Gobble Gobble - ya big turkey!

Another Thanksgiving here and gone…it’s a deep mixture of regret and relief.

This year I baked a 22 pound bird. Brined him ala Brown - he came out a beautiful rich brown with succulent moist meat. I would show you a picture – but as I left the kitchen for a few minutes to take a break, the crew descended upon the hapless bird and started eating the sizzling hot skin off of the legs and breast. Tsk tsk..but I should know better with three men and a teenage girl drooling in anticipation seated in the next room, forks in hand.

This attack on the main dish by the primitives did not stop me from serving up 10 pounds of mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, glazed carrots, oyster dressing, cranberry relish plus the ever present pumpkin pie. I did not do sweet potatoes this year due to a limit on the oven space – the turkey was an oven hog. I don’t think the gang minded much - at least I took all the grunting and snuffling to mean that I had been forgiven.

I have been choosing to make oyster dressing for the last couple of years as it was always a tradition when I was growing up. My parents would make a pilgrimage up to Dick’s Fish Market on South 3rd St. and get a quart of oysters. A few of the shellfish would be reserved for oyster soup – what was basically oysters cooked briefly in milk and butter with lots of pepper. Then, you would crumble crackers in the broth and eat.

My only problem with my mom’s dressing (or stuffing, in this case, as she always stuffed her birds) is that she would never really pick through her oysters and you would get this grit in the middle of the a bite of moist, bready goodness.

So now that the gang has eaten their fill of turkey, taken home copious amounts of leftovers I can now disassembled the turkey and start on my favorite leftover dish of all time – Turkey Potato Soup!

Here is where a little planning pays off - on Thursday, when I am prepping the onions and celery for the dressing, I cut up about 6 extra stalks of celery and two extra onions. I toss those into the fridge in preparation for the soup. All I have to do on Sunday is boil the carcass down for broth and have the hubby peel 5 pounds of potatoes. Thoughtfully, I station him in the kitchen so he has a line of site on the television and all his glorious football carnage.

Rosie’s Turkey Potato Soup

10 - 12 cups of turkey carcass broth (plus any leftover gravy)

1 stick of butter

6 stalks of celery, medium dice

2 medium onions, small dice

5 pounds of russet potatoes, large dice

1 large carrot, grated

1 to 1 ½ cups of mashed potatoes

Seasoned Salt, Pepper to taste

Pinch of Cayenne

A box of chocolates (This does not go in the soup but in the cook. I think this may be the most important ingredient of all.)

Melt the stick of butter in a heavy bottomed stock pot and sauté the onions and celery until the onions are translucent. Add the potatoes and sauté them briefly in the butter. (I have no idea why, but this is how Mom taught me and that is how it’s done!) Add the broth and bring back to a simmer. Test the broth for salt, caeynne and pepper and add as needed. (Because so much of the ingredients are already pre-seasoned, you need to taste this frequently to make sure that everything is as it should be.) When the potatoes are about half done, add in the grated carrot.

Once the potatoes are fork tender, dip out a couple cups of broth into a deep bowl or a 2 quart measuring cup. Add the mashed potatoes to the broth and take it to task you’re your stick blender until all the lumps are gone. Add back to the soup. (Because the potatoes already have cream and butter in them, I do not add any additional cream or milk. If the soup seems thick, then thin with any extra broth or some milk.)

Serve with a tasty turkey sandwich – if you have any turkey left – but this is a fairly hearty soup and would be good with just a nice salad.

A word to the wise: I usually brine my turkey – so there is some salt in the broth. There is salt in the mashed potatoes. Unless you really, really love salt (and there are those of you who do), take care when seasoning this dish.


Rosie the Christmas Cookie Fairy Godmother - making all your cookie dreams come true

I love cookies. You love cookies. Everyone loves cookies - even the people who claim they don’t. They are just lying to themselves and will come around to our way of thinking sooner or later.

The prime season for programming… I mean, converting… those who resist is Christmas. What is more seductive than a beautiful platter of sweet edibles? On the holiday buffet, the lunchroom counter, heck - tucked underneath the holiday issue of your co-worker’s favorite “gentleman’s” magazine or snuck in on visitor’s day at the federal pen – the right cookie is bound to turn heads and make mouths water.

This year I settled on two cookies that are bound to make even the most ardent cookie hater come back for seconds.

The first is Pecan Tassies. Maybe these are a little on the plain side, but drizzle a little chocolate over the top and badda-bing - instant favorite! My most used recipe is from Rose's Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I love the use of Lyle’s Golden Syrup – it gives a deep, almost caramel undertone to the filling. Ms. Beranbaum was right on with this recipe – I am thinking of trying Lyle’s in my next pecan pie – yum yum!

