Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Turkey with Turnip and Pear

My CSA challenge has really been a challenge.  I have to say that the true challenge came when I was confronted with turnips ... and turnips ... and turnips.  They came with every shipment.  I had more turnips than I knew what to do with.  The reason for my situation came not only due to the number of turnips, but also from the fact that I have rarely cooked with the root vegetable.  

Sure, I could have boiled them, pureed them into a smooth nothingness, and, voila, an alternative to mashed potatoes or with mashed potatoes.  And only that.  I have never cooked with turnips.  So I needed to come up with another use for them.   So, I did what I often do and that is to consult the Internet.  I searched for various recipes for turnips. There a lot of recipes, as there are for pretty much any ingredient.  However, there was one recipe that caught my eye, because it called for a combination of ingredients which appealed to my stomach ... turnips and pears.  The recipe was from Bon Appetit, but I decided to give it my own twist.

The twist involved combining the turnips and pears with turkey, which works on so many levels. Turkey is a very good protein to work with because its its flavor is complementary to so many fruits, vegetables and starches.  This goes well beyond cranberries and potatoes.  Both the turnips and the pears paired very well with the turkey.  For this dish, I used a turkey thigh, rather than the breast or cutlets.  The reason is the preparation.  Given the top of the stove treatment, which involves higher heat over a shorter period of time, the added fat content in the turkey thighs helped to keep the meat moist.

This was a very good dish for turnips, and a great alternative to simply mashing them like potatoes.  While my plating still needs some work, this is the type of dish that I think could look fancy enough to appear on restaurant menus.  

Adapted from recipe by Bon Appetit
Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 turkey thigh, about 1 1/2 pounds, cut into
     four even sized pieces
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 medium pear, peeled, cored and chopped
1 medium turnip, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspooin fresh thyme leaves, plus more for serving
1/2 cup salted, roasted macadamia nuts, chopped

1.  Brown the chicken.  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.   Season turkey with salt and pepper and cook, skin side down, until skin is browned and crisp 10-12 minutes.  Transfer turkey to a plate.

2. Prepare the sauce.  Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in same skillet over medium high heat.  Add onion, pear, turnip and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring ocassionally until pear and turnip are soft and starting to turn golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.  Carefully add wine and thyme, then return chicken to skillet, skin side up.  Cook until wine is almost completely evaporated and turkey is cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.

3.  Complete the dish.  Plate the dish and serve topped with macadamia nuts.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Classic Gremolata

It has been said that, "you can't have a fancy food blog without a recipe that has something topped with gremolata."   While I don't have a fancy food blog, I still felt it was necessary to include a recipe with something with this flavorful topping.  A classic gremolata consists of three ingredients: flat leaf parsley, garlic and lemon zest.  There are other optional ingredients, such as salt and pepper.

The origin of gremolata is lost to history, although it is suggested that the term originates from the French word, gremolade.  Notwithstanding its obscure history, the gremolata has a key place in Italian cuisine.  It is the key accompaniment to Osso Bucco alla Milanese, where it tops a braised veal shank.  Gremolata has also found its way onto other Italian dishes.  Indeed, over time, it seems that Gremolata has become to Italian cuisine what Chimichurri is to Argentine cuisine or a Persillade is to French cuisine.  

The key to a Gremolata, as it is to a Chimichurri or Persillade is to use  the freshest ingredients available.  If that flat leaf parsley looks a little limp, set it aside for another use. If the garlic has been sitting around a little too long, turn it into roast garlic for a different dish.  If you lemons have been sitting in the basket for too long, make lemonade, not gremolata.  

Once you have the freshest ingredients, make the topping right before you plan on serving it.  It only takes about 5 minutes to make and then use it right away.  I used it on a steak that I cooked under a broiler.  The steak was rubbed with complimentary flavors (ground onion, ground garlic, kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper).  If you don't have a steak, you can still use this topping on any number of dishes, from grilled or braised meats such chicken, lamb or pork to grilled fish.  The simplicity of this recipe translates into a flexible condiment that can add a lot of flavor to a wide range of dishes.

