Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Save the Dead Turkeys Project

Do you know where your turkey carcass is tonight?

If the garbage man hasn't already taken it away, remove it from the garbage immediately. Then remove any leftover skin, and return that to the garbage, holding tightly to your precious carcass. Then remove any large pieces of meat, and consider using them to make a turkey salad (recipe follows). Or add them to soup. Or make a turkey sandwich. Or just eat it straight off the dead bird with your fingers. I don't care, as long as you waste nothing. Then return to the almost-clean carcass. Then begin dreaming up all the delicious soups you will soon make with your very own homemade turkey stock.

Recipe: Turkey Stock
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1997 ed. Makes 12 to 20 cups of stock.

1 turkey carcass from a 12- to 25-lb bird, broken up, plus any rogue bones lying around
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 small bunch parsley (optional)

Put the turkey carcass in a large stockpot and fill the pot with cold water so that turkey is just barely covered. Bring water to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat and simmer gently about 30 minutes. Skim often to remove impurities floating at surface. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours. Continue skimming impurities and add water as needed to cover contents of pot. Strain into a clean pot or heat proof container. Let cool, uncovered, then refrigerate. Remove the fat when ready to use. May also be kept frozen for up to one month.

Recipe: Curried Turkey Salad
So good! I usually make it with chicken, but it's equally good, if not better, with turkey. Great on sandwiches. Makes 4 servings.

1/2 C plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style
1 T plus 1 t curry powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 C sliced almonds
1/4 C golden raisins
2 C shredded turkey meat
salt to taste

Mix together the yogurt, curry powder, salt and pepper. May be made a few days in advance and kept in the refrigerator. Stir together almonds, raisins, turkey, and yogurt. Season with salt to taste. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to about 5 days.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Turkey Day Recipe Ambush

Not going to go off on my usual multi-paragraph introductory tangent. Just getting down to business for everyone's favorite gastronomical throwdown and typing up the recipes for three items I'll be contributing to this year's smorgasbord. But I would like to take a moment to reflect on how very economical Thanksgiving can be. First of all, a turkey is not exactly a highfalutin' bird. It feeds a ton of people and leaves behind a carcass big enough to make a whole vat of delicious stock. Secondly, the sides are almost as proletarian as the main course. In no other American holiday do homely tubers and root vegetables play such a starring role. Thirdly, these homely tubers and root vegetables often originate in cans, and are then sprinkled with marshmallows and served in casserole dishes. And fourthly, gelatinous sliced cranberry sauce. That sentence doesn't even need a verb.

Above picture stolen from but at least attributed to the Dallas Morning News

Recipe: Sweet Potato Chips (not pictured above)

These are kind of labor intensive, but everyone loves them. And they are a lot less labor intensive now that I have a mandoline. Mine's kind of fancy (Cuisinart -- it was a gift) but, even so, it was around $30 according to the gift-giver. And now that there's, you know, a recession, you could probably find one a lot cheaper than that. Terra Chips, be damned!

Serves about six people sitting in front of a football game. No matter how many chips you make, there ain't never enough!

2-3 large yams or 5-6 sweet potatoes
1/3 C olive oil
2 T cumin
2 T nutmeg
peanut oil for frying - as much as you need to fill your pot 1.5 in.
sugar for dusting
salt for dusting

Peel the yams/sweet potatoes as thin as you can without slicing off your fingers. Roll them around with the olive oil, cumin, and nutmeg, so all are fairly evenly coated. "Marinate" them for a couple hours or up to 24 hours. Heat the peanut oil in a heavy pot at medium-high heat. You'll know it's ready to go when you drop in one of the smaller chips and it immediately sizzles. Fry the chips in several batches to avoid overcrowding in the pot. You definitely don't need to fry them in just a single layer, but be prepared to do some stirring around so they don't stick to each other. Each batch should be done and crispy in about 3 minutes. Remove the chips from the pot with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel on top of a plate. Add the next batch and, while it's frying, sprinkle the chips that are drying on the paper towel with salt and sugar. Once they seem fairly dry, transfer them to a large bowl. Change paper towels every couple of batches. Repeat these steps with the remaining batches. Very good with cilantro-garlic yogurt sauce as dip.

