Archive for the ‘Specials’ Category

I am taking some liberties here and doing this special out of order, as this special episode was really the 7th one to air, but I’m writing it up as my third special. We wound up hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year, and the recipes from this episode composed a large portion of our Thanksgiving menu. Yes, I know Thanksgiving was quite a while ago, but it seems we’ve had non-stop things going on for the last several weeks. The premise of this special is that Alton intends to give you a solid, stress-free Thanksgiving menu, much of which can be prepared in advance. In the episode, he breaks down exactly when you need to complete each step of each recipe, so everything winds up on the table at the same time. I was slightly skeptical as to how well his schedule would actually work when put to the test. Without further ado, here are the recipes from Alton’s second Thanksgiving-specific special, along with his Thanksgiving schedule.

Butterflied, Dry Brined Roasted Turkey 

In the online recipe, the turkey and panzanella are written as one, but really you will begin prepping the turkey and two other menu items before you begin the panzanella, which I will write up separately below. Note that, for this recipe, you will need to have your bird thawed four days in advance. The ideal bird for this recipe is a 14-pound frozen turkey, which you can thaw, wrapped, in the refrigerator; allow one day for every four pounds.

img_5514

My 14-ish pound bird.

If you really want to get fast/fancy, you can purchase a pump and thaw your turkey in a cooler next to your sink, placing the pump in the sink and covering it with cold water. Run the pump tube up into the cooler with the bird. Meanwhile, open the drain spout on the cooler, allowing it to drain into the sink. Make sure you reach equilibrium if you try this method, or you could end up with water all over the floor. If the cooler is draining too quickly, you can partially plug the hole with some foil. I opted for a third method and thawed my bird in a bucket of cold water, changing the water every couple hours, which took about eight hours. Four days prior to serving, make a dry brine by grinding 3 1/2 T Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t dry thyme, 1 1/2 t rubbed sage, 1 1/4 t black peppercorns, and 1 1/2 t allspice berries in a spice grinder.

Remove the neck and giblets from the bird, reserving them if you plan to make Alton’s gravy. Placing your turkey breast side down, use kitchen shears to cut up one side of the turkey’s backbone. Flip the bird 180-degrees and cut up the other side of the backbone, holding onto the neck. Save the bones for Alton’s gravy.

Flip your bird over, so it is breast side up and press the keel bone with the heels of your hands until it cracks and the bird flattens.

Sprinkle half of the dry brine on each side of the bird, patting it into the turkey. I know this sounds odd, but place your flattened bird, breast side up, on a parchment-lined sheet pan and let it age in your refrigerator for four days, uncovered.

The day you plan to serve your turkey, remove it from the refrigerator 3:40:00 ahead of meal time. Place the turkey in a 425-degree oven 2:05:00 ahead of serving; if you are also making Alton’s panzanella, you will place the bird directly on an upper oven rack without a pan, allowing the turkey’s juices to drip into the panzanella below. Otherwise, yeah, you will probably want to use a pan! When you have 1:35:00 to dinner, decrease the oven temperature to 350. You will want to continue cooking your turkey until it reaches 155-degrees in the deepest part of the breast. I will confess that I cooked my turkey until it was ~160 degrees.

img_5590

My completed turkey, after cooking to ~160 degrees.

Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest under foil. My bird was done pretty much on schedule, so it had plenty of time to rest while we finished up other things.

img_5591

My completed turkey, after cooking to ~160 degrees… and a desperate dog.

Honestly, this is the easiest turkey you will ever make and it takes so little time. Also, we could not believe how much the spices from the dry brine (isn’t that really a cure?) had permeated the meat – so much flavor! This will be the turkey I make the next time I prep one. Yes, your oven does get slightly messy, but that is worth it. This is my new favorite turkey recipe.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Okay, so this pecan pie recipe is awesome because you can make it up to two weeks ahead of time. I actually made this for us to eat the week after Thanksgiving, as we already had enough dessert contributions for our Thanksgiving meal (including a pecan pie!). The first step for Alton’s pie is to make his spiced pecans. Oddly, he did not actually demonstrate this recipe in the episode, though he did mention that you need the spiced pecans in your pie. So, I simply followed the online recipe for the spiced pecans, making a half pound of them.

img_5614

Ingredients for spiced pecans: pecan halves, light and dark brown sugar, butter, water, and spice blend.

To make a half pound of spiced pecans, combine in a bowl 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t cumin, 1/4 t cayenne, 1/4 t cinnamon, and 1/4 t dried orange peel (I didn’t have this, so left it out).

Toast the pecan halves in a pan over medium heat until they smell toasted, and stir in 2 T butter.

Once the butter has melted, stir in the spice mixture.

img_5619

Spice mix added to buttered pecans.

Finally, add 1 T water, 1 T dark brown sugar, and 1/8 C light brown sugar. Stir until the nuts are coated evenly and spread them on a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool, breaking up any clusters.

Once your spiced pecans are complete, you are ready to make the rest of your pie, beginning, of course, with the crust. In a food processor, pulse 3 1/2 ounces plain pecan halves until fine. To your pecans add 6 oz flour, 4 T cold butter, 1/2 t Kosher salt, 2 T ice water, and 2 T bourbon, pulsing after each ingredient is added, and avoiding over-processing.

Flatten the dough into a disc and place it in a ziplock bag, refrigerating for 30 minutes.

img_5639

Dough flattened in a disc, and placed in a ziplock bag to cool.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the filling by melting 4 T butter. In a bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 1/2 C sugar, 1/4 t Kosher salt, 1 t vanilla, 1 T bourbon, the 4 T of butter you melted before, and 6 ounces (by weight) of golden syrup; golden syrup can be tricky to find, so I ordered it online.

