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The Meatrix I'm not a vegetarian but I dislike factory farming and I support small, family farms.

 

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Last call for Paper Chef Ingredient Nominations for Paper Chef #13 
Ingredient nominations close at the end of the day on Thursday. So far the list is:

Parsnips, sweetcorn, apples, red peppers, seaweed, rice, carrots, a root vegetable, basil, fish sauce, butternut squash, scallions, little fishes, quinoa, anchovies, olives, yoghurt, barley, fennel, pumpkin (or any squash) seeds, fancy vinegar, cranberries, cream of rice, cornish hens, honey, something derived from a goat (meat, milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, etc), rocket, cashews, macadamia nuts, pomegranate molasses and hot bean paste.

Then Friday morning we pick out the three random ingredients and the special seasonal or topical ingredient and kick the event off at Noon. From there you'll have the weekend to make a dish that uses all four ingredients plus any others you wish and post about it to your blog by Monday at noon.

If you want to find out more about the judging, judges and special Aussie flavor to this month's event visit our pal (and last month's winner) the 2-minute Noodle Cook.
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Monday, November 28, 2005

The turkey... 
Thanksgiving Day is one of my favorite holidays. I truly enjoy cooking the meal. It's basic ceremonies and premise are non-sectarian and uplifting and mostly we have friends over who would otherwise be on their own. This time it was just us and two friends and that made it more manageable than normal. I couldn't afford a heritage turkey but I got a lovely free range one that almost seemed heritage like. Very little fat, rather lean and lanky, clearly related to the wild turkeys that roam around here and which come out like idiots right before Thanksgiving from wherever they hide during the Summer.

Anyway, we wanted them to go home with some leftovers and we wanted some leftovers - leftovers are part of the joy of the Thanksgiving meal: turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches. Dressing and gravy as a meal. A turkey curry and finally a turkey soup. That's what we usually stretch to...


Thanksgiving Turkey Copyright Owen Linderholm 2005

Thanksgiving Turkey



I normally cook the turkey wrapped in cheesecloth and this year was no exception but this year I tried something new - brining. I've never done it before and it was a mixed bag this time - bag being the operative word. Our turkey was 17 pounds and not an ounce of fat (confirmed later when we had literally NO fat drippings - none, nada, zip). I brined it in about a gallon and a half of water with two cups of salt and one of sugar and twenty five bay leaves. The turkey was cleaned, giblets removed and reserved for gravy, washed and patted dry, then carefully placed inside brand new, doubled trash bags. The brine was poured all over, including into the cavity. Air was carefully pushed out of the bags and they were very tightly knotted. The turkey was rolled around in its special bath and placed in the refrigerator for 36 hours, turning every 8 or so to try to brine evenly. Alas it was not to be - on eating we discovered a clear case of non even brining - but that was OK - we had half brined, half not.

Then I put the oven on at 375 degrees and got out about a yard of cheesecloth. I pulled the turkey from the brine, patted it dry and threw out the brining stuff. Then I placed three bay leaves in the cavity, followed by the stuffing (see next recipe). I rubbed a mixture of two tablespoons of kosher salt, two teaspoons of ground pepper and the zest of three meyer lemons all over the turkey. Then I mummified it in the cheesecloth and placed it on a rack in a big roasting pan. I poured about a third of a cup of olive oil carefully over the bird and set it in the oven. After one hour I basted it with what turned out to be almost nothing in the way of juices (this was truly not a fat turkey). So I poured three cups of chicken stock over the bird and returned it to the oven. From then on I basted every half an hour. Bird was done in four hours by timing charts and by meat thermometer (165 at the thigh and in the stuffing). Bird was also a rich, deep chestnut brown and smelled fantastic. Cut away the cheesecloth from the top. Peel off the cheesecloth from the bottom. Place on carving tray and serve with all the other things. It was a great turkey. But I'm not sure brining was a necessary step...
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...dressing... 
This is a tale of two dressings. You have heard about the turkey and you will hear about the side dishes. But in my mind, the dressing is what makes the Thanksgiving meal. So I take it VERY seriously. This year I only made one dressing but with two variations.

