November – Sous Vide Turkey Thighs

November – Sous Vide Turkey Thighs

I have edited and am reposting one I did in April of this year, just after the shut down here in California. I think it will be very useful at Thanksgiving 2020. Most of our holidays are going to look very different this year. Certainly they will be smaller and, and maybe because of that, less elaborate. In our household of three a whole turkey is out of the question. Turkey parts are the answer. Everyone has their favorite part so you can choose which you will serve. Some families will only consider the white meat of the breast, others the dark. We are all thigh folks in this family so that’s the way we’ll go.

I was able to score some organic bone in turkey thighs at the grocery store and immediately seasoned them with salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence. I then vacuum packed them and put them in the freezer for Thanksgiving. They will cook away starting the day before with no fuss on my part. I can concentrate on the dressing and side dishes and the birthday cake since it coincides with a family members significant birthday.

You can sous vide food directly out of your freezer. You don’t need to defrost it, just add some additional cooking time. The flavor and quality of the meat will not suffer one tiny bit. You may need to do some browning once it is cooked, but that is a last minute thing.

I generally cook the dark meat for 24 hours (yes, no mistake) at 150 degrees F. This time, because the thighs were going to be cooked while frozen solid, I added another 3 hours to the cooking time. This recipe would also work for whole legs.

I know that 27 hours sounds like a lot, but almost all of it is unattended. Just add the vacuum packed and frozen thighs or whole legs to the preheated water, let it go overnight. If you start in the afternoon of the day before, they will ready for dinner the next day. The turkey comes out tender and juicy, almost the texture of pulled pork, and it can be used in similar recipes.

Sous Vide Turkey Thighs

Sous Vide Turkey Thighs – Looks Like Pulled Pork

Since my sous vide machine doesn’t like 150 degrees for some reaon, I used a temperature of 149 degrees F/65 degrees C for 24 hours (not frozen). I added an additional 3 because they were still frozen. So a total of 27 hours cooking time.

Be sure to cover you sous vide water with plastic wrap or a lid to cut down on evaporation. Otherwise you could wake to a pan or container with the water gone or a beeping and complaining machine.

Sous Vide Turkey Thighs

Sous Vide Turkey Thighs – After Cooking, Before Browning

You can use the turkey meat immediately for chili, or tacos, in a salad or brown the skin and have them as a holiday meal.

Some recommend browning them before vacuum packing, I sometimes do that. It does add an extra layer of flavor and it is easier to press the meat into the hot pan for uniform browning when they are raw. You then can crisp them in a hot pan or the broiler as well after they finish cooking sous vide. I didn’t pre brown them this time as I was intent on getting them into the freezer. I do find that once cooked they are more solid and it’s difficult to uniformly brown all the skin unless you deep fry them. I don’t think it will be a problem at this dinner because the raisin and sausage dressing will have plenty of crispy bits.

Here they are post sous vide cooking and browning in a hot cast iron skillet.

Sous Vide Frozen Turkey

Sous Vide Frozen Turkey

They were sliced and served with mashed potatoes, a side, and dressing. You won’t believe this is turkey, the texture and taste is more similar to duck confit.

Finished baked Dressing

I am taking this to Fiesta Friday #354 as it may be useful to some members of the party just before the holiday. Fiesta Friday is hosted by Angie. Click on the Fiesta Friday link to get all kinds of ideas for the coming holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

In My Garden – November 2020

In My Garden – November 2020

My garden has been my refuge these past few months, weeks and days. We are now past one election hurdle; I suspect there are many more to come.

November is the month for putting the garden to bed, as I wish we could with all the politics swirling around right now. I have been pruning, cutting back perennials, pulling out spent fall annuals, and planting native wildflowers for spring. We’ve had our first winter rain, although slight. There is a much larger storm system on its way later this week and we had our first frost last night. I’m getting the garden ready for a lengthy well deserved rest.

