Orange Brine for Turkey

Dear Friends,

I used to buy a fresh turkey every year at DiFeo’s in Akron, which still sells the best-tasting turkeys I’ve ever had, but then I discovered that brining makes even a garden-variety frozen supermarket turkey taste great. Of course, a fresh turkey off the farm or from DiFeo’s would taste even better, and that’s what I buy when I have the money and time.

If you haven’t already made turkey plans you soon will, so today I’m providing all the information you need to get that turkey to the table. Whether you want to roast it or smoke it, stuffed or unstuffed, the instructions are here, starting with the brine. You could just stir a cupful of salt into a couple of gallons of water, but the following recipe is the ultimate in flavor. I’ve been using it since I tasted a turkey brined in the mixture at a pre-Thanksgiving dinner in Napa Valley 17 years ago.

ORANGE BRINE FOR TURKEY

  • 1 gallon orange juice
  • 2 cups rice wine vinegar
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup peeled and sliced fresh ginger
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 2 bunches cilantro, chopped
  • 12 whole star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
  • 2 tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. whole cloves
  • 2 tbsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 cup kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a stock pot or large saucepan. Stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 45 minutes. Cool. (May be prepared 1 day ahead; refrigerate in nonmetal container.)

To brine turkey, remove giblets and neck and rinse bird inside and out. Place in a large non-metal container. Pour cooled brine over turkey, cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. If brine does not cover the turkey completely, turn the turkey once or twice a day.

If you’re a late rise, don’t fret. You can cook an 18-pound turkey in less than two hours using a high-heat roasting method. You cannot bake the stuffing inside the bird with this method, but you can produce a juicy bird lickety-split. The texture and flavor will be as good as that of a turkey roasted the traditional way at 325 degrees.

One difference is that the turkey is cooked to an temperature of 160 degrees, not the 175 to 180 degrees, and the thermometer is positioned in the breast meat, touching the bone.  The thigh meat won’t be quite done, but it will finish cooking during the 30- to 45-minute resting period.

QUICK ROAST TURKEY

  • 1 whole turkey, about 18 lbs.
  • Vegetable oil, such as canola
  • Water

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavitiesand wash the bird inside and out under cool running water. Pat dry. Remove any pads of fat from the edge of the body cavity. Insert a meat thermometer at an angle into the thickest part of the breast, touching the breast bone. Lightly
oil the skin all over.

Place a wire rack in a large, shallow roasting pan. Place the turkey on the rack, breast side up. The turkey must not hang outside the pan. Pour about 1/2 inch of water into the pan. Place on a rack in the lower third of the oven and roast uncovered until the thermometer registers 160 degrees — about 1 3/4 hours for an 18-pound turkey or 2 hours for a 22-pound turkey. If the turkey begins to brown too much, tent loosely with foil.

When done, remove from oven, transfer to a platter and cover tightly with foil. Let rest for 30 to 45 minutes before carving. Serves 12.

CLASSIC ROAST TURKEY

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove turkey from brine and pat dry. Stuff or not, as you choose. Place in a shallow pan (no more than 2 or 3 inches deep) and rub the skin all over with butter or margarine.
Do not cover with a lid or foil, which will steam the meat. Roast uncovered at 325 degrees until brown. Then cover loosely with foil and continue roasting until done (see roasting times below). Basting is not necessary because the juices do not penetrate the skin. Transfer to a platter, cover with foil and let rest for about 30 minutes before carving.

Roasting times at 325 degrees:
10 to 18 lb. turkey — 3 to 3 1/2 hours unstuffed, 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours stuffed
18 to 22 lbs. — 3 1/2  to 4 hours unstuffed, 4 1/2 to 5 hours stuffed
22 to 24 lbs. —  4 to 4 1/2 hours unstuffed, 5 to 5 1/2 hours stuffed

GRILL-SMOKED TURKEY

Build a large charcoal fire (about 30 briquettes) in the bottom of one side a lidded grill, and place a 9-by-12-inch foil pan in the bottom of the other half. Rub or spray an unstuffed turkey all over with oil or butter. Place on the grill over the pan. Close lid, leaving vents wide open. Grill for 2 to 3 hours for a 10 to 18-pound turkey. Note that the air temperature and wind can lengthen cooking time.

While roasting, add 6 to 8 charcoal briquettes every 45 minutes, and turn turkey quickly at the same time to rotate the side closest to the coals. Otherwise, do not open lid or heat will escape. Cook turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees.

Transfer to a platter, wrap tightly with foil and let rest for about 30 minutes before carving.