Pecan Tassies
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup (dip and sweep method) bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup golden refiner's syrup or dark corn syrup
1/3 cup (firmly packed) dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 cup pecan pieces or coarsely chopped pecans

Chocolate Topping
2/3 (3-ounce) bar bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
2 teaspoons flavorless vegetable oil

mini muffin tins; cookie sheets; re-closable quart-size freezer bag

Cream Cheese Pastry
Food Processor Method
Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes, wrap them in plastic wrap, and re­frigerate. In a food processor with the metal blade, process the flour and salt, just to mix them. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse in until the dough starts to clump together.

Electric Mixer Method
Slightly soften the butter and cream cheese. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese until blended. On low speed, beat in the flour and salt just until incorporated.

For Both Methods
Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape the dough into a smooth ball. Measure the dough into rounded teaspoons and roll them between the palms of your hands into balls. Place them in the mini muffin tins. If the dough be­comes too soft to hold its shape, refrigerate it briefly. Use a floured index finger knuckle to press the dough against the sides of the tin. Be careful not to let the tin show through as the filling will stick to it. Set muffin tins on cookie sheets and refrigerate them while making the filling.

Pecan Filling
Place 1 oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, combine the filling ingredients except for the pecans and stir them together un­til well blended. Stir in the pecans. Spoon about 1 heaping tea­spoon of filling into the pastry, filling it but not touching any ex­posed area of the tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set but still soft in the centers. For even baking, rotate the cookie sheet from front to back halfway through the baking period. Allow the tassies to cool on the cookie sheets on wire racks. The tassies unmold more easily when cool.

Chocolate Lace Topping
Break the chocolate into squares and place them, together with the oil, in the top of a double boiler set over very hot water (but no hotter than 160°F.). The water must not simmer or touch the bot­tom of the double-boiler insert. Stir until the chocolate begins to melt. Return the pan to low heat if the water cools, but be careful that it does not get too hot. (The chocolate may be melted in a mi­crowave oven stirred every 15 seconds.) Remove the chocolate from the heat source before it is fully melted and stir, using resid­ual heat to complete the melting. Dry any moisture that formed on the bottom of the chocolate container. Pour the melted choc­olate into a reclosable quart-size freezer bag, close it securely, and cut off a small piece from one corner of the bag. Let the chocolate mixture stand at room tempera­ture until cooled and slightly thickened. Drizzle the chocolate over the tops of the cooled tassies.

Store: In an airtight container at room temperature. Keeps: 2 weeks at room temper­ature.

The second recipe is Spiced Cranberry Apricot Ice Box Cookies from The All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett. I have friends who will not bake a recipe unless there is a picture so they can “see” if the recipe is going to taste good. I thought that was crazy talk I tell ya, crazy! Me – once I read over the recipe and saw it contained cardamom, orange, apricots and pistachios, I was sold. Hey, I figure they will “see” how good these are when I take these cookies into work tomorrow!

Spiced Cranberry Apricot Icebox Cookies

1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) dried sweetened cranberries, chopped
3/4 cup (about 3 3/4 ounces) dried Turkish apricots, chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons orange juice
2 ¼ cups all-purpose white flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup (1 stick plus 2 2/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, slightly softened
¼ corn oil or other flavorless vegetable oil
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 large egg
Generous 2 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (colored part of the skin)
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely chopped unsalted (and undyed) pistachios

1 cup powdered sugar sifted after measuring, if lumpy
About 1 tablespoon orange juice

In a medium bowl, stir together the cranberries, apricots, and orange juice. Let stand for 30 minutes, or until the dried fruit is rehydrated. In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt; set aside. In another bowl, with an electric mixer on low speed, beat together the butter, oil, and powdered sugar until well blended. Increase the speed to medium and beat until very fluffy and smooth. Add the egg, orange zest, and vanilla and beat until very smooth. Beat or stir in the flour mixture just until evenly incorporated. Fold in the dried-fruit mixture and pista­chios.

Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour, or until firmed up slightly. Spoon half of the dough onto a sheet of wax paper, forming a rough log bout 8 inches long. Repeat with the second dough portion. Smooth the wax paper around the dough to help form the logs. Roll the logs up in sheets of plastic wrap, twisting the ends to keep the logs from unrolling. Freeze the logs until completely frozen, at least 3 hours. Bake immedi­ately, or transfer to an airtight plastic bag and freeze for up to 2 months.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease several baking sheets or coat with nonstick spray. Carefully peel the wrap from a dough log. Using a large, serrated knife, cut the log in half lengthwise. Then, with the cut side down, cut each half crosswise into generous 3/4-inch-thick slices. (If the log is too hard to slice easily, let stand for a few minutes; don't let it thaw too much, or the dough will be more difficult to slice cleanly.)

