Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Braised and Roasted Turkey -- Making cooking a turkey manageable

Let's face it, nothing sucks more than getting up at 5 a.m. to get the turkey in the oven, just to find hours later that the white meat has dried out while waiting for the dark meat to get done. We've done the butterflied turkey, but same results. This ingenious recipe doesn't give you a "presentation bird" (more on that in a second) but it gives you fabulous dark meat, easy gravy and moist white meat. Hats off to Chrysa Robertson of Rancho Pinot Grill here in Scottsdale, Arizona for the technique and recipe, which she adapted from David Tanis.

First, you may read -- "What? You want me to debone a turkey?" and the answer is yes, we do. It's no different than cutting up a chicken (just bigger) and once you learn how you'll be so thrilled with having the skill. Here's a great link to Julia Child and Jimmy Sneed showing how it's done.
http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to-correctly-debone-turkey-4266/

BUT....if you just feel you cannot do this, go buy parts -- two turkey breast lobes (you could buy just a turkey breast and have the butcher debone, or some places sell them deboned), two thighs, and two drumsticks.  If you can get two wings, that's great too!

And, for that presentation bird, have a family member roast one, tent it with foil and bring it over. It can be presented, and then taken back to the kitchen and carved after dinner for folks to take home leftovers.

So, once you have the parts, just follow this recipe. You can start up to three days before you're serving:


BRAISED and ROASTED TURKEY     
provided by Chrysa Robertson of Rancho Pinot Grill, Scottsdale, AZ
based on a recipe by David Tanis

(this recipe is for a 12-14 lb turkey, but you can adjust up or down)

a 12-14 lb. turkey
- cut off the thighs with legs attached.  cut leg off of thigh.  carefully cut the breast
  from carcass in two lobes. cut off the wings, removing the tips for stock.  chop the
  carcass into 2 or 3 pieces (for stock).  reserve neck for stock and giblets for gravy. (there are all sorts of online sources to see this…and really, it will take you less than 20 minutes and is much less daunting than you think)

2-3 T. unsalted butter, softened
fresh thyme
sea salt & freshly ground pepper

*season the turkey the day before cooking for best results*
- place all turkey pieces on cutting board and season well on all sides with sea salt &
  freshly ground pepper.  
- mix the softened butter with a bit of chopped fresh thyme leaves.  carefully lift the skin
  from the breast lobes on one side.  using you fingers, smear the butter under the skin in
  an even layer. wrap the breast lobes together in plastic.  place all the remaining pieces in
  a covered container.  refrigerate, overnight is best.

STOCK   *may be made 1-3 days ahead of time*

turkey carcass, including neck, chopped in pieces if desired
1 large yellow onion, quartered
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large rib celery, chopped
2 whole cloves
1 large clove garlic, smashed
a few teaspoons of oil
a few parsley sprigs
a few thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
about 1 gal water

- place the bones and vegetables on tray or roasting pan, toss with oil, and roast at 400
  degrees until nicely browned, about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice.
- scrape the bones and veg into a stock pot.  pour a little water into the pan and scrape up
  the browned bits, add to pot.  add the neck, herbs & water.  bring to a boil, skim, turn down to
  a low simmer, and cook for about 2 hours.
- strain stock.  cool at room temp for about an hour, then refrigerate.  skim fat when cold.


BRAISED PARTS       preheat oven to 400 degrees

- place thighs, legs and wings in roasting pan (do not crowd).  place in oven and roast while
  you prepare the braising liquid.  check occasionally to be sure they aren't browning too
  quickly.

