Giving thanks, part one

November 29th, 2011 by veronica

This year we’re lucky enough to have not one but *three* Thanksgiving dinners to attend. The first one, on the day itself, was held at our house. All of Chris’s family was in attendance as well as several friends making a grand total of 18. Everyone contributed to the meal so it was a true family experience.

We were responsible for delivering the centerpiece of the meal, the traditional turkey. This year I decided to get the turkey from a local farm. I’d bought beef, eggs and pork (a whole hog, a whole hog) from them before so I knew that they raise happy — and tasty! — animals. Check ’em out if you get a chance:
Taylor Mde Farms

But here’s the thing I didn’t really know about raising turkeys. If you raise a turkey from a spring chick until it’s Thanksgiving time, they get big. Really big. So it’s great that you’ve got a very fresh, very local bird, but that bird is going to be 30 pounds or more. Yow.

turkey
too bad I don’t have more to give you a sense of scale, but just know that that’s my *big* roasting pan.

Having such a large, deceased animal in my possession caused some logistical problems. The primary one was that according to the time and temperature charts, a bird that big would have to roast for 7 HOURS. Hmph. Not wanting to either wake up at dawn or serve dinner too late, I decided the right thing to do would be to spatchcock the turkey.

Spatch-what-now? It’s a term for removing the backbone out of a bird and cooking it flat so as to reduce the cooking time and encourage even cooking. Only problem is that it’s usually meant for smaller birds, but I’ve done it a million times with chickens, so it shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Well.

It was a bit of a challenge. You see, a 30 pound turkey has much stronger bones than a 5 pound chicken and I wound up having to get through the pelvic bone with a heavy cleaver and some primal scream therapy. But I did it! And kept all of my own digits.

The next step is to flatten the bird which I couldn’t quite manage so I called in the muscle. Chris stepped in and attempted a CPR-like maneuver to break the bird’s keel bone — no, I’d never heard of this either, but it turns out to be a real pain. He tried the operation bare-handed, but eventually had to resort to bashing it with a cast iron pan.

CGvsbird
action shot of Chris flattening our dinner

That accomplished, the bird went in the oven and the spatchcocking process paid off by cutting the cooking time in half. If anything, it cooked a little too fast, as I wasn’t really expecting it to be done as soon as it was. Still it was a beautiful, succulent bird. I used elements of these two recipes to put it together:
Russ Parson’s Judy Bird
Hardlikearmour’s Special Occasion Turkey on Food52

Oh, and believe you me, we had plenty of other food, too. We had two kinds of stuffing, cauliflower puree, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, kale, a brilliant arugula salad topped with bacon wrapped dates — wha-wha?! I made some fresh bread, too, which turned out rather well, I thought.
bread

And then there was dessert. I wish I’d had my act together enough to get pictures of it all, but the offerings included: a caraway apple pie, flourless chocolate cupcakes with pumpkin goat cheese frosting, traditional pumpkin pie and pumpkin truffles. All were wonderful, but probably my favorite was Liane’s lemon sponge pie pictured below. It was at least as delicious as it was lovely.

pie

After all that eating, we had the traditional post-dinner loll about with lots of chatter and running about with the kidlets. It was a perfect part one to our three-part Thanksgiving week. Thanks to all!

C+girls
Uncle Chris and the girls.

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Baby got bundt

November 18th, 2011 by veronica

bundt1
It’s been a long time, I know, but what better way to return to world of blogging than with cake.

And not just any cake, but a beautiful, bouncing bundt cake.

This past week saw the celebration of National Bundt Day, a whole 24-hour period devoted to the beauty of the bundt. Why bundt cakes? Well, why not? But really, if you’re going to make a cake, might as well make it a bundt. They’re intrinsically beautiful with their curves and fanciful designs. Plus, it’s a practical shape that maximizes surface area, bakes the cake evenly throughout and de-emphasizes icing and puts the focus where it should be: on the cake itself.

In other words, it’s my kind of cake.

But it’s not just me! One of my favorite food bloggers, the Food Librarian, devotes not just one day to the bundt cake, but the WHOLE MONTH leading up to the big day.

Now that’s dedication.

So without delay, here’s my recipe for National Bundt Day, based on Bill Yosses’s Blackberry Buttermilk cake in The Perfect Finish.

bundt2

Strawberry Aloha Bundt

300 grams all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, room temp
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups chopped strawberries

Glaze Topping:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup chopped roasted macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 12 cup bundt pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, use a hand mixer (or stand mixer) to cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in one egg at a time. Mix in vanilla.

Mix in half of the flour mixture, then all of the buttermilk, and finally the rest of the flour, combining well after each addition, but be careful not to overmix. Fold in the strawberries.

