09 November 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving: turkey shmurkey

I have never really liked turkey--when it's freshly cooked, it tastes like nothing, and the next day, it tastes gamey.  It's stringy, it easily gets dry, and it takes forever to thaw the damn thing out (unless your last name is Trump and you buy one that hasn't been frozen, but who does that?! Occupy Wall Street!)  I don't think I'm alone here, as evidenced by the turkey deep fryer, flavor injection kits, and various other Martha Stewartisms devised in recent years to cover up the taste of this nasty, weird-looking bird.  Can we quit with the turkey, already?  If the pilgrims could have eaten good food before slowly making enemies of themselves in the New World and destroying its beautiful indigenous cultures, they would have.  I'm sure they would have dressed a little better if they had known how, too.  I know, I know, I'm getting controversial here.  I don't want to go all Anthony Bourdain on you, I'm just saying it's not 1492.  So stop eating like it is (that goes double for you, all of central Illinois!)  Try some of these main dishes instead:

Mushroom and Potato Pie (V)

Serves 6-8

1 pre-made pie crust
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 lb. mixed mushrooms, sliced
1 large Russet potato, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar (or other) cheese

Prebake the crust: place in the oven and turn temperature to 425°F  (no need to preheat); poke the crust around the edges with a fork and place in the oven for 10 minutes, or until it starts to look dry on the surface.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and potato and cook, stirring often, until potatoes begin to soften, about 10 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook another 10 minutes, or until liquid has evaporated.  Remove from heat and stir in the garlic, salt, and thyme.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, and mustard.  Season with black pepper if desired.

Sprinkle half the cheese in the bottom of the pie crust.  Top with mushroom mixture, pour egg mustard over that, and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese.  Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake one hour, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Beer Braised Pork Roast (not V)

Serves 6-8

1 3-lb. pork sirloin roast
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1 teaspoon New Mexico chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons salt
2-3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
12 oz. beer (light or medium dark)
1 cup water

Combine chipotle powder, chili powder, cumin, and salt in a small bowl  Rinse the pork roast in cold water and pat dry.  Rub the spice mixture all over the pork on all sides, working it in to the flesh a bit.

In a Dutch oven over medium high heat, warm the oil.  When you see wisps of smoke, place the roast in the pan and sear on all sides (about 4 minutes per side).  Pour in the beer and water, lower heat to medium low, cover, and allow to cook on the stove 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Remove pork from the pan and allow to rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing.  Can be served with au jus from the pan on the side.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Spaghetti Squash Smothered in Indian Flavored Vegetables (V)

Serves 6

1 medium spaghetti squash
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1 tablespoon minced ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 cups chopped Swiss chard or other cooking greens (if using spinach, increase to 4 cups)
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon lime juice

Slice squash in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, salt the insides, and lay skin side up in a casserole dish.  Pour one cup of water into the dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake at 425°F for 20 minutes or until the squash halves are soft.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add the onion and carrot and sauté until onion is soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Add the mustard and cumin seeds, garlic, jalapeno, and ginger, and sauté until seeds begin to pop, about another 5 minutes.  Stir in the greens, remaining spices (including salt), tomatoes, tomato paste, lime juice, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf, reduce heat to medium low, and cover.  Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 20 minutes (the longer, the better).

When squash is done and your sauce is ready, scrape out the insides with a fork and place in a large serving bowl or on a platter. Dress with a splash of olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Smother with tomato sauce and serve with sour cream or plain Greek yogurt on the side.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Perfect Roast Chicken (not V)

Serves 8

Olive  oil 
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus sprigs for garnish
8 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 roasting chicken (6-7 pounds)
kitchen twine
1 lemon, sliced 

Heat oven to 400°F. Lightly coat a roasting pan and rack with cooking spray. Combine rosemary, garlic and salt in a bowl. Remove giblets and neck from chicken and trim off all visible fat. Starting at the neck cavity, gently loosen skin from breasts and drumsticks; spread rosemary mixture evenly under skin. Tuck wing tips under back of chicken; tie ends of drumsticks together with twine. Season with additional salt and black pepper to taste; place breast side up in pan. Roast, basting twice with pan juices, until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh (and not touching bone) reads 175°F, about 1 3/4 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before carving. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and lemon slices, if desired, and serve