Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Min's S'Moretini

When we were at an Outback Steakhouse a while back, I noticed a drink by this name in their drink menu. I didn't order one, and hadn't tasted this drink. Of course all of Outback's recipes are proprietary, meaning they don't share. I did note that they use Monin Toasted Marshmallow flavoring. ( I will be curious, the next time we make it to an Outback, to see how their drink measures up to mine!)

I went on a quest, and quickly found Monin brand flavorings on the internet. I ended up ordering some directly from Monin. Man do they have some delicious-sounding recipes, with and without alcohol of course. With over 100 different flavors, it is a very enticing website. Stay tuned, you can bet I will be making more drinks!

I decided I wanted to make a vodka drink, modeled after the ne'er-tasted s'moretini, with Monin Toasted Marshmallow flavoring, some chocolate...and I took it from there.

If you don't want to buy all the specifically Monin components of this drink, I'm sure you can make substitutions. You will NEED the Monin Toasted Marshmallow, there is no substitute. You can use vanilla vodka instead of regular, and omit the Vanilla flavoring, or just add 1/4 teaspoon or so vanilla extract. Swirl the glass with Hershey's chocolate syrup or a different chocolate sauce/syrup instead of Monin Dark Chocolate Sauce. I bet it will taste yummy.

However, you may want to splurge on the Monin flavorings. (At least the scrumptious Dark Chocolate Sauce!) Either way, I know you will enjoy this smooth, creamy, luscious and decidedly grown-up s'more in a glass.

Min’s S’moretini

Serves 1

Hershey's syrup

1/2 graham cracker, finely crushed

Monin Dark Chocolate Sauce

ice cubes

1 1/4 ounce vodka

1 ounce Monin Toasted Marshmallow Syrup

1 squeeze Hershey's syrup

1/2 ounce Monin Vanilla Syrup

2 ounces half & half

  • Rim martini glass with Hershey's syrup and crushed graham crackers.
  • Swirl bottom third of glass with a generous drizzle of Monin Dark Chocolate Sauce.
  • In cocktail shaker, combine vodka, Monin Toasted Marshmallow flavoring, Hershey’s Syrup, Monin Vanilla flavoring and half & half.
  • Add a handful of ice cubes and shake until combined and chocolate is incorporated.
  • Carefully strain into glass, and savor.

Number One says "It's yummy!"

Happy New Year!

Please drink Min's S'moretinis responsibly.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Frontera Grill's Chocolate Pecan Pie

Even though we didn't end up making this pie for this particular meal, it is on my list. I will make this pie. Someday. Until then, if you make this pie first, please let me know how it goes and what you think of it. I think it sounds fantastic.

Once again, this is from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen. If you only buy one Mexican cookbook in your lifetime, let it be this one.

Frontera Grill's Chocolate Pecan Pie
Pay de Nuez y Chocolate, estilo Frontera Grill

Makes one 10-inch pie, serving 12

For the crust:
1 1/2 (6 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour (measured by scooping and leveling)
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch bits
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening or rich-tasting lard, chilled, and cut into 1/2-inch bits
3/4 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk, beaten slightly

For the filling:
2 cups (about 6 ounces) pecan halves (make sure they're fresh and richly flavorful)
6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (6 ounces) room-temperature unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/2 tablespoons Kahlua or brandy
2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sweetened whipped cream, flavored with Kahlua for serving

1. The dough. Measure the flour, butter and shortening (or lard) into a bowl or a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Quickly work the fats into the flour with a pastry blender or pulse the food processor until the flour looks a little damp (not powdery) but tiny bits of fat are still visible. If using the food processor transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Mix together the sugar, salt and 3 tablespoons of ice water. Using a fork, little by little work the ice-water mixture into the flour mixture. The dough will be in rough, rather stiff clumps; if there is any unincorporated flour in the bottom of the bowl, sprinkle in a little more ice water and use the fork to work it together. Press the dough together into a flat disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. Transfer to a deep 10-inch glass pie pan (I find it easiest to roll the dough onto the rolling pin, then unroll it onto the pie pan). Decoratively crimp the edge and trim excess dough. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

2. Prebaking the crust. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a 15-inch piece of foil and lay it, oiled-side down, into the crust (heavy duty foil is too stiff to work here); press down to line the crust snugly. Fill with beans or pie weights and bake about 15 minutes, until beginning to brown around the edges. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Carefully remove the beans (or weights) and foil, return the crust to the oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes, until it no longer looks moist. (If it bubbles at this point, gently press it down with the back of a spoon). Brush the beaten egg yolk over the crust, then let cool completely.
3. The nuts and chocolate. While the crust is cooling, spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the 350-degree oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Cool, then break into small pieces and transfer to a large bowl. Chop the chocolate into rough, 1/2-inch pieces and add to the bowl, along with the flour. Stir until everything is well coated.

4. The filling. In a food processor (or in the large bowl of an electric mixer), cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes in the food processor, 5 minutes in the mixer. With the machine still running, add the eggs one at a time, letting each be completely incorporated before adding the next. Beat in the corn syrup, molasses, Kahlua or brandy, vanilla and salt.

5. Baking. Pour the filling over the chocolate and pecans and stir well to combine. Pour the mixture into the prebaked pie shell, set onto the lower shelf of the oven and bake until a knife inserted into the center is withdrawn clean, about 1 hour.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Serve slices of the pie at room temperature or slightly warm, topped with a dollop of Kahlua-spiked, sweetened whipped cream.

ADVANCE PREPARATION: The pie can be made several days ahead, wrapped in plastic and refrigerated. It freezes well. Because the pie is easiest to cut when cold, I suggest making it ahead, refrigerating it, cutting it, then warming just before serving.

