Saturday, November 22, 2014

Roast Turkey

Just in time for the holidays…how to prepare the classic Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey.

If you purchase a pre-prepared turkey (pre-basted with a pop-up doneness thingy) you will find little of value in this. But if you have decided to go with a less expensive, less high-tech bird, here is how we used to prepare our holiday turkeys in the “olden days” of the Fifties and Sixties and before…

Large roasting pan (a 13in x9in x3in cake pan will do, provided your turkey will fit in it)
Heavy duty foil (or lid for roasting pan that will fit over turkey)
Meat thermometer (optional)
Trussing instruments (small, thin skewers and kitchen string)
Turkey baster, basting brush, and/or small ladle
Rack for bottom of the toasting pan (or make a stand of foil)
Turkey lifter
Oven mitts or hot pads
Pair of trivets, same height (optional)
Pliers (to remove skewers)
Close-fitting latex gloves (optional)

Cooking spray
Cleaned, plucked and singed turkey with head and feet removed
One recipe of Poultry Stuffing (optional)
½ cup melted butter
¼ lb (1 stick) of butter, sliced into squares ⅛ inch thick (25mm x 25mm x 3mm thick) (optional)

Prepare the turkey
1.    Remove centre oven rack and move remaining rack to the bottom-most position
       —Preheat oven to 325F (160C)
2.    Spray the inside of the roasting pan well with cooking spray and set aside
3.    Remove turkey from its packaging
       —Remove neck and packet of giblets from the cavity
       —Wash turkey inside and out with cold running water, pat dry, and put in prep space, breast-side up.
       —Put gloves on (optional)
       —(Optional step) Starting at the opening of the cavity, gently lift the skin away from the meat of the turkey, sliding your free hand under the skin up towards the breast and wings. Loosen as much of the skin as possible on both sides of the bird’s breast side, being careful not to tear the skin     
—(Optional step) Place the slices of butter between the skin and breast meat of the turkey and smooth the skin into its place over them. This will ensure the breast meat is tender and juicy
Skip to Step 7 if you are not stuffing the turkey
4.    Stuff turkey neck cavity
       —Turn bird onto the breast (a couple of wadded up kitchen towels on either side of the bird will help stabilize it)
       —Unfold the flap of neck skin and spread it out
       —Using your hand, scoop up some of the prepared stuffing and compact it slightly in your hand, then press the dressing into the V-shaped opening where the breasts meet.
       —Continue adding handfuls of stuffing until the skin has to be stretched to cover and contain it all
       —Stretch the skin to cover the stuffing and secure it to the bird’s upper back by pinning it with a small skewer or toothpicks.
5.    Stuff the turkey body
       —Turn the bird onto its back again
       —Using the same technique, scoop dressing from the bowl and put it into the main cavity, packing slightly as you go along
       —When the dressing is bulging out of the cavity, it is time to truss the bird
6.    Truss the bird     
—Tuck the tail up towards the stuffing
       —Insert skewers into the skin on either side of the cavity opening. Use at least 6 skewers for a 18lb (8 kg) or larger bird.
       —Using the kitchen string, run it across the skewers in an X pattern as shown in photo, pull snug, and tie in a bow (for easy removal)
       —Using skewers, pin the turkey wings to the body of the bird so they don’t come loose and burn during cooking
7.    Prepare the pan for roasting
       —Place the roasting rack in the bottom of the pan. If you don’t have a roasting rack, tear off a long length of heavy duty foil, roll it in a tight tube, lengthwise, then compact with your hand until you have a “rope” of foil. Shape this “rope” into an oval-shaped coil in the bottom of the pan
       —Put the turkey lifter in the pan. If your bird came with a turkey lifter, it will look like four pieces of string with a button connecting them. If your bird did not come with a turkey lifter, make your own by cutting two lengths of kitchen string about 18 inches (46 cms) each; hold them together and make a knot halfway down the length of the pair of strings. Now, spread the turkey lifter over the roasting rack, the button/knot in the centre, the four strings hanging over the sides of the pan in an X configuration
8.    Get the turkey in the pan
       —Lift the turkey and place it in the pan, breast side up, making sure the turkey lifter strings are all out where you can grab them
       —Brush or ladle melted butter all over the skin (this will help it brown)
       —If you are using thermometer, place it in the thickest part of the thigh, being careful not to touch bone or the side of the pan
       —Tear off a large sheet of foil and spray one side well with cooking spray so the foil won’t stick to the turkey. Tent it loosely over the top of the turkey, making sure not to touch the thermometer
       —Place the turkey in the centre of the oven and roast according to the time table below. Allow up to an hour additional (total) if you are above 5000 feet (1500 meters) in altitude. (2.2 lbs = 1 kg)