That’s not true in the vegetable garden though. I will hopefully get my snap pea seeds before the rain, the bed is ready for the 30 inch tendrils of a shorter variety. Now is the time for planting. Lettuce, arugula, carrots, sprouting broccoli, chard, and cabbage are all getting a good start. They love the cooler weather.

Ready for peas

Ready for peas

This year I will cover the new seeds with bird netting. The sparrows and junkos got most of them last yer.

Sprouting Broccoli and Chard

Sprouting Broccoli and Chard

 

Young Cabbage Plants

Young Cabbage Plants under shade cloth to protect from cabbage worms

 

Lettuce, Arugula, and Carrots

Lettuce, Arugula, radishes, and Carrots covered in bird netting

Here are a few pictures of the flower beds, facing the back of the house from left to right. The blue kiddie pool is for the dogs, they like to cool off in the water after a strenuous game of ball or frisbee or tag.

There is always something to do even if it is only filling the bird feeders. For that I am thankful.

Because of the heat lamps we have been able to hold a few appropriately distanced dinner parties outside, just off the kitchen deck. Once the rains start it will be more difficult. We have a rain flap over part of the deck but it is only large enough for four to be safely distant from each other, and it won’t work if there is any wind.

Ready for dinner

Ready for dinner

In the pollinator garden most of the plants have been sheared back. Amazingly that one rain shower (it was only .25 inch) has resulted in seeds sprouting.

And here, just for recording purposes, is our sad front yard. It’s mostly sand and weeds, our leach field for the septic system, and a playground for the dogs. I have purchased some seeds to improve the soil and will be working on it this week before the rain on Thursday. So here is the sad ‘before’:

Stay safe everyone, stay well, be kind to each other. I think we all need some tenderness right now.

I love your comments and suggestions. Thank you so much for visiting with me in my garden in Fort Bragg, California on the coast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In My Kitchen – November 2020

In My Kitchen – November 2020

“Where have you been?” You may well ask. The answer is complicated…in a cave, trying to enter a coma, in a complete media blackout zone, and in general a nervous wreck. I’ve found it almost impossible to write or even do much reading. Books on tape have become my refuge. I apologize if I have missed your blog posts or emails. I promise to recover in a week or so.

Things are not good in the U.S. No matter the outcome of the election (as I write it is currently undecided), things are not good. Whatever side you are on, things are not good. How can folks have such different views of both democracy and leadership; why are we so divided and how can there be so much anger? Even more important, what can we do?

In addition to the horrible political situation, we personally have been closing on a second home/condo/apartment in downtown Oakland. We have deep roots in Oakland, after over 30 years we have many close friends plus all our medical professionals are there. Our retiree medical insurance benefits depend on having a residence in Oakland. Fort Bragg is an example of the deep holes we have in rural health. We are lucky to have a small local hospital but any specialist is over a 2 hour drive away. We have been renting in Oakland since we sold our home two years ago but that was always intended to be temporary. I will attach a picture of the new kitchen at the end of this post. We don’t plan to move until next year as there is some work to be done.

So everything has converged to set up a period of maximum stress in my life and that’s not even mentioning Covid. But, we feel grateful to have our health and a roof over our heads with food on the table, there are many more folks who are less fortunate right now. 

How are you coping out there?

So, what is going on In My Kitchen?

Casey and Quinn

What are you making for dinner Mom? Casey and Quinn under the table.

After almost 10 months of stay at home orders and social distancing, I am running out of steam. It’s been many years since I cooked 3 meals a day for weeks/months on end. “What are we having for dinner?” has become a looming question every day. I am mostly bored with the menu.

With the cooling temperatures, I thankfully have a new repertoire of recipes. The Instant Pot has come out from its summer home in the garage, and I am dusting off my casseroles and braising pots.

I made ox-tail stew for the first time, yes for the very first time. After researching recipes I decided to use the electric pressure cooker. It was absolutely delicious, essentially a one pot meal with the potatoes and carrots. It only needed a green salad on the side. The meat melted off the bone and the sauce was amazing.

