Friday, July 29, 2011

Roast Turkey with Herbed Bread Stuffing and Giblet Gravy (Page 376)

RECIPE #1272

  • Date: Saturday, June 25, 2011 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Helen, Charles, Clara, Whitney, and Chris C.
  • Recipe Rating: B
This recipe called for a kosher turkey, which Helen and Charles kindly bought for me in Ann Arbor a few months back. The bird had been sitting in my basement freezer for a while, so I decided it was about time we thawed it and celebrated Thanksgiving in June! I started by seasoning the bird with salt and pepper. The recipe gives you the option of either stuffing the bird with the Herbed Bread Stuffing, or baking the stuffing separately. I chose the latter, as I am a nut about food safety. I had already made the stuffing part of this recipe once, but I went ahead and made it again so that we could have the full experience of the turkey plus stuffing.

I roasted the bird for half an hour in a hot oven, then reduced the temperature of the oven and poured some butter over the bird. I roasted it until it was done, basting every 20 minutes. While the turkey was resting I baked the stuffing. Then I made the gravy. I deglazed the roasting pan with the Turkey Giblet Stock then added defatted pan juices. I whisked some of the turkey fat with flour to form a roux, then added the stock mixture and whisked until the gravy was slightly thickened. This was a solid turkey recipe, with a tasty stuffing and gravy. Everyone enjoyed it, but I probably won't make it again. There is such potential with turkey to make the bird really flavorful, and/or the gravy really flavorful, and/or the stuffing really flavorful, and this recipe had none of that. It was classic: turkey seasoned only with salt, pepper, and butter. Gravy made from only the pan juices and turkey stock. Stuffing with only a few vegetables and herbs. I prefer turkey recipes which are a little more exciting. My old standby roast turkey involves a flavorful brine and a gingersnap gravy. Yum! Or my recent favorite, the Grilled Turkey with Cranberry Gravy is bursting with flavor. This recipe just couldn't hold a candle to either of those. That said, there was nothing wrong with it. If you are looking for a truly simple and classic turkey dinner, this is the recipe for you.

The recipe is here.

Only 21 recipes left to go!

After a few glorious weeks at home, we are hitting the road again. Tomorrow my special gentleman and I are headed back to Europe. I am speaking at a conference next week in Germany. My special gentleman is speaking the following week at a conference in Denmark. His thing in Denmark is two weeks long, starting Monday, while my conference is only a week (also starting Monday). So we are flying from Detroit to Copenhagen together, then we will get on trains headed two different directions. I will head down to Hamburg, Germany, and he will head off to Aarhus, Denmark. I will meet him in Aarhus once my conference is over, and once his conference is done we will fly back together. It should be a fun trip, although given my love of being at home, and my hatred/fear of flying, it's always hard for me to rally for such a thing.

On the upside, this trip is much less logistically complicated than the last Europe trip. There are many fewer destinations, the destinations are easier to get to, and the trip is just shorter. So in comparison, planning for this one has been a piece of cake. That said, I am still scrambling today to get the house ready for the housesitter, get my talk ready, get the things done I had hoped to finish before I left, etc.

I am also wondering where my summer has gone. We are returning from this trip in mid-August. The weekend following our return our good friends Mike and Tim are getting married, so we are headed to upstate New York for their wedding. The weekend after that my in-laws are coming to visit us in Michigan. And a few days after they leave, the semester starts again. The summer is rapidly winding down, I am sad to say. I started the summer with an ambitious list of fun things I wanted to do in the summer months, in addition to an ambitious list of work things I wanted to do. I am disappointed to say that I haven't finished either list. I have made particularly poor progress on my list of fun activities (e.g. I haven't made it to a Lansing Lugnuts baseball game, or to the zoo, or to the Sleeping Bear Dunes...). There's still some time I suppose. This evening, though, there are no fun activities in store for me (except perhaps a trip to Tasty Twist). Instead I will be packing, cleaning, and desperately attempting to get my life in order. And tomorrow, it's back to Europe!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Turkey Giblet Stock (Page 377)

RECIPE #1271

  • Date: Saturday, June 25, 2011 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Helen, Charles, Clara, Whitney, and Chris C.
  • Recipe Rating: B+
This was a component for a turkey dish I made a few weeks back. This recipe is for a quick stock made from the turkey neck and giblets. The turkey I had said on the package, "Some giblets may be missing." This was no joke. Indeed, nearly all of my giblets were missing. And our local butcher doesn't sell giblets without the bird this time of year. So for me this was more of a turkey neck stock than a turkey giblet stock. Oh well. I started by browning the neck and giblets, then added celery, carrot, onion, water, chicken stock, bay leaf, black peppercorn, and thyme. I simmered it for almost an hour, strained it, and skimmed off the fat. This stock was fine. It didn't have the depth of flavor that you get from a stock that simmers for hours, but it was pretty flavorful. The gravy that I made from it was tasty, although not remarkable in any way. If I need a quick poultry stock in the future, this is a decent recipe.

The recipe is here.

Only 22 recipes left!

