Sunday, November 18, 2018

Becky's Favorite Turkey Gravy with Roast Drippings

I've been making turkey gravy with roast drippings as long as I've been making my roast turkey. And I've never written down the recipe ... until now!

Warning: to get this right, this is a multi-day affair, starting with making turkey stock from the turkey neck and other bits that don't get brined with the rest of the turkey.  Measurements are approximate, and be sure to taste early and often!

Turkey Stock

Neck from a turkey-in-a-bag (preferably fresh, but thawed if frozen!)
Two medium onions
Two medium carrots
One medium celery root (or celery stalks in equal volume to carrot)
1 Tbs black peppercorns
A few sprigs of thyme
A few leaves of sage
A few bay leaves

A big stock pot
A relatively fine strainer (smaller pitch than your peppercorns)

Throw neck from the turkey into the pot (along with any other extra bits that you don't want to put in the brining bag, minus the giblets.  I suppose you can use these, but I have no idea how).  Coarsely chop the onions and throw them into the pot.  (An aside: if you keep the onions in the fridge they won't cause your eyes to water as much.  I just did an experiment, and can confirm this is 100% true. 😭) Peel the carrots and chop them coarsely and throw into the pot.  Throw the peppercorns and herbs into the pot.

Fill with ~4 quarts of water.  Bring to a boil on a back burner, and turn down to a low simmer immediately.  Let it simmer for about 1 hour, and turn off the heat.

For the next few days, about twice a day, turn on the heat and bring to a boil.  Immediately turn off the heat once it gets to a boil.  Every time you do this, more delicious turkeyness will transfer to the water, and your patience will be rewarded.

The day before you are roasting the turkey, put stock through a big strainer into a large bowl to remove all the solid bits (the strainer must be fine enough to capture the peppercorns).  Put in the fridge to cool.  The excess fat will float to the top and solidify.  Skim off as much of this fat as is practical, and dispose of in the compost

And there you have it!  Delicious turkey stock.  If it's reduced down a lot, in theory it can be watered down a bit, but then it won't be quite as yummy.  You'll want to save some of this for the stuffing, and the rest for the gravy.  Keep in mind that this is unsalted, so please add salt to your stuffing recipe accordingly (or salt the turkey stock to taste, but leaving it unsalted is more flexible).

Turkey Gravy with Roast Drippings

Turkey Stock (As much as you want to make into gravy!  You'll get about 1 cup of gravy for each cup of stock)
Salted or unsalted butter (5 Tbs for each 3 cups of stock)
All-purpose flour (1 Tbs for each Tbs of butter)
Salt (to taste; you'll need more if you use unsalted butter)
Fresh-ground black pepper (to taste)
Pan of roast veggies and fat and black stickiness from beneath the roasted turkey.
1 cup red wine (drinkable, but not too nice)

Pour off all the liquid fat from the turkey pan into a bowl.  (Be careful, it's hot!)  This is delicious when poured onto the stuffing before throwing that in the oven while the turkey rests.  Put the roasting pan on the stove, across two burners.  Turn these burners to high.  When the veggies start to sizzle, pour on the red wine and scrape with a wooden spoon to remove anything stuck to the bottom while the alcohol cooks off.  You may need to add a bit more wine or water depending on how dry it gets, how stuck everything is, etc.  Pour the scraped veggies and remaining liquid into a strainer and smush through to save as much of the dripping liquid as possible in a bowl.  If you don't think it's enough, you can repeat this process!  Note that it's important that no solids make it through the strainer.

In a medium saucepan, heat the turkey stock to a low simmer.

In another medium saucepan or saucier, slowly melt the butter on medium low.  When it is melted, add the flour and whisk while it cooks for ~5-10 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the turkey stock, making sure everything is smoothly combined.  Add the roast dripping liquid from above, some fresh ground pepper, and a few pinches of salt.  Whisking frequently, bring to a simmer and cook down to reduce until thickened a bit (about 10 minutes or so?).  Taste for salt and pepper.  Make sure you don't oversalt it before it reduces!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Apple Pie

I've been working on a satisfactory apple pie recipe for years, and never came up with anything ... well, better than a "replacement pie".  This Christmas, I tried a new crust and a new filling, and it was pretty good!  And then when my sister texted me asking if I had blogged the recipe, I guess I finally have a blog-worthy apple pie!

The key to a good apple pie is the crust.  Also the filling.  The two keys to a good apple pie are the crust and the filling.  Also the apples themselves.  I'll come in again. 