VARIATIONS AND IMPROVISATIONS: Other nuts can be substituted for the pecans. Honey can replace the molasses for a lighter flavor. If you like the crystalline crunch of Mexican chocolate, reduce the semisweet chocolate to 5 ounces and sprinkle the pie with 1/3 cup rather finely chopped Mexican chocolate before baking.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Costillas de Puerco con Verdolagas (Tomatillo-Braised Pork Country Ribs)

Instead of exchanging gifts this year, Number One's brother and sister-in-law suggested that we cook fabulous meals for each other and our families during their visit to the ranch. This is an excellent idea; each couple will get a night off to relax, socialize and drink a little more wine, and we will all enjoy splendid meals together.

To that end, I decided to prepare a Mexican feast. We have wonderful memories of our trip to Mexico with Number One's brother and our niece, and we all enjoy authentic Mexican food. H-Bomb declared that he doesn't want my Famous Lamb Tacos, so I pulled out my trusty cookbook. There are several recipes I've been wanting to try in Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen, and this is one of them. I plan to follow Rick's menu suggestions:

Golden Squash Blossom Crema
Tomatillo-Braised Pork Country Ribs
Chocolate Pecan Pie, Frontera Grill style

In Spanish, El Menu:

Crema de Flores de Calabaza

Costillas de Puerco con Verdolagas
Pay de Nuez y Chocolate, estilo Frontera Grill

All three recipes sound like there will be some work involved, but not what I would call "labor-intensive." There is enough work that I am excited to tell you: all the dishes above can be made ahead of time! I will post the variations that I am preparing, due in part to an ingredient-deficient grocery store, as well as the original version. What are we waiting for? Let's get to it!

**I had planned to make this in advance. I had every intention of making this in advance. It did not happen. Dinner is in three hours, and I am preparing this dish now. **

Costillas de Puerco con Verdolagas

I doubled the recipe below in order to serve 8 adults and 3 children. The store didn't have country pork ribs, so I used thick pork chops. I don't have a pan large enough to put all the meat in one layer, and I had already used my dutch oven pan for the squash soup, so I used my soup pot and browned the pork in batches. This greatly increased the time it took to prepare this recipe, and we ended up eating much later than anticipated. I also ran out of time and scrapped the dessert plans altogether. It didn't matter--the soup and the pork were so delicious that everyone ate plenty. Wine with dinner, and CG pulled out some store-bought truffles, and it was a perfect meal.

We will definitely make this again. Ahead of time.

Costillas de Puerco con Verdolagas Tomatillo-Braised Pork Country Ribs with Mexican Greens

Serves 4 to 6

FOR 2 1/4 cups Essential Simmered Tomatillo-Serrano Sauce Base:
1 1/2 pounds (15 to 18) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
Fresh hot green chile to taste (roughly 5 serranos), stemmed
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish
Salt, about 1 1/2 teaspoons, plus some for sprinkling on the meat

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
3 pounds (about 6 good-size pieces) pork country ribs (or 1-inch-thick pork blade chops)
2 small white onions, finely chopped, plus a couple of slices separated into rings, for garnish
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
8 medium boiling potatoes (like the red-skin ones), quartered
3 cups (about 12 ounces) fresh purslane (verdolagas), rinsed and thick bottom stems removed
OR 6 cups loosely packed, sliced (1/2-inch pieces) chard leaves (you'll need a 12-ounce bunch)
OR two 10-ounce packages frozen leaf spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and roughly chopped **this last "shortcut" variation is the one I have to go with.

1. Making 2 1/4 cups Essential Simmered Tomatillo-Serrano Sauce base. Lay the tomatillos and chiles on a baking sheet and place about 4 inches below a very hot broiler. When they darken and soften, about 5 minutes, turn them over and broil the other side.

Roughly chop the chiles, then transfer them and the tomatillos (along with any liquid) to a food processor or blender. Puree, then add the chopped cilantro, 3/4 cup water, and salt.

2. The meat and potatoes. Over medium-high heat, heat the oil in a Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela large enough to hold the meat in a single layer. Sprinkle the meat with salt, then brown on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Turn on the oven to 325 degrees. Pour off all but a thin coating of oil from the pan. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes; add the garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in the tomatillo sauce base, let come to a rolling boil, then return the meat to the pan. Cover and bake in the oven until the meat is just tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and skim off any fat that has risen to the top of the sauce.

Add the potatoes to the hot pot, push them down into the sauce, cover and continue baking until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Finishing the dish. Stir the greens into the meat and potatoes, set the cover in place again, and bake 10 more minutes. Taste and season with a little more salt if necessary.
Transfer the ribs to a warm, deep serving platter. Arrange the potatoes around them, then spoon the sauce and greens over and around the meat. Strew the onion rings over the top, garnish with cilantro, and carry the impressive platter to the table.

ADVANCE PREPARATION--The dish may be prepared very successfully through step 2; cover and refrigerate. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove before continuing with step 3.

SHORTCUTS--Two 10-ounce packages frozen leaf spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and roughly chopped, can replace the fresh greens; add them just before serving.

VARIATIONS AND IMPROVISATIONS: The classic combination of purslane, potatoes and tomatillos can be made as a great vegetable dish or taco filling: Omit the meat, simply fry the onion and garlic, add the sauce base, then let reduce until thick; stir in 1 cup beef broth. Simmer until medium-thick, then add the potatoes, simmer 15 or 20 minutes, add the greens, simmer 5 to 10 minutes more, season, and serve (this is good with cubes of queso fresco as garnish).

An equal weight of chicken thighs or beef short ribs can replace the pork, as can thick tuna or swordfish steaks (thin the sauce base to a spoonable consistency with broth once it has come to a boil; add the potatoes-but not the browned fish-and bake 20 minutes, then nestle in the greens and fish and bake until both are as done as you like).

Crema de Flores de Calabaza (Golden Squash Blossom Crema)

Instead of exchanging Christmas gifts this year, Number One's brother and sister-in-law suggested that we cook fabulous meals for each other and our families during their visit this weekend. This is an excellent idea! Each couple will get a night off to relax and drink a little more wine, and we will all be able to socialize and enjoy splendid meals together.

