Herb Butter Turkey with Stuffing and Gravy

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Turkey is a must for a holiday spread. However, it is a tricky bird to prepare and oftentimes yields mixed results. To quote my grandmother, a major problem is that “turkey is so dry!” That was a complaint that we often got as a Chinese family trying to figure out our own traditions for an American holiday. My family tried roasting our own turkey for several years, but eventually gave up because it was tedious and time-consuming, with minimal reward. After years of turkey fails, I have pieced together the pitfalls of preparing a Thanksgiving bird. My remedy for turkey troubles is threefold:

  1. deconstructing prior to roasting
  2. brining
  3. delicious herb butter under the skin.

I prepared this turkey not for my family this year, but for the Veterans that I have the honor of working with every day. The holidays can be a challenging time for many Veterans. With the specific hardships and challenges that Veterans face, some spend their Thanksgiving without turkey, without pie, and some without friends and family. So this year I wanted to do something to give back. I made a tray of roasted turkey with stuffing and gravy for members of my group therapy class and the look on their faces made it all worth the effort. It was a reminder of why I cook. What makes a meal special is not the rarity or lavishness of ingredients that comprise a dish. Nor is it the gourmet skill or complex techniques that went into preparation. For me, what makes cooking special is the fact that I get to share the end result with others. I love the fact that bringing a turkey and stuffing to my patients can help them create a sense of community and belonging.

I hope that you enjoy this recipe with those that you love!

Cooking tips:

Follow your favorite youtube video to guide you in breaking down the turkey by its parts.

Allow the brine to completely cool before you place your turkey in it. Boiled turkey is not what we’re going for.

For best results, use fresh herbs for the herb butter. And, in general, try to use fresh herbs rather than dry. Fresh herbs have a brightness of flavor that is often lost when they are dried.img_1923

My uncle taught me to taste brines and marinades prior to placing the meat inside of them. This will help you to adjust the salt to taste

 

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Brine Ingredients
4 quarts of water
½ cup of salt
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs sage
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp garlic salt

Turkey Broth Ingredients
Turkey backbone, neck, ribs
2 quarts water
salt and pepper to taste
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage

 

Turkey Ingredients
1 10-lb turkey, defrosted and divided into different parts
1 stick unsalted room temperature butter
1 head garlic, crushed
4 tbsp fresh rosemary
4 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp salt to taste
2 tbsp pepper
1 stalk celery
1 yellow onion, sliced

Stuffing Ingredients
2 loaves day-old French bread, cut into 2-inch pieces
roasted celery and onion (from roasted turkey recipe)
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tbsp fresh sage
3 eggs
1 ½ c chicken broth
1/2 cup turkey pan juices
1 cup home-made turkey broth

Gravy Ingredients
3 cups home-made turkey broth
1 cup canned chicken broth
1/2 cup turkey pan juices
4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh sage
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp pepper

Directions

2 days before serving turkey: prepare brine and turkey broth

Brine Recipe

Bring brine ingredients to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

Once the brine is completely cooled, submerge turkey pieces into the brine. Refrigerate and allow to sit in the brine for at least 24 hours.

 

Turkey Broth Recipe

Season rib, neck, and backbone pieces. Roast in oven at 425 degrees until golden brown.

Place roasted bones into hot boiling water with fresh herbs and simmer for 2 hours.

 

Day of serving turkey:

Turkey Recipe

Preheat oven at 425 degrees.

Remove turkey from brine and pat the skin dry with a clean paper towel.

Prepare herb butter by mixing minced garlic, and chopped herbs with room temperature butter. Once it is well mixed, gently peel underneath the skin of the turkey pieces and evenly distribute herb butter into every piece.

Roughly slice onions and chop celery and place on baking sheet. This will serve as the bed for the turkey during roasting. Place pieces of turkey onto bed of onions and celery.

Brush surface of the turkey pieces with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Cooking times will vary depending on the part, with legs and thighs (45 minutes, done at 165 degrees F) requiring longer cooking time than breast (35-40 minutes, done when thermometer reads 165 degrees F).

Once turkey is done, remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Slice turkey and pour remaining pan juices after making gravy and stuffing.

 

Gravy Recipe

In a large saucepan, melt 4 tbsp of butter. Add in flour and mix well. Allow roux to turn light brown to cook out the raw flour flavor.

Add in fresh chopped herbs and sauté for 1 minute.

