lovely gift.

I love to give homemade gifts. Time isn’t always on my side, though. I doubt my niece will be getting that scarf I was going to crochet for her. But I can get several bottles of this vinegar made in no time.

All you need are bottles with corks or screw top lids. If using corks, be sure they are food grade. You’ll also need cranberries, bamboo skewers, fresh rosemary and vinegar- 5% acidity. I use red wine vinegar. Other vinegar will work, too. If you use white vinegar or cider vinegar they will pick up color from the berries and turn a pretty reddish shade. Not as red as with the wine vinegar, but still very pretty.

Since I bring my rosemary plants inside for the winter, I have access to fresh rosemary. Your local grocery store probably has some in the produce department. You can use other herbs, if you can’t find rosemary.

Make sure the skewers will fit in the bottles. Cut them down to fit, if needed. Skewer the berries on the skewers leaving a little room on the top of the skewer. If your cranberries are really big, test to make sure they will fit the neck of the bottle. The skewers keep the berries from floating around.

Place a few sprigs of rosemary in each bottle and then add the berry- filled skewers. Pour in the vinegar, leaving a little room for the cork. Sometimes you need to add a little more vinegar the next day as some will absorb into the cranberries and the skewers. I make decorative labels and give them as gifts. Ready to use in a week.

Tasty Recipes for Leftover Turkey

Turkey Reuben

It is that time of year, when we find ourselves waking up to leftover turkey. Sometimes quite a lot of leftover turkey.

Of course, be sure to make stock from the carcass. Turkey sandwiches are always a favorite in my family.

There is a lot more you can make with the rest of the bird, though. Here are 10 fun and tasty ways to make the most of all that turkey.

 

I never get tired of turkey, but if your family does not feel the same way, these recipes could come in handy. Enjoy!!

 

 

Turkey Reuben Loaf

3 ¼ c. flour

1 T. sugar

1 t. salt

1 package quick-rising yeast

1 c. hot water

1 T. oil

¼ c. thousand island dressing*

8-10 oz. thin sliced turkey

4 oz. sliced Swiss cheese

1 c. sauerkraut, rinsed and squeezed dry

1 egg white, beaten

Caraway seeds

 

Set aside 1 cup of the flour. Combine remaining flour with the other dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in water and oil and gradually stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Roll dough into a rectangle about 16 x 8. Spread dressing down center middle of dough. Top with meat slices, cheese and sauerkraut. Cut one-inch wide strips of dough from filling to edge on both sides. It will sort of look like fringe. Alternating sides, fold strips up and over the filling at an angle. Carefully lift loaf onto greased baking sheet and place at an angle. Cover with a towel and place sheet on top of a roasting pan half-filled with simmering water for 15 minutes. Brush with egg white and top with seeds. Bake in a preheated 400-degree for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly before slicing. Serve warm and refrigerate leftovers.

* You can make your own Thousand Island Dressing by combining equal parts of ketchup, mayo and sweet pickle relish.

Note: The variations for this bread are almost endless. Some favorite combinations are ham and Swiss with mustard, roast beef and cheddar, chicken, broccoli and cheese, Spinach with ricotta or feta and onions, pizza, assorted fillings. You get the idea. Use your imagination and have fun. Just be careful not to overfill, or the bread will be hard to move, use fillings that aren’t too runny and always use cold fillings.

 

If you want to use regular yeast use warm, rather than hot water. Also, don’t let dough rise over boiling water. After kneading cover dough and let rise 45 minutes. Punch down and assemble as in original recipe. Cover with a towel and let rise until dough looks puffy, about 40 minutes. Bake as directed above. These breads can also be frozen.

Turkey Tetrazzini

2 T. butter or oil

1 c. chopped celery

4 oz. sliced mushrooms

4 T. flour

1 1/2 c. chicken or turkey stock

1 c. half and half or milk

1/4 c. sherry

2 c. cooked turkey, cubed

4-6 oz. broken spaghetti, cooked

salt and pepper to taste

bread crumbs

butter

Parmesan cheese- optional

Heat butter or oil in pot and add celery and cook 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook 3 minutes more. Stir in flour and mix well. Add stock, half and half and sherry bring to a simmer- stirring often. Stir in turkey and pasta. Adjust seasonings. Place mixture in oiled casserole and sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and drizzle a little melted butter over the top. Add Parmesan cheese, if you like. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake until bubbly- about 25 minutes. Serves 4.

 Turkey Noodle Soup

Oil*
2 onions, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 ribs celery, sliced
4 qts. Turkey stock
4-5 c. turkey meat, cubed
1 c. chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot pepper sauce to taste
1 lb. wide egg noodles, cooked

Heat oil in soup pot and cook onions until starting to brown. Add carrots and celery and cook a few minutes more. Add stock and meat and simmer, covered, until veggies are tender. Add parsley and simmer 15 minutes longer. Adjust seasonings. Warm noodles and serve on the side so everyone can add as many noodles to their soup as they like. Serves 8.
* Since I had freshly made stock I used a little fat from the stock to cook the onions.

