Saturday, November 24, 2018

Roast Heritage Turkey with Sausage, Apple and Pecan Dressing

Maybe it is the times that we live in, maybe its because I love history.  Either way, I find myself drawn to earliest days of our Republic, when people such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were walking and talking. I often enjoy trips to Mount Vernon, Monticello, or colonial Williamsburg. And, with each trip, I ultimately find myself fixated on, not the founding fathers, but the enslaved who served them. The reason is that I am almost always interested in the kitchens. Those kitchens were staffed by slaves, who were responsible for preparing and serving each course to the hosts and guests.  (My interest actually goes far beyond what may have been served to the guests of George Washington and focuses on what the slaves often prepared for themselves with what little they had. If you are looking for a good book that touches on this subject, check out The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty.)

For Thanksgiving 2018, I decided to prepare a meal that would have prepared during the colonial times. I drew from my cookbooks, such as The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook, and, online, such as the recipes provided by Mount Vernon.  Nearly all of the dishes -- from the appetizer to the main course -- were recipes that could find some connection to America's colonial past. (The only exception was the roasted vegetable dish, which I had made in the past.)

When it came to the turkey and dressing recipes, I decided upon the a Roast Turkey with Sausage, Apple and Pecan Dressing.  This recipe comes from the Tavern Cookbook.  One would like to think that this recipe was served back in the colonial era, such as to George Washington, but I have nothing to support that theory.  And, given that Thanksgiving itself did not become a recognized holiday until another one of the great American Presidents (President Lincoln), this turkey and dressing recipe certainly wasn't served to celebrate any holiday. 

As for the actual turkey itself, Thanksgiving 2018 also featured a first in my cooking adventures ... roasting a heritage turkey. My beautiful Angel and my family were going to be celebrating Thanksgiving at home with her parents. This sparked an interest in sourcing a local turkey from a Maryland farm and, even further, a heritage bird that represents the history of this bird.  There are several farms across the Old Line State that raise heritage turkeys, such as Narragansett and Bourbon Red breeds. Ultimately, I chose Nick's Organic Farm, in part because of its location and the variety of products beyond turkey that the farm sells.  (In a way, this was a test of buying directly from a farm; I am looking to procuring more of the meat that I cook with from a farm as opposed to a grocery store.)

I purchased a ten (10) pound Bourbon Red turkey from Nick's Organic Farm. This 10 pound weight makes the the turkey the smallest one that I ever prepared. (I usually have cooked birds between 12 and 16 pounds, and, occasionally, up to 20 pounds in the past.) Given this was the first time that I was cooking with a heritage bird, I did a lot of research into the bird itself, including the white meat to dark meat ratio and the cooking times.  This is where the Internet, for all of its information, can fail someone. There are literally recipes for cooking this bird in two opposite ways: (1) low and slow; and (2) hot and fast. For someone who is new to cooking heritage birds, this is not helpful. Needless to say, I choose the low and low method in the hopes that I could err on the side of caution. It would be far less frustrating (or so I thought) to cook the bird for an additional 15 minutes than to have a bird as dry as the paper upon which the recipe is printed. I cooked it at 325 degrees for approximately 3 hours. Otherwise, I cooked the bird according to the recipe's instructions.  The lower cooking temperature meant that the cooking time was a longer.  For purposes of this recipe, however, I have left the cooking times from the Tavern Cookbook because those cooking times are more appropriate for store-bought birds).

The stuffing recipe also provided a first, in terms of the ingredients that were used and the style of preparing the stuffing. In an effort to produce a stuffing as close as possible, my beautiful Angel baked both French bread and corn bread. As for the principal ingredients, I bought some bulk turkey sausage.  (My Angel only eats turkey, she does not eat pork or beef.) The apples were a combination of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples. The pecans were, well, pecans.

Typically, when preparing stuffing, I was always told to dip the day-old bread in some turkey stock.  This dipping is to help the stuffing remain moist during the cooking process.  The recipe that I worked with did not call for the dipping of anything in turkey stock.  Instead, the only liquid that was added to the stuffing was 1 stick of melted butter.  This naturally created a drier stuffing.  Given I was working with a smaller bird, I could not put much of the stuffing in the cavity of the bird. The rest went into a greased, glass baking dish and baked separately. I put the dish in at the end of the cooking time for the bird.