For our traditional Mexican feast, I turned to Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen, where I found all three recipes. This soup is the first course of my dinner menu. I will be serving the soup with Costillas de Puerco con Verdolagas (Tomatillo-Braised Pork Country Ribs) and Pay de Nuez y Chocolate, estilo Frontera Grill (Frontera Grill's Chocolate Pecan Pie).

This soup has several variations, just in case your store if fresh out of Golden Squash Blossoms. Take a guess and you'll be correct: our grocery doesn't carry these. I will list the Golden Squash Blossom Crema as a variation, the main recipe will be the one I chose: "Squash Blossom" Soup with Yellow Squash and Spinach. I doubled the recipe, and it's actually quite easy once you finish dicing everything.

I had planned to make the soup in advance, at least a day, but a trip to the ER with H-Bomb, who was so dizzy he fell down walking to the bathroom, prevented that. Now that H-Bomb has antibiotics, I made the soup this morning. Still in advance, but that means instead of just finishing things off, I have to prepare three entire dishes today. So guess what I'm doing. So much for planning ahead. But YOU could, and I recommend it!

***Last minute menu change: After what happened yesterday (ER) and today (go here), no time or energy to make the pie. Instead, we thought we would have Mexican Chocolate Brownies. Our favorite brownie mix, with a couple teaspoons of cinnamon to spice thing up. Perfect. And quick! However, we ran out of time to even make brownies. We had store-bought truffles with more wine for dessert. Yum.***

Crema de Calabaza con Espinacas
Squash Soup with Spinach

Makes about 7 cups, enough for 6 generous servings

1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
3 cups good chicken broth
1 small boiling potato (like the red-skin ones), peeled and roughly chopped (I used red potatoes)
2 medium yellow squash cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 fresh poblano chiles (I was forced to substitute: for a double batch, I used three large anaheims)
1 cup milk
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 large ear of corn, husked, kernels cut from the cob (I substituted about 1 cup of frozen corn per ear)
1 cup thinly sliced spinach
1/2 cup thick cream, whipping cream or creme fraiche
Salt, about 1 1/2 teaspoons, depending on the saltiness of the broth
A little chopped epazote or parsley, for garnish

1. The broth. In a medium-size (4-quart) soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly brown, about 5 minutes. Scoop out half of the onion and set aside. Add the broth and potato, partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

2. The squash. Add half the diced squash to the broth and simmer at least 6 minutes. In a food processor or in batches in a loosely covered blender, puree the mixture; return to the pot.

3. The chiles. Roast the chiles directly over the gas flame, on a medium-hot gas grill or 4 inches below a very hot broiler. (I just rested them on my gas stove burner, turned them with tong and/or fingers for about 6 minutes each). Turn occasionally until blistered and blackened on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes for the flame or grill, about 10 minutes for the broiler. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand about 5 minutes. Peel off the charred skin, cut out the seed pod, then quickly rinse to remove straggling bits of skin and seeds. Cut into 1/4-inch dice.

4. Finishing the soup. Add the chiles to the soup along with the milk and reserved onion; bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the zucchini, corn and the remaining squash. Simmer a few minutes longer, remove from the heat, stir in the cream, taste and season with salt. Serve in warm bowls garnished with epazote or parsley.

ADVANCE PREPARATION: The soup can be prepared a day or so ahead through step 3; refrigerate all the parts covered. Complete the soup just before you plan to serve it.


Golden Squash Blossom Crema--Replace the yellow squash with 25 large (3- to 4-inch) squash blossoms (male blossoms with no squash attached). To clean: Break off the stems, then the little green sepals that come out from the base of the blossoms (they originally covered the buds). Use your fingers to break loose the long pistils in the center of each flower and discard. With a very sharp knife, cut the blossoms crosswise into 1/4-inch strips, including the bulbous base. Add half to the soup in each of the two places the squash is called for. In step 2, simmer for 3 minutes after adding blossoms, then puree. In step 4, add remaining squash blossoms after simmering zucchini and corn. Simmer a couple minutes after adding squash blossoms (the strips of blossom will soften into deep-golden "streamers"), then remove from heat and complete step 4.

Exotic Soup of Blossoms and Wild Mushrooms--Prepare the soup as described with squash blossoms, replacing the milk with an equal amount of broth. Add 2 cups sliced, not-too-strong wild mushrooms (Rick prefers fresh chanterelle, hedgehogs or cauliflower) to the pot along with the chiles. Omit the zucchini and corn; serve the soup as is, or add a little thinly sliced spinach along with the second batch of blossoms.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve 2008

I didn't travel for Christmas either this year!!!  All of my husband's family came to our house for a Christmas Eve Yuletide Feast.  Now this doesn't seem like a big deal; HOWEVER, my husband's father is a chef and his mom does all the baking at a country club.  It's a little intimidating.  Other then the occasional no-special-occasion dinner at our house,  I've never actually cooked a big meal for them so this was kinda big.  

Everything was delicious and everyone was stuffed!  Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

What's Christmas or Thanksgiving without pumpkin bread?  Here's an easy recipe that I adapted from  The original recipe was for zucchini bread, which is quite good as well.  Just substitute 1 cup of shredded zucchini for the pumpkin!

Here's what you'll need...

1/4-cup butter (room temperature)
1/4-cup vegetable oil
1-cup brown sugar
1 1/2-cups all-purpose flour
1-tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2-tsp baking soda
1-tsp baking powder
1/2-tsp salt
1 egg
1-cup pumpkin puree (from a can is fine or bake your own)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 8x4x2 loaf pan with butter or baking spray.

2.  Mix the butter, oil and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add the egg and mix until incorporated.

3.  Sift the flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add the sifted mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, until all is incorporated.  

4.  Add the pumpkin puree and continue to mix until smooth-ish.  Side note here...  if you bake your own pumpkin, make sure to put it in a food processor or blender to puree it up.  It can be a bit stringy which you don't want in your bread.  

