Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dry Brine Roasted Turkey... Via Kathy Vegas

For the last few years all I see are people swooning over the wet-brining of this meat or that, or the fried turkeys, which each sounded like a big pain in the pa-tootie to me. Then, I met a new blog friend on Foodbuzz who used to be a professional chef. Not only has she changed the way I cook, but she has also rocked my world with this Dry Brine recipe for turkey. She goes by kathyvegas on Foodbuzz and she lives in THE Las Vegas (as opposed to Las Vegas, New Mexico...). Her blog is called Las Vegas Food Adventures and she is an amazing chef who just so happens to give excellent restaurant reviews as well. She's innovative, daring, imaginative, and explains her process to the T on each and every recipe. I am so totally in awe of her expertise and I want to be just like her! (Okay that sounded just a little stalker-ish. Sorry!)

I'll admit I was a bit scared to try something new on a major holiday. However, she posted a recipe for Dry Brine Roasted Turkey, stating that she really doesn't even like turkey but she will eat it this way any time. I just wondered how could I get a better recommendation than that? I was sold. So I decided to go with it for Thanksgiving 2009. We've tried other ways of cooking our turkey since then, but nothing else even compares. So, we're doing the dry-brine again this year.

I have to tell you that my dearest hubby was breathing down my neck and watching everything I was doing like a hawk. That makes me crazy, but this time I was ready to prove him wrong for once, so I just kept shooing him out of my way, keeping to my recipe from Kathy.

He even went so far as to go to the Butterball web site and print out a chart that showed how long to cook a turkey per pound, which I totally ignored, as I stuck to Kathy's recipe. I was only a tiny bit worried, but Kathy had even emailed me with a few extra tips, so I was locked in on the Dry Brine. The only thing I did different was stuff the cavity of the bird with chopped fresh garlic, celery and onion, which also lends a nice flavor to the meat.

I cannot begin to tell you how easy the recipe is. I've never had it so easy in my life. And, the biggest surprise of all? Kathy said the internal temperature deep within the thigh (and not touching the bone) should be 165 degrees. The Butterball web site said it should be 185 degrees internal meat temperature. That is the 20 degrees that makes the difference between dry white meat and succulent white meat. Huh? Who knew? I am telling you the absolute truth when I say it was truly the most succulent turkey I've ever had the pleasure of eating in my entire life. Best of all? I MADE IT! First time ever that I received (sincere) compliments on my turkey. I wasn't even sure how to react because I was in something like a haze of euphoria. It was quite a heady feeling.

And, this is the most excellent recipe I will ever give you.

Dry Brine Roasted Turkey By KathyVegas:

"I’m already on record as a pumpkin pie hater, I might as well publicly announce I feel the same way about turkey. I understand how people are inspired by the look of a gargantuan perfectly browned Norman Rockwell bird as the centerpiece of a holiday meal. I just don’t understand how so many folks actually like the taste and general lack of moistness of the darned things. I much prefer roasting a large capon (always juicy and tender), but cave into peer pressure every couple of years and give turkey another try.

I’ve had turkey prepared in every way imaginable-injected & deep fried, smoked, crock-pot cooked, spatchcocked & grilled…and with every imaginable spice combo on earth. To date, I’ve only found one way to make a turkey palatable and that would be brining. But not wet brining in an unwieldy vat of salt water, but dry brining.

Brining works this way…soaking in a salt water solution draws the moisture out of the bird initially but then is reabsorbed into the cells of the flesh, seasoning and moisturizing during the process. The salt works to make the turkey retain water as it roasts. The scientific name for this is diffusion and osmosis. I also feel that dry brining improves the texture of the meat (unlike wet brining). Dry brining is easier and far less messy than the current darling of cooking shows, wet brining. The recipe and dry brining technique are straightforward. This is the method I use and I highly recommend it (unless you are roasting a nice plump already juicy capon):

Dry Brine Roasted Turkey:

For a 12 pound “natural” whole thawed turkey (not Kosher which is already salted) you will need
½ cup kosher or sea salt

2 tablespoon granulated white sugar (optional but definitely not needed-seasonings such as garlic, herbs, spices, citrus peel, wine, etc.)

Thaw, wash and dry the turkey with paper towels well. Combine the salt and sugar and gently work about a teaspoon under the skin of each breast and thigh as far as possible without tearing the skin.  I carefully use the blunt end of a wooden spoon handle to gently separate the skin from the meat to reach way under the skin. Rub another teaspoon all over the outside of the bird and evenly sprinkle the remainder in the cavity.

Place on a rack, loosely covered with plastic wrap in a large pan (the pan you will be roasting the bird in will do) for 12-24 hours.

To roast, rinse the bird well inside and out under cool water to remove the excess salt and dry the skin and cavity very well with paper towels. The dryer the skin, the crisper the skin will become. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the tips of the wings under the bird. Rub the bird all over with softened butter. Place the bird in a 425 degree oven on a rack and roast for 30 minutes.

After the first 30 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees and baste every 30 minutes with additional butter or pan drippings for approximately 2-3 hours or until the internal temperature taken in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees on a meat thermometer;  juices from inside the cavity will have no trace of pink. Don’t rely on that pop-up thermometer that comes with your turkey.

Remove the turkey from the oven, place on a large platter, uncovered, to rest while you make gravy with the pan drippings. Resting allows the meat juices to redistribute and makes carving easier."

