Friday, November 27, 2009

Dark Days Challenge: Turkey Sweet Potato Dumplings

Here's my first offering for the Dark Days Challenge. I, of course, used leftover Thanksgiving turkey, onions, carrots, celery and frozen bell peppers. The carrots and peppers were from my garden, the onions were from the Monroe Farmers Market, and the sweet potatoes were from my father-in-law's garden. I had to buy celery, but it was organic. I used the non-local usual exceptions of flour, oil and spices. Even the broth was from my turkey. Also, there wasn't any buttermilk from the local brand I usually buy. Imagine that, the grocery store out of buttermilk on the day before the biggest culinary holiday of the year. I had to take what they had--store brand. Boo!

TURKEY WITH SWEET POTATO DUMPLINGS (from the Whole Foods website)

Serves 8

A new take on chicken and dumplings made with Thanksgiving leftovers. For leftover vegetables, choose green beans, carrots, peas, broccoli or others that were cooked simply with few other ingredients. You can cook a turkey breast for this, but if you use leftover turkey from a whole bird, the cost per serving will be even less!

1 tablespoon 365 Everyday Value Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
4 cups raw, cooked or frozen chopped vegetables
1 1/2 cups 365 Everyday Value Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, divided
2 cups 365 Everyday Value Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3 cups (about 18 ounces) shredded cooked turkey
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes (or a 3/4-pound sweet potato, cooked and mashed)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add vegetables and cook until softened and hot throughout, whether you use raw, cooked or frozen veggies. Sprinkle 1/4 cup flour over vegetables, stir well and cook 2 minutes. Whisk in broth, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in turkey, salt and pepper; transfer to a 9-x13-inch baking dish; set aside.

In a large bowl, gently combine 1 1/4 cups flour, sweet potatoes, baking soda, buttermilk, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to make a thick batter. Do not over mix. Drop batter in large spoonfuls over turkey mixture to form 8 dumplings. Bake until dumplings are golden brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Per serving (about 10oz/292g-wt.): 280 calories (60 from fat), 7g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 50mg cholesterol, 640mg sodium, 34g total carbohydrate (4g dietary fiber, 7g sugar), 21g protein

Alton Brown knows what's up.

My Thanksgiving drama has been retold too many times for me to repeat the story one more time. Here's the summary: I offered to host Thanksgiving, bought a turkey, talked to my mom on the phone a couple weeks ago, was under the impression she was having Thanksgiving at her house, found out on Tuesday that we were in fact eating at my house.

So, let me catch you up. Last weekend, I was watching "Dear Food Network", a special on Thanksgiving dinner. Alton Brown, (I love this guy) was talking about how to cook a turkey. First, he said, to unthaw the turkey quickly, put it in your sink. Turn the faucet on to the barest trickle it will trickle. Basically, turn it on just until it's almost turned off. Let this run on the turkey. He says it will create convection on the turkey and unthaw it very quickly. "Whatever," I said.

Well, Tuesday evening, I took the turkey out of the fridge. It had been there since Friday, and it was barely unthawed. I tried the Alton Brown trick, and by golly, it worked! Started the "trickle" at 7:30 and it was pretty much completely unthawed by 9:30. Alton Brown knows what's up.

So far, he's one for one. Wednesday, at work, I downloaded his brine recipe. I also downloaded Martha Stewart's. Just in case. I combined the two. Let me just say, I've never brined a turkey before. Last year, I set out to do so, but the attempt was thwarted. My mom was making the turkey. I bought all the (very expensive) ingredients for the brine. When she put it in the brine, the turkey was still frozen inside. After she brined it, it was still frozen inside. So she soaked it in lukewarm water after the brine. It pretty much rinsed all brine off and took away any effects it might have had. This year, I'm in charge of the turkey. We unthaw according to Alton Brown. We take a gallon of vegetable stock, a couple shakes of pepper and a couple shakes of allspice, half a pint of honey and a cup of pickling salt. The turkey goes in a garbage bag and the brine gets poured into the bag. The turkey goes into a cooler overnight, and all goes as planned. I actually turned the turkey over in the brine after soaking breast-side down for about 12 hours. We soak for another 4 hours.

According to Alton Brown's recipe, you rinse the brine off, which is good, cause the salt had kinda formed a paste on the breast meat. I trussed the turkey up tight and "liberally applied canola oil," according to Alton's instructions. He said a 14-pound turkey should take 2 to 2 1/2 hours to roast. My mom was skeptical. This turkey got really brown. The recipe said to roast it for 30 minutes at 500 degrees, then turn the oven down  to 350 degrees for the remainder. Thirty minutes at 500 degrees might have been a bit much. The turkey got really brown really fast. But, just like the directions said, after 2 1/2 hours, when I put a thermometer in the thigh, it read 160 degrees. This bird was done.

So I let it rest, as recommended. I let it rest a little too long, since I didn't have the other dishes ready. I wasn't planning on the turkey actually being done in 2 1/2 hours. But this was the JUICIEST turkey I've ever eaten. No lie. Juicy.

I think it was the brine. We're doing this next year. Here's the turkey in the cooler.

Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 Dark Days Challenge -- I'm in!

