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Thanksgiving Leftovers and Leftover Leftovers: Turkey and Leek Risotto & Risotto Croquettes with Homemade Turkey Stock

Dec 3 2010

it's not really much to look at...I suppose I could have molded, although I suspect that would have just made it look like something out of a can The Bird That Keeps On Giving

Even after feeding nearly 30 people on Thanksgiving, a single turkey carcass can produce over two gallons of stock. And not some watery broth—this is stock so rich that it once refrigerated, it will be a solid. I make stock from chicken bones all the time, and that’s pretty good, but this seemed like, well, a different animal.

I could have picked the remaining meat off beforehand, and it would have had more flavor, but I was just planning on putting it in things based on the stock anyway so it didn't matterPerhaps it was just the size of the bird, or the amount of meat left on it. It looked like it had been pretty well  picked-over, but there must have been a lot of meat left on the back. Or perhaps it was because I used Michael Ruhlman’s “oven method.” I normally just make stock on the stovetop—I brown the bones over medium heat along with a quartered onion and two or three roughly chopped carrots and crushed garlic cloves. Then, I add a splash of white wine or dry vermouth (or vinegar if I don’t have either of those around) and simmer that for a few minutes and cover it all with water and turn the heat down low. Usually, I start it in the mid to late afternoon and simmer it for 6-8 hrs, adding more water if necessary to keep the bones covered. Just before I got to sleep, I turn the heat off and cover it so. In the morning, it’s cool  strain the solids through a couple of layers of cheesecloth or paper towel and freeze or refrigerate it in pint or quart containers. 

I decided to try the “oven method” because the turkey carcass was so big, I couldn’t cover it completely with water even in my biggest stock pot. I thought perhaps it would be better to cook it longer on lower heat without letting any liquid evaporate. Putting it in an 180F oven overnight sounded like about the right idea.

180 wasn't quite hot enough for it to "simmer"--it was actually cool enough to touch, though not grab and hold after 12 hrs of simmering, the broth was golden but clear aromatics nearly overfilling the pot 6 hrs later, it was slightly reduced in volume and unctuous and if you have less storage space, you can reduce it further either before or after straining. Some people freeze it in ice cubes and use them like bouillon.

Ruhlman suggests letting the carcass cook for 8-16 hrs before adding the other ingredients, so I left it in the oven overnight and then added the onion, carrots, and garlic the next morning. They raised the water level so high, I didn’t trust myself to be able to get it back in the oven without spilling it so I finished it over low heat on the stovetop. In total, the carcass simmered for about 12 hrs before adding the aromatics and another 6 hrs with them. I let it cool for about 6 hrs, picked out the meat—about 6 cups of it, flavorless by then but still fine as filler protein—strained it through cheesecloth, and filled 4 quart jars plus a little extra.

the fat will rise to the top, and you can easily skim it off if you want. underneath, you basically get turkey aspic Read more »

Soft Pull-Apart Wheat Rolls with Sourdough-Starter and/or Active Dry Yeast

Dec 1 2010

the whole sheet of rolls can be turned out onto a cooling rack, and when cool, can be stored in a 2-gallon "jumbo" zip-top plastic bag for up to 3 days before serving

Classic Do-Ahead Dinner Rolls

Here’s what I want from dinner rolls: They should be slightly sweet, perhaps with a hint of honey. They should be a little wholesome—not like a fiber supplement, but not as cake-like as brioche or challah. And they should be pillowy soft. Also, I want to be able to bake them a day or two in advance. Especially for elaborate meals like Thanksgiving, there are always more important things to do on the day of whether you’re travelling or hosting. Bread is something you ought to be able to make ahead of time.