Add in fresh turkey broth (recipe above), canned chicken broth, and turkey roasting juices.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Stuffing Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Mix eggs, turkey broth, chicken broth, and turkey pan juices together.

Pour egg mixture over bread and distribute evenly.

Combine with roasted celery and onion, and chopped herbs.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.

 

 

Truffle Penne Carbonara

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I’ve been on a truffle tour lately. It’s not usually an ingredient that I use in my everyday cooking since it is very fancy with a fancy price tag, but I was fortunate enough to be gifted some truffle salt and even a fresh black truffle recently. So, when life hands you lemons, make delicious lemon curd, right? With this recipe, you can easily replace truffle salt with regular salt and forego the truffle altogether. Without the truffle, this recipe is just one of classic and delicious carbonara. With the truffle, there is an added earthy richness that complements the cheesy creaminess of carbonara.

I’m both fascinated and peeved by the elusiveness of truffles, both in the difficulty of locating them as well as the bashful nature of their flavor. Wild boars are employed to scavenge expansive forests for wild truffles. Once you have your truffle in hand, you must handle it very gingerly because its flavors are so delicate. Pairing with flavors that are too strong or cooking the truffle will mask its subtle flavors. To be honest, I had to do an extensive google search on how to cook with truffle and how to wash/clean and store truffle before this post.

Cooking Tips

Making a classic carbonara is comprised of simple ingredients, but what makes or breaks a carbonara sauce is the precision in technique that is required to make sure that the end product is a rich and velvety sauce, rather than curdled egg. The main tips I have for carbonara are:

1. Use egg yolks only, not whites. Egg whites will increase the likelihood of the sauce curdling

2. Use real Parmigianno-Regiano cheese (please, no Kraft); preferably grate your own cheese, but pre-grated will work as long as it is real cheese

3. Use heavy cream, not half-and-half or low fat substitutes.

Some people prefer to cook carbonara with the heat turned off for fear of curdling the egg in the sauce. I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to eating raw egg because of reports of Salmonella. So I prefer to take the halfway point by borrowing from the same technique that is used to cook egg-based custards: low heat with lots of constant mixing.

 

Recipe

 

Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 package dried penne
1 package smoked bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic
¼ diced onion
1 tsp truffle salt
4 egg yolks
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 bunch chopped parsley
optional: ½ small black truffle, grated

 

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

While water is boiling, sauté bacon. Heat skillet on medium high and place bacon in the pan. When the bacon begins to crisp up, add onion and garlic. Saute for another 2-3 minutes, then set aside.

Mix together egg yolks and cream until smooth. Set aside.

Boil pasta according to package directions (approximately 7-10 minutes), then drain and add into bacon and onion mixture. Add in egg mixture and cheese to pasta. Turn heat on medium low and stir constantly. Add a splash of pasta water to adjust consistency of the pasta sauce.

When pasta sauce begins to thicken, turn heat off and remove pan from heat. Cooking further will lead the sauce to curdle.

Shave truffle into the pasta and toss thoroughly.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

 

 

Chipotle Smoked Pork Ribs

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I have shied away from making barbeque in most of my cooking, partly because I was avoiding something that intimidated me: cooking on a grill. There is usually a clear gender divide in how we cook-men grill; women bake. Most people follow this rule, but there is really nothing inherently different in men and women’s abilities in most things, especially in cooking. So, I put on my brave face and faced the grill with my tongs. Here is my first real attempt at making grilled ribs.

Within the world of barbecue, there are many factions and camps. First, you’ve got your dry rub vs. sauce folks. Then, you’ve got your sweet vs. vinegar divide. And I haven’t even gotten to the use of wood vs. charcoal. While there is probably an ounce of delicious truth to each of these camps, I decided to just go with what was the simplest for me: a dry rub with sweetness from brown sugar, and grilling with charcoal.

I am a huge proponent of using what I have in the kitchen and pantry for my cooking experiments. I happened to have a pre-made dry rub that had salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and “spices”. I added some garlic salt to the mix. I wanted to add a bit of sweetness and spice, which brought Chipotle powder and brown sugar into the mix.

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Cooking tips:

Marinating meat overnight is a great way to ensure that flavor is packed into every morsel of your dish. Again, it is best to under-salt rather than over-salt. When mixing my own rub, I made sure to dip my finger in the rub and taste it before I placed it on my meat. If it is too salty, then add more spices/seasonings that do not contain salt. If it lacks sugar, I’ll add some more brown sugar.

