Friday, November 26, 2010

This year's turkey, turkey brine and all

The flash on my camera is still broken, the sun had already set on Thanksgiving day, and I didn't have any fancy schmancy lighting available. I have no idea what happened to the piece of paper on which I wrote the specifics of the turkey brine I made and used this time around.


So, pardon me whilst I provide very little in the way of details. I started preparing the brine Wednesday morning. I used roughly 4 cups of kosher salt (I actually didn't have 4 cups left, so I substituted sea salt) and a heck of a lot of water. Enough to fill this pot all the way up to the top. I was dealing with a SIXTEEN POUND BIRD, not like the 10-12 pounder from last year.

Brought the water to nearly to a boil and made sure the salt dissolved. Then added parsley flakes and rubbed sage to the pot, let the liquid cool to room temperature, & my husband helped with the next step. He bagged the bird and the liquid in a huge, brand spanking new (unused) trash bag. Actually, I had him double bag the stuff; didn't want any accidents on the floor. Cleared a tupperware container, so we could surround the garbage bags housing the turkey and brine in ice. Poultry needs to stay cool, to avoid spoiling.

This year, unlike last year, there was no snow on the ground. Though we couldn't pack the turkey with snow, temps outside were plenty cold enough to keep our poultry company.

Thursday morning, my husband and I busily prepared many ingredients for both cooking the turkey and making chicken pot pie. I'll let you guess which is which. Just kidding on that last bit. Some potatoes, carrots, celery, and green onions went into baking the turkey. Also added freshly ground pepper, some apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar. I placed slivers of unmelted (straight out of the refrigerator) butter on the top of the turkey.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (oven should be preheated as vegetables are being cut).

Cover turkey baking vessel. I baked the turkey for nearly 6 hours. Checked the internal turkey temperature (avoiding hitting the bone, of course) around half way through the bake time.

Can't tell from this photograph (STUPID broken flash), but the top of the turkey was golden brown. VERY exciting, considering this didn't happen last year. Juicy. Meat was falling off the bone by barely touching the meat.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chicken pot pie, with a Lily twist


Chicken Pot Pie, with a Lily Twist

Throughout my life, from time to time, some of my departures from the what's been considered as normal practice has been considered significant or quite different. I'm not just talking about food. On the topic of food, this is one of those deviations. That signature pie crust that sits on top of chicken pot pie is missing is this unique recipe of mine. But, I am not worried, and I believe this is a tasteful change. Using Panko instead of the pie crust is my signature stamp on this creation.

Want the recipe? Please keep in mind that when it comes to providing recipes, I'm horrendous about remembering exactly how much I used of most any given ingredient. I use my senses to cook, so when I cook something, I never cook it the same exact way twice.

  • family size of chicken tenders (this happened to be on sale at one of the grocery stores I frequent) - 3.24 lbs - tendons cut off, cut into small pieces
  • 1 bundle of celery - leaves taken off, rinsed, and cut into thin slices
  • 1 small package of mini carrots - quartered
  • 2 red onions - diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic - diced
  • 6 red potatoes - washed (I left the skin on) and cut into small squares
  • 1/3 c. of butter
  • a bit of olive oil
  • parsley flakes (several tbsp)
  • a bit of soy sauce
  • a bit of Worcestershire sauce
  • sea salt
  • pepper, from a pepper mill
  • approx. 1/2 c. of frozen corn
  • chicken broth (1-3 cups? sorry, I really am not sure) - cooking the chicken tenders will draw a decent amount of broth
  • milk (2-4 cups? again, sorry about the really rough estimate)
  • Panko bread crumbs - 1/2 to 2/3 of a package


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1. I first caramelized the red onions. On low heat, I cooked diced red onions with a bit of olive oil, until the onions were more transparent. I added a bit of salt towards the end.

Leaving behind the juices & oil (in the pan), I set the onions aside.

2. Then I dumped in the cut chicken tenders. Somewhere in the cooking process, I added sea salt, a bit of soy sauce, and a bit of Worcestershire sauce for flavor. Once the chicken was almost thoroughly cooked (remember the dish is going to bake in the oven, so we don't want the chicken dry), leaving the juice behind in the pan, I set the chicken aside.

3. Into the pan, dump all (except the Panko) the other (uncooked) ingredients into the pan: diced garlic, chopped celery, chopped red potatoes, chopped carrots, milk, chicken broth. I also added a bit of salt, parsley flakes, ground pepper flakes from a mill, and the butter.

Let this stuff cook (let is be a bit bubbly) for at least 10 minutes. I might have let it simmer for 20 minutes; my husband doesn't appreciate crunchy cooked carrots.

4. Dish as much as you can into a large pan. I love my Pampered Chef stoneware*. Be careful to not let the juice get too close to the top of the pan or you'll have a very decorated oven to clean! I let mine heap, such that it slopes downwards and doesn't fill to the rim of the container.

5. Cover the top with Panko.

6. After the oven has been preheated to 400 degrees, bake for approximately 50 minutes.

Here's the finished product. Bon Appetit.