5.  Pour into a loaf pan and bake for about 55-60 minutes until it's golden brown and a knife comes out clean.  

Serve warm with butter!

Grilled Rosemary & Garlic Pork Tenderloin

My husband got a BBQ cookbook last year for Christmas and he has made several things from it... all fantastic. The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen to be exact. If you love to grill or you know someone who does, this is a great cookbook for them.

The pork is tender, juicy and VERY fragrant! You'll want to hang out next the grill the entire time it's roasting and breathe deeply. My husband made this for our Christmas Eve Feast and it was a BIG hit. Nice thing about it was that it freed up my oven to cook the sides and keep things warm.

Here's what you'll need...

6 cloves of garlic, peeled.
1 bunch of fresh rosemary, stemmed (about 1/4 cup of leaves)
1 Tbs course kosher salt
1 Tbs freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 boneless pork loin roast (about 2-lbs)

1. Combine the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper in a mortar and pound to a smooth paste with the pestle, then work in the oil. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, combine all the ingredients in a spice mill or mint chopper and process to a puree. My husband's side note here... process everything but the olive oil FIRST, then add the oil. If you put everything in together, it doesn't mix well and you don't get the "paste" consistency.

2. Using a long, sharp knife, butterfly cut the pork roast (cut almost in half lengthwise, starting at one side and open up). Open out the meat as you would a book, then cut a lengthwise pocket down the center of each side, starting and ending about 1/2 inch from each end and cutting almost all the way through to the other side. Spread half the herb paste over the surface and into the pockets of the opened out roast, then bring the sides together so the meat resumes its original shape. Tie the roast at 1-inch intervals with butcher's string, then spread the remaining herb paste over the entire surface. If desired, loosely cover the roast with plastic wrap, and let marinade in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours bringing it to room temperature while you preheat the grill.

3. Set up the grill for indirect grilling. You'll need a gas grill with 2 heating zones. Preheat the grill on high then turn off one side of burners and reduce the other to medium-high or medium. Place a drip pan under the grill on the OFF side. Adjust the gas so the temperature in the grill maintains around 350 degrees. When ready to cook, oil the grill grate. Place the roast on the hot grate over the drip pan, cover the grill, and cook until the internal temperature registers 160 degrees (about 1 - 1 1/2 hours).

4. Transfer the roast to a cutting board or platter and let it stand for 5 minutes, then remove the string and cut the roast into thin slices. Serve hot, warm or (as they do in Italy) at room temperature.

Serves 4

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Easiest Fudge Ever

Need an easy recipe for fudge for the holiday give-aways?  Here it is!  You may even have everything you need in the pantry.

12-oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk
dash of salt
1/2-cup of peanut butter (optional)

  • Heat everything in a heavy pan over low heat and stir A LOT so it doesn't stick.
  • Once it's smooth, remove from heat and pour into a 9 inch square pan lined with foil.  
  • Let it set for a few hours in the refrigerator and cut in bite size cubes.  You can get 64 perfect bite size pieces if you make 8 cuts across both ways. 

This is a base recipe.  Add about 1/2 cup or more of peanut butter (creamy or crunchy) or walnuts if you like nuts in your fudge.  You could also add some white chocolate towards the end to give it a "marbled" look.  


Monday, December 22, 2008

Popcorn Balls

This is one of my favorite recipes from childhood. I don't remember ever helping to make them, but I do remember arriving at my grandma's house, where she had piles of colorful popcorn balls, individually wrapped in plastic and ribbons, just waiting for us kids to devour! I love these things. I am going to make some this year with my boys, and you should share them with your children too. The memories will last a lifetime!

Thanks for the recipe, Grandma!

{picture coming soon!}

Popcorn Balls

Makes about 16 balls.

8 cups popped corn (about 1/2 cup unpopped)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
food coloring

Measure popped corn into large bowl. Combine sugar, corn syrup,water, vinegar & salt in a 2 quart saucepan. Heat to boiling over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Cook, stirring constantly to 260 degrees on candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water forms a hard ball. Reduce heat to low, stir in butter and food coloring, stirring until butter is melted. Pour over popcorn in bowl, stirring until corn is well covered.

Butter hands and shape into 3 inch balls and place on waxed paper.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Carnation Famous Fudge

This is a classic, delicious, creamy and very simple fudge. It sets up beautifully, and is not too soft--it ages to crunchy yet melt-in-your-mouth perfection. You can substitute butterscotch, milk chocolate, peanut butter, or mint chips. Several years ago I bought a Carnation fudge "kit" at Costco, complete with all the necessary ingredients and little paper fudge pans for gift-giving. If you don't want to buy a kit somewhere, or would rather make a whole bunch, you can just use this recipe.

This year I made a double batch, and just used a whole 12-ounce can of evaporated milk. Carnation brand, of course. I also used a bunch of chopped walnuts, not just 1 cup. I didn't measure, but it was probably closer to 2 cups. (Number One loves walnuts)

The recipe exists in myriad incarnations all over the internet, but this is from the official Carnation/Nestle Brand website. (that explains the brand-name dropping below that I usually try to avoid)

Note: it is essential to measure out all of your ingredients ahead of time, because you will be standing at the stove top stirring the whole time. I put the marshmallows, chocolate chips, nuts and vanilla into a bowl so I could just dump it all in together when it was time.

{picture in the morning when we slice it up!}

Carnation Famous Fudge

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 48 pieces
Cook Time: 5 minutes

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup (5 fl.-oz. can) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups (9 oz.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

LINE 8-inch-square baking pan with foil.

COMBINE sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

STIR in marshmallows, morsels, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted. Pour into prepared baking pan; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into 48 pieces.

1 3/4 cups (11.5-oz. pkg.) NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Milk Chocolate Morsels for Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels.

1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Butterscotch Flavored Morsels for Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels.

1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Morsels for Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels and 1/2 cup chopped peanuts for pecans or walnuts.