Addendum, or On The Joys of Peanut Oil:

I've used other oils to make these, but peanut oil definitely works the best. I find that canola and vegetable oil can be hard to control, and the chips end up either soggy or charred, plus they taste too much of the oil and not enough of sweet potatoes. Olive oil is absolutely out of the question for deep frying. However, peanut oil is not all that cheap (I usually find it on sale at Safeway for around $17), and I think people are hesitant to buy it since it only comes in monstrous jugs. What if you never need to use it again?!?! Well, my friend, once you start frying in peanut oil, you will never go back. Its good qualities are its mild flavor and high smoking point. Its bad qualities are none, except maybe the price. But let's think about these sweet potato chips as an example: all you really need to buy are 2 yams ($1?). To fry up a large batch, you will use roughly a quarter of the jug of peanut oil -- less if you use a pot with a smallish diameter. So, really, this awesomely impressive appetizer that serves a crowd of football-frenzied, hungry Owen men costs about $5. An impressive feat, to say the least.

UPDATE: Shopper's sells peanut oil for $12! So now you really have no excuse to avoid it.

Recipe: Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing

I made this for the first time last year, and it was a hit. Unfortunately, I cannot locate my original source for this recipe. If you've ever heard me harp on some of my former students' sneaky ways, you know that nothing boils my blood like a plagiarizer, but I hope you will forgive me this one indiscretion.

My family also still serves the
Joy of Cooking's traditional bread stuffing, since Owens can be somewhat hunkerous about their traditions. Hence, the cloying sweet potato casserole continues to feature prominently, despite my years of protest. But this stuffing was quite popular among the more progressive members of the family. Yes, I realize sausage and cornbread stuffing is not exactly newfangled, but we're a gelatinous sliced cranberry sauce kind of people.

Serves 12-14.

5-6 hot Italian sausages
4 T olive oil
2 C chopped carrot
2 C chopped celery
1 C chopped onion
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 C fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 13" x 9" pan of cornbread, double Mark Bittman's recipe or use two boxes of corn bread mix
6 eggs
1 C chicken stock, plus more if needed

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove sausage casings and heat 1 T olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat; add sausages and break up and brown them. Remove from pot, drain sausages on paper towel, and set aside. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the same pot, and add the vegetables, salt, pepper, and sage. Cook about 10 minutes, until veggies are slightly soft. Crumble the corn bread in a very large bowl and add to it the sausage, veggies, egg, and chicken stock. Stir everything together. If it seems dry, add a bit more chicken stock. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or till browned and crispy.

Recipe: Flourless Chocolate Cake

I've already overdosed on the pumpkin desserts, so I will be bringing this cake. I have not made it before, but the recipe comes from the Cook's Illustrated Holiday Baking Book (on sale today at grocery stores nationwide!), and was created by Alice Medrich, aka the Queen of Chocolate, so I know it's going to be fabulous. I love that it requires only three ingredients: eggs, butter, and chocolate.

In all
Cook's Illustrated recipes, the cook/author has an extremely specific goal in mind, and tests as many versions of a particular dish as necessary to meet that specific goal (after all, they do work at America's Test Kitchen). Alice describes her vision of the perfect flourless chocolate cake as follows:

"I wanted something dense, moist, and ultrachocolaty, but with some textural finesse. I wanted a texture somewhere between a substantial marquis au chocolat--that dense, buttery, and just slightly aerated chocolate mousse with a characteristic dry but creamy texture--and a heavy New York-style cheesecake. I wanted the flavor and character of good, eating-quality chocolate to reign supreme, with no unnecessary sweetness and not even a grain of sugar on the palate. In short, I wanted an intense bittersweet "adult" dessert -- no sticky kid's stuff."

