Sunday, December 30, 2012

Oh, the Leftovers!

When one has a Christmas dinner with only three people at the table and when one cooks an 18.5 lb. turkey, one tends to have a LOT of leftover turkey.

That one would be me. Every time I open the fridge door, I’m confronted by Ziploc bags of leftover turkey (John has stripped and frozen the carcass already, thankfully). I can only handle a very few turkey sandwiches, sorry to say. And turkey soup will be coming before long. In the interim, I’m trying to figure out what the heck to do with all that turkey.

Yesterday, I made turkey croquettes. I don’t make croquettes very often as they’re fairly labour and time intensive but they definitely go over well.

I cooked up about half of them yesterday (all in all there were about 4 dozen) and took some out to the garage after the guys got back from a road trip (not John, but the landlord and a couple of friends). They were well accepted and it wasn’t us eating up an entire batch.

I’ve just now finished cooking up the last couple dozen croquettes; they can be warmed up as required. I must say, this is one way of making a dent in the pile of leftover turkey, one very yummy way. John’s happy.

Recipe? Well, there isn’t one really. It comes down to making a nice, tasty, very thick sauce, adding the ingredients you want, forming it into tube shapes, breading them, dipping them in egg, breading them again, letting them “dry” at least an hour, and then deep frying them. These are best described as turkey pot pie in your hand.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Another Year Closes

I had thought about doing a bit of a retrospective on the year that was but, you know what? It WAS. It’s past, it’s been blogged about so why rehash the past? I’d rather be looking forward than backward.

The Christmas madness is behind us; it was fun but I’m happy to get back into a rhythm, a routine… normalcy. There’s just New Year’s Eve now. We’re not sure what we’ll be doing, probably making and sharing olie bollen (a Dutch tradition, translated literally as oil balls – fritters filled with raisins, currants, and diced apples, and dusted with icing sugar) with other residents of the house, possibly around a wood stove in the garage. We’ll see.

For the next couple of days, however, I’ll be relaxing and either knitting or reading. Yep, my knitting mojo is back and my wrist is cooperating. I have a few projects to finish but I couldn’t resist casting on for a project from the latest Knitty, Metalouse. It’s the perfect project for some of the gorgeous, long colour-change sock yarns that are out there right now and, I can tell you, it’s a flat out fun, easy knit! That is, it’s easy if you remember that the center increases are always done on the right side rows.

I could, possibly, have this finished before the new year arrives. Seriously, there are only another 40 or so rows to go. The pattern, by Stephen West, is well written and easy to follow; I can see this being a very popular project on Ravelry.

Last week, seeing as it was Christmas and all, I spoke with all three of my children and some of my grandchildren. One of them had, apparently, received a new jacket for Christmas and had a request for his grandma. New mittens! It isn’t often a 6 year old boy requests hand knit mittens but he did. When I asked him what colour he wanted, his answer surprised me. Red! He wants red mittens. So, what’s a grandmother to do with a request like that?

That’s right… buy more yarn! I’m thinking I’ll make the cuffs in a corrugated ribbing, alternating the black (actually, it’s more of a charcoal heather) with the red. The variegated pink will be turned into a pair of mittens for his sister. She, being a girly girl, naturally requested pink mittens. I’ll have to see if I can’t find a cute “girly” mitten pattern somewhere… or design a pair. Any suggestions?

I’ll have to get these done quickly, I think. I’m not sure what it’s like where the kids are but around here, right now it’s looks like this…

Wishing you all a very happy 2013!

May it be all you dream it to be.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Diary of a Christmas Dinner: Judgement Day

Christmas dinner is over for another year. To say it’s been interesting is an understatement. And now, I’m sure you’re eager to know how it all went, what decision the jury has come to.
Well, considering all the work that went into this Christmas dinner, we all (John, myself, and Mike) agree that we are underwhelmed.
We found the meat to be a bit on the dry side, but that may be because it was slightly overcooked.
The entire process of painting an 18.5 lb. turkey was not an easy undertaking. Nor was turning a bird that size; we ended up sacrificing an almost new pair of oven mitts just for that purpose.
The dressing was tasty but I probably wouldn’t make it that way again. In all honesty, I prefer my dressing on the savoury side and I missed the sage; I found this dressing, for all of its lovely ingredients, a bit on the sweet side.
On the plus side, there is one thing I did find spectacular and will definitely do again. The basting liquid! John found the resulting gravy too salty but I think we could have thinned it out more than we did. He turned the liquid in the roasting pan into a quick gravy, just thickening it, where I would have used it as a gravy base. It was definitely full of flavour!
And the leftover neck meat and organs are making wonderful treats for the dogs who come to visit.
Will we make the Morton Thompson turkey again? Probably not. Did it make for a memorable Christmas meal? Absolutely! How many people do you know who can say they’ve cooked a Morton Thompson turkey?

