What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Juicy Roast Turkey! There’s nothing worse than dry-as-dust turkey, around the holidays. Watch your guests if they keep asking you to pass the gravy. Today I’m going to give you a few tips to keep that from happening. You can thank me when it’s your turn to host the holiday meal. Number one: Truss loosely, or not at all. The secret is to allow heat to get to all sides of the legs. Cooking the turkey until the legs are done may result in overcooking the breast meat. Number two: Don’t overcook. The timetable on the package is an estimate. Always use a meat thermometer, even if the turkey comes with a pop-up version. Always. Number three: (and this one is the hardest for me) Let the turkey “rest” before carving. I’m talking 20-30 minutes. Evidently, during the roasting process, the oven heat forces all the juices to the center of the turkey. When you allow it to “rest”, after it’s done, the juices seep back into the cavities and make the turkey moist. It’s definitely worth the wait.
JUICY ROAST TURKEY
10-15 pound turkey, thawed
1/2 cup butter
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 teaspoon thyme
Preheat the oven to 350°. Wash the turkey, pat dry, and transfer to a roasting pan with a roasting rack. Stuff the turkey as desired. Otherwise, salt and pepper the inside of the cavity. In a small saucepan, warm the butter over low heat. Add the lemon juice, zest, and thyme. Brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone. Cover the roaster with the lid. Transfer pan to oven. Bake for two hours, basting the turkey every half hour. This insures even browning of the skin. Remove lid and roast turkey an additional 1 1/2 hours, continuing to baste at half hour intervals. When the meat thermometer reads 185°, remove the turkey from the oven. Transfer it to a cutting board; cover with foil. Let it rest for half an hour. This makes carving easier and produces a juicy roast turkey.
Dining Outside the Home: Tacos & Tequila Cantina in Fort Myers, Florida! If going South of the border gives you illusions of adventurous Tex Mex meals filled with bold ingredients and health benefits, this is the place to try. Keep in mind the focus is on tacos. After all, it’s their specialty. With over two dozen ways to fill a taco with meat and seafood, vine-ripened tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sautéed onions, Mexican cheeses, grilled tortillas, pico de gallos, and more, there’s something for every funky craving you can think of. The decor is fun and quirky. Look up to see hanging chandeliers made of empty tequila bottles. The walls are covered with vibrant sugar skulls as well as fiesta “Day of the Dead” custom pieces, making every visit a celebration. Be daring. Try something new. And for goodness sake, be brave enough to try the spicy margarita. That’s kinda the point.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Rollin’ in Lobstah! Ever wonder why lobster is so popular? I find the mildly sweet, delicate flavor irresistible. If you’re preparing it at home in a state that is landlocked, a lot of resources are at your fingertips. Did you know you can order it from Maine and have it delivered in 24 hours? That’s golden. There are numerous websites that offer delicious lobster choices to conveniently keep on hand in the freezer. I buy lobster meat and lobster tails only. Forget the labor-intensive task of twisting the head, legs, and claws apart from the tail. Then again, I’ve been called “high maintenance”. To each his own.
ROLLIN’ IN LOBSTAH
4 cups cooked lobster meat, cut into chunks
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
4 split-top brioche hot dog buns
4 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
1 tablespoon chives, thinly sliced for garnish
Fresh lemon wedges, for garnish
In a bowl, combine lobster meat, mayonnaise, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper. Gently toss to coat. Spread butter on the outer sides of each bun. Place the buns on a griddle over medium heat. Cook 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown. Divide the lobster mixture among the buns. Garnish with fresh chives and lemon wedges. Serve immediately with remaining butter.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Underwood Chicken Pâté! Sometimes you need a snack or an appetizer in a pinch for hungry grandkids, neighbors relaxing on the back porch, or late night munchies. A quick solution can be found in the kitchen pantry with premium quality canned meats. Simply add cheese, veggies, and spice for a people-pleasing dip that hits the spot. Adding a side of pepper jelly is a nice compliment to the creamy dip.