When your dough has chilled, cut the two opposing side seams of your ziplock with scissors. Open the bag and sprinkle both sides of the dough disk with flour. Cover the dough with the bag again and roll it into an 11-inch circle.

Alton recommends using a 9.5-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, as you can simply place your dough circle onto the bottom of the pan, folding up the excess dough. When you place the bottom of the pan into the edges, you can simply unfold the excess dough, pressing it into the flutes. I, however, do not have a tart pan of that size, so I opted for a regular pie plate, transferring my dough circle by rolling it around a rolling pin. This dough is slightly sticky, so you do need to use flour.

img_5652

Crust, transferred to pie plate.

Regardless of which pan you use, press the dough into the pan before adding 6 ounces of your spiced pecans, chopped. Pour the filling mixture over the pecans and jiggle the pan to evenly distribute the nuts.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes. At this time, remove your pie from the oven, placing it on a rack. Decorate the top of your pie by placing spiced pecan halves around the edge of your pie – you will need about two ounces of spiced pecans for this.

Stick your pie back in the oven and bake it until the internal temperature is 200 degrees, which Alton says should take about 10 more minutes. If your oven is like mine, however, it will take 15-20 minutes of additional baking. Remove your pie from the oven and let it cool.

img_5657

Pie after baking to internal temp of 200.

If you are making it in advance, cover your cooled pie with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for eight hours to two weeks. When you are approaching your serving time, remove your frozen pie from its pan and slice it; you can place it back in the pan. Refrigerate your pie until ready to serve. Alton guarantees that this pie will not seep or weep, and I can vouch for that. I never froze my pie, as we simply ate it once it had cooled down. Still, unlike many pecan pies, this one had a filling that maintained its shape and form.

img_5660

A slice of Alton’s pecan pie.

To boot, we really liked the bourbon flavor in this pie, which paired well with the spices from the pecans. The golden syrup also seemed to give more of a caramelized flavor versus using corn syrup. The crust in this recipe is crispy, light, and pretty savory, which we thought contrasted greatly with the super sweet filling. I will make this pecan pie again for sure, as it is probably the best pecan pie I have had.

Whipped Potatoes

Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be complete without some form of potato, right? This special episode featured Alton’s recipe for whipped potatoes. Like the other recipes in this episode, this is one for which much of the prep can be completed in advance. A full 24 hours ahead of serving time, you will want to peel four pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, and slice them as thinly as possible; a mandolin makes this much faster, if you have one.

Place the potato slices in an 8-quart container, covering them with a gallon of cold water. Let the potato slices sit overnight, allowing the water to remove any excess starch.

You will not need to touch your potatoes again until 1:30:00 before serving time, which is when you will place your potatoes into a strainer (resist the urge to dump the potatoes into the strainer, as you want to avoid transferring all of that starchy water). Rinse your potato slices with clean water and spin them in a salad spinner to dry.

Transfer the potatoes to a large pot, covering them with a gallon of whole milk, and placing them on a burner over medium-high heat.

img_5580

Potatoes and a gallon of whole milk, placed on the stove.

Twenty-five minutes before your meal, drain your potatoes, reserving the milk. Press the potatoes through a ricer into your serving bowl, adding 4 ounces butter, 1 C of the reserved milk (you can use the rest of the milk for something like potato soup), and 1 T Kosher salt. Whip the potatoes with a hand mixer for 15 seconds. Yes, seriously, 15 seconds will do it. Resist the urge to blend the potatoes further, as they will become gummy. Sadly, because I was scrambling around on Thanksgiving, I forgot to take photos of my potatoes as I riced/whipped them, so I have no photos of my finished product. These potatoes seemed to be very popular around our Thanksgiving table, and I have to say that this is now my favorite mashed potato recipe. The potatoes were super light and fluffy, and had just the right amounts of butter and salt. Cooking the potatoes in milk gave them a very creamy mouthfeel and flavor. I highly recommend this recipe, and it will be the one I use when I next make mashed potatoes.

Roasted Root Vegetable Panzanella

As I mentioned above, this panzanella is designed to go along with (and cook with) Alton’s dry brined roasted turkey. While you begin prepping the turkey four days in advance, this panzanella only needs to be prepped 24 hours ahead of your dinner, so Alton covered this as the fourth recipe in the episode. So, 24 hours ahead, cut eight ounces of hearty multigrain or sourdough bread into 1/2″ cubes, leaving them on a sheet pan in a cold oven to dry out overnight.

At this time you will also want to mince two cloves of garlic, chop a red onion, and shred eight ounces of Brussels sprouts (this is super fast with the shredding blade in a food processor).

Place these prepped items into separate containers and refrigerate. Finally, peel 1 1/2 pounds each of parsnips and rutabagas, cutting them into chunks. Combine the parsnips and rutabagas in a container and place them in the refrigerator.

The following day, you will begin your panzanella when you pull your turkey out of the refrigerator, which will be 3:40:00 ahead of dinner. At this time, dump your rutabaga/parsnip combo into a large roasting pan, along with 2 t vegetable oil.

img_5570

Rutabagas and parsnips placed in roasting pan with vegetable oil.

When you place your turkey in the 425-degree oven (2:05:00 ahead), also place your roasting pan into the oven, directly beneath your turkey; this will allow the turkey’s juices to drip into the vegetables. Once you have 1:35:00 to your planned dinner time, add the diced red onion to your roasting pan, tossing, and decrease the oven to 350 degrees.

img_5575

Red onion added to roasting pan.

Forty-five minutes ahead, add your bread cubes, shredded Brussels sprouts, and garlic to your panzanella, tossing.

img_5588

Bread, sprouts, and garlic added to panzanella.

Thirty minutes before dinner, remove the roasting pan from the oven and add 1/4 C cider vinegar, 2 t fresh thyme, a pinch of Kosher salt, and some black pepper to the roasting pan.

img_5589

Cider vinegar, fresh thyme, salt, and pepper added to finish panzanella.