I sincerely hope that if you try this method, it fulfills all your dreams of the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Austin Dining Review.... "The Mighty Cone" Food Truck

Mr. Snooty and I just returned from visiting our offspring in Austin and it was quite the culinary trip indeed. So, first of all, I must tell you about our experience with the first food truck we've ever actually been to.

The Mighty Cone. Owned and operated by Hudson's On The Bend. I'm now a total fan and will make a special trip to Austin just to sample, once again, their goodies.

Located on South Congress (the totally trendy foodie area), The Mighty Cone delivers the most healthy fast food I've ever had the opportunity to devour. Can I just say YUM? I admit that I was making noises like, "Mmmmm", "Ohhhh", "Ahhhhhh", among other sounds of foodie bliss. We sampled their panko fried chicken, panko fried avocado, with an exquisite cole slaw wedged in between, as well as a drizzle of the most dazzling sauce ever. They also make their own (spicy) ketchup, which they serve with their Skinny Fries.

The whole experience was just a delicious adventure that I won't soon forget.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Uchiko In Austin Is To Swoon For.... A Review

We recently went to Austin to visit our daughter while she was in Austin doing a coveted law school internship. Since we always try to make plans for only upper end dining when out of town, she suggested that we make *rezzies* (her word) at the spin-off of Uchi, the smoking hot place to be, Uchiko. We jumped at the chance and dined there on Saturday night. What a magical night it was!

After visiting our daughter several times during her California Experience, we totally fell for the eateries with *open kitchens*. So, I was thrilled to see that Uchiko had an *open kitchen* concept. That's right. We don't get out much. I should also admit right here that I'm not a huge sushi fan unless I'm at Katsuya in West Hollywood in LaLa Land or now, Austin's Uchiko. Frankly, just the thought of eating excellent sushi in West Texas (The Permian Basin) just makes me howl with laughter or seriously want to hurl.

Although we had perused the menu on line before our dinner, we had a server who was so knowledgeable and well-spoken, that we followed her advice without question. Admittedly, our daughter has a friend (one of my faves - who also has a degree in English from NYU... I'm sure he's also writing the Great American Novel in his spare time) who is *in training* for wait service at this point, at Uchiko. Therefore, he wasn't able to be our server that night. Bummer. Luckily, he steered us to the right server and everything just unfolded from there.

I'm pretty sure I'd have to have my master's degree in something just to tell you what we ate. Yes, it was that indescribable. Speaking Japanese would help just in case you happen to have that in your resume. Naturally, I embarrassed the whole family by taking pictures of each and every dish (I think.). There were so many coming to us in succession that it was mind boggling. However, we never once felt as if we were being rushed. They never interrupted us or hovered too much, which are pet peeves of mine. The service, the food, the saki. It was all an experience rather than just being a meal. Something worth lingering over.

I truly give Uchiko my highest recommendation for any restaurant ever, but it does come at a price. I could have gotten a new Louis Vuitton bag instead, but I definitely preferred the enchanting dining experience with my family. The freshness of the food as well as the presentation were dazzling. Seriously.

Since this relatively new Austin restaurant is currently so hot, you must book rezzies way ahead of time. I can assure you that every single server can determine what would be best for those dining at your table after asking a few pertinent questions. It's why they hire only the best, top rated staff in Austin which is what makes it so unique.

All of the best restaurants in Austin hire nothing but the brightest but Uchiko has the cream of the crop. Do not pass up the opportunity to dine there, if given the chance. You can thank me later. Expect to pay at least $500.00 for a party of 3. It's worth every penny....

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How To Tell If Your Oven Is Working Improperly...

Some of us often have to be slapped upside the head before we see what is before our eyes. For the longest time I thought I was cooking everything at the wrong temperature because things kept burning on top. I mean, really. How stupid is that? Don't answer. I realize now how naive it was. I must have made at least 20 meals like this before I finally realized my wonderful, vintage Thermidor double ovens had finally bitten the dust. It was a death I mourned almost as if it had been a relative, as we'd had them for 23 years. I knew when I had to bid them adieu that I wouldn't be getting new Thermidor ovens. Too expensive these days and we have too many repairs and updates going on at the moment as it is. Besides, Mr. Snoots can't do anything to help with a renovation of any kind. Frankly, he's not ALLOWED to attempt to do anything with power  tools or remodeling, for his own safety as well as the safety of our home.

Our next annoyance was finding a double oven that would be the right size to fit in the former space, which so didn't happen. Times have changed and so have appliances. Ovens have gotten smaller and washers/dryers have gotten bigger. God forbid that we might have to remodel something around here. We were able to locate a double oven that fit the width dimensions, but not the length dimensions, which means we still  have  an entire shelf under the oven that has no cabinet cover. It actually looks ridiculous at this point.

However, I've strayed far from the point of this post, so I'll get back to it now.When I kept burning everything I made on the top side, I finally realized that I needed new ovens. Apparently, I'd been cooking with improperly working ovens,  I'd forgotten how to cook like a normal person. The only working coils were the ones on the top, thus the reason everything was getting so dark on top.

I was used to things turning out like this:


And this:

And this:

So, when you start burning everything in your ovens, you might want to have a pro check it out instead of second guessing your own cooking expertise. It might not be you. 

We ended up purchasing the GE double ovens because they were the only ones that we wouldn't have to totally rebuild the cabinets around them, not because they were the best. I would certainly have preferred stainless steel to go with our other appliances. I like these but the bottom oven is not self-cleaning, which I consider to be a pain in the neck, even though we try to be careful about what we cook in the bottom oven. But hey, I'm not burning everything anymore, so I guess I shouldn't care.....