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So here’s the deal: in part being the obsessive planner I am, with a splash of those holiday feelings of love and goodwill towards others, I decided to host 20 people at my house for a “Friendsgiving.”   For those who do not know, a “Friendsgiving” is that special time of year where everything that is done on real Thanksgiving, mainly the excessive consumption of brown/orange colored food, occurs minus the family drama and the something-always-goes-wrong traveling.  But  for what “Friendsgiving” lacks it certainly makes up for in lots, and I mean lots, of drinking.  That, and perhaps a beautiful neighbor boy scrubbing up some dishes in nothing but his skivvies…though that story is for another time.

fast-motion turkey

As the host I decided that it was my duty to make the turkey.  That’s right, a young 20-something professional with a terrible stove and pretty janky kitchen in general decided that she would join the ranks of her foremothers and fathers (yes I can be PG) and make herself a mother f-ing turkey.  The challenge is on!

This entire process was purely experimental in that I took my mother’s turkey recipe and added a few ingredients to make it my own.  As you will notice in the pictures, which were taken by my lovely friend and neighbor Ani who’s delicious brunch I wrote about back in August, I did it all.  I pulled out the gizzard, cute off the excessive skin around the turkey’s bottom, washed the cavity, slit the skin so that the seasoning can go in, and all the other carnage aspects of cooking a turkey all by my gosh darn self.

pulling out that ole gizzard

And now for the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 turkey (Mine was 14.5 pounds and NOT frozen.  If you use a frozen turkey be sure to account for de-thawing time that can take up to a week).
  • One roaster pan (I used a disposable one)
  • One V-Rack.
  • Meat thermometer.
  • Turkey baster.
  • 2 chopped apples (I chose to use honey crisp)
  • 2 chopped peeled oranges
  • 2 chopped pears
  • 2 cups paprika
  • 2 cups dried minced onion
  • 2 cups minced garlic
  • 1 cup Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 chopped celery stalks
  • 2 cups fresh sage (not chopped)
  • 2 cups fresh rosemary (not chopped)
  • 2 cups fresh thyme (not chopped)
  • 2 cups fresh oregano (not chopped)
  • 1 cup fresh basil (not chopped)

fruitful bounty

Procedure – Prepping the Turkey:

  1. Turn your oven on to 450 degrees to really heat it up.
  2. Throw on a pair of clean rubber gloves that you will never use ever again.
  3. Remove the turkey from its bag in your sink.  Trust me with this, there will be a good amount of blood and/or other enjoyable liquids along side your turkey.
  4. While the turkey is in the sink, stick you hand in the hole between its legs (yes, the turkey’s anus) and pull out the gizzard.  GROW A PAIR AND DO IT!
    1. You can save the gizzard to cook other things like soups and gravy, but I threw it out.  It was just that gross.
  5. Rinse off the turkey skin (but do NOT remove it) and empty cavity with water.
  6. Cut off the excessive skin around the turkey’s neck and butt hole.
  7. Put your turkey right side up (meaning the breast is facing up, on a clean/covered surface.  I used aluminum foil on my kitchen counter.

just cut it right on off

Procedure – Seasoning the Turkey:

  1. Take a deep breath because the gross part is over.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the paprika, dried minced onion, minced garlic, and old bay.
  3. Slowly add water to the mixture so that it becomes “muddy” and easy to slather.  I had to mix in water a few times throughout the slathering process.
  4. Cut some slits between the turkey skin and the turkey meat.  I did this anroung the wings, legs, and on the breast
  5. Slather, and I really mean slather, on some of the muddy seasoning mixture under the skin.  The amount used is based of your taste and preference.  Personally, I used about half of the mixture.
  6. Take the rest of the mixture and slather it onto of the turkey’s skin.  Really get it on there.
  7. If you have any of the mixture left, slather the rest inside the turkey’s cavity.
  8. Time to stuff!  Stuff as much of the fruit, celery and fresh herbs inside the cavity of the turkey.  Make sure that you get at least some of every type of fruit and herb in there.