Using a spatula, carefully transfer the slices to the baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. If desired, repeat with the second log, or save it to bake another time. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 8 to 11 minutes, or until just slightly darker around the edges. Reverse the sheet from front to back halfway through baking to ensure even brown­ing. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks. Let stand until cooled completely.

FOR THE ICING, IF USING In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and enough orange juice to yield a thin icing. Spoon the icing into a paper cone or a small pastry bag fitted with a fine writing tip. (Or use a kitchen spoon for dec­orating, if necessary.) Set the wire racks with the cookies over wax paper to catch drips. Drizzle the icing back and forth across the cookies sev­eral times to produce decorative squiggles; the cookies should be only lightly iced. Let stand until the icing completely sets, about 45 minutes. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 1 1/2 months.

So there they are: my two entries in the Virtual Cookie Swap. I look forward to joining the rest of you in judging all the other entries and may the best bakers win! Bo-yah!


Catching a Buzz

Sound like every fisherman's fantasy to me - a glorious end to a hard day of fishing. The good news for the fishermen is that the laws of salvage apply which means "Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers." Me- I would be heading back out to catch a few more for the holidays!


A new Thanksgiving tradition?!

After reading about all the "new traditions" I should be starting - maybe we should look to the Icelanders who really know what tradition is all about. Check out this video on National Geographic to see if this is something you would like to serve on your table for the upcoming holidays!

a knife love story

For those of you who do not read Cooking for Engineers, shame on you! Michael has done everyone looking to buy a good chef's knife a favor with his comprehensive evaluation of various brands' cutting power. Also, I wished I had thought of it before he did, as I would now have the world's largest collection of $100 chef's knives. Way to go Mike!


Now THAT is using your turkey!

This is the feel good story of the day! A man sacrificed his Thanksgiving dinner to save two people in a burning car. To get the whole story - click here.


Eatin' at the The Dixie Cafe

Every year we make a pilgrimage to a friend's house in Detroit. Most people would think that Detroit is a strange place to make a pilgrimage to, much less have a friend in - and most people would be right. I am sure that Detroit has plenty of restaurants that are wonderful - ethnic cuisine worthy of any chef, home cookin' that any mom would be proud to call her own. Yet, every time we go to Detroit, we have the misfortune of having the "worst dining experience yet." You know you are having a scary food weekend when a Denny's breakfast is the highlight of the trip. Well, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit, but the time I had stuffed green peppers that looked -and tasted- like some alien life form springs to mind.

The single exception to this rule is a small roadside diner off of I-75 (exit 26) known as the Dixie Cafe. Every year we stop in on our way home for breakfast, and every year the food is still good, the coffee is still hot and the waitresses in top form.

What is a cafe named Dixie doing in the heart of the Midwest you ask? At one time, there was an interstate that ran from Northern Michigan all the way South to Florida. Hence, the Dixie Highway. I have a feeling at one time, there were Dixie everythings – Dixie Drycleaners, Dixie Markets, Dixie Car Washes – everyone knows about Dixie cups. It’s just a theory, but I am sticking with it.

Every Sunday morning we’ve gone to the diner, it has been crowded - standing room only in a sparsely furnished waiting room off to one side of the dining room (and this in a rural area mind you). From the door, you can watch the bustle of the dining room, people hugging each other in their Sunday finest and eaves drop on discussions about knitting and crop prices.

Most of the waitresses fall into two categories: young teen gals and older ladies who have been there every time we’ve gone. Well may not those exact ladies, but as far as we can tell, it could be their clones. This time we got a young gal named Christina, who was very good at her job. She got our coffee, water and juice to us in record time, took our order without batting an eye and even let us take her picture! Service with a smile.

In the past, when we have had an older waitress, we asked about the history of the diner. It has been there for a long time, changing owners, even names (the first time we went it was the Dixie Diner) but always the same type of food. According to legend, Jimmy Hoffa of union – mob connection – disappearance fame was a regular of the establishment whenever he was in the area. There are several auto plants in spitting distance, so it is entirely possible that Jimmy ate one of his last meals in that establishment. Nothing to add relish to your breakfast like a lil’ historical rumor.

On to the food!

