Posts About ‘Recipes’

Mac and Cheese Pot Pie

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Mac & Cheese Pot Pie | Digital Dads

There are hundreds of ways to make mac and cheese. My mother’s mac and cheese was pretty straightforward – pasta, grated cheddar cheese and hot dogs. Combine and bake until golden brown. So simple, yet so good.

As I expanded my skills in the kitchen I started making a version of mac and cheese that, by pure accident, resembled a dish my wife’s mother used to make when she was growing up. I would make a quick béchamel, add different cheeses to it to transform it into a cheese sauce and then would mix that with an egg, pasta, and diced ham before topping it off with a mixture of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Not only was it very rich, but it was very filling and became the perfect indulgence whenever life required some serious comfort food.

Despite crafting a version of mac and cheese that my family and I enjoy I’m always on the lookout for different ways to tweak things, or different elements I can add to make it even better. A few weeks ago, The Chew, a daytime cooking show on ABC, aired an episode dedicated to mac and cheese and I knew that I’d come away with something different to further my quest.

I’m a regular viewer of The Chew, mostly because I have a well documented man crush on Chef Michael Symon – culinarily speaking, of course (see Being Michael Symon for further explanation). It also doesn’t hurt matters that the show also features Mario Batali and one of my favorite former Top Chef contestants, Carla Hall. On this particular episode Chew correspondent Jason Roberts appeared to make a mac and cheese pot pie.

While Jason Roberts version looked delicious, I couldn’t help but think that it would also be good if it were even closer to an actual pot pie. So, as I often do, I set out to make my own version making this more of an entree than a side dish by adding shredded chicken, sauteed carrots and fresh peas into the mix. Additionally, I dropped the ricotta he used in favor of a cheese sauce consisting of gruyere and parmesan reggiano, but, of course, I kept the bacon.

I served up my mac and cheese pot pies with an arugula and spring mix salad with a sherry-walnut vinaigrette to balance things out. It was every bit as delicious and satisfying as I had hoped. And, for me, just different enough from an actual pot pie, which truth be told I’ve never truly been a fan.

Mac & Cheese Pot Pie with Salad | Digital Dads

Eating this made me think of my grandfather and the pot pies he used to make when I lived with my grandparents during college. Back then I wouldn’t consider eating anything green, which became the running joke in our family. I would carefully remove every last pea from those pot pies and each time there seemed to be more and more of them in there. There was little doubt in my mind that it was completely by design.

If he could see me today he’d probably laugh that I’m willingly eating a pot pie, even the peas. It’s memories like this, and the opportunity to create some now that I have a family of my own, that keeps me doing what I do in the kitchen.

What is your favorite way to make mac and cheese? Does making it bring back any fun family memories?

Mac and Cheese Pot Pie

recipe adapted from The Chew

Software

  • 2 chicken breasts, poached and shredded
  • 4 slices of bacon, diced fine and rendered
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 3/4 cup peas
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • salt
  • freshly ground white pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, separated from stems
  • 8oz gruyere cheese, grated
  • 4oz parmesan reggiano, grated; plus 1/4 cup for garnish
  • egg wash
  • 1 sheet puff pastry

Assemblage

  1. Render the bacon in a medium skillet, set aside while reserving half the bacon drippings
  2. Sautee the diced carrots in the bacon fat until soft and caramelized
  3. In a medium saucepan or saucier, melt the butter and quickly whisk in the flour until completely combined
  4. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly to keep the béchamel sauce smooth
  5. Bring the butter, flour and milk mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat while still whisking
  6. As the sauce thickens add in the salt, white pepper, nutmeg and fresh thyme leaves (chopped, if so desired)
  7. Once the sauce has reached a good consistency (coats the back of a spoon), start whisking in the gruyere and parmesan reggiano
  8. Prepare the pasta according to the directions, then toss together with the bacon, shredded chicken, peas and carrots
  9. Spoon the mixture into six ramekins, then pour the cheese sauce over the pasta mixture
  10. Cut out rounds from the puff pastry large enough to cover the pasta and cheese mixture, apply the egg wash and sprinkle on the reserved parmesan reggiano
  11. Bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown
  12. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so and serve

Thai Style Meatballs

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Thai Style Meatballs | Digital Dads

I love meatballs. Being part Italian I heavily favor the meatballs of my youth, piled on top of a mass of spaghetti and covered in grated cheese. While over the years I’ve taken the ones my mother and grandmother made for me growing up and added my own twist to them, they are essentially the same thing.

More recently I’ve started going beyond what I grew up with and started experimenting with other flavors, imagining what a meatball might be like in different ethnic and regional cuisines. I’ve mixed flavors and proteins, whether it was adding a gyro seasoning mix to lamb for greek style or hot sauce to ground chicken for buffalo wing meatballs, it has certainly been a tasty journey.

