Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Turkey

We hosted our second Thanksgiving this year and I'll slowly post all the recipes as I get time. But for now, I'll start with the most important part - the turkey!

I did a few things differently from last year and I think for the most part, they were good changes. Here's what I did this year along with a few tips and tricks that I've learned.

  • The biggest difference is that I bought the Trader Joe's fresh pre-brined turkey instead of the usual Butterball. Both were good and juicy and I'm not really sure if I have a preference. I think next time, I'm going to try brining my own and see how that goes.
  • I put the turkey uncovered in the fridge for a few hours because I heard that helps with a crispier skin. I did get a crispier skin this year, but I'm not sure if this is the reason or if it was because I used oil instead of butter. Either way, it's not much trouble and the turkey is much easier to work with after being in the fridge since the skin is much drier and not so slippery, so I'll probably continue to do this in the future.
  • Last year, when the breast was perfectly cooked, the dark meat still needed more time in the oven. I learned a little trick from America's Test Kitchen to ice the breast so that the cooking time for white and dark meat even out. It worked like a charm! Just leave the bird out for a while to come closer to room temperature, then flip the bird breast side down on a bag of ice and stick some ice inside the bird too to cool down the breast meat.
  • I then slathered the turkey with a rosemary, lemon zest, and oil mixture that I made in the food processor. I definitely prefer this to the butter, rosemary, and lemon zest mixture I used last year. Last year, I stuck butter under the skin and on top, but it was difficult to get the butter to stick on the skin of the turkey. Oil is much easier. Plus, I think the oil made the skin much crisper than the butter, though that may also have been from leaving it in the fridge uncovered to dry out the skin.
  • Next, I heavily salt and peppered the skin all over.
  • I also like to stuff the bird with slices of apple, lemon, orange, and rosemary twigs for extra flavor and moisture.
  • Stick a thermometer probe in the deepest part of the breast and another in the deepest part between the leg and body, being careful not to hit the bone, and then pop the turkey in a 500 degree oven for 30 minutes. I learned this trick from Alton Brown. Doing this step will give you nice, perfectly browned skin.
  • After 30 minutes, cover the breast with foil and turn the heat down to 350. Cook until the thermometers read an internal temperature of 161 degrees. My 17.5 pounder took a little less than 4 hours.
  • Take the bird out of the oven and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. I served mine on a platter with a lemon flower, a few cranberries and steamed broccoli.
  • After presenting the turkey and taking a few pictures, the hubz took it and carved it and put it back on the serving platter. Didn't he do a great job?
I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

This is also my submission to Joelen's Tasty Tools event featuring roasting pans. Check out Joelen's Culinary Adventures to see what other goodies people made using roasting pans.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Simple Grillin'

Having an indoor grill is great, especially when we're cooking just for the two of us. There's no need to fire up the entire grill for just a steak or two. Plus we can grill all year long this way.

The hubz is the grill master in this house, so I don't have much to say in this post except that he makes great steaks! He's a strong believer in tasting the meat, so nothing more is added than salt and pepper. Our favorite cut is bone-in ribeye. It's flavorful, juicy, and tender.

Grilled zucchini makes a great accompaniment too. Cut them length-wise. I like to cut them into fourths so that they're thick enough to be meaty but still cook pretty quickly. Brush them with oil and just sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. What could be easier?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Spinach dip

I've got another "healthy alternative" and a use for the leftover yogurt from the naan and crispy yogurt chicken.

I love the spinach dip made with knorr vegetable soup mix, but it's not the healthiest of dips. Replacing the sour cream/mayo with yogurt healthens it up and doesn't change the taste much. It is a bit tarter, but still yummy. The trick, which isn't even necessary, is to drain about half of the yogurt with a cheesecloth to thicken it up. If you don't drain it, it's still perfectly fine. In fact, I always reserve the liquid I drain out in case I want to add some back later for consistency reasons.

And to make it super healthy, serve it with carrot and celery sticks instead of chips, crackers or bread!

This spinach dip makes a great snack to munch on while watching football and Melissa of Made by Melissa is hosting a fun event called Snack Food Sunday every Sunday until the Superbowl. Check out her blog to see other great football snack ideas.


1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, drained and squeezed dry
1 pkg Knorr's vegetable soup mix
1 small can water chestnuts, chopped (I skipped this because we aren't water chestnut fans)
1 container of yogurt (I used fat free)

This part is optional: take half of the yogurt and put it in cheesecloth over a bowl to drain some of the liquid. Save the liquid in case you want to add it back later.
Pour in the soup mix, water chestnuts and spinach. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate for at least four hours. Add back some of the liquid from the yogurt if necessary. Stir before serving.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crispy Yogurt Chicken

After reading so many blogs raving about Pioneer Woman's Crispy Yogurt Chicken, I finally gave in and decided to give it a try. It was mostly because I had leftover yogurt from the naan and everything else necessary already in the house, so why the heck not?

Unfortunately, I gotta say that I am not a fan, sorry. While the chicken (I used chicken tenders instead of drumsticks) was very tender from the yogurt, mine wasn't particularly crispy and it was a bit on the bland side. And it came out really pasty white and never browned nicely either.

One trick that I would try next time is one that I learned from America's Test Kitchen when they did baked chicken parmesan. They pre-crisped and pre-browned the panko crumbs by toasting it in a pan with a bit of oil, and then breaded the chicken with it. What a great little trick, much better than the pasty white things that came out of my oven!