Toss everything around and transfer the panzanella to a serving bowl. The flavors in this panzanella were fantastic, but I was highly disappointed in the texture of the bread cubes. To me, a panzanella should have super crunchy bread cubes, but this bread was kind of soggy. I do intend to make this again, but I plan to toast my bread cubes in advance, and I will add them to the salad right before serving. Aside from the bread, the sweetness of the root vegetables was great with the slight tang of vinegar and bite of garlic/onion. I’m sure the turkey juices didn’t hurt the flavor at all either! Again, this is a delicious recipe, but it does need some help in the texture department. Cooking this with the turkey makes everything super easy, which is a huge bonus.

Turkey Giblet Gravy

Last, but not least, Alton had to include a recipe for gravy in his second Thanksgiving special, no? Remember the turkey neck and backbone that we saved from prepping Alton’s turkey four days before Thanksgiving? Well, we’re going to use them here, along with the giblets. Four hours before dinner heat 1 T canola oil in a pot over medium heat, adding the turkey neck and backbone.

img_5560

Turkey neck and backbone, cooking in vegetable oil.

Brown the bones, turning them often for about 5-6 minutes.

img_5561

Turkey neck and backbone, cooking in vegetable oil, turning often.

Once the bones are browned, add the giblets, a small onion, a carrot, a stalk of celery, and a heavy pinch of Kosher salt to the pan.

img_5563

Onion, carrot, giblets, celery, and Kosher salt added to bones.

Cook all of the vegetables until they are tender, which should take about five minutes. Next, add 1 t black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, and 6 C of water.

img_5565

Peppercorns, bay leaf, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and water added to make stock.

Cover the pot, bringing it to a boil. Once boiling, remove the lid and decrease the heat, leaving the pot to simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

img_5566

Stock, after being brought to a boil.

Two hours prior to dinner, strain the stock, saving the giblets. You can discard the rest of the solids.

Once the giblets are cool, chop them finely. When you have 1:30:00 to dinner, pour 2 C of your stock into a saucier over medium heat. At this same time, pour 1/2 C of additional stock into a lidded container, along with 1 T flour, shaking to make a slurry.

Slowly whisk this slurry into the warm stock in the saucier.

Again, in your shaking container, combine another 1/2 C of cooled stock with 1 T potato starch, shaking.

Turn the burner off under your pan and allow your gravy to cool to below 190 degrees. Once below 190 degrees (which should be about 1:20:00 before your meal), turn the heat to low and whisk in the potato slurry. I had some trouble with this, as my slurry appeared to be quite lumpy, so I had to add some additional hot stock and re-shake my slurry. Once your slurry is incorporated, also add 1 t chopped fresh sage, 1 t fresh thyme, 1 t fresh rosemary, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper.

img_5587

Fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage to finish gravy, along with chopped giblets.

When your gravy has reached a simmer, stir in the chopped giblets and turn off the heat. When heated through, you can transfer your gravy to a thermos to keep it warm until you are ready to serve. I failed to get a final photo of my gravy, unfortunately. I am not a huge gravy person, but this one got some rave reviews at our house. The gravy seemed like it was going to be way too thin, but it did thicken up some. Flavor-wise, the gravy fans here really seemed to enjoy it.

So, to sum up Alton’s second Thanksgiving special, I have to say that I was quite pleased with all of the recipes, how they worked together, and his timeline was pretty spot on. If you follow his directions, you can have a pretty stress-free, well-timed Thanksgiving dinner with his five recipes here. While all of the recipes were honestly very good, I would absolutely not skip the turkey, potatoes, or pie. Below is a breakdown of my Thanksgiving Day Alton-based schedule, aiming for a 5:00 pm dinner. Honestly, it worked pretty darn well, and we were seated right around 5 o’clock.

1:00 PM – Start gravy stock.

1:20 PM – 1) Bird out of refrigerator. 2) Rutabagas and parsnips in roasting pan.

2:55 PM – Bird and vegetables in oven at 425 degrees.

3:00 PM – Strain gravy stock and cool giblets.

3:25 PM – 1) Add red onion to vegetables. 2) Decrease oven temp to 350.

3:30 PM – 1) Strain/spin potatoes. 2) Put potatoes in pot with milk. 3) Make gravy and transfer to thermos.

4:15 PM – 1) Add bread, sprouts, and garlic to vegetables. 2) Remove bird when it hits 160.

4:30 PM – 1) Add cider vinegar and seasonings to vegetables. 2) Rice potatoes and whip.

Now seemed like a good time for me to do another Good Eats special episode. The second special episode, “Down and Out in Paradise,” has a tropical theme, so I wanted to prep all of its recipes while it is still summer. This is an episode that I clearly remember watching when it originally aired, watching it along with my dad. With a whopping eight recipes, this episode took a little time to complete, but it was a fun one.

Coconut Shrimp with Peanut Sauce

First up, a shipwrecked Alton prepared coconut shrimp in his island abode. While you could use shredded coconut from the grocery store for this recipe, if you really want to make it Alton’s way, you will roast and shred your own fresh coconut. To do this, place a whole coconut in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, which should cause the shell to crack. Wrap the cooked coconut in a towel and whack it on a hard surface to fully crack the shell.

Using a sharp knife, score the coconut flesh in quarters and remove it from the shell; it is okay if the brown membrane remains. I found that it was difficult to remove the coconut from the shell, while Alton made it look super easy. Once you have all of your fresh coconut meat, you can grate it by hand or in a food processor, or you can store the meat for a week in the refrigerator, covered with cold water.

IMG_5090

Shredded fresh coconut.