FOR MINT CHOCOLATE FUDGE: Substitute 1 1/2 cups mint-chocolate chips for semisweet chips.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shell's "Penicillin" Soup

I'm sick right now.  I don't feel good at all.  My throat is killing me and I can barely swallow anything with it feeling like a dozen razor blades going down my throat.  All I've doing today is drinking tea, coffee, water.  But I'm hungry now... but I still can't eat.  So here's a recipe I threw together for lunch today.  It's simple, ready in 15 minutes, has a little protein but is easy to swallow.  You don't have to add the dumplings... it's fine without but the dumplings make it a little more filling if you ask my opinion.

Here's what you'll need...

1 carton (32-oz) of broth (vegetable or chicken)
1 egg beaten
salt and pepper

1/2-cup of milk
1/2 stick (4-Tbs) of butter
1/2-cup of flour
1/4-cup of yellow cornmeal
1 egg beaten
salt & pepper

  • Heat up the broth to a boil.  Season with salt & pepper.
  • While the broth is heating up, heat the milk and butter to a boil in a separate small saucepan.
  • Once the milk/butter boils, remove from heat and add the flour, cornmeal, salt & pepper and mix well.  Add the egg and mix well.  Set aside.
  • Once the broth is boiling, take a fork or whisk and slowly pour the egg into the soup.  Use the fork or whisk to break up the egg.  Looks just like egg drop soup.
  • Add spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture (about 6-8).
  • Cover and reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the dumplings float to the top.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shredded Pork Tacos with Crunchy Slaw

This is an excellent recipe that I haven't made in a while. It was brought to mind while I was perusing my latest Taste & Create partner's website...she was lamenting her lack of coleslaw to put atop a BBQ sandwich--which also happens to be MY favorite (and almost only) way to consume coleslaw. I really don't enjoy BBQ without a healthy dollop of coleslaw...and the same goes for these pork tacos from Everyday Food magazine, if I remember correctly. They are delicious, and the slaw is crunchy and flavorful without being too...mayonnaisey. I remember making these tacos once when company was coming for lunch, and what a hit they were. I can't wait to make them again.

Also, stay tuned for T&C XVI to see what Southern Grace recipe I decide to make!

shredded pork tacos


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
coarse salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 boneless pork shoulder (3 pounds), cut in half lengthwise
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes in juice
1 large chipotle chile in adobo sauce (from a small can), minced (about 4 teaspoons)
16 toasted corn tortillas (6-inch) (see note)
1 cup crumbled queso fresco, feta or goat cheese
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
Crunchy Slaw with Radishes

1 In a large (5-quart) heavy pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion, garlic, thyme, oregano, and bay leaves; season with salt and pepper. Cook until onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Add pork, tomatoes (breaking them up) and their juice, chipotle, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until meat is very tender, 2 to 2 ½ hours. Discard bay leaves.

2 Using tongs, transfer meat to a large bowl; shred with two forks, discarding any large pieces of fat or gristle. Return meat to pan, and simmer until sauce is thick, 30 to 45 minutes more. Season, if necessary, with salt and pepper. Proceed to next step, or cover and refrigerate, up to 1 day.

3 Spoon pork and sauce into toasted tortillas, using 2 tortillas for each serving; top with queso fresco and cilantro. Top or serve with Crunchy Slaw with Radishes, if desired.


Holding them with tongs, place tortillas directly on the grates of a gas burner, flipping frequently until beginning to brown and warm. Or warm them, one at a time, in a dry skillet over medium heat, 30 seconds. *(I just use my fingers instead of tongs, it’s easier for me, and we have a gas stove so that’s what I use).

Crunchy Slaw with Radishes

This slaw is the perfect, required accompaniment to Shredded Pork Tacos. I believe these recipes came from Everyday Food magazine. When I am sure of this, I will update the post.

crunchy slaw with radishes


1/3 cup light mayonnaise (I use regular)
3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar (couldn’t find this, red wine vinegar worked fine)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes—I didn’t measure, 2 limes are great)
1 tablespoon sugar
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 small green cabbage (about 2 pounds), halved, cored, and thinly sliced
1 bunch radishes, ends trimmed, halved and thinly sliced (about 1 ½ cups)

In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, lime juice, and sugar; season generously with salt and pepper. Add cabbage and radishes; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Zesty Braised Chicken with Lemon and Capers

In August, I ended up with a new cookbook. It came in the mail, and I had every intention of returning it. Then one thing after another put the cookbook in the bottom of a mail box, and it was too late. I think perhaps it was fate. You know, the subconscious kind of "fate" that makes you "forget." That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

The cookbook is Food & Wine Annual Cookbook, 2008. It contains the entire year of recipes from Food & Wine magazine, and is also the "Special 30th Anniversary Edition." I can't see any difference between this one and previous years (which were not the "special 30th anniversary editions") but whatever. I have not been able to put this cookbook down. There are some amazing recipes in here, along with gorgeous photography.

I plan to make this one day very soon. It contains simple ingredients (that don't require a trip to town) and it looks fantastic. I can't wait to show you a picture of this, it is beautiful!

**Update: which kind of grocery store doesn't have lemons today? The teeny-tiny, only-one-in-town kind at which I am forced to shop. This will have to wait until next weekend. =(

***Update II: So. "Next weekend" turned into four months later. At least I remembered! And, this chicken was worth every day of waiting! It was savory and delicious, with a hint of lemon in a complex, scrumptious sauce. Fairly easy to accomplish. We served it with wild rice.

Zesty Braised Chicken with Lemon and Capers

Active: 25 minutes; Total: 1 hour 30 minutes
4 servings
Wine: Lively, tart Sauvignon Blanc (we finished off the lovely bottle I opened to make the sauce)

8 bone-in chicken thighs with skin (6 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dusting
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 cups Sauvignon Blanc
1 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
Four 1-inch strips of lemon zest
4 thyme sprigs (I used 1 or 2 heaping teaspoons dried thyme leaves)
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 bay leaf

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust with flour. In a large ovenproof skillet, melt the butter in the oil. Add the chicken skin side down and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a large plate and pour of all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.

2. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook over low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, lemon zest, thyme sprigs, capers and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up. Transfer the skillet to the oven and braise for about 45 minutes, until the meat is tender.

3. Return the skillet to the stove and boil until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme, bay leaf and lemon zest, if desired, before serving.
--Grace Parisi

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Min's Fast, I mean FAST, Smothered Chicken

Lately I can't seem to get it together to have plans for dinner. I guess Bad Girls have off-days too. Could be the to-the-minute Thanksgiving planning (for more than a week ahead of time) that wore me out...anyway. This is what happened.

Tonight, I really wanted to make my beloved Pechugas de Pollo con Rajas. But I waited just a bit too long and ran out of time. The last-minute search was on. I have been looking at Shell's Smothered Chicken recipe for months now. Honestly, she posted it in June! You'd think I could have tried it by now.

Shell's recipe is for a slow cooker. Obviously, I didn't have that kind of time since it was already 5:15pm. But, I had everything for this recipe except mushrooms, so I went for it. We have a small family, so I just pulled 2 large chicken breasts out of the freezer and thawed them a bit in the microwave. I diced them to bite-sized pieces, and it was just the right amount. A batch of Minute Rice, and we had dinner.

It was fast, easy and delicious. And on the table by 6:pm. What more could you ask for? With mushrooms and/or zucchini it would have been perfect. Thanks Shell!

Now, if I could just figure out something for tomorrow...

Min's Fast, I mean FAST, Smothered Chicken
Adapted from Shell's Smothered Chicken
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large or 2 small onions, sliced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (would have been ideal)
1 small zucchini, diced (optional, I think it would be good)
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 can baby corn, drained
2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
1/2 can milk
salt and pepper to taste
thyme to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions, mushrooms and zucchini, if using, and saute for about 5 minutes or so while you dice the chicken. Add chicken, and cook until done. Add baby corn, soup and milk, salt, pepper and thyme, and simmer gently for 5 or 10 minutes until heated through. Serve with rice. That's all.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tortillas de Harina de Trigo (Flour Tortillas)

We love tortillas.

Number One has decided that we should make our own tortillas, instead of buying them at the store. He has fond memories of a Mexican babysitter he had when he was young, "Mama Tinas" who used to make stacks of the best tortillas whenever she came over. Except that Mama Tinas used her hands to form perfect circles, while Number One used a rolling pin to form imperfect circles...

One of my former roommates and I used to make tortillas, but not from scratch. We used a just-add-water "tortilla mix" from the Mexican section of the grocery store. They were easy and delicious, and we could make custom-sized tortillas. We made small (5-inch) tortillas to go along with the chorizo and eggs we took to a potluck Sunday brunch, and they were a hit. Whenever we went to the brunch, which was always hosted by the same people, it became a contest (if only in our heads) to see if we could make the best dish...and we always, always WON.

This recipe comes from Diana Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, and I'm not quite sure why we've never tried it before. Number One's tortillas will get better and more uniform with practice, but for now they are so much better than any you can buy in the store. I believe our tortilla-purchasing days just might be over...

Tortillas de Harina de Trigo (Flour Tortillas)
Makes about 10 tortillas

[Diana has about a page of notes/anecdotes about this recipe, and while very interesting, I just don't want to type them out. Please buy the book--it's a classic.]

...The recipe they gave me was "a handful of lard to a kilo of flour, salt, and water. Hot water if the weather is cold; cold water if the weather is hot." Later on I had one toasted crisp with the biggest piece of meat, cooked over the wood fire, that I have ever seen on any plate. You can make the dough either by hand or with an electric mixer.

1 pound (450 g) bread flour (from hard winter wheat)--Number One used all-purpose flour
4 ounces (115 g) softened vegetable shortening (about 1/2 cup/125 ml)--Number One used lard, of course
1 scant teaspoon salt (we thought they could have used a bit more salt)
about 1 cup (250 ml) warm water

Put the flour onto a work surface or pastry board. Rub the fat into the flour with your fingertips. Dissolve the salt in the warm water and mix into the flour, a little at a time, so that you can see how much the flour will absorb. Using a plastic dough scraper, gather up all the flour around the periphery and work the dough into a cohesive mass--about 2 minutes with the mixer, 4 minutes by hand.

Divide the dough into 10 equal parts--about 3 ounces (85 g) each--and roll into very smooth balls about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Cover with well-greased plastic wrap and set aside for at least 20 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Heat an ungreased comal or griddle over medium heat. (we use a flat cast iron tortilla pan)

Flatten one of the balls on a lightly floured work surface and roll it out, with a dowel for a rolling pin, to form a 6-inch (15-cm) circle. Now it is a matter of choice about thinness and size. You can stretch the dough like a pizza to about 15 inches (38 cm) in diameter.

Carefully lay the tortilla on the griddle; it should sizzle if the heat is correct.

The dough will become opaque and the bottom slightly browned in patches. Turn the tortilla over and cook on the second side; the whole process should take less than 1/2 minute. Do not overcook or the tortilla will become hard instead of soft and pliable.

As soon as each tortilla is cooked, stack inside a cloth.

These tortillas keep well and, although I hesitate to say so, can be prepared well ahead and reheated on a warm comal.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Blueberry Corn Bread

You know when you start looking through a cookbook, you notice all these really great-sounding recipes that you want to try? Whether it's the first time you've opened it, or if it's so well used it's falling apart, there are delicious recipes in there, just waiting to be made! That is what's happening with me and my Moosewood Cookbook right now. That's why so many posts are coming from that cookbook. I just can't put it down. It's been so long, I've had the book since roughly 1996, and I keep finding recipes to make. Either recipes that I've tried before and loved, or recipes that somehow have escaped my notice over the years...until now!