Recently I began experimenting with Asian and Thai flavors, as they are always so bright and fresh. In the past I’ve braised country ribs with a number of these elements and it always came out great. However, I began to wonder what would happen if I ground the meat and incorporated the elements into the meat itself rather than incorporating those flavors in a braising liquid.

Excited, I broke down my coconut and mango braised country rib recipe and went to work. I started out the process like every other meatball I’ve ever made by grinding the meat, then chopping and dicing the various elements that would season the meat. After mixing all the elements together I let it get happy in the refrigerator while I contemplated things like how to cook them, what to serve with them and garnishes.

Standard operating procedure for me has been to sear my meatballs in a dutch oven, then build my sauce around the meat. I knew that this would be the best way to go, but the real question was how to best build the sauce around them. I decided to stick with the script and used coconut milk, a touch of orange juice and some diced mango as a braising liquid to finish the meatballs after they had a good sear on them. Then, after they were cooked through, I would take the braising liquid and run it through the blender to make a nice, smooth sauce.

Originally I considered making a sticky rice to serve with them, but I was concerned it might tip the dish into a “too sweet” category and instead chose to run with soba noodles. Plus, I liked the playfulness of the noodles as a substitute for spaghetti. Armed with a finely diced mango, some roughly chopped cilantro and lightly crushed cashews my garnishes were ready to go.

The result was a well balanced dish that packed some bright flavors from the cilantro, lemongrass and ginger, sweetness from the coconut and mango, and, of course, a subtle heat that lingered in just the right amount with the sriracha. If there is one thing I would do different next time, it is that I would run the braising liquid through the blender at about the half way mark, return it to the pan and turn up the heat a little to reduce it a little more to thicken it up a bit.

If you like Thai flavors and are up for a little adventure, then I think you’ll enjoy these Thai style meatballs. I know they have certainly become one of my favorites.

What is your favorite meatball recipe?

Thai style meatballs

Software

  • 3# pork
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

Assemblage

  1. Grind the pork using a fine plate and return to the refrigerate to firm back up
  2. Combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, sriracha, chili powder, garlic and ginger to form a slurry
  3. After the meat has rested for about 20 minutes, work in the cilantro, scallions, lemongrass, red bell pepper, the slurry, and egg
  4. Add the panko slowly and use your hands to combine until the mixture is mostly dry (you may need a little more bread crumbs to make it all come together, just add a little at a time)
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the meatball mixture for at least an hour (overnight would be even better)
  6. Form into balls and sear them in a dutch oven, a large frying pan or a cast iron pan
  7. Cook on all sides, then add the elements of the braising liquid and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until cooked through

Coconut Mango Sauce

Software

  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 mangoes, roughly diced
  • 1 mango, finely diced (for garnish)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, roughly chopped
  • 4 sprigs cilantro, roughly chopped (reserved one quarter for garnish)
  • 1/4 cup cashews, lightly crushed (or peanuts, if you prefer, for garnish)

Assemblage

  1. Add the coconut milk, orange juice, mangoes, cilantro and lemongrass to the seared meatballs
  2. When the meatballs are cooked through (20 to 30 minutes), remove them and the lemongrass from the pan, then transfer the liquid and mango to a blender and pulse until smooth (make sure the hot liquid does not go more than 3/4 of the way up your blender carafe. If it does, blend in batches)
  3. Pour the finished sauce over the meatballs and noodles, then garnish with finely diced mango, reserved chopped cilantro and cashews

Easter on the Grill, Part Deux

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Gyro Style Kafta Kabobs | Digital Dads

Last year the folks at Sam’s Club challenged me to design an Easter dinner menu entirely on the grill with ingredients I could purchase from Sam’s. With the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having this year, I decided to keep Easter dinner on the grill and the heat out of my kitchen. For the menu I kept with the same general theme and have devised a similar Greek and Mediterranean inspired meal for my family.

While we are really enjoyed the spiced lamb sliders I made last year, I wanted to go in a different direction and searched for an authentic gyro seasoning recipe. After whipping up a big batch of the seasoning mix I added it to a lamb and pork mixture I ground myself from a leg of lamb and some pork shoulder. I covered the seasoned meat with lemon slices and let it get happy in the refrigerator for a few hours before fashioning them like kafta kabobs and skewering them to make it easier to grill.

A kafta kabob, a Lebanese dish traditionally made with beef, is essentially a meatball on a stick. I made these for my son’s first birthday party, which itself was a heavily Mediterranean inspired event, and they were a huge hit. I felt that the shape would be reminiscent of the layers of gyro meat you might normally find nestled into a lightly grilled pita.  To serve I stuck with the standard fare – some chopped grape tomatoes, pickled red onions, crumbled feta cheese and a cooling tzatziki sauce.