Overall, I found the heritage bird to be the best turkey that I have ever eaten, both in terms of flavor and texture. (And, in this regard, I strongly recommend using Nick's Organic Farm.)  The Bourbon Red really does provide a stark contrast to the rather bland meat and texture of a mass produced, broadbreasted white bird.  In fact, the bird is so much better than any other turkey that I have had, that it more than justified the additional cost of the heritage bird. I definitely plan on using heritage birds in the future.  The only change I would make is to stick with the instructions or go with my gut when cooking the bird

Recipe adapted from The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook, pg .116-117
Serves Many

Ingredients (for the dressing):
1 pound bulk fresh mild or hot sausage
     (I used mild turkey sausage)
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
3 cups cooked corn bread, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 cups day old French or Italian bread, 
     crusts removed and cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 large cooking apples, preferably Granny Smith,
     peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch dice
     (I used a combination of Granny Smiths and Honeycrisps)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Ingredients (for the turkey):
1 trimmed turkey (12 to 14 pounds)
     (I used a 10 pound Bourbon Red heritag eturkey)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup (1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups turkey stock

1. Prepare the dressing. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, place the sausage and cook, stirring often, until no trace of pink remains. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the skillet. And the onions and celery to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until softened about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the drained sausage, onions, celery, corn bread, day old bread, apples and pecans. Stir in the melted butter, parsley, salt and pepper. 

2. Prepare the turkey.  Dry the turkey inside and out with paper towels. Season the inside the cavity with salt and pepper. Fill the breast and neck cavities with the dressing. Truss the turkey securely with a trussing needle and kitchen string.

3. Roast the turkey.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub the turkey with the butter and season well with salt and pepper. In a large roasting pan, place the bird on its side. Cook for 15 minutes and then turn on the other side for fifteen minutes. Turn, breast side down, in the pan and cook until the back is golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and turn breast side up. Continue to roast for 18 minutes per pound, basting every 20 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer the turkey to a warmed platter and let sit, loosely covered with foil for 10-15 minutes.  

4. Prepare the gravy.  Skim the fat from the surface of the roasting pan juices.  Pour off the clear juices and reserve.  Place the roasting pan on top of the stove and sprinkler over the flour. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until the flour is lightly brown, about 2-3 minutes. Pour in the turkey stock and increase the heat to high. Stir or whisk constantly until the gravy comes to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the clear pan juices and season with salt and pepper. Strain through a sieve and pour into a warmed gravy boat. Carve the turkey and pass the gravy on the side.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Heritage Turkey

The Bourbon Red.  A descendant from the Buff, a historic breed of turkey from the Mid-Atlantic states.  In the late 1800s, the Buff was brought to Kentucky and Ohio.  J.F. Barbee cross-bred the Buff with Bronze and White Holland breeds of turkeys.  Barbee's goal was to produce a turkey breed that could rival the Mammoth Bronze turkey (a precursor to today's mammoth double breasted white turkeys).  The result was what Barbee dubbed, "the Bourbon Butternut."  Apparently, the butternut was not like a "Butterball" (which, as a name for turkeys, was not recognized until 1940).  The breed got a rebranding as the Bourbon Red.

With a new name, the Bourbon Red rose in prominence. The breed's rise peaked during the 1930s and 1940s. A Bourbon Red can grow to be a large and hardy bird, with mature toms getting as large as 33 pounds while hens grow to be 18 pounds. Its large size helped in its rise, but, the breed eventually was eclipsed by broad-breasted varieties,  which became the darling of the commercial turkey industry and, eventually, of American consumers.  The Bourbon Red stock declined, and, today, it is one of the rarer breeds of turkeys.  There are only about 5,000 breeding Bourbon Reds in the United States right now.  The breed is so endangered that it found itself on the Slow Food's USA Ark of Taste (which is a list of heritage foods in danger of extinction.

But, the rumors of the Bourbon Red's demise may be premature.  This heritage breed of turkey has made a rebound, with organic farms raising these turkeys specifically for the Thanksgiving table. One of those farms is Nick's Organic Farm, which is a certified organic farm of 165 acres located near Buckeystown, Maryland. Nick's Organic Farm raises both Narrangansett and Bourbon Reds.  After doing some research into organic farms in Maryland, I chose Nick's and ordered two good sized Bourbon Red turkeys (one for myself and one for my father-in-law) for the Thanksgiving holiday.

I have spent a lot of time researching the cooking of heritage birds, deciding between roasting or smoking the bird, what kind of stuffing to use, how to prepare the birds, and the sides.  The theme for this Thanksgiving is a nod to Colonial America, with recipes being based on dishes from Mount Vernon, Monticello and Colonial Williamsburg.  Those recipes will be posted in the coming days and weeks, so stay tuned!