A couple of years ago, I made the mistake of taking Rose Levy Beranbaum’s sacarduros to Thanksgiving. Sacaduros are made by wrapping small pieces of her “hearth bread” dough—which makes a rustic, crusty, free-form loaf—around tiny pieces of butter and a sprinkle of coarse salt. You gather the ends loosely together on top so they unfold a bit while they’re baking like petals, and when you rip them open, you reveal the salty, buttery core. Fresh out of the oven, they’re lovely. But like most kinds of crusty bread, they’re best the day they’re made. If you leave them out very long, they’ll get stale and if you store them in an air-tight container, the crust gets soggy so instead of being crisp and appealing, it’s so chewy it’s hard to eat. Also, when they’re cold, you lose the hot buttered roll effect and instead they just seem unevenly risen and peculiarly salty inside.

after the second rise they're often just barely touching, but they'll rise more in the oven This year, I used Martha Stewart’s “Everything Thanksgiving” rolls. They’re placed in a 9x13 pan to rise and bake, so they form two big continuous sheets. The reduced surface area means they stay fresher longer. You can pull them apart just before serving or let guests pull them apart themselves. I modified the recipe for my sourdough starter and my other dinner roll preferences—honey instead of sugar, approximately 1/3 whole wheat flour, and half canola oil instead of all butter (to help keep them soft).

These were everything I want from a dinner roll—soft and slightly sweet. They’re rich enough to eat plain, but even better with butter, and they’re perfect for mopping up extra gravy. I made two batches on Wednesday, stored them in “jumbo” two gallon zip-top bags, and they still seemed fresh and soft when we were tearing into the second batch on Friday.

See Stewart’s original recipe or the note at the asterisk if you want to use active dry yeast instead of a sourdough starter. Or, if you want to use a sourdough starter but don’t have time to wait for two rises of 3-12 hrs each, you can use both starter and active dry yeast. The starter will give the rolls a little more flavor, like using old dough, but the active dry yeast will do most of the leavening and each rise will only take a little over an hour. Read more »

Fresh Green Bean Casserole: Look Ma, No Cans!

Nov 22 2010

right out of the oven, the sauce is pretty loose, but it thickens as it sits or after being refrigerated

CSA 2010 Epilogue

I made this a couple of months ago when I was still getting pounds of gorgeous, fresh, gigantic green beans from Needle Lane Farms every week. However, it would be tasty even with far less gorgeous beans. Really, the entire point of green bean bean casserole is to disguise green beans that have been rendered essentially flavorless by canning by drowning them in a mushroom-infused béchamel and topping them with crispy fried onions (a combination that could make just about anything taste good). I threw this version together one night when I had some milk and mushrooms on hand, and I was sick of eating all those gorgeous, fresh green beans sautéed with garlic or steamed and dressed with oil and vinegar. I wanted something less summery, less virtuous, and frankly, a little less like green beans.

The title of the entry isn’t meant to imply that the can-based version is bad. I love the recipe Dorcas Reilly came up with when she was the head of Campbell’s Test Kitchen in the 1950s. It may have been a naked ploy to get people to buy more Campbell’s products, but marketing alone couldn’t have turned it into a holiday you can deep-fry your own shallots, or if you have access to an asian market, you might be able to get them in large quantities for cheap; also great for topping bagels and encrusting basically anything savoryclassic. Reilly and the test kitchen came up with dozens of recipes, most of which would now be candidates for the Gallery of Regrettable Food. But even though green bean casserole is a quintessential 1950s mush-from-cans kind of recipe, it’s also essentially a classic gratin. I can’t think of a better way to make lifeless canned vegetables not just edible but delicious than to submerge them in a savory, roux-thickened milk sauce (which is all Campbell’s condensed cream soups really are). The basic formula—condensed cream soup + canned vegetable + crunchy topping—would probably be pretty tasty no matter what flavor of soup, kind of vegetable, or crunchy topping you used. Cream of onion with canned peas topped with bread crumbs. Cream of celery with canned succotash topped with crushed saltines. It may never be a culinary revelation, but it’s hard to think of an easier, faster, or tastier way to make a vegetable dish from a handful of ingredients that keep indefinitely in your pantry.

The one real benefit to making a dish like this from scratch—aside from trying to use up CSA produce—is having the ability to customize it. Personally, I like just enough nutmeg in my béchamel to make it a little spicy. I like my mushrooms minced so finely I will never have to bite into one. I like my green beans with a little structural integrity but soft enough to cut with a fork. And for the topping, I’ll take fried shallots over French’s onions any day.

Have It Your Way

Some other variations you might consider, especially if you’re catering to a restrictive-eater this holiday season:

Vegan/Lactose-free: Use a non-dairy milk (Chocolate & Zucchini reports having good success with oat milk in a similar casserole) and substitute vegetable oil or shortening for the butter.

