Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Lots of people ask me what I do for for Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd describe what I did this year.

The Turkey. I bought a 14.6-lb heritage turkey from Heritage Farms USA. It arrived, as scheduled, on Tuesday, cold but not frozen. I generously salted it under the skin on Wednesday morning, to give it 24 hours. On Thanksgiving day, I rinsed it well, then put it breast side down over ice packs. Just before cooking, I dried it and rubbed it with Michael Chiarello's fennel spice rub. Cooked on a V-rack 45 minutes breast side down at 450, then turned and cooked at 325 for 1 hour 45 minutes. The breast was perfect, the dark was not, so I put the thigh/leg quarters back for 15 minutes at 500. I have to say that I found the bird to be difficult to deal with because the joints were so tight; it was very hard to separate the thigh/leg quarters, which usually fall away of their own weight. The taste was excellent, particularly the breast meat, which was moist and had an intense turkey taste; the dark meat was almost too intense.

Gravy. Michael Chiarello's recipe for a classic roux-based gravy, made with fantastically rich turkey stock made with chopped up wings and necks. The stock (another Saveur recipe) made all the difference.

Dressing. On the side, not in the bird. Used the recipe for sage stuffing from an old Gourmet, but with mixed herbs. The crowd loved it. My wife and I thought it needed some crunch.

Sweet Potato Gratin, with lots of sage, from Ottolenghi. Wonderful and simple; I prepare it the day before and it was in a perfect state to cook on Thanksgiving Day.

French beans and snow peas with hazelnuts and julienned orange peel, also from Ottolenghi. Delicious and can be cooked in advance for assembly on the day of.

Pumpkin Pie. Used America's Test Kitchen's excellent recipe for a light yet flavorful pie, which incorporates candied yams, and an idea I got from Saveur to top it with some caramelized nuts and julieneed candied ginger. The result was deeply flavored (although different from the traditional pumpkin pie) and beautiful (see picture above).

Lots of other things, including a simple salad, desserts baked by my mother-in-law, cranberry chutney made by my mother, and hors d'oeuvres from my sister-in-law, but the foregoing is what I cooked.

Now the question is what to do next year. Which to repeat and which to change? But I have a little time.

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veal Breast Pasta Sauce

I love the intense taste and luxurious unctuous quality of breast of veal, and thought that it would make a wonderful pasta sauce. The problem with this cut is that it takes forever to cook, so I decided to use a pressure cooker, which greatly speeds things up. Although still a bit time-consuming (an hour from start to finish), it was easy to make and came out great. Here's the recipe for the sauce, which goes with whatever pasta you choose, although the Italians would probably suggest fresh pappardelle or boxed rigatoni.

Bobby Jay's Sugo con Petto di Vitello (Veal Breast Sauce)

  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 6 ribs cut from a breast of veal, about 3-4 lbs
  • 1 small-medium onion, cut lengthwise in quarters
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Heat pressure cooker over medium high heat. Add olive oil.
  2. Salt the ribs with kosher salt. Then brown them in hot oil (you probably have to do this in two batches). Put aside.
  3. Deglaze with white wine. Add ribs, garlic clove, onion and rosemary to pressure cooker. Cover, bring to high pressure, then lower heat to medium pressure and cook for 45 minutes.
  4. Let steam escape. CAREFULLY!
  5. Reserve sauce in a bowl or large measuring cup. When meat cools enough to handle, remove the rosemary sprig and separate the meat from the bones, cartilage and other unattractive bits. Add the meat to the reserved sauce. Add to pasta. Do not overdo it; the sauce is rich, and a little goes a long way.
Makes more than enough for a pound of dried pasta.

Bobby Jay

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Baoguette Closed by Health Department

I went to Baoguette, 61 Lexington Avenue, the other day, only to find that it has been closed by the NYC Department of Health!

Need to find another bánh mì source. I am now headed to Battle of the Bánh Mì to seek suggestions from the on-line community of bánh mì lovers.

Bobby Jay

Monday, November 1, 2010

Paris - Salon de Chocolat

Is is possible to have too much chocolate? In a word, oui!

I went to the Salon de Chocolat in Paris last week and found it to be boring. I love chocolate, but it turns out that there are only so many things to do with it, and there is little regional or even national variation. So what you are left with is a huge number of displays by chocolate makers from France and all over Europe, most of which look like what you'd see at their shops or even at the big department stores. The saving grace is that you do get a lot of free samples.

My big discovery was not chocolate, but rather an artisan pain d'épices maker from Aix-en-Provence, whose pain d'épices was the best I have ever tasted. Light (for this kind of mostly-honey cake) and incredibly perfumed, especially the orange, which I favored over the plain or the chocolate-flavored. I brought a chunk, cut from an enormous boule, to a friend the next day and she confirmed my high opinion as we gobbled it down for dessert.

My advice for chocolate lovers. Spend the 12.50 euros on chocolate, not admission to the Salon de Chocolat.

Bobby Jay