Additionally, for this recipe you will need 15-20 count shrimp (cleaned and de-veined), cornstarch, Kosher salt, white pepper, cayenne pepper, egg whites, and peanut oil. Begin by combining 1/2 C cornstarch, 1/4t Kosher salt, 1/4 t white pepper, and 1/4 t cayenne pepper in a bowl.

IMG_5088

Cornstarch, Kosher salt, white pepper, and cayenne.

In a separate container, lightly beat 4 egg whites. While you heat peanut oil to 350 degrees on the stove, you can prep your shrimp for frying by coating them in the cornstarch mix, dipping them in egg whites, and subsequently dipping them in your shredded coconut.

Fry the shrimp in the peanut oil for about three minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve the shrimp with Alton’s peanut sauce and lime wedges.

IMG_5105

Coconut shrimp with peanut dipping sauce.

Alton did not prepare the peanut sauce in the episode, but the recipe can be found with the shrimp recipe. To make the peanut sauce, combine in a food processor 1/4 c chicken stock, 3 ounces coconut milk, 1 ounce lime juice, 1 ounce soy sauce, 1 T fish sauce, 1 T hot sauce, 2 T chopped garlic, 1 T chopped ginger, 1 1/2 C peanut butter, and 1/4 C chopped cilantro.

I am not the biggest shrimp fan, but I thought this recipe was pretty fantastic. The coconut coating was super crispy and light, while the shrimp were tender, and the peanut sauce was spicy, tangy, and a great accompaniment. I plan to make this one again for sure.

Chocolate Coconut Balls

Keeping with the coconut theme, the second recipe in this special episode was for chocolate coconut balls. Coconut-wise, Alton did not specify that you use fresh coconut in this recipe. I happened to have some leftover fresh coconut from the coconut shrimp recipe, so I used the rest of that, along with some store bought shredded coconut. You will also need toasted macadamia nuts, which you can toast in a 325-degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. In case you do not already know, macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, so be sure to keep these away from your pups.

IMG_5148

Macadamia nuts, after toasting in the oven.

Dump 1/2 pound shredded coconut in a bowl, along with 1 C toasted macadamia nuts, chopped. Add 1 C sweetened condensed milk and 1 1/2 t almond extract. Using your hands, mix everything really well and form the coconut mixture into 3/4″ balls, setting them on a foil-lined baking sheet. This mixture is quite sticky and you really need to compress it to form it into balls.

Let the formed coconut balls sit at room temperature for four hours to dry out.

IMG_5154

Coconut formed into balls.

Once dry, dip the balls in 12 ounces of semisweet morsels melted with 1 T shortening.

Let the balls sit until the chocolate has set up.

These are quite a tasty treat, tasting a lot like a Mounds candy bar. The macadamia nuts add a nice crunch, though I don’t know that I could discern what type of nut is in these. The coconut stays fairly moist and the chocolate sets up fairly well. My mom has a huge sweet tooth and recently had back surgery, so I took a couple of these balls to her yesterday to cheer her up. She dove right in and seemed to like them quite a lot. This is an easy recipe for a fun treat.

Island Ceviche with Pickled Onions

Of all the recipes in this episode, the ceviche recipe was definitely the one I was most excited to try. I absolutely love ceviche, first having it years ago with my dad at a restaurant called Aqua in San Francisco; I was amazed at the light, bright flavors in ceviche, instantly becoming a fan. We are very lucky now because we have an excellent ceviche restaurant in our town, which was opened just a few months ago by Chad White, a chef who competed on the last season of Top Chef. I was seriously excited to try my own hand at ceviche in my own kitchen, and Alton’s recipe seemed like a good place to start. To start, cut 1/2 pound of firm white fish into bite-sized pieces. Place the fish, along with 1/2 pound of bay scallops into a bowl with 6 ounces of fresh lime juice. Toss the fish to coat and refrigerate overnight. The online recipe tells you to sear the fish in a pan, but Alton did not do that in the episode.

When I went to finish prepping my ceviche, some of my scallops still looked raw in the middle, so I left my fish in the lime juice longer. Once your fish is ready, drain the lime juice from the fish and add 1 medium papaya, peeled, seeded, and diced. Also add 2 seeded and diced plum tomatoes, 4 seeded and diced serrano peppers, 1 C diced sweet onion, 1/2 C chopped cilantro, and 1 seeded and diced jalapeno. Toss to combine.

Add 1 T white wine Worcestershire (this is now sold as a marinade for chicken), 1 T Mexican hot sauce, and 2 oz tomato juice.

Serve the ceviche in empty papaya skins, along with pickled red onions. Though Alton did not make the pickled onions in the episode, his recipe is included with the fish recipe. For his onions, bring 8 oz champagne vinegar to a boil, along with 1/2 C sugar and 2 seeded serrano peppers.

IMG_5017

Serranos, sugar, and champagne vinegar.

Pour the hot vinegar over 2 sliced red onions.

When I served our ceviche, I skipped using the papaya skins as bowls, and served tortilla chips on the side.

IMG_5051

A bowl of Alton’s ceviche with pickled onions and tortilla chips.

We really liked the overall flavors in this ceviche, though we should have purchased higher quality fish. While the scallops were nice and mild, our fish was slightly “fishy.” I would like to try this again with high quality fish. Definitely do not skimp on the quality of fish if you choose to make this. I liked the inclusion of the papaya in this recipe and the pickled onions are a great garnish. With all of the peppers in this, it does have a decent amount of heat, but it is not overpowering. I think this recipe is probably amazing, but I just couldn’t get past my fishy fish.

Papaya Soup

You can’t really have an island-themed episode without including some recipes that center around tropical fruit. Enter:  papaya soup. When watching Alton prepare this recipe, I was not quite sure what I would think of it. I opted to prep it as a side dish for us. When purchasing papayas, look for fruit that is about 80% yellow and without large discolorations or bruises. If you plan to let your papayas ripen on the counter at home, set them stem side down for even ripening. For this soup, you will need 4 papayas (I opted for two since I was only prepping two servings), fresh mint, 3 limes, 2 lemons, fresh berries, fresh ginger, sugar, and water.