The other night, Shell was telling me about a corn bread recipe she'd tried. But it didn't turn out as well as her favorite corn bread recipe, which is why you haven't seen the recipe here. It got me to thinking, I bet Mollie has a recipe for corn bread! (Yes, I take the liberty of being on a first-name basis with those cookbook authors whom I love: Mollie, Martha, Bobby, Rick, etc.)

And yes, Mollie does indeed have a recipe for corn bread, three recipes in fact, and it was a tough decision which one to make. For now, I chose Blueberry Corn Bread. Later, I will also prepare and share the recipe for Mollie's Mexican Corn and Cheese Bread. Probably with a pot of my Rustic Chili. You can make the Basic Corn Bread recipe using this recipe, by decreasing the sugar or honey in the recipe below to 3 tablespoons and omitting the blueberries.

But for now, it's Blueberry. I meant to add a dash of vanilla, because my dad said he likes corn bread with vanilla, but I forgot. I also forgot to thaw the blueberries ahead of time, and in hindsight I believe that is a crucial step. I had to bake my cornbread 10 minutes more, and it really should have baked longer--the middle was still unbaked underneath the perfectly golden crust. Live and learn. Thaw your blueberries and drain them! I mean it!

Blueberry Corn Bread
10 minutes to assemble; 20 minutes to bake
Yield: 1 8-inch square panful

butter, for the pan
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk or yogurt (I used yogurt)
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar or honey
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries (you can also use frozen unsweetened blueberries. Defrost and drain before using)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square pan (or a 9- or 10-inch cast-iron skillet) with butter.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Combine the wet ingredients (including sugar or honey) separately. Stir the wet mixture into the dry, mixing just enough to thoroughly combine. Gently stir in blueberries. Spread into the prepared pan.

3. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the center is firm to the touch. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

This is a recipe I've had for a long time...I can't remember where I got it. I love this. Number One loves this. If you make some, you'll love it too. Tonight, we ate ours with Fritos. (You can't buy pita bread in this town, much less pita chips. Ya gotta improvise).

A good, quick snack or a great appetizer to take to a party! I had a picture, but I can't find it right now...and honestly, I don't think it was very pretty. Just trust me, you want to make some of this!

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese (I just used 1/2 cup Parm, it's what I had)
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I didn't measure, just sprinkled it on top until it looked good. I probably used about 1/2 cup or more)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, garlic, basil, garlic salt, salt and pepper. Gently stir in artichoke hearts and spinach.

Transfer the mixture to a small (8x8") baking dish. Top with mozzarella cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven 25 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned.

Serve with pita chips, tortilla chips, celery, carrot sticks, or anything you feel like dipping.

Shell's Vegetable Stew with Dumplings

Today was a chilly Saturday in Maryland and all I wanted was some comfort food, a fire in the fireplace and a hot beverage. It's snowing right now which is cool.

I love the IDEA of a nice, thick stew... it opitimizes "comfort food", but I really hate all the meat, especially beef. I can tolerate chicken. I've always wanted a good veggie stew but I've never liked any of the recipes I found. I totally made this recipe up... and surprisingly, it's fantastic! Please note, THIS IS NOT A VEGETARIAN RECIPE. There isn't any meat but it uses chicken broth. I have found using vegetable broth just doesn't have the same flavor but it's still good! If you're a vegetarian this is a fine option. For Vegans, just use olive oil to cook the onions and omit the dumplings since they have dairy. You could substitute soymilk and margarine for the milk and butter in the dumplings, but I haven't actually tried this.

I'm sure you could double the recipe and freeze half of it but I haven't actually tried this either.

The first dumpling recipe is more dense and drier. The second is a little more doughy. I prefer to the doughier one but the hubby prefers the dense one.

Here's what you'll need...

1 small/medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2-2 cups of butternut squash peeled and cut into bite-size cubes
1 14-oz can of dark red kidney beans (rinse)
1 14-oz can of garbanzo beans (or chick peas... same thing... rinse)
1 1/2-cups of peas (fresh or frozen)
1 32-oz carton of chicken broth
salt & pepper
1 bay leaf
couple big pinches of thyme (maybe 1/2 tsp or less?)
couple big pinches of basil
pinch of dill
2 Tbs ( or so) of flour to thicken (you may need more)... I suppose corn starch would work as well but then Martha Stewart would cringe.

2/3 cup of baking mix (like Bisquick)
1/3 cup of yellow corn meal
1/4 shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk
salt & pepper

  • Heat up a little olive oil or butter in a soup pot and add the onion. Cook until translucent.
  • Add the garlic and butternut squash and cook for a few minutes.
  • Add the kidney beans, garbanzo beans, chicken broth and spices (not the flour). Bring to a boil.
  • Ladle out a little liquid into a cup and and sprinkle the flour in it. Mix well until dissolved and pour back in the soup.
  • Reduce and simmer for 10 minutes (or until you're done mixing up the dumplings).
  • Mix all the ingredients for the dumplings until just moistened.
  • Drop spoonfuls of dumpling mix into the stew... about 8. Cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
  • Ladle soup into bowls with a couple dumplings per person.
  • Serves 4-6 people.
If you prefer more "doughy" dumplings use this:

1/2 cup of milk
1/2 stick of butter (4 Tbs)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 egg (beaten)
salt & pepper
  • Heat the milk and butter in a small sauce pan until it boils. Remove from heat.
  • Add the flour, salt and pepper and mix until it all starts to stick together.
  • Add the egg and mix quickly.
  • Drop spoonfuls of dough into the soup (you'll get about 6-8)
  • Cover and simmer soup until they rise to the top (about 10-15 minutes or so)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Garlic- and Herb-Studded Turkey

And now, I am going to share with you my secret, extra-special turkey recipe. I have prepared it every year for quite some time now, and everyone loves it. (except for the one year I decided to use about 6 bulbs of garlic...but I don't want to talk about that right now). One of my former co-workers has prepared this recipe for all her family's holidays for many years is always requested of her! (yes, Angelica, I'm talking about you!)

