image

WHISKEY SLUSH FOR THE HOLIDAZE

This is my version of a holiday drink I was introduced to by my mother-in-law from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I knew I was marrying into the right family after one sip!

image

 

Ingredients:

9 cups water
2 cups sugar
4 “Constant Comment” tea bags
12 oz frozen OJ concentrate, thawed
12 oz frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
2 cups whiskey (I use Crown Royal)
7Up or Sprite

Boil water and sugar, making sure sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and steep tea bags in liquid for 10 minutes. Discard tea bags.
Add thawed OJ and lemonade concentrates and the whiskey. Mix well, and pour into a freezeable container with a lid. Freeze overnight.

To serve: Scoop the slush out of the container (it doesn’t freeze solid) and mix in a tall glass with 7 Up.

There’s a lot of sugar in this recipe, but there are many places to use substitutes if you like: Splenda instead of sugar, low-sugar concentrates, and diet soda. Then again, there’s a lot to be said for just pouring the whiskey into a rocks glass and relaxing! Cheers!

image

MARILYN MONROE’S STUFFING

Man, that’s a loaded headline if I ever saw one! Years ago, I read an article about how a Thanksgiving stuffing recipe credited to Marilyn Monroe was discovered. Apparently, she could cook–and she was good in the kitchen as well. Wha! (Thanks. Drive safely. Try the veal.)

Dated around the time she was married to baseball great Joe DiMaggio while living in San Francisco, it was decided that the recipe was authentic for, among other reasons, its lack of garlic, which DiMaggio reportedly despised!

I tried the recipe years ago and tweaked it, adding garlic, of course. This makes a family sized platter of stuffing. Using a food processor to chop makes things much easier.

image

 

Ingredients:

20 ounces sourdough bread

1 lb chicken livers

1 lb ground beef

1 tablespoon cooking oil

8 stalks celery, chopped

2 large onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 cups chopped parsley

4 eggs, hard-boiled, chopped

1/2 cup chopped prunes or raisins

2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups chopped walnuts, pine nuts or roasted chestnuts…or a combination

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

4 teaspoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

4 bay leaves

2 tablespoons salt, plus more to taste

2 teaspoons black pepper

 

Break the sourdough into pieces and soak in a large bowl of cold water for 15 minutes. Wring the excess water out over a colander and shred bread into pieces.

Boil the chicken livers for 8 minutes in salted water, then chop into small pieces.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown the beef in the oil, stirring occasionally. Break up the meat into small pieces.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sourdough, livers, ground beef, celery, onions, parsley, eggs, prunes or raisins, Parmesan and nuts, tossing gently to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the rosemary, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper and scatter over the stuffing mixture. Mix again. Taste and adjust for salt.

Refrigerate, covered with foil, until ready to bake.

To bake: pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook 1 hour with foil on top. Remove foil and cook for 1 hour more at 300. Keep an eye on it. Ovens vary, and you want it out of the oven before it gets too dry. If it does get dry, sprinkle a little chicken stock or water on it, cover with foil, and heat for 10 minutes.

image

ROASTING A TURKEY ON A WEBER GRILL

For me, deep-fried turkey is just too much damn work: finding a safe spot in the yard to blast the propane-fueled fryer so that you don’t burn your house down, standing outside and freezing your ass off while it fries, and then disposing of gallons of used oil at the end of it all. And making sure the oil is at the right temperature so you don’t get a scorched turkey on the outside and raw turkey on the inside. Sure, they now have indoor turkey fryers, but I’m not crazy about that idea, either.

I get great results by cooking my turkey in my Weber grill. The standard Weber allows you to cook up to a 15 lb. bird–big enough for my purposes–and it comes out crispy, smokey and delicious. If you’re afraid to try this for the first time at Thanksgiving when it really matters, wait a few months and buy a turkey when you have the craving and try it out.

The charcoal chimney with hot coals awaits.

The charcoal chimney with hot coals awaits.

Although I’ve stopped using charcoal briquettes a long time ago, and now strictly use natural hardwood charcoal, this recipe works best with Kingsford. The idea is for the coals to cook slowly and evenly. And never use lighter fluid…always start your fire with a few pieces of crumbled newspaper under a charcoal chimney.

 

Needed:

Weber grill, with the dome top

Kingsford charcoal briquettes (do not use Match Lite or other pre-soaked briquettes)

Heavy duty aluminum pan (disposable)

 

Ingredients:

Whole turkey, up to 15 lbs, thawed and brined (see my blog about brining a turkey)

Olive oil (to rub on turkey)

2 yellow onions, chopped

4 stalks of celery, chopped

½ lb (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon pepper

Spreading the coals away from the center of the grill.