Stuffed Turkey                                               Unstuffed Turkey
6-8 lbs                  3-3.5 hours                           2.5 to 3 hours
8-12 lbs                3.5 to 4.5 hours                    3 to 4 hours
12 to 16 lbs          4.5 to 5.5 hours                    4 to 5 hours
16 to 20 lbs          5.5 to 6 hours                       5 to 5.5 hours
20 to 24 lbs          6 to 6.5 hours                       5.5 to 6 hours

 9.    Basting and finishing
       —After the first hour, baste the turkey with melted butter and pan juices every hour to keep the meat juicy
       —In the last half hour of cooking, remove the foil and discard, and baste well with melted butter and pan juices
       —If using a thermometer, look for an internal temperature of 165F (75C) to indicate doneness. If you are not using a thermometer, wiggle the drumstick (grasp the end of the bone with your fingers and wiggle it up and down, back and forth). If it moves easily, the bird is done.
       —Remove the turkey from the oven (be sure to have plenty of padding to protect your hands from the heat) and place the pan on the trivets to cool.
       —Gather up the four strings of the turkey lifter and lift the bird from the roasting pan and transfer it to the serving platter
       —Remove all string and remove skewers. If they are stuck, use the pliers to get them out.
       —Allow the bird to rest from 10 to 20 minutes before carving so that the juices aren’t lost

Put a little greenery around the bird…some parsley or sprigs of rosemary…and serve.

Happy Holidays!

Poultry (Chicken or Turkey) Stuffing

Just in time for the holidays...four tasty recipes for turkey dressing guaranteed to tempt the tastebuds. The first recipe I learned when I was 8 years old, watching my great-grandmother stuff a turkey for Christmas dinner, the variations are my own.

1 loaf of sliced white bread, toasted
1 large onion, minced
4 to 6 stalks of celery, finely sliced
2 finely minced garlic cloves
1 tsp olive oil
1 jumbo or two small eggs, whisked
3 tbsp Bell’s poultry seasoning (or sage)
cup melted butter
½ half tsp salt
Pepper (optional)

Discard end pieces and toast bread. Stack 4 slices and cut with a sharp knife into 1” cubes. Repeat until all slices of toast are cubed. Place in large bowl.

Heat olive oil in skillet and when hot, add onion and celery. Cook until onion becomes translucent, then add garlic, cook for another minute, then remove from heat and add to cubed toast. Sprinkle poultry seasoning and salt over toast cubes and add egg and then half the butter.

Mix gently with hands until all of the toast is coated with the seasonings, butter, and egg. If mixture is too dry, add the remaining butter.

Stuff turkey fairly tightly and truss. Roast as usual. Makes enough for a 20 lb turkey both neck and body cavities.

Variations (which I usually put in the neck cavity so there are two dressings to choose from)

Sausage and apple
Set aside ¼ of the dressing made above for the neck cavity. To it, toss in:
6 ounces sausage, sautéed and drained (I use a mild Italian sausage)
1 granny smith apple, peeled and coarsely chopped and sautéed with the sausage.

Oyster and chestnut
Set aside ¼ of the dressing made above for the neck cavity. To it, toss in:
A can/jar (no more than 6 oz) of oysters
to ½ cup chestnuts, cut or broken into small pieces

Mushroom and onion
Set aside ¼ of the dressing made above for the neck cavity. To it, toss in:
½ cup mixed mushrooms sautéed in butter and white wine

Monday, June 30, 2014

Peggie’s Cranberry Sauce

Photo by Duchessoftea: Flickr

Delicious with turkey and absolutely divine on next-day turkey sandwiches! This recipe was passed to me by my stepmother, who was an inventive, innovative cook.

This recipe is vegan and vegetarian friendly, gluten-free, and can be made diabetic friendly simply by substituting sweetener for the sugar.


1 cup sugar (or equivalent amount of sweetener)
½ cup water
2 tbsp orange zest
⅛ to ¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp cinnamon
Pinch or two of ground cloves
4 cups fresh cranberries, washed and picked through
½ tsp vanilla extract (essence)

Combine sugar, water, zest, salt, and spices in a large pan and bring to the boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add cranberries and simmer until berry skins pop (10 to 15 minutes, longer if you are at a high altitude); continue cooking until mixture thickens. Remove pot from stove, stir in the vanilla.

