Friday, June 27, 2014

Turkey on the Barbie

June 21, 2014

Grill Roasted Turkey Breast
Potato Salad 
Fresh Green Beans
Cranberry Relish
Parker House Rolls

Grill Roasted Turkey Breast for Gas Grill from Cook's Country

Thanksgiving isn't about turkey and food, it's about tradition and family. Nonetheless, we don't  have turkey for dinner once a year just for tradition's sake, we must like it. Why not have it more often, twice a year or more? Last year I grill roasted a boneless turkey breast and it was delicious. Roasting a turkey on the grill makes sense during the warmer month rather than heating up your house using the oven. It also makes sense to cook less than a whole turkey when you have only a few people to eat it. Thus this developing new tradition at our house of having grill roasted turkey in the summer.

The recipe specified a whole turkey breast weighing about 5 pounds. The market had only split (half) breasts so I bought two, about 4½ pounds. The night before cooking they were rubbed, under and over the skin, with a mixture of salt and brown sugar, wrapped with plastic, and placed in the refrigerator. When it was time to cook, a rub of ground black pepper and brown sugar was applied and the breasts were placed on the gas grill. The grill had been prepared with a hot side, which had an aluminum foil packet with hickory chips, and a cool side which had the turkey. The burners were adjusted to maintain the temperature around 350° and the turkey was cooked until its internal temperature reached 160°.  This took about 75 minutes. The turkey rested for 20 minutes before being sliced and served.

Some of the side dishes you would expect to see on the Thanksgiving table. The cranberry relish was made using berries that were purchased in November and stored in the freezer. (Grind 3 cups of berries with a whole orange, peel included, then stir in a large pinch of salt and sugar to taste, about 1½ cups. ) The rolls were made as brown and serve rolls several months ago, they only had to be thawed and heated in the oven. Potato salad was bought at a supermarket deli for a pot luck dinner the night before and it was a good choice for this dinner. Fresh green beans were cooked in boiling water until tender then tossed with melted butter and sliced almonds.

Once again the turkey came out very good. It was tender and moist with a hint of smoky flavor. It was well seasoned and not overly salty following its long contact with the salt rub. Moreover it was easy to fix, requiring minimal preparation time and minimal time monitoring it while it cooked. The side dishes were good complements and none of them required a lot of work to make, either. I wonder if there is a recipe for grill roasted dark meat?

Each half breast provided about 6 servings of turkey. One evening we made turkey panini sandwiches. A thick slice of meat was placed on a roll with some cranberry relish and the sandwich was cooked in a panini press. The sandwiches were very good, the best part was the turkey which was tender and juicy, not at all dry or tough as leftover turkey can often be.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Honoring Fathers with Food

June 15, 2014

French Toast with Maple Syrup
Hash Brown Potatoes
Berry Salad
Rich Chocolate Tart

Rich Chocolate Tart from Cook's Illustrated

Sunday was Father's Day and I got the day off from cooking (mostly). My father, who died last month, had many strong points but he was not known for his culinary prowess. When I was little he would cook for us on Friday.  Mom went grocery shopping with her friends and they would enjoy dinner out, taking a break from kids and kitchen. Those meatless Friday meals with dad were usually very simple. Believe it or not, I remember fondly having Tomato Soup on Toast, though I've had it only one time since those days. (If you want the recipe let me know, I can probably give you general directions.)

What dad was good at, though, was cooking breakfast. It was great when mom and we kids got home from church and he had a hot breakfast waiting for us. His French Toast was a favorite of mine, so much so that he would often fix it for me on my birthday. In memory of him and those days, I try to have French Toast on or around my birthday with mixed success over the years.

For Sunday dinner this week, Fathers Day, Diane fixed me French Toast. Nothing else could have been so appropriate. It honors my dad and my memories of him and those days growing up. It also honors me: not only did I get the week off from cooking, but it my memories were respected. Dinner was even more special because my whole family was present, not just two of us,  including Caleb, Karley, and Caryn. I don't know if they fully appreciated the significance of the menu, it does seem a strange meal for celebrating, but I hope they have a better idea now of its significance.

I contributed dessert. I have been wanting to try a recipe for Rich Chocolate Tart. I purchased a tart pan several months ago. Several weeks ago I purchased the ingredients for the tart but I postponed making it because it takes several days to complete. Several hours are needed to make the crust, made using ground almonds, because the dough rests in the refrigerator several times. After it bakes it needs to cool. The chocolate filling didn't take too long to prepare and bake in the cooled crust. However, before adding the chocolate glaze, the tart rests over night in the refrigerator so the filling can set. The final step, adding the glaze, was relatively quick but the glaze did not flow well enough so I could cover the tart without using a spatula. Since it wasn't smooth, Caleb used a spatula to make an attractive pattern. While everyone enjoyed the rich finished product, I think I'll stick with the easier-to-make French Silk Chocolate Pie when I want a dessert of this sort.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bodacious Barbecued Beef Brisket and Boston Beans

June 7, 2014

Barbecued Beef Brisket
Quick Boston Beans
Vella Merlot


For most of the dinners that I write about there is at least one dish which is new to us. Not this week, though, there are no new recipes in this meal. Sometimes you find something that you like and it just needs to be repeated. I have made, and written about, both the Brisket and the Beans.