Spreading the coals away from the center of the grill.

If you want stuffing, make it separately and cook it separately. (A great recipe in my next blog.)

Light 8 to 10 lbs of charcoal in the grill…depending on the size of the turkey and how cold it is outside.

Remove the giblets from the turkey. Place the bird in the aluminum pan.

In a small bowl, mix granulated garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper Add any other seasonings you like.

Coarsely chop onions and celery. Place in a another bowl. Mix with the melted butter and 1/3 of the salt/pepper/garlic powder mixture. Place a small handful of this “stuffing” mixture in the neck cavity of the turkey. Place the rest in the body cavity (where the stuffing would usually go.) You can fasten the bird with turkey skewers if you like. This “stuffing” is strictly to flavor the turkey…you don’t eat it!

The rubbed, stuffed and seasoned bird.

The rubbed, stuffed and seasoned bird.

Rub the outside of the entire turkey with the olive oil and sprinkle the rest of the garlic/onion/salt/pepper mixture on the outside of the bird. Make sure you get the bird on the bottom as well.

When the coals in the grill have ashed over, spread them to the outside edges of the Weber equally. Put the cooking grill rack in place. Place the aluminum pan with the turkey in the center of the grill, keeping it away from the direct heat of the coals. If using a meat thermometer, insert the probe into the thickest part of the breast, being careful not to hit the bone. Place the lid on the grill. (You may need to bend your pan a bit.) Open the vents on the bottom of the Weber as well as the lid. Important to get air circulating!

My meat thermometer calls me from as far as 100 feet away! Time for a cocktail!

My meat thermometer calls me from as far as 100 feet away! Time for a cocktail!

No basting is necessary.

Now here’s the tough part: DO NOT OPEN THE GRILL TO CHECK ON THE TURKEY! (If you must look, shine a flashlight into the vent holes on the lid to take a peek at the pop-up timer, if there is one.) The whole point is to keep the heat inside the kettle. You’ll know your turkey is done when no more smoke or heat rises from the grill, and the turkey inside stops making sizzling noises.

Remove the turkey and let it rest at least 15 minutes before carving.

Beautifully grilled, and perfectly cooked in less than 2 hours!

Beautifully grilled, and perfectly cooked in less than 2 hours!

image

BRINING A TURKEY

Brining is a simple process of soaking a hunk of protein in a flavored salt solution for a time before cooking, resulting in a much more juicy and flavorful final product.

It’s basic high school science: the brine has a greater concentration of salt and water than the molecules of the protein (in this case, a turkey) that is soaking in it. By simple diffusion, the protein molecules suck up the salty water and keep it. When you cook the meat, some of the water evaporates, but the meat still has far more moisture in it than it would have without the brine soaking, and the result is a moister, more delicious bird.

Some people use giant syringes to inject their turkeys with crazy solutions, but I think that the old way is still the best way when it comes to brining. Get a big pot, fill it with the brine, and soak the bird in it. Done.

Here’s my tried-and-true turkey brining recipe. Once the brining is done, you can cook the turkey whatever way you like best. I use a method where I grill it inside a Weber grill with charcoal. It comes out smokey and absolutely amazing. I’ll have that info in the next blog.

image

 

Ingredients:

1 gallon of water
2 onions
3 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons whole allspice
4 bay leaves
1 gallon of ice water
14–15 lb turkey, thawed

Pour first gallon of water in a large pot. Quarter the onions, carrots and celery (no need to peel them) and add to the water. Add salt, black peppercorns, brown sugar, allspice, and bay leaves.

Let the pot come to a boil for a few minutes. Remove from heat and let brine cool down to room temperature.

Remove giblets from turkey and place the bird in a container just big enough to hold it and 2 gallons of liquid.

Pour the now-cooled brine over the turkey, then pour in the gallon of ice water.

 

Make sure the turkey doesn’t float up by placing a plate on top. Put turkey container in fridge for 5 to 8 hours, flipping the turkey over in the container halfway through.

Drain turkey, pat dry with paper towels, and then cook using your favorite recipe.

Next time: cooking your turkey on a Weber grill in a fraction of the time.

image

A “SECRET” LIMONCELLO RECIPE

Many years ago, my wife and I visited the Amalfi coast, and we spent several nights on the beautiful island of Capri. On our last night, we dined at the Grand Hotel Quisisana, and our meal ended with a glass of the most delicious limoncello I’d ever had.

I asked the waiter if it was possible to get the recipe of the limoncello, and he made a big deal about the recipe being a “secret.” Though disappointed, I understood, and I left Capri thinking that I would never taste that limoncello again.

Two weeks later, now back at home, I was reading the latest issue of Conde Nast Traveler, and there in black and white, was the Quisisana limoncello recipe! WTF?

