Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fourth and Final Christmas

Sorry Mom.  Sorry Dad.  Sorry other mom and dad.  Sorry step parents and step siblings and whomever else might be offended.  But Christmas #4 was my favorite.

Christmas #4 was the day after Christmas (so I'm only two days behind, if you're counting), and was spent in the company of my best friend Shana, who lives in New York, her friend Chris, and Jeff and my couple friend Denise and Scott.  I didn't worry about cleaning my house.  I didn't worry about being fancy.  Heck, Shana and Chris are vets, so I didn't even have to worry about my pets running amok because they're over all that.

And I got to make a turkey.  For those of you who don't memorize my every post, I have been jonesing to make a turkey since watching far too much Food Network/Cooking Channel at Thanksgiving.  And I even complained about not having the room/time to throw a turkey related dinner party.  Shows what I know!  Just another example of how you can't believe EVERYTHING your read on the internet.  Just stuff you read on Wikipedia.  That's all that's for sure true.

It was overall a successful evening, with just one minor flaw.  That being, I may have almost burned down my house.  I'm not sure.

I used a combination of two Alton Brown turkey recipes - brined and butterflied.  More specifically, I used the second recipe for dry brined, butterflied turkey, but instead of doing a dry brine I did a traditional brine.  Unfortunately, the recipe calls for placing the bird directly onto the oven rack of a 425 degree oven.  Of course, you put a pan below to catch the drippings, but you're still left with turkey fat dripping down, sizzling, and creating a lot of smoke.  A LOT of smoke.  Really.  I don't know if I did something wrong (the recipe does call for you to put root vegetables into the roasting pan under the turnkey, but I don't see why this would reduce the level of smoke.)  I suspect that Alton's fancy on camera kitchen and oven are both larger, better, and more well ventilated than mine, because we definitely had to open up all the windows and take down the lower level smoke detectors (hmm... have I put those back up yet...?  Better check on that).  In a moment of panic I even transferred the turkey from the oven rack into the actual rack of my roasting pan - hoping that this would cut down on the smoke building up inside my oven.  I don't think it did.  Really, the only thing that did anything was reducing the heat - which thankfully the recipe called for after 30 minutes.  So, I don't know if I did something wrong, or if my kitchen just isn't set up for that kind of thing, or if that was just what was supposed to happen.  Regardless, it was just a little bit of too much exciting.  The turkey was absolutely perfect, moist, browned, crispy skinned, and delicious, but I'll still think twice before trying that technique again.

We had pasta instead of potatoes because I am sick of potatoes, and because Shana mostly just eats pasta (not just as a substitute for potatoes.  Like, that is all she eats.  Like a small child.)  Plus I look for any opportunity to have this conversation:

"Do you like the pasta?"
"Yes, it's very good."
"I made it myself."
"What, like the sauce?"
"Well, yes, the sauce, but also the actual pasta."
"What?? You make your own pasta?"
"Why yes, I do.  I'm fancy."

And... scene.

Having really gotten pasta down, it is now quite easy.  Using my stand mixer, I let the dough kneed for a long time, but I don't have to do anything.  This time, I actually kneeded the dough while in the shower.  Now that's multitasking!

The pasta recipe I used was actually a modification of a Giada De Laurentis recipe, which is unusual because I don't really care for her.  She has far too many teeth.  But it worked out well, too, because we ended up watching Giada before dinner - mostly with the sound off making fun of her reaching for bowls that were just slightly out of her reach.  If you've seen the show, you'll get it.

Some of the reviews for this recipe said it was grainy and bland.  I'm not sure if the modifications I made prevented this, or if other people just overcooked the sauce, but I had no problems with consistency, and the six of us polished all of this pasta off as a side dish.  There could have been more.  It may have been the first time that I didn't make way too much food.

I like the wings!!!

Brined, Butterflied Turkey:

For the Brine:
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp allspice berries
  • 2 1 inch chunks fresh garlic
  • 4-5 large cloves garlic - smashed
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 gallon plus more ice cold water
  • Ice cubes

For the Turkey:
  • 1 12 lb (ish) Turkey - thawed
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon peel, pith removed
  • 1 stick butter, cut into 1 inch chunks

In a large pot, or cooler, or whatever (my dad uses a garbage bag.  I think that's gross.  I used my canning pot) combine all brine ingredients except ice and stir to combine and dissolve salt.  Add turkey (just the turkey.  Remove any reject bits from the cavity of the turkey, if included, and reserve for stock).  Add ice and additional water to cover turkey.  Store in a cold place (back porch, garage, etc) for 8 to 16 hours.

Remove turkey from brine and discard brine, with the exception of rosemary sprigs.

Rinse turkey inside and out with cold water, and dry thoroughly. 

Butterfly turkey by removing back bone using a sharp kitchen shears or heavy knife.  Reserve back bone for stock.  Place turkey cut side down on a large cutting board, and push down firmly until breast bone snaps and the turkey flattens slightly.

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

In a food processor, combine rosemary, garlic, and lemon peel, and process until minced.  Add butter and process until well combined.  Rub the butter into the skin of the turkey (this will only work if the turkey is actually dry).

If you're feeling bold, place the turkey (cut side down) directly on the oven rack above a large roasting pan.  Or, for the less brave, use a rack inside of a roasting pan.  Tuck the rosemary sprigs from the brine into various folds in the turkey.

Bake at 425 for 30 minutes.  Then reduce the heat and bake at 350 degrees until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 155 degrees - an additional 40 to 50 minutes.  Allow to rest 30 minutes before slicing.

Fettuccine Bake

  • 1 lb fresh fettuccine pasta
  • 2 cups grated white cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until not quite al dente, stirring occasionally. 

In a large bowl combine the remaining ingredients. Gently toss with the pasta until all the ingredients are combined and the pasta is coated. Place the pasta in a buttered baking dish. At this point, you can cover the pasta and store in the fridge until ready to bake.  Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.

Bake at 375 degrees until golden on top - about 25 minutes.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving

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