To round out the meal I’m sticking with simple grilled asparagus, but instead of potatoes I’m going to be serving up an orzo pasta salad with a pea shoot and pistachio pesto. I love making pestos because they are a simple and versatile way to add a lot of flavor to a dish without a lot of work. I generally avoid basil pestos because they can be quite overwhelming, which is why I prefer to go with other greens like arugula, parsley, cilantro, or something more unique like pea shoots. Pasta salads like this can be tossed together quickly for any occasion and the flavors can be adjusted to best suit your protein.

My test run went well the other night and I’m very excited for Easter dinner this year. If you haven’t already nailed down your Easter dinner plans, or if Greek and Mediterranean cuisine appeals to you, I hope that my menu has provided some inspiration.

Gyro Style Kafta Kabobs

Software

  • 3# leg of lamb, diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 2# pork shoulder, diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup canola or other neutral oil
  • 1/3 cup gyro seasoning mix
  • 1 lemon, sliced

Assemblage

  1. Grind the meat using a fine plate, then toss with the oil and seasoning
  2. Layer the lemon slices over the seasoned ground meat, then refrigerate for 30 minutes to several hours
  3. Soak wooded skewers in water for at least thirty minutes
  4. Form the meat into five to six inch rolls around the soaked skewers and toss on a hot grill
  5. Serve on grill warmed pita bread with chopped grape tomatoes, pickled red onions, crumbled feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce

Pea Shoot & Pistachio Pesto

Software

  • 1 package pea shoots
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • zest of a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Assemblage

  1. Add all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine
  2. Slowly drizzle in oil olive while food processor is running until desired consistency is reached

Orzo Pasta Salad

Software

  • 1 cup orzo prepared to directions
  • 3/4 cup pea shoot and pistachio pesto
  • 1 cup diced grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Assemblage

  1. Add orzo pasta and pesto to a large mixing bowl and toss to combine until the pasta is well coated. Use a little more, if necessary or desired
  2. Toss in the grape tomatoes, almonds, and feta, then refrigerate until ready to serve

Maple Berry Breakfast Stratta

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Maple Berry Breakfast Stratta | Digital Dads

Happy New Year! OK, so I’m nearly two months late, but that is just how things have been going for me lately. Towards the end of last year we finally got our home under contract after trying to sell it for the past two years and began the arduous process of moving. Of course, at the exact same time, our two children decided to have round robin illness tournament that lasted nearly five weeks. Needless to say with a kitchen mostly in boxes and what felt like a years worth of FSA spending gobbled up in the first month of the year I hadn’t done much cooking at all.

We’ve been in our new house for a few weeks now and are nearly unburied from the move. Thankfully we are finally weening ourselves off the take out we’ve been living on through the transition and I got to cook something from scratch for the first time in what seems like forever. On the first Saturday morning since we moved in where we didn’t have to unpack a stack of boxes I decided to put together a quick stratta so we could relax and enjoy breakfast as a family.

I’ve been a big fan of strattas for a while now and like to make them in both sweet and savory configurations. The picture that accompanies this post is actually the one that I made for my family on Christmas morning where I substituted egg nog for the normal milk and cream and added a touch of nutmeg to give it a bit of a holiday spin.

You can serve these in a number of ways, such as slicing it up like french toast and drizzling some maple syrup on it. Or, if you wanted to cut down on the sweetness first thing in the morning, you could scoop it out and squirt some fresh lemon juice on it to bring a little brightness and acidity to the dish. Still, no matter how you serve it up, it will surely be well received.

Maple Berry Breakfast Stratta

Software

  • 1 loaf day old bread (challah or brioche work well), cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 pints berries (I used strawberries and blueberries)
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz mascarpone (or cream cheese)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or bean paste)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Assemblage

  1. Bring the mascarpone (or cream cheese) to room temperature and whisk it in a large mixing bowl to aerate
  2. Add one egg at a time until all eight are incorporated into the mascarpone
  3. Whisk in the cream and milk, then add the maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla
  4. Fold in the bread cubes, then the berries and pour mixture into a buttered baking dish
  5. Lightly sprinkle the remaining sugar on the top of the dish to form a nice crust
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife comes out of the center cleanly

A Brilliant Red Porchetta

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Porchetta Style Pork Loin | Digital Dads
As far as holidays go Christmas is the one where I put in the least amount of work in the kitchen. When my extended family gets together for dinner we all bring dishes and typically graze throughout the afternoon and evening.

