Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend!

This photo barely came out.

Thanksgiving leftovers
Basic Thanksgiving leftovers feast, from bottom to top: turkey hash with hashed potatoes and turkey thigh confit; Welsh cheddar with shallots and chives; smothered leeks (cleaned leeks sliced lengthwise into quarters and cooked in turkey broth and butter); fried egg; crisped turkey skin; sage-garlic turkey gravy.

A cranberry cocktail
One of two cocktails using unsweetened cranberry juice (made with my juicer, but maybe available at fancy stores).  Let me think.  Yes, okay - this was 1 ounce Douglas Fir eau de vie, 1 ounce cranberry juice, and about 3/4 ounce St Germain elderflower liqueur.

The idea here was to get the Douglas Fir and cranberry together and cover neither of them up.  Worked very nicely, but it's an expensive drink.

A different cranberry cocktail
The other cranberry juice cocktail - 1 ounce genever, 1 ounce cranberry juice, 1/2 ounce Meletti amaro, 1 ounce St Germain elderflower liqueur, with cherries, Peychaud's bitters, and a dash of Chartreuse elixir de vegetal.

Cranberry and genever go surprisingly well together.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

poutine pizza: Bellagio

Wednesday night we had the classic pre-Thanksgiving meal - delivery pizza.

Poutine pizza, Bellagio
My local pizza place does poutine pizza, it turns out - they've sold poutine since they opened, so I guess adding a poutine pizza to the menu was a natural outgrowth.  We had to order it, obviously - gravy instead of tomato sauce, crisp French fries, cheese curds, and mozzarella.

Really good, in the way starch on starch can be - this is now the fourth different way I've had potatoes on pizza (mashed potatoes, thin-sliced potatoes, chunks of baked potato).  Probably even better with the addition of bacon or sausage.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Remember what I just said about picking up turkey while it's cheap?

3 turkeys, $20.

6 turkey wings, each of them at least one serving. Like duck wings, turkey wings have skin that can be leathery cooked by most methods, but they braise REALLY well. Plan on things like adobo or smothered turkey wings, or turkey wings braised in soy sauce and orange juice, with the braising liquid reduced into a glaze with the addition of chiles, ginger, and sugar.

6 turkey thighs, each of them two or more servings. I froze four of them. With the last two, I used the pint of accumulated turkey fat from all these endeavors and made confit of turkey thighs and popes' noses.

A few turkey breast cutlets to make sandwiches from, and a Zip-Loc freezer back of turkey breast chunks for something like white chili.

One turkey cavity I used to cook stuffing in.

Five lobster pots full of turkey stock.

A pint of "gravy base" - the fond from roasting all these turkey parts, loosened from the pan with a little stock.

I could have put aside MUCH more meat if I liked drumsticks or if I liked turkey breast more, but as it is I have about 25 servings for $20, in addition to a shitload of stock and much richer gravy than we'd otherwise be having at Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I really only have two Thanksgiving tips, and I think people routinely ignore the first one:

1: Turkey is stupid crazy cheap right now. It's the cheapest protein in the store. It's cheaper than canned beans. So. Buy a bunch of turkeys.

You can freeze one and save $20-30 off what you'd pay for Thanksgiving In July. You can carve off a bunch of raw meat and use it instead of chicken in white chili, curry, etc. You can fry turkey cutlets.

But if nothing else, you should go buy a six dollar turkey and make sixty dollars worth of stock.  If you have a big enough pot - you probably don't, even my lobster pot is not really big enough - you can just put the turkey straight in it, bring it to a simmer, leave it until tomorrow night. This alone is well worth it! But more than likely you'll need to chop the turkey into smaller parts in order to make stock in batches, in which case you may as well roast those parts too, and add some celery and carrot and onion skins. This is still a minimal investment of effort and money. If you do it the weekend before Thanksgiving, you have a great stock to use to baste the turkey, make your gravy, etc.

