Musings from a Seattle personal chef
Archive for November, 2006
What the heck was I thinking? TWO turkeys for just 11 people? Was I concerned our tryptophan levels were perilously low? Did I anticipate we’d become snowbound without any chance of getting out? (That actually isn’t too far-fetched; we’ve been stricken with a bone-chilling snowstorm over the past few days). Whatever the reason, I’ve been saddled with a butt-load of leftover turkey. Time for Whatcha-got experimentation!
After meticulously deboning the turkey I threw all the bones and turkey detritus into a large stockpot, covered the mess with water and simmered it into a stock (which will most likely be used for future experiments). My first test was the epitome of the Whatcha-got meal — nothing was purchased other than the bread we served with it.
In addition to the turkey, I dragged home what seemed like a trunkful of apple, sweet potato and turnip cubes (I wasn’t the only one to over-estimate how much we’d eat). After picking out the best ones (by now half the lot was getting pretty brown), I tossed them with some turkey, fresh cranberries, a bit of brown sugar, a handful of raisins and about a cup of the turkey stock.
As that baked I raided the fridge for other things I could throw in. Parmesan breading? Nah. Jalapeno-garlic stuffed olives? Please — they’re just for martinis. Apple-cranberry Chutney? Has potential, but I already have cranberries and raisins. Curried panko? THAT’S IT! Nothing like taking a traditional American meal and giving it an international flare. I sprinkled that on top and continued baking until the casserole was bubbly and the top was golden brown.
Now I just have to figure out what to do with the other 50 pounds of turkey that’s in my freezer.
Waking up to snow at Whistler: FABULOUS!
Waking up to snow the morning of your half marathon: not so fun
Actually the run wasn’t bad at all once we got running (and it was more sleet than snow, which eventually turned to rain. However, it’s now turned back into snow but I’m comfortable, warm and dry, so it doesn’t matter).
But I digress.
I was determined to follow the run/walk plan today, but I have to admit it was pretty difficult slowing to a walk as thousands of people swarmed all around. My official time was 2 hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds, but on my watch it was 2 hours, 11 minutes and 54 seconds. Why the discrepancy? Because I chose the SLOWEST Port-o-Potty line in the entire race.
I was about 55 minutes in and finally decided to heed the call of my bladder. I had passed a few other loos but thought those were too busy (HAH!). All of us in line were getting antsy as runner after runner kept passing us. However, I did feel much better afterwards and sped up a bit to make up some time. Despite the cold downpour I finished strong (I’ll post some pictures later) and am nowhere near as sore as I was when I finished the Seafair half marathon this past summer. I guess there is something to be said for walk breaks!
Clearly the turkey roasted in the conventional oven is much more picture perfect. While the one roasted in the Aroma oven cooked much more quickly (it actually got a bit overdone), the top didn’t brown, nor did the veggies caramelize at the bottom. Fortunately the conventionally-roasted turkey provided plenty of caramelization for some absolutely fabulous gravy.
Here’s a close-up of the Aroma turkey:
And here’s a closeup of turkey No. 2:
I again turned to Cook’s Illustrated for the gravy recipe. But first, I must digress and tell a story of a past gravy-making experience. Continue reading Drum roll please……
The calendar may say Thanksgiving isn’t for another 4 days, but in our household today is turkey day. Because my post-Thanksgiving party was canceled, I decided to join my darling at Whistler under one condition: I get to prepare the Thanksgiving feast. Despite being a chef, I rarely get to prepare the holiday turkey (other than prepping them for clients). We typically spend Thanksgiving at my darling’s cousin’s house, and she handles all the preparation; I normally just bring a pie and a side dish. The last time I actually prepared Thanksgiving dinner was 9 years ago when we celebrated our first Thanksgiving in our new home with my parents. I’m one of those crazy people who actually enjoys spending an entire day in the kitchen, and now I have my chance.
