Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving favorites

My Thanksgiving dinner was a success!  At least I think it was… We gave thanks, celebrated a birthday, an anniversary and even a future addition to the family.
 As always I learned a few things, like that you should probably take the pictures of the desert before dinner and a few bottles of wine.  That is why there is not a single desert picture to post, although there was plenty.  I learned that the simplest things that I have done a hundred times before can end up giving the most trouble (like my little berry tarts, which shrunk and which I dropped when brining to the table) and the hardest ( duck confit) can turn out to be magnificently simple and no trouble at all.  I learned that no matter how well planned and organized I am, the dishwasher is just not big enough.  I also learned a few new tricks and some great recipes, some of which I will post later and some today.   
But ultimately I learned that food is just like happiness, it is only true if it is shared with someone… but I think I knew that all along.
I managed to make everything on the planned menu and even added a few things last minute, like the sweet potato latkes with horseradish cream, which were great and a pecan cranberry tart, which was also great.  Here are some of the highlights:

Dark Ale bread

Smoked Salmon Tartar

A Mediterranean inspired Parmesan boats with slow roasted eggplant and tomato salad.

A wonderfully refreshing salad of watermelon radishes, that I picked up at the farmers market the day before (recipe below)

Duck Confit served with homemade apple butter and a little watercress salad,, which I am very proud of ( recipe below)

Baked Liver mouse with pickled red onions, the recipe can be found here.

The turkey of course

Various root vegetables glazed with a reduction of carrot juice, maple syrup, cardamom and ginger.
Watermelon radish and cucumber salad.
2 large watermelon radishes
1 seedless cucumber
1 tbs dill minced
½ tbs of fresh mint minced
½ tsp of lemon juice
2 tbs Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste
Julienne the radishes and cucumber.  Mix the yogurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper and the herbs.  Dress the vegetables with the yogurt mixture and let stand for about ½ hour before serving.

Duck Confit… the slightly abridged (but not much ) version from the very involved one of the true French kitchen
(this recipe can be adjusted for as few or many duck legs as you need)
4 duck legs
4 tbs of kosher salt
2 tbs herbs de province
With a needle pierce the skin of the duck legs making sure to be gentle and not pierce the meat.  Pierce every few centimeter of the skin surface or the skin will not brown evenly.  Cover the duck legs with all the salt and the herbs and refrigerate for at least 24 hrs.  When ready to cook, bring the duck legs to room temperature, wash of all of the salt and pat the duck pieces dry.  Arrange in a deep glass dish so that the legs are fairly snug.  Place into the cold oven and turn the oven temperature to 250F.  Now walk away, do all your choirs, read a book, go to the movie… whatever.  The duck legs will cook for at least 4 to 5 hrs, maybe longer depending on the size.  They are ready when the meat is fall of the bone tender and the skin is deep brown.  At this point they can be stored in the rendered duck fat for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.  Use the meat on salads, pasta, whatever…  And do not through away the fat when you are done.  It is liquid gold.  Strain it so that there is no pieces of meat left and keep in the fridge or the freezer.  You can cook potatoes in it or anything else that requires fat and needs a new spin on life.

My favorite turkey recipe.
A whole turkey
1 cup of turkey or chicken stock
3 springs of sage
3 fresh bay leaves
1 small bunch of parsley
2 rosemary springs
1 lemon
1 orange
1 knob (2 or 3 inches) of fresh ginger
1 garlic head
1 stick of butter softened
1 cup of kosher salt
3 tbs of poultry seasoning

For the basting liquid
4 cups of apple cider
Zest of one whole orange
2 inches of fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 stick of butter

The day or two before you are to cook your turkey, rub it inside and out with kosher salt, wrap well in plastic and set it in the fridge breast side down.  On the day of cooking, take out the turkey, wash of the salt and pat dry.  With a large syringe inject the stock evenly into the breast of the turkey.  Gently loose the skin over the breast and smear a whole stick of butter under the skin trying to reach as much of the breast surface are as possible.  Stuff the turkey with all the herbs, cut up lemon, orange, garlic and finger.  Tie the legs together with a kitchen twine.  Let the turkey come to room temperature before putting into the 325F oven.  The turkey will cook approximately 15 min per pound at this temperature, but about an hour before it is done insert a digital thermometer into the thigh joint and set the alarm at 140F.
While the turkey cooks, prepare the basting liquid.  Combine the apple cider with ginger, orange zest, and spices.  Boil the liquid until it is reduced by at least half.  Melt the butter and combine with the apple cider mixture.  Baste your turkey every 45 min.  If the skin begins to brown too much, cover with foil.
If you take the turkey out of the oven at 140F at the thigh and let it rest covered with foil for at least 20 min before carving it, it will reach the recommended temperature of 160F on it is own.  I find that if you cook the turkey to recommended thigh temperature, the white meat dries out too much.
Serve with cranberry sauce or gravy (which is an entirely different post).

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