When grilling, as in searing meat, do not, I repeat, do not overdo it with turning and touching your meat. Allow your meat to be enveloped by the wonderful heat of the coals. Turning your meat too much could interfere with the searing and caramelizing process that is happening to your meat.

Recipe

Serves: 2-3
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Marinade Time: 4 hours-overnight
Cooking Time: 28-30 minutes

Ingredients
3 pork ribs
½ c brown sugar
4 tbsp barbecue rub (1 tbsp cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp black pepper, 2 tsp salt, 2 tbsp garlic powder)
1 tbsp chipotle powder
1 tbsp garlic salt

Directions

  1. Light charcoal using directions on the bag.
  2. When coals are covered in grey ash (~15 minutes) place pork ribs on the grill and cover the lid.
  3. Allow to grill for approximately 7-10 minutes each side, depending on the heat coming from your grill. My grill was at medium-low, so it took about 10 minutes each side. After turning your meat, cover the grill and allow to cook.
  4. When your meat has seared nicely and become golden brown on all sides, remove from heat and allow to cool. Serve with your favorite sides and enjoy!

Garlic & Herb Seared Lamb

 

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Although it is now well into fall, my senses are in a state of perpetual confusion due to Southern California’s lingering summer. I’m fortunate to live in a region where I can grill outdoors year-round. And although I know that fall is a time for heart-warming soups and stews, as well as pumpkin spice and all things gourd, I couldn’t help but grill up something delicious this past weekend. This was my first attempt at actually lighting the coals because my partner was not at home. I was trying to fight against the gender division of labor in which men grill and women bake. Sadly, there is some truth to this stereotype. In this undertaking, I realized that there is much that I have to learn about how to start a fire, from the kindling to the kerosene to the specific formation that the coals have to be in for them to properly light. Sadly, I was unable to start the grill, so I opted for another excellent option for a steak: pan-searing. In the case of steaks, searing on a grill pan can be a wonderful substitute for barbecuing on a grill.

A perfectly seared steak with its full body of flavor can be the star of a sandwich or platter surrounded by caramelized roasted vegetables. Although beef is well loved by Americans, lamb meat, its “brother from another mother”, can also steal the show. When seasoned and marinated properly, the gaminess of lamb becomes a subtle undertone that provides a more nuanced and interesting layer of flavor. Growing up in a Chinese/Vietnamese family, what little lamb I did eat was often unmasked in its gaminess. The lamb was boldly and unabashedly naked in all its natural goodness as my family opted to prepare lamb in stews that were lightly imbued with rice wine and spices. While I found this preparation very enjoyable in allowing the flavor of the lamb to come through, I recognize that lamb is an acquired taste. For those whose palates are much more sensitive to the pungency of lamb, it is my hope that this marinade will become the Trojan horse that allows lamb to penetrate your culinary defenses and allow for an invasion of your taste buds. I knew that this recipe was special when my little sister, who had previously turned her nose to lamb, kept eating more and more of this dish. When I asked her what she thought of the lamb, she replied “What lamb? Oh, you mean the steak? It’s delicious!”

 

Cooking notes/tips:

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Marinade overnight for best results. Depending on the thickness of your lamb steak, it should be seared 3-5 minutes on each side on medium high heat. I prefer my steaks to be cooked to medium. If upon cutting you realize that your steak is undercooked, you can always place it in the oven/toaster oven at 350 degrees to cook to its desired level of doneness. The steak should be allowed to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing against the grain. Always let your steaks rest before cutting into them. Patience is a virtue that pays off 100% in the world of gastronomy. I have been very upset by Korean BBQ restaurants where servers insist on cooking and cutting my steak for me before it is properly rested. The result? Dry, rubbery pieces of meat that remind you of the Sahara. The moral of the story: rest your meat and your mouth and stomach will be happy. I served this lamb with a cucumber mint yogurt sauce in some warm pita bread.

Ingredients
1/2 lb lamb leg steak
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Directions

  1. Coarsely chop garlic, thyme, and rosemary and mix with 2 tbsp olive oil.
  2. Season lamb steak with salt and pepper, then place into a freezer bag
  3. Place herb oil mixture into the freezer bag and use to coat lamb steak.
  4. Allow to marinate for at least an hour. Marinade overnight for best results.
  5. Heat a skillet on medium high and drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil. Sear on both sides, 3-5 minutes each side for medium-cooked steak, depending on the thickness of the steak.
  6. When lamb steak is ready, take out of the pan and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  7. Slice against the grain of the meat and enjoy!