Diary of a Christmas Dinner: Part 5 (photo intensive!)

Christmas Day

Intro: I’m posting this the day after Christmas only because the day was a rather busy one and by the time things were quiet enough to post, I was half asleep on the sofa in the living room… at 7:30 p.m.!

Well, today is the day. We got up at 7:30 a.m. Right now, it’s just after 8 a.m. and we’re pouring coffee into ourselves before we get the day going. John’s brought the turkey in from outside, where it’s about -5ºC.

The basting liquid is back up to a simmer and will remain there as long as we need to baste the turkey. Whatever remains will go into the gravy. The kitchen needs a bit of tidying, dishes need doing, so I’ll be doing that and then baking the dinner rolls I didn’t make last night. Plans change, life happens. We ended up going upstairs for drinks and nibblies, at S’s invitation. Now, I’ll have to make the rolls today.

The first thing to do, of course, is to stuff the turkey. There was way more stuffing than we needed but I always insist that the first time you make something, follow the recipe. The bowl at the front, with the yellow “goop” (that’s a technical term, by the way), is the paste that later gets painted over the turkey.

These bags of stuffing are now frozen. That’s about 8 cups of stuffing that will likely be used for future roasted chickens.

The first thing that needs to be done with the prepared turkey is to brown it thoroughly, to give the outer paste covering something to adhere to. This step is done at 450ºF; it takes about an hour and creates a lot of smoke. Even though it’s hovering just below freezing outside, we had all the doors and windows open about half way through this step.

Once the turkey is browned, the first coat of the paste is painted on and the turkey is placed back in the oven so that layer can set. A second layer is then painted on, using it all up. The paste is a mixture of egg yolks, dry mustard, onion juice (half a large onion liquefied with the help of a blender), salt, cayenne, lemon juice and thickened with flour.

The heat is then turned down and the real cooking begins. From here on, until the turkey is done, it is basted every 15 minutes. Thank goodness for the timer app on my iPod Touch. It’s even easy enough for John to understand!

When the allotted time is up, in this case, about 4 hours, the turkey comes out of the oven looking like this…

It smelled amazing! And looked disastrously black! For now, though, it’s dinner time. There’s one more quick post coming, just to recap and let you know how it all turned out.

From John, Evelyn, and our friend Mike…

Monday, December 24, 2012

Diary of a Christmas Dinner: Part 4

Christmas Eve Prep

Today is the day we do all the prep work for tomorrow’s big day. Yesterday, I made the cranberry sauce as per the advice I received from a fellow customer at Urban Fare. As we were both picking up bags of cranberries, she asked if I made the sauce as per the recipe on the bag; I told her I don’t make the sauce, my husband does. (I don’t eat cranberry sauce with my turkey; I just can not get used to having sweet sauce with savoury meat. I don’t like ham and pineapple on my pizza either.) She suggested I make it as per the recipe and, once it’s cool, add some Grand Marnier or Cointreau. I did just that. I like it, but I’d be more tempted to put it on toast rather than eat it with turkey. But that’s just me.

On today’s slate – the dressing and the basting liquid/gravy base.

Incidentally, John changed his mind and decided to brine the turkey anyway. It’s been outside (it’s hovering around the freezing mark, colder than the refrigerator, which is stuffed to the gills so the turkey wouldn’t fit even if it had to) all night.

When John got up, the first thing he did, even before coffee, was to dump out the brining liquid and set the turkey on a rack in the brining pot. Now it will dry until tomorrow morning.

The Stuffing

The stuffing is made up of three components: the fruit, the seasonings, and the filler. The recipe calls for each component to mixed up in its own bowl, then the three combined and mixed “until your wrists and forearms hurt”.

Here we go…

In Bowl #1 we have apple, orange, lemon, water chestnuts, ginger, and crushed pineapple.

In Bowl #2 – cloves, mustard, caraway, celery seeds, poppy seeds, oregano, bay leaf, black pepper, mace, parsley, garlic, turmeric, onions, celery, marjoram, savory, poultry seasoning, and some salt. I mixed the dry ingredients together, then the vegetables and then mixed them all up together. I foolishly thought the small bowl would be big enough. Hah!

