Food & Drink

I'm Chris - or Christopher - or Mr. Dean - or Master Christopher - or just plain Sir. I'm a self-professed foodie. I love to cook and I take great pleasure in all things edible. My husband and I are relatively new to Portland, Oregon and are enjoying our culinary explorations of the area!

Food is NOT just fuel!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Feast: Turducken, Rye Bread Stuffing, Yams stuffed with Apples

Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the leftovers linger on. Secretly I always am suspicious of Thanksgiving when it rolls around. It celebrates an iconic event that likely never happened, and only became a national holiday because Lincoln needed a way to make people come together. But still, I do love the idea of the holiday - giving thanks for the wonders in our lives.

I gave thanks for my wonderful husband, who has been the most important person in my life for nearly the last 8 years. I gave thanks for my adoring dog Max who has been the biggest hairy ball of unconditional love I could have ever hoped for during the last 9 1/2 years. I gave thanks for our friends, our families, the world we've created together and the future that is laid out before us. It's been a good life all in all. :)

Now on to the food. So the theme was "stuffed" in honor of the pre-combined turducken I found at New Seasons. Typically a turducken is huge - a 4 - 5 lb chicken (boneless) inside a 10 lb duck (boneless) inside a 25 lb turkey (whole) - kind of like meat stuffing. In THIS case all three birds were boneless so it was more like a turducken roll - fine by me! Much less cooking time and easier to carve.

I needed "stuffed" things to go with the theme. Immediately I thought of apple-stuffed yams. No idea why, it's not something I've ever made before. But yams can really get along with sweet spices, so I thought this would be a natural pairing. I baked the yams until nearly done (about an hour), and pulled them out to cool. I figured the easiest thing to do was to treat them like twice-baked potatoes. So I cut each in half lengthwise and scooped out most of the yam flesh into a bowl. That got mashed with just some butter, salt & pepper and a little fresh ground nutmeg. Meanwhile, in a small pan on the stove I had 2 apples (peeled, cored, and cut up into 1/2" pieces). They were simmering in some butter (3 Tbl), brown sugar (1/2 C), fresh nutmeg (1/2 tsp), cinnamon (1/2 tsp), and allspice (1/2 tsp). I also added some salt (1 tsp) and a touch of pepper (pinch). These cooked for maybe 15 - 20 minutes, stirred often, until the apples were REALLY tender and there was some delicious juice. [Side note - this sugary, sweet juice was the perfect pre-dinner shot for my husband...if you like sweet things.]  I piled the apples into the yam shells evenly, and then covered them with the mashed yams. I made it easy on myself and put the mashed yams in a plastic bag, cut off the tip and evenly distributed the mixture over each. These went back in the oven (350 degrees) for about 1/2 hour to make sure everything was hot and delicious.

The turducken was easy - in a pan, 350 degrees, covered for 2 hours (this was nearly a 6 lb. collection of birds), then uncovered for 45 minutes or so until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. I let it rest for a bit and then just sliced it right up. It was the taste explosion I was hoping for, but what was interesting was the fat that usually drips away when you're cooking a chicken or (especially) a duck is trapped inside the turkey meat. So yeah, that was a really nice touch! And the cranberry sauce I made went wonderfully with the meat!

The stuffing - I have to say this was the star of the meal, as far as I'm concerned. I love it when I make something up and it really comes together. And for some reason I always use rye bread when I'm making a homemade stuffing. I love the earthy flavor it brings to a dish - it compliments root vegetables like celery and carrots quite nicely. The recipe for this is below - warning, there's a lot of butter in this stuffing but it is damn well worth it. :) Initially for the "stuffed" theme I wanted to make stuffing balls that had a cranberry sauce center. Yeah, that wasn't going to work. So I cheated and when I plated the stuffing I made a little well and piled some cranberry sauce in the center. It worked!

And let us not forget the cocktail. How to do a "stuffed" cocktail? I had lots of suggestions - three cocktails in one (in honor of the turducken); something with jello on. Instead I tried something different. I emptied one of our fantastic silicon ice cube trays and filled them with a mixture of cranberry and lime juices, and then added a spoonful pomegranate seeds in each one. When they were frozen the seeds were on top and they were quite beautiful. So for the drink - SO simple. 2 ounces of cucumber vodka (Pearl is excellent) and 2 ice cubes. That's it! The ice cubes represented the "stuffed" part of the cocktail, and they immediately begin to melt. So your drink is constantly transforming in flavor, and at the end you get to eat the seeds. Touch of brilliance in such a simple way. I'm so modest.

So all in all, great evening and wonderful food. I was so glad I was able to get out of my recent funk quick enough to pull everything together. I love experimenting with new foods on Thanksgiving, and I love trying to top myself every year. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday as well!!

Rye Bread & Leek Stuffing
1 small onion, chopped
1 large leek, cleaned & chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 slices thick rye bread, crust removed, cut into 1" pieces
1 stick butter (I KNOW!!)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 C chicken stock
Fresh ground pepper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large pan (I used my dutch oven) heat 6 Tbl of butter (1 stick has 8 Tbl, reserve the other 2 for later). Once melted add the onion, leek, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme and salt & pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened.

While the vegetables are cooking, spread the pieces of rye bread out on a sheet pan and bake for 10 - 15 minutes until toasted. Remove and set aside.

When the vegetables have softened, add the chicken stock and bring the mixture up to a bubble. Add the toasted bread and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a baking dish and dot the top with the remaining 2 Tbl. of butter. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes until the top is a little crusty/crunchy and delicious.

Chris' Cranberry & Hazelnut Sauce
1 package fresh cranberries
1/2 C sugar
1 C orange juice
1 C roasted hazelnuts

Quickly roast the hazelnuts in a hot, dry pan for 5 - 8 minutes stirring often. This helps release some of the oils and enhances the flavor. Pour onto a cutting board once heated through and chop.

In a pot over medium heat add the cranberries, sugar and orange juice. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and then cook the cranberries for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring often, until the cranberries have all popped open and the mixture begins to thicken. Add the chopped hazelnuts and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for another 10 - 15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened to your desired texture.

1 comment:

  1. Can't find the button for "smellavision"- your dinner looks great. Anxious to try the recipes.