Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Turkey Cutlets

I've recently discovered the key to tasty poultry is brining. It works well on pork too, but I've mostly been using it for turkey and chicken which tend to dry out once it is thoroughly cook. Basically, a brine is a salt (and sometimes sugar) solution with the liquid usually being water. The meat is then placed in the solution where it then absorbs the water as the salt relaxes the muscle structure allowing it to retain more moisture during the cooking process thereby resulting in moister end product.

WOW, I sort of felt like Alton brown for a minute---but not completely. I did not go into how there are two positively charged ions in table salt and how they interact with the positive and negative protein molecules in meat (hence the relaxing of the meat structure).

So brining is awesome and you should try it! If you only have 20 minutes, brine! It will help.

On to the turkey cutlets....

1 package turkey breast cutlets (about 1 1/2lbs 1/4-1/2 inch thick)
1/4 cup table salt
4 cups cold water
gallon size ziplock bag

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (approx 1 cup dried bread crumbs)
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil, plus olive oil for frying

Add cold water to ziplock bag and dissolve 1/4 cup salt into the water. Add turkey cutlets and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Or if you're like me and wait to the last minute to thaw your meat, you can leave your bag on the counter top for the 30 minute period to finish thawing while brining.

While waiting for my turkey, I make my bread crumbs. I take 4-5 slices of white bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes then put in the food processor and pulse a few times. You may certainly use dried bread crumbs (I've used both), I prefer the taste of fresh.

Prepare 3 dredging bowls-
1 with flour
1 with 2 eggs and 1 tbsp olive oil
1 with bread crumbs

Remove the turkey from the bag and place onto an absorbant cloth or paper towels. Press firmly to remove as much water as you can then allow to air dry for 10 minutes. Once they are dry, season with pepper if you would like (we don't) and prepare to dredge.

Add oil to your pan, you're looking to have enough oil to fully cover a cutlet halfway up the side. So if your cutlets are 1/4 thick then you need a smaller amount of oil than you would need for a 1/2 thick cutlet (this would be more like a flattened chicken breast). I usually start with 1/2 cup. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until rippling begins.

Now dredge lightly. The order is flour, egg, bread crumbs. Shake off any excess flour, you want a very thin coating. Use tongs to remove cutlets from egg and bread crumbs or you will quickly find that your fingertips are unusable.

Once oil is hot, add 3-4 pieces to the pan...don't overcrowd! leave plenty of room for each edge to brown. Once you see a deep golden brown color inching up the side of the cutlet, turn it over. This should only take a minute or two for very thin cutlets.

Continue to use the oil if you do not see dark brown bits adhering to your cutlets. I usually find I can get two batches out of 1/2 cup of oil. Beyond that, the bits in the pan are burning and don't taste so good on your turkey. If you need to do more than two batches or you're working with thicker cuts of meat, pour off the oil, wipe pan clean with paper towels and start again.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Beef Stew (aka Carnivore Euphoria)

This is one of my most favorite dishes, ever! Do I say that a lot? :) But really I mean it this time. This is so good. I gave some to a friend and her husband and she sent me a thank you note telling me that is was so delicious, it was like carnivore euphoria. I thought that was the perfect explanation for this rich, meaty beef stew.

You will need a Dutch oven or a large overproof pot at least 6 quarts in size, but 8 quarts is preferable.

3lbs beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
salt and pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups (approx 1 can) beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
4 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Adjust your oven rack to accomodate your Dutch oven on the lower middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Thoroughly dry the beef with paper towels (this is crucial) then season generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tbsp oil in the oven-proof Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half the meat so that the individual pieces are close but not touching, this allows you to perfectly brown each piece without stewing your meat.

Cook the meat until side touching the pan is well browned, 2-3 minutes. Using tongs, turn each piece and continue cooking until most sides are well browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the beef to a medium bowl, add another 1 tbsp of oil to the pan and brown the remaining beef in the same manner, transfer to the bowl once brown.

Reduce heat to medium, add the remaining 1 tbsp oil to the Dutch oven. Add the onions and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook stirring frequently and vigorously, scraping the pot bottom with a wooden spoon to release the brown bits. Cook until onions are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook until lightly colored, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup beef broth scraping up the remaining brown bits and stir until liquid is thick. Gradually add the remaining beef and chicken broth, stirring constantly and scraping the pan edges to dissolve all the flour. Add bay leaves and thyme, bring to a simmer. Add the meat and juices from the bowl, return to a simmer. Cover and place the pot in the oven. Cook for 1 hour.

Remove the pot, add potatoes and carrots, cover and return to oven. Cook until meat is just tender, about 1 hour. Remove the pot from the oven. Add peas, cover and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Serve immediately. If you're not serving immediately, omit the peas and refreigerate for up to three days. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, then add peas as instructed above.

Cherry Coulis

My wonderful husband often runs errands for me and often brings back surprises that make me smile...usually food related :) One evening he brought home 6lbs of cherries. My children suddenly decided they did not like cherries and so I had to think quick! Cherry coulis came to mind. I first thought it would be nice over vanilla ice cream, then I was faced with planning a dish to take to cultural cooking with an Italian theme and Panna Cotta came to mind! I made this cherry coulis for a lovely sweet and tart resting place for the cold, creamy panna cotta.

1 cup fresh cherries
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar

Cook fresh cherries in water to cover over medium heat until they are falling off the pits; drain.