good and slathered

Procedure – The Tale of the Turkey and the Oven

  1. Put the rest of the fruit in the roaster pan.
  2. Place the v-rack inside the roaster pan on top of the fruit.
  3. Carefully pick up your turkey and place it upside down (breast side down) on the v rack.
  4. Put the rest of the fresh herbs around the turkey and in any nooks and crannies you can find.
  5. Put the meat thermometer deep into the thigh of the turkey facing towards the breast.  Make sure that it does not touch any bone.
  6. Cover the turkey with tin foil.
  7. Set the oven down to 350 degrees.
  8. Place the turkey in the oven and set your timer for 3 hours.
  9. After three hours, carefully lift up the cover and use the turkey baster to take the juices developing on the bottom of the roaster pan and squeeze them on top of the turkey.  Do this hourly after those first three hours.
  10. In order to cook a turkey, the temperature of the meat thermometer needs to reach 180 degrees.  Depending on your stove, size of bird, etc. this cooking can take 5 hours or, like mine, take 8 hours.  Cooking a turkey is a project so just make sure you leave enough time for the bird to cook!

this is why we throw out the rubber gloves

Overall, the “Friendsgiving” was a phenomenal success and all guests left intoxicated and with full bellies!

– Lauren

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Delicious as a roasted sauce is, sometimes it’s just not feasible to spend 3 to 4 hours preparing and cooking a gang of tomatoes. I’ll just have to wait to be somebody’s grandfather to spend all day in the kitchen / on the couch napping. However, pulling together a quick and flavorful sauce is easy and, let’s be honest, sometimes quick and easy is all we really want.  The following is my standard procedure and parts lists for when I use crushed or diced canned tomatoes, but this still being the season for fresh, I substituted the standard 28-ounce can of the red stuff for roughly a pound and a half of fat, ripe orange tomatoes.

The only slightly technical part of making this sauce involved blanching. This process is used to remove the skin from any soft-fleshed fruit or vegetable (tomatoes, peaches, etc.) and is much less daunting to execute than it seems. For ease of use, I’ll explain everything simply and also use pictures to demonstrate. I know you really just want to look at the pictures anyway.

Blanching Your Tomatoes

  1. Put a pot of water on to boil. There must be enough water to submerge the tomatoes, but since we’ll be boiling pasta later (using the same water), use whatever pot you would use for boiling pasta.
  2. Fill a large bowl with cold water and a few cups of ice (also called an “ice bath”).
  3. Cut a shallow “X” in the bottom of each tomato. This will allow the water get underneath the tomato skins.

    Don't cut deep. Be all gentle-like.

    Tomatoes before blanching. Yellow = mo betta.

  4. Place tomatoes in boiling water (this is the actual blanch) and allow to cook for no more than 90 seconds (we’re not cooking the tomatoes yet!). Remove the tomatoes when you see the skin splitting from the “X” up the sides.
  5. Place tomatoes in ice bath for about a minute. Notice how the skins will shrivel and shrink around the meat of the tomatoes.

    Wrinkled like your grandfather's...face.

    The shrinking is kind of like Botox. Except in reverse. Or something.

  6. Remove peel with you hands, being careful not to smush the softer inner meat of the tomatoes.  

    STOP STARING. THEY'RE NAKED.

    Post-blanch, revealing the soft inner flesh.

That’s honestly the hardest part of the whole process. Blanching, as mentioned before, is also good for things like peaches, various nuts with skins like peanuts, almonds, and pistachios, and also small onions. It’s one of those small steps that is worth the little amount of effort required, as it makes a big difference in a finished dish. To finish, carefully slice and dice the newly-naked tomatoes and set aside.

The red Ikea cutting board makes the color even more INTENSE.

Blanched, sliced, and diced.

Now on to the sauce! In a wide pot or sauté pan (flat bottom, straight sides), add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and some sliced, not minced, garlic. The larger pieces will have less bite and fire than minced garlic, and will get sweeter as a sauce cooks. Set the pot / pan over medium low heat and allow the garlic to take on just a bit of color over the next 5-7 minutes.

Olive oil and garic = Everything important in life.

Toasted, golden, and just barely brown around the edges.

After the garlic is golden (but not dark!), add onion and pepper. I happened to have what is called a “long hot,” or essentially the red version of the green poblano pepper, which gave the sauce a gentle heat and removed my usual addition of crushed red pepper flakes. Allow this to cook for at least 5 minutes as well, and enjoy as your kitchen is perfumed with the wonderful aromatics.

Aromatics getting sexy.

Breathe deep, and smell the old country.

Once the aromatics are soft and fragrant, you can go ahead and add the tomato (fresh or, if not summer, canned). However, if you have another 10 minutes to spare, you can allow the aromatics to keep cooking, developing deeper flavors and bringing out their natural sugars. Either way, once the tomatoes go in, allow everything to cook for about 10 minutes, during which time the tomatoes will break down, some of the water will cook out, and the flavors will get to know each other a little bit.

Yeah, definitely would be red.

