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Ever wonder why the turkey breast is always dry at Thanksgiving? It’s geometry–that’s the problem. The breast is closest to the heat of the oven and has less fat, so it cooks faster and dries out more quickly. The legs and thighs in a whole bird are surrounded by connective tissue and carcass, so they cook by conduction and not direct heat, taking longer. To get the dark meat done to temperature, the white meat is overcooked and dried out. This why I choose to roast a turkey in parts. Of course,you give up the flourish of carving the bird at the table, but in the end its about fellowship of family, expressing gratefulness, and eating a well-prepared meal. It’s not about the carving.Cooking a turkey this way allows the turkey to cook faster. You can also cook more quantity if you need to. Plus, you can take the carcass and boil it into stock at the same time the bird is in the oven.

The Turkey

  • 1 whole turkey, 10-15 pounds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 large stalks celery, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium clove garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium stock
  • 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning (I like Bell’s brand, see note) divided
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 7 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3-5 sprigs fresh sage
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick) cut into chunks

Using a sharp knife, separate the wings, breasts, and leg quarters (like you would do to a chicken). A sharp knife really helps here because a turkey has more connective tissue than a chicken. Put the turkey pieces in a pan (I like to use a disposable pan to avoid cross-contamination). Season both sides of each piece with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning.

Mix onions, celery, and carrots together. Place in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Add ½ cup of the stock to the pan over the vegetables. Season the vegetables with a little salt, pepper, and remaining tablespoon of poultry seasoning.

Take the butter chunks and insert between the meat and the skin of each piece, leaving a few chunks to put on top of the skin of each piece. Arrange the leg quarters and wing pieces around the pan, on top of the vegetables. Leave room for the breasts in the pan, but put them aside for now. You won’t put the breasts in the oven at the beginning of cooking.

Cover the pan of dark meat turkey loosely with foil and place in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour. Remove the foil and turn the leg and wing sections over. Lay the breast pieces meat side down in the pan. Replace the foil and bake for another 45 minutes to an hour or until the deepest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees and the breast reads 150 on a thermometer.

Remove the foil and turnover the breast pieces so the skin side is up. Turn the oven to broil and put the pan back in the oven on the lowest rack until the skin of the turkey is golden brown. Remove the turkey from the oven, recover with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes, basting every five minutes or so with pan juices. Put the vegetables from the pan into a blender and turn the blender on medium high. Slowly add about half of liquid from the pan into the blender until pureed.Pour into a sauce pot and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to simmer and reduce until thick. Add remaining liquid as needed to maintain desired consistency. Use as gravy over the turkey.

Thanksgiving Gravy

  • 2 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 4 tablespoons More Than Gourmet brand Glace de Volaille roasted turkey stock
  • ½ cup evaporated whole milk
  • 1 can beef consume
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot
  • 1 drop of thyme essential oil
  • 1 drop of black pepper essential oil
  • 2 drops of sage essential oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a 2 quart sauce pot, bring stock, glace, and evaporated milk to boil. In separate container with a lid (like a mason jar with a sealable lid or shakerball mixer), mix together consome and arrowroot and shake vigorously for 1 minute until smooth and frothy. While broth mixture is at a full boil, slowly whisk in the arrowroot mixture. Bring to boil for 3 minutes, whisking constantly until thickened. If too thick for your preference you can thin it out with a little more broth, stock or water. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.The “More Than Gourmet” brand does not contain any added salt, so you will need to season accordingly.

Arrowroot

Arrowroot is a tropical plant.One-year old roots are dug up and soaked in hot water. The soaking removes the bitter fibrous covering. The root gets mashed up to separate the edible starch. The starch dries out and becomes the arrowroot powder. Arrowroot powder is gluten-free, paleo-friendly, and vegan!

Arrowroot can be used in place of cornstarch, especially for those with corn allergies. Each has slightly different effects on a dish. Cornstarch comes from a grain and has a higher content of protein and fat, which means it needs a higher temperature for thickening. On the other hand,arrowroot has less protein and fat, so thickening happens faster and at a lower temperature.Arrowroot has a more neutral flavor also. I tend to use cornstarch when I want thickening at the beginning of cooking, such as with a stew or dairy sauces. I use arrowroot when thickening towards the end of the cooking process, such a with acids, vinegars, or lemon juice

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This is such a fresh and delicious dish. Get the highest quality ahi tuna you can find. With the dried lavender buds, the fresher the better. Yuzu is a tart Japanese fruit. When yuzu is combined with the port wine, ginger and balsamic, the result is divine.

