Category Archives: Back to Basics Cooking

Summer Grilling: Curried Turkey Burgers

I haven’t posted a lot of grilling recipes this summer because, well, let’s face it, I haven’t posted a lot of recipes! But this week I’ll post a few favorites. I’m still not doing much grilling because I’m saving up for a Traeger grill. Friends have one and I can’t imagine grilling or smokin’ on anything else since I’ve used it.

Until then, I’ll fry these up in my cast iron skillet. Great on the grill or in the skillet. And now that I’ve finally found a good source for tasty pita bread, a dinner favorite.

Serve with fresh corn on the cob and grilled eggplant (I have three Japanese eggplant almost ready to pick).

Curried Turkey Burgers

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp ground curry
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 4 pita breads

bowl

In bowl combine all ingredients except bread and mix well. Form 4 patties and grill, broil or fry to desired doneness. Serve in pita bread. Ground mustard and mayonnaise make good toppings or a little Greek salad dressing, along with lettuce & tomatoes.

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Thai Spring Roll Instructions

Spring Roll step 1

I LOVE spring rolls and they are so easy to make. And you can fill them with a variety of items, so use the recipe below as a starting point, but let your imagination run wild. This recipe is simple but full of flavor. It’s quick and you can buy shredded carrots and shredded lettuce to save even more time

Thai Spring Rolls

  • ¼ tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (or white wine vinegar)
  • 8 spring roll wrappers
  • 1 ½ cup shredded leaf lettuce
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded

bowl, plate

Mix together fish sauce and garlic. In a bowl of cold water (I actually use a large, deep sided plate), soak 1 wrapper, until limp. Lay out flat on a plate, add 1/8 of each of the ingredients, in order, then drizzle with fish sauce mixture.

Spring Roll step 2

Fold ends up and roll like a burrito.  Moisten seam, press close and set seam side down on plate.  Repeat for all wrappers.

Spring Roll step 3

Cover with a moist paper towel and refrigerate until ready to serve, with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

Mix together:

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or fish sauce or rice vinegar)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger (or more as desired)


 

Quick Crispy Braised Chicken Dinner

No photos because I completely forgot when it was done. If I make it again, I’ll update with a photo.

I picked up chicken thighs on sale last week and wanted to come up with some quick one-pan dinners for a few of them. That led to tonight’s dinner. It would work well with any bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces.

I like this recipe because it’s about 15-minute prep time, one pan and once it’s in the oven it’s hands-off. Tastes like a nice Sunday chicken roasted dinner. The crispy skin is a bonus.

Quick Braised Chicken Dinner
Serves 2*

  • 2 to 4 chicken thighs (depending on size)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • rosemary sprigs
  • 2 large russet or Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 2 large carrots, scrubbed and trimmed

large cast-iron or oven proof skillet

Pat dry chicken breasts. Salt and pepper generously, gently lift the skin and salt and pepper underneath it. Place skin-side down in a COLD skillet, no oil needed. Turn heat to medium-high and slowly heat chicken until skin is crisp.

By using a cold skillet, you allow the fat to render out of the chicken skin and it will crisp up nicely without sticking or burning. It will take about 10 minutes to crisp.

While the chicken is crisping, scrub and quarter potatoes and carrots

Turn chicken over – you’ll want to use a spatula so you don’t leave the skin behind. Remove from heat, add potatoes and carrots around the chicken pieces. Add enough water to cover all but the chicken skin (so it stays crisp). Top with rosemary sprigs.

Place skillet, uncovered, in oven and cook at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour – until potatoes and carrots are tender and chicken is cooked through. Check occasionally to see if you need to add more liquid.

Serve with a salad for a quick dinner.

*if you want to double this recipe, you’ll want to use a roasting pan after crisping the chicken in the skillet.

For a saucy Italian version of this, click here.

Braised Chicken

Thanksgiving Files: Spatchcock Turkey

Spatchcock Turkey finishSometimes the scariest part of the Thanksgiving Dinner is the worry that the turkey will not turn out properly – undercooked, overcooked, dry, flavorless – and ruin the whole meal. I’ve cooked in bags, roasted, braised, fried, deboned – about everything but brine. I’m not a fan of brining. And still every year I worry.