BRAISING LIQUID

2 large yellow onions, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, sliced (omit or increase/decrease to your taste)
1 cup dry white wine
thyme sprigs
parsley sprigs
sage sprigs
small pinch of fennel seeds
4-6 cups turkey broth
olive oil & butter for browning
(optional: 2 slices bacon or pancetta, cut into small pieces)

- in a large skillet over medium high heat, warm a few tablespoons of olive oil & butter.  add  
  onions, season with salt a& pepper.  cook & stir until softened and browned. add garlic (if
  using) and cook til softened.
(*optional:  first render the bacon or pancetta in skillet til starting to brown, remove with
  slotted spoon and enjoy this snack as your reward!  add a bit more oil to pan, and proceed  
  with cooking onions)
- pour in wine, scrape up all the browned bits.  add stock, herb sprigs & fennel seed, stir
  and cook til simmering.


- remove turkey parts from oven. they should be light golden brown.  drain off fat into a bowl for the gravy.  deglaze pan with some water or stock, pour braising liquid over parts and cover tightly with foil or lid.  reduce oven to 350.  return  pan to oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hrs, or until legs are tender when tested with a fork.  remove from oven and let cool about an hour.  remove parts from liquid.  strain the braising liquid and
  set aside.  skim fat as it cools.

*if not proceeding directly to dinner, cover and refrigerate the turkey parts.  cover and
  refrigerate the braising liquid.  bring turkey to room temp before re-heating.
 
GRAVY

3-4 T. butter or bacon/pancetta fat (or the turkey fat from roasting the parts)
3-4 T. flour
braising liquid
chopped thyme, parsley, sage, etc.
(optional:  finely minced cooked giblets)

- in a sauce pan over med heat, melt the butter/fat.  gradually whisk in the flour til a
  smooth paste forms.  cook and whisk for about 3 minutes til golden and fragrant. 
- slowly whisk in braising liquid.  continue to whisk and cook til thickened.  add chopped
  herbs and giblets if using.  taste for seasoning, adjust.

* if gravy is too thick, add more turkey or chicken stock.  if it seems too thin, shake
  a couple tablespoons of flour with water, and whisk this slurry into gravy.  continue to
  cook for several minutes to eliminate any raw flour taste.
* to cook giblets:  place gizzard & heart in small pot, cover with water or stock and simmer
  until very tender.  let cool, trim off any membranes, and mince. (I don't use the liver in
  the gravy, but my cats love them! dogs, too!)

ROASTING THE BREASTS   preheat oven to 375-400 degrees

* roast the breasts as you reheat other dishes just before dinner, up to an hour before*

- bring breasts to room temperature.  place them in a shallow roasting pan, skin side up,
  and roast for about a half hour, until the temp is 140 (the temp will continue to rise as
  they rest).  remove from oven and cover loosely, let rest for 15-30 minutes.

TO SERVE…

- tear or cut into pieces the meat from the legs, thighs & wings, heat in the oven til heated 
  through, 15-20 minutes. 
- reheat the gravy
- slice the breasts crosswise

Kicking Pumpkin Pie Up a Notch


This year, we're looking for recipes that give a bit of a twist to the old standards. We made this yesterday -- it's scrumptious!

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie – adapted from The Chew
one pie crust (refrigerated)
6 oz Semisweet Chocolate chips
4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter (cut into small pieces)
1 14 oz Can Pumpkin
1 12 oz Can Evaporated Milk
3/4 cup Packed Light-Brown Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1 tablespoon Cornstarch
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
3/4 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger
dash Ground Nutmeg
Pinch of Ground Cloves

Roll out dough and press into pie plate, finish edge. Cover crust with foil and use pie weights (I used dried beans) and bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
Reduce heat to 325F.
In a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter, stirring frequently until smooth, and remove from heat.
In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, evaporated milk, light brown sugar, eggs, cornstarch, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Fold in the chocolate mixture, and pour into pie crust. Place pie pan on a baking sheet.  Bake at 325F until center of pie has set, about an hour. Refrigerate until cooled completely to serve. 

Note: if you double this recipe, you may have enough for three regular sized pies.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Menu Ideas for Thanksgiving: Sausage, Chestnut and Mushroom Dressing

For the past several years, I’ve switched from the stuffing recipe I grew up with to this one from William & Sonoma.  Now that I’m gluten-free, I no longer imbibe on it (I really need to work on a gluten-free version), but still prepare it for my family’s enjoyment.  The chestnuts add a really wonderful dimension to it.

