The Potential for Disaster

There’s something scary about roasting a whole turkey. It’s big, it’s kind of pricey, and it isn’t something that gets made all the time. No one wants to eat dry, flavorless, or undercooked turkey. So when I finally decided that I was going to make one, I will admit to being extremely nervous. I had no experience with making something this large, and if it didn’t come out right, I wouldn’t know until I decided to serve it.

It was something I really wanted to try though, just to see if I could. So I did what I do best and I decided to research. I talked to those I knew personally who I knew had made turkey before and I learned their secrets; I looked up dozens of turkey recipes and took the parts that I liked. Armed with ideas and information, I took on this huge task, seasoned my turkey and stuck it in the oven. And then I prayed that it would work out as it was for a decent sized group of people, and my parents were in town.

The good news is it worked! The turkey was delicious and everybody had nothing but good things to say about it. The bad news is that it was pre-blog, so I didn’t write anything down and couldn’t quite recall what I had done with it. Given that turkeys are really only available during a specific time of year and that it’s too big to make on a regular basis, it would be a whole year before I tried it again. The second time was okay, but it wasn’t quite the same. In the meantime, I started the blog, and really wanted to share the recipe, so I decided to try a third time so I would have the recipe, and I’m happy to say the third time definitely was worth writing down.

In the end, the spice list was a little long, but it tasted good, so I’m sticking with it. I also used a meat thermometer that took care of the timing for me, a turkey bag so I didn’t have to worry about it drying out, and a set of turkey forks to lift they turkey out of the bag. I realize there’s a lot of different ways to do this, and I’d love to hear about your favorites. In the meantime, here’s my take on roast turkey.

Roast Turkey

Ingredients:
1 (18 pound) turkey
1 lime
3 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 tablespoons dried sage
2 tablespoons dried thyme
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chicken base
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions:
1. Clean the turkey by rubbing it with the lime, including the cavity. Rinse and pat dry.
2. Poke several small holes in to the turkey (you can use a fork or a knife)
3. Rub the turkey with the chicken base, including inside the cavity.
4. In a small bowl, mix the bail, rosemary, pepper, salt, sage, thyme, and garlic and set aside.
5. In a small pot, melt the butter on medium high heat.
6. Pour the melted butter in to the seasoning mix and stir well.
7. Rub the butter mixture all over the turkey, including inside the cavity.
8. Place 1/4 of the onion, 2 celery stalks, and 1 carrot inside the cavity of the turkey.
9. Sprinkle the bottom of a turkey size oven bag with flour.
10.
Place the turkey and the remaining vegetables inside of the oven bag. Refrigerate overnight.
11. Preheat oven to 350° F.
12. Place the turkey bag in a roasting pan, poke several holes in the bag to let out steam, and bake the turkey for four hours, or until the internal temperature is 180° F.
13. Once the turkey is cooked, carefully remove from the bag and place on a serving platter. Save the juice for gravy!

Secrets of Mom’s Kitchen

The good news about sharing a kitchen with my mother is that I get to ask her questions. Don’t ask me why I never noticed some of these things before, but a few of her answers  have made me realize I may need to go back and edit some of the recipes I’ve posted.

Thankfully, I hadn’t yet posted this week’s recipe for green pea sauce. When I asked my mother what she puts in it, she told me that she uses two kinds of peas (regular green peas and petite peas) and that she adds onions. I had no idea! These simple additions may explain why my version never quite tasted the same. She did mention that she doesn’t always use two kinds of peas and that if she can’t get both, she prefers petite peas. For this recipe, I’m going to go with just petite peas since that’s what I had when I was making it.

There are a lot of different versions of this sauce, and you can try it out with almost any bean. This one is my favorite, and as a child, it was the only one I enjoyed (something about this always felt like a treat, which was not the case with the other versions). It generally gets served with white rice, and my mom also likes to serve it with fowl (in sauce).

I struggled with what to call this. In Creole, the name of this recipe (Sos Pwa Frans) doesn’t seem nearly as silly. My sister says I should call it pea soup since they are essentially the same thing, but I think soup generally has more ingredients and still contend that this is a sauce and not a soup, and the name in Creole actually literally translates to Green Pea Sauce. I’m also having fun calling it pea sauce, though, so I’m going to go with it.

I’ll probably come back and tweak this recipe as well, but here’s take one for now.

Green Pea Sauce

Ingredients:
1 (16 ounce) package frozen petite peas
3 cups of water
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 yellow onion, minced
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1 teaspoon chicken base
1 teaspoon seasoned salt

Directions:
1. In a large pot, add the olive oil, garlic, and onions and stir on high heat for one minute.
2. Add the water and the frozen peas and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add the remaining spices and stir well. Continue to cook until the peas are well softened, about 15 minutes.
4. Take half the contents of the pot and blend until smooth. Leave the other half cooking.*
5. Add the blended peas back to the pot and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Be careful that it doesn’t get too thick!

*You can take more than half out. I just like half because I like having some of the peas not blended. If you prefer, you could probably blend all of it.

Summertime

I love summer. The season brings to mind sunny days, fun, and relaxation. There’s just something infectious about the warm weather that makes people want to get out and do things. Besides the warm weather, summer also brings tons of live music, the opportunity for outdoor events, and a host of good food.

I suppose some of the food could be eaten in other seasons too, but it’s just not the same as enjoying it during the summer. I don’t know about you, but for me, all the barbecues and picnics really make the summer more enjoyable.

With that in mind, for the next couple of months, my posts will be dedicated to all the things (and foods) that I love about summer. First up: fried chicken.