Main Dressing - cooked outside the bird



Put a VERY large saucepan/Dutch Oven on medium heat and dice two large onions up very small. Put them on to soften in about a quarter cup of olive oil. Chop a head of celery up about the same size and addd it to soften as well. (I used perhaps the best celery I have ever had in my life - it came from our Terra Firma organic box and it was PERFECT.) Also add six cloves of minced garlic. While softening, prepare the bread. You'll need two flat loaves of real country sourdough bread. Cut them up with a heavy knife into pieces at most an inch in size. Once the onion and celery are soft, stir in the pieces of bread and decant it all into a very large bowl.

Now prepare the pan again and cook at higher heat a pound of sausages diced up small. I used Aidell's Chicken Artichoke sausages which were perfect with everything else. Once the Sausage is going (you may need to add a little more olive oil) roughly chop up a pound of mushrooms small and cook them with the sausage. Meanwhile dice up about a cup of dried fruit - dried cherries and prunes are the best but apricots or other fruit could work well too - as fine as you can. Just don't use raisins. Add them to the pan and pour in about a cup of good chicken or turkey stock and let it come to a simmer, then turn it off. Pour off excess liquid and set it aside. Pour it over the rest of the dressing and stir it in thoroughly. Now stir in five tablespoons of dried, rubbed sage, two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary, a tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper and two tablespoons of kosher salt. You can also add two fresh apples finely diced at this point if you want. Thoroughly stir all of this in as well. Now add chicken or turkey stock to the mixture and keep stirring it in JUST UNTIL the micture is moist but NOT soggy. Put aside enough of what you made to stuff your turkey. The rest goes into casserole dishes to bake.

It can now wait until an hour before the bird is done, then pour half a stick of melted butter on top and shove it in the oven with the bird (should be at 375 degrees).

And now for the second dressing to go inside the bird...

Secondary Dressing - cooked inside the bird



You want this dressing to be richer and soggier than the other. Take the dressing you set aside and put it in a bowl. Finely chop another cup of fruit (see above) and put it in a pan to simmer with another cup of stock and two finely diced apples. Once it comes to a simmer, turn it off and let it sit. Pour this mixture over the reserved dressing and stir it in. This dressing should be moister than the first and almost soggy. Add a loittle port or sherry until it is moist enough and then carefully stuff the bird cavity with it - do not compress it however. Also remember to wipe out the cavity BEFORE stuffing.
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...and all the trimmings 
Continuing onward with our epic (well actually reasonable and created in order to be manageable and worthwhile) meal, we come to all the other side dishes.

First, Jan made the truly amazing and unforgettable lemon cake - perhaps the best one she has made yet. Our guests (Dot in this case) brought a wonderful homemade sweet potatoe pie that dot had made - light and fluffy and bursting with rich earthy sweet potato flavor and with a wonderful crust. I hand whipped a pint of cream to go with it! For the rest of the meal we had all the usual necessaries. Mashed potatoes were a compromise between the granular, mealy, potato earthy richness of the British mash and the fluffy, light, liquid richness of the Southern kind. The result was pretty durn good...

Gravy was pan drippings with turkey giblet broth and thickened after a couple of minutes boiling with cornstarch - really a very good gravy this time.

We had a very nice three green side dish made by sauteeing applewood smoked bacon, then cooking cabbage, swiss chard and spinach in with the bacon, squeeze a meyer lemon on top and then stir in some previously cooked and drained bacon crumbles.

But the special remaining side was

Secret Ingredient Cranberry Sauce


Put a medium saucepan on medium high heat and melt a tablespon of butter, then squeeze in the juice of two fresh organic valencia oranges and toss the squeezed orange pieces into the pot. Stir in two pounds of fresh cranberries and lower the heat. Stir in a tablespoon of decorticated whole cardamom and a large three inch piece of cinnamon stick. Let it all cook on low for an hour, stirring occasionally. Fish out the orange pieces and cinammon stick. Stir in 2/3 of a cup of sugar or to taste. Stir in one heaped tablespoon of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder - that's the secret ingredient. Let cool and serve on the side.
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Paper Chef Ingredient Nominations Open For Only Three More Days! 
Since the Paper Chef will be kicking off on Friday, we only have 3 more days to get nominations in. The current ingredient list is pretty impressive already though:

Parsnips, sweetcorn, apples, red peppers, seaweed, rice, carrots, a root vegetable, basil, fish sauce, butternut squash, scallions, little fishes, quinoa, anchovies, olives, yoghurt, barley, fennel, pumpkin (or any squash) seeds, fancy vinegar, cranberries, cream of rice, cornish hens, honey, something derived from a goat (meat, milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, etc), rocket, cashews, macadamia nuts, pomegranate molasses and hot bean paste.

Note: oranges, basil, lamb and fish sauce are not allowed since they were used last time.

We are shooting for some way to combine a theme of celebration with a down under/antipodean theme. Who knows how that will end up!?
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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Paper Chef Coming Up Fast! Thanksgiving Holiday in the Way! What Next? 
Actually it's pretty simple. It is time to nominate new ingredients. Rules are simple - anyone can nominate one ingredient - any ingredient as long as it is not objectionable. A few ingredients are banned since they got used last time. Those would be basil, lamb, orange and fish sauce.

The current list is:
Parsnips, sweetcorn, apples, red peppers, seaweed, rice, carrots, a root vegetable, basil, fish sauce, butternut squash, scallions, little fishes, quinoa, anchovies, olives, yoghurt, barley, fennel, pumpkin (or any squash) seeds, fancy vinegar, cranberries, cream of rice, cornish hens and honey.

[Note - I took out Halloween Candy since it might be harder to get now...]

We will do some kind of celebratory theme this time around for the holidays and to celebrate the beginning of the second year of Paper Chef.

Oh - and the event itself kicks off next Friday December 2nd at Noon PST or thereabouts.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Indian Food Blogs! Curry Galore! 
Wow! I just ran across a great food blog resource in my never-ending search for more and better food blogs. Just go check My Dhaba out. First of all it is a great Indian food blog in its own right, but then go look at that monster blogroll list of other Indian food blogs on the right hand side! I had no idea and it is going to take me quite a while to work through that list. I already know about a dozen of them but this is wonderful!

On the subject of food blogs, etc. I'm still on the prowl for more great sites in case I ever do A Second Helping of Digital Dish. If and when it will cover the period from Fall 2004 to the end of 2005.
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Friday, November 11, 2005

Paper Chef #12 Roundup and Winners! 
Mrs Deedop and Chopper Dave have done us proud (especially Mrs D what with writing a novel while running the Paper Chef!) and their roundup and adjudged choice are up at Belly Timber along with their usual brand of erudite and witty commentary.

Next month's Paper Chef will start December 2nd and we will do our best to make it a festive and joyous occasion. I think I will be able to return to hosting and you can find out who the judge will be by visiting and reading the roundup.
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Monday, November 07, 2005

Paper Chef #12 Pseudo Entry: South-East Asian Lamb Braise with Orange-Basil Rice 
Indian Dinner Copyright Owen Linderholm 2005

This was a challenge. Oddly enough I had more trouble integrating basil into the mix than anything else - partly because I couldn't get Thai Basil on short notice so I had to make do with the sweet Italian basil in the pot by the kitchen sink!

I decided to make a marinade first - fish sauce, garlic, orange juice, chilli and tomatillas (I am trying to put tomatillas in everything since we have pounds and pounds of them). But I ended up thinking about something a bit closer to a mussaman curry without the peanuts.

So here goes...

South-East Asian Lamb Braise



Blend/food process the following: four cloves of garlic, four fresh tomatillas (I used two purple, two green), one fresh chilli, the juice of one orange, half a cup of fish sauce. Before you juice the orange, cut the zest off it in strips. Put it in a bowl with two large lamb shoulder steaks and let sit for at least an hour - maybe two.

Heat a large flat pot on the stove with two tablespoons oil. Put the lamb in to brown after letting the marinade drip off - do NOT discard the marinade. After two minutes add two roughly chopped onions. Turn the lamb over once the bottom side is browned and brown the other side. Once browned, add the rest of the marinade and a cup of water, heat to a simmer and turn down as low as possible. Cook for an hour covered, turning the meat and stirring occasionally.