Swordfish delight


The day before yesterday, in the name of or justification of taking care by nourishing, I made two main dishes: swordfish, which my husband and I (our girls also enjoyed the fruits of my labor) had for lunch; and chicken pot pie. I had taken the girls on my crazy three story grocery marathon run and found out the swordfish was on sale. This was about $3 less a pound than usual. I couldn't resist. By how quickly it was devoured by the four of us, I can say it was a good buy.
Align Center

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Food, food, food

I haven't stopped cooking, but, life has been flying past me and I haven't had a chance to work on my bug-ridden lap top. I've done some work on it, but, I'm not yet ready to coast with it, yet. How is that significant for you? I usually upload my photographs there. Not that I can't on my desktop. I'm just too lazy, I mean busy, to upload my camera software there, too. Where are those discs anyhow? I'll be operational soon; I promise.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fried rice

I'm super tired. Why am I telling you this? Because I'm super tired. And my children are finishing their naps, I have finished washing the dirty dishes and wiping down the counters, and my husband has to go back to work tonight. I'm tired.

In other, more pleasant, news, I had a relatively new friend over for lunch. Not the sort of Hannibal Lecter (have you seen that movie with Anthony Hopkins in it? Haven't thought or seen him in the same way since) way. I made fried rice.


Fried Rice

I've made this numerous times now, none relatively recently; but, I decided to try two things different:
  • After cooking everything separately, instead of combining everything in a big pot, I threw everything back into the pan. That means the rice got a bit of frying, in the end.
  • I used a "specially seasoned Southwestern corn" mixture instead of a frozen vegetable mixture that usually includes corn, carrots, green beans, and peas. Why, oh why, must my two little girls be so picky about the green beans and peas? My 3 yr old's favorite color, after all, is green (and some times blue).

This dish involved combining 4 individually cooked components:

1. 1/2 red onion diced. I cooked on lower medium heat with olive oil until a bit transparent. I got a bit distracted by my two little children and by dish washing, so some of it got golden brown.

2. 3 ingredients used: diced garlic, four beaten eggs mixed with a bit of chicken broth.

3. Use a bit of diced garlic and olive oil. On medium heat, let garlic sizzle for about a minute. Then throw in frozen mixed vegetables and put the lid on the pan. Add a bit of sea salt while it's cooking.

4. Cook rice. I cooked about 3 cups. Using a rice cooker.

4. In the now empty frying pan, on super low heat, throw in the cooked medium grain white rice, adding soy sauce. Do NOT drown the rice in soy sauce. There's plenty of saltiness from salting the other components. Now combine all the other components into the pan and stir carefully. Try not to smother the rice; gently stir.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mi fen, good food without forsaking the effort


Mi Fen

My life has gotten much more hectic this week, now that classes have started. I'm beginning to wonder how I survived the last two years with the following FULL TIME JOBS: cook (chef want-to-be), laundromat, accountant, children's character molder, janitor, I know I'm forgetting some stuff. Oh, and I'm in school. Again.

Of pertinence to this particular blog is cooking. I do minimal ready-prepared frozen foods, whether chicken breasts or what not. It's not that I disrespect those who do. It's just that in my own life and in the lives of those in this house, I don't want to spend the extra money (that I don't have) on that and I'm convinced I can do better (in terms of nutrition and taste).

But, the day before yesterday, the same day as my first day of class, I nearly had a breakdown. Perhaps that's a bit of a hyperbole, but you get the idea. I panicked. I can scarcely keep cooked food, even when made in bulk quantities, in this house; because it gets consumed too quickly. I don't know how my parents cooked EVERY DAY, but I cannot do that and maintain my sanity. Cooking takes time, no matter what my dad says; and I haven't mastered being super quick in the kitchen. Especially when I have two little children constantly asking for this, that, and the other.

All this is to say that I understand people live busy lives. I've been in that zone for quite awhile now. Just ask any of my close friends, near or far. But, any meals par excellence, is complicated. I've discovered, via trial and error, before noticing this on Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen, that parts of an exquisite dish are cooked separately; in other words, a dish is rarely cooked altogether, at once, in one pan or pot. Trust me, any five star restaurants cook component parts of dishes separately. Not that I can afford to eat in such places, and not that I claim to make such comparable food. I only dream of making such.


Well, for this rice noodle stir fry that I made the day before yesterday, here are the component parts:

1. A red onion with some olive oil, cooked on lower medium heat, until nearly transparent. Tried adding a bit of sea salt; perfect.

2. Using the same pan, without first washing it, but adding a touch more olive oil and diced garlic, on the same level of heat, once the garlic has been sizzling for a bit, adding in eggs beaten with a bit of chicken broth. Added a touch of sea salt.

3. Cabbage. I had this left over from a couple of days previous. I had cooked half a red onion per the instructions above, then added the thinly sliced cabbage. I added water, chicken broth, some sea salt and oyster sauce. Cook until tender.

4. Soak the rice noodles (the packages I use really are made of rice, not wheat) in hot water. To be cooked for a brief amount of time with the rice noodles and some water include: fresh shitake mushrooms, green onions.

On medium heat, with the lid on, cook for 5-10 minutes.