I think of fried chicken as a supremely American food, although Haitians do have a version as well. I think my recipe is somewhat a combination of the two, although it really does tend to the more American side. It’s a definite comfort food. Maybe it’s partially tradition, but fried chicken in the summer (especially at a picnic) seems like tradition. This is one of those foods that is likely possible to eat at other times of the year (and probably easier to make given the heat of the frying), but it feels made for warm summer days.

I realize that there are a thousand ways to make this, and perhaps my recipe isn’t all that original, but I like it and I hope that you will, too. As always, feel free to offer feedback in the comments if you try it. I’m always open to suggestions.

One quick note about technique: I boil my chicken before flash frying. I think it guarantees that the chicken is tender, and it reduces frying time. There is a possibility of overcooking, but I still think that’s better than undercooking. Feel free to use whatever technique you’re most comfortable with.

Fried Chicken

Ingredients:
Chicken:
6 chicken drumsticks
1/2 lime
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon chicken base
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 cups of water


Breading:

2 eggs
1/2 cup hot sauce
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 quart frying oil

Directions:
1. Clean the chicken by rubbing the lime over all the drumsticks. Rinse with cold water.
2. Add all the chicken ingredients (except water) to a small pot and toss together. Make sure all pieces are evenly covered.
3. Add the three cups of water and cook on high heat for 35 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Add water as necessary to keep from drying.
4. While the chicken is cooking, mix the hot sauce and eggs together until thoroughly combined. Set aside for later.
5. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and pepper. Set aside for later.
6. Add the oil to a deep pan and heat on high for 5-10 minutes (it should be hot enough to sizzle). Reduce heat to medium.
7. Once the chicken is done cooking, dip each piece in to the egg/hot sauce mixture, then dip in the flour mixture until it is thoroughly coated.*
8. Fry the chicken in the oil for 1 minutes or until golden.**

*The chicken will be hot, so I use tongs for dipping. You can also wait until the chicken cools down if you prefer.
**You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan. The chicken should be completely submerged in the oil for even frying. I actually use a deep fryer, which makes to frying more consistent and less messy.

My Least Favorite Things

We had a team lunch today with the team requested menu of tastebudsrequired.com favorites: mac & cheese, cornbread, and griot. I threw in a little rice and peas and pikliz (since I have a ton of it!). I absolutely love feeding people, but it left me with the two things I hate most about cooking: leftovers and cleaning.

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Why oh why is there always so much food leftover? I get it, it’s because I cook like I’m feeding an army, but I honestly have tried to do a better job of estimating how much food I need. Unfortunately, it just never works out no matter how much I plan. Part of that is because no matter how many people I plan for, the likelihood is that there are at least some who won’t be able to make it due to last-minute emergencies. I suppose I could try to love leftovers, but it’s much more likely that my coworkers will continue to  enjoy them more than I will.

This brings me to another pet peeve: guests who refuse to confirm one way or the other. Hey, I realize that not everyone is a planner by nature, but doesn’t basic consideration for your host insist that you at least reply to an invitation? Yes; no; or maybe, I’ll let you know soon, are all acceptable answers. Silence makes me wonder if you still respect me. I suppose it’s possible that technology fails and the message was never received (on either side), and perhaps something crazy happened that prevented you from replying, or you could have just forgotten to respond, but those sound like excuses to cover up an uncomfortable truth. I suppose silence can also be interpreted as the no it’s meant to be. Either way, it makes it impossible to plan properly.

My other least favorite part about cooking is cleaning. Creating all the food is fun; the mess that’s left afterwards is not, and there’s just no way to avoid it. I wish I could just learn to love this part too, but it just feels like an unfortunate side effect.

Anyone have any tips on avoiding the leftovers or the cleaning, or learning to love either? I’m all ears!

 

Sometimes Less is More

My sister has this theory that the foods people tend to rave about (the things that we enjoy the most) have the least number of ingredients. I’ve had that experience recently with a dinner party. I slaved all day creating several masterpieces, and when everyone came over, my guests were all raving about the white rice. White rice, really? I definitely love it, but it there really isn’t anything to it.

I had a similar experience at my favorite Greek Yogurt place. The first time I tried it, it was like a party in my mouth. I have never had yogurt that good! So when I asked for the ingredients, I expected a long list of ingredients. Now, I’m sure they didn’t tell me the family secrets, but I only received two ingredients (milk and honey).

This brings me to one of the simplest Haitian recipes that I know: pikliz. It’s the Haitian version of pickled vegetables, and is usually served as a topping to the fried pork. I’ve seen lots of recipes for this online that call for adding everything from garlic and onions to peas and string beans. However, the version I like the most only has four ingredients. I’m sure it’s still good with these other things, but in this case, I think the simpler version gets you exactly where you want to go.

As always, please think of the recipe as more of a guideline. The recipe below is very spicy and makes a fairly large amount: feel free to use less habaneros (if you want it less spicy) or less cabbage and carrots (if you don’t want this much). You do want to keep an even mix of cabbage and carrots, though, which is how I ended up with this amount to avoid wasting any ingredients.

I don’t know if it’s fundamentally necessary, but I like to mix the cabbage and carrots evenly before adding the habaneros and vinegar. It’s also best when it’s had the chance to sit for a few days.

Pikliz
Ingredients:
1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
6 carrots, peeled and shredded
8 habanero peppers, finely chopped
32 ounces white vinegar

Directions:
1. Remove the stems from the habaneros.
2. Combine the cabbage, carrots, and peppers (including seeds) in a half gallon jar.
2. Add the vinegar to jar and give it a good shake. Store in a cool place.

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