Amongst the keys to a good apple pie are the crust, the filling, and the apples.  But let's start with the crust.  For years I had been using an all-butter variation of the Cook's Illustrated "Foolproof and Flaky Pie Dough" by J. Kenji Alt (published over a decade ago in November 2007!). And it worked okay.  Adding the vodka was a neat trick that helped keep it moist and rollable without too much gluten.  But it never quite lived up to the hype.  I always thought it was because I had substituted all butter for the butter/shortening mixture (I refuse to use shortening!), and it was something I'd have to live with.  Then, in the January 2018 issue of Cook's Illustrated is an update a decade later: "Foolproof All-Butter Pie Dough".  In a recap of the old recipe the new one says "you continue processing until the fat and dry ingredients form a smooth paste".  What's that?  I had never done this.  And looking back at the final text of the old recipe it says to process until the dough "just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds".  That's not a paste! But ... in the sidebar, it says "1. Make a fat and flour paste".  So the old recipe text, which I had followed for a decade, was WRONG!  😬😬😬 And I'm pretty sure this was my problem all along.

Anyway, for the filling I had always followed the straightforward but somewhat boring Joy of Cooking filling.  Or one of the pre-cooked Cooks Illustrated fillings.  They never quite worked. This time?  I opened up Baking Illustrated.  I appreciate that it goes by weight for the apples.  It says to use a mix of Granny Smith and Macintosh, but I just used the apples that the kids chose from the farmers' market stand and it worked out great.

All-Butter Crust for Double-Crust Pie

Makes 2 9-inch pie crusts (1 double)

20 Tbs unsalted butter (chilled)
2.5 cups (12.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup ice water

Food processor
Rolling pin
2 2+ gallon "jumbo" ziploc-style bags
2 pie tins
1 cookie sheet

Grate 4 Tbs butter on large holes of box grater and put in freezer.  Chop remaining butter into small pieces, put in a small bowl, and put into freezer to chill for a few minutes.  Mix together 1.5 cup flour (only), sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, reserving 1 cup flour.  Add butter cubes and process until paste forms, up to a minute.  Carefully break paste into chunks with hands.  Add remaining flour and pulse 4-5 times until broken up.  Transfer to bowl and toss with grated butter.  Sprinkle 0.25 cup ice water over mixture.  Toss until moist.  Add remaining ice water and mix with spatula until dough sticks together.  

Split dough into two halves, shape into 5" disks and place one in each jumbo bag.  Seal the bags (removing as much air as possible) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 2 days.  Place two pie tins and cookie sheet in freezer. Remove dough from freezer and put on a large table. Roll out the dough inside the bag. This helps keep everything together. You'll have to unstick the dough from inside the bag every several rolls. When the dough is rolled out (enough for a tin plus 1" + margin), remove pie tins and cookie sheet from freezer. Put the bag with dough on the frozen cookie sheet. This ensures that the crust stays nice and cold. Cut off the top half of the bag. Put one of the pie tins right side up on the dough. Flip dough and pie tin over, so that you have the dough draped over the back of the tin. Peel off the rest of the plastic bag, and put the second pie tin on the first and press dough into place. Flip over and remove outer pie tin. Tamp down bottom circle of crust. Trim overhang to within 1/2 inch, fold under edge and make a nice fluted edge (this part I'm not very good at).  Refrigerate dough-lined plate while you prepare the pie filling.

Apple Pie

2 Tbs all-purpose flour
3.5 pounds apples
1 Tbs juice and 1 tsp zest from one lemon
0.75 cup (5.25 ounces) sugar + 1 Tbs
0.25 tsp ground nutmeg
0.25 tsp ground cinnamon
0.125 tsp ground allspice
0.25 tsp salt
1 egg white, beaten lightly

Put one oven rack on lowest level, place a baking sheet on it, and heat oven to 500 F.  Peel, core, and slice apples into 0.25 inch slices and toss with lemon juice and zest.  In a medium bowl, mix 0.75 cup sugar, flour, spices, and salt.  Toss dry ingredients with the apples.  Put apple mixture (with the liquid!) into the chilled pie shell.

Roll out the second crust as above.  Place over the filling.  Trim and tuck the edges under the bottom pie crust.  Cut 4 big and 4 small slits in a nice pattern on top.  Brush with the egg white on top crust and sprinkle remaining 1 Tbs sugar.  This makes it look extra delicious!

Place pie on baking sheet and lower temperature to 425 F.  Bake until top is golden, 25 minutes.  Rotate pie and lower temperature to 375 F.  Bake until juices bubble and crust is done, 30-35 minutes longer.  Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Strawberry Upside-Down Valentine's Day Cake

Today is Valentine's Day!  And I wanted to try making something new.  Something suitable for Valentine's Day.  But I didn't know what it would be...