Oh, how I love a challenge.

I just read about the 2009 Dark Days Challenge on the Eat Local Challenge Blog. Basically, you have to promise to eat at least one local meal a week and blog about it. Easy, right? Maybe.

It's hard in the winter, hence the name "Dark Days Challenge." Most consider 100 miles eating local. Like the Eat Local Challenge I participated in in October, I'm saying 250 miles is local. Why? That's how far away the dairy is that the milk I buy comes from. If there was a dairy closer than that, I'd be buying it there, but I haven't found one yet.

So, I'm already a week behind, as the challenge kicked off on November 15th.  This week will be a challenge, since it is Thanksgiving. I'll do the bulk of the cooking I'm gonna do this week all on one day. My turkey is local, though. But, my mom is sharing in the cooking duties, and what she's makin' ain't local. Cheez Whiz doesn't grow around here. Not that I'm complaining. She's making her broccoli casserole at my request.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

So easy, even the hubs can do it.

Here's my shout out to Susan at She's Becoming Doughmesstic for the Wanchai giveaway back in September. Just like her, sometimes I'm just too tired to whip up something fabulous in the kitchen. Case in point, last Wednesday when I went to a conference at Stonewall Resort during the day, drove from there to Philippi to pick up my "heritage" turkey, then rushed home for a Junior League Board meeting. When I got home from all that running, Jeremy had Wanchai Ferry Sweet and Sour Shrimp in a skillet almost ready. I made egg drop soup while it was finishing and Voila! Better than takeout! Best part is that those chopsticks are aluminum--dishwasher safe! Booya!

Now, more on that "heritage" turkey. I've mentioned on this blog before that hertiage turkeys were ones that were native (or sorta native) to North America. They were introduced to North American by the Spanish, but not totally sure. Anyway, the one's you buy at the grocery store? Well, they weren't. They are a special breed which yeilds more white breast meat because that's what consumers want. And that's perfectly fine. But what got me was that this particular type of breed, Broad Breasted White, because of it's unnaturally large breasts, can't reproduce naturally. And, if left to live beyond, say 14-18 weeks of age, when most are slaughtered, wouldn't survive anyway. Their legs would not be able to support their bodies. Anyway, I digress. Because Butterballs can't get it on naturally, I decided this year, I would order a heritage turkey. Well, I called the WV Deparment of Agriculture to find a breeder, and they gave me the name of a place in Philippi, White Oak Ridge Farm. I called and placed an order, for what I thought was a Bronze turkey. Only when I picked it up, I realized it was a Broad Breasted Bronze, a crossbreed of Broad Breasted White and a Bronze. I'm a little miffed. I did pay $2.99/lb., afterall. It's disappointing to no get what you want. Nonetheless, this turkey was free-range and allowed to eat it's natural diet of bugs and grubs, not chemically engineered feed designed to make it grow unnaturally fast and fat. But, I'm sure my turkey will taste fantastic, anyway. Hopefully.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Eat Local Challenge: The Grand Finale!

Breakfast: local egg and salmon sandwich on whole wheat toast
Lunch: My office took a coworker to a Mexican joint for her birthday. It most likely wasn't local. I had shrimp nachos. They were still freakin' good.
Dinner: local grass-fed beef and onions braised in beer with local mashed potatoes.

Breakfast: oats with local milk and honey
Lunch: local roasted tomato soup with leftover Bertolli pasta from last week.
Dinner: shepherd's pie and green beans. Pretty much a 100% local meal. Shepherd's pie was made from local carrots and bell pepper in ground venison, topped with local mashed potatoes. The green beans were canned by my mother-in-law last year. The only not local thing was the butter in the potatoes and cornstarch in the gravy on the meat.
Snacks: homemade granola (recipe from a couple weeks ago with local walnuts and honey), local pastured hard-boiled egg, Martinsburg apple and cabot light cheddar

Breakfast: oats with local milk and honey
Lunch: leftover shepherd's pie and green beans.
Dinner: meh. LaRocca Mexican Restaurant. Ordered shrimp chimichangas and a pitcher of Dos Equis. At least there was no CAFO meat on my plate...
Snacks: granola, homemade coconut cream pie courtesy of a coworker, apple and cabot cheese.

Breakfast: Egg white with smoked salmon on whole wheat toast
Dinner: Roasted (local and free-range) chicken with not-shallots. Basted in local butter. I also made roasted local butternut squash with stilton blue cheese. I'm still not sure if I like that side dish or not. Maybe not. It was odd...
Snacks: granola and hard boiled egg, cabot light cheddar and gingered pears

Breakfast: egg white with smoked salmon on whole wheat toast
Lunch: leftover chicken and butternut squash
Dinner: sushi from Krogers and a bag of Garden of Eatin' blue corn chips. Also some Harpoon Ale. Not my best showing...
Snacks: granola and egg, cabot and an apple

Breakfast: omlet with local eggs, bell peppers, onions and a tomato, and goat cheese. De-licious!
Dinner: not-local pot roast and local baked potatoes at my inlaws. Marie Callender's lemon meringue pie.
Snacks: half a bag of Funyons and a bottle of V8.