It really is delicious. Let me walk you through it.

Get a turkey that is big enough you'll have leftovers. You won't be sorry. The general rule is about 1 pound per adult, and 1/2 pound per child. So really, my 23-pounder this year was a bit excessive. But I'm not sorry, we have tons of leftovers! Generally, with 6 adults and 4 kids, we could have cooked a turkey that weighed about 10 pounds and it would have been fine. Of course we wouldn't have had the leftovers either....

Thaw your turkey well in advance of when you want to cook it. I mean, buy it about a week ahead, and depending on the size, you'll want it in the refrigerator (on a tray to catch the juice!) at least four days in advance.

This will be a messy process, so make sure you have some space cleared ahead of time. Clean out your sink so you can put the turkey right in there, and have paper towels on a tray right beside the sink so you can dry the turkey. You can then transfer the turkey to the rack and roasting pan.

The beauty of this recipe is it's versatility. You really can use whatever herbs you feel like using. This year, I used only rosemary. In the past, I have run across a fresh herb assortment for poultry, and have used that. I've used several different combinations. Additionally, you can remove the leaves from woody stems, or not. You can insert them whole, or chopped. Whatever you feel like doing is fine.

You can also use different cheeses. I have used blue cheese or gorgonzola or asiago. At the moment I can't think if I've used anything besides those cheeses. But mostly it's blue cheese because it's easier to find around these parts. I buy the pre-crumbled containers of blue cheese; the containers are 2" high and about 4 1/2" diameter.

For this recipe, you will need to gather:

  • a 20-pound turkey (if your turkey is smaller, use less garlic and half the herbs and cheese. you'll use a bit less salt and pepper too, but be generous)
  • roughly three bulbs of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • fresh herbs (rosemary, Italian parsley, sage, thyme), leaves stripped or not, chopped or not I think one or almost two fresh herb containers (at our store they are .66 ounces) should do it, or just harvest an ample amount from your garden like I do
  • 2 containers crumbled blue cheese or crumbled gorgonzola or grated asiago cheese
  • ample Kosher salt (about 4 tablespoons +) in a small bowl, with a healthy layer (perhaps 1 tablespoon +) of freshly ground black pepper on top, then mixed in. (I don't measure the salt or the pepper. The best I can say is use a bit more than you would think.)
Get everything ready and in separate bowls. Start with one container of cheese, and have someone standing by to open the next one and pour half of it into the contaminated container so you don't have to wash your hands more than necessary and don't contaminate ALL the cheese if you don't end up using it.

Remove the turkey from the packaging, and make sure to remove the giblets package from inside the turkey. If the turkey has a timer insert, you can remove that too, if you'd like. Rinse the turkey inside and out, and dry with paper towels. Transfer the turkey to the rack in your roasting pan. (If you don't have a rack, that's okay. Just transfer the turkey to your roasting pan.) I toss the giblets in the bottom of the roasting pan.

Starting at one end of the turkey, carefully start loosening the skin from the flesh with your fingertips, without ripping the skin near the end. If you happen to rip some of the skin near the end, don't worry, it can be fixed. Loosen all the skin you can, reaching your hand/arm in there and loosening the connective tissues under the skin. Again, be careful not to rip the skin too much. But you want the skin to be loose so you can get all the good stuff under there--including up onto the legs and wings, the breast and the back. Loosen all the skin you can on the whole turkey.
(maybe one day I'll post a video demo)

Now. Grab some cheese with your fingertips, and distribute it under the turkey skin. Just shove it under there, everywhere you can reach. Don't worry if it clumps, just make sure it's sort of evenly spaced, and that there is cheese both on the back side and the breast side. Do the same with your herbs (front and back). Whole herbs are actually easier to place than chopped, but either way works. Just do the same thing with the herbs, making sure it looks even under there. I reserve one big herb, like a sprig of rosemary, and put it inside the turkey cavity.

Place one garlic clove at a time under the skin, you can slide and manipulate and move the garlic from both under the skin and on top of the skin. The garlic will stick out (hence the "studded" name), and you want these luscious little garlic lumps to be roughly 1 to 2 inches apart (again, front side and back side). And yes, you'll put a couple under the skin on the legs and wings too, wherever you've loosened it, there should be a clove of garlic or two.

Once you have the cheese, herbs and garlic under the skin, have someone grab you some toothpicks. You will use these to "sew" together any skin that may have ripped in the process. Remember where the toothpicks are so you can remove them later.

Grab your salt and pepper mixture and rub/sprinkle it all over the turkey, top and bottom. Use more than you would think you'd need, and don't think about it. It will work. Once your turkey is salted and peppered, turn it breast side up on the roasting rack. Fill your roasting pan with about 2 inches of water. And wash your hands thoroughly, up to the elbows. I'm not joking. You will understand once you make this.

Bake your turkey as directed on the package. I usually let it bake for about an hour, then loosely drape a sheet of aluminum foil over the turkey. I mean loosely. I just tear it off, and sort of balance it on top, I don't even mold it to the turkey too much--it's hot! Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the biggest part of the thigh registers about 170 degrees, then remove from the oven. Keep the foil in place, loosely "tented" over the turkey, and let rest for 15 minutes or more.

You can use the juices in the bottom of the pan to make gravy, adding lots of unsalted butter and heavy cream, scraping up all the brown bits and boiling to reduce, and adding a bit of cornstarch if needed to thicken it. It might be a little salty, but it will still taste great.

Carefully transfer the turkey to a platter and make sure everyone gets to see that magnificent bird before you carve it up. (don't forget about the toothpicks!) The skin will be crispy and delicious, the meat delightfully herbed with whole roasted garlic cloves and savory cheese gently spicing it up.

Enjoy. And promise your family you will make this turkey for them every single year.
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