At the Farmers' Market, I bought a basket of strawberries.  (The great thing about living in coastal California, is that we have Farmers Markets – with fresh strawberries – all year round).  But I still didn't know what to do with them.   At Trader Joe's I picked up a pint of heavy cream.  That could surely be combined with strawberries in some way, but I was still aimless.

When we got home, I turned to Chef Google.  Searching for "valentine's day cake recipes" turned up this list which brought me to this recipe for Strawberry Upside-Down Cake.  But this was one of these semi-homemade kind of deals with marshmallows, jell-o mix, and boxed cake.  That just wouldn't do!  But it gave me the idea of where to start.

I could combine a simple strawberry pie filling recipe (strawberries + tapioca: done) with the All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake from the indispensable Cake Bible, and a whipped cream frosting (with red food coloring to make it pink for Valentine's Day!).  Becky says this "might be the best cake [I've] ever made." And here it is!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sam's Favorite Red Velvet Cupcakes

Sam's favorite color is red, so he's naturally (or is that unnaturally?) predisposed to liking red velvet cupcakes.  So when he asked for red velvet cupcakes for his third birthday, I wasn't surprised.  But I wanted to make them good!  Even if I had to use red food coloring...

To find a good recipe, I did some research online.  Luckily, Crumbly Cookie helpfully did a taste test of a whole bunch of recipes.  They settled on this one from Apple a Day (adapted from Saveur).  It looked like a solid place to start.  But I wanted something with a bit more chocolate punch.  (And while Becky may like cream cheese frosting, I don't.)  So I added the Cook's Illustrated chocolate ganache from their incredible "Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes" (adapted here.)  (If you want chocolate cupcakes, these are the best.)  And some quick "foolproof" chocolate frosting from the Cook's Illustrated yellow-cake recipe.

Some time before his fourth birthday, Sam discovered rainbow sprinkles.  The perfect topping!  Putting it all together, I think I have the Ultimate Red Velvet Cupcakes with Chocolate Inside and Out.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Best Whole-Wheat Bread-Machine Sandwich Bread

Our son is just like I was at his age: the only thing he will eat for lunch is a PB&J sandwich.  We use natural crunchy peanut butter (Trader Joe's is the best), and good quality strawberry jam.  But the bread is the most important part.

While the No-Kneed Bread makes delicious bread, it's not good sandwich bread.  For that, I turned to the Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook.  Ages ago, my friend recommended this cookbook to me and it is awesome.  Trying a few of the recipes, the "Light Whole-Wheat Bread" was almost there...but it was a bit too light, and I found the volume measurements to be a bit inconsistent.  When baking, having a scale is essential.  So I boosted the amount of whole-wheat flour, tweaked a few of the ingredients, and converted the volumes to weights, and voila!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Complete Guide to Building a Gingerbread House

When I was a young lad, my mom made a gingerbread house every December, and I loved helping to decorate it.  A few years ago, right after Sam was born, I revived the tradition.  (I wanted to have a track record of building them so the first one when Sam was aware of what was going on wouldn't be a disaster.)  These days my mom buys the kits ... and she offers me one every year.  NEVER.

Over the years, I've amassed a list of bookmarks for the combination of recipes that I use.  And every year I have to sift through them and figure out what works and what doesn't.  Why?  Because I've been too lazy to write it up.  But not this year!  It's a Chrismathanksgivikah miracle!

I've split the directions up into multiple posts.  This post has the overview and assembly instructions.  The next post has the gingerbread recipe..  Following is the optional stained glass window recipe.  Finally, the royal icing recipe.

Note that this must be done over a couple of days: the dough should chill in the fridge overnight; then the walls need a couple of hours to fully set before the house should be assembled and decorated.

Gingerbread with Fresh Ginger

I've tried many gingerbread recipes.  I've settled on a slight variation on this one. It's the perfect amount to make two 9"x13" baking sheets, suitable for the 5"x7"x8" house in my Complete Guide.  For best results, you should make the gingerbread dough on one day, refrigerate it overnight, and roll and bake it the next day.  You'll want to bake the gingerbread for a bit before cutting out the pieces.  Otherwise, they'll expand while baking and they won't fit together as expected.

Gingerbread House Stained Glass Windows

This was the first year that I tried to make stained glass windows for the gingerbread house.  And it was a lot easier than I had feared ... and they look great!  I used a variation on this stained glass recipe.  They've gone through all the trouble over many years perfecting the method.  Fantastic!