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Beaujolais Nouveau 2018

Thursday, November 15, 2018.  It is World Philosophy Day.  If you happen to be in Belgium, then it is Koningsfeest or King's Feast. In Germany, it would be Feestday Duitse Gemeenschap or German Community Day. If you happen to be in France, or, more specifically, just outside of Lyon, it would be Beaujolais day ... or, the day that George DeBoeuf releases "the first wine of the harvest."

This is not the first time that I have tried and reviewed a Beaujolais Nouveau. In that post, I discussed how the wine was made, using Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc grapes or Gamay grapes. The laws governing the wine require the grapes to be picked by hand.  The whole grapes are fermented in a carbon dioxide rich environment, which results in the juice being fermented inside the grapes. The resulting wine is then "aged" for a brief period of time and bottled 6 to 8 weeks after the harvest. This is as young as a wine can get and one of the few reds that comes with the instructions, "drink on sight." 

The Beaujolais Nouveau pours a dark berry in color, with garnet or ruby tones. Those dark hues fade quickly toward the edges of the glass, turning a light maroon and even becoming a very light red along the edges.  

The aromatic elements of this wine start with a little tart cherry or cranberry, which subside as the wine opens. There is a slight earthiness, trending towards slate or pebble.  There is also perhaps some pencil shaving in the nose of the wine. 

They say that the Beaujolais Noveau may change a little from year to year. Back in 2012, I found some tart and sour cherries, which, as the wine opened, ripened into more full cherries. The complete opposite of what may have found, such as cherries, raspberries and other light red fruits. For 2018, the wine was not as tart.  Rather, the most prominent note was that cranberry. The wine is kind of a reminder that Thanksgiving in the United States, which often features a cranberry dish on the table, is just one week away. There are some other elements, such as some raspberry, that become more pronounced. As with the 2012 vintage, the tartness fades and the fruit ripens as the wine sits in the glass.  

Since it was released today and it is Beaujolais Nouveau Day, it is available at many wine stores. I paid a little more than $11.00 per bottle.  


Monday, November 12, 2018

Smoked Ribeye Roast, Uruguayan Asado Style

I have a fascination with the country of Uruguay.  The relatively smallish country bordered by Brazil to the north and, across the Rio de la Plata, within sight of Argentina. My fascination as entirely to do with the country's cuisine.

It all began a few years ago with my personal culinary challenge to prepare a main course from Uruguay as part of my Around the World in 80 Dishes challenge.  I made Chivitos al Pan, a sandwich loaded with meat, cheese and eggs. That stands as perhaps my favorite challenge to date. After that time, I have wanted to learn more about the cuisine of Uruguay.

And, this post provides that opportunity.  Uruguayan cuisine is perhaps the most meat centric cuisine in at least the Western hemisphere, if not the world. The country has a population of just little more than 3.4 million people in 2016, but consumes more than 427 million pounds of  meat during that same year.  That is 124 pounds per person that year.  With the average weight of a person around 137 pounds, that means that, on average, an Uruguayan eats as much meat as the average person weighs.  That is quite the feat.

But it is not just about eating meat, it is the grilling of the meat. In many ways it defines Uruguayan cuisine. The chicken, beef, pork and chorizo on the parilla, carefully watched and tended to by the asador. There is nothing like taming the coals and cooking ungodly amounts of meat for an asado. (If I did not have my current job, my dream job would be that of an asador.  Perhaps upon retirement, a move to Uruguay and I could start a second career as an asador, cooking untold amounts of meats while casually sipping one of Uruguay's wines, like a Tannat or a Cabernet Sauvignon.)

It is this tradition of grilling that inspired me to make a ribeye roast over coals.  To be sure, this is not the parilla true style of cooking.  I did not have the arrangement for that.  Instead, I used my smoker, with its grill (and without the liquid bowl) to create a direct charcoal grilling. The one significant difference is that I decided to use some hickory wood to add smoke to the ribeye roast.  

To underscore the Uruguayan inspiration, I prepared a classic Uruguayan chimichurri for this ribeye roast. Like its Argentinian neighbor, this chimichurri is full of fresh parsley, garlic and oregano, mixed with olive oil and vinegar to create what is perhaps the most amazing accompaniment for grilled beef.  The vinegar helps to cut through the fat of the ribeye roast.  The crushed red pepper flakes, along with the freshly ground black pepper and the peppery nature of the oregano, add a slight hint of heat.  These additional layers of flavor create an artistic masterpiece on the canvas that is the beef itself.