Sausage, Chestnut and Mushroom Dressing

4 Tbspns (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage, casings removed
2 yellow onions, diced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
7 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh sage
2 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 cup roasted and peeled chestnuts, halved (I purchase them from William & Sonoma in a jar)
1 package (1 lb) stuffing – I use the La Brea Bakery focaccia stuffing (also found at William & Sonoma)
2 Tbspns minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 to 4 cups chicken stock, warmed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 3-quart baking dish with 1 Tbs. of the butter.
In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook and crumble the sausage until lightly browned and cooked through, about 7 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

In the same pan, over medium heat, melt the remaining 3 Tbs. butter.  Add the onions and fennel and sauté until soft, about 10 to 12 minutes.  Add the garlic, mushrooms, thyme, sage, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes.  Stir in the sherry.  Let cool to room temperature.

In a very large bowl, combine the sausage, vegetable mixture, chestnuts, stuffing an parsley.  Stir in the warmed stock 1/2 cup at a time, making sure it is completely absorbed into the crouton stuffing.  Taste a crouton, it should be moist throughout but not crunchy or mushy.  You may not need all of the stock.  Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. 
Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is golden brown and crisp, 25 to 35 minutes more. 
Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Serves 10 to 12. 
Friday, November 18, 2011

Menu Ideas for Thanksgiving: Whipped Cream Mashed Potatoes

Okay—I’m going to let you in on a secret.  It’s delicious.  It’s decadent.  I have no idea where the original recipe came from, but it has become an absolute Thanksgiving “must” in our family.  It is Whipped Cream Mashed Potatoes.  One year, we switched gears and tried a different potato recipe, and there was an absolute revolt within the family! 

In addition to being yummy, this dish also has the benefit of being able to be prepped ahead and then popped in the oven at the proper time – a definite plus when you’re pulling together a menu for lots of folks.   

So, here it is – try it at your own risk.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you that it can be highly addictive!  

8-10 medium russet potatoes
2 tspns salt or less
1 egg
4 Tbspns butter
3/4 cup Pet milk
3/4 cup grated cheddar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 tspn salt 

Boil peeled potatoes and mash.  Add salt, egg, butter & milk (last). Beat.  Butter 2 quart casserole and add potatoes.  Top potatoes with cheddar cheese.  Whip the cream and add on top.  Cook in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. 
As noted above, I’ve made this ahead of time and stored in the fridge.  Allow more cooking time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Wonderful Beaujolais -- Perfect with Turkey

At the strike of midnight on the third Thursday of each November (which happens to be TODAY), France celebrates the debut of the Beaujolais Nouveau wine.  Meaning young wine (just 6 weeks old), Beaujolais Nouveau comes from a region of France south imageof Burgundy.  For more scoop on these French festivities, you can visit http://joobili.com/beaujolais_nouveau_festival_beaujeu_10421/

At Sharon’s house, some form of Beaujolais is our customary pairing with Thanksgiving turkey – usually a Beaujolais-Village. 
Beaujolais is made only from the Gamay grape (some California wines call their version Gamay Beaujolais, but they don’t use the same grape variety as what’s grown in France and it tastes quite different) and is required to be harvested by hand.  

Beaujolais Nouveau has a fresh, fruity quality and is meant to be drunk young – for average vintages, it should be consumed by the following May after its release. 
Regular or standard Beaujolais is made from grapes that are grown on the plains of the region.  It’s difficult to ensure quality in this variety of Beaujolais. When buying standard Beaujolais, consider the vintage. Buy only one to two year old Beaujolais and consume within a few months.

Beaujolais-imageVillage comes from the fruit harvested from one of 35 designated villages.  These are generally well-made and can age a bit if it was a particularly good vintage – about 2-3 years.   Reliable and affordable producers include DuBoeuf and Louis Jadot
The last and best category is Cru Beaujolais.  There are 10 in this category.  It will cost you more, but some of these are absolutely amazing and, in some cases, will remind you of a red Burgundy.  