Gluten-free: Substitute rice flour for the wheat flour OR instead of starting with a roux, heat the butter and milk to a simmer and then whisk in a slurry made from 2 T. arrowroot powder or cornstarch combined with 2 T. milk or water and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Mushroom-free: Leave out the mushrooms. Instead, add an onion cooked to a deep golden brown in 4-8 tablespoons of butter over low heat (which should take 30-50 minutes to get it really deep French Onion Soup brown), or any kind of cured pork product (guanciale or pancetta if you want to be trendy), or 4-5 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, or a cup of shredded, sharp cheese to the hot milk.

Lower-carb: Substitute cream and/or nut milk for the whole milk (1/2 cream and 1/2 cashew milk might be good) and thicken the sauce with a cup of shredded cheese, 2 tempered eggs, or 1/2 t. guar gum or xantham gum sprinkled over the heated milk while whisking.

Lower-fat/lower-calorie: Omit the butter and flour and use skim milk instead of whole. Heat the milk almost to a simmer and then add a slurry made from 4 T. arrowroot powder or cornstarch combined with 4 T. milk or water, stirring constantly. Cook for a few minutes, still stirring, until thickened.

Pork It Up: Fry up about 1/2 lb bacon or salt pork until the fat is rendered and the meat is browned. Drain the meat on paper towels and use about 4 T. of the rendered fat as the basis for the roux (reserve the rest for another use). Dice or crumble the cooked meat into small pieces and mix it into the casserole before baking.

French It Up: Waste some pricey Use haricots verts and call it “haricots verts gratin” instead of “green bean casserole.” (That’s AHR-eee-ko VEHR GRAH-tin).

Quicker: If you want homemade taste without having to fuss with fresh green beans, use frozen green beans—steam them on the stovetop or microwave just until thawed while you’re making the white sauce.Happy Thanksgiving!  Read more »

The Myth of the Grass-fed Pig, Part II: Cornphobia

Nov 19 2010

Part I of “The Myth of the Grass-fed Pig” is here, previous posts related to Food, Inc. are here and here.

Posted on ffffound.com in February 2010

The Evil of Corn” by Gary Taxali

Professor Seabury isn’t alone in thinking non-ruminants should be fed grass and only grass (although he’s probably rare among pig farmers who think so). The people at Castlemaine Farms, a small vegetable and poultry operation in North Carolina, got so sick of being asked if their chickens were 100% grass-fed that they posted the following on their blog:

click for original entry

The economics of animal agriculture are a little more complicated than grass=free and grain=$ (more about that another day), but I suspect the obsession with grass-fed animals has less to do with the economics of feed than it does with a two-part lesson a lot of readers absorb from The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food, Inc.: 1) corn is in everything—the contemporary American food system relies on corn’s uniquely efficient carbon-fixing system to produce historically-unprecedented food surpluses that they then turn into a dazzling array of products* and 2) that’s bad—nutritionally, ecologically, aesthetically, and morally. Or, as Troy Swain puts it even more succinctly, “Corn is Badass and Creepy”:

Posted on the livejournal "uberdionysus" in March 2007

Page 2 in a 5-part series on The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Swain does a pretty good job of illustrating why corn is “badass,” but it’s sort of unclear why it’s “creepy.” That’s what I’ll try to explain in this entry—why would anyone think that it’s a bad thing for pigs and chickens to eat corn? Why are otherwise seemingly-sane people convinced that eating corn on the cob or popcorn at the movies is some kind of transgression—something they should avoid or feel guilty about? What drives cornphobia?

*For Adorno & Horkheimer fans: this seems a lot like the argument that the Culture Industry produces what appears to be wide range of options, creating the illusion of democratic choice and individuality, but they’re really all the same. Actually, there are dozens of parallels between “The Culture Industry” and Omnivore’s Dilemma, but that’s not the most blog-friendly tangent. Read more »

The Myth of the Grass-Fed Pig

Nov 5 2010

Previously in this series: Food, Inc. Part I: No Bones in the Supermarket and Food, Inc. Part II: Is the food more dangerous?