My twist on the recipe: instead of lemons, I use grapefruit. I’ve tried other citrus, too, like oranges, but grapefruit-cello is fantastic!

Four ingredients. As Tom Petty said: "The waiting is the hardest part!"

Four ingredients. As Tom Petty said: “The waiting is the hardest part!”

 

Ingredients:

4 lbs lemons or grapefruit, zest only

2 750-ml bottles 100 proof vodka (I prefer Absolut)

5 1/2 cups sugar

6 cups filtered water

 

Using a vegetable peeler, gently peel the zest off all the lemons (or grapefruit), making sure you don’t get any of the white pith that could make the limoncello bitter. Place all the zest in the bottom of a glass jar with a lid that can hold all the vodka.

Pour the vodka on top of the zest pieces, seal the container, and keep at room temperature for a week, swirling the jar around gently once a day.

On the sixth day, combine the sugar and water in a pot over medium-high heat, and stir until all the sugar dissolves completely. Remove from the heat, cover, and let it thoroughly cool to room temperature (overnight is best.)

On day seven, strain the zest, pouring the infused vodka into a clean glass jar. Discard the zest.

Pour the sugar/water mixture into the vodka and mix well.

At this point, you can pour the finished product into individual bottles, but let it mellow for about a month before drinking.

I keep my limoncello/grapefruitcello refrigerated.

image

THE LACK OF EDUCATION BEHIND THOSE BOX TOPS

It probably started with good intentions: clip the box tops off your favorite food products, bring them to your kid’s school, and the school can turn them in for cash, 10 cents per box top.

image

But if we’re really going to call them “Box Tops for Education,” then let’s start educating: most box tops are found on boxes of processed foods that are anything but healthy for our kids: sugar-heavy cereals and salt-loaded mac and cheese boxes…products devoid of nutrition like Hamburger Helper, taco dinners, Toaster Strudel, and Pillsbury Grands dinner rolls. Sure, there’s a few Green Giant vegetables in there, but why wouldn’t you buy fresh instead of something that comes with a foil squeeze packet of fake cheese sauce?

image

My daughter brings her box top to school once a month–yes, one box top from a box of Ziploc bags. She tells me she’s embarrassed because the other kids “bring in so many.” I told her she shouldn’t feel bad: it means she’s not eating junk food.

I understand that schools need money. And they’ll take it any way they can get it. And if the big food companies want to promote their products, devoid of nutrition as they may be, using the excuse of helping our educational system–not unlike the lottery–is a good way to do it.

As for me, one box top a month is all they get. And the next time the school needs some money, I’ll write ‘em a check.

image

PRETZEL BREAD

Pretzel bread has become a foodie phenomenon in a very short period: not just the bun of choice at your favorite fast-food burger joint or the crust on your pizza, but the go-to bread in any upscale restaurant.

Making pretzel bread at home had one major stumbling block for me: the need for lye,  which has nasty corrosive qualities that I don’t want to deal with in my kitchen. Even special baker’s lye was not an option. So when I found a pretzel bread recipe that used baking soda, a much milder and safer alkaline ingredient that I could simply pour down my drain after using, I knew it was time to bake.

 

image

Ingredients:

½ cup water

½ cup milk

2 tablespoons butter, softened

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon yeast

2 teaspoons salt

1 egg, separated

Cooking spray

¾ baking soda

Kosher salt for sprinkling

Combine the water, milk and butter in a glass container and microwave about 45 seconds to melt the butter and warm the milk. Set aside.

I a mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, yeast, salt and egg yolk. Slowly add the milk mixture and mix until the dough comes together. If it seems too dry, add small amounts of water. Knead the dough until it is smooth and springy, about 5 minutes.

Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray. Flip it over so all sides get oiled, and then wrap the bowl with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Turn out risen dough on a floured surface and divide into equal pieces. You can make 15 small slider-sized buns, 8 burger buns, 8 hot dog buns or any other shape you like. Once all the pieces have been rolled, cover them with a clean dish towel and set aside to rest.

While the dough is resting heat about 12 cups of water in a large pot. When it comes to a gentle boil, carefully pour the baking soda into it. It will foam and bubble vigorously.

Add the rested pieces of dough to the simmering water and poach them for about 30 seconds and then flipping them over for another 30 seconds. You may need to do this in batches.

With a slotted spoon or spatula, lift the poached buns onto a Silpat baking sheet (or a baking sheet sprayed with oil, then sprinkled with cornmeal.)  Froth egg white with a fork, then brush each bun with egg white. Using a sharp knife, make a few slits on the top of the buns, about ¼-inch deep. Sprinkle with Kosher salt, then bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.