Beaujolais should be served slightly cool – about 55 degrees. 
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mid-Week Meal -- Shawarma with Couscous

We love Sunset magazine www.sunset.com as each issue always is full of great tips on cooking, decorating and traveling in the West.  This month, I tried their Shawarma Lamb with Couscous Salad recipe -- it was easy, fast and oh so tasty.  You could easily sub sirloin beef for the lamb.  I've done a few tweaks to the original recipe just because we're big fans of caramelized onions in our house.  



photo courtesy of Sunset Magazine and www.myrecipes.com
Serves 4

1 ½ c. chicken broth, divided
1 c. couscous (or one box and follow package instructions)
¼ c. olive oil, divided
Zest and juice of two lemons, divided
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, shredded (with veggie peeler or grater)
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 ½ pounds lamb steak or sirloin, thinly sliced
2 t. cumin
½ t. cayenne
Salt and pepper
½ c. Greek yogurt

Cook couscous according to package instructions, using chicken broth as liquid. After it sits for five minutes, uncover, fluff with a fork, and add 2 T. oil and zest and juice of one lemon.

In a large sauté pan, heat the other 2 T. oil over medium heat, and sauté the onion until they begin to caramelize, about 7 minutes.  Add in the carrot and continue to sauté until all are browned – about 5 minutes more.  Add in the garlic, meat, cumin, cayenne and salt and pepper (about 1 t. each).  Stir and cook until meat is cooked and browned, about 5 minutes.  Add in the ½ c. chicken stock and bring to boil.  Reduce liquid, about 2 minutes. Stir in couscous.  Top with parsley if you wish.  Serve with Greek yogurt mixed with the remaining zest and lemon juice.
Monday, November 7, 2011

Menu Ideas for Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Puffs

November is here and it’s time to start thinking about the Thanksgiving menu.  Our family, like most, has their favorite dishes.  But, we usually try to add something new to the mix each year.  If you want to do the same, check in with us over the next  couple of weeks as we present a series of menu ideas for Thanksgiving.  

First up – a recipe from my friend Sylvia’s mom, Susan, who served this dish during her recent visit to St. Louis.  It’s called Sweet Potato Puffs.  One of the things that makes it interesting – and tasty – is the use of peaches in it.  

Sweet Potato Puffs
2 cups mashed sweet fresh sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Dash ground ginger
2 Tablespoons margarine or butter
6 canned peach halves
 
Combine all but the peaches and whip until fluffy. Arrange peaches face up in a greased baking dish; pile each with potato mixture. Dot with additional margarine if desired; and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes 6 servings. 
 
When Susan made this, she just placed peaches face down on the bottom of the dish and covered all of them with the potatoes rather than trying for individual servings. 
Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thirsty Thursday -- Travis Nass of Rancho Pinot Talks Fall Flavors

Inasmuch as we love coming up with fun drink ideas for Thirsty Thursday each week, we realized that we weren't experts in this field and we knew plenty of folks who were.  So, we turned to ace bartender Travis Nass of Rancho Pinot restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz. www.ranchopinot.com to give us his forecast of what spirits he'll be working with this fall.

Travis hinted at some autumnal libations that will include his new faves -- walnut liqueur and allspice liqueur.  We can only imagine that starting off a fine meal.

A spirit we don't talk about much here on FeedingFrenzy is gin....simply because Barb has always thought that it reminded her of sucking on a pine tree. However, her hubby is a huge gin fan and has a bottle of Bombay Sapphire in the freezer at all times. According to Travis, there is a whole new line of gins out that may just change the minds of anti-gin drinkers like me. Nolet's Finest Gin (http://www.noletsgin.com/) now produces Nolet's Silver.  Their website calls it a "floral and fruit-forward gin and expresses the essence of three coveted ingredients: Turkish Rose, white peach and raspberry." The site goes on to state that the newest generation of the family business wanted to create a "modern twist" on a classic.  I'm bold enough to state that I bet Travis will come up with something intriguing enough that even this gin-shy drinker will try.