Note: canned tomatoes will probably be red.

To finish, give the sauce a taste. Add some kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and some crushed red pepper flakes if you want some heat.  If you’re using canned tomatoes, I recommend at least a teaspoon of sugar to cut the acidity. For herbs, I just tore some fresh leaves of basil and stirred them in after I turned the heat off of the sauce, but oregano and parsley would be great too.

Shakespeare was a big fan of tomatoes. I think.

5 minutes later, and thou havest sauce.

Ingredients 

  • One standard 28-ounce can of diced (or crushed) low-sodium tomatoes OR about 1.5 pounds of fresh tomatoes, blanched and diced (see directions above)
  • 4 – 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • Fresh basil, parsley, and/or oregano (but definitely fresh basil. dried oregano is okay, too.)
  • Crushed red pepper flake (optional)
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil

Procedure

  1. Slice the garlic into thin rounds and add to a cold pan with 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Gently cook the garlic over medium-low heat until just barely toasted / golden, about 4 – 5 minutes.
  2. Add the onion and pepper, boost the heat to medium, and season with a big pinch of kosher salt. Cook for at least 5 minutes stirring often. If a sweeter and deeper flavor is desired, continue cooking for up to 12 – 15 minutes. JUST DON’T BURN YOUR SHIT.
  3.  Stir in the tomatoes and allow to cook, still over medium heat, for another 5 minutes, or until tomatoes soften and a sauce begins to form.
  4. Finish sauce with fresh herbs and . Add seasoning to taste. Add sugar, in small increments, to cut the acidity. Add crushed red pepper flake if desired.

    That Ikea table is getting a lot of camera time.

    Paired with tortellini LIKE A BOSS.

– Max.

 

Doom: As Seen Through A Window Screen

 

So last Sunday in the District we experienced some gloomy skies and some pretty incredible lightning storms.  I luckily already had plans to spend my day at my lovely (and a few houses away) neighbor Ani’s delicious Italian-themed and ultra-boozy brunch!  A decent size group managed to trek over to her apartment right before it started storming allowing for a very cozy setting right out of Chicken Soup for the Bruncher’s Soul.  We at, we drank, we laughed, we drank some more, all while accompanied by the sounds of Billie Holiday and thunder.

The Hostess With the Mostess

 

Ani made two out-of-this-world delicious frittatas!  Sadly I managed to drink a few more mimosas then intended and ended up not taking pictures of the final products – only empty plates.  But trust me, these were to die for!  Note – these frittatas were poured into different sized pans because Ani refused to buy reusable ones.  Typically I would recommend a 9X13.

Amazingness

The first frittata was a yummy roasted red pepper and goat cheese frittata.  Let me start by saying that when I walked into her house (before the real cooking had begun) I noticed a fantastic aroma.  Rather than going the lazy-man’s route Ani actually went ahead and roasted those peppers herself in the oven with a dash of chopped garlic and olive oil.  I am not going to lie, I stole a taste before they were added to the eggs.  Delicious!

If Only You Could Smell This

After the peppers were roasted, Ani proceeded to sauté onions, shallots and garlic for several minutes with a pinch salt, pepper and red hot chili flakes. Once the peppers had cooled off a bit Ani chopped them up and added them to a mixture of 12 whisked eggs (yes you read correctly) with whole milk.  Goat cheese was then added and the entire thing was poured into a few available pans and glass dishes we found.  She then sprinkled the top with some parmesan cheese because why wouldn’t you sprinkle more yum on top?

The second frittata was a mushroom and leek holygrail of a frittata.  While both were absolutely delicious I thought this one reigned supreme.  Ani sautéed onions, shallots and garlic for several minutes (just like the first frittata) and then added in the leeks.  Once they were all soft and caramelized (and smelling all kinds of crazy good) she added the mushrooms.  While those were cooking she whisked together another 12 eggs with whole milk.  Then fontina (one of my new favorites by the way) and parmesan cheeses were added to the eggs to make an ultimate dairy concoction.  Once the vegetables were fully cooked they too were added and then the entire mixture was poured in a couple different sized pans.   For good measure some more cheesy deliciousness was sprinkled on top!

Chowing Down on Frittata

Overall, Ani’s brunch was a great success of which good food and even better company enjoyed an entire day together weathering the storm and indulging in many a mimosa. 

And with that said, I leave you with a picture of Ani’s roommate, Mike, who’s lovely piano playing lead to a very animated Beatles sing-a-long.

 

Maestro!

 

Until next time!

Lauren

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