Over the last several years I’ve done a classic braciole, made a vat of meatballs and even just tossed a standing rib roast in the oven because it didn’t require much of my attention. Roasts are always a great idea because they can feed a lot of people for a reasonable price and because they make fantastic sandwiches the next day.

With money being a little tight this year I decided that I would look into a pork roast rather than beef to save a little money. Besides, I’ve always wanted to make a porchetta and thought this would be a great time to give it a try.

Classically, a porchetta is a when an entire pig is deboned, broken down and various parts are ground and seasoned before being stuffed back in and getting rolled up. The process of butchering and rolling an entire pig was definitely not in the cards for me, plus I’m not feeding the third regiment.

In doing my research for my latest culinary experiment I came across recipes by both Mario Batali and Michael Symon. Drawing inspiration from both I went to work assembling my own porchetta style pork loin roast. I made a small batch of homemade sausage from some pork shoulder and a paste out of garlic and herbs to give the filling several different flavor dimensions. After rolling up the pork loin I gave it a light brushing of olive oil before wrapping it all in some thinly sliced pancetta and tying it up with butcher’s twine to ensure a solid presentation.

Since there was a lot going on with the porchetta style pork loin roast I kept the accompaniments simple by roasting some potatoes in a cast iron skillet until nice and crispy. Then I sauteed some mini cippolini onions in an agrodolce sauce, which is essentially the Italian version of a gastrique where you combine a sour element (in this case, balsamic vinegar) with something sweet (cane sugar) to produce a syrup like sauce.

From concept to execution this is recipe is definitely a keeper and will be gracing my family’s holiday table this year. The combination of the crunchy saltiness from the pancetta crust, the heat from the homemade sausage filling and the sweet from the cippolini onions was a well balanced bite.

If you’re looking to mix up your holiday roast routine, then, with all apologizes to Geddy Lee, I hope you’ll consider giving my brilliant red porchetta a shot.

Porchetta with Skillet Potatoes and Onions | Digital Dads

Porchetta Style Pork Loin Roast

recipe adapted from Mario Batali and Michael Symon

Software

  • 4 to 5 pound pork loin roast trimmed and roll cut (butterflied)
  • 2# pork shoulder, ground fine
  • 1 tsp fennel pollen
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup fennel, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup leeks, finely sliced
  • 6 to 8 cloves, garlic
  • 4 to 5 sprigs rosemary
  • 3/4 cup parsley
  • 6 to 8 leaves sage
  • olive oil (just enough to make a wet paste)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 to 3 eggs
  • 1 to 2 cups day old bread, diced
  • 1/2 pound pancetta sliced thinly
  • Butchers twine

Assemblage

  1. Grind the pork shoulder using a fine plate, season with the fennel pollen, crushed red pepper, salt and ground black pepper, then refrigerate
  2. Saute the onion, fennel and leeks in a pan with olive oil, then add the seasoned ground pork shoulder
  3. When the pork is fully browned set it aside and allow it to cool
  4. Combine the garlic cloves, rosemary, sage leaves, parsley, fennel seeds, a pinch of salt and black pepper in a food processor and pulse until combined
  5. Slowly drizzle in enough olive oil to bring the herb mixture together into a moist paste, then set aside
  6. Add the eggs and diced bread to the cooked pork mixture and fold in to combine (you may need more, you may need less; once the stuffing comes together and starts sticking together you should be good to go)
  7. Line a cutting board with plastic wrap, place the roll cut pork loin on top and lightly score the inside with a knife, then spread the garlic and herb paste liberally on the entire surface
  8. Continue by spreading the sausage stuffing mix, leaving about an inch around all edges to avoid loss when you roll it up
  9. Using the plastic wrap for leverage, roll the pork loin like a jelly roll and set aside
  10. Spread out a layer of parchment paper and stagger slices of pancetta across the entire sheet, making sure it is wide enough to wrap the stuffed pork loin
  11. Lay the pork loin at one end of the sheet of pancetta, rub the loin roll very lightly with olive oil to help the pancetta stick and, using the parchment paper for leverage, roll until the pork loin is completely wrapped
  12. Using butchers twine tie the pork loin together so that it keeps it shape
  13. Place the pork loin in a roasting pan in a 375 degree oven and roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees
  14. Allow the roast to rest 10 to 15 minutes after you remove it from the oven, then slice and serve
  15. Garnish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squirt of fresh lemon

Cippolini Onions in an Agrodolce Sauce

Software

  • 1 package mini cippolini onions
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar

Assemblage

  1. Cut both ends off the onions and remove the paper skin layer off of the onions
  2. Bring a saucepan of water to boil and poach the onions for four to five minutes
  3. Heat a splash of olive oil and the butter in a saute pan
  4. Drain the onions, coarsely chop (or leave whole, if desired) and place in the pan with the oil and butter
  5. Season onions with salt and pepper and cook for two to three minutes
  6. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar in the pan and allow it to cook down slightly, then add the sugar
  7. The onions are done when the balsamic becomes syrupy

Turkey Three Ways

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Turkey Three Ways | Digital Dads
Winner, Winner, Thanksgiving Dinner!

