Get some great tips for easy entertaining this holiday season.
It's that time when we get to cook perhaps the most anticipated dinner of the year, and there is no substitute for a juicy, flavorful turkey that takes center stage! A combination of a good quality bird and proper cooking technique will guarantee the best turkey you'll ever have.
Selecting your Turkey:
Fresh Turkeys are easy to find during the holidays and taste much better than their frozen counterparts which will have drier meats. If possible a free-range turkey organic feed will be top choice however don't stress out they are quite pricey, these other options will turn out great too.
Fresh: Not frozen and not injected with the saline solution which although it acts a preservative it tends to draw out moisture from your bird and it is easier to get a drier breast with frozen turkeys.
Frozen: Economically is the best option, you may sacrifice some flavor but with a good prepping and cooking technique you can also get a good result.
For best results buy a turkey that weighs at least 10 pounds or more. Small turkeys lack in flavor and their meat does not absorb as much flavor from seasoning. If you have a smaller crowd a turkey breast is a better option. Calculate 3/4 lb to 1 pound of turkey per person.
Storing your Turkey:
If fresh, plan to pick up your turkey 2 days before the party and place it in your refrigerator. For frozen Turkeys allow thaw out in the refrigerator it may take 2-4 days to thaw it out. Figure 3-4 hours per pound of turkey so if turkey is 16 lbs you need to thaw it out for about 2 1/2- 3 days.
I have tried so many ways to flavor turkeys and my best way to do it is to brine the turkey. Brining is a combination of a liquid with salt, sugar, aromatics and spices that flavors meats specially pork and poultry. A brine penetrates each meat cell, making the meat juicier while infusing flavor. You'll never have to worry about serving dried-out holiday bird again.
To Brine or not to Brine:
If you bought an organic, free range and free of antibiotics bird you can skip the brine because the texture of the bird is generally better. But if you want a juicier Turkey Brining is the way to go!
If you decide to Brine here is a great recipe you can use.
Buttermilk Brine Turkey
1 cup of salt½ cup of sugar
4 cups of water
4 quarts buttermilk (1 gallon)
1 fresh turkey, 16 to 18 lb., neck, heart and gizzard removed (reserved,
3 bay leaves
1 orange sliced in rounds
2 sprigs of thyme or rosemary
5-6 sage leaves
Brining Bags(Can be found at Williams-Sonoma (my favorite), or your grocery store)
If you can't have buttermilk for any reasons substitute the gallon of buttermilk with a gallon of water or more apple cider.
In a small saucepan over high heat, combine water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until the brine dissolves, 5 to 8 minutes. Let the brine mixture cool to room temperature. In a large pot, stir together the brine mixture and buttermilk. Make sure your brine solution is at room temperature or colder because you will cook your bird....no good.
Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water and place in a large brining bag remember to remove giblets. Carefully pour the buttermilk brine mixture into the bag. Seal the bag, pressing out the air, and place in a large stockpot or other container large enough to hold the turkey. Refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours, turning occasionally.
Remove the turkey from the brine; discard the brine. Lightly Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey, breast side up, legs toward the back of the oven (the oven is hotter on the back and the legs take longer to cook) on a rack in a large roasting pan. Truss the turkey as desired using kitchen twine. Let the turkey stand at room temperature for 1 to 1.5 hours. Bringing your Turkey to room temperature allows for even cooking and better texture. Before roasting add butter mixed with a herb like sage, thyme or rosemary or brush with our Mojo Marinade see recipe below. If you have brined your turkey omit salt on the recipe.
Place your buttered turkey breast side down at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, flip your turkey breast side up and lower temperature to 325 baste your turkey with pan juices every 45 minutes. At about 2 hours of roasting check your temperatures it should read 165 on the thickest part of the breast or 175 degrees on the thickest part of the thigh. Total roasting time should be about 3-4 hours. ***If breast is cooking too fast cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Let your turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving. Enjoy it!!!!
Mojo Marinated Turkey
1 jar of White Mojo
Juice of 2 Lemons
Juice of 1 Orange
½ cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon of Salt
1 tablespoons of smoked Paprika
1 Tablespoon of Herbs de Provence
1 Tablespoon of Pink Peppercorns or Black Pepper
3 tablespoons of Melted Butter or Ghee
Make sure you bring the Turkey to room temperature about 1 hour.
Whisk all ingredients in a bowl and brush it on the Turkey.