If you happen to have left over gremolata, you can use it within a day.   That should be enough inspiration to cook something else.  If you don't use it within a day, the topping will start to go bad because of the wilting of the parsley.

Recipe from The Kitchn
Makes 1/3 cup

1 small bunch of parsley, washed and dried (1 cup loosely packed)
1 clove of garlic, skin removed
2 organic lemons, washed and dried

1.  Prepare the parsley.  Remove the leaves from the parsley until you have enough to make 1 cup when loosely packed.  Chop the parsley until it is nearly finely chopped.  The parsley should be less than 1/2 cup.

2.  Add the garlic.    Use a microplane or fine toothed grater to grate the garlic clove over the parsley.

3.  Add the lemon.  Usingthe same microplane or grater, zest two lemons on top of the garlic.

4.  Finish the chopping.  Continue to chop the parsley, mixing in the garlic and lemon until the parsley is chopped very fine.

5.  Use the gremolata.  Use the gremolata right away.   Serve it on Ossobucco alla Milanese, or any grilled or braised meat dish.   You can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mobile Style Oysters

As the chronological archive on the right demonstrates, I have not posted as many recipes this year as I have in previous years.  This is due in part to a very busy schedule, both at work and at home.  It does not mean that I am not cooking or that I am not trying out new recipes.  It just means that those recipes sit in a queue, waiting for me to write a few pithy paragraphs about them.

This recipe -- Mobile Style Oysters -- was one that waited a long time in that queue.  A really long time.  The reason why it waited so long was not necessarily due to my schedule, but the fact that I wanted to make this dish for my very beautiful Angel, Clare.  However, I was unable to do so for days, weeks and months.  The reason is that Clare was pregnant with our little girl.  I was unsure about serving oysters, even when cooked, so I held off making this recipe.  This restraint was very difficult.  Many a night I wanted to buy a half-dozen oysters and make this dish.  I held off, and it was well worth it.

This dish, as its name suggests, heralds from Mobile, Alabama, where local restaurants have a ready supply of oysters from the Gulf of Mexico.  There are at least eight commercial oyster farms in Alabama.  In addition to these farmers, there are local fishermen who harvest the variety of oyster species in the bay, most notably the Eastern Oyster.  Once the harvests reach the shore or the store,  the oysters find their way to restaurants like Bluegill.  The chefs and cooks then grill or broil oysters in their shell filled with a bath of butter, garlic and parmesan cheese.  The end result is  Mobile Style Oysters.

There are two things that make this recipe work.  First, the combination of those three flavors -- garlic, butter, and parmesan -- always work together in a delicious harmony.  This is true no matter the dish.  Nevertheless, what makes the harmony work in this case is that it does not drown out the star ... the oysters.  The briny flavor of the oysters are still able to stand out, surrounded by the supporting elements.

The other thing that works with this recipe is that the oysters are cooked just enough.  Often times, oysters can be overcooked, which takes such a beautiful ingredient and turns it into trash.  The five minutes under the broiler (which I did) or on the grill provides just enough heat and cooking time to give the bivalves the opaqueness one expects from cooked seafood without turning them into a chewy mess.

It was definitely worth the wait.  Both Clare and I loved these oysters, almost as much as eating them raw.  

Recipe from Saveur
Serves 4

12 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons of fresh parsely, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
Zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
Tabasco sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
24 medium oysters, shucked and left in bottom shell
Crusty bread, for serving.

1.  Prepare the grill or stove.  Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium high.  Alternatively arrange an oven rack 6 inches from the heating element and heat the oven to broil.

2.  Prepare the topping.  Combine the butter, Parmesan, parsley, chile flakes, garlic, shallots, lemon zest and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Season with Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt and pepper.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the mixture over each oyster.

3.  Grill or broil the oysters.  Grill or broil the oysters until the edges of the oysters begin to curl, about 5 minutes.  Serve with the bread.