Pigs at High Farms in South Carolina, which are rotated between the field and forest and probably do eat some grass. Pigs can be grass-fed in the same way that humans can be spinach-fed. Greens can make up a small percentage of our total caloric intake, but if we tried to survive on them alone, we'd starve.

When Pigs Fly Eat Grass 

From his profile on the School of Social Work, click for page The organizers of the free showing of Food, Inc. I attended last spring invited a few speakers to lead a discussion after the film over a vegetarian dinner. One of them was Dr. Brett Seabury, an Emeritus Professor of Social Work who has decided to spend his retirement raising cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens “naturally.” He showed us some pictures of his animals, and seemed especially eager to impress upon us how grass-dependent his whole operation is. His cows and sheep eat grass (unsurprising). His chickens eat grass, although that can’t be all they eat. Chickens can only get 30-35% of their calories from grass and other forage like clover and alfalfa, according to multiple sources including food movement demi-god Joel Salatin. If Seabury isn’t feeding his chickens grain or table scraps, they must be surviving primarily on insects, grubs, and seeds.

But his pigs, Seabury seemed ashamed to admit, still survive primarily on grain-based feed. They eat grass, too, he promised, and he said he was trying to increase the amount of grass in their diets. However, he admitted that he wasn’t nearly as “advanced” as a friend of his who raises a  “special” breed of pigs entirely on grass. And if there were such a thing—a pig who could eat only grass—that would be pretty special. As I mentioned in passing in the last recipe I posted, pigs are extraordinarily efficient at producing meat in terms of speed and pounds of meat produced/pounds of feed consumed. According to Marvin Harris’s “The Abominable Pig”:

Of all domesticated mammals, pigs possess the greatest potential for swiftly and efficiently changing plants into flesh. Over its lifetime, a pig can convert 35 percent of the energy in its feed to meat compared with 13 percent for sheep and a mere 6.5 percent for cattle. A piglet can gain a pound for every three to five pounds it eats while a calf needs to eat ten pounds to gain one. A cow needs nine months to drop a single calf, and under modern conditions a calf needs another four months to reach four hundred pounds. But less than four months after insemination, a single sow can give birth to eight or more piglets, each of which after another six months can weigh over four hundred pounds.

However, as he notes later, there’s a crucial difference between the feed-to-meat alchemy performed by the pig and the kind performed by its barnyard pals:

Cattle, sheep, and goats thrive on items like grass, straw, hay, stubble, bushes, and leaves—feeds whose high cellulose content renders them unfit for human consumption even after vigorous boiling. Rather than compete with humans for food, the ruminants further enhanced agricultural productivity by providing dung for fertilizer and traction for pulling plows. And they were also a source of fiber and felt for clothing, and of leather for shoes and harnesses…. Feed [pigs] on wheat, maize, potatoes, soybeans, or anything else low in cellulose, and pigs will perform veritable miracles of transubstantiation; feed them on grass, stubble, leaves, or anything high in cellulose, and they will lose weight.

From an ad for Honeywell by The Q Group, click for full adRuminants can turn inedible vegetation into food thanks to their constant chewing (or ruminating) and their multiple stomachs, which are like a series of fermentation vats full of bacteria that help break down all those fibers and starches. Pigs just turn food into slightly-more-delicious food. And they do it at the cost of 65% of the feed’s initial caloric value, which is used to keep the pig warm and power all of its piggy activities like wallowing and rooting. To make matters worse, pigs aren’t really good for anything but producing meat. They aren’t suited for milking or shearing or pulling plows, and they don’t lay eggs. Even if it were slightly less efficient, a pig that could perform a grass-to-meat transformation would be the porcine equivalent of The Philosopher’s Stone. Or a bacon-producing version of the legendary golden egg-laying goose.  Read more »

Pork Chops with Cider Reduction and Greens and Why Pork Loves Apples

Oct 26 2010

could be done without whole grain mustard, but it won't be as pretty

Our CSA subscription kept me so busy finding new ways to eat greens and green beans this summer that I haven’t done anything new with meat in a long time. But I recently found myself with a package of pork chops, more apple cider than I wanted to drink, and one last bunch of chard. Turns out pork chops are pretty easy—if you just season them with salt and pepper, sear them on both sides over high heat and then cook them until they’re pink inside over lower heat (~155F), they turn out pretty tasty. So this was the meal I came up with: I reduced the apple cider to a glaze along with some whole-grain mustard, cooked the pork chops as described, and then served them both over a bed of sautéed shallots and chard. Quick, easy, elegant, delicious, and perfect for Fall. 