So, what's your go-to gin drink?
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Warm Soup for a Cold Winter's Day

Okay, so it was 91 degrees in Phoenix yesterday when I made this hearty soup, but I wanted to pretend it was fall. For those of you who received freak snowstorms this week, or who are expecting chilling temps this weekend (our high Sunda will be 65 --brrr!), this awesome soup from our friends at Relish Magazine will warm you right up.

http://www.relish.com/recipes/white-bean-soup-with-swiss-chard-and-gruyere-croutons/

We tweaked the recipe a bit, by adding three sliced garlic cloves, and a bit of dried rosemary. We also didn't have a ham hock in the freezer (really, we typically do!) so we used a bit of pork belly we let "melt" in the slow cooker before adding in the rest of the ingredients. We also added some salt since we didn't have the ham hock to deliver that taste.

When serving, we added a drizzle of olive oil on top.  Can't wait for the leftovers for lunch today! A big thanks to Relish for always providing such stellar recipes and meal ideas!
Monday, October 31, 2011

Is there such thing as "too many cupcakes?"

Yesterday, Barb went to a great fundraiser for Central Arizona Social Services, the Cupcake Love-In, with her intrepid tasting buddy Berkley.  For $20 they sampled cupcakes from many of the top bakers/bakeries/restaurants in town.

 Tickets were given out to limit you to 7 "tastes," but, if you went with a friend, you could each eat 1/2 and get 14 tastes. Top it off, many vendors weren't taking tickets, so we ended up trying more than 20 cupcakes.  OOF!






Our first cupcake of the day, a fabulous Salted Caramel by Santa Barbara Catering
We also tried a terrific chocolate mint cupcake, adorably decorated, by simply sweets. www.simply-sweets.com

Of course, we loved seeing our neighbors at Mind Over Batter -- always excellent http://mindoverbatter.net/


Some of the cupcake offerings were a bit over the top -- such as the tomato soup/grilled cheese (ick), and some were obviously stale.  The texture of the vegan cupcakes just didn't cut it for us.  Tammie Coe's chocolate hazelnut crunch cakes were divine, but surprisingly, our winners of the day were Sommer Walter's cupcakes from Heaven's Gluten-Free Bakehouse.  Yes, we said gluten free. We almost passed up these morsels because of that, but ended up going back for seconds.  The banoffee was full of true banana flavor and great toffee crunch, and any baked-goods lover would be unable to tell that they were gluten free.  Our absolute fave of the day?  Her "Game Day" cupcake, made with gluten-free beer and frosted with a cheddar cheese frosting.  Oh Heaven indeed!



Saturday, October 29, 2011

Double Duty Dinners -- Roasted Chicken and Chicken Pot Pie


So, inspired by a book I just finished "Kitchen Counter Cooking School," http://kathleenflinn.com/2011/02/16/the-kitchen-counter-cooking-school/ I'm trying to plan meals where I can stretch the ingredients to a second meal later in the week.  I'm also trying to shave some time off the midweek meals, so this process works out perfectly.  This week, it was chicken.

Sunday -- I purchased two roasting chickens from my local farmers markets, and placed them on a bed of cut up carrots and onions in a roasting pan.  Did the standard olive oil/salt/pepper on top and roasted at 425 for about an hour. That evening, we had roast chicken, sauteed green beans (make extra for Wednesday) and homemade bread (recipe also in book) for dinner.