I tryout various new methods a few days before the big day, just to spice things up and make sure there are leftovers in my frig. This year I decided to try removing the backbone and flattening the bird, cooking it at a high temperature for a shorter cooking time. It seemed like it was pretty foolproof and stress free. My brother is going to prep one of his two turkeys similarly, but smoke it instead.

I put it together today so I could get the recipe up in time for your holiday.

BTW, my recommendation is to always get two smaller birds instead of one massive bird – you’ll have a much better outcome with shorter cooking times. Not to mention not having to worry about fitting a huge bird in the oven. We usually do an oven bird, then grill, smoke or fry another.

For this recipe, a good set of poultry shears makes quick work of removing the backbone. I prepped the bird yesterday, wrapped it up and refrigerated it. This gave me time to make a nice broth from the backbone, giblets and neck last night (see notes below) and make the cranberry sauce, because it’s always better the next day.

Spatchcock Turkey Prep

Roasted Spatchcock Turkey

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 whole turkey (10-12 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

Rimmed baking sheet, rack

In a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, crush together pepper, salt, sage and rosemary and add to brown sugar. Set aside.

With a sharp knife or scissors, remove the back bone of the turkey, flip over and press down on the breast bone to break and flatten. I wasn’t quite strong enough, so I turned the bird over, scored the bone, flipped it back and tried again, this time it broke easily. I then trimmed off the wing tips. See my notes below on what to do with the back and wing tips.

Place the bird flat, breast side up, on the rack in the baking sheet. Rub with spice mix and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Before cooking drizzle olive oil over turkey and roast for 1 hour or until the temperature of the thickest part of the breast reaches 160 degrees. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and let rest for 30 minutes (during this time the bird temperature will reach 165 degrees and thighs should be 175 degrees).

Carve and serve.

NOTES: I took the back, wing tips, neck and giblets, covered them with water and simmered them for about an hour. I then used the broth for both the stuffing and gravy. I also cooked the stuffing in the oven, in a baking dish, uncovered, with the turkey. They finished up about the same time.

The next time I make this, I would forego the metal rack and instead use a roasting pan and place the bird on a bed of carrots, celery and onion. With the shorter cooking time, the flavor could use the boost. I do feel this is a great technique for wood grilling or smoking.

More Recipes: We have a bunch, a peck, a bushel, of Thanksgiving recipes, including my favorite Upside-Down Cranberry Cake (here), No Boil Mashed Potatoes (here), and Non-Traditional Sides (here), click on this link for all the other recipes or search by name or ingredient in the search box at the bottom of the blog.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!  – TaMara

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Pushing the Limits: One Pot Dinners

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JeffreyW plates up a good-looking Pot Roast Dinner

I love to cook in my pressure cooker – rice, beans, soups – they all get their start in my pressure cooker. But my favorite thing to do is that quick dinner that tastes like it’s been in the slow cooker all day, even though I completely forgot to even take the meat out to thaw.

My usual meal is to add about 1 cup of water to the pan, add a bunch of spices and herbs to the water, put the tray in and then layer halved potatoes, FROZEN skinless chicken breast or thighs (boneless or not, doesn’t change cooking time much), throw a couple of halved carrots on top and pressurize. Twenty minutes later, dinner is ready. The spices and herbs in the water infuse everything with flavor. It’s not as complex as roasted chicken, but for a quick dinner, it’s great.

Today I was wandering through the freezer, reorganizing to make room for holiday stuff and counting my bags of cranberries – which I stockpile in case there is a great cranberry shortage in the future. I pulled out a nice chuck roast I bought on sale a few weeks ago, half of which I used for the beef stew last week, half I tucked away for a nice pot roast dinner. I thought it would be nice to make tomorrow. Then I decided I wanted it today.

 

This is the newest model comparable to the one I own. Pretty.

So I pulled out the pressure cooker. This would be a first, starting with a frozen roast. It was either going to work or I was going to end up with one tough piece of beef. But I wouldn’t know if I didn’t give it try. (I do these things so you don’t have to).