IMG_5132

Ingredients for papaya soup: papayas, lemons, limes, fresh mint, berries, and ginger. Not pictured: sugar and water.

Begin by peeling, seeding, and dicing your papayas, dividing the fruit evenly in your serving dishes. Add 2 T chopped mint.

IMG_5134

Fresh papaya.

IMG_5136

Fresh papaya and mint.

Meanwhile, dissolve 1 C sugar in 1 C boiling water. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the juice of 3 limes and 2 lemons.

Pour the hot sugar/citrus liquid over the fruit and mint; I opted not to use all of the liquid, as it just seemed like too much for the amount of fruit I had. Add some fresh berries and chopped ginger for garnish, and serve.

IMG_5141

Alton’s papaya soup, garnished with berries and fresh ginger.

We both were pleasantly surprised by this dish. Though this was sweet, the sweetness was nicely balanced with the tang from the lemons and limes. The fresh ginger also really helped to cut the sweetness. Having not cooked much with papaya, I really liked the fruit in this dish. Honestly, you could serve this as a light dessert in the summer also. This is definitely an unusual dish that is pretty, interesting, and comes together in a matter of minutes.

Mango Salad

There is no online link for this next recipe, but I’ll write it up as Alton made it in the episode. I am an absolute mango freak, so I knew I’d really like this one. Toss together 2 diced mangoes, 1 sliced red onion, the juice of 1-2 Key limes (I used bottled juice), 1 T fresh mint or basil (basil for me), black pepper (a fair amount), and some feta cheese.

Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. This was a great salad, which we ate alongside the coconut shrimp.

IMG_5087

Completed salad with feta.

This salad has the sweetness of mango, the bite of red onion, the tang of lime, the saltiness of feta, and the spice from pepper. In a nutshell, it has a little bit of everything. Super tasty.

Mango Chutney

I grew up eating chutney, as a condiment on my grandma’s curry. Though I never knew my grandmother, my parents served her curry recipe to me from an early age, and it has been a favorite meal of mine for years. A blend of spices, onions, raisins, and apples, this wonderful curry is served over rice with bacon, hard-boiled egg, banana, peanuts, bean sprouts, and chutney as condiments. I do not recall ever eating homemade chutney when having curry, so I was really stoked to see how homemade chutney would pair with Grandma’s classic. So, last week I whipped up a batch of Alton’s chutney. The ingredients needed for Alton’s chutney are vegetable oil, chile flakes, red bell pepper, red onion, mangoes, fresh ginger, brown sugar, curry powder, mango juice, cider vinegar, macadamia nuts, golden raisins, white pepper, and Kosher salt.

IMG_5054

Ingredients for chutney: Kosher salt, golden raisins, ginger, brown sugar, red bell pepper, cider vinegar, red onion, macadamia nuts, chile flakes, mango juice, curry powder, pepper, and mangoes.

First, heat 3 T vegetable oil in a pan and add 1/2 t chile flakes, cooking until fragrant.

IMG_5056

Chile flakes heating in oil.

Add 1 C diced red bell pepper and 2 C diced red onion, and sweat over low heat for about 5 minutes.

Next, add 4 pounds mangoes, diced, along with 1/4 C minced ginger. Cover the chutney and allow it to cook for three minutes, or until the mangoes soften.

Stir in 1/2 C brown sugar, 1 T curry powder, 8 ounces mango juice (I used a mango lemonade), and 4 ounces cider vinegar. Simmer the chutney for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Finally, add 1/2 C golden raisins and 1/2 C toasted/chopped macadamia nuts (you can toast them at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes). Season the chutney to taste with white pepper and Kosher salt.

IMG_5071

Raisins and macadamia nuts stirred into chutney.

This recipe makes a fairly large batch of chutney, so I opted to divide mine among small jars to freeze. Of course, I had to try the chutney over Grandma’s curry.

IMG_5181

Alton’s chutney over my grandma’s curry.

Let me tell you, this chutney is fantastic. It is sweet, tangy, tart, and bright, with a faint hint of heat. Honestly, I think it makes my grandma’s curry better than ever. I am anxious to share it with my parents to see what they think. You really could use this curry in a variety of ways – using it anywhere you would use other condiments. I will absolutely make this again.

Spicy Pineapple Slices

Recipes don’t come much easier than this one. Simply peel, core, and slice pineapple, sprinkling it evenly with Kosher salt, pepper, and chili powder.

Grill the slices until tender and warm.

IMG_5167

Pineapple slices on the grill.

We ate this as a side dish, alongside sandwiches, and we both thought it was great.

IMG_5172

Delicious grilled pineapple.

The heat of the chili powder is fantastic with the sweetness of the fruit. What are Alton’s tips for selecting pineapples?  First, pick fruit that sounds solid when you thump it. Also, look for large fruit that is about 50% yellow and 50% green, as pineapples do not ripen further post-harvest. Small crowns are desirable because large crowns indicate that a pineapple has used up its sugars.

IMG_5161

Large pineapple, small crown. About 50/50 yellow/green.

Sweet and Sour Pork

Last, but not least, Alton’s sweet and sour pork finished out this episode. Note that there is another recipe online for coconut macaroons, but Alton did not make those in the episode, so I did not make them either. You will have to start Alton’s sweet and sour pork the night before you plan to serve it. Start by making a marinade of 2 t minced garlic, 1 T minced ginger, 2/3 C soy sauce, 1/4 C flour, and 1/4 C cornstarch.

IMG_5075

Garlic, ginger, soy sauce, flour, and cornstarch combined for marinade.