One wrinkle: I’ll be in an unfamiliar kitchen at a condo in Whistler. Preparing the side dishes won’t be an issue, but the thought of cooking the turkey there seemed a bit daunting (not that I wouldn’t be up to the challenge). There’ll be about 10 adults and 3-4 young children milling about, and since it’s not our condo (we’ll be staying at a hotel nearby), I thought it would be rude to banish everyone from the kitchen. So I’ve decided to experiment: I’m cooking two 14-pound turkeys today, which I will cut up into large chunks and freeze. I’ll then gently reheat the turkey at Whistler, basting with some homemade turkey stock. Hopefully the stock will keep the turkey moist, but just in case I’m also preparing a ton of gravy. (I’ll also make sure everyone — except the children — drink copious amounts of wine so they won’t notice if the turkey is dry).
Next Sunday is the Seattle half marathon, so today I ran my last long run before the race (7 miles). Given we ran 15 miles last Saturday, today’s run seemed like a jog in the park. Actually, it WAS a jog in the park — Woodland Park, to be precise. We started with a few hills through the park and ended up at Greenlake where we ran twice along the inside loop. Although Greenlake can get a bit boring (we live just 2 blocks from there, so we run it a LOT), it’s also nice to run a trail you do know so well. My darling’s ankle was bothering him at the beginning of the run, so we figured if it got too bad, he could easily bail halfway through. However, he was a trooper and finished with me.
I was a bit of a slacker this past week, as I didn’t do any running whatsoever (although I did do some cross training). I figure if I can run 15 miles, I’m ready for the half. Besides, I need to give my body a bit of a break. I made the mistake of going to spinning class the day before the 15-mile run and found my IT band calling out to me that evening. Our spinning instructor likes to do a lot of stabilization exercises on the bike (where you’re not holding on to the handlebars), and I believe that’s what aggravated it. I’m not really good at stabilizing, so I was making a major effort to do so. Lesson learned — no spinning class before a race!
I’m a nibbles kinda gal. Whatever you may call ‘em — tapas, appies, small bites, hors d’oeuvres, starters — I love them all. I crave variety in my food, and they deliver.
Knowing that we’d be doing some major carbo loading in preparation for our 15-mile Saturday run, I thought an antipasta platter would be the perfect prelude to our evening. Very easy to put together — I purchased everything from Whole Foods — and visually appealing to boot.
This platter includes soppresseta, spicy capacola, peppered salami, marinated cippoline onions, caper berries, cornichons, pepperoncini and two cheeses: roquefort and cambonzola. Prosciutto-wrapped bocconcini (fresh mozzarella) and/or melon would also make fine additions (we got our proscuitto fix with roasted figs stuffed with creamy gorgonzola and wrapped with prosciutto; however, the picture didn’t come out very well).
For our cocktails, I tried a new recipe from David Rosengarten: chile, cucumber & lime gin & tonics. They were delicious, but paired even better with the Asian meal we had on Sunday. Fresh jalapenos (or whatever chile you prefer) are simmered in the simple syrup for a delightful bite. For the cucumber juice, simply grate the cucumber in a bowl and strain out the pulp (which you could save for tzatziki sauce, which we did). Shake up the cucumber juice, simple syrup, lime juice and gin and top with a splash of tonic. Yummy!
After our cocktail hour we planned on having a big bowl of pasta with eggplant sauce, but our friends coerced us into going to a neighborhood Italian restaurant. They ordered an antipasta platter, but in my humble opinion, mine was better!
We don’t eat much red meat these days, but every once in a while I get a serious craving for a nice juicy steak. Given we’d be running 15 miles on Saturday, I figured it would be the perfect indulgence to not only celebrate my birthday, but also our accomplishment.
I’ve never been thrilled with my steak-grilling skills, so I decided we’d go out. I consulted CitySearch for the best steakhouses in Seattle and began my research. It wasn’t just about the steak; I also wanted a place that offered a selection of tasty appetizers and sides with great ambiance and an even greater martini.
