November 20, 2012

Turkey Meatloaf

Now that the election is safely behind us, I can admit it. My husband likes meatloaf. No, he doesn't request meatloaf cakes for his birthday every year like a certain not-so-successful politician we know. But he does look forward to eating it when the weather gets chilly.

This meatloaf is a little healthier than most because it's made with turkey rather than beef. It's flavored with a mixture of onions, thyme and lots of Worcestershire sauce. (I usually sprinkle on some extra Worcestershire and Tabasco once it's cooked). And it's topped with a simple coating of ketchup whose flavor deepens while the meatloaf cooks.

Serve this hot or warm, or even cold in a sandwich.

Saute the onions and other seasonings until translucent.

Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock and tomato paste.

Combine the turkey, bread crumbs, eggs and onion mixture. 

There's no way around it. You have to use your hands for this.

Shape the mixture into a rectangle on a baking sheet.

Spread a layer of ketchup on top. It sounds weird, but don't skip the ketchup. The flavor changes when you heat it and it makes a nice sauce for the meatloaf.

Bake until cooked through.

Slice and eat!


Turkey Meatloaf

3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large onions)
2 Tbsp good olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
5 lb ground turkey breast (I used regular ground turkey)
1 1/2 cups plain dry bread crumbs
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup ketchup

1.    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2.    In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes.

3.    Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature.

4.    Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Mix well.

5.    Shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. Spread the ketchup evenly on top.

6.    Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F and the meatloaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking.)

7.    Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.

Serves 8 to 10

November 14, 2012

Brined Roast Chicken


Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host. Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!

Okay, this one surprised me. Before this challenge I looked at brining as an unnecessary step that didn't add enough to the final product to justify the extra time and effort. I stand corrected.

A basic brine is a just a mixture of salt and water. You can fancy it up by adding sugar, herbs, lemon, peppercorns and other flavorings.

When you brine meat before cooking, you simply soak it in the salty solution. The idea is that the salt and water flow into the meat, resulting in meat that is moister and better seasoned.

I used Thomas Keller's chicken brine recipe from Ad Hoc at Home. Then, to control as many variables as possible (I was a bio major), I roasted the chicken according to my go-to roast chicken recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

I'll be honest, I didn't notice a huge difference in taste between this roast chicken and my usual un-brined version. But oh, the texture. Moist, tender, succulent. Not words I normally use to describe chicken breast.

These are the ingredients that will go into the water for the brine.

Combine water and lemons, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, honey, garlic, black peppercorns and salt in a large saucepan.

Bring to a boil and stir until the salt dissolves. Cool completely, then chill in the refrigerator.

Place the chicken in the brine. Put it in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Remove the chicken from the brine. Dry it with paper towels. Then let it sit at room temperature for an hour before cooking. This will give the skin a chance to dry completely so that it can crisp up in the oven.

Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with lemon, garlic and thyme. Tuck the wings under, and tie the legs together with twine. Brush the outside of the chicken with melted butter. Then season liberally with salt and pepper.

Cook for 1 1/2 hours until the skin is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through.

Carve and serve!

Brined Roast Chicken

Brine recipe adapted from Ad Hoc at Home
Roast Chicken adapted from a recipe by The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

2 lemons, halved
6 bay leaves
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 bunch thyme
1/4 cup clover honey
1/2 head garlic, halved through the equator
1/8 cup black peppercorns
1 cup kosher salt
1 gallon water

1.    Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt.

2.    Remove from the heat and cool completely. Then chill (preferably overnight) before using.

Makes 1 gallon, enough for one 5-pound chicken

Roast Chicken:
1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter, melted

1.    Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers.

2.    Place chicken in the chilled brine. Make sure it is completely covered. Soak for several hours, or overnight.

3.    Remove the chicken from the brine. Pat it dry. Let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking. (This gives the skin time to dry so that it crisps up nicely in the oven.)

4.    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

5.    Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper.

6.    Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan.

7.    Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. (I also check that an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg reads 160 degrees F.)

8.    Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve warm.

Serves 6

November 7, 2012

Fig and Olive Tapenade

Sometimes the unlikeliest dishes are the biggest hits. Take this fig and olive tapenade, for example. It's a simple dip. Not too many ingredients. Easy to put together.

I made it as an appetizer on my husband's birthday. It was intended to keep the hunger at bay without spoiling our appetites for the main course, seafood gumbo. I expected it to be good. Not bad. Not great. Just good.

Shows you what I know. Everybody loved it. There was the hit of briny olives and capers. The heat of the mustard. The brightness of the lemon. But more than anything I think it was the unexpected sweetness of the figs.

I served the tapenade straight, with pita chips. I think it might have been better layered on crackers along with some Boursin or goat cheese to mellow out the flavors a bit. Then again, who am I to argue with success?

Chop up the figs.

Simmer the figs in water until they're plump and tender.

In the meantime, assemble the rest of the ingredients.

Drain the figs. Then put them in a food processor with the olives, capers, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and thyme.

Pulse everything together until the mixture is chunky-smooth. 

Add the olive oil and pulse a few more times until everything is well combined. (I made mine too smooth.) Season with salt and pepper. (Taste first before adding salt -- you may not need much because of the capers and olives.)

Serve with crackers, pita chips, sliced toasted baguette or anything else you like to dip.

Fig and Olive Tapenade

slightly adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz

1/2 cup stemmed and quartered dried black Mission)
3/4 cup water
1 cup black olives; Ni├žoise or Greek, rinsed and pitted
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp whole-grain mustard
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1/2 Tbsp capers, rinsed, drained and squeezed dry
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
1/2 cup (150 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
black pepper and salt, if necessary

1.    In a medium-sized saucepan, simmer the figs in the water for about 30 minutes, until very tender. Drain, reserving a few tablespoons of the liquid.

2.    If using a food processor, pulse the pitted olives, drained figs, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, capers, and fresh rosemary or thyme to create a thick paste. Pulse in the olive oil until you’ve achieved a chunky-smooth paste. Season with black pepper and salt, if necessary. (The spread can be thinned with a bit of the reserved fig poaching liquid.)

3.    If using a mortar and pestle, mash the olives with the mustard, garlic, capers, and fresh rosemary or thyme. Pound in the drained figs. Once they are broken up, add in the lemon juice, olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and fig juice, if necessary.

4.    Serve tapenade with slices of baguette or pita chips.

Note: Make this tapenade at least one day before you intend to serve it, to allow the flavors to meld and develop.

Makes 1 cup