Instant Pot Ox-Tail Stew

Instant Pot Ox-Tail Stew with Red Wine

The potatoes came out of the garden. This was a classic stew with carrots, celery, garlic, and potatoes plus tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, herbs-de-Provence, and red wine. It was even better the next day. I will post the recipe.

We also ate a seasonally appropriate dinner of a butternut squash, hominy, and chicken stew. Another cool weather winner.

New in my kitchen is this electric smart rice cooker. I was convinced into buying it after having polenta cooked in a similar pot at a friend’s house. Put in all the ingredients, set the time and walk away???? Sold! I also find it very useful for cooking mixed rice or grain types, oatmeal or porridge. My old rice cooker did a wonderful job with white rice, not so good with other types.

Rice Cooker

Rice Cooker

Also new in my kitchen, or rather in our outside dining area, are these little but powerful lanterns. Now that it is getting darker earlier, candles are not bright enough plus they are frequently blown out by a puff of wind (not to mention fire danger). These little lanterns have two setting so we can see our food and each other in the dark when we have small socially distanced dinner parties.

November is the time for winter vegetables, cauliflower being one of my favorites. We usually have a rather plain roasted cauliflower dish, cauliflower gets the most wonderful sweetness when roasted and charred. This sauce with olives, bacon and crisped parmesan really perked things up and packed a flavor punch.

So that’s about all. I mourn the end of tomato season but cheer the beginning of braised and long cooked meals (or Instant Pot). What are you cooking this season?

As promised, here is a glimpse of the new kitchen.

New Oakland Kitchen

New Oakland Kitchen

We are thinking of refreshing the kitchen cabinets as they are well used (if you look closely) and a little battered. But there is little else to do. It has a wonderful view of the Oakland skyline.

This post of In My Kitchen is part of a monthly summary of kitchen adventures around the world. Come and visit us at Sherrys Pickings.

Be well, be safe, be kind…we are all in this (whatever it is) together.

 

October – Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

October – Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

I am very partial to roasted vegetables of any type. Vegetables in the family Brassicaceae or Crucifereae are particularly delicious cooked that way. Roasting enhances the sweetness of cauliflower, cabbage, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Did you know the family takes its alternative name from the shape of their flowers, whose four petals resemble a cross (Crusciferae is new latin for ‘cross-bearing’).

When roasted they only need a little olive oil and some salt for seasoning, that’s all I use most times. Last week I saw a recipe from Melissa Clark for Roasted Cauliflower With Pancetta, Olives and Crisp Parmesan in the NY Times cooking section. I happened to have a head of cauliflower in the crisper drawer that needed using, and most of the other ingredients were pantry staples.

This was a big hit, served with a swordfish steak cooked sous vide (I will be posting that recipe soon). This dish could easily be an entire meal with a salad on the side. The combination of bacon, cauliflower, olives and parmesan was a winner. You could adapt this recipe for Brussels sprouts or cabbage if that’s what you have on hand. The olives wouldn’t stand out color wise, but the flavor would still be there. Let me know if you try it.

Cauliflower is such an adaptable vegetable and it’s featured in so many recipes. Who would have ever thought of cauliflower rice or cauliflower pizza ten years ago? My grandmother’s favorite way of serving cauliflower was creamed cauliflower with a cheese sauce. That classic dish is still on many holiday menus as it can be made ahead and baked at the last minute. You could combine some of the same flavors of smoked pork (bacon, prosciutto or pancetta) and parmesan into a baked cauliflower dish with pasta I recently read on cookingwithauntjuju.com, Rigatoni with Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Parmesan Crust. As I said, cauliflower is a blank canvas for inventiveness.

Getting back to the recipe…

Melissa Clark’s recipe called for using a package of finely diced pancetta, not something I had on hand and I didn’t want to run to the store for a single ingredient. I did have a package of thick sliced smoked bacon which I diced and precooked to crispy deliciousness. If you have pancetta or even prosciutto available by all means use them.