Wednesday -- I preheated my oven to 450, and got out one rolled-up refrigerated pie crust. I cut up the second chicken, along with the carrots from Sunday (you can use the onions, but I opted not to), and the extra green beans and placed them in a bowl.  In my trusty cast iron skillet, I made a chicken gravy by melting 2 T. butter, adding in 2 T. flour and cooking for a few moments, then adding in a can of chicken stock, whisking until thick.  I added a splash of half-n-half, a grate of nutmeg, and some S&P.  I then mixed in the contents of the bowl, topped with the pie crust, painted it with an egg wash and put it in the oven for 15 minutes to get golden and bubbly. I served it with a romaine salad with roasted beets, goat cheese, lemon juice and olive oil.

next Double Duty Dinner -- pot roast and beef mushroom pot pie
Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Chicken Chili to Warm You on a Chilly Day

As the weather turns cooler in many parts of the country (Barb’s locale excepted), my thoughts always turn toward warm, hearty soups and stews.  I recently made one of our family favorites, a white bean chicken chili, which I think came to us many years ago from a good friend. 
Dishes like this can be great options for folks on the go, who want to give their family a hearty meal but don’t have a lot of time to cook.  I boil the chicken in this recipe and cube it ahead of time, and keep it in a container in the fridge.  Same can be done with the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAchopped onion – saute an extra onion when you’re preparing something else, and then toss it in a container to use a few days later.  The rest of the ingredient are just dumped in together, so when you get home from work, fire up the crock pot, dump in the chicken, the sauteed onion and the rest of the ingredients, and let it heat up and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
White Bean Chicken Chili
1     large onion chopped
1    clove garlic (chopped)
1/4 cup butter
4   cups chicken (cooked; cup up in bite-sized pieces)
3    cups chicken broth (2 cans)
3    Tbspns  basil
2    tspns chili powder
2    cans great Northern white beans

Thirsty Thursday -- Bonus Edition

Over on our Facebook wall, www.facebook.com/ourfeedingfrenzy, we started a conversation this morning about Pumpkin Ales. Sam Adams has one, Blue Moon has one, local brewery Four Peaks has one. What are your thoughts?  Do you have a favorite?

But, then we came across this lovely looking libation from the folks at The Chew and we had to share it in time for Halloween Weekend.  I mean, let's face it...some of you may be drinking hot toddies by the fire this Halloween weekend, but for many of us in the South and the West, our kids will still be incorporating shorts and tshirts into their costume choices. This Aperol Spritzer is orangy, sparkly and refreshing.

What's Aperol?  Well, according to their website at www.aperolusa.com, Aperol is "an exotic infusion of sweet orange peel, hints of mandarin, orange and an array of herbs and spices.  With its flirty orange color and bright, zesty flavor, Aperol is a perfect choice for fashion-forward, creative cocktails at any social occasion!"

Here's the recipe -- you just need Aperol (I know BevMo has it), prosecco or other sparkling wine and an orange for garnish.
http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/the-chew/recipes/Debi-Mazar-Gabriele-Corco-Aperol-Spritzer
Friday, October 21, 2011

Weeknight Recipe: Beef Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Ever get stuck in a menu rut?  Particularly during the busy weekdays, it’s so easy to find yourself turning to the same old stand-bys over and over again – almost like you’re sleepwalking. 
Here’s a recipe that’s sure to mix things up – compliments of Schnucks Cooks, the monthly publication my local grocery chain distributes.  This particular one was in the Spring/Summer issue.  My family loves this recipe (that includes my kids) and they literally beg me to make it.  

It requires a couple of “odd” ingredients, but they’re ones that you can stock up on and have ready on hand when you need them.  For example, the coconut milk comes in cans from your Asian food section – so I buy a couple at a time to keep in my pantry.  The fish sauce is something I store for long periods in my refrigerator.  It’s a small bottle, so it doesn’t take up much space.  

When I walk in the door, I slice the flank steak, mix up the marinade, and get the meat soaking in it while I help kids with homework or other chores.  Sometimes I mix it all up in the morning and let it marinade in the fridge all day.  I don’t think you can over-marinade it!  I also start soaking the skewers in water right away.