TIDBITS

Lots of dough: No Ohio cooks placed at this year’s Pillsbury Bake-Off, which awarded the $1 million grand prize earlier this month to a Nevada woman for her Loaded Potato Pinwheels — frozen potatoes, cheese and bacon bits baked in spirals of Crescent dough and topped with sour cream. Yes, a million bucks for a recipe made with bacon bits and frozen potatoes. You can find the recipe here:  http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/loaded-potato-pinwheels/08754751-ac0e-4d46-9d76-64f5a2e2b1d2?nicam2=Email&nichn2=Lifecycle&niseg2=PB&nicreatID2=PB_11_12_2013.

Supermarket cuisine: I never thought I’d brag about having lunch in a supermarket, but the coconut curry chicken bowl at Giant Eagle’s new Market District store in Green is worth recommending. Sure, I can make a better Thai curry at home – their sauce was a tad heavy and so bountiful  the dish was essentially a soup – but for about $8, it’s a delicious deal. My friend liked her Vietnamese pho, too, even though the broth could have used more seasoning.

In short, it isn’t the best Asian food in the world but it is at least as good as at 75 percent of our local Asian restaurants. West Point Market does supermarket food better, of course, but you can’t beat Giant Eagle’s prices.

The Asian dishes are made to order in a small kitchen encircled by a dining bar. More seating and other dining options such as pizza, a salad bar and a hot-foods bar are located nearby.

I was on my way to a movie and didn’t have time to check out the rest of the store, other than a smallish area stocked with gourmet products (called the “Market District”) and the Japanese food section. The store is huge, so presumably the selection is large.  The Japanese section wasn’t, however, and didn’t carry either of the items I needed. I’ll have to return to survey the rest of the store – and have more curry.

In Ohio, Market District stores are located in Solon, Columbus and Dublin in addition to the new Green location, and one is planned for the new State Road plaza in Cuyahoga Falls. Addresses and maps may be found here: http://www.marketdistrict.com/Locations/Overview.aspx.

Stuffing vs. dressing: I cover the controversy and provide my favorite cornbread stuffing recipe in this month’s issue of Mimi Vanderhaven, delivered to homes in the Cleveland suburbs. Those who don’t get my benefactor’s paper can search for the article at Mimi’s website, www.mimivanderhaven.com. The article should be posted soon, Mimi promises.

THE MAILBOX

From Amy:
After many years of talking big, I decided to go for it this year on Thanksgiving and make a turducken. My question is, do you know of local butchers who will bone the birds for me? I assume I could get it done at a gourmet market, but am fairly certain cost would be significant. Purchasing the entire turducken online isn’t an option — I want to create it, not just cook it. Thanks!

Dear Amy: Try supermarket meat departments. Many advertise free meat cutting and boning. I would call now, though, or your request may be refused in the Thanksgiving rush. I could find only one local chain, Costco (with stores in Strongsville, Avon and Mayfield Heights), that sells partially deboned whole turkeys, but you must buy a membership to shop there.

Of course, you could always bone the turkey yourself. Step-by-step directions abound. I sure wouldn’t attempt it, though, without an expert at my elbow.

Turducken, for temperate diners who have never heard of the gargantuan entrée, is a chicken stuffed inside a duck, which is stuffed inside a turkey. Most recipes call for boning the birds and layering cornbread stuffing between them.

From Chef Janet, the Original Free Range Chef:
I have simplified turkey prep at our place with boneless turkey breast.
I thaw and flatten then spread with basil pesto, or sun-dried tomato pesto, 
roll and tie and bake at 350 degrees to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
My family has requested it this year. That’s the real indicator!

My children are not fond of turkey leftovers and with just Tim and me it’s a big 
commitment, and he has the freezer stuffed at this time of year with vegetables from the garden. No space for left over for turkey.

Dear Janet: I guess you really have to like turkey to cook a big bruiser for just two people, as I plan to do. I’m crazy about leftover turkey. I eat it in sandwiches, in quesadillas, in soup, in stir fries, in curries, in bisteeya (Moroccan phyllo pie). I could eat it every day for at least two weeks before I started to tire of it. When I host Thanksgiving I roast a back-up turkey for the leftovers, and when I dine out, I still cook a turkey at home. Your stuffed turkey breast sounds good, though. Maybe I’ll make it when my leftovers run out.

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Jacques Pepin’s Venison Steaks

Dear Friends,

For two years I avoided the venison tenderloins in my freezer because I didn’t know what to do with them. I was afraid the flavor would be too strong if I simply grilled them, so the tender cut was shoved aside as  I retrieved  roasts and ground meat  to turn into shredded burritos, pot roast, wine-spiked stews, chili and spaghetti sauce.