Wow. While I'm happy if any dessert I make is merely intact, Alice's lofty goal yet inspires me to do better! Her description also puts to words exactly how I think a flourless chocolate cake should be. The family will no doubt be blown away by the ultrachocolaty finesse of this intense bittersweet "adult" dessert, so long as I take extra care not to miss some important step.

Serves 12-16. Best made a day in advance, and stored in the refrigerator overnight.

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
8 eggs, cold
1 lb semisweet chocolate, chopped coarse
1/4 C strong coffee or coffee liqueur (optional)
powdered sugar or cocoa powder for dusting (optional)

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line bottom of 8-in. springform pan with parchment paper and grease the sides of pan. Wrap outside of pan with 2 sheets of aluminum foil and set in large roasting pan. Bring a kettle of water to boil.

Beat eggs in large bowl (preferably with whisk attachment, if your mixer has one) at high speed until the volume doubles, about 5 min.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate and butter (with coffee or liqueur, if using) in large heatproof bowl set over pan of almost simmering water until smooth and very warm (about 115 degrees on instant-read thermometer), stirring once or twice. Using spatula, fold one-third of egg foam into chocolate mixture until only a few streaks of the egg are visible; fold in half of remaining foam, then last of foam, until mixture is totally homogeneous.

Scrape batter into prepared springform pan and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Set roasting pan on oven rack and pour in enough boiling water to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake 22 to 25 minutes, until cake has risen slightly, edges are just beginning to set, thin-glazed brownielike crust has formed on surface, and instant-read thermometer inserted halfway into center reads 140 degrees. Remove cake pan from water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

About 30 minutes before serving, remove sides of pan, invert cake onto sheet of wax paper, peel off parchment paper, and reinvert cake onto serving platter. Sieve light sprinkling of powdered sugar or cocoa powder over cake, if desired.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Two New(ish) Cheap Eateries in Chevy Chase

It's Chicken Madness here!

I have yet to try the new Don Pollo (that's "Sir Chicken" to you), the Peruvian rotisserie chicken place in Chevy Chase, but I used to frequent the Rockville location all the time and, damn, was it ever good. I'm not sure how much the Chevy Chase location charges for the generous Quarter Chicken meal (includes either a breast and wing or thigh and drumstick; two sides from your choice of rice and beans, plantains, fried yucca, and a couple less exciting options; and two awesome dipping sauces - a spicy chimichurri type thing and an aioli type thing), but in Rockville it was only $5.25. It's such a filling meal that even I would pay more than that, and I suspect I will have to at its fancy new digs in the 20815. But the fried yucca alone is worth every penny.

A spot whose goodness and low prices I can attest to is Saveur India, conveniently located below the Trader Joe's. It's been around for probably about a year now. I've had their lamb curry lunch special (excellent), which I think cost around $7 or $8, but last night, when leaving TJ's, I noticed a sign for a new lunch special: $5 gets you a quarter tandoori chicken, naan, a salad, and I think one other thing. Specificity never was my strong suit. But you should try it, or you should join me and we should try it together! Only five buckaroonies!

Don Pollo
7007 Wisconsin Ave
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Saveur India
6831 Wisconsin Ave Suite, #29
Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Paean to the Incredibl[y cheap] Edibl[y amazing] Egg, Part I

[To the tune of Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do." I apologize in advance - it came to me this morning while assembling my fried egg sandwich in a bleary-eyed state.]

All I wanna do
Is eat some eggs
I got a feelin'
I can eat cheap for days

All I wanna do
Is eat some eggs
Until my carton runs out and I
Gotta make a run to the store

Even if the price of eggs has increased significantly over the past couple years, they are still a great value when you consider that one egg can be a pretty filling snack (or a whole meal for someone with better portion control than the average Owen). Plus, they do really cool things, like make your food puff up or help it stick together!

The Dutch Baby, or baked pancake, is a true testament to the egg's magical powers. Minutes after being placed in an oven, a seemingly mundane pancake batter morphs into an otherworldly balloon of fluffy deliciousness. Owing to the addition of a few more eggs than your typical pancake batter, the result is thrilling.