Place in a small saucepan with water; add orange and lemon juices. Heat until warmed through.

Press through a fine sieve into a bowl. Stir in sugar while still hot. Stir until dissolved.

Panna Cotta

This is my kind of recipe...simply, few ingredients and delicious!

This recipe comes from my New Best Recipes Cookbook that I have come to love and not be able to live without. My husband had purchased 6lbs of cherries and they were not pie cherries and I didn't know what to do with them. I decided to make a cherry coulis and panna cotta to serve with it (I think you would normally choose the panna cotta and then determine what to serve with it, but in this case I had too many cherries about to go to waste so my thought process was a bit backwards).

1 cup whole milk
2 3/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
3 cups heavy cream
1 piece vanilla bean, 2 inches long or 2 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan; sprinkle the surface evenly with the gelatin and let stand for 10 minutes to hydrate the gelatin.

This is what hydrated gelatin looks like.

While waiting for your gelatin to hydrate, place 2 trays of ice cubes into a large bowl and add 4 cups of cold water.

Measure cream into a large measuring cup or pitcher. With a pairing knife, slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the vanilla seeds into the cream; place the pod in the cream along with the seeds and set the mixture aside.

Set eight 4 oz ramekins on a baking sheet. (I can count and I do know this is 12, not 8---I was taking this to a party where we were sampling a lot of Italian food so I opted for smaller portions in more ramekins)

Heat the milk and gelatin mixture over high heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved and the mixture registers 135 degrees on and instant read thermometer, about 1.5 minutes. Off the heat, add the sugar and salt; stir until dissolved, about 1 minute.

Stirring constantly, slowly pour the cream and vanilla into the saucepan of milk, then transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and set the bowl over the ice-water bath.

Stir frequently until the mixture thickens to the consistentcy of eggnog and registers 50 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture into a large measuring cup or pitcher, then divide it evenly among the ramekins. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic does not mar the surface of the cream; refrigerate until just set (the mixture should wobble when shaken gently), about 4 hours.

To serve, spoon some berry coulis onto each individual serving plate. Pour 1 cup boiling water into a small, wide-mouthed bowl, dip a ramekin filled with panna cotta into the water, count to 3, and lift the ramekin out of the water. With a moistened finger, lightly press the periphery of the panna cotta to lossen the edges. Dip the ramekin back in the hot water for another 3 count. Invert the ramekin over your palm and loosen the panna cotta by cupping your fingers between the panna cotta and the edge of the ramekin. Gently lower the panna cotta onto the serving plate with the coulis. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What's Cooking in Sisters- February Edition

We had planned to get together with my sisters-in-law the first Sunday in February and try recipes from the What's Cooking In Sisters Cookbook that Nick's grandma had given me years ago, but the Snowmagedden Twin Blizzards crushed that idea. We got 3 feet of snow in 5 days. Crazy! However, as I was snowed in with the ingredients and a lot of time on my hands I gave it a go. So here are the 2 recipes I tried: STRAWBERRY PRETZEL SALAD (PAGE 31), AND SKILLET MAC & CHEESE (PAGE 53)

STRAWBERRY PRETZEL SALAD (Nancy suggested 'salad' might be a stretch)

Layer 1:
2 1/2 C crushed pretzels (don't crush too finely)
3/4 C butter, melted
3 T sugar

Mix all intredients and put in the bottom of a 9x13" pan. Bake in preheated oven 400 for 8-10 minutes.

Layer 2:
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 C sugar
9 oz Cool Whip

Blend Cream cheese and sugar and fold in cool whip. Spread on cooled crust

Layer 3:
2 sm pkgs strawberry jello
2 C boiling water
2 pkgs (10 oz each) frozen strawberries

Dissolve jello in boiling water. Stir in frozen strawberries. When partially set, put over second layer. Refrigerate until set.

I've had this a zillion times at my moms house, but the addition of the frozen strawberries was new. I didn't like them- they were kind of a squishy texture, plus added quite a bit of expense. Leave out the strawberries and you'll be fine. And please serve as more of a dessert.

1/4 C butter
2 C uncooked elbow macaroni
1/2 C onion, chopped
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp oregano, dried
1/4 tsp dry mustard
2 C water
1 1/2 T flour
1 can evaporated milk
2 C sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 T minced parsley, dried.

Turn electric skillet to 200 and melt butter. Add macaroni, onion, salt, pepper, oregano and dry mustard. Turn heat to 260 and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes, or until onion looks clear. Add water and bring to a boil. Cover the mac and simmer at 200 for 6-12 minutes or until the mac is tender. Sprinkle flour over the mac mix and stir to mix well. Stir in the evap milk and shredded cheese. Simmer 5 min longer at 200 or until the cheese completely melts. Stir occasionally while it cooks. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. Serves 6.

First, I never put parsley in any recipe, ever. So I don't know if that adds anything or not. I didn't have dry mustard so used yellow mustard,and I threw in about twice what it asked for (I figured, heck! I like mustard!). That did make it have a mustardy flavor which wasnt' bad, but was there. And I think the sharp cheddar made it too zippy- I'd go more mild next time. I didn't have oregano so used italian seasonings.

Be aware this might be best served on paper plates as it hardens into a cementy glue that is impossible to remove unless it is severely scraped. I didn't have a electric skillet so just used a frying pan on top of the stove. We thought it was ok on a snowy afternoon.