Gingerbread House Royal Icing

The final component to a gingerbread house is the royal icing.  This is literally the glue that holds everything together.  My favorite royal icing recipe is adapted from here.  It uses cream of tartar, which apparently has some magical property to help stabilize the egg whites (along with being the other half of baking powder).  It really does make a difference!

It really helps to put this in a squeeze bottle or other icing bottle.  If you don't have one available, you can apparently use a ziploc bag and cut a hole in the corner.  But seriously?  This doesn't work.  Get a bottle.

Monday, July 8, 2013

In Memoriam: Doc "Doctor" Rykoff, 1999-2013

At the end of August 2000 I bought a house.  Labor Day weekend I went with my friend Oksana to the Huron Valley Humane Society to adopt a dog.  She pointed out this adorably cute black lab in one of the cells.  He was very quiet -- he was probably the only dog in the place not barking.  But on the "test drive" he fetched sticks and licked my face.  And I immediately went in to sign the adoption papers.

He had been dropped off at the pound a week earlier by a family who claimed to have found him on the side of the road and kept him for a few months before bringing him in.  When they brought him in he weighed less than 55 pounds.  He had gained over 5 pounds in a week, and another 5 pounds the next week.  He didn't have a name, so the kind folks at the pound named him "Doc", which seemed like a good fit.  He didn't have a birthday, but they estimated his age at "between 1 and 2", so I celebrated his half-birthday on Labor Day every year.  And he didn't have any bark, since he had clearly not been well treated.  I'll never know exactly where he was from or how he got to the pound.

The one thing he did still have was testicles.  And they don't let you take an un-neutered dog home from the pound.  And it wasn't until Tuesday that the vet was coming to snip him!  So I had to put Doc back in the cage at the end of the day.  I'll never forget the look in his eyes: "I did everything right!  I thought things were great!  Why are you leaving?"  But then he was that much happier to see me when I picked him up.

The first night was rough.  I had to sleep with my hand off the side of the bed laying on him to keep him from shaking.  But when Auntie Amanda first came to visit we bought him a proper dog bed.  When my parents first came to visit he ran outside and hid behind their car.  But soon my dad came to occupy the coveted "favorite person besides Eli" spot ... a spot that Becky was never able to overtake.

He still had a lot of puppy in him.  He ate my sunglasses.  He ate my astronomy textbook.  He ate several shoes.  He would get trapped in the closet when he tried to hide from thunderstorms.

My first summer with him we went to Los Alamos for two months.  We went for hikes almost every day.  He swam in the Rio Grande.  He scratched his face barreling through some barbed wire in the forest.  And he most assuredly had found his bark.

Back in Ann Arbor we went fetching in the park every day.  I bought a chuck-it so I could throw the ball farther.  I bought a light-up ball and a light-up collar so we could continue fetching at night.  He ran circles around the other dogs -- literally.  He ripped his ear on a branch and needed a triple dose of sedatives to get him to sleep while they stitched it up.  And he woke up full of energy 15 minutes later.  They thought he was going to be out all night.

He was a great car passenger.  He drove with me to Colorado every winter to bound in the snow with his Uncle Buddy.  He would eat the snow to keep cool, and then come inside and shiver uncontrollably as it melted in his stomach.  He hiked around McDonald Observatory in west Texas.  (But he never did like the thorns and burrs around there.)

He came with Becky and me when we moved from Ann Arbor to Santa Barbara.  He loved the drive, and the smells along the way.  He loved hiking the trails in the mountains.

But it was when we got to Santa Barbara that he really found his true love: the ocean.  He would crash through the waves to fetch his orange bumper toy. Again.  And again.  And again.  And then I would throw the tennis ball down the beach with the chuck-it.  Again.  And again.  And again.  And he maybe would be tired at that point.  I know I was.

But he was getting on in years.  He survived a snail-bait poisoning, thanks to Becky's quick reaction and his strong constitution.  He started to miss a few steps.  He couldn't go in the waves as well as he used to, but he could still fetch the ball. He had new challenges to contend with.  Ones that cry and crawl and occasionally tug at fur.  Doc had infinite patience and is super sweet with kids, but you could tell he sometimes resented the other attention-grabbing kid in the house.

Doc carried on.  Made the move up from Santa Barbara to Oakland, but at that point he couldn't handle the waves any more.  He survived the attack from the pit-bull.  He survived the endless fireworks in the neighborhood for Chinese New Year and the 4th of July.  But he was getting slower.  His walks were getting shorter.  His fetches less and less often.

His last night at home he was having a dream.  With adorable twitches and, sadly, no more little barks.  And I like to think he was dreaming of chasing a ball into the ocean.