I got to know the Dutch Baby at The Original Pancake House. The first time I saw one, I was mesmerized, both by its dramatic aesthetic and by my amazement that a lone individual could consume something of such impressive size. But mine eyes deceived me: the Dutch Baby is, upon closer inspection, a hollow bowl with a texture far more delicate than that of a regular stovetop pancake. Even a non-Owen should be able to polish off the whole thing in a few minutes.

You could order one at the Original Pancake House for about $10, or you could make one at home for about $0.65. I've experimented with three different recipes, courtesy of Orangette, Alton Brown, and The Joy of Cooking. I hesitate to disparage anyone else's recipe, since I am famously inept at following directions of any kind. But Orangette's recommendation of an extravagant four eggs produced a Dutch Baby that was too puffy and misshapen to even fit on any plate I own. Alton Brown's recipe is too fussy and particular - not my style for a lazy Sunday breakfast (or any time, really) - and calls for only two eggs. That's just not enough puff. The Joy version calls for too much sugar. And Joy and Orangette both require more butter than seems prudent. The following recipe borrows from all three sources and, if I may say so myself, gives birth to the perfect Dutch Baby.

Tragically, my camera broke, so I recommend that you go to Google Images and search for "Dutch Baby." The search will yield pictures of dramatic pancakes and blond infants wearing funny hats.

Recipe: The Most Delicious Baby You Ever Did Eat (aka Dutch Baby aka Baked Pancake)
Serves 1. This recipe was MADE for the lonely people. You could make more than one, but you would need one cast iron pan for every person at the table.

3 T butter
3 eggs
1/2 c whole milk or half-and-half
1/2 c flour
2 T sugar
2 lemon slices (optional)
powdered sugar for sprinkling

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron pan over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, mix together the eggs, milk, flour, and sugar to make a batter. Pour the batter into the pan, without stirring anything, and cook for one minute. Transfer pan to heated oven and bake 12-15 minutes, until puffed up and starting to brown. It's okay if the center seems a bit undercooked. Remove from oven, transfer to a plate, and serve immediately with lemons and powdered sugar (I recommend sieving the powdered sugar for evenness and conservation).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Double-teaming some good sauce

By my standards, a recipe is good if I make it more than once. So what does it mean when I make a recipe four times in a span of ten days?

Pure deliciousness. That's what it means.

The geniuses at Cheap Healthy Good got me hooked on this particular puttanesca sauce, which I then modified based on my own refrigerator supply. As with any homemade tomato sauce, it should be suitable to your own taste and kitchen inventory, so the following recipe is only a relaxed guideline.

Puttanesca, by the way, means something like "in the style of a whore." Well, this whore done me right. It's spicy, complex, and good with just about anything. Ergo, I give you not only the puttanesca recipe, but a week of delicious sauciness rationed into two impressive and long-lasting dishes. Of course, you could always spread the love: invite a bunch of friends for dinner and serve it over any pasta. I promise there will be no sloppy seconds left over.

Recipe: Puttanesca Sauce You Might Sell Your Dignity For
Serves 6 when used as a pasta sauce

2 T olive oil
1 small or half of a large onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 T Worcestershire sauce or 1.5 t chopped anchovies
1/4 C chopped olives
1.5 T capers, with a bit of brine
1.5 t crushed red pepper flakes, or 1/2 t ground cayenne pepper
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried basil (may also use one teaspoon of either basil or oregano, if you don't already have both of the herbs)

In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and saute till translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add all of the remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Recipe: Wanton Baked Ziti
If you, too, live in a household of two people or fewer, I recommend making two small pans, baking one of them and freezing the other. One 13" x 9" pan serves 8, heartily.