I put the roast on the tray, poured a little bourbon over it (since it worked so well with the beef stew) added water, bay leaf, salt, pepper, onion, halved potatoes and carrots. I pressurized it for 55 minutes. I was guessing at the time because I wasn’t sure with it frozen how much extra time I should add.

At the 55 minute mark, I turned off the heat and let it depressurize slowly (instead of cold bath method). When I opened it, the beef was perfect. Again, the flavor was not as complex as if I had been able to brown it ahead of time. But it was tender and moist.

The carrots and potatoes were good, although if I did it again, I would probably add them at the twenty or thirty minute mark and re-pressurize for another twenty minutes.

So I’ll mark this down as a win and know that if I need a quick dinner, I can put pot roast on the list of recipes that will go from frozen to dinner in an hour.

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Snow Is Gonna Fly So It’s a Cream of Chicken Soup Night

Cream of Chicken Soup2

They are predicting a quick hitting snow storm for tonight and tomorrow with some locations having blizzard-like conditions. Seemed like a good time to make a batch of soup.

Because I have a vita-mix,  most of the soups I make start with a thick vegetable broth. It gives a great depth of flavor. It’s also chocked full of nutrients and anyone who knows me well, knows I don’t eat enough vegetables, so I do what I can to up my daily veggies. But you may not want to go to that trouble, so you can substitute 4 cups of chicken broth for the vegetable broth in the recipe below.

Cream of Chicken Soup

Stock:

  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 2 stalks celery (with leaves), rough chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, rough chopped (or frozen sliced)
  • 1 cup cut green beans (I use frozen)
  • 4 cups of water

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  • 2 skinless chicken breasts (bone-in or boneless, doesn’t matter it will be shredded)

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  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk

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  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

small saucepan, dutch oven or large saucepan, blender

Stock: In the blender, add rough chopped carrots, celery and green beans, spices, 2 cups of water and blend until smooth. Add to dutch oven or saucepan.

Add chicken breasts and 2 additional cups of water to the saucepan. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate to cool. Add diced carrots, celery, salt and pepper to the liquid and cover. Cook until vegetables are tender crisp.

While the chicken is cooking, melt butter in the saucepan, add onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions are translucent. Whisk in flour and cook about 2 minutes or more. Turn the heat up to medium-high, slowly stir in milk and bring to a low boil, whisking until thickened. Reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally.

While the vegetables are cooking, shred the chicken. The easiest way to do this is to use two forks and pull across the grain of the meat in different directions. You can then use your fingers to break apart any large pieces.

Once the vegetables are tender crisp, whisk in the white sauce and then stir in the chicken. Cook an additional 10 minutes. Serve with parsley garnish.

Makes about 6 cups.

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Braised Turkey Update

Braised turkey prep

 

I stashed away a frozen turkey just before Thanksgiving and when I had fully recovered from the family festivities, I decided I would try the braising method found here. I did not brine it first (I’ve made it no secret I do not understand brining – extra work and messy for not much reward IMHO).

This method is fairly easy to do. You need to have a sharp knife to separate the leg/thighs from the bird and I also removed the backbone and wings before cooking to use for soup stock.

I can’t say that it was any better or worse than the cooking in a bag method, but it did make the best gravy ever. So I might do it again.

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Dinner Tastes Better with a Pretty Table

Mmm, Dinner FinalJust to whet your appetite. More later….

Dinner Menu: Linguine w/Peppers and Italian Asparagus

It’s the time of year that I begin to crave fresh, light dinners. I’ve tired of stews, hearty soups and the other staples of the mid-winter gloom. As I start to believe spring will arrive again, I want meals that reflect that belief. Lots of fresh veggies, fresh fruits, light sauces and simple, full flavors.

This menu includes items that are plentiful at my local grocery this week. All the peppers are on sale right now, so I use red, yellow. orange and green. Lots of fresh berries, too. And asparagus is everywhere.

On the board tonight:

  1. Linguine w/Garlic & Peppers
  2. Italian Asparagus
  3. Mixed berries & whipped cream

Linguine w/Garlic & Peppers

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes*
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 oz shredded Romano-Parmesan cheese
  • 9 oz pkg. fresh linguine

saucepan and skillet

In skillet heat oil, add garlic, red pepper flakes, green & red peppers and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add fresh basil, tomatoes, salt & pepper let simmer while pasta cooks. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain well. Toss with pepper mixture & cheese.