After five years of creating fancy, borderline over the top Thanksgiving dinner menus my latest effort might finally stick as our holiday tradition. A few weeks ago when I wrote about my Thanksgiving dry run to test my wellington recipe I had intended to offer my guests turkey two ways. Well, after attending my latest monthly cooking class, things changed slightly – into turkey three ways, to be more specific.

The plan to break down my turkey into its respective parts was still the objective, however, I decided to take the thigh meat and grind it into sausage for my cornbread stuffing rather than buy it separately. That left the wings and drumsticks for the confit and the breast meat for the wellington, which itself I modified slightly from my test run.

Originally with the wellington I simply arranged the breast meat in an overlapping manner to achieve a more uniform thickness.  However, I decided to take it one step further and chose to butterfly the breast meat and pound it out to achieve the desired thickness before spreading on a thin layer of the stuffing, rolling it up like a roulade and then wrapping it in the proscuitto. Despite the extra work it was much easier to work with and eliminated any concerns I had about uneven cooking.

The whole idea of preparing turkey three ways might appear to be a bit daunting, but the reality is that the confit and the stock are in the oven on their own for a long time. Even the various stages of prepping the wellingtons didn’t really take all that much work. The most time consuming part of the entire endeavor was properly butchering the turkey.

When it came time to plate everything up I placed a few slices of the wellington on top of the mashed potatoes, fried up a small turkey sausage patty on which to place my quickly crisped up confit. After a light drizzle of the turkey pan gravy made from the stock the plate really came together and created a really harmonious meal despite the three different preparation methods.

Things really couldn’t have gone much better and after our meal had ended my wife asked me if I would consider doing this all again next year so it could become our Thanksgiving family tradition. That, the empty plates and the smiling faces made the hours of cooking all worth while.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I will leave you with a few of the recipes from my turkey three ways.

Please click on through for the turkey wellington recipe.

Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing

Software

  • 1# Homemade turkey sausage
  • 1 medium leek, sliced thin
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 to 3 medium stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 bulb fennel, shaved thin
  • 2 packages corn bread mix, prepared
  • Stock, as necessary to maintain moisture
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt, pepper and fennel pollen, to taste

Assemblage

  1. In a saute pan begin browning the sausage, then add the leeks, celery, fennel and garlic and cook until the sausage is completely browned; set aside to cool
  2. In a large bowl break up the cornbread, then combine with the sausage and vegetable mixture, as well as the eggs, parsley, salt, pepper and fennel pollen
  3. Press mixture into a buttered baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour

Homemade Turkey Sausage

Software

  • 2.5 # Turkey thighs, or 1 1/4# Turkey thighs and 1 1/4# Chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp whole fennel seed
  • 1 tsp fennel pollen
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp herbs de provence
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp fresh garlic, minced

Assemblage

  1. Run the meat through a grinder using a fine plate or cube meat and pulse lightly in a food processor in small batches
  2. Season the meat, stir to combine and refrigerate until ready to cook

Turkey Stock

Software

  • Roasted carcass, neck and bones of turkey
  • Carrots, celery and onions, roughly chopped (skin on fine)
  • Fronds from fennel used in stuffing
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, smashed (skin on fine)
  • 3 to4 sprigs, thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper corns
  • Water, to cover

Assemblage

  1. Place the turkey carcass, neck, bones, aromatics and spices in a 5 to 6 quart dutch oven
  2. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil on a cooktop and place in a 300 degree oven for six to eight hours
  3. Strain using a fine sieve, or, if preparing the day before, refrigerate and skim off any remaining fat the next day
  4. Use within five to seven days or freeze for up to three months

Turkey Gravy

Software

  • 1 1/2 quarts homemade turkey stock
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Assemblage

  1. Soften the butter and work the flour in until completely combined to create the beurre manie, set aside
  2. In a medium saucepan reduce the turkey stock by two thirds, then quickly whisk in the beurra manie
  3. To avoid any raw flour taste, whisk in the beurre manie at least 10 to 15 minutes before you intend to serve the gravy
  4. Squeeze in the juice of a lemon at the end to brighten up the flavor and add salt and pepper to taste

Turkey Confit

Cure

  • Salt, pepper, herbs de provence, as needed to season meat

Confit

  • Drumsticks and wings from turkey
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
  • 4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Canola oil, to cover