To the marinade, add 1 pound of cubed pork that has been seasoned with Kosher salt, and allow the meat to marinade overnight.

IMG_5078

Pork in marinade overnight.

The following day, drain the marinade from the pork and dredge the pork cubes in flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper.

Fry the pork in 375-degree peanut oil until golden brown, and set aside.

In a skillet, heat 1 T peanut oil with 2 t sesame oil. Add 1/3 C each of diagonally sliced carrot, diced onion, and diced celery.

IMG_5108

Celery, onion, carrot, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper.

IMG_5120

Onion, celery, and carrot, sauteeing in oil.

Cook the vegetables until they are translucent. Add 1/3 C diced red bell pepper, 1/3 C diced green bell pepper, and 1 C chopped pineapple.

IMG_5123

Bell peppers and pineapple added to pan.

Next, add the fried pork to the pan, along with a mixture of 1 C ketchup, 1/4 C red wine vinegar, 1/4 C sugar, and 1 1/2 ounces honey.

IMG_5124

Sauce and pork added to pan.

Cook over low heat until the pork is tender and heated through.

IMG_5126

Cooked until pork was heated through.

I served Alton’s sweet and sour pork over rice and we thought it was really good.

IMG_5128

Alton’s sweet and sour pork over rice.

The pork was tender inside and slightly crispy on the outside, but far from greasy. The sauce was a perfect blend of sweet and sour flavors. Alton’s version of this classic is a good one.

When Alton Brown was filming Good Eats, he and his crew produced eight special episodes, in addition to the regular seasonal episodes. Seeing as Ted and I will be having our Thanksgiving dinner with his parents this year, we decided we would have my parents over to our house for an early Thanksgiving dinner, which we had yesterday. It just so happens that the first of the Good Eats special episodes has a Thanksgiving theme, so, of course, I used the recipes from this special episode to fill our (first – lucky us!) Thanksgiving table this year.

Ted and I have only hosted Thanksgiving once at our house. In 2010, we hosted both sets of our parents, along with Ted’s aunt and uncle. It was particularly cold and snowy that year, and Ted was in charge of cooking the turkey. My dad contributed our family’s favorite stuffing with blue cornbread and chorizo sausage, and everyone else brought a side dish or two to share. Ted chose to follow Alton’s turkey recipe from this episode of Good Eats. He’ll tell you it turned out dry, but the rest of us thought it was very good. The highlight of the day was when Ted and my dad were carving the turkey. As we did not have a carving board, they were carving the bird on a pull-out cutting board under the kitchen counter. The bird was quite hefty, causing the cutting board to slant toward the kitchen floor, and all of the turkey’s juices began running off the edge of the board. We all saw a huge mess about to form, but Hitcher, the hound, stepped in to save the day, positioning himself perfectly so the juices would run straight into his open, waiting mouth. Ellie, my now mother-in-law, was laughing so hard that I thought she was going to fall over.

Good Eats Roast Turkey

I was nervous yesterday, as I was cooking my first turkey. While I have always contributed something to Thanksgiving dinner, I have never before had the responsibility of cooking the almighty bird. I carefully watched Alton’s preparation of the recipe. For this recipe, he recommends a 14-16 pound turkey, but we purchased a 13 pound turkey since we would only have four people eating. To begin, you want to thaw your turkey for two-three days prior to Thanksgiving. I started thawing my turkey Monday evening. To thaw, Alton recommends putting your turkey (in a pan) inside a Styrofoam cooler with ice packs. Since we have two hounds, my turkey thawed safely in the guest bathroom shower.To monitor the temperature, he suggests sticking a probe thermometer through the top of the cooler, with an alarm set to go off at 38 degrees. We did not have a probe thermometer, but after watching the episode, I realized it would really be a necessity to properly prepare a turkey the Alton way. I purchased this thermometer at Amazon, which happens to be the same one Alton uses in the episode.

Turkey thawing in cooler.

Turkey thawing in cooler.

As an alternative, if you need to thaw your turkey very quickly, you can put your turkey in a five-gallon bucket of cool water, changing the water every three to four hours; it should take ~six to eight hours. Note:  Always thaw your turkey in its original wrapping. Did you know that turkeys are only technically considered frozen if they are below zero degrees? A refrigerated turkey is one between one and 24 degrees, while a fresh turkey is at, or above, 26 degrees. My probe thermometer went above 40 degrees, but the turkey still felt quite frozen, so I left it in the cooler until late Wednesday night. Sometime while your turkey is thawing, you want to make your brine. You can make the brine up to two days ahead, and you will want to make it early since it needs to chill. For the brine, combine vegetable stock, Kosher salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a pot. I ended up adding my ginger later, as I did not have any in the house.

Brine ingredients:  vegetable broth, brown sugar, allspice berries, Kosher salt, and peppercorns. Not pictured:  candied ginger.

Brine ingredients: vegetable broth, brown sugar, allspice berries, Kosher salt, and peppercorns. Not pictured: candied ginger.

Brine on the stove, minus the candied ginger.

Brine on the stove, minus the candied ginger.

Bring this mixture to a boil, and then allow it to cool to room temperature with a lid on the pot. Once cool, you want to thoroughly chill the brine in the refrigerator.

Candied ginger. I added this after my brine had cooled, as I did not have any.

Candied ginger. I added this after my brine had cooled, as I did not have any.

Cooled brine with candied ginger added.

Cooled brine with candied ginger added.

Thanksgiving morning, or late the night before (this is what I did), combine your brine with a gallon of heavily iced water in a five-gallon bucket.

Brine plus ice water in a bucket.

Brine plus ice water in a bucket.