We went with the max number of calories we could pack in for the long ride home. First though – coffee, lots and lots of coffee. Don’t expect to find fancy coffee in a diner – just good old Java. Tony took his straight – black as midnight and hot as hell. I take mine “Double New York” according to the hubby. For the uneducated (which included me up until that moment) that means two sugars, two creams. Our daughter settled on juice and water, as she has not acquired the taste for varnish remover yet.

I wish I could say we all tried something different – but we didn’t we all went for a gut busting repast of biscuits and gravy, eggs over easy, sausage patties on the side, hash browns, and as if that weren’t enough - a side of bacon. We only got the bacon to prove that a side of bacon at the Dixie Diner consisted of 8 strips. No shit. Chants of “butter that bacon, bacon that sausage” were heard drifting from our table.

The sausage gravy is excellent. Big chunks of meat, a nice peppery bite and it wasn’t old and clotted. They have too much turnover for that. The eggs were perfect - the whites done, the yolks runny. The biscuits were fluffy and warm - I could not tell if they were a good foodservice brand or homemade. Either way, I still would not turn them down. The sausage patties had a good flavor, but were just a tad overdone – considering that everything else was perfect - I can cut them a little slack.

I know that the diner has tons of other options, but it is really hard to pass up your favorite dish when you are only there once a year. Maybe we should head back North this summer and surprise our friends with another visit – even if we have an ulterior motive - like breakfast at the Dixie Café.


Shiny meat...pretty...

A interresting post from Down Under...I can't say as I have ever had my meat competing with my fridge light for luminosity, but I guess there is always a first time.

Woohooo! I hit the jackpot…

Here is the scoop: I have worked for the same company for 10 years now. Whee! On your major anniversaries, my employer gives you a present as a small token of ownership. At one year, I received a keychain in the shape a metal pyramid with very pointy corners. It would draw blood if you were absent minded and put it in your pocket. I felt the pain and blood summed up my first year with the company perfectly.

My five year gift was a Swiss Army knife and a set of binoculars. When I opened the package, my hubby quipped that I would get the rifle and ammo for my ten year gift. While the binoculars are gathering dust in a closet somewhere, the army knife has been one of the most useful items I have ever received. Hur-rah!

And now for my ten year gift! Now, I need to be truthful. Except for the keychain, I could have picked any number of items: gold necklaces, luggage, dvd/vhs players, or mantle clocks, among other items. But when I opened the webpage, I saw the one item I knew I must have: a Henckels knife set.

I had been shopping for new knife set for a while, debating which one to get..maybe just buy a good chef’s knife and build from there…Henckels or Wusthof? Top of the line or mid-range? Spending $90-$120 on one knife is a lot for a working class gal like me. My mother had given me a set of “ever-sharp” knives for Christmas a few years back and I had been limping by ever since.

The only problem was – you could not tell what line the knife set was from. I looked at the picture for hours, researched online and compared the photo on the website to all those on the Henckels site…all to no avail. I finally had to admit, that even the crappiest blade from Henckels would be far superior to an ever-sharp knife set that was several years old – so I hit the button.

That was a week ago - and I now have a shiny new set of knives in my kitchen. My family has been taking turns cutting various items. They murmur admiringly at the construction. My daughter was seen stroking the blade of the chef’s knife. My hubby actually did a little dance as he carved off a paper thin slice of roast beef. Of course, this means I have been taking advantage of the situation by giving them lots of items to chop, dice and slice.

The set comes from the Twin Gourmet line – not the top but better than anything I have owned before. My one and only complaint is that the block is just too freaking big for my kitchen. I have precious little counter space, so taking a cue from Michael Chu over at Cooking for Engineers, I am going to purchase the Edge-Mag knife guards so I can safely stow them away between uses.

Now, provided I am still gainfully employed by the same company in five more years, I wonder what other implements of destruction will be on the gift list then? Machetes? Caltrops? Cuisinart? I can’t wait…


Ok… I confess!

I am borrowing this from Sarah who borrowed it from Amy who borrowed it from David. I am sure there are other people borrowing it as well…