I have been in a bit of a funk lately. There are reasons, and they are legitimate, but I don't want to go into them here, nor would I even know where to start if I did. For the most part the summer has been lovely, but there have been some bad days, and quite a few of those days were consolidated into last week. By the time the weekend rolled around I felt defeated. I had planned to work all weekend, but I couldn't find the presence of mind to do it. On Saturday, the only thing I wanted to do was cook. So I did. I made a wheat berry salad, some cookies, a batch of brownies, a couple pizzas, etc. For the first time all week I felt as though a weight had been lifted. I love to cook.

I have always, ALWAYS, been good about finding space in my life for cooking. Even before I started this project I made it a priority to spend time in the kitchen. My busiest semesters in graduate school, I still baked cakes and hosted dinner parties. It was excellent stress-relief. And up until recently this project kept me very disciplined about finding time to cook. Lately, though, I have barely been cooking. I can't explain it. I have been busy, but not remarkably so. Usually I am wonderfully excited to cook from The Book. Lately, that has not been the case. In part I think it is because I am so close to the end, and the idea of finishing this project, which has come to be a part of me, makes me sad. And I haven't decided what, if anything, I will do next. Will I take on another cooking project? Will I continue to blog? I just don't know. So I am dragging my feet on the project. And not cooking from The Book has somehow morphed into not cooking much at all. Luckily my special gentleman has been making some delicious things (mmmm... porcini risotto) to supplement my minimal cooking. But it is time for me to prioritize my kitchen time again. Tonight I made more pizza, with toppings piled high on whole wheat crust: tomato sauce, onions, garlic, green peppers, pimientos, black olives, bacon, and a variety of cheeses. This weekend I have big plans for cooking from The Book. Duck? Salmon? Scallop mousse? So hard to decide. Perhaps I will make them all!

In difficult times especially, it is important to remember to hold on to the things one loves, rather than letting them fall by the wayside. I think it is time for me to spend some time in the kitchen again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Italian Fried Salt Cod (Page 50)

RECIPE #1270

  • Date: Saturday, June 25, 2011 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Helen, Charles, Clara, Whitney, and Chris C.
  • Recipe Rating: B

The last time I tried to make this recipe there was no salt cod at the store. They told me it was "out of season," which cracked me up since it is dried and salted and therefore hardly something I think of as seasonal. Nonetheless I couldn't find it. Apparently it is salt cod season now though, because a couple weeks ago I stumbled upon some and snatched it up to make this recipe. This dish was quite simple. I soaked the salt cod for two days, changing the water often. Then I cut it into strips. I dipped the strips in a mixture of flour, salt, olive oil, water, and parsley, then deep-fried them until they were golden. I sprinkled them with sea salt and served! The result was... just OK. I prefer the texture of fried fresh fish to the texture of fried salt cod. The flavor of the salt cod was nice though. The ratio of ingredients for the batter seemed a bit off. As it was the batter was extremely thick, and consequently didn't coat the fish at all evenly. In the end, fish that has been battered and fried tastes good -- so this tasted pretty good. But there are certainly better recipes out there in that genre.

The recipe is here.

Only 23 recipes left to go!

I was running with Helen last Friday and we ran along a portion of a trail I used to frequent when I was marathon training almost two years ago. It brought back memories -- mostly bad ones. Marathon training was hard, and for the most part I do not remember it fondly. But there is one aspect of the training that I do really miss. I always did my long run of the week on either Saturday or Sunday morning. My special gentleman and I would often head out at the same time. We didn't run together (he is much faster than me!) but we would run the same trails and occasionally pass one another as we made loops around. As the runs got longer the training got more miserable, and I certainly have some bad memories of 16-20 mile runs that didn't feel too good. But the hours following the runs were so wonderful! I was exhausted. After a relaxing shower I would climb in bed and eat either Taco Bell, or macaroni and cheese from a box (salty, craveable food!). Then I would fall asleep in the middle of the day while my special gentleman watched terrible zombie movies next to me in bed. I was so physically spent that I felt not-at-all bad about sleeping away the early afternoon. There was no way I could have possibly done anything productive with that time. It was luxurious and I loved it. The exhaustion following a truly difficult workout is one of my favorite feelings.

I haven't felt that way in a while. It's not that don't exercise. I do. We have a treadmill in the basement and that thing gets a lot of use. I exercise, I just don't push myself very hard. So this summer I am adopting a new strategy: exercising with friends. I have been lifting weights and biking around town with my special gentleman, running with Helen, and yesterday I played in an ultimate frisbee game with a mix of undergrads, graduate students, and faculty. It's more fun to work out with other people and I push myself harder. It's a win-win! For the first time in a long time I am starting to feel like I am in pretty good shape. And I am sore. Constantly. I like the feeling of sore muscles, because then I know that I have indeed pushed myself. My return to fitness has definitely given me back some of that post-workout exhaustion that I enjoy. And there is nothing nicer than taking a little summer cat nap after a workout with two very sweet kitty cats to keep you company:


Now that I have successfully integrated exercise into my summer life, the next challenge is figuring out how to stick with it once the academic year starts again and I am much, much busier! For now, though, I won't worry about that.