 

Turkey Won Ton Soup

1½ lbs. cooked turkey, about
1 head bok choy
3 T. hoisin sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
24 won ton wrappers
2 qts. Turkey stock
1 t. ginger
1 t. hot pepper sauce
Chopped green onions
Sesame oil

I used dark meat from the turkey, mostly. I minced enough to give me a cup of meat. The rest I cut into thin strips. I then took stems from the bok choy and minced enough of them to make 1 cup. Combine the minced turkey with minced bok choy, the hoisin and the garlic. This is the filling for your won tons. Slice more of the bok choy- using mainly the leaves, into thin shreds. This will go into the soup later, along with the strips of turkey. You should have at least a couple of cups of the shredded bok choy, but more is OK, too. To make the won tons place one on your work surface and spoon a rounded teaspoon of the filling into the middle of it. Moisten edge with water, fold in half and press to seal. I used round wrappers, but square wrappers are fine, too. I like the round ones, labelled for dumplings, because they are a little thicker. I get them at a local Asian grocery store. Repeat with remaining won tons and fillings until done. Bring stock to a boil and add the ginger and hot sauce. Add the won tons to the simmering stock. Simmer gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the strips of turkey and the shredded bok choy greens. Cook about 5-6 minutes longer. Finish soup with chopped green onions and a drizzle of sesame oil. Serves 6-8.

 

 

Turkey Chili

1 large onion, chopped
2 T. oil
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans lima beans, drained and rinsed
1 can ( 4 oz.) chopped green chilies
3-4 c. cubed turkey
2-3 c. stock- turkey or chicken
3 T. chili powder, or to taste
1 T. cumin, or to taste
Generous dash of hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chopped cilantro

Toppings: Pick what you like. Some good toppers are shredded cheese, chopped green onions, salsa, sour cream or tortilla chips

.
In soup pot cook onion in oil until golden brown. Add the celery, peppers and chilies and cook 5 more minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, except cilantro and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and simmer until flavors blend, about 30 minutes but longer is fine. I usually cook it covered for 15 to 20 minutes and then remove the lid so it can thicken. Add the cilantro right before serving. Ladle into soup bowls add add toppings of your choice. Serves 6.

Turkey Florentine

2 T. oil or butter
1 large leek, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
4 T. flour
1½ c. stock – turkey or chicken
24 oz. fresh spinach, washed
¾ c. half and half- you could use milk instead
3 c. cubed cooked turkey
Salt and pepper to taste
2 t. hot sauce- or to taste
1 c. shredded Pecorino/ Romano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling on top
Hot cooked pasta

In large skillet cook leeks in oil or butter over medium heat until tender. Stir in flour and cook until smooth, but not brown. Add the stock and cook until mixture starts to thicken. Add the spinach and continue cooking, stirring often until the spinach is wilted. The spinach cooks down a lot- you might have to add it a little at a time to have room in the pan for all of it. As soon as the spinach is wilted add the half and half and the turkey and cook until heated through and bubbly. You might need a little more stock or half and half if the sauce is too thick for your taste. Season with the salt and pepper and the hot sauce. Stir in the cheese. Serve over hot pasta. Serves 4-6.

Turkey with Herb Dumplings

1 turkey thigh, cut off the bone and cubed

1 large onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

4 c. turkey stock

4 T. flour

salt and pepper to taste

1 c. baking mix- like Bisquick- I make my own

1/2 c. milk

2 T. chopped green onion

1 T. chopped parsley

1 t. dried basil

In Dutch oven or large pot, brown turkey thigh. Add the vegetables and brown them, too, turning to prevent burning. Add stock, cover pot, and simmer until veggies are tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Combine flour with some cold water or more stock until smooth. Add to the pot and stir well. Mixture will thicken. Meanwhile combine baking mix with milk and herbs. Drop dumpling batter by tablespoonfuls over the turkey mixture in pot. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and cook until dumplings are cooked, about 20 minutes. To serve place some of the turkey and vegetables with sauce in serving bowls and top with dumplings. Serves 6.

Turkey Vegetable Soup

1 onion, chopped

oil

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

3 small potatoes. peeled and cubed

1 c. corn- cut from 1-2 ears

1 medium tomato, peeled and chopped

2 c. shredded cooked turkey *

3-4 cups turkey stock- or whatever you have and like

Fresh parsley and basil

salt and pepper to taste

dash of hot sauce

Heat oil in pot and cook onion until golden. Add carrots and cook a few more minutes. Add remaining vegetables, turkey and stock and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes- or until veggies are tender. Add herbs and simmer a few more minutes. Adjust seasoning and add hot sauce. Serves 2-3 for dinner.