I have cooked a lot with ribeye roasts, and some of the recipes have made it on to this blog.  However, this is perhaps my favorite ribeye roast that I have done. Maybe it is the effort to draw inspiration from Uruguayan cuisine.  Maybe it is just that I love beef.  Either way, I am going to make this recipe again. 

Recipe adapted from Saveur
Serves several

Ingredients (for the ribeye roast):
1 ribeye roast (5 to 6 pounds)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Hickory wood chunks

Ingredients (for the Uruguayan chimichurri):
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup finely chopped parsley
3/4 cup finely chopped oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1.  Prepare the roast.  Combine the salt, black pepper, oregano and garlic powder and mix well.  Spray some olive oil over the roast.  Apply the salt and pepper mixture to all sides of the roast.  

2.  Prepare the smoker.  Soak the hickory chunks in water for 1 hour.  Prepare a fire for a 300 degree smoker.  Once the temperature is right, oil the grates and add the roast.  Smoke for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours until the temperature in the roast registers 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the roast from the smoker and let it rest, covered, for about 15 to 30 minutes. 

3.  Prepare the chimichurri.  Bring 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 cup of water to a boil in a 1 quart saucepan.  Let cool.  Whisk parsley, oregano, chile flakes, oil, vinegar, garlic and pepper in a bowl.  Stir in salt water mixture.  Let chimichurri sit for at least 30 minutes.

4.  Finish the dish.  Slice the ribeye roast and serve immediately with the chimichurri.


Thursday, November 8, 2018


As the story goes, "there is a 3m x 3m square in our Richmond, VA brewery with these three words painted on it.  What three words?  Exactly.  For the uninitiated, that's What3Words." I guess I am one of the uninitiated. The story continues, "It is a global addressing system to bring locations to the previously unlocatable.  Inspired by the positive impact of this system, we decided to name this IPA after a 3 meter square in the brewery where it was created.  Check it out."  I did, and learned that you have to be very exact.  ///Fear.Movie.Lions. puts you in Montrose, Virginia, where Stone Brewing has a production facility.  Switch the "s" to ///Fear.Movies.Lion and you find yourself outside of Scunthorpe, England. Switch that "s" again to ///Fears.Movie.Lion and you get transported to the middle of the Detroit River in the downtown of Motor City.  

Back to the beer, ///Fear.Movie.Lions is Stone Brewing's version of a New England-style IPA.  It is an unfiltered IPA that, according to the brewers, packs "a massive tropical and citrus notes."  That's quite a claim for an New England-style IPA, because I have found (in my humble opinion) that many of the IPAs of this style are usually more subdued when it comes to the traditional citrus notes of an India Pale Ale.  So, I was gladly willing to to verify the brewers' claims.

Before I do, however, just a few notes about the NE IPA style.  Apparently, just a few months ago, it was the style.  Some even went so far as to call it the "hottest style" that "conquered America." Yeah, right.  For me, NE IPAs always seemed like "Adult Alternative" music, as opposed to "Alternative music."  It is as if you are looking on a jukebox for Soundgarden songs and all you can find is Crowded House songs.  It is just not the same.  That is how I view NE IPAs ... it is not just the same as an IPA.  I expect an IPA to have a hop-forward profile, with that resinous, piney, citrus fruit punch in each sip.  The NE IPAs that I have had prior to this beer have been a hazy, mellower experience that just ordinarily does not appeal to me when I am looking for a hoppy beer.  (And, don't get me started about "session" IPAs, that is like the jukebox is filled with Air Supply songs.)

According to the Beer Certification Judge Program, a NE IPA is supposed to be a smoother, hazier, juicier version of an American IPA. Straw or yellow in color, hazy or opaque, with an intense hop aroma and an intense hop flavor.  The good people at the BCJP also note that there may be a bready, grainy, lightly sweet flavor in the beer as well.  Except, as I noted above, none of the NE IPAs that I have tried in the past ever had the hop intensity that the BCJP would expect.  

As the photos show, the Fear.Movie.Lions is a hazy unfiltered beer, with the golden, yellowish color one would expect from an India Pale Ale.  When the hazy beer is poured into the glass, there is a thick foam that clings to the sides of the glass, and, floats around like thin cirrus clouds occasionally overtaken by a cumulus cloud.  