  • I have no less than 10 bottles of hot sauce open in my kitchen right now.
  • I love the way apple cider vinegar tastes and have been known to take a swig when cooking with it.
  • I have a secret stash of Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bars – the really big ones - and no one knows where they are except me!! Muhahhahahah!
  • Sometimes I “dice” onions in my hand over the frying pan the way my mom used to do – with a paring knife and a ‘lil luck.
  • I don’t own a bread machine, but I have been known to proof bread in my microwave.
  • I make Raman noodles for dinner at least once every two weeks.
  • I will only eat all beef kosher hot dogs now – I am spoiled.
  • I love limburger cheese – and it loves me back. Unfortunately, everyone hates us both when we are together.
  • I only use whole milk. Everything else tastes like watered down Whiteout.
  • Currently, 10 pounds of cheese reside in our fridge, yet I constantly look for more.
  • I love to eat “gross” foods in front of squeamish people, just to see the look on their faces. “No, waiter, leave the heads on the fish.”
  • I have secretly enjoyed turning my daughter into a food freak. Now she enjoys grossing out her classmates with what she takes for lunch.
  • I love to eat calorie and fat laden foods in front of people who can’t – and then brag about my perfect cholesterol and blood pressure. “Wow, Mike, are you sure you wouldn’t like some of this cheesecake? It’s got a really great caramel sauce on it. What about some of these homemade sausages and bacon – the best ever! Me? No, my doctor says she has never seen a cholesterol score this low in a woman my age…” (And yes, my cholesterol and blood pressure scores really are that low…)


Just call me El Chiquita!

So… I am tooling through Marc’s grocery the other night when I am confronted with .50 cent bags of bananas. We are talking a banana bonanza here folks! (Say that 10 times fast – banana bonanza) For $1.00, I got TEN pounds of almost too ripe bananas. As I was standing in line with three cartons of sour cream and two huge bags of bananas, the other customers looked at me as if I had lost my mind. Me..I knew I was mad with genius! I would turn my kitchen into a banana republic!

A short while later, loaded down with my bags of goods, I knocked on the door of our apartment.

“Who’s there?!” asked my hubby.

“Banana.” says I.

“Banana who?” asks he.

“Banana!” I say again.

“Banana who?!” he asks with a sigh.

“Orange.” I say, grinning at the eye peering through the peephole.

“Orange who?” he said, resigned to the inevitable.

“Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?” I ask, nodding sagely.

He opened the door and I passed him the big bag.

“So, what’s this?” as he peered inside. “Holy shit, Rose, what are you going to do with all these bananas?”

Cackling manically, I went into the kitchen and started a long night of baking.

Every cook has his/her favorite recipes; the ones that you can whip up in your sleep, the ones that everyone asks for at the party/potluck/workplace. Me – one of mine is my Banana Bread Royale. I found it in a tiny tome called The Desperate Gourmet by Lois Schenck.

Banana Bread Royale

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 soft bananas, mashed
1 ½ cups flour

    Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    Cream the butter with the sugar and add the eggs one at a time.
    Dissolve the baking soda in the sour cream, and then add the baking powder, mashed bananas, and vanilla.
    Add the sour cream and butter mixtures to the flour and bake 45 minutes in a greased loaf pan.

However, I found this to be a flawed recipe to a certain extent. While I loved how moist the loaf was, it always browned too much on the outside before the interior was done. The recipe was all wrong for a loaf pan, but it was perfect for muffins and mini-loafs. They came out light brown, perfectly done and moist. Plus, I loved that I could wrap them individually, and then throw them in the freezer for a quick treat during the week, getting out just what I needed.

The second problem with this is that it is just too damn plain. Sure it tastes great – like bananas, in fact. Bananas are soft, and pliable. Why not bend them to your will? Do you not whip the butter and beat the eggs? Why are you taking it so easy on the damn bananas?! Maybe there is a lil somethin’ going on I don’t know about..huh? Ummm…ahem..excuse me…as I was saying, this recipe is definitely one that begged to have additions. Nuts, chocolate, dried fruit…all good thoughts. Two of my favorite combinations:

Pecan and chocolate chip – because a bad morning can always be made better with chocolate.

Tropical treat (Dried pineapple, coconut and macadamia nuts) – ummmm...well I had this pineapple and coconut that needed to be used up…so in it went! Turned out great! The second time around, I soaked the pineapple in some diluted spiced rum and called it pina colada bread. That batch went like gangbusters, but was not a good choice for early morning snacking.

Additional tips:

  • If you decide that making muffins is too much of a pain in the butt, you can also spread this out in a greased 9” x 13” pan.
  • Make sure your bananas are overripe. The more spots the better.
  • I have also been known to throw the bananas in with the butter, eggs and sugar mixture and let the mixer do the job of squishing the bananas for me. Me, lazy? Never.
  • I may be wrong, but I cannot see any real difference when I add the dry to the wet or vice versa in this recipe. So sift out your flour onto a piece of parchment paper and save a bowl. Throw that bad boy in on top of the wet ingredients. If you do it right, all you have to clean up is your measuring spoons and cups, plus the mixing bowl and the baking pans. Save those two extra bowls for something else. Like Jell-O. For those bastards that hate banana bread.