At this point you can either ladle the mixture into sterilized jelly jars and cap, or simply set aside to cool (make sure it is covered). If you put it in jelly jars, 20 minutes in a hot water bath should set the lids and then it can be stored in a cupboard for up to one year. Otherwise, keep chilled and use within 2 weeks.

Serving suggestion:
For each diner, place 1/3 cup applesauce in a small sauce dish and place two tablespoons cranberry sauce on top.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Quick Cheese Danish (with variations)

Photo by lamiacuchina, Flickr
Dont you just love those cloudy, cool, overcast days in summer when you can fire up the oven without overheating both yourself and the house? I've just had a few mornings like that and started some experimenting with puff pastry...and look what I've discovered! Ten different kinds of Braided Danish Pastry! TEN!!

This is so much easier than it looks! You can buy frozen puff pastry in the super market (not phyllo dough...completely different thing) and stirring up the filling only takes a minute or fact, this goes so quick, you might even have trouble getting your oven up to temperature in time. And this is sooo good! Give it a will be glad you did!
1 packet (two sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed and chilled in refrigerator
Sliced almonds (optional)

Cheese Filling
8oz (224g) full or medium cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg yolk
¼ cup granulated sugar (or equivalent sucralose)
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla

⅓ cup icing (confectioners) sugar (or equivalent sucralose)
1 tbsp milk
¼ tsp vanilla
(if using sucralose, you may have to heat this on the stove to get it to fully dissolve)

Preheat oven to 350F (180C) and lightly oil (or spray) a large baking sheet.

Keep dough refrigerated until ready to use.

Prepare the filling: Combine cream cheese, and egg yolk in a bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat until thoroughly mixed.

Remove first sheet of dough from packaging, keeping the second refrigerated while you work with the first.

Lay out pastry dough on oiled baking sheet (leaving room for the second sheet of dough). Using a dull knife, gently mark (do not cut) the dough into thirds. Onto the centre third spread half the filling.

Now, using a sharp knife, pastry wheel, pizza cutter or kitchen scissors, snip the dough on either side of the filling as shown in the photo. Work quickly because you don’t want the dough to get soft or sticky. Now, turn up the ends of the centre section and begin braiding by alternately folding one snipped piece of dough over the filling. When you get to the middle, stop and begin braiding from the other end. Sprinkle with sliced almonds, if desired.

Repeat this process with the second sheet of pastry. Put baking sheet in top third of preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the top of the pastry begins to brown. If you live above 5000 feet, as I do, the baking time may be extended by as much as 10 minutes. When pastry is done, remove baking sheet to a cooling rack.

While pastry cools, prepare the glaze by stirring all of the ingredients together. When the pastry has cooled for about 1 minutes, drizzle the glaze lightly over the pastry. Best served warm.

Almond Danish:
Substitute almond flavouring for the vanilla in both the cheese filling and glaze. Sprinkle the top of the pastry generously with sliced almonds before baking.

Almond and Cherry Danish
Substitute almond flavouring for the vanilla in both the cheese filling and glaze. Spread a can of cherry pie filling over the cheese filling before braiding. Sprinkle the top of the pastry generously with sliced almonds before baking.

Apple Danish
Before braiding, spread a can of apple pie filling on top of the cheese filling. Dot with raisins if desired. Braid and finish as usual.

Chocolate Chip Danish
Before braiding, sprinkle the cheese filling with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Braid and finish as usual.

Cinnamon Danish
Mix ½ tsp of ground cinnamon into cream cheese mixture during preparation.

Lemon Danish
Substitute lemon flavouring for the vanilla in the cheese mixture. Once cheese mixture is spread onto dough, spread a layer of lemon curd on top. Braid and finish as usual.

Berry Danish
Generously sprinkle top of cheese filling with fresh blueberries, raspberries or black berries (or a combination of them). Braid and finish as usual.

Jam-filled Danish
Reduce the amount of sugar in the cream cheese mixture by at least 50% if using jam in the filling, otherwise it will be too sweet. Spread a layer of your jam of choice (apricot jam and pineapple jam are especially good) over the cream cheese filling, then braid and finish as usual.

Savoury Danish
Do not add sugar or sweetener or flavouring to the cream cheese, although you may add a teaspoon of herbs, finely minced. Beat it well with the egg yolk and lemon juice, then spread onto the pastry. Make savoury fillings such as herbed mushrooms, chopped spinach, caramelized onion (with a little garlic in the cream cheese), sundried tomatoes and olives (with some basil in the cream cheese), smoked salmon and capers (with some dill in the cream cheese), or even your favourite paté. Braid and bake, but do not glaze. Serve hot.