Pour batter evenly into the bundt pan and even the top with a spatula. Place in the oven for approximately 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

While the cake is baking gently heat the lime juice in a small sauce pan. Whisk in the powdered sugar and continue to whisk until all lumps are gone. Set aside.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake rest for 10 minutes. Flip it out onto a sheet and poke it all over with a chopstick. Pour half of the glaze over the cake and then let the cake cool the rest of the way, about 1 hour. Pour the remaining glaze over the top, then immediately sprinkle the macadamia nuts over it.
cake

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Welcome to Portland — eat, eat, eat!

May 12th, 2010 by veronica

I’m a lottle* late with my write-up about that hazy, crazy last week of April when it seemed the food universe was spinning around this little burg called Portland. It started off with the convergence of the IACP conference — that’s the International Association of Cooking Professionals. Though I certainly spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I can’t be called a professional so shelling out for the four-figure cost of registration seemed a tad…excessive… so I initially ignored much of the media surrounding the big event. Then just the week before the eat-erati were about to descend on the city, I found out that they were still looking for some volunteers. Hobnobbing with foodie royalty and chitchatting about all things edible for free? Hot dang!

Unfortunately I was a little late to the party and most of the sexier volunteer spots — like, oh, helping out (and eating) at the opening gala and, say, being Madhur Jaffrey’s kitchen assistant — were already taken. But there were still jobs to do — and for the chance to sit in on a few sessions I could stand to work a few hours at a less than glamorous job.

In looking at the website it didn’t look like I’d actually get to go to any sessions since they all seemed full, but in fact I got to attend two of them, plus the exposition and book fair. Really, I was only limited by my own schedule as they were incredibly generous about letting volunteers sit in. Then again, I didn’t try to crash the chocolate tasting or the Judith Jones talk.

I went to a rather heated panel discussion on “The Death of Recipes” — some people would like to see recipes wiped off the face of the earth; who knew? Michael Ruhlman went head-to-head with Karen Page (thanks to extramsg, the video of the exchange is here) about whether or not Americans are too busy to cook at home. The audience was on Ruhlman’s side (partly because Karen Page was being sort of insufferable) in large part for saying crowd pleasers like “It may be fundamental to our humanity to spend time everyday cooking for our families.” Amen, brother.

Speaking of fundamental humanity, my favorite event of the week was a talk by Bryant Terry and self-proclaimed “food justice activist” who seeks to reclaim our humanity by reclaiming food for the corporate grasp. He’s written two books: Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen and Vegan Soul Kitchen — though he pointed out that he didn’t pleaded with his publishers not to use the word “Vegan” in the cookbook title since he felt it pigeon-holed the book when what he really wanted to talk about was sustainable eating. But marketing shorthand won out and so “vegan” it is. His session was billed as a cooking demo, but what it really was was a food activist rally and inspirational speech. And I gotta say, I got no problem with that. Especially since at the very end, he made us all some citrus-spiked collard greens. Yum.

The culinary book fair and expo hall events the next day weren’t quite as thrilling as I’d hoped, though I did get to buddy up to bread-genius Peter Reinhard and watch Ruth Reichl try to figure out what kind of strange pre-packaged crunchy snack product she was eating. Oh, and see Michael Ruhlman and Karen Page glare at each other as they were seated perilously close together by virtue of alphabetical order.

That Saturday we celebrated Willy Week’s 3rd annual Eat Mobile fundraiser for Mercy Corps. We’ve been to all three and this was by far the best organized, easiest to navigate and most fun one yet. Congrats to you, Willy Week. It helped that C and I had PJ and Brendan in tow to help us cover more ground fast and try everything before they ran out of food. No small task when there were 30 carts and, what? 3000 people?

Highlights include porchetta from The People’s Pig, truffle sandwiches from Savor Soup, beignets (beignets!!) from Violetta and spicy thai grilled peanut butter sandwiches from PBJ’s.

Ummm… I don’t actually understand what “I Pentagram Food Carts” means… should I?

Gotta admire the chutzpah of lugging your own wood oven around. They were turning out some damn fine pizza, too.

Why, thank you!

thank the pig

Thank the pig.

And did I mention that the Portland Farmer’s Market season has just started in earnest, too? So in addition to IACP and Eat Mobile I’d been grazing my way through the markets. Hey, it’s local, right?

After all that socializing and fooding, I couldn’t convince myself to attend the granddaddy of all food tasting events, Taste of the Nation, a benefit event catered by the best and brightest of Portland’s food scene. It sounded like an amazing time with fabulous food, all for a good cause, but I’ll have to wait and hope that next year’s event doesn’t come at the end of a week of non-stop eating. Either that or hope that by this time next year, I will have figured out how to make my stomach as big as my hungry eyes.

*that started out as a typo, but I like it as a word meaning “a lot, but I want to pretend it’s just a little”

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