Assemblage

  1. The night before rub the drumsticks and wings with the cure, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate
  2. Remove the meat from the refrigerator, rinse off the cure with cold water and pat dry
  3. In a 5 to 6 quart stockpot or dutch oven pack in the turkey legs and wings, then add the garlic, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves
  4. Add enough canola oil to cover, then place in a 300 degree oven for four to six hours
  5. Remove the meat from the oven and leave in the oil until you are ready to remove the skin and shred the meat

Top 10 Tips, Tastes and Tidbits for the Best Thanksgiving Ever

Monday, November 21st, 2011

I have scoured the interwebs to bring you the most helpful links for planning and preparing your Thanksgiving Feast. They include recipes galore, wine pairings, shopping and cooking tips, and much more.

1) A comprehensive guide to planning, shopping and cooking, brought to you by Cooks’ Illustrated.
LINK

2) Is there a perfect Turkey recipe? Well known chef Jonathan Waxman thinks so. LINK

3) Some folks think the side dishes are the best part. Here are 10 Great Ones via Foodista. LINK

4) Even more side dishes from restaurant chefs via FINDEATDRINK. LINK

- Wait…you just love Brussels Sprouts? Check out this recipe and VIDEO how to. LINK

5) Having a large crowd over? Here’s a quick TIP.

6) What’s the best wine to drink (or bring) for the big meal? LINK

7) What to consider if some of your guests are vegetarian, vegan or “gluten-free”. LINK

8) For celebrity chef fans, here’s a look at WWBD: What Would Bobby (Flay) Do. LINK

9) Fair warning: DO NOT READ THIS if you don’t want to know what’s really in your Thanksgiving meal. (Hint: fat, sugar & salt – surprise, surprise.) LINK

10) Music for the meal? My suggestion is to sign up for Spotify and create your own jukebox for free! Plug it into your speakers and you’re good to go. LINK

Have the best Thanksgiving ever!

The Short Order Dad®

 

Photo Credit: Ryan Ozawa

Thanksgiving Dinner Dry Run

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Turkey Wellington | Thanksgiving Test Run | Digital Dads
Another year, another quest to find a Thanksgiving meal I want to actually stick with for the long haul. Last year I wrote about how I’m not one for the traditional Thanksgiving with a large, majestic turkey sitting in all of its roasted glory at the center of my holiday table. Having tried osso bucco style turkey legs and a roulade in recent years, I decided to take things in a different direction and try my hand at turkey two ways.

The first of my two way turkey feast would be to confit the legs and thighs, so when I pick up my turkey this year I won’t be applying a dry brine to it like I normally do. Rather, I will be butchering it down, seasoning the legs and thighs skin on with a light overnight cure before subjecting them to a very long, slow bath in some duck fat in my oven. At the same time I will roast the carcass and the bones so that I can make a turkey stock or demi glace.

The second act of my holiday meal will be to turn the turkey breasts into turkey wellington by carefully rolling them with layers of proscuitto and a sausage and cornmeal stuffing before covering it all up in puff pastry.

Since we will be having a small audience at Thanksgiving this year I’m keeping the sides simple with some garlic sauteed haricot vert, parmesan mascarpone mashed potatoes and, of course, cranberry sauce. However, in keeping with the “two ways” theme, I’ll be offering two very different cranberry sauces. In addition to my spiced cranberry sauce that my family insists on every year, I’ve also devised a more savory cranberry and hard cider reduction sauce, as I thought it would pair better with the confit.

While I have no qualms about using my family as guinea pigs to entertain my every culinary whim, I do like to do a practice run of things to give myself a chance to test out my recipes and ideas so that I don’t have a Thanksgiving day calamity. Earlier this week I tested both my turkey wellington and cranberry and hard cider reduction recipes and was for the most part was pleased with the results.

I wasn’t at my most graceful when I rolled up my test turkey wellington and I used my grandmother’s Italian stuffing in place of the cornbread stuffing I intend to use on Thanksgiving, but the final product was very close to what I had originally envisioned. Plus, it tasted great.

There was a split opinion on the cranberry and hard cider reduction sauce. My wife liked it, but would have preferred a more traditional cranberry sauce with the turkey wellington. Personally, I enjoyed the more pronounced tartness and acidity that the reduction sauce brought to the wellington even though I had intended it to dress the turkey confit.

Either way you sauce it, I know it is going to be another great Thanksgiving in our house.  From my family to yours I wish you all the best for a great holiday.