While I found a couple that fit the bill I was flabbergasted over how pricey they were. I just couldn’t justify paying $45 for a steak, no matter how delicious it was. Add on appetizer(s), salad, sides and drinks and it would easily top $200. For what I’d pay for 1 martini I could buy an entire bottle of Smirnoff!!! (Yes, I tend to drink cheap booze).
Mind you, we’re not always such cheapskates. We’ve gladly paid $200+ EACH for dinner at the Herbfarm. Featuring 9 courses of incredible food — all accompanied by an appropriate wine — it’s always seemed worth it. That’s how I like to dine: smaller quantities with lots of variety. I toyed with the idea of ordering just one steak to share (leaving more room for appies and sides), but thought that might be rather tacky. So I decided I’d pick up a dry-aged ribeye steak at Whole Foods and take another whirl at grilling, using Steven Raichlen’s “The Barbecue Bible” as my guide.
This time of year tends to send me down a slippery slope when it comes to food. It starts in the beginning of October when I begin craving caramel apples. Then the candy corn begins arriving, followed by the “fun size” Halloween candy bars. Just when that gets polished off along comes my birthday, which I always use as an excuse to indulge. Thanksgiving is hot on my birthday’s heels, and we’re all familiar with the food & drink frenzy December brings.
Fortunately my training program for the Seattle half marathon has helped keep my weight in check, but I know if I continue in this vein I’ll be packing on an extra 3-5 pounds by January. I don’t intend to forego all holiday indulgences; I just want to show a bit more restraint. Given the food & drink orgy my darling and I embarked on for my birthday this past weekend, we’ve decided it’s “back on the program” until Thanksgiving. That means no booze, no candy, no junk food. Just good wholesome lowfat meals chock full of veggies and whole grains.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share with you JUST how decadent our weekend was. Stay tuned!
Why, you may ask, is 43 such a fabulous number? For starters, yours truly turned 43 today (although I feel just as fit and sassy as when I turned 33). It’s 43 days until Christmas, one of my favorite holidays (I actually like Halloween better, but for some reason I tend to get into the Christmas spirit more). And most significantly, it’s 43 weeks until the Marathon du Medoc — our first full marathon.
When I first read about it in Runner’s World in an article about the most fun marathons in the world, I was intrigued: 26.2 miles through the chateaux of Bordeaux with 22 wine tastings DURING THE RACE, including stops at Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild, and the famed oyster bar at mile 23. What better a marathon for drinkers with a running problem? But it wasn’t until we were basking in the delirium after the Seafair half marathon that we became committed.
Given colon cancer runs in my family, I give a lot of thought to my plumbing (don’t worry, I won’t go into detail!) From a nutrition standpoint, I’m incorporating more leaner meats and seafood into my diet rather than red meat, plus I’ve introduced more whole grains. I still love white pasta, potatoes and pizza crust, but as with everything, it’s in greater moderation.
As I was perusing my “Techniques of Healthy Cooking” book from the CIA one recipe jumped out: Native Grain Cakes of Corn, Wild Rice and Quinoa. For those unfamiliar with quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), it’s a grain native to the Andes that has a slightly nutty flavor. When raw the grains are teensy tiny, but they cook up fluffy while still maintaining a bit of a crunch. They’re packed with protein and all sorts of healthy vitamins. It’s one of those grains that I don’t often think of, but when I have it I always enjoy it.
When cooking quinoa it’s important to rinse it thoroughly as it has a somewhat soapy film on it. It cooks up quickly (about 10 minutes), and can be used in both hot and cold dishes. For the CIA recipe, you cook up the quinoa, wild rice and polenta separately, then mix them together for the cakes. The CIA has you coat the cakes in a cornmeal and crushed cornflake breading, however, I found panko to be much more desirable. The cornmeal was far too crunchy (I used medium grind), plus I had to purchase the corn flakes specifically for this recipe (I didn’t think they added anything either). The cakes are quite rich; although my picture shows three cakes as a serving (with a roasted red pepper/hazelnut romesco sauce on top), two were plenty for me.