image from sodahead.comI got the idea from a recent conversation I had about why bacon is so often smoked with applewood. The answer, as far as I can tell, is because pork loves apples. Applesauce or cooked spiced apples are a classic accompaniment for pork chops. You can buy apple-flavored pre-made sausages. Whole roasted pigs are traditionally presented with apples in their mouths. The pairing is at least as old as Apicus (a 1st Century Roman) whose writings include a recipe for minutal matianum, which was a sort of stew or ragout of pork and apples. In England, serving pork with applesauce was common by the Early Modern period, and may have started much earlier (according to The Food Timeline).

There seem to be three possible explanations:

1) They Are What They Eat: Wherever there are both orchards and pigs, the pigs have traditionally been allowed to graze on the windfall apples that cover the orchard floor during harvest season, which also happens to be pig-slaughtering season. Pigs like apples—especially ones that may be fermenting a bit—but that’s not the main reason they get to eat them. Instead, it’s because windfall produce is an ample source of omnivore-feed that’s generally not quite fit for human consumption. There’s a nod to both pigs’ affinity for apples and using windfall apples to keep pigs “in good health” in Orwell’s Animal Farm:

Now if there was one thing that the animals were completely certain of, it was that they did not want Jones back. When it was put to them in this light, they had no more to say. The importance of keeping the pigs in good health was all too obvious. So it was agreed without further argument that the milk and the windfall apples (and also the main crop of apples when they ripened) should be reserved for the pigs alone. (right at the end of Chapter 3)

Most livestock animals are ruminants and thus don’t compete with humans for food (at least traditionally—the shift from grass to grain as the mainstay of cattle feed is a recent development in the history of animal agriculture). Pigs are extraordinarily efficient at converting feed into flesh, but since they can’t survive on grass and alfalfa, if there aren’t enough “slops,” pigs sometimes eat at the expense of hungry people. Anthropologist Marvin Harris suggests that that’s likely part of the reason they’re the object of religious/cultural prohibitions originating in certain regions of the world.

It’s possible—likely, even—that apple-fed pigs taste a little bit like apples, especially if that’s what they’re gorging on right before they’re killed. Fancypants Iberico ham is supposed to taste like the acorns that pampered Spanish pigs are fed. Some artisan pork producers claim their pigs are fed exclusively with apricots, which supposedly imparts a uniquely sweet and floral taste. Cooking apple-fed pigs with apples or smoking their meat with applewood might have initially become popular at least in part because they would enhance and complement the apple flavor.

2) It’s the Time of the Season for Apples & Pork: The second and probably more important reason is that both pork and apples are Fall foods. The apple harvest coincides with pig slaughtering season—Fall was traditionally the time to put up enough cured pork products to last through the long winter, especially before over-wintering the animals was common. And although much of the pig could be preserved—the legs and the belly would be salted and/or smoked for ham and bacon and much of the meat could be ground up and preserved in some kind of sausage—some of the cuts were eaten right away. Apples would have been a natural component of those meals because they were plentiful at the same time. Further evidence: duck and goose, Fall game birds, are also often paired with apples.

3) Cutting the Fat: Pork is fatty and umami. Apples are sweet, acidic, and light. Applesauce is a condiment that makes the same kind of sense with pork as mint jelly with lamb or malt vinegar with fish & chips (I’m in Ireland this week, can you tell?)—it’s just something sharp and bright to cut something rich and meaty. However, the gustatory rationale probably explains why the tradition lasted more than why it started. Ultimately, bright and acidic condiments are sort of interchangeable. If not for pig affinity/seasonal considerations, people might have as easily paired pork with mint jelly.

I suspect it’s a combination of all three. And tradition aside, the cider-mustard glaze would also be excellent on baked winter squash, chicken (I can imagine it as a great dipping sauce for wings), or anywhere you might use a sweet, mild barbeque sauce.

a bit shiny from this angle Read more »