I had forgotten about Europe’s rich tradition of cooking game. I have enjoyed wild boar in Italy and rabbit and pigeon in France, so when a friend cued up a Jacques Pepin program on her television recently, I was not surprised to find him cooking venison. My worries about how to use those tenderloins are over.

Venison traditionally is served with a sweet and sour sauce in France, Pepin said while preparing an absolutely stunning dish of venison steaks with a sauce of currant jelly and wine vinegar.

The steaks tasted as good as they looked when I made the recipe a couple of days later, although with blueberry preserves instead of the jelly. Wowee. The assertive sauce toned down the flavor of the venison so that it almost tasted like filet mignon. I can’t believe I turned one of the tenderloins into jerky last spring. I’ll make up for it with the remaining tenderloin, which I’m saving for a special occasion.

Beef may be substituted for the venison in this recipe:

JACQUES PEPIN’S VENISON STEAKS

venison steak 008.jpg

  • 1 venison tenderloin, trimmed of fat (about 1 lb. trimmed), cut into 4 steaks OR 4 boneless beef steaks, any tender cut
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. currant jelly or seedless raspberry jam (or blueberry preserves, my choice)
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp. chopped shallot
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. hearty red wine
  • 1 tbsp. butter

If using venison, gently pound steaks with a meat pounder (not a meat tenderizer) until 3/4 inch thick.

Rub with the olive oil and sprinkle with thyme. Arrange in a single layer on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours.

Mix the ketchup, jelly, soy sauce and water together in a small bowl. Set aside.

When you are ready to cook, heat oven to 160  degrees (or as low as your oven will go). Heat the 1 tablespoon oil and butter in a large, heavy skillet until hot. Sprinkle with steaks with salt and pepper and sauté over medium-high heat for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Transfer meat to an oven-proof plate and keep warm in the oven while you make the sauce.

Add shallot to the drippings in the pan and sauté for 20 seconds. Add the vinegar and wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the jelly mixture and stir, scraping browned bits from bottom of skillet. Stir in the butter and boil for 10 seconds. Strain through a fine strainer (or skip this, as I did). Place steaks on four plates and top with sauce. Makes 4 servings.

TIDBITS

Pizza passion:
In the three or four contests I organized at the Beacon Journal over the years to pick the best pizza in five counties, I developed a discerning pizza palate. I can tell natural mozzarella from the less expensive cheese in which milk fat is replaced with vegetable oil. I know the difference between top-quality pepperoni  and those paper-thin wafers that ooze fat. And I think I can differentiate between fresh-made dough and dough that is  purchased frozen. So you can trust me when I say that Rizzi’s Pizza in Copley Township is some of the best I’ve had.

I’m kicking myself that I didn’t order a pie sooner from my local pizza shop. The place has been in business for 32 years, for heaven’s sake. But when I moved to Copley seven years ago from West Akron, I brought my old pizza habits with me.  On pizza nights  Tony would pick up one from our former fave on the way home from his restaurant.

I’m glad we didn’t feel like budging from the sofa Sunday evening. We called Rizzi’s because it’s close and it delivers. Now I can’t stop thinking about those rivers of creamy mozzarella, those meaty slices of pepperoni, that assertive, dark red sauce and – the pizza de resistance – a crust so good I could eat it without toppings.

I’m not claiming Rizzi’s is a destination restaurant, but if you’re anywhere near Copley and have a hankering for pizza, call one in to 330-668-2626. The website, which is under construction, is www.rizzispizza.com.

Recipe correction:
I forgot to tell you when to add the vanilla bean and ginger in last week’s recipe for crème brulee. Add them after you whisk in the cream, and remove and discard them after cooking the mixture over boiling water for 45 minutes

THE MAILBAG

From Anne MacWherter:
This question has always bothered me. How do you tell from a brownie recipe if the result is going to be chewy or cakey? Is
it the eggs, the amount of flour or liquid, or what? Thanks for your help.

Dear Anne: Primarily fat and flour determine whether a brownie will be fudgy, chewy or cake-like, according to pro baker Cindy Mitchell  at Fine Cooking. Fudgy brownies contain more butter and egg yolk. Chewy brownies contain more flour and butter. Cake-like brownies contain less butter, less flour, more liquid and some baking powder.

Mitchell explains it in more detail and offers a formula at http://www.finecooking.com/articles/how-to/brownies-chewy-cakey-fudgy.aspx.

From Jan Cramer, Uniontown:
I saw the request for turkey breast cooking ideas. I have been making this recipe for a few  years and it is a really nice alternative (to roast whole turkey) hat can be served hot or cold.
The leftovers are yummy.