The aroma is very well defined.  There is a definite citrus fruit note in the aroma, perhaps mango or melon, or a mellow orange.  The orange carries through into the taste, which carries a more modest form of the bitterness for which Stone is known.  That bitterness is, unlike other Stone offerings, expertly balanced with a malty, almost sweet character that makes this beer very drinkable. The brewers note that "lingering lime peel and tropical fruit derived from the hops stand out on the finish, begging one to seek out more." I think that is an adequate description of the beer.

Although I am a skeptic of the New England-style IPA, I have to say that Stone's ///Fear.Movie.Lions is the best one of the style that I have had to date. It makes me want to buy more of that style, which will probably be another six pack of ///Fear.Movie.Lions. 

As for What3Words, if you want to find me, you could check out ///waveguides.unsteady.treehouse. (Actually, you won't find me there, but you will be standing on a beach on the Mauritian isle of Vingt Cinq with a lovely view of the Indian Ocean.)


Friday, November 2, 2018

Angel Cruz Beef Skewers

After the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, thousands of Cambodians sought refuge in the United States.  It is estimated that, by 1994, approximately 158,000 Cambodians had legally entered the U.S., most of those were refugees. The United States settled these refugees across the country; and, over time, Cambodian communities began to emerge. Communities such as those in Lowell, Massachusetts (which is the second largest in the United States); Jacksonville, Florida; and Columbus, Ohio, along with Los Angeles and Stockton, California.

And, in Stockton, there is Angel Cruz park, a local gathering site for the Cambodian Community.  Families gather together at the park to "hang out, grill, and eat."  I have never been to Stockton, California, let alone to Angel Cruz Park.  Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, I can still get a sense of what happens there. If one were to Google "Cambodian Angel Cruz Park," like I did, he or she would find videos of cooks grilling and preparing a variety of Cambodian foods. 

If you want to get a sense of the kinds of food being prepared, this video provides an example of the experience: 

While I may not be in Stockton, and, I am not Cambodian, that does not mean that I can't try to bring a little of Angel Park out my way.  I found a recipe from Nite Yun, the owner and chef of Nyum Bai (which means "Let's Eat!" in Khmer).  According to Eater, Nite Yun was born in a refugee camp in Thailand.  At age 2, her parents made their way to the United States as refugees. While her parents had been sponsored to go to Texas, they settled in California, Stockton to be exact.  Although her parents were thousands of miles away from their home, they brought their culture, and their food, with them to the U.S.  Yun remembers, "sitting on the floor, chopping lemongrass, peeling garlic, washing veggies and herbs."  She loved that work, and she eventually learned how to cook on her own.  

As her interest in food grew, Nite Yun realized that the food of her family and culture, Cambodian food, was unrepresented.  There were no good Cambodian restaurants.  During a trip to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, Yun was at a noodle stall when she decided that she would start her own restaurant.  A restaurant focused on her culinary and cultural heritage.  That moment led to Nyum Bai. The menu is graced with dishes such as Naim Chien Chrouk (crispy rolls filled with taro, cabbage, glass noodles, pork, garlic and onions), Kuy Teav Phnom Penh (rice dish with minced pork and shrimp served in a 7 hour pork broth with herbs and crispy garlic) and Chien Trey & Ngoum Mango (crispy catfish topped with tangy and tart green mango salad, shallots and red pepper).

Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to try any of these dishes, all of which sound delicious.  I did find a recipe from Nite Yun's for beef skeewers.  The name is Angel Cruz Beef Skewers, a nod to the gathering of Cambodian families at Angel Cruz park. The recipe calls for the beef to be marinated in a very tasty paste of lemongrass, kaffir lime and fish sauce.  The end result is so good that I am seriously thinking of trying this marinade with chicken or pork skewers. 

Recipe from Saveur
Serves 2-4

6 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed, 
     soft inner cores thinly sliced
6 kaffir lime leaves finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 (1-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and minced
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of honey
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
Wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

1.  Prepare the beef.  In a food processor, combine the lemongrass with the lime leaves, garlic, shallots, ginger, and turmeric, and pulse until a smooth paste forms.  Scrape the past in a large bowl, and add the beef, honey, oil, fish sauce, oyster sauce and paprika.  Toss the beef until evenly coated and then cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. 

2.  Grill the skewers.  Light a grill.  Thread the beef on to wooden skewers and then grill, turning as needed until charred and cooked through, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to a platter and serve while hot.