In Bowl #3 are the bread crumbs and the melted fat rendered from the turkey fat, butter, bread crumbs, ground veal, and ground pork.

We thought that our largest mixing bowl would be large enough for everything but we had to resort to using one of the plastic tubs I use as a knitting basket. After a good washing, the knitting will go back into the bowl but for now, it’s just right!

The dressing is now all mixed up and in the refrigerator, ready for the turkey tomorrow. There’s just one thing left. The basting liquid/gravy base.

This mixture of the neck, the gizzards, and seasonings is now simmering on the stove and will continue to simmer until tonight, and then again tomorrow, until we’re ready to use it. It will be basted on to the turkey every 15 minutes during the cooking process.

Yes, it’s a lot of work but it’s been fun to get this part of the prep work done with both of us contributing. And, to be honest, it really hasn’t taken all that long to get to this point… perhaps an hour between the two of us. I think, in my opinion, the toughest part was chopping the onions. All four of them… large onions.

I know this is turning into a long post, but I have to tell you that, at this point, the simmering basting liquid smells amazing and even the dressing smelled pretty good while I was mixing it. Even having a small nibble to test for salt levels indicated that the dressing is going to be pretty tasty, too. This could be good!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Diary of a Christmas Dinner: Part 3

The Bird

8:00 a.m.

Today is the day we pick up the turkey. I think I’ve already mentioned, haven’t I, that this is a free range, fresh, organic turkey? John ordered it at a local market (Lakeview Market, for those interested).

This morning, I’ll be clearing off the kitchen table so we’ll have room to work with the bird. Yesterday, John proposed that, in addition to everything else we’ll be doing to this turkey, we brine it for 24 hours. I’m not sure it will need it considering the fact that it is a free range turkey but I will leave that up to him. The one thing that concerns me is whether or not we have a container large enough to hold a turkey in brine. I doubt that the usual stock pot we use for brining a 3-4 lb. chicken will hold a 16+ lb. turkey. There is the canning pot, though.

9:00 a.m.

It’s time to head over to the market to pick up the bird. When we got to the meat department, there was a bit of confusion; they couldn’t find John’s name in the order book. Eventually, they did find his phone number on the order sheet and discovered that whoever had taken the order had misheard John’s last name and spelled it as Fkae rather than Skae; our turkey was brought out from the cooler.

Now that we have it home, John’s chosen not to brine the turkey. It now comes down to planning the timing. We’ll be aiming to have the bird in the oven by noon on Tuesday. I’ll keep you informed.

(I must add a thank you to Brad at Lakeview Market for allowing me to take the pictures, after a brief explanation that we would be blogging about the process of cooking our turkey in a manner that was somewhat out of the normal method. Most markets don’t allow customers to take pictures in their shops so, Brad, thank you!)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Diary of a Christmas Dinner: Part 2

Assembling the Ingredients

Throughout the past week and because his work season is now over, John’s been making sure we have, or acquire, all of the necessary ingredients for our Christmas dinner. As of today, we do.

Well, everything except the turkey. We’ll be picking it up tomorrow.

The recipe for the Morton Thompson turkey has 39 ingredients and at least four prep bowls (three bowls for the dressing alone!). You can see why we’re assembling the ingredients ahead of time. We do not want to get to cooking day and discover we’ve forgotten something or thought we had it but didn’t. That’s been known to happen around here.

Since this is our first time cooking a turkey this way, we’ve decided to cook it pretty much exactly as written. Then, if there’s something we’re not thrilled with, we can “revise” the recipe next time, if there is a next time.

The ingredients…

This is a tray of all the spices (minus the marjoram and turmeric we picked up today). On the tray are cloves, dry mustard, caraway seeds, celery seeds, poppy seeds, oregano, bay leaf, black pepper, mace, savory, poultry seasoning, paprika, coriander, cayenne, and pepper.

And a few more of the required ingredients: an apple, an orange, a lemon, fresh parsley, crushed pineapple, water chestnuts, and candied ginger. The recipe actually calls for preserved ginger but John decided to go with candied. It’s all preserved ginger as far as he’s concerned.

We’ve decided that Turkey Day will be Christmas Day; we had thought about doing it for Boxing Day but it has been decided. On Monday, I’ll be making the dinner rolls and whatever else I can prep ahead of time.