The sauce is so amazing and there’s more than needed for just the meat, so I serve this dish with steamed rice to which I’ve added sliced green onions and mix some of the sauce with it on my plate.  I finally broke down and bought a rice steamer (it was like $25, and I know you can find them even cheaper), which has made rice prep a 30-second task with an occasional stir for perfect rice every time.  I use short or medium grain so it’s a bit stickier, which my kids and I love. 

Beef Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce
18  6-inch  bamboo skewers
1 lime (I keep some bottled lime juice in the fridge in case I’m out of fresh limes when I need it)
3 garlic cloves (again – I turned to minced from a jar the other night to make things simpler)
1 3/4 cups well-stirred unsweetened coconut milk, divided
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger from a spice jar)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 1/2 pounds flank steak, sliced diagonally across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce (I’ve also substituted Worcestershire sauce )
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1.  Soak skewers with water in a wide shallow dish (this keeps them from burning up when you cook the meat on them) 

Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons lime juice into a blender or food processor with knife-blade attached.  Add garlic, 3/4 cup coconut milk, brown sugar, fish sauce, ginger and turmeric.  Puree until smooth. 

2.  In a medium bowl, toss steak with 1/2 cup of the above coconut marinade.  Set aside the remaining marinade.  Cover beef and refrigerate 30 minutes to marinate.

3.  In a 1-2 quart saucepan, heat peanut butter, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, remaining 1/2 cup coconut milk and coconut marinade over low heat for 4 minutes or until mixture simmers, stirring occasionally with a whisk.  Simmer 2 minutes, remove saucepan from heat. Cover and keep warm.  Makes about 1 3/4 cups of sauce.

4.  Prepare outdoor grill for direct grilling over high heat.  Remove beef from marinade and thread onto skewers.  Place skewers on hot grill rack and cook 4 to 5 minutes or until browned on the outside and still pink in the center, turning skewers once.  Serve with peanut sauce for dipping.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ideas for Your Harvest Table

Here in the Midwest, the weather is changing, the leaves are turning, and entertaining moves indoors.  Fall offers a bounty of table scape and hospitality ideas.  Here are a few for yDSC05642our consideration.  Enjoy!

Autumnal Table Settings:
I usually set out the good china for Thanksgiving dinner.  This year, I’ve decided to take a different approach.  I found inexpensive clear glass (dishwasher safe) plates at my local supermarket of all places for $2 each!  Then, I purchased some inexpensive silk leaves from my local craft store, and decorated them with a bit of glitter.  Lay them under the plate, on top of a charger and voila – you have a beautiful Fall table setting, with easy clean-up at the end of the meal!
DSC05646
Later, I found some inexpensive larger leaves for an even more dramatic variation on this theme.
DSC05718
For the centerpiece, I decorated artificial pumpkins with sprays of beads – using a variety of sizes, shapes and colors.  To make it more interesting, I used a clear glass cake plate to elevate the largest pumpkin and filled in with candlesticks to add still more height without creating an obstruction for dialogue across the table.  A strand of DSC05637feathers found at a local garden center fills in the gaps.
DSC05641

Bountiful Buffet
The trick to creating an interesting buffet is layering and variation.  It’s okay to mix natural and artificial elements – pumpkins and gourds from the produce section; sparkling leaves and fake pumpkins from the craft store.  Be sure to vary the height of different elements, as well, for more visual interest. 
I saw an interesting example in a recent magazine, where they had leveled off the top of a pumpkin and set their serving dish on top of it for interest and some height.  I decided to take it one DSC05731step further, and scoop the pumpkin out and carve slits in it with one of those inexpensive knives you find in pumpkin carving kits.  Then, I popped a candle inside to make it glow.  It was then that I realized I was creating the unexpected benefit of warming whatever plate of food I set on top of it!  What a bonus!
I then took some smaller gourds (at least that’s what I think they are) and carved out some space for a tealight candle.
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Finally, I put everything together, again using a clear pedestal cake plate and a tall candlestick to add height, and I ended up with a lovely buffet! I
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