Remove the turkey’s guts, give him a rinse, and place him into the brine, breast down. You want to put the breast down since it tends to dry out the fastest. Alton tells you to leave your turkey in the brine for six to eight hours, though the online recipe says you can leave the bird in the brine for up to 16 hours. Since Alton tells you in the episode that you can begin the brining process late in the evening prior to your cooking day, I went with that. Regardless of how long you choose to brine your turkey, you want to flip it over once in the middle of the brining period. What about stuffing? Alton calls stuffing “evil” in this episode. Why? Not only is it potentially unsafe to cook stuffing in the bird because of possible foodborne illness, but it also causes your turkey to take longer to cook, which can result in a dry bird. Now, I grew up with parents who always stuffed the bird, and none of us have ever gotten sick because of it, so I am not overly frightened of stuffing. But, since the goal of my blog project is to cook all of the Good Eats recipes as closely to how Alton does them on the show, there was no stuffing in my bird yesterday. Instead, once I was ready to cook my turkey, I removed it from the brine, rinsed it off, and patted it dry, placing it on a rack over a sheet pan.

My 13 pounder.

My 13 pounder.

I microwaved a sliced onion and a sliced red apple in some water for a minute on high. When you remove the apple and onion from the microwave, throw a cinnamon stick into the liquid to steep for a couple of minutes also.

Sliced apple and onion, microwaved with some water, and steeped with a cinnamon stick.

Sliced apple and onion, microwaved with some water, and steeped with a cinnamon stick.

While this is steeping, put some fresh rosemary and sage into the cavity of the bird; I did two big sprigs of rosemary and one bunch of sage.

Sage and rosemary to go in turkey's cavity.

Sage and rosemary to go in turkey’s cavity.

Rosemary and sage in the bird.

Rosemary and sage in the bird.

You want to tuck the turkey’s wings up under its body to prevent them from burning. If your bird has its legs tied, leave this on. My turkey did not have its legs tied, but I tucked them inside its skin, which held them in place nicely. After a few minutes of steeping, add the apple, onion, and cinnamon stick to the cavity of the bird. It is easiest to use tongs to do this. I crammed as much of these aromatics into the bird as I could fit.

Apple, onion, and cinnamon stick placed in the bird.

Apple, onion, and cinnamon stick placed in the bird.

Leave the turkey popper thermometer in the bird, but ignore it. Here is where one of the biggest tricks of Alton’s recipe comes in, and this is not mentioned in the online recipe. You want to take a large piece of foil and fold it into a large triangle.

Turkey triangle.

Turkey triangle.

Oil this “turkey triangle” and mold it so it covers the breast of the bird, and then set it aside for later.

Oiled turkey triangle.

Oiled turkey triangle.

Molding the turkey triangle to the breast.

Molding the turkey triangle to the breast.

What is the purpose of the turkey triangle? Dark meat is perfectly cooked at 180 degrees, while white meat is ready at 161 degrees. Since there is this discrepancy in temperature, you will use the triangle to protect the breast meat, while allowing the dark meat to cook more quickly. This will result in a bird that has perfectly cooked white AND dark meat. Now, coat the outside of your turkey with oil and insert your probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, ensuring that you do not hit any bones, as that can result in a false temperature reading.

Turkey, filled with aromatics and oiled up.

Turkey, filled with aromatics and oiled up.

Probe inserted into deepest part of breast.

Probe inserted into deepest part of breast.

Set your alarm to go off when your turkey’s temperature hits 161 degrees.

Starting temperature of my turkey (42), and end goal temperature (161).

Starting temperature of my turkey (42), and end goal temperature (161).

Now, the turkey is ready for the oven. Place it in a 500 degree oven for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes are up, place the previously molded turkey triangle onto the bird, protecting the breast. I did not get a picture when I did this. Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees and wait for your alarm to sound. How easy is that? Alton recommends that you place the turkey in the oven legs first, but my turkey would only fit sideways. According to Alton, a 14 pound bird will take about two hours to cook, but my 13 pound bird took two hours and 45 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the starting temperature of your bird (mine was at 42 degrees), the size of your turkey, and your oven. When your bird is done cooking, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Turkey, photo bombed by the hound.

Turkey, photo bombed by the hound.

Turkey, fresh from the oven.

Turkey, fresh from the oven.

If you have a classic round charcoal grill, you can use the lid of your grill to cover your turkey while it rests. If not, foil will suffice.

Turkey resting under foil.

Turkey resting under foil.

When ready to carve, use an electric knife. To best carve your turkey, carve between the legs and the body first, going down until you hit the joint. Press on the leg with your hand until it pops, and then use the knife to cut the rest of the way through. Next, to carve the breast, cut horizontally toward the center of the bird at the wing line, and then make slices perpendicularly down to the initial cut. This will result in perfect slices of white meat. My turkey could not have turned out any better. It was golden brown on the outside, while incredibly juicy and moist on the inside. The white meat, in particular, shocked everyone with how moist it was.

Moist, flavorful, perfectly cooked white AND dark meat.

Moist, flavorful, perfectly cooked white AND dark meat.

The turkey was loaded with flavor, without being salty. We all agreed that it was great, including the Coonhounds, who howled while the turkey was carved and were all too willing to clean up the turkey juice trail that led from the kitchen to the garage; when you live with hounds, and an always-hungry cat, you must hide your Turkey in the garage while you eat your Thanksgiving dinner. Though this was my first turkey, I cannot imagine that I will ever prepare a turkey another way, but I do have to say that my dad has cooked some amazing turkeys with his basted, grilled method too. Oh, and if you have leftover turkey, Alton says it freezes very well – just be sure to wrap it in both foil and plastic before freezing. Seeing as Ted and I both just finished delectable leftover turkey sandwiches, I do not think our leftovers will need to be frozen! Long story short, if you do not yet have a turkey plan for Thanksgiving, try Alton’s turkey. It is wonderful.