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite-sized florets
  • 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup of green olives, crushed, pitted and chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely grated or minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • 4 ounces bacon, cut into 1/8 inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup of shredded (not ground) parmesan
  • Chopped parsley or other small greens for garnish (I had part of a package of micro greens)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Place cauliflower on a rimmed backing sheet and toss with 1/4 cup of olive oil and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Roast for 15 minutes.
  2. While the cauliflower is roasting, pan fry the bacon until almost crisp and drain it on a paper towel.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olives, garlic, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt (I didn’t use too much salt because the bacon was salty). Drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, whisking to combine.
  4. After the cauliflower had roasted for 15 minutes, remove it from the oven. Add the bacon and cumin seeds to the pan and gently mix to combine. Sprinkle the parmesan on top. Roast for another 15 to 20 minutes until the cauliflower is tender and browning on the edges, and the parmesan is crisp.
  5. Spoon the contents of the sheet pan into a warmed serving dish and spoon the olive dressing over the top, tossing gently to combine. Add more salt, red pepper flakes or lemon juice as needed.
  6. Scatter the parsley or herbs on top.

 

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

In My Garden – October 2020

In My Garden – October 2020

Back Garden in Fort Bragg

Back Garden in Fort Bragg

I’ve had a request from a reader to put the garden beds in context. Here is a view of the three garden beds often pictured individually, with the vegetable garden at the back of the right side.

And here is left of the picture above. The following pictures go from left to right, the vegetable garden is in the back on the far right.

left of back garden with Casey

Center of back garden

Center of back garden

Right of back garden

right of back garden – Fort Bragg CA

Veggie garden

veggie garden

The unwatered grass is brown. We don’t water the lawn (which consists mostly of dandelions) in the summer because here in N CA most of our grass is summer dormant. Even at the edges of the cultivated garden where it is watered, it only starts looking green this time of year.

And what about the front garden, do you wonder? There are not pictures posted. Well, it is mostly a wasteland. It’s where we toss the ball and frisbee of Casey and Quinn. It’s also the location of our septic system and is very sandy plus nutrient poor. We have plans to try and improve the soil this fall. I’ll write more on that once the rain starts but I don’t want to seed anything just yet. I don’t have high hopes but we read an interesting article about how they reclaimed Golden Gate Park in San Francisco from the sand dunes. We are going to attempt the same.

The dahlias are still blooming although I expect them to be finished soon. The pineapple sage (the red plants in large pots on the right side of the back garden) are attracting the attention of the hummingbirds. They love the color red.

Remember the summer squash and bush beans I planted in August? Well, success! I have been harvesting zucchini although the plants have attracted a bit of powdery mildew. The purple bush beans are showing tiny beans.

August planted summer squash

Purple bush beans

Purple bush beans

The lettuce, cilantro, basil and arugula are doing well. We’ve been having wonderful salads.

lettuce, cilantro, basil and arugula

lettuce, cilantro, basil and arugula

This past weekend I planted carrots, parsnips, radishes, lettuce and more arugula. The arugula is coming up after only three days.

As you can see from the large picture of the garden above, there are a few winter squashes almost ready to pick. I’m not sure if I will plant them again next year. The plants took up a lot of room and didn’t really produce well compared to the space they required.

A good friend has some cabbage starts for me in her greenhouse. This weekend I will prepare one of the empty beds for planting them when they are ready.

That’s it for this month. I am looking forward to the winter rains, they mark a quieter time in the garden. About this time of year I am ready to wrap it up, except for the vegetable garden of course.

Stay well everyone, and safe. The next few weeks promise to be interesting. We feel in a bit of a bubble up here on the coast in Fort Bragg, but politics is everywhere. There is no escaping although sometimes I wish I could put my head in the sand. The garden is a wonderful escape.