Along with the turkey, we will be having mashed potatoes (the potatoes are from our garden), roasted Brussels sprouts with grapes and walnuts (we had the same dish last Christmas and it was delicious!), carrots, sweet potato (John’s Christmas must-have), bread sauce (another one of John’s must-haves… definitely not one of mine!) and cranberry sauce. I think that’s it.

And there will be wine.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Diary of a Christmas Dinner

December 16, 2012 – We’ve been discussing what to have for our Christmas dinner. John thinks a ham with fresh bread or rolls and some fixings would be good. I’d like a sit down dinner. Of course, we’re not sure just how many people will be around our table.

Eventually, from the living room I hear, “Why don’t we do the Morton Thompson turkey?”  Discussion and agreement ensues… we’re going to do the Morton Thompson turkey for Christmas dinner. We’ve decided that John will cook, I will document and blog about it.

Look it up.

A little bit of history

The Morton Thompson turkey makes an appearance in a cookbook by Pierre Berton, “Pierre & Janet Berton’s Canadian Food Guide”, as well as “The Berton Family Cookbook”. Apparently, this turkey has been a tradition in the Berton family for many years. Pierre Berton was a Canadian journalist and author, well known for numerous historical books, as well as a Canadian children’s book, “The Secret World of Og”, a book I’m sure most Canadian students are familiar with.

John’s father was also a newspaper man in the same era as Pierre Berton and they often found themselves at conventions together. Over the years, John’s parents exchanged Christmas cards and letters; John still has most of the Christmas cards his family received from the Berton’s and we pull them out almost yearly. The Berton cookbooks are special to John and, interestingly, his boss gave him her copy of the book last summer. We now have two copies of their “Canadian Food Guide” and both hold a special place on our cookbook shelf.

And almost yearly, we toss around the temptation of cooking the Morton Thompson turkey, as presented in the Berton cookbooks. We never have. This year, we’ve decided it’s time.

We’ve also decided to document the entire process, with pictures. This could be interesting!

December 18, 2012 – John’s ordered the turkey. The recipe specifies that the turkey be from 16-25 lbs. Apparently, the one we’ve ordered is about 18-19 lbs. Do you know how much turkey that is? There had better be someone else here, willing to eat turkey! Lots of it! We’ll be eating leftovers until the summer!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

We’re finally getting winter weather! That means it’s knitting time again! Now, that is not to say I’m going crazy with starting new projects – I’m not. As a matter of fact, I haven’t started anything lately but I have been knitting… finally.

The 10 stitch blanket has finally been seeing some progress. I now have 10 rounds completed with, I think, another four or 5 to go. Once I’ve done another few rounds I’ll ask John how big he’d like to see it. I’ve been working on this in the evenings while listening to “The Hunger Games” on my iPod (which I’m enjoying, by the way).

Other than that, there’s been very little other knitting. To be honest, right now I’m finding the endless rows of garter stitch rather soothing. I’ll ride that wave as long as I can.

And, knowing me as you do, you know I’ve been baking up a storm again. Yesterday was no different. I even asked John this week if he had any requests. For once, he did. White bread! You don’t have to ask me twice; I love baking bread. And, I must admit, I especially love baking bread now that I have a KitchenAid stand mixer (I LOVE that thing!).

Generally speaking, I happy with how the loaves came out but I did let them rise just a little too much. I guess that’s what happens when you’re knitting and getting lost in an audio book. The scent of this bread is amazing, so fresh and yeasty! And it tastes great. John is happy!

I also made a couple of batches of cookies for the upcoming holiday. We will be having another quiet Christmas, but we’ll definitely be inviting a couple of friends to share Christmas dinner with us.

I don’t often make shortbread but I did attempt it this year. They look pretty but I don’t know if I’m thrilled with the recipe. Do any of you have a good, never fail, shortbread recipe? Would you care to share?

When I put the first tray of cookies in the oven I didn’t prick the tops and they came out looking almost like ravioli, with a bubble puffed up in the middle of the cookies. Subsequent batches were pricked with a fork and they stayed nice and flat.

Interestingly, just as the first batch came out of the oven, John came home from doing the grocery shopping (I love that he does the shopping!) and, in one of the bags was a box of… you guessed it, shortbread. He decided to to a taste comparison. That was a little unfair, though. How doe you compare basic homemade shortbread to store bought Glenfiddich shortbread? How did I fare? Well, let’s just put it this way: There are only four of the Glenfiddich shortbread cookies remaining (out of a package of 9) and he’s only eaten one of my shortbread cookies. I guess we know which cookies won, huh?