1 ½ pound center cut fresh ahi tuna cut into a 2-inch wide uniform log that is about 4-5 inches in length (use the trim for poke)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 ½ teaspoons dried lavender buds

2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

Port Yuzu Reduction (see recipe)

Black Lava Salt

Using mortar and pestle, grind lavender buds and sesame seeds together. Lightly coat tuna in olive oil, then sprinkle salt and pepper over whole loin. Roll tuna in lavender and sesame mix to crust. Lightly oil a nonstick pan. Sear crusted tuna over high heat, no more than 10 seconds per side. Turn to lightly sear all sides. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes to cool before slicing. Slice in quarter to half inch slices.

Serve with Port Yuzu reduction. Sprinkle plate with black lava salt before serving.

Port Yuzu Reduction

2 750 ml bottles port wine

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

1 cup Yuzu sauce

1 cup balsamic vinegar

Add port wine to sauce pot. Bring to low simmer. Add fresh ginger. Reduce by half. Add Yuzu, return to stove, and reduce by half again. Add balsamic vinegar and reduce by half again. This reduction goes slowly and takes quite a while for the best result.

Imagine the sweet taste of fire embracing your tomatoes and peppers and onions that you blend into a fresh salsa. Perfection! Tortilla chips and some friends over and it’s a party! Salsa is super easy to make. When I fire up the grill, I always have a few extra veggies on hand to throw on the fire and make salsa with. This salsa recipe freezes easily for later use too. Put it in a crockpot or Instapot for Salsa Chicken. Throw it in with melted cheese and some milk to make a Fire Roasted Queso.

Chef John’s Fire Roasted Salsa

5 medium-size tomatoes, overripe, left whole

1 onion, cut in quarters

½ jalapeno pepper

2 tablespoons freeze dried cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon Magic Spice Mix (recipe below)

Heat wood fire grill (I used a Pitboss XL with oak wood chunks, but you can use a gas grill too.) Place a large cast iron skillet on the fire and heat the pan until water sizzles when dropped on it. Char the tomatoes, onions and pepper, shaking the pan to move the veggies and prevent sticking. Turn until charred on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Remove from fire and refrigerate overnight. (Do not blend while hot.)

Once cooled, remove charred veggies from refrigerator and dump them into a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds at a time until pureed to salsa consistency. (It’s important to pulse and not just turn it on because turning it on will just spin the liquid and not actually chop.)

Pour the tomato mixture into a bowl and add cilantro, lime juice, and spices. Mix and let sit for an hour or so to meld in the flavors. Depending on the acidity of the tomatoes, you may want to add either more lime juice or more spices to taste.

Serve with tortilla chips. Freezes well too.

You can also put the leftover salsa in a crockpot with chicken to make a salsa stewed chicken for tacos the next day.

Magic Spice Blend:

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

1 teaspoon coriander

2 teaspoons celery salt

2 teaspoons cumin

Mix together and store in airtight container. Hint: The fresher the spices you use, the better the flavor. Don’t store your spices for more than 6 months at a time.

This is a good rub on meat or chicken and cooked on the grill.

INGREDIENTS

Blueberry Simple Syrup:

  • 1 ½ cups frozen wild Maine blueberries (I use Wyman’s of Maine brand.)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup of water

Combine blueberries, sugar, and water in saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer 20 minutes. Reduce total volume by 1/3.

Mix the Donkey:

  • 1 ounce of rum (I use Bacardi Gran Reserva Diez Extra Rare Gold Rum.)
  • 1 ounce blueberry simple syrup (above)
  • 1 drop lemon essential oil* (I used Young Living Lemon Essential Oil.)
  • 4 ounces pineapple cider (I used Austin East Ciders.)
  • Freeze-dried blueberries (I used 365 brand from Whole Foods.)

Combine blueberry syrup, lemon oil, and rum. Pour cider over ice and add blueberry rum mixture. Top with freeze-dried blueberries for garnish.

* Be sure to use essential oils that are labeled for internal consumption, like those from Young Living Essential Oils.

What are some of your favorite cocktails?

INGREDIENTS

Cranberry Simple Syrup:

  • 1 bottle (12.5 ounce) bottle cranberry concentrate (I used Lakewood Organic brand.)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Combine juice and sugar in saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes.

Mix the Elephanté:

  • 1 ounce rum (I used Bacardi Gran Reserva Diez Extra Rare Gold Rum.)
  • 1 ¼ ounce cranberry syrup
  • 1 drop orange essential oil* (I used Young Living Orange Essential Oil.)
  • 4 ounces blood orange cider (I used Austin East Ciders brand.)
  • Freeze-dried cranberries (I used Karen’s Naturals brand.)

Add cranberry syrup, orange oil, and rum to shaker cup and stir well to mix. In 12 ounce cocktail glass filled ¾ full with ice, add orange cider then pour cranberry rum mixture over top. Garnish with a few freeze-dried cranberries.

* Be sure to use essential oils that are labeled for internal consumption, like those from Young Living Essential Oils.

What are some of your favorite cocktails?