It could be entirely my fault, and probably is. I'm not good at following directions. I read recipes to get a jist of it and then wing it from there, adding and adjusting as I go along according to how lazy I'm feeling and what I have laying around the house. I guess winging it just didn't cut it this time. Oh well.

Anyway, below is how I did it, but I definitely don't recommend it...

inspired by
Pioneer Woman's Crispy Yogurt Chicken

  • Chicken (I used about 10 chicken tenders)
  • Yogurt (I used about a cup of non-fat plain yogurt)
  • A few minced garlic cloves
  • Lemon juice from half of a lemon
  • Salt
  • Panko crumbs
  1. Mix the garlic, yogurt and lemon juice together.
  2. Salt the chicken generously.
  3. Dredge each piece of chicken in the yogurt mixture, then the panko crumbs. Lay flat on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet.
  4. Place the cookie sheet, cooling rack and chicken in a 350 degree oven until cooked through. For these chicken tenders, it took about 20 minutes. Maybe leaving them in longer (and topping them with a pat of butter) would have made them browner and crispier. Who knows...

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Naan and samosas are what I'm always going back for over and over at Indian buffets. I usually like to dip the naan in some sort of curry, but the naan is the true star of the show. I knew I wouldn't be satisfied with eating the curry and aloo gobi with boring old rice, so I knew I had to make some naan. Unfortunately, the samosas will have to wait until next time.

Making this naan was fun! A bit scary, but fun!

I preheated my oven at 500 degrees with a baking stone on the top rack for 30 minutes. Warning: Don't do this! Put that baking stone on the second to top rack, especially if you have a gas oven like we do. I'll explain later...

After preheating the oven and stone, I turned the oven to broil. This is the best way to simulate a tandoori oven at home and it worked like a charm! I tossed the naan on the baking stone, pushed it in and closed the door. Boy, does that thing puff up! So much in fact that it touched the broiler flames on top and caught on fire! Now do you see why I say it was a bit scary but fun? And also why you probably shouldn't put that baking stone on the top rack and why the second rack might be a slightly better option?

After that little scare, I watched that naan like a hawk. It only takes a few seconds on each side to cook, so I would've been watching it closely anyway, but this was just an extra incentive to pay close attention. As soon as the naan started puffing, I'd poke it and flip it. I don't think the hubz would be too happy if I burned down the kitchen, no matter how good dinner tasted!

The naan was so soft and tasty and was exactly what I was looking for. In the future, I'll try mixing in some onions and garlic for onion naan and garlic naan. YUM!

And I have one last tip before getting to the recipe. Your kitchen will get super hot because you'll be opening and closing that 500+ degree oven every few seconds, so this is definitely not something you want to try on a hot summer day.

inspired by Manjula's Kitchen

- 2 cups of all purpose flour
- 1 tsp active dry yeast

- 1 tsp salt

- 1 tsp sugar

- Pinch of baking soda

- 2 tbps oil
- 2 1/2 tbps yogurt
- 3/4 cup lukewarm water

Dissolve the yeast in the water and let it proof for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, baking soda, flour, yogurt and oil to the water and yeast and knead until the dough is smooth. Cover and let rise until doubled in volume (1-2 hours)

Knead the dough a few time and then divide into 6 pieces. Roll and shape them into tear drops.

To simulate a tandoori oven, put a pizza stone on the second rack from the top. Heat at 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Then turn the oven to broil. Toss the naan on the pizza stone one at a time and close the oven door, but keep a constant eye on it. As soon as it puffs up, flip it with tongs. It will only take about a minute or less on each side. You can brush it with butter or ghee if you'd like, but it's not necessary.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I'm submitting this to Joelen's Indian-Jewish Adventure! It's not your typical pairing of cuisines, but both are delicious and she's bound to have some great entries. I hope you check it out!

Indian Chicken Curry

I made a curry chicken as part of the Indian feast we had. I admit, I used jarred curry sauce. Please don't judge me. This was my first attempt as Indian food and I was scared. I did make the naan and aloo gobi on my own though. I'd say that's pretty impressive, right? And now that I've dipped my toes into the world of Indian cooking and have learned that there's nothing to be afraid of, I'll definitely try to make this sans the jarred sauce next time.

Besides, I wasn't particularly impressed by the flavors that came out of the jar so I ended up tweaking it a bit by adding some sliced onions, a bit more curry powder and lemon juice to brighten it up along with a dash or two of some other spices here and there, and last but not least, a few slices of peaches! Yup, peaches. It added a bit of sweetness to the sauce that was really nice and and super subtle since it practically disintegrated after being stewed for a bit. Toss in some chicken and you're good to go! Chickpeas or green peas would be a good addition too!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Aloo Gobi

I love love loooooove Indian food, but have never tried to make it myself because honestly, it's a bit intimidating. So many spices, almost all of which I am not familiar with at all. But I've always wanted to learn.

Well, I finally got around to facing my fears and made a pretty darn good Indian feast. Hopefully I'll be able to post the other dishes I made in a timely manner, but for now, let's start with aloo gobi.

Just toasting the spices with the onion smelled sooo good. I'm definitely going to be attempting more Indian dishes in the future!

inspired by Recipezaar and Food Network

(measurements are approximations - add to taste)
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 1 potato cubed
- 1 onion diced
- 1 jalapeno diced finely
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- salt to taste

- Heat a bit of oil in a pot and saute the onions until soft.
- Add the garlic, ginger, jalapeno and all the spices. Toast them until fragrant.
- Add the cauliflower, potato, and a few tablespoons of water. Salt to taste. Cover and simmer until cooked. Add more water if necessary.