Coconut, orange, basil rice


In the meantime, put on some basmati rice to cook and use 1 cup of coconut milk in place of one of the cups of water to give the rice a lovely coconut scent and flavor.

Once the hour has passed (or longer if you want). Uncover the lamb and leave simmering to reduce the liquid. Put a small frying pan on to heat with a tablespoon of some neutral oil like canola. Take about twenty basil leaves and fry them fast in the oil making sure that they are kept still and do not touch. As they get crisp. put them on paper towels to drain. Once done with the basil, take the orange zest strips and recut to narrow strips less than 1/8 inch wide. Then fry these until a little crisp as with the basil, also putting them on towels to drain. Serve the rice onto plates and top with basil leaves and orange zest strips with a portion of the lamb on the side.


So, how did this turn out?

The lamb was mighty rich - maybe too rich - but the flavors all worked very very well together. The rice was also excellent but the basil got drowned out - next time double or triple the basil leaves and use thai basil. But the crispy orange zest was totally brilliant - I will be trying it again with many other dishes.
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Digital Dish in Diablo Magazine! 
For those of you in the Bay Area, see if you can get hold of the latest Diablo Magazine (same idea as San Francisco magazine but for Contra Costa/Alameda). The November issue is their food issue and is very nice and full of good East Bay food articles, but much more important, Digital Dish gets a review as one of three highlighted cookbooks with East Bay links. The others are the latest Molly Katzen (she lives in Kensington) and the Boulevard cookbook (Nancy Oakes lives in Oakland). So we are in really good company! They also had very nice things to say about Digital Dish - especially nice for the authors like Stephanie, Kate, Anthony and Jeanne as well as others - since they admiringly comment that, "some of the entries read more like comedy monologues than recipes."
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Paper Chef #12 - Reminder! 
Remember, Paper Chef number 12 is coming up! This time around it is hosted and judged by the infamous duo over at Belly Timber, Mrs D and Chopper Dave. Please head on over and nominate ingredients and then take part this weekend! Mrs D has promised to keep the Paper Chef show on the road while also writing a novel in a month, so head on over and commiserate or give her a hard time depending on your own taste and proclivities.

The event itself will start at around noon PST tomorrow, Friday November 4th and willend around Noon Monday November 7th.
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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Tomatilla Chutney: Last of the Summer Vegetables. 
I really like Tomatillas. (Or Tomatillos of you insist but they are called both and since they are inherently the reproductive meachanism of the plant I prefer to think of them as feminine). Hence the name of the blog. But I don't just like the fruit itself. I also like the way it grows in my garden (like a weed and happily) and the way it grows its own wrapper along with it. We have grown enough of these over the years that the garden is basically seeded with volunteers every year and this year was no exception. So I gathered about four pounds of tomatillas and planned on preserving them in some way. Method one was a chutney to go with a lovely meal of Hill Station Pilau rice, spice-crusted turkey cutlets and greens with ginger and garlic.

Tomatilla Chutney



I roughly chopped four onions. I put two tablepoons of olive oil in a saucepan and got it hot and droppped in two whole cayenne chillis (also from the garden) and a teaspoon of coriander seeds and a teaspoon of de-hulled cardamom seeds. I let them all brown for a bit and then dropped in the onion and cut a pound of tomatillas into quarters. I also peeled six cloves of garlic and a two inch piece of fresh ginger and chopped them up fast in the small chopper attachment for our blender. Then I added the garlic/ginger mixture followed by the tomatillas and stirred it all up. I added two tablespoons of tarragon vinegar and two tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of salt. I let it cook until it was all soft and combined - about ten minutes and stirred in a teaspoon of garam masala and then I let it cook on very low another ten minutes until thicker. Then I took a very recently cleaned jar and popped the chutney in and stuck it in the fridge. The rest got used in spoonfulls alongside the cutlets and it was FANTASTIC. This will be an annual treat I believe. Oh - I did fish the chillis out before putting it in the jar!
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