SMOKED TURKEY BREAST WITH CHIPOTLE AIOLI

  • 2 turkey breast halves – 4 to 5 lbs. total weight
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 1/3 cups kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • Wood chips for smoking
  • Chipotle aioli (recipe follows)

Soak about 3 to 4 cups of wood chips in water overnight. Make aioli and chill overnight.

Wash turkey breasts and remove any excess skin and fat.  Place water, salt, sugar and soy sauce in a large, non-aluminum container.  Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved.  Submerge turkey breasts in brine.  Place a plate or heavy bowl directly on turkey to weigh it down and keep it covered in the brine.  Refrigerate overnight.

(When making this in the winter, I often use a large kettle lined with a white kitchen bag, weighed down, tightly covered put it outside out of reach of animals.  Make sure the temperature is as cold outside as your fridge but not totally freezing (between 33 and 40 degrees).

Turn on your gas grill as follows: half on hot, other half on very low. Once preheated, place turkey breast
halves on the warm side of the grill. Use a small foil pan and put the drained wood chips in it on the hot side of the grill. Close the lid. Turn turkey about every 30 minutes. It will take about 70 to 100 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 175 degrees. Use a meat thermometer.

Let rest wrapped and covered for about 15 to 20 minutes before carving if serving warm. Otherwise, chill and then slice thin Meat will be pure white and very tender and juicy with a fine grain. Meat can be cooked early in the day and rewarmed wrapped tightly in foil at about 250 degrees for 20 minutes  To serve, either drizzle with aioli or serve it on the side. It is very spicy.


CHIPOTLE AIOLI SAUCE

  • 2 or 3 large peeled garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce  or 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder

With the motor running on the food processor, drop in the garlic cloves one at a time. Turn off and add the mayo, sour cream and a bit of the peppers or powder. Puree until smooth. (Start with a bit of the chipotle and blend it and taste until it suits your family’s heat tolerance)

This is really good and most of the work can be done the day before.

Serve with a salad with some type of fruit (possibly dried cranberries) and a slightly sweet dressing , a hot vegetable, and an au gratin potato or cheesy rice dish to cut the heat.

Dear Jan: Thanks for sharing. The turkey breasts may be cooked in a charcoal grill, too. Build a charcoal fire on one side and place a foil pan on the other side. When the coals are ashed over, scatter  a few soaked  wood chips over the coals, top with the metal grid, and place turkey on the grid over the  foil pan. Cover (with vents open) and cook as above, adding more coals and wood chips after 30 minutes.

From Leslie Kennedy, Akron:
For cooking a turkey breast, I use my Crock Pot. It keeps it nice and moist. Use the bone-in kind (or any turkey parts with bones). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning or whatever else is your choice of seasonings.  Put turkey breast on a small rack or a scrunched-up piece of foil, pour in a little white wine (or broth; about half cup) and set on low for 7 to 9 hours (depending on size). Check after 6 hours with a meat thermometer. I have one crockpot that cooks hotter than the other so it all depends on the manufacturer.

Dear Leslie: Your method not only is easy but versatile; you can vary the seasonings to suit the occasion. Those who try it should use a large slow cooker and expect a stewed or steamed rather than a roasted turkey breast.

From Peggy:
Reminiscing of 80s food, I think quiche! But back then I drove a UPS truck and was a little behind in the kitchen….

A friend lived in the mountains south of Charleston, W.Va. I’d take a couple of cases of beer for a visit, and use the zillions of eggs that were available to invent all kinds of quiche. I had to use whatever was growing nearby, or that I happened to remember to bring along — which usually was just the beer.  For a truck driver, I thought I was pretty darn good in the kitchen. What a riot!

Dear Peggy:
I had forgotten about quiche, which was huge in the early 1980s. Remember the book “Real Men Eat Quiche”? Quiche is easy to transport, too, so it would be perfect for my friend’s office party.

1980s Food

Dear Friends,

As a hippie child of the 70s, I did not succumb to the teased and sprayed big hair of the 1980s, but I did embrace shoulder pads, power suits and 1980s food. It was the decade when just about everyone over age 12 became food crazy. I was crazier than most, because I was a new restaurant critic and food writer.

How crazy? I actually wrote down everything I served at dinner parties in the 1980s.

How crazy? I actually had dinner parties. Lots of them.

So no wonder my heart beat faster and my palms got sweaty when this email arrived last week from a friend: “Jane, we are kicking around a notion of an ’80s-themed pot-luck  and dress-up in our workgroup…We are brainstorming 80s food trends…”

I flashed back to the first time I tasted pesto, made with spinach because fresh basil was still a distant dream in Northeast Ohio. I recall the Cajun food craze and setting off a smoke detector making blackened redfish.  I remember nouvelle cuisine, the Silver Palate cookbooks, croissants and Jell-O shots.

