Blogs > Cooking from Scratch

Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Turkey Basics - Roast Your Turkey with Confidence

Roasting a turkey can strike fear into the hearts of novice and expert cooks alike. This year, roast your turkey with confidence by following these tips for a perfectly brined and roasted turkey, and lump-free gravy.

First, buy a good quality turkey – fresh or frozen, either kind is fine! A twelve pound turkey will feed about 8 – 10 people (plan about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds per person if you want leftovers). Never thaw your turkey at room temperature; always thaw in the refrigerator (this may take 2 – 3 days!), or thaw under cool running water in your sink.

I suggest that you do not stuff your turkey with any bread based stuffing in advance; bake bread stuffing separately to avoid bacteria growth that can occur inside the bird ( you can fill turkey cavity with bread stuffing at the end of roasting, but be sure the stuffing temperature reaches 165 degrees before serving).

Use a brine to make your turkey juicy and flavorful throughout, with a crisp, golden brown skin! Brining adds moisture, flavor, and helps create a very tender meat texture *see brine recipe/instructions

Buy an instant read thermometer if you don’t already have one. This will ensure that your turkey is removed at exactly the right time from the oven without being over-cooked or under-done.

Roasting the Bird:
For great flavor, stuff your bird with vegetables like carrots, onions, and celery (even fennel, rutabaga, and parsnips are good; also try adding a halved lemon, a head of garlic, and sprigs of herbs); discard after roasting;

Also consider roasting carrots, potatoes, and onions in the roaster with the turkey (add them to the pan for the last hour of cooking, stirring occasionally.

Lift the skin of the bird and rub the meat with salt, pepper, and whole butter; and rub the entire exterior of the bird with whole butter as well.

Pre-heat your oven to 450 – 475 degrees; heat it at least ½ hour in advance; place your large roasting pan inside the oven as well, and allow to pre-heat at least 15 minutes

Place prepared turkey in the pan, breast side down for ½ hour; after the initial ½ hour, lower heat to 350 and turn bird over, breast side up, then cover the breast snugly with a double-thick piece of foil.

Roast until the temperature of the thigh meat is at 160 degrees (use an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh) remove from oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for at least 30 - 45 minutes.

Check temperature again – final temp. should be 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh (the bird will keep cooking after you remove it from the oven – the larger the bird, the more carry-over cooking will occur, so don’t leave the turkey in the oven until it reaches 165 or it will be over cooked!).

Place the turkey on a platter and keep covered. Allow the turkey to rest, loosely covered for at least 30 minutes before carving; this will help the turkey to stay juicy and moist when you carve it; be sure to use a very sharp knife to carve – a flexible boning knife is a good choice.


Making the gravy:
Once you remove the turkey, place roasting pan over 1 or 2 burners on the stove and turn heat to medium high; add 2 – 3 cups chicken stock, turkey stock, or boxed chicken broth to the pan and stir, scraping all the browned bits of flavor from the pan; add 1 cup red or white wine (optional) and continue to simmer ; add a bay leaf, some sprigs of thyme, a few sage leaves, and some peppercorns.

Make a mixture of ½ cup cold water and enough arrowroot or corn starch to have a heavy-cream consistency; whisk into the simmering liquid in the pan and simmer another 15 minutes; pour the whole mixture through a strainer and check to see if it needs salt and pepper; serve with the turkey.

Basic Brine:
1 gallon water
7 ounces salt
8 ounces honey, sugar, or brown sugar
3 -4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons peppercorns
1 handful thyme sprigs
4 –5 cloves garlic, smashed
any other fresh herbs you like (optional)

-bring 4 cups of the water to a boil and add all other ingredients; boil for 2 – 3 minutes, or until sugar and salt are dissolved; add to the rest of the water and cool completely before submerging turkey

allow turkey (or any other bird) to soak in brine for 12 to 18 hours; remove from brine and place uncovered in your refrigerator for 6 – 24 hours (so, the minimum time for brining is 12 hours, or as much as 2 days)

follow roasting directions above

* turkey must be completely submerged, so plan to double the recipe for a turkey around 12 pounds (you’ll need 2 gallons of brine for a big turkey); brine turkey in a food-safe plastic bucket (like a pickle bucket), a large pot, or a brining bag – available at Holiday Market or Williams-Sonoma; KEEP IT COLD! THE TEMPERATURE NEEDS TO BE 40 DEGREES OR BELOW!

For gravy base:
Melt butter in heavy large deep skillet over high heat. Add turkey necks and/or wings and sauté until deep brown, about 15 minutes. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until vegetables are deep brown, about 15 minutes. Add 6 cups chicken broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour gravy base through strainer set over 4-cup measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract liquid. If necessary, add enough chicken broth to gravy base to measure 4 cups. (Gravy base can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Re-warm before using.)

For turkey:
Mix 1/2 cup butter and all minced herbs in small bowl; season herb butter with salt and pepper. Transfer 2 generous tablespoons to another small bowl and reserve for gravy; let stand at room temperature.