*If you want to turn this into a vegetarian soup add vegetable stock  and add a couple of cups of cooked beans. Kidney beans would work well.

Turkey Lo Mein

1 onion, chopped

2 T. oil

1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained

1/2 c. green peas- you could also use green beans

2 c. diced cooked turkey

8 oz. angel hair pasta -I use a very fine noodle I get at the Asian market

soy sauce to taste

Hoisen sauce or oyster sauce to taste- you could also use stir-fry sauce

sesame oil

chopped green onions

Heat water for pasta. Heat oil in skillet and cook onion until browned.  Add water chestnuts and cook 1 minute longer. While onion is cooking cook pasta. Add peas to onion mixture and stir to combine. Add the turkey and heat through.  Drain pasta and toss into turkey mixture. Season with soy sauce and what ever Asian sauce you have on hand. Drizzle with sesame oil and top with green onions. Serves 4.

Turkey With Tortellini

1 lb. cheese tortellini, cooked and drained

2-3 c. cubed cooked turkey

2-3 c. cooked broccoli, chopped

2 T. butter or oil

2 T. flour

1 c. half and half or milk, warmed

2 c. stewed tomatoes- I used my canned tomatoes- you could substitute a 14 oz. can of tomatoes

salt and pepper to taste

fresh chopped parsley

In bowl combine tortellini with turkey and broccoli and place and a lightly greased casserole. In saucepan melt butter and add flour whisking until smooth. If using oil just combine oil and flour in pan and whisk until smooth. Add  half and half and cook, stirring often until thickened and bubbly. Add tomatoes and heat through. Season to taste. Puree sauce and pour over the turkey mixture. Sprinkle with the parsley. Bake in a 350 degree oven until heated through and lightly browned around the edges- about 40 minutes.

Turkey Florentine

Turkey Florentine

Turkey with Herb Dumplings

Turkey with Herb Dumplings

Turkey Lo Mein

Turkey Lo Mein

Turkey with Tortellini

Turkey with Tortellini

Uncle Art and the Giant Turkey

 I posted this story last year and had a request to post it again….so here it is….

Rather than posting a recipe today, I wanted to share a fun Thanksgiving memory with you. Through most of my younger life, Thanksgiving was spent with my family and my Aunt Tillie and Uncle Art’s family. My mother and my Aunt Tillie were sisters. They were as close and loving as sisters could be. We took turns at each others homes, and shared the cooking duties.

There was a friendly rivalry every year to come up with a special dessert or to have a new side dish. The biggest part of this challenge though, was to get a really big turkey. My mother was convinced that a big bird was tastier than two small ones. Aunt Tillie agreed. So every year it was the quest of the host family to score a really large turkey.

My mom and dad would go to the local butcher to order the bird weeks in advance. I am sure Tillie and Art did the same. They always seemed to end up around 25 pounds, give or take. My dad and uncle kept track. Last year was 26 pounds and 4 ounces, but two years before, closer to 27 pounds. I swear, these birds had to be part ostrich.

The ultimate goal was to get a 30 pounder. It had eluded them all, until one year. Uncle Art had found a new guy. A turkey guy, who promised him the 30 pound bird of his dreams. We knew days before the big day, that the really big bird dream was going to happen. Then my mom got a phone call from Aunt Tillie.

My uncle had picked up the beast. He proudly brought it home. He looked at it, lovingly at first. Then he looked again. This was not Uncle Art’s first turkey. He felt something was wrong. Remember, this was something they had all dreamed about finding. Finding it first was cause for bragging rights, for sure. He was convinced that he had been duped, that the bird fell short of its promised weight. He told my aunt about his suspicions and they weighed the bird. It was too big for their kitchen scale, so my uncle weighed himself on the bathroom scale and then weighed himself again, this time holding the turkey.

Uncle Art had been right. He was short at least a couple of pounds of the promised 30 pounds. He went back to the turkey guy, irate. The man was defensive at first, but weighed the bird again. It weighed in somewhere in the area of 28 pounds. The man gave him some money back and lacking a bigger bird, Uncle Art brought it back home.

As I recall it was a perfectly lovely bird, cooked to juicy perfection. To my Uncle Art it was both a failure and a success. On one hand, he had not gotten the 30 pound bird he was hoping for. He did, however, take pride in the fact that he spotted it. That in the world of turkeys, he could see the difference between a 28 pound and a 30 pound bird.

I believe, some years later, a 30 pound bird was found. The story that year, around the Thanksgiving dinner table, was not so much about the 30 pound bird before us, but about the one that nearly was.