While that's simmering, make a sauce concoction that will give the mi fen a lovely, tasty complex flavor. I offer my humble apologies for having no clue how much of what I put here. I can, however, disclose what I put into the mixture:
  • brown sugar.
  • rice vinegar.
  • sesame oil.
  • sea salt.
  • oyster sauce.
  • barbecue sauce (not to be confused with what we normally think of as barbecue sauce. This is not what is normally found in grocery stores; this is an Asian sauce that's spicy).
Mix the stuff together well and then dump the contents into the mi fen (rice noodles) that's cooking and stir well. I always operate with the "waste not" mentality. Once, I've emptied the contents of the bowl into the pan, I place some water into the bowl, scrape the sauce contents off of the bowl, and pour all of what is in the bowl into the frying pan. Stir well, add the onion, eggs, and cabbage into the mixture, stir well, and serve.

If you've been following this blog for awhile now, you heard me say this previously. My husband was a meat and potatoes man when I met him, and deep down, he still is. When I make this, I make roughly 12 servings worth. And it is sometimes gone within 24 hours. So, folks, it is worth putting in the effort, though the work may appear intense or daunting at first.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

A mi fen (rice noodle) stir fry that would make chefs proud

This had originally started out as a post with some 20+ photographs, and as I type, they are still attached to this post. But, I've decided, they must go. I haven't the stamina to complete such a lengthy post, and I don't think you'd want to follow such a post all the way to its end.

Perhaps less than photographs will suffice.


Mi Fen (Rice Noodle) Stir Fry

This is easily the best, hands down, mi fen stir fry I have ever made. This is something I would proudly create for others, chefs even. Seriously, it's that good. But, this is not one of those super quick or easy things to make. And, I apologize, I have no measurements to share for this recipe, not because I have secrets I desire to keep clandestine, but I functioned in a normal mode of operation for me (cooking by taste and smell, with no exact measurements in mind and none holding me back).

Four "things" were cooked separately, in preparation for this dish. This time around, I am listing the ingredients and directions unconventionally, with each component or thing separately cooked in preparation for the stir fry. Ready? The ingredients will be listed by number, with instructions following.

Component #1
1. 1/2 red onion.
2. a little bit of olive oil.

Peel and cut the onion thinly, then into thirds. In a large pan (I use the same pan to cook all the components, without washing the pan from cooking one component to another; this keeps the flavor of what was previously cooked), on low medium heat using just a bit of olive oil, cook the onion until it's transparent. Then set aside, leaving behind any remaining oil and juice residue from the onion.

Component #2
3. cabbage - which I got garden fresh from a friend.
4. chicken broth.
5. water.
6. garlic.
7. sea salt.
8. oyster sauce.

Add the garlic to the pan. Still on medium heat, once the garlic has been sizzling a bit, add the cabbage that has been rinsed and cut very finely. I added water and chicken broth to prevent the cabbage from getting too dry and sticking to the pan. Place the lid on the pan. Stir occasionally. I also added sea salt and oyster sauce. Cook until fairly tender (which was more than a few minutes for me). Once done, set aside. I kept a fair amount of the juice with the vegetable (instead of keeping all the juice/soup in the pan).

Component #3

9. 3 eggs.
10. 3 tomatoes - fresh from my dad's garden - diced.
11. chicken broth.
12. sea salt.
13. soy sauce.
14. olive oil.
15. garlic - diced.

Add a tad bit more olive oil into the pan, with some garlic cut into small pieces and the white parts of 2 green onions cut finely. Turn the stove on low medium heat. Once the garlic and green onions have been sizzling for a bit, add three beaten eggs (with a little bit of chicken broth added at the end of the egg beating phase) to the pan. When the eggs are nearly well cooked add in the diced tomatoes. Cover for a minute or two. Add soy sauce and sea salt; not too much is needed.

Before Component #3 is cooked. the rice noodles need to be soaked in hot water, like so:

Component #4
16. rice noodles - 1 package.
17. green onions - the white parts - cut finely.
18. green onions - the green parts - cut finely.
19. water.
20. chicken broth.

Mix the following ingredients in a bowl (for a sauce):
21. sesame oil.
22. aged rice vinegar.
23. soy sauce.
24. cane sugar.
25. sea salt.
26. barbecue sauce - b/w 1 tsp & 1 tbs - CAUTION: this is not what we normally think of as barbecue sauce. I didn't keep the original can, but this is what the stuff looks like:

In the same pan, which should be empty except for some residual oil, broth, and perhaps a few pieces of this and that. Place the rice noodles in the pan, and add a couple of cups (?) of a combination of water and chicken broth, along with the whites of the green onions. Place the lid on the pan and let simmer, stirring occasionally. After the noodles are firm, but tender enough to chew (eat), add the sauce mixture as well as the previous three components.

Stir well and serve.

Serve with chopsticks, which is what my 2 yr old and 3 yr old prefer trying, especially when they see me eating with chopsticks.

Or without (chopsticks).


Either way, it was huge hit with the husband and the children.

Each mouthful is full of complex, delightful flavors; I kid you not. I'll be making this in the future. No hesitation (except it takes me awhile to make this).