* you can use fresh tomatoes, probably 2 large, but I couldn’t find any decent ones this time of year.

Italian Asparagus

  • 1 bunch (approx. 16 oz) fresh asparagus spears
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 oz shredded Romano/Parmesan

saucepan & steamer

Gently scrub asparagus, cut in half and place in steamer. Add enough water to saucepan to come in the bottom of the steamer. Steam for 5 to 8 minutes, until the stalks are tender. Remove and toss with oil, oregano, salt, pepper & cheese.

Shopping List:

  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes*
  • 4 oz shredded Romano-parmesan cheese**
  • 9 oz pkg. fresh linguine
  • 1 bunch (approx. 16 oz) fresh asparagus spears
  • 2 oz shredded Romano/Parmesan
  • 16 oz mixed berries
  • Whipped Cream

Also: oregano, olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed garlic, crushed red pepper flakes

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ATK: Glazed Spiral Ham

If you’re looking for foolproof ham this Christmas, America’s Test Kitchen can be counted on for coming up with the perfect recipe. Normally I’d just link to the site, but they put their stuff behind a firewall (it’s free, but you have to give them your credit card to access) after a certain amount of time. So here’s the entire recipe and I encourage you to go check out their other recipes and also Cook’s Illustrated, their sister site, which has a great magazine.

From America’s Test Kitchen

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS:

Our recipe for a moist ham with a glaze that complements but doesn’t overwhelm the meat includes avoiding labels that read “ham with water added” and heating the ham to an internal temperature of no higher than 120 degrees. Soaking the ham in warm water before heating it and placing it in an oven bag or wrapping it in aluminum foil are also part of our perfect glazed ham recipe.

Serves 12 to 14, with leftovers

You can bypass the 90-minute soaking time, but the heating time will increase to 18 to 20 minutes per pound for a cold ham. If there is a tear or hole in the ham’s inner covering, wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap before soaking it in hot water. Instead of using the plastic oven bag, the ham may be placed cut-side down in the roasting pan and covered tightly with foil, but you will need to add 3 to 4 minutes per pound to the heating time. If using an oven bag, be sure to cut slits in the bag so it does not burst. We’ve included two optional glazes.

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Ham

  • 1 spiral-sliced, bone-in half ham (7 to 10 pounds)
  • 1 large oven bag (plastic)
  • Maple-Orange Glaze
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cherry-Port Glaze

  • 1/2 cup ruby port
  • 1/2 cup cherry preserves
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Leaving ham’s inner plastic or foil covering intact, place ham in large container and cover with hot tap water; set aside for 45 minutes. Drain and cover again with hot tap water; set aside for another 45 minutes.

2. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Unwrap ham; remove and discard plastic disk covering bone. Place ham in oven bag. Gather top of bag tightly so bag fits snugly around ham, tie bag, and trim excess plastic. Set ham cut-side down in large roasting pan and cut 4 slits in top of bag with paring knife.

3. Bake ham until center registers 100 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 1 to 1 1/2 hours (about 10 minutes per pound).

4. Remove ham from oven and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Cut open oven bag and roll back sides to expose ham. Brush ham with one-third of glaze and return to oven until glaze becomes sticky, about 10 minutes (if glaze is too thick to brush, return to heat to loosen).

5. Remove ham from oven, transfer to cutting board, and brush entire ham with another third of glaze. Let ham rest, loosely tented with foil, for 15 minutes. While ham rests, heat remaining third of glaze with 4 to 6 tablespoons of ham juices until it forms thick but fluid sauce. Carve and serve ham, passing sauce at table.

To Make Maple-Orange Glaze:Combine all ingredients in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, syrupy, and reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 10 minutes; set aside.

To Make Cherry-Port Glaze:Simmer port in small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and mixture is thick, syrupy, and reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 10 minutes; set aside.

I like this recipe because it’s pretty simple (not always the case with ATK recipes) and it uses a cooking bag, which can make for a stress-free cooking experience, which is great when you’ve got a hungry crowd heading over the river and through the woods to your house for Christmas dinner.

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