Thursday, November 17, 2011

Brined Roast Turkey

The thought of cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner can be challenging; of course; because we are delivering an American icon to the table, that is we want our bird to be juicy, wonderful in flavor and texture.  Soaking the turkey in brine will achieve all of these and another good thing, this process will also cut the cooking time.

For seven years now, every year I prepare my turkey this way.  Brine is a simple solution of water, salt and sugar; your favorite spices and aromatics can be added to the solution.  You need a container like a stock pot or a bucket that’s large enough to submerge the turkey; you also need to make a space in the refrigerator, in its lowest shelf. (This way it will be easier to take the container in and out) Okay, okay I can hear your tiny mumbling there already. Well, just look at it this way; it’s that time to clean the refrigerator. You’ll never know what you will find there in the back; you might find the left over casserole that you served to your in-laws the last time they visited; maybe some left over chinese take out that you’re supposed to have for lunch the next day; maybe a basket of strawberries because you want to try to make a strawberry pie; or maybe….. uh….err… sorry I got carried away there for a moment.   Okay back to our turkey. You might be thinking that this is a lot of work, but let me assure you that it’s well worth it. Make sure that the turkey is completely thawed before you submerge it in the brine.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and Happy cooking!

Container I used for brining

The very first time I tried brining turkey, I adapted Wolfgang Puck’s (Spago) recipe; and then the following year, I tried Alton Brown’s (Food TV) recipe.  And the next year after that,  although inspired by two recipes, I tried a combination of both, choosing my favorite spices and aromatics, using ingredients that were  on hand and my budget.  

Here's my take on Brined Roast Turkey.


1 (14-16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:

1 cup kosher salt
2 cups light brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 ½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon black peppercorn
12 bay leaves
1 gallon water
1 gallon ice cold water

For the aromatics:

1 red apple quartered
1 large onion quartered
5 sprigs of rosemary
8 leaves of sage
Extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onion
10 cloves of garlic peeled

Pan Gravy:

2 cups apple cider
4 cups turkey broth or chicken broth
½ to ¾ cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper

Before making the brine, make sure that the turkey is completely thawed.

Combine one gallon water, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, ground cloves and ground ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, place the turkey in the brining container, pour the cool brine and then pour the iced cold water, making sure that the turkey is fully immersed in the brine. Place a weight on top of the turkey (you can use a plate) to make sure it is always covered with brine. Marinate for at least 8 hours to overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

In a shallow roasting pan place the chopped onion, carrots, celery and peeled garlic. Position the roasting rack on top of the chopped vegetables. Take the turkey out from the brine. Rinse with cold tap water inside and out. Pat it dry with paper towels and place the turkey breast side up on the roasting rack. Tuck wings underneath the bird.  Place apple, onion, rosemary and sage inside the cavity then drizzle oil and coat the skin well.

Roast turkey until the instant read-thermometer register at least 165 degrees F in the breast, this is about 2 1/2 hours. If the skin gets too dark during roasting, tent with foil.

Transfer turkey to a cutting board or a platter loosely covered with foil. Meanwhile, prepare the pan gravy.

For the pan gravy: Strain all the veggies over a bowl to separate them from the stock/mixture. Discard the veggies. Skim off the fat and add it to the roasting pan. This is the fat for the roux. Put the roasting pan over 2 burners and over a low heat and whisk in the flour. Cook until the mixture looks like wet sand, about 4 to 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the apple cider and broth. Cook until the mixture has thickened and reached a gravy consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour into a serving pitcher or bowl.



Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thai Beef in Lettuce Wraps and Gado Gado Salad with Peanut Sauce

My schedule has been very busy for the past weeks and I do apologize to all my foodie friends. I know, I know I am behind in my blog reading (sigh). I will try my best to keep up with them.  (with a very apologetic face) 

It’s nice to be back to my regular routine after being occupied to so many things.  So first thing I did, I went down to the ocean walked there for a little bit (too much fog, this is the kind of summer we have here in Pacifica, we’re used to it) then I headed on and ran some errands and on to the market for some shopping. I want to make a vegetarian dish although I already planned to prepare some meat dish so husband, son and I will enjoy whatever I prepare. All I know is I’m leaning towards Asian flavor because I already made some peanut sauce (I thought about making some fresh imperial rolls, but changed my mind), and I also made some sweet chili sauce for the marinated flank steak.   

The marinated flank steak was grilled, sliced and served on top of iceberg lettuce, boiled bean thread noodles and some shredded carrots and diced cucumber, bean sprouts, some chopped cilantro and green onion  and drizzle them with sweet chili sauce.
I made my own sweet chili sauce, because the market that I go to sells Thai bird chili in small bags, there’s about a quarter of a pound (or maybe a little bit less) of chili in each bags and they’re cheap too. The chili sauce can be refrigerated for at least a month.  They’re good with fried or grilled chicken, grilled pork and beef or even grilled fish and vegetables. If you don’t have time to make your own chili sauce, you can buy them in Asian markets.

Then I remembered the Gado Gado Salad that I had in a restaurant in San Francisco.
Gado Gado is a traditional dish in Indonesian cuisine, and is a vegetable salad served with peanut sauce dressing, eaten as a main dish. The exact composition of the vegetable salad varies, but usually comprises some form of mixture of blanched - shredded, chopped, or sliced vegetables such as cabbage, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, uncooked/sliced cucumber, lettuce and bean sprouts, fried tofu, sliced boiled potatoes and peeled and sliced boiled eggs. The authentic gado gado does not have carrots and tomatoes.