Every summer I will barbecue one or two large pieces of meat. These will make a generous meal for 2 (or 3) with a lot of leftovers. Brisket is one of these where it is worth getting a large piece of meat and cooking it over a long period of time. (The other is a pork shoulder for pulled pork sandwiches.) This year we would have some help eating the brisket as Caleb and Karley were in town to visit for a few days and so could help with the leftovers.

I purchased a six-pound brisket, flat cut. Preparing it for dinner took about eight hours, though most of that is hands off. The fat cap is scored and the brisket is brined in a solution of salt and sugar for two hours. (I have to use the largest mixing bowl that I own.) The meat is dried and a rub of salt, pepper, and sugar is applied. It is then smoked on the gas grill for three hours using an aluminum foil packet of hickory chips to generate smoke. Finally, it is roasted in the oven for another three hours or so until reaching 195°. After a 30-minute rest it is ready to slice, serve, and eat. The resulting meat was tender, juicy, and packed with flavor from the smoke, salt, and pepper. The end pieces were perhaps a little too salty but even Diane didn't complain (perhaps because the horseradish she slathered on the beef masked the salty ends.) Diane noted that she enjoyed the sweet sauce from the beans on the brisket.

To accompany the barbecued beef I made some Boston Beans using the America's Test Kitchen recipe from their Quick Family Cookbook which used canned rather than dry beans. We had plenty of raw vegetables so I served a crisp, fresh crudité with carrots, radishes, celery, cucumber; some of these came from our monthly CSA produce box. A glass of our every day red wine completed the dinner.

We had several meals with the leftover barbecued chicken which I had disparaged last week. The main complaint was that the sauce was too spicy. As time heals all wounds, it apparently also tempers hot sauces. The leftover chicken was better, due to the less spicy sauce, than it had been originally. Diane reheated it in the oven after adding some more sauce to the chicken. It was not as moist as when it was fresh but it was fine, certainly not dried out.

The tender brisket made excellent sandwiches which we had with Caleb and Karley as part of a picnic lunch while visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Disappointing Meal

June 1, 2014

Sweet and Tangy Barbecued Chicken
Steamed White Corn
Fresh Fruit Salad
Newcastle Brown Ale/Vella Chardonnay

Sweet and Tangy Barbecued Chicken from Cook's Illustrated

Sometimes meals don't meet my expectations. This is often not the fault of the menu or the recipe or even my cooking skills, but rather of my expectations. You can get your hopes up for a particular meal based on the menu or recipe or recommendation or seeing it on TV and then not be satisfied with the result, no matter how good the meal is. I don't think that's the case for this meal. I was expecting chicken with a nice tangy and sweet sauce. However, the first thing we noticed biting into the chicken was that the sauce was spicy hot ... not real hot or unpleasantly hot, but enough to distract from the sweet and spicy. The second thing we noticed was that the chicken was too salty for our tastes. It wasn't all bad, though, not a total disaster, the chicken was tender and juicy and the skin had rendered nicely. We probably won't use this recipe again.

The recipe for "Sweet and Tangy Barbecued Chicken" came from the July 2013 issue of Cook's Illustrated.  It sounded good and looked delicious on the America's Test Kitchen (ATK) TV show. (As I was working on this post, ATK posted a link to the TV show on Facebook.) I bought a whole chicken plus two additonal legs at Whole Foods. Sunday morning I mixed up the dry rub, which included a fair amount of salt, coated the chicken, and put it into the refrigerator for about 7 hours. The chicken cooked on the gas grill over direct heat long enough to brown each side. It was then moved to the cool side of the grill which had a disposable pan of water between the burner and grates to further temper the heat. The recipe suggested it would take about an hour to finish cooking but after 90 minutes it wasn't quite up to the final temperature when my patience ran out and we ate it. The only lesson learned is that I should have made the cool side of the grill be nearer the thermometer in the lid of the grill to get a better indication of the temperature near the chicken so I could better adjust the heat.

I had cooked the corn in the microwave oven assuming the chicken would be done on time. As a result, no only was the chicken disappointing but the corn, having to sit so long after being cooked, was also less than ideal. The fruit salad was good as we are starting to enjoy the local summer fruits. It consisted of of Granny Smith apple, pineapple, orange, fresh local peach and plum, and banana.

Thank you to those who commented on my previous post. I have replied to everyone's comments and enjoyed the dialog. Keep the comments coming!