Oh well. In addition to the shortbread, I also made a batch of Mexican Wedding Cookies. These always turn out well.

Hmm… I think a cup of tea may be in order.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Call Me Crazy

You know I love to cook. You know I love to experiment. Well, last week I bought a mortar and pestle, a lovely, heavy granite piece of kitchen awesomeness.

After I’d gotten it home, I decided to do some “research” on how to use it correctly. I scoured You Tube, looking for instructional videos and information. I started with Jamie Oliver and moved on to a lot of other videos, discovering some interesting stuff along the way.

I’ve made guacamole using my new mortar and pestle (John declared it THE best guacamole he’s EVER had!). I’ve already made a batch of homemade Garam Masala, which smells heavenly! I’m now cooking up a curried chicken dish, using the Garam Masala and it smells heavenly! But it was this short video that got me excited. A kitchen rock… A rock! In the kitchen! How perfectly logical, and yet, how perfectly crazy!

Really, though, it does make a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

So, I went rock hunting. I didn’t have to go far. Last spring, in digging up the butterfly garden, we dug up quite a few rocks, some of which were the perfect size. We had used them to build up one corner of the garden, where it meets the driveway. I went out there this morning and picked up what I think will be the perfect rock.

What will I use it for? Well, I tried it for cracked pepper… Perfect! Yes, I can use the mortar and pestle for that, too, but for just a couple of peppercorns, a rock is perfect! I can see using it to split garlic heads, cracking the garlic cloves for peeling, cracking nuts, tenderizing meat… I suppose I’m only limited by my imagination, right?

I also figure that if you heat the rock in the oven, you could also use it to keep dinner rolls warm… or my hands.

Ok, call it crazy… or call it crazy smart!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Knitting? What knitting?

Ahh, Sandie! I wish there was some knitting I could show you. Believe it or not, I’ve been doing very little knitting in the last month or two. No progress in things already on the needles, no casting on for a new project or two, no Christmas gifts (I’m afraid I’m a bit of a Grinch when it comes to Christmas). Nothing.

Well, there is one very small project I’ve started on but it really is insignificant. Shall I share anyway, at the risk of disappointing you completely?

Some time back, I made myself a simple pair of wrist warmers in an alpaca blend. I wear them a lot, especially in the mornings while I’m at my computer. They’ve begun to wear out.

I’ve been meaning to make a new pair, but just simply haven’t gotten around to it. (Darn those round to-its!)

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I did dig out another ball of the same yarn (different colour) and cast on for a new pair of wrist warmers. I’ve managed to finish one. Just one. Two weeks. And I’m not thrilled with it, really.

I did say there’s been very little knitting around here. Just saying.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

I Love Cookbooks!

We went to the library yesterday. Or rather, I should say I accompanied John to the library yesterday. Now that his season is over (he’s a gardener), he’ll be spending a lot of time there. Me? Well, these days I just don’t have the time or inclination to pick up a book. However, that said, I did come home with an armload of cookbooks. One of them is even a “sit down and read it” kind of book (Confections of a Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado).

When I was ready to sign out, John put two movies on the top of my stack of books and I went to stand in line. Ahead of me, a woman had, apparently, asked about getting into the library’s website on her smart phone and I had to wait while the librarian showed her how to do that. In the meantime, nerdy little me had her iPod up and running and her library card ready to scan.

Finally it was my turn. The woman ahead of me slid over a bit to organize herself while I handed my iPod over to the librarian. She looked at it and exclaimed (quite loudly!), “How cool is that??”. Then she proceeded to ask another librarian if she’d seen anything like it before. Apparently, the second librarian had heard that the library would be “going that way” but didn’t think they could do anything with it yet. I simply, quietly told her that yes, you can because I’d done it before. I explained that all they needed to do was scan the bar code visible on the iPod. They did.

I couldn’t believe the excitement that ensued. The librarian and the woman ahead of me were completely awestruck and wanted to know about the app (Card Star) and could it hold other cards, like… oh, maybe my SaveOn More card? I explained the app to them, picked up my books and movies and made my way out the door accompanied by a buzz of excited chatter.

The best part? Of the four women involved, the two librarians, the woman ahead of me, and myself, I’m the oldest by quite a few years!

It made my day!