Thank you, Alton Brown

I decided a while back I wanted to host Thanksgiving this year. I had it in my head that I wanted to cook for days, see everyone and still be at home. What I forgot was that A) I don’t particularly like turkey and B) I’ve never cooked a turkey. I’ve cooked chicken and duck (twice … It’s too tricky) but never turkey. I was going to get around this by doing chicken, but everyone except me wanted turkey. So turkey it was. The big question … How the heck does one cook a turkey? A bird known for being easy to mess up and that is notorious for having one part dry out before the other part is cooked. Alton Brown to the rescue.

I have one of his cookbooks, but I have to admit, I use it very infrequently. I do, however, love a number of his recipes including the basic lemon meringue pie (I alter the recipe slightly but it works) and the magic polenta. So I checked the book (a week ago when I finally admitted it was going to be turkey for Thanksgiving) and thought, “sure, I can try that.” First step, brine the turkey overnight. I used an old styrofoam cooler I had and the requisite brine ingredients. Add lots of ice and put it somewhere Gracie can’t get it.

Then to cook the thing. Problem one came when I couldn’t tell which way to place the bird. Neither way look right so I did what made sense to me. I asked Bob and Val. (Val by text since she was at her place for Thanksgiving.)

Then came what to do since the bird, about an hour into cooking looked very brown. So, I covered it. We started with the wings early on, then the breast (that part per instructions) then the whole thing. It didn’t take nearly as long to cook as I thought it would, which just meant dinner a little early. But it came out looking ok.

IMG_2979-0.JPG (It really did look better in person – more even looking)

Since I can’t go with straight traditional fare, we did a few twists. Rather than sweet potatoes or yams, I went with butternut squash parsnip soup. Instead of typical green beans, I did pan roasted green beans with candied pecans. Instead of mashed potatoes, we had the potato tart. I also did an herb stuffed tomato for another vegetable since I really wanted to try the recipe. Mom did make her stuffing and I made gravy from the pan juices, so we had some elements of a traditional meal.




For desserts I went with one favorite, one soon to be favorite and a complete experiment. Lemon meringue pie, applesauce spice cake with caramel glaze and a maple-honey-walnut pie.


The nut pie was not pretty, so no pictures.

All in all it was a really nice day, and everything came out rather well. The turkey was … well, according the everyone who likes turkey, it was great. I thought it was fine, but it’s turkey. Apparently I didn’t mess it up. The light and dark meat were both well cooked and moist (without the gravy) and it did have flavor. So thank you, Alton Brown for saving my turkey this Thanksgiving.

I know I missed a few weeks posting here. Nothing wrong, just got a bit busy and a little tired. All is well. Bob and I even did another Disney tour on Monday to start the holiday season. Backstage Safari was a really good look at the workings of Animal Kingdom. It wasn’t as surprising or “wowing” as the Keys to the Kingdom tour was, but it was interesting. And honestly, to see a black rhino about five feet from you … Incredible. But I still want a meerkat family for the backyard. Have to figure out how to make that happen.


Happy start to the holiday season everyone.


I haven’t been playing in the kitchen as much lately. Not that I don’t want to, I just haven’t really gotten around to doing much other than the usual dishes for a few weeks. I am, however, making up for lost time this weekend.

Beer bread has to be the simplest bread to make. Three cups of flour, sifted, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3 teaspoons baking powder and one bottle of beer. I also tend to add a tablespoon of melted butter to the top right before baking. It takes two minutes to put together and an hour (at 375) to bake. I’ve experimented with versions of beer bread – yeast varieties, non yeast varieties, different beers – and I keep coming back to the same recipe. And the same beer.

A white wheat beer is also good, but Yuengling always comes out the best. It has a really nice nutty character that I haven’t gotten with other lagers. It’s also subtle, unlike a stout. And for pairing with cheese, it’s pretty perfect.

Speaking of cheese, yes, we are still getting our cheese boxes each month, I just keep forgetting to post them. This week we did a cheese tasting – Europe vs. America.

Six pairs of cheese, each pair in the same style but one from Europe and one American. This was a blind tasting in a sense because we did not know which was which when we tasted. I can’t say I found any pattern, and I definitely could not easily tell which was American and which was European, but it was fun. And we picked up some cheese to go with the beer bread for a nice, light dinner.

We also picked up a new kitchen toy this weekend.

That is all the pieces of a new blender/food processor. I’ve been contemplating one for soups and curry and Bob has been wanting the smoothies Val got him craving last time we were out there. I didn’t really want the expense (and storage issue) of another kitchen appliance, but we went ahead and got it. It’s a behemoth, but it works great. So far I’ve made smoothies. (banana peanut butter for Bob and pineapple-strawberry-ginger for me)

I may have forgotten to take a picture until I was half way done my smoothie this morning. Oh well.

I also made soup. A roasted butternut squash and parsnip soup. I took inspiration from a recipe I found but I didn’t have an apple and really love the flavor of roasted root vegetables so, I went for it. One small butternut squash, two good size parsnips, half a large onion and about four cloves of garlic.

I cut everything into medium cubes, tossed in oil salt and pepper and roasted at 375 for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. I could have roasted at 400, but my oven runs hot, so 375 works well. After they were cooked and cooled, I blended them with three cups of vegetable broth. After blended I added cumin, coriander and more salt and pepper. The result?

Soup. Flavorful, bright, sweet-ish butternut squash soup. And I was amazed at how smooth the soup is – thirty seconds in the blender did what a strainer and food processor could not do in thirty minutes.

I also tried one more fish today – eggplant tahini. In its simplest form, this is a dip or sauce, but I added tomato and cucumber to make it a salad. It doesn’t look pretty, but holy cow the flavor!

Hopefully I will have a few more experiments soon. You can bet there will be soup involved. Or curry. Still need to figure out the curry.