1 lb dried ziti or penne rigate
3 cups puttanesca sauce, see recipe above
1/2 c grated Parmesan, divided
1 C ricotta or cottage cheese
1 C shredded mozzarella, divided

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta till al dente - tender but slightly firm. Drain and return to pot, off burner. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Stir in the puttanesca sauce, about half of the Parmesan, all of the ricotta or cottage cheese, and half the mozzarella. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a greased 13" x 9" baking dish, or divide into two smaller dishes (I've used pie pans, loaf pans -- anything, except maybe a cookie sheet, works as long as you keep an eye on it while it's baking). Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake about 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

Then, use the remaining sauce to dip homemade calzones!

Recipe: Lascivious Spinach Calzones
Makes 3 calzones.
Trader Joe's sells pizza dough for 99 cents a pound. I would steer you toward a recipe for homemade, but it's not like Anthony Bourdain is critiquing this blog.

1.5 T olive oil
1 small onion, minced (optional)
1/2 lb fresh spinach (about two very large handfuls)
1 lb pizza dough (I used whole wheat, which turned out well)
1 C shredded mozzarella
1 beaten egg (optional)
remaining puttanesca sauce for dipping

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and saute till translucent. Add spinach and saute till wilted, stirring, just a few minutes. Remove from heat. Divide pizza dough into three fairly even sections. On floured surface, roll each section into a circle as flat as can be without causing holes. Spread a third of the spinach and onion mixture over half of each of the circles. Sprinkle each half with a third of the mozzarella, and salt and pepper to your taste. Fold over the dough in the other half of each circle, and squeeze together so that none of the filling escapes. You may want to water your hands to do this. Brush each calzone with egg if you desire. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until puffed up and just starting to brown. Reheat the puttanesca sauce and use it to dip the calzones.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

If it's good enough for the president-elect, it's good enough for me

In honor of Barack Obama's historic victory, this post features a treat that I know he likes, or at least pretended to like while on the campaign trail. When he was stumping for the primary early this year, he stopped at Mayorga Coffee in Silver Spring. I used to study and grade papers there sometimes, and happened to just miss him by a day. While placing my coffee order, I eyed the stack of plastic-wrapped coffee cake slices by the cash register and, probably, as is my way, asked, "The coffee cake: is it delicious?" The barista answered, "Well, Barack Obama had it yesterday." Sold.

The coffee cake at Mayorga wasn't actually that great, but the coffee cake in the recipe below is. I've adapted it from a Barefoot Contessa recipe, which may come as a surprise given Ina Garten's rather anti-proletarian approach to food. I've made many of her recipes, and liked them all, but I find the items in her ingredients lists are geared more toward the budget of, I don't know, a Food Network star. But you don't have to live in Easthampton or have unlimited access to fresh lobster tail to make this coffee cake (obviously, since coffee cake with lobster would be gross). I didn't even have to buy any new ingredients. And I overbaked it, as I tend to do, and it was still good. It's cake we can believe in.

Recipe: Barack Obama Coffee Cake

For the cake:
12 T (1.5 sticks) butter at room temperature
1.5 C sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
1.5 t vanilla
1.25 C sour cream
2.5 C cake flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

For the streusel:
1/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1.5 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt
3 T cold butter cut into small pieces

For the glaze:
1/2 C powdered sugar
2 T maple syrup

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-in. Bundt pan.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a mixer, add eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add this mixture to the batter until just combined.

For the streusel, pinch together all the streusel ingredients in a separate bowl to form a crumble.

Spoon half the batter into the pan. Sprinkle it with about 3/4 C of the streusel mixture. Spoon the rest of the batter on top, spread it out, and sprinkle the remaining streusel over it. Bake 50-60 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let it cool before removing from pan.

For the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and maple syrup until it's gooey. Drizzle it over the cooled coffee cake so it looks purty.


No cake flour? No problem! Combine 2 and a quarter cups of all-purpose flour with one quarter-cup plus one tablespoon of cornstarch. Allegedly, if you don't have cornstarch, you can just measure out a 2 and a quarter cups of the all-purpose flour and subtract two tablespoons.