Turkey Wellington

Software

  • 1 boneless turkey breast
  • 18 slices of proscuitto (or ham, or pancetta)
  • Stuffing or dressing recipe of choice
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • egg wash

Assemblage

  1. Place a cookie sheet in your over and preheat to 350 degrees
  2. On a sheet of parchment or wax paper, create two overlapping rows of proscuitto to form the base for the internal wellington roll
  3. Spread a layer of your stuffing or dressing recipe of choice on top of the sheet of proscuitto leaving about an inch on all sides
  4. Lay the boneless turkey breast on top of the stuffing with the thinner ends slightly overlapping to make the thickness as uniform as possible
  5. Using the parchment or wax paper for leverage, roll the layers up until you can seal one end of the sheet of proscuitto with the other
  6. Dust your cutting board or countertop with some flour and roll out the puff pastry sheet until it is big enough to wrap around your proscuitto and stuffing encased turkey breast
  7. Place the turkey breast roll a few inches from the start of the puff pastry closest to you and roll until the puff pastry overlaps
  8. Beat one egg with a few drops of water to make an egg wash, using a pastry brush add a thin layer of the egg wash to the seams and the ends as you tuck and pinch them closed
  9. Remove the cookie sheet you’ve been warming up in the oven as it preheats, place a sheet of parchment paper on top and then add your turkey wellington roll
  10. Apply a thin coat of the egg wash to the entire roll and place in the center rack for 40 to 45 minutes
  11. Check on things after 20 to 25 minutes and tent the turkey wellington with aluminum foil so that it doesn’t burn
  12. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into slices, garnish and serve

Cranberry Hard Cider Reduction

Software

  • 1 bag of cranberries, washed and picked through
  • 1 12 oz bottle of hard apple cider
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon canola (or other neutral) oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Assemblage

  1. In a medium saucepan heat the oil, then add the shallots and cook for three to five minutes
  2. Add the washed and picked through cranberries and cook on medium high until they begin popping open, adding splashes of the water, if necessary
  3. After the cranberries have reduced down, turn up the heat and pour in the bottle of hard cider
  4. Give the cider a minute or so to burn of the alcohol, then add the sugar and sprigs of thyme
  5. Turn the heat to medium low and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly
  6. Using an immersion blender, or transferring to stand blender, puree the reduction and add any water, if necessary
  7. Strain through a sieve or a fine mesh strainer and return to the sauces pan to either reduce further or to keep the sauce warm until ready to serve

Let’s Talk Breakfast

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Today marks a milestone of sorts as this is my 50th post here at Digital Dads. In coming up with something to write about I took at look at all of the things I’ve written about over the past year. Surprisingly, I noticed that I only have one post about breakfast, or at least breakfast related foods.

It’s not that I don’t like breakfast. On the contrary, it is one of my favorite things. My problem is that I’m not much of a morning person and with two children under the age of three I’m usually happy to just scramble a few eggs and be done with it.

However, there are certain times, like holidays or when friends are in from out of town, and I want to put something different on the breakfast table. Sure, I could go with eggs and bacon, or french toast or even pancakes. Still, there is something else that takes the same effort as the rest, but has a bit of a wow factor: a Dutch Baby.

What exactly is a Dutch Baby? It is a sweet breakfast dish sometimes called a German pancake that resembles a yorkshire pudding or a popover and is derived from the German apfelpfannkuchen – now say that three times fast. It is formed from a thin batter that is baked in the oven at a high temperature. It will puff up while cooking and fall after it is done. Depending on what you use to cook it in you will have to really watch it because the sides can form very high peaks that will burn fast in the very hot oven.

The classic presentation of a Dutch Baby is to dust it with some powdered sugar and serve with some lemon wedges. A quick squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the Dutch Baby gives it a very bright flavor. Another serving option is to incorporate some fruit into the dish by caramelizing a peeled and diced apple with some butter and brown sugar.

While the compote idea is a good one, it can be a little rich for breakfast. In this case, my preference would be to slice up some fresh fruit (even macerate it with a splash of Grand Mariner for the adults in attendance) and serve it with a little maple syrup.

What are your favorite things to make for a special breakfast or brunch?

Dutch Baby Recipe

recipe adapted from the Food Network

Hardware

  • 10″ Cast iron skillet, Dutch oven or oven safe nonstick pan
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups (liquid and dry measure)
  • Whisk

Software

  • 3 eggs (at room temperature, if possible)
  • 3/4 cup milk (warmed)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter (2 melted, 2 reserved)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Lemon (sliced into wedges, as a garnish)
  • Powdered sugar

Assemblage

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees
  2. Put your skillet or pan in the oven to heat with the oven
  3. Crack the eggs into the mixing bowl
  4. Warm the milk in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds
  5. Add the warmed milk a little at a time to the eggs and whisk to combine
  6. Slowly add the flour, salt, sugar and vanilla extract to the egg and milk mixture
  7. Add the melted butter and combine
  8. When the oven is up to temperature, take the skillet or pan (don’t forget those oven mitts!)
  9. Add the reserved butter to the pan and use to coat the bottom and sides
  10. Pour the batter, which will be very thin, into the coated pan
  11. Return the pan to the oven and cook for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on your oven

Presentation

The classic presentation of a Dutch Baby is to dust it with some powdered sugar and serve with some lemon wedges. A quick squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the Dutch Baby gives it a very bright flavor.