What distinguishes gado-gado from a plain vegetable salad is the peanut sauce dressing, which is poured on top of the vegetables and should be well coated in the sauce before serving. But I prefer to serve the dressing on the side instead. Although husband and son poured the dressing on top of their vegetable salad and really enjoyed them as much as they enjoyed the beef in lettuce wraps.
I still have some peanut sauce left over maybe I’ll make those fresh imperial rolls, if I don’t change my mind again. (wink)

Thai Beef in Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4

1 ½ lb. beef flank steak
¼ cup soy sauce
1 lime juiced
¼ cup rice vinegar unseasoned
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
½ teaspoon each kosher salt and ground pepper

Marinate beef with the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
Grill beef seven minutes each side for medium well or 10 minutes each side for well done. Thinly slice meat against the grain.

Serve grilled beef with:

1 head of iceberg lettuce
12 ounces bean thread or cellophane noodles
1 medium carrot shredded
1 medium cucumber diced
2 cups bean sprouts
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped green onion

In boiling water, place noodles and cook them for five minutes, drain and rinse with cold water, set aside.  Separate lettuce leaves, be careful not to tear them, wash them with cold water and dry them with paper towels, can be refrigerated until ready to assemble.
To assemble:  Take one lettuce leaf, place some cold noodles, top with shredded carrots, diced cucumber, bean sprouts, chopped cilantro and green onion, then top with the sliced beef and drizzle some sweet chili sauce.

Sweet Chili Sauce
Makes 1 cup

½ cup rice vinegar
½ cup white sugar
5 pieces of Thai bird chili, or more if preferred, preferably the red ones minced
3 cloves garlic minced
3 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 4 tablespoon water

In a sauce pan or a small pot combine all ingredients except the cornstarch dissolved in water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, let it cook for another 10 minutes then add the cornstarch, stir until sauce thickens. Let it cool before serving.


This is the sweet chili sauce, I know, it looks like orange juice.

Gado Gado Salad
Serves 4

5 red potatoes
10 ounces green beans
10 ounces sugar snap peas
1 small head cauliflower cut in florets
1 small crown broccoli cut in florets
1 block (12 oz) firm tofu
3 tablespoons canola oil you may need more  
2 cups bean sprouts
3 large hard boiled eggs sliced

For the tofu:  Sliced the block of tofu in 4 squares. Wrap each square with paper towel. Place a baking sheet on top of the tofu and weigh it down with a 28-ounce can of tomatoes for one hour.  Remove sliced tofu from the paper towel.  In a non-stick pan heat the canola oil over medium high heat and pan fry tofu until brown on each side, then cut fried tofu into squares.

In a pot with salted water, boil peeled potatoes until tender, drain, sliced and set aside.
In another pot with salted boiling water, blanch sugar snap peas, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, drain in ice cold water for five minutes then drain. 

 In a platter, arranged all the vegetables, tofu, potatoes, bean sprouts, and eggs pour the peanut sauce on top and coat the vegetables well or if prefer the peanut sauce can be served on the side. 

Peanut Sauce
Makes 2 cups

½ cup low sodium chicken stock
½ cup coconut milk
1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter
1 lime juiced
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 clove garlic chopped
1 tablespoon ginger chopped
1 teaspoon pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped cilantro

In a food processor, puree the chicken stock, coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, hot sauce, chopped garlic, and ginger. Add the peanut butter and pulse to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Bring sauce to room temperature and fold in chopped cilantro before serving. Sauce is good for five days refrigerated.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Our Visit to Ventura County

I am here to share to all of you our visit to our very good friend Eldie and his better half Heath in Ventura County, along with my very good friend George (actually he is Eldie’s cousin) and with my out of towner sisters Mila and Linda “aka” Bebot. Ventura County is about 30 minutes outside the city of Los Angeles in California.  
We were all surprised that the weather was overcast and a little bit windy, nothing at all as we expected  to the kind of weather they would normally have in Southern California during this time of the year.
But we were greeted and welcomed so warm by Eldie and Heath as soon as we walked in to their lovely and gorgeously designed apartment, but who I am kidding here, Eldie was known fashion designer in the Philippines, everything in the apartment should look amazing.

The nonstop talking, sharing stories, laughs and picture takings; and nevertheless our host Eldie, every time he made comments and told stories, everybody will just burst into laughter uncontrollably.

Of course this is a food blog and I’m here to show and talk about Eldie’s food what he cooked and how he presented his beautiful spread for us. Well, the day before we arrived to his place, he called me and asked me what we want him to cook for us. Right away we requested Pork Sinigang and Fried Tilapia. But aside from the two dishes we requested, he even prepared Lumpia Shanghai and Bicol Express, WOW!  What a great addition to the two dishes we requested. To finish the wonderful dinner, he cut up some watermelon (they’re amazingly sweet), so simple, but a great compliment to end a great meal.   

               Here’s the beautiful dinner spread.   
Fried Tilapia served with Eldie’s special dipping sauce
Lumpia Shanghai with sweet and sour dipping sauce
Pork Sinigang 
(cooked in Tamarind Pulp to give the sour broth served with Okra, Spinach, Long Beans and Eggplant)
Bicol Express 
(varieties of hot peppers cooked in coconut milk with sliced pork. They’re really great with steamed rice)
Here’s our wonderful host: Eldie and Heath.
Thank you very much for a wonderful time can’t wait to see both of you again.