Here is a synopsis of my turkey timeline to give you an idea of how this recipe plays out:

  • Sunday afternoon – purchased turkey.
  • Monday, 5:30 pm – began thawing turkey in cooler.
  • Wednesday morning – made and chilled brine.
  • Wednesday, 11:45 pm – put bird in brine.
  • Thursday, 4:00 pm – took bird out of brine.
  • Thursday, 4:30 pm – put bird in oven.
  • Thursday, 7:15 pm – bird done when temperature reached 161 degrees.
  • Thursday, 7:30 pm – carved bird.

 

Tart Cranberry Dipping Sauce

To go along with your perfect turkey, in the Thanksgiving special, Alton shows you how to make a cranberry dipping sauce. The recipe for this sauce can be found here, which for some reason shows up as under a different Good Eats episode. I happen to like the gelatinous cranberry sauce you can buy in a can, but it truly does not compare to a dish made with fresh cranberries. For Alton’s cranberry concoction, combine 12 ounces of frozen cranberries (the online recipe calls for a pound), orange juice, ginger ale, maple syrup, light brown sugar, the zest of an orange, and a pinch of Kosher salt in a saucepan. I could not find frozen cranberries, so I used fresh cranberries.

Sauce ingredients: cranberries, OJ, ginger ale, maple syrup, brown sugar, Kosher salt, and the zest of an orange.

Sauce ingredients: cranberries, OJ, ginger ale, maple syrup, brown sugar, Kosher salt, and the zest of an orange.

All of the ingredients in a saucepan.

All of the ingredients in a saucepan.

Bring this mixture to a boil, decrease the heat to medium, and cook it for 30 minutes. A skin will form on the surface of the sauce, so skim that off.

A skin formed after 30 minutes on the stove.

A skin formed after 30 minutes on the stove.

After skimming off the skin.

After skimming off the skin.

If you have an immersion blender, you can use that to blend the sauce. Our immersion blender is incapacitated, so I used a traditional blender to blend my sauce.

Into the blender.

Into the blender.

Completed cranberry sauce.

Completed cranberry sauce.

Tart cranberry dipping sauce.

Tart cranberry dipping sauce.

Serve this sauce in individual ramekins for each diner to dip their turkey in. This sauce really does pair nicely with turkey, as it is quite tart and contrasts nicely with the meat. It is loaded with cranberry and orange flavor, and is a brilliant cranberry red, which also adds a lot of color to the Thanksgiving table. Also, you can make this sauce ahead of time and reheat it while your turkey is resting. I would definitely make this again to pair with turkey. It does make quite a large volume of sauce, so I am already thinking of other ways to use it. Perhaps we will have to have this with some homemade pound cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert one night! If you are looking for a new way to incorporate cranberries into your Thanksgiving dinner, or an alternative to gravy, this is a fun (and easy!) one to try.

Sweet Corn Bread Pudding

The final recipe Alton prepares in “Romancing the Bird” is for his Sweet Corn Bread Pudding. I happen to love stuffing, especially my dad’s, at Thanksgiving, so I was happy to see that Alton made this bread pudding, as it is along the lines of stuffing. Again, this is a nice recipe for Thanksgiving, as you can make it early in the day and reheat it in the oven while your turkey is resting, which means you are not scrambling to make a bunch of things at the last second.

Ingredients for bread pudding:  pepper, Kosher salt, onion, creamed corn, butter, cream, eggs, baking powder, cornmeal, rosemary, thyme, and Parmesan.

Ingredients for bread pudding: pepper, Kosher salt, onion, creamed corn, butter, cream, eggs, baking powder, cornmeal, rosemary, thyme, and Parmesan.

To begin, heat an iron skillet and melt some butter.

Preheating iron skillet.

Preheating iron skillet.

Melting butter.

Melting butter.

Add a diced onion (the online recipe calls for half an onion, but Alton uses a whole onion in the show) and some chopped, fresh rosemary and thyme.

Onion sweating in butter.

Onion sweating in butter.

Onion, butter, rosemary, and thyme.

Onion, butter, rosemary, and thyme.

In the meantime, mix together, in a bowl, a can of creamed corn, heavy cream, two eggs, cornmeal, baking powder, Kosher salt, and some pepper.

Creamed corn, cream, eggs, cornmeal, baking powder,  Kosher salt, and pepper.

Creamed corn, cream, eggs, cornmeal, baking powder, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Once this is combined, fold in some shredded Parmesan cheese and cubed bread; the recipe calls for French bread and Alton uses Italian bread in the show.

Whisked mixture.

Whisked mixture.

Folding in Parmesan.

Folding in Parmesan.

Folding in bread cubes.

Folding in bread cubes.

11-21-14 023 Pour this over the onion, butter, and herbs in the iron skillet and put it in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes.

Bread mixture added to skillet.

Bread mixture added to skillet.

Corn bread pudding straight from the oven.

Corn bread pudding straight from the oven.

I have kind of a negative perception of bread pudding in general, as I have had some very soggy, wet bread puddings. This recipe, however, produced a pudding with the texture of a moist cornbread, which reminded me of the texture of my dad’s stuffing when it is cooked inside the turkey. The flavor of the herbs, especially the rosemary, really came through, along with the onion. You could also taste the Parmesan cheese, yet the pudding was hardly cheesy. I thought this was great, especially as a stuffing stand-in. And, again, it was super easy! I could see making this to serve with chili too. We all liked this too, and I foresee making it again in the future, though I would opt for Dad’s stuffing, if given the choice.

All in all, our Thanksgiving dinner was quite successful and delicious. We all liked all of the dishes and they will likely appear on our table again, especially the turkey. You cannot go wrong with any of Alton’s Thanksgiving recipes.

A decent Thanksgiving dinner, if I say so myself.

A decent Thanksgiving dinner, if I say so myself.