Another serving option is to incorporate some fruit into the dish you could caramelize a peeled and diced apple with some butter and brown sugar. While the compote idea is a good one, it can be a little rich for breakfast. Alternatively, you could slice up, or even macerate, some fresh fruit and serve it with a little maple syrup.

The sorbets of summer

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Summer Sorbets | Digital Dads

If you’ve read any number of my posts you’ll know that the impetus for a lot of what I do in the kitchen comes from my wife. Either it is something she finds that she’d like to try, a dish she’s had out that she’d like me to try to replicate or something that I come up with based on what I know about her tastes.

Just over a week ago we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary and took the opportunity to spend a night out in the city. It was a first for us, as it was the first time we both had been away overnight from our children. And even though our hotel room in the city was less than five miles from our house, it was still a bit of an adjustment for us. Still, knowing our kids were safely in the competent hands of their grandmother, we sped off for a night of fine dining and relaxation.

We don’t normally make a big fuss about our anniversary, but since it was our first real marriage milestone we decided to live a little. I made reservations at the oldest fine dining restaurant here in Charlotte months in advance. It’s the kind of place with exceptional service, intriguing food and multiple courses.

At two different times during our meal we had two very different sorbets. One, a cucumber melon sorbet, was served to us as a palette cleanser with a buttermilk foam and a brunoise of cucumber to start things off. The other, a strawberry black pepper sorbet, was served as an intermezzo between our appetizer and main course. Both were very good and made me wistful over the rapidly declining days of summer.

When we got home I was inspired by our anniversary dinner to try my hand at making sorbet. I’ve made ice cream on several occasions and I knew this would not be nearly as complicated or labor intensive. Plus, this is the time of year when folks really ramp up their efforts to preserve the summer harvest so that what remains does not go to waste. In some small way I felt making these sorbets out of summertime fruit was one way to participate in this preservation, even if it is more near term than long term.

For the most part I kept to the script from what we had at our dinner, however, I did decide to infuse the simple syrup with some fresh mint leaves while making the cucumber melon sorbet. And for the strawberry black pepper I whipped up a quick reduction of balsamic vinegar and port wine to give it a little something extra.

Both sorbets came out great. My far and away favorite is the strawberry black pepper, which on the surface seems like an odd pairing. However, just as salt makes chocolate sweeter, the black pepper really enhances the flavor of the strawberries while finishing with a subtle background heat.

Strawberry Black Pepper Sorbet

Software

  • 3 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons black peppercorns

Assemblage

  1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium high heat; bring to a boil then reduce to medium high heat until the sugar dissolves
  2. Coarsely crack the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle and add to the simple syrup; leave on the heat for five minutes, then remove.
  3. Allow the peppercorns to steep in the simple syrup for 15 to 20 minutes, then strain and discard the solids; set syrup aside
  4. Hull strawberries, add to a food processor and puree until smooth.
  5. Strain strawberry puree through a sieve or fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and any solids
  6. Pour cooled syrup into the puree and stir to combine; refrigerate for an hour or until chilled
  7. Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions, then freeze for at least four hours (overnight would be best)

Cucumber Melon Mint Sorbet

Software

  • 1 cup seedless cucumber
  • 2 cup honeydew melon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 6-8 mint leaves, torn

Assemblage

  1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium high heat; bring to a boil then reduce to medium high heat until the sugar dissolves
  2. Remove the syrup from the heat and toss in the torn mint leaves
  3. Allow the mint to steep in the simple syrup for 5 to 7 minutes, then strain and discard the solids; set syrup aside
  4. Chop the cucumber and melon, add to a food processor and puree until smooth
  5. Strain the puree through a sieve or fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and any solids
  6. Pour cooled syrup into the puree and stir to combine; refrigerate for an hour or until chilled
  7. Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions, then freeze for at least four hours (overnight would be best)

Balsamic Port Reduction Sauce

Software

  • 1 1/4 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup port wine
  • 2 tablespoons cane sugar

Assemblage

  1. Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan, whisk to combine and bring to a boil
  2. Reduce heat to medium low and reduce by 75% to approximately 3/8 cup
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool
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