Tangy Yogurt Chicken Marinade

This is a great recipe to grill (or bake) – the tangy yogurt marinade keeps chicken moist and creates a flavorful outer coating that zings.  Serve with couscous and citrus chunks for a winter break.


Yogurt Dill Chicken:

  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp dry dill, crushed
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded*

large shallow covered dish, broiler or grill 

Mix together yogurt, mustard, dill, thyme.  Place pounded chicken in dish, spoon yogurt mixture over, cover and let marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight.  Grill or broil for 10-15 minutes each side, until fully cooked at center.  If you’re broiling, place rack one level from the top most setting. 

*The easiest way to pound chicken is to wrap in plastic wrap and pound with the smooth side of a meat mallet.  Keeps meat from splattering.

Thanksgiving Files: Perfect Turkey

Test Turkey1

Reposted from 2011 Thanksgiving:

Okay, let’s jump into the cooking a turkey debate.  And acknowledge that a perfect turkey is in the eye of the beholder…or cook.

Last year I had my very first deep fried turkey – I know, late to the party as usual – and I really enjoyed it.  But considering deep frying of any kind terrifies me, you will not see me attempting that anytime soon.  There’s a reason only JeffreyW has deep frying recipes on the blog.  I will, however, enjoy the labors of anyone who wants to deep fry one for me (I’m looking at you little brother).

Traditionalists seem to like to roast their turkeys, basting and slaving over a hot oven for the perfect bird.  I’m not a traditionalist by any means.  Have I mentioned I’m lazy?  Yes, I do believe I have.

There is nothing wrong with this and for expert cooks, the perfect bird is attainable.  But for the rest of us mortals, traditional roasting can be a challenge.  It’s too easy to over cook or under cook, leaving your white meat dry or your dark sections pink and unsafe – sometimes in the same bird.   But in case you want to roast, here are step by step instructions:

World’s Simplest Roast Turkey

And here’s everyone’s favorite Alton Brown with a video demonstration:

Alton Roasts a Turkey

Next up are the briners.  I have to tell you I do not understand brining a turkey.  I’ve had brined turkey, it’s not my favorite.  But if you have a desire to brine, here’s our trusty Alton again (seeing a theme here?):

Alton Brine’s a Turkey

One thing you’ll see in all these examples is no one stuffs a turkey with stuffing.  In my humble opinion this is the easiest way to dry out your bird or accidentally poison your guests.  Stuffing needs to reach a temperature of at least 165 degrees to be fully cooked, at this point your bird will be completely dried out.  If you are looking for stuffing that tastes like it has been cooked inside the bird, do what my friend Alton does (no not that Alton), he buys and cooks turkey thighs and legs in chicken broth (or you can use the neck and giblets) and then uses that broth to season both his stuffing and gravy.  And both are wonderful.  Cook the stuffing in a casserole dish, covered for really moist stuffing.  If you like a crunchy top, take the lid off once the stuffing is warmed through and bake until golden brown on top.

So what do you do with that big cavernous space in your turkey if you’re not going to stuff it?  Fill it with flavor.  I use a spice infuser or a spice bag and fill it with all kinds of wonderful spices, depending on my mood.  I’ve also added a whole onion or citrus fruits (all should be disposed of after cooking), to infuse the bird with intense flavor.  Citrus bird is one of my favorites after the traditional rosemary-garlic-sage spices.

This recipe for a citrus bird sounds wonderful and I may try it this year (yes, I do cook a turkey even if I’m having Thanksgiving elsewhere – how else are we going to have leftovers?):

Perfect Citrus Turkey

So how do I cook my bird?  After many mishaps, I’ve decided that the easiest and most foolproof way is to use a cooking bag.  I usually roast at a higher temperature than on the instructions (375 instead of the 325 they recommend) and the last 15 minutes or so, I open the bag, pull it back and let the skin brown nicely.

Whatever spices I decide to use in the infuser I also mix with butter and put under the skin of the bird at the breast and thighs.  I then coat the bird in olive oil and spices to get a nice browned texture.  This gives me a perfectly flavored bird that I don’t ever have to worry about, so I can then concentrate on all the sides.  It’s never failed me.

So if you are a novice, or even a seasoned cook, but don’t want to take any chances on  disappointing your guests, I say go with a roasting bag.

Are you cooking the turkey this year?  How are you preparing yours?  Want to share a favorite recipe?  Nervous about pleasing a house-full of hungry company?

I may have a few more sides to share or we’ll head straight into desserts.  Until then…

Christmas Eve Dinner: NOT Orange Herb Butter Turkey

Continuing the recipes for the Christmas Eve Menu.

How do you cope with cooking a big meal for a group?  I try to get as much done ahead of time as possible.  The desserts are done, the stuffing is in the baking dish, the cranberry sauce is done, and the giblets are simmering on the stove for the gravy.  The turkey is washed and ready to prep.  Normally I’d have it all prepped and ready to pop in the oven, but since I”m using an orange butter I can’t do it until about 30 minutes ahead.  Citrus begins to breakdown the meat and would leave it rubbery if I applied it tonight.

Tomorrow will be making the crostini, mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy while the turkey cooks.

Orange butter you say?  Yup.  I started with a citrus turkey recipe and then, didn’t like it, so I made it my own.

So I did not like this recipe at all.  The butter did not blend well with the citrus.  I’ll do it my usual way next time:  Olive oil and orange juice on the skin, oranges and herb packet in the bird cavity.  

Orange Herb Butter

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 3 clementine oranges, remove seeds
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic

Add all ingredients in the blender (yes, orange with peels on, I call that easy zest) and blend until completely smooth.