I hope you all have a great day, spent with those you love. I also hope you make memories to make you smile, when some of those we love are no longer here. Love and best wishes to all.

Happy Thanksgiving.

My Mom, Dinah Shore and the Upside Down Turkey

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought I’d share how I came to roast my turkey breast side down. I must say, there are a number of ways to roast a turkey and have it come out nice and juicy.

I have no objection to any way you like to cook your bird including, but not limited to: frying, wrapped in bacon, cheesecloth wrapped, spatchcocked, sous vide etc. Stuffed, un-stuffed, brined are all OK by me, if that works for you. I have found over the years that cooking a turkey is a very personal decision, and folks get pretty passionate about how they cook their bird.

Many years ago a singer named Dinah Shore had a TV show, which my Mother really liked. Dinah, besides being a singer, liked to cook. She gave her turkey cooking tip one time on her show. She said she roasted her turkey breast side down for most of the time. The theory is that if the bird is breast side down the juices will flow into the breast- which eliminates the need to baste. It also slows down the cooking time for the breast- so it comes out cooked at the same time as the dark meat.

My Mother was intrigued, to say the least. She talked about it, a lot, leading up to Thanksgiving. We used to get a really big turkey and my Dad has his doubts about how easy turning over a hot, partially cooked turkey, would be. Mom was adamant. So it was that that Thanksgiving my Mom put her bird in the pan, on the rack, breast side down. She was excited and nervous at the same time.

Let’s face it- the turkey is the star of the meal and if it didn’t work it would be a disaster. But Mom trusted Dinah and they went ahead with this radical new plan. After about 3 hours of cooking, maybe a bit less, they managed to get the turkey turned over and returned it to the oven. Mom would look pensively through he oven window. I think giving birth was easier on her.

Well, in the end it worked out great. The bird was juicy and evenly cooked. No basting, so less work. She was delighted that she had held to her plan and had not been persuaded to cook it like before.

So every time I cook a turkey I cook it breast side down. How long I roast it that way depends on the size of the bird. Normally about 2 hours- because I am roasting a smaller turkey. I always remember my Mother when I cook it that way. I remember that first breast side down Thanksgiving and every one after that. Mom always was delighted- like the first time- and she always mentioned Dinah Shore.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. May your turkey be juicy and most importantly, may you get to spend time with the people you love. I’ll be with family and I’ll think about my Mother and Father – and Dinah.

Brussels Sprout Chocolate Truffles

Brussels Sprout Truffles

Before you think these have any Brussels sprouts in them- they don’t. These truffles are all chocolate. The center is a chocolate truffle. The “leaves’ are made by  painting Brussels sprouts leaves with melted chocolate. Once the chocolate  hardens, the leaves are peeled off. What remains looks like a Brussels sprout!!

This might be one way to get someone to eat Brussels Sprouts. They would make a nice hostess gift for your next holiday party. It is also a project kids could do, with a little practice.

I made my truffle recipe and put it in the fridge to firm up. The recipe follows.

Then I took some of the larger outer leaves off Brussels sprouts. I trimmed the bottoms off to make peeling of the leaves easier. You’ll need two leaves for each truffle so be sure to have plenty. I had about 60.

You’ll also need a few ounces of chocolate, for coating the leaves. Use whatever chocolate you like. The better quality of chocolate you use, the better the truffles. I wiped the leaves clean, and then melted several ounces of chocolate. I used a pastry brush to brush the insides of the Brussels sprout leaves with the melted chocolate. Once the chocolate had hardened, I gently peeled off the leaves and discarded them. Since the leaves were different sizes, I rolled out portions of the truffles that would fit the size of the leaves I was using. I pressed the truffle mixture in one leaf and then placed another leaf, of similar size, over the filling.

Normally I would roll the truffles in cocoa powder- but in this case, I didn’t. I wanted the truffles to stick to the leaves and leaving them plain seemed like the best way to do that.  The end result was very cute. Store in fridge until ready to serve.

Chocolate Truffles

1/3 c. whipping cream

6 T. butter, cut into small pieces

2 c. chocolate chips- or 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, grated or chopped coarsely

Unsweetened cocoa

Heat cream to boiling in small saucepan. Stir in butter and cook until melted. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted. Place in shallow bowl and chill until firm, at least a couple of hours. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and roll in cocoa. Sometimes the mixture is quite firm and hard to roll into perfectly smooth balls. You can roll them out as smooth as you can, roll in cocoa and then roll again to smooth out. You might want to give them another roll in the cocoa after that.  Makes about 30.

Leaves brushed with chocolate

Leaves brushed with chocolate

Remove leaves gently

Remove leaves gently

Press 2 leaves together over the truffle filling

Press 2 leaves together over the truffle filling