2: Turkey sandwiches are an easy way to break up the monotony of reheating-a-plate-of-leftovers, because turkey is a pretty blank canvas and you can incorporate all sorts of flavors into a sandwich. Sharp cheddar and chutney. Goat cheese and tomato jam. Kimchi, roasted garlic, and bean sprouts dressed with sesame oil. Avocado and finger lime vesicles. Comeback sauce and pickled okra. Roasted eggplant, pomegranate molasses, and walnuts. All of it easier than turkey pot pie, turkey hash, etc., and much further afield in flavor.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

forest floor donuts

Marx Foods sent me a sample of dried candy cap mushrooms to use in another recipe contest, and man, these things are something else. Judging from Wikipedia's entry, I believe these are Lactarius rubidus mushrooms - there are three kinds of candy cap mushrooms found in North America, two of which have strong maple-like scents.

This is certainly one of those two. To be honest, I assumed the description of candy cap mushrooms as "tasting like maple syrup" was exaggerated, like when red wine tastes like haystacks and boysenberries. I expected something that would taste predominantly of mushroom, with a faint maple flavor that you might miss if you weren't paying attention.

I was so, so wrong.
Candy cap mushrooms
Even before the sample bag was opened, the package smelled like pancake syrup. I mean, it actually smells more like artificially flavored maple syrup - a stronger smell than the real thing - than like real maple syrup, despite obviously being purely natural. It's a strong, sweet smell, with a sort of cereal element to it - "pancakes with maple syrup" captures it more than just "maple syrup" does, you know?

So all of a sudden this became much more interesting.

There's still a mushroom element, an earthiness and pungency. My goal was to make something that wouldn't cover the mushroom flavor up in favor of that maple scent. I thought about a cocktail, because of Caitlin's experience with mushroom-infused gin, and I think that's an avenue to explore in the future.

I brainstormed, jotting down flavors I thought would work - carrot cake - pineapple - persimmon - squash - and was on the verge of making a root beer float with mushroom ice cream. But I decided because of the time of year, I wanted something warm instead of cold.

I stayed with what drew me to the root beer float, though - the earthiness of the sassafras, working with the earthiness of the mushroom. What I ended up doing was making donuts with "forest floor curd" - a filling inspired by the smell of walking in the woods in the fall. Pine needles. Mushrooms. Mulch. Dying leaves. Chimney smoke.

Spruce tips
These are spruce tips - the young buds of spruce trees when they're nice and tender. I froze a bunch in the spring. I used three of them in making the curd, and blended a couple more with granulated sugar in order to make a spruce sugar to coat the donuts in - it smells and tastes like Christmas trees. To make spruce sugar, just blitz spruce tips with sugar in a food processor, let dry uncovered overnight, and blitz again.

To make the forest floor curd, you're basically cooking egg yolks, infused cream, and sugar over simmering water until nice and thick.

First infuse the cream: simmer 1/4 cup cream
with a sample bag's worth of dried candy cap mushrooms (I don't know how much was in the sample bag - an ounce?)
and three spruce tips;
remove from heat, let cool, and strain.

Combine infused cream with
2 egg yolks,
1/4 cup sugar,
and 1 Tablespoon birch syrup,
in a double boiler and stir over simmering water until thick enough to coat a spoon. Thicken with a little slurry of cornstarch and cold water if necessary.

Add a pinch of tea from a Luzianne tea bag - yeah, tea bag tea, because you want the fine little particles, like flecks of vanilla bean adding that tannic dead leaf flavor.

Let cool.

Forest floor curd
The curd is incredibly tasty - kind of caramel-like, earthy, mushroomy.

Make 4-6 doughnuts:

Combine 1/3 cup warm water,
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast,
1 1/2 cups flour,
a dash of baking powder,
2 Tablespoons of sugar,

2 teaspoons of birch syrup,
a dash of vegetable oil,
1 beaten egg,
and a pinch of salt,
and knead.

Let double in size, divide into 4-6 rounds, let rest for 20 minutes, and deep-fry, cooking about a minute on each side.

Let cool slightly, fill with curd using a pastry bag, and dust with spruce sugar.

My donuts were still pretty warm!  You can see the curd became a bit runny.

Donuts with forest floor curd