To prepare the turkey:

Remove giblets, etc.  Wash and dry the turkey.  Run your hands under the skin, gently lifting it away from the turkey.  I can usually even pull it away from the legs and thighs, just depends on the bird.  Take half the orange butter and run between the turkey and the skin.  Then spread the remainder on the outside of the bird, covering the skin completely.  Stuff the bird with 3-4 clementines, cut in half.  As you put them into the cavity, give them a squeeze so the juice gets into the cavity.  As the bird cooks, the oranges will continue to steam and keep the bird moist.

Roast as you like.  I’ll be using a bag.  You can also do a technique that works well with a citrus butter – preheat oven to 450 degrees, cook the bird for 30 minutes, then reduce oven temp to 350 degrees and cook until it reaches at least 165 degrees, it should reach 175 to 180 while it rests before carving.

I’ll probably not use the drippings for gravy, well see what its flavor is like, I’m just afraid it will be too sweet.  But I will be using the simmered giblet broth for the gravy.  It works great.  I also used some to flavor the stuffing.

Christmas Eve: Turkey Dinner with Traditional Side Dishes

Bald Eagle 1 5 12

Bald Eagle from my hike the other day. Wish I had my camera, not just my cell phone

Would we still have turkey if it had become our national bird  instead of the Bald Eagle?

The menu is set for Saturday.  I’m doing an Orange Glazed Turkey.  The sides will be Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Oven Baked Stuffing, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Spinach-Raspberry-Walnut Salad and Homemade Cranberry Sauce.  Appetizers will be Tomato-Basil Crostini, Chips w/Dip and a Raw Vegetable tray.  Dessert will be a Dark Chocolate Torte with a Dark Chocolate Ganache (this recipe with a chocolate ganache* instead of confectioner’s sugar) and Fruit Pie Cookies.

I’m still trying to decide if  I’m going to mull cider or not.

I’ll add more recipes as I go along.


*Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 oz dark chocolate
  • 6 oz heavy cream

Double boiler (I use a metal bowl over a saucepan with about an 1 inch of water)

Place chocolate and cream in top of boiler, bring water in bottom half to a boil, reduce heat to med-high and let chocolate melt, stirring occasionally. When completely melted, remove from heat and stir until cream and chocolate are completely mixed. Let cool and pour over cooled cake.

Love and Life in Los Angeles

I have a complicated relationship with Los Angeles.

As a military brat, after so many moves,  home is an uncertain term.  The Boston area has always felt like my second home, we were stationed there twice when I was a kid and I have extended family there.  I even lived there for several years after college. I choose to live in Colorado because we spent 3 years stationed in Colorado Springs, was sad to move away, and always knew I would come back.  Of all the places we lived when I was growing it, it felt the most like home.

As for Los Angeles, it was the first place I moved where I had never lived as a child.  I love so many things there: the smell (there is always something in bloom); the weather; the people; the views; and the food to name just a few.  But I said, with regret, that I felt like a daisy trying to grow in a crack in the sidewalk when I lived there.  I miss it when I’m not there, so I’m there often.  I am lucky to have wonderful friends and family who call Los Angeles home, to hang with, who understand my need to be an Angeleno, if only for a little while.

What brought all this to mind was a wonderful article last week in the LA Times on being a real Angeleno (excerpt below).  I had just returned from a quick trip, so LA was already on my mind.  It was beautiful there, both the Jacaranda trees and jasmine were blooming.  A friend was harvesting tomatoes from her poolside garden, the beach was quiet,  the weather was perfect and I had the best pizza this side of Boston in Malibu.  Any wonder I miss it when I’m away?

LA was the first place I had real Mexican food, sampled Japanese cuisine in Little Tokyo, not to mention the Cuban dinners and then there is the wonderful Mediterranean restaurant where we often have lunch – home of the best tabbouleh I’ve ever had.  You have not had an orange, lemon or lime until you’ve picked it fresh from your backyard.  The flavors cannot be matched by anything you buy in a grocery store.

The people – yes there are a lot of them – but the diversity is so much fun.  The languages, the heritage, the friendliness is something to cherish.  Walk down the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica and you’ll hear a variety of languages and see an assortment of dress and you’ll be met with many smiles.

And the views.  Depending on the day, you can see the mountain range as a backdrop to palm trees and giant billboards advertising the latest movie.  The ocean views are spectacular, my favorite beaches being Zuma and Santa Monica, where I’ve often walked with dolphins swimming just offshore.  And the drives though any of the canyons are stunning.  If you’re going through Laurel, Topanga or Benedict canyon after a rainstorm, put the windows down because the air is filled with the scent of Eucalyptus.  And did I mention the palm trees…everywhere?

Then there are the farmer’s markets and the drives up the coast…I could go on, but let’s just say, Los Angeles holds a special place in my heart.  A part of me will always be an Angeleno.

From Hector Tobar at the LA Times:

Being an Angeleno

Certain behaviors define us — things we do and don’t do. It’s a state of being, a way of adapting to life in this sprawling, sunshiny city. It’s how we treat others, how we see the landscape around us, even how we get around.

You don’t have to be a native to be a real Angeleno…

…But being a real Angeleno in the 21st century is more complicated than it was in Brecht’s day. Almost 70 years later, the city’s more crowded, more hurried and even more culturally diverse. What follows are a few basic guidelines from a writer who’s been trying hard himself — and not always succeeding — to reach real Angeleno status…

You must read the whole article, it is sunny and fun, just like LA.