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 425°F. Rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry. Starting at neck end, slide hand between skin and breast meat to loosen skin. Rub 4 tablespoons herb butter over breast meat under skin. Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Sprinkle main cavity generously with salt and pepper. Place 4 tablespoons plain butter and all fresh herb sprigs in main cavity. Tuck wing tips under. Tie legs together loosely. Rub remaining herb butter over outside of turkey. Sprinkle turkey generously with salt and pepper.

Place turkey in oven and roast 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Roast turkey 30 minutes; pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon plain butter to roasting pan. Roast turkey 30 minutes; baste with pan juices, then pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon butter to pan. Cover turkey loosely with foil. Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, basting with pan juices and adding 1 cup broth and 1 tablespoon butter to pan every 45 minutes, about 1 hour 45 minutes longer. Transfer turkey to platter; let stand 30 minutes (internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees).

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Entertaining 101 - The Flowers

A great event has several components that set the stage for an incredible celebration.

We've talked about decor and the do-it-yourself stuff that can make your event unique, but what happens when you don't have the time, inclination or talent to add the "Martha Stewart touch" to your centerpieces or accent greenery? That's where your trusted florist or specialty shoppe comes to the rescue.

Greenery - Decorating with fresh cut greens can help bring the spirit of the holidays into your home. From the traditional scent of balsam fir, to the classic look of fresh pine. Wreaths, garlands, porch pots and kissing balls are all avaialbe to start your holiday decorating. Create the warmest welcome on your front porch with a traditional holiday wreath.

Centerpieces - Fresh beautiful flowers and greenery are the perfect accent to any holiday table. Depending on the theme of your celebration and how formal or casual it may be, there are a lot of centerpiece options available! Choose one off the shelf or order something special. I've come to love the talented designers at Joe's Produce Gourmet Market. I've found their flowers to be long-lasting and they always create the perfect arrangement to adorn my holiday table or deliver as a gift.

With the hectic holiday schedules, multitasking is really important. Let your grocery shopping do double-duty and pick up a festive centerpiece for your table this holiday season while you're already at the store.

Traditional Holiday Plants for Your Home - Beautiful poinsettias are available this season in many colors and sizes. You will surely find the perfect holiday plant to brighten your home or someone else's. Poinsettias are a fantastic way to add a festive touch to any backdrop, and, they're incredibly hearty so they last a very long time!

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Orange Scented Cinnamon Rolls

One of my favorite indulgences on a sleepy Sunday morning is a cup of coffee with a cinnamon roll. The only thing better than a soft and gooey cinnamon bun is a soft and gooey cinnamon bun that's been topped with cream cheese icing! The recipe below is a little time consuming, but well worth the wait. Since the dough is made from scratch, it just takes a bit of time to allow the dough to rise while the yeast does its job.

The orange zest in this recipe is optional, it's a delightful change from the traditional roll. If you prefer to leave the orange out of the recipe, you can simply omit it and keep the other ingredients the same.

Cinnamon Buns

1 c. whole milk
¼ c. butter
¾ c. warm water, about 120 degrees
2 pk. dry yeast
2 Tb. granulated sugar
6 c. All Purpose Flour
3 each eggs, beaten
¾ c. granulated sugar
1 Tb. Kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 Tb. Orange zest
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. granulated sugar
3 Tb. Cinnamon
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp. Kosher salt
1 ½ c. toasted and finely chopped pecans

In a small saucepan, scald the milk and ¼ c. of butter. Set aside.

Fix mixer with dough hook. Mix yeast, water, sugar in the bowl of the mixer. Allow to stand 10 minutes until very foamy

Combine the warm milk mixture, eggs, ¾ c. of sugar, 1 Tb. Salt, vanilla, ½ tsp of cinnamon, ¼ tsp. of nutmeg and orange zest.

Add egg mixture to yeast mixture in the mixing bowl and mix to combine. Add the flour and mix on low speed , then on medium speed for 8 minutes

Remove the hook and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 2 hours at room temperature.

While the dough is done rising, combine softened butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar, 3 Tb. Cinnamon, kosher salt,

Stir this softened mixture together and set aside

Push the air out of the dough and dump out onto a floured surface. Divide dough into 2 portions. Roll one piece of dough into a ½ inch thick rectangle and spread with ½ of the butter mixture.Gently roll into a tight log , wrap in plastic and chill for 15 – 20 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough and butter mixture

Remove plastic and slice dough into 2” pieces. Place the sliced pieces together in a greased pan (can be a cake pan or a casserole pan). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size (about an additional 30 minutes) in a warm, draft-free place. Remove the plastic wrap.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. While the rolls are in the oven, make the icing. When the rolls come out of the oven, top with icing when still warm.

Cream Cheese Icing

1 lb. cream cheese, softened
4 oz. butter, softened
To taste, vanilla
To taste, powdered sugar (I use very little)

Method: Mix all ingredients together until smooth. Adjust the flavors to suit your tastes. Spread on the cinnamon rolls when they are still warm.

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