It was an era of food crazes. After a week of restaurant-hopping in Chicago with food writer friends, we wondered if there was a snow pea pod left in the city.

Other 1980s food crazes and trends:
•    Kiwi
•    Oat Bran
•    Designer pizzas
•    Warm goat cheese salad
•    Crème brulee
•    Lean Cuisine
•    Flavored pastas
•    Raspberry vinegar
•    Tex-Mex
•    Upscale take-out food

It’s interesting to note which food trends had staying power and which were a flash in the pan.  I’m not sorry the mean-spirited 80s of Gordon Gecko are history, but I still miss some of the food and I really miss those shoulder pads. They made my butt look smaller.

GINGER CREME BRULEE

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 3 (or more) dime-sized pieces of fresh ginger
  • 7 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Place the egg yolks in a large metal bowl set over a large pan of almost-simmering water. Whisk the yolks with the sugar until the mixture is light and thick enough to form a ribbon — at least five minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in the cream in a slow stream. Return to heat and cook slowly over boiling water, stirring often, for about 45 minutes, or until the mixture adheres to your finger without dripping.

Remove from heat and whisk in butter, one tablespoon at a time. Pour into eight one-cup heat-proof ramekins or a 1 to 1 1/2-quart soufflé dish. Chill at least six hours or overnight.

Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the custard. Place under broiler (or use a blowtorch) until sugar melts and caramelizes to a golden brown. Chill.

Recipe from Wolfgang Puck.

HELP U COOK   

I didn’t plant Brussels sprouts this year because mine were plagued by pests last year. Instead I’m buying them. I look forward to Brussels sprouts each fall. They resemble miniature heads of cabbage and have a similar flavor, but are sweeter.

If you hated Brussels sprouts as a kid, give them another try. You probably loathed them because your mother overcooked them. When properly cooked, they are delicious. Here’s how: Cut off enough of the bottom of each sprout to release the outer layer of leaves. Peel and discard the outer leaves and any underneath that are discolored or blemished. With the point of a knife, cut a small, deep “X” in the bottom of each sprout to help it cook evenly. Barely cover with cold water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes or until the largest can be pierced with a fork but is not overly soft.

Drain, add butter or balsamic vinegar and shake over medium heat  to coat sprouts. Season with salt and serve.

THE MAILBAG

From Anne McMillan:
Back in the day, ok, 1971, when I was 19, I was at Mont St Michel overnight with a college group that was going to go to school in Paris. We spent our first night in France on that island. There are actually two dishes that place is famous for, and alas, both of them were wasted on my 19-year-old-palate. You picture looks exactly like the omelets they served us family style at long tables.

The other dish is mutton. Maybe lamb, but I think mutton. On the shores of the mainland, in the distance, you can see the sheep grazing on the grass that grows along the ocean. Evidently the mutton is naturally salty because of the salty, ocean-swept fodder. That’s what they say anyway, can’t prove it by my palate. It was the first time I ever ate mutton/lamb. I bought a religious medal of St Michel and on the back it shows the sheep in the foreground with the island in the background.

Always glad to see your emails in my box, love your writings, and since I’m not an Akron native, I love getting to know Akron through you and your readers.

Dear Anne: I had never heard of the island until it was profiled on the Japanese travel program I mentioned, and now I’m dying to go there. Thanks for another bit of the local food lore..

From Sura Sevastopoulos:
If we’re discussing memorable omelets, I have to pitch in with the kind our friends in a mountain village on the Island of Tinos make.  It looks more like a huge torte, with straight sides, at least 4 inches high, and filled with local sausage and smoked meats, local cheeses, and whatever vegetables are in season.  It’s definitely a dinner dish, not breakfast, and a spectacle to behold.

Dear Sura: Sounds like the Chicago pizza of omelets. Now I want to go to Tinos, too. Here’s a link for other armchair travelers: http://www.greeka.com/cyclades/tinos/.


From Heather P.:

I’m looking for a good recipe for turkey breast. My husband and I usually roast a chicken for Thanksgiving for just the two of us, but I’d roast a turkey breast if I knew how to make it come out juicy instead of dry.

Dear Heather: The basic instructions are to roast a bone-in turkey breast (uncovered) at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Let rest for 20 minutes, wrapped in foil, before slicing.

Turkey becomes dry when it is overcooked. Using an instant-read thermometer prevents that from happening.

Once you know the basics, you can dress up the turkey breast all  kinds of ways. Maybe a few readers can provide recipes and suggestions.