UNDERWOOD CHICKEN PÂTÉ
8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, extra-sharp, finely shredded
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
1/3 cup celery, chopped
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4.25 ounce can Underwood Chicken Spread
1 sprig of tarragon
Cilantro for garnish
In a medium mixing bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, cheddar cheese, red onion, chopped celery, celery seed, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Mix well. Fold in Chicken Spread and fresh tarragon leaves. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with toasted baguette slices or assorted crackers.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Mexican Tarragon Turkey Breast! If you’re tired of the “same old, same old”, ways of preparing poultry, try something a little different. Mexican tarragon can easily catapult chicken and turkey to gourmet status. First of all, that slight hint of licorice may go unnoticed in a café chicken salad sandwich. Yet, something tastes extraordinary. If only you could put your finger on it. So, you go on with your day perhaps thinking you were hungrier than usual and would have devoured anything. Until memory flashback, in the form of a craving, stimulates the taste buds for an encore. The quest is on for the heat-loving herb with the green narrow leaves and golden flowers. Who knows, it may end up as a regular plant in your garden herb bed.
MEXICAN TARRAGON TURKEY BREAST
3 tablespoons Mexican tarragon leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3-pound turkey breast, bone in
Sprigs of Mexican tarragon, for garnish
Preheat oven to 325°. Combine chopped Mexican tarragon leaves, olive oil, poultry seasoning, seasoned salt, and white pepper. Wash turkey breast; pat dry. Using your fingers, loosen skin of turkey breast. Rub half the mixture under the skin. Secure skin to the underside of breast with toothpicks. Brush outside of turkey with remaining mixture. Place turkey breast on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast until a meat thermometer reads 170°, about two hours. Remove from oven; tent with foil. Allow to rest 15 minutes. Remove and discard turkey skin and toothpicks before carving. Transfer turkey slices to a platter. Garnish with sprigs of Mexican tarragon. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Kickin’ Leg of Lamb! Autumn is a popular time to take advantage of the availability of lamb as a meat option. Most farmers raise lambs in their natural environment, simply because it is economically feasible. Think about it. Whenever you come across a bucolic scene, a herd of sheep are casually grazing along the rugged hillside feasting on grass. They are one of the original foragers. They appear to roam free in the fresh air without a care in the world. My husband used to laugh when he’d say, “I think I’m going to get a couple lambs so I no longer need to mow the grounds.” I’d simply look him in the eye and respond, “I’m sure the wildlife predators would like that, too.”
KICKIN’ LEG OF LAMB
1 pound leg of lamb steak
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup orange marmalade
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Rosemary sprigs, for garnish
Season the leg of lamb steak with sea salt, black pepper, and rosemary leaves. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the lamb. Cook for 4 minutes per side. Remove the lamb and transfer to a platter. Wipe the oil from the skillet. Add butter, orange marmalade, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper. Mix thoroughly over medium heat. Place the leg of lamb steak back into the skillet. Cover with the orange glaze. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Rest for 3 minutes before transferring lamb and glaze to a serving platter. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Exotic Pineapple Pork Loin! If you’re not a fan of pineapple, allow me to offer some reasons to give it another try. You know that bloated feeling you can get after a meal…even three hours later? Well, pineapple is actually your friend in speeding up the natural digestion of foods. It helps to break down proteins, which in turn eases that uncomfortable feeling that may keep you up at night. By pairing pineapple with pork, which is high in protein, your increased metabolism will thank you. With that being said, let’s “Dig In” for an appetizing main course.
EXOTIC PINEAPPLE PORK LOIN
2.5 pounds pork loin
1 can pineapple rings, cut in half, juices reserved
2 cups prepared barbecue sauce
1 green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeds removed, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 450°. Place pork loin on a cutting board. Make parallel incisions along the length of the meat without cutting all the way through. Carefully transfer the pork loin to a baking pan. Fill each slot with a pineapple ring half. Combine barbecue sauce and reserved pineapple juice in a bowl. Add chopped green pepper, minced jalapeño, minced garlic, and chopped red onions. Stir to combine. Pour sauce over pork loin. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350°. Bake 50 minutes longer, or until done. Test the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It should read 160° when done. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Pan-Seared Pork Carnitas! What if I told you this recipe will give you the crunch of bacon and the tenderness of a roast? And what if I also told you there’s no shame in eating a plate of tender, super-crispy meat without tortillas and refried beans on the side? (It’s true. I actually had these pork carnitas for breakfast one day.) If you’