Aguadito Soup (Cilantro and Chicken Soup)
A peruvian soup called “levanta muertos” meaning resuscitation soup" great for when you have a cold, after a hangover the lime and the cilantro together are great immune boosting properties
4 tablespoons of Green Mojo
1 serrano pepper, halved and de-seeded
4 garlic cloves (2 whole garlic cloves and 2 garlic cloves minced), divided
4 1/4 cups chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 chicken thighs, boneless skinless
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup white rice or Quinoa (wash Quinoa well)
1-2 ear of corn, cut off the cob small pieces
1 cup of frozen Peas
Salt to taste
Cilantro leaves to garnish
1. Add Green Mojo, serrano pepper, juice of 1 lemon, 2 garlic cloves and 1/4 cup of chicken broth to a blender. Blend until mixture is thoroughly combined. Set aside.
2. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, carefully add chicken thighs. Cook on first side for 4-5 minutes, and until they are slightly browned. Flip on second side and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from pot and set aside and shred once they cool.
3. Add yellow onion and red bell peppers cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add minced garlic and cumin atop of mixture and cook until fragrant.
4. Add the rice or Quinoa and Green Mojo mixture to the pot and mix, being sure to completely coat the rice or Quinoa. Gently add the chicken, and back to the pot and cover and the remaining 4 cups of chicken broth. The broth should just cover the chicken. Cook for 20-30 minutes, and until rice or Quinoa is fully cooked.
5. When you're ready to serve, add salt to taste. This will all depend on how salty your chicken broth was. I needed to add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt.
6. Add a few cilantro leaves to each bowl of soup, along with a few wedges of lime. It's important.
Vegan Gypsy Soup
A heartwarming soup from the south of Spain that you will love. It is known as their sopa de huerta or soup from the garden with veggies and hearty beans. Our version with our mojos is super easy and good for you!
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 celery stalks ( chopped small diced)
1 butternut Squash about 1.5lbs (cut in small cubes and roasted)
4 tablespoons of White Mojo (this substitute 1 onion)
3 tablespoons of Yellow Miso Paste
2 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar
1 cup of Cannellini beans or Garbanzo Beans
1/3 cup of Hemp Seeds
2 tablespoons of Tahini to add creaminess
4 cups of Water
Preheat oven at 400F. Cut the butternut squash in small dice and season with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Place in a sheet pan and roast for 20-25 min. Meanwhile
For the soup base:
In a soup pot add olive oil and saute the celery at medium heat for about 7 min.
Lower the heat and add the White Mojo and Miso paste and mix well for about 5 min
Remove squash from the oven and save a 1/4 cup of butternut squash to garnish and add the rest of roasted butternut squash to the pot
Add 4 cups of water and beans and simmer for about 15 min at medium heat.
Add apple cider vinegar, tahini salt and pepper and mix well.
You can leave the soup as is or mash a few of the squash with a fork or immersion blender to cream it up a bit.
Finish with Hemp seeds and the 1/4 cup of squash and cilantro or parsley
Feel free to add Yellow Mojo for a touch of heat!
Every year in April there is a big celebration in Seville, it is called the Feria de Sevilla which takes place 2 weeks after Holy Week or Semana Santa. To the Sevillanos the feria is sacred, it is a time where the city stops for over a week, once you enter the fairgrounds you forget your worries and enjoy being with friends and family creating memories you will never forget.
It officially begins at midnight that Monday and finishes the following Sunday with spectacular fireworks at the Guadalquivir river.
The people of Seville love a good party so they set up up to 1,000 tents across the Park of Maria Luisa in the Barrio de los Remedios. These tents or 'casetas' are by invitiation only is who you know that gets you in. Right next to the fair grounds in Calle del Infierno (Inferno Street) they set up a an area with horses, attractions and circus shows.
On day 1 it is know as the "Noche del Pescaito" or Fish night, a variety of fish is served usually fried, from boquerones (anchovy), calamari, salmorete (red mullet). Then there is a variety of sides from cured hams like chorizo, serrano and iberico hams and cheeses. The drink of choice is a fine Sherry wine called Manzanilla that is local to Andalucia, they also drink rebujito which is Sherry wine with soda and lots of ice. After dinner everyone heads to the 'Portada' a beautiful structure at the entrance, where the major of Sevilla officially lights up thousands of lights at midnight. Then everyone dances sevillanas a folk dance to Seville that all the locals know. After dancing and drinking some more, everyone will head to the churro stands and party some more.
On day 2 you will find horse parades through the fairgrounds and beautiful women dressed in the most colorful and flamboyant dresses you have ever seen. The men wear a suit called 'traje corto' tradicional gypsy suits looking very handsome in horseback.
The rest of the week is filled with bull fighting, horse show demonstrations, and amazing food from Caldo de Puchero a stew of chicken, beef, and pork with lots of vegetables, caldereta (beef stew), garbanzos con bacalao to salmorejo soup.
if you are ever in Seville at this time of the year know that this is a celebration of the locals and most of the 'casetas' are private but there are a few public casetas where there is some serious partying going on there. More and more they Sevillanos are being more welcoming to anyone with a curios spirit that wants to learn about their culture and the way they live.
Over the years of being a Chef I have discovered all these great tips that is what makes your meals tastes well, more cheffy!
Tip 1: Great Veggies every time
When you boil your veggies add oil and salt to your water (olive oil or canola oil). Cook them only for 5-6 min. While they are hot, season them with olive oil, salt and lemon juice if you season them while they are hot they will absorb the flavor better and have a buttery texture.
Tip 2: No more tears with Onions
If you cry while cutting onions, add vinegar to your board before you cut them. The vinegar cancels out the sulfur that makes you teary. Keep a squirt bottle near by with distilled vinager, it will do the trick
Tip 3: Get your Knifes Professionally Sharpened
A sharp knife is a safer knife...because a sharp blade requires less exertion allowing you to have better control and precision. Just keep your fingers curled and keep an eye on your hand.
Tip 4: Pickling
To pickle anything you always need an acid (vinegar), salt and sugar the rest are aromatics and seasonings. Pickled veggies are great addition to your dishes they add that bite that completes the dish.
Tip 5: Buy Whole Spices
Buy whole spices and grind them yourself, weather it is with the old fashioned mortar and pestle or an electric grinder. Ground spices go dull quicker and most of their essential oils are lost in the processing and packaging. They are usually irradiated if not organic, and the organic ones have a higher risk of being contaminated. So if you buy them ground and organic make sure you cook them heat will kill any potential pathogens.
Tip 6: Everyday Spices to buy
Best spices to have in hand for everyday cooking. : Black Peppercorns, tellicherry peppercorns, cumin seeds, smoked paprika always comes ground, coriander seeds, bay leaves, granulated garlic, herbs de provence and turmeric.
Tip 7: Toast your spices
Toast them in a dry pan at medium heat and watch them like a hawk they burn quick. The minute your smell them they are done.
Tip 8: How to cook the perfect Steak
Bring the steak to room temperature for 30-45 minand cover with plastic wrap. If a steak has cold spots it will not cook evenly and you won't achieve a good caramelization
Toast Tellicherry peppercorns for about 1-2 min on a dry pan
While hot grind them in a mortar and pestle with a coarse sea salt. The heat of the peppercorns and the salt will help the peppercorns to release maximum flavor.
Get your grill or pan hot! A good steak likes high heat for a short time to achieve a great crust, add the salt and pepper seasoning.
Cook longer on the first side about 7 min depending on how big your steak is and the second side for a couple of minutes less.
Let it rest, add a splash of vinegar cut it and enjoy!
Tip 9: Acid is the spice of Life
Keep a spray bottle with your favorite vinegar like white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar and add a splash of acid as a finishing touch.
Tip 10: Brine your Birds
If you are roasting a whole chicken or turkey, brining and a convection oven are your best allies. A still oven also works but it won't cook as evenly.
Brines always have water, salt, sugar an acid like apple cider vinegar and aromatics like bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, whole peppercorns, etc.
Tip 11: Salt is the core of your cooking
Salt brings out flavor so season every stage of your cooking this layers flavors and your flavors will be more complex. Remember to taste, taste as you go.
Tip 12: When Roasting Oil, Salt, Roast
When Roasting get a big mixing bowl and add your oil first, then the salt and pepper or other seasoning like Herbs de Provence and toss well. It will all be evenly seasoned
Tip 13: Air Dry your Chickens
Rinse and dry it pat and salt generously. (if you brined it rinse it and go very light on the salt). Let it stand in your fridge uncovered for 2-4 hours. This bone dry skin will crisp up nicely in the oven.
Tip 14: Use your Sheet Pans to Cook
They now sell a bigger size aluminum foil that fits them this avoids potential leakage to your pans. Use them to roast veggies, cook salmon, broil chicken legs or thighs. Clean up is awesome just rip out the foil and done!
Tip 15: Do not Heat Tortillas in the Microwave
Place them directly in the gas burner for 30 seconds or less on each side. Then cover with a damp cloth.
Tip 16: Best trick to Peel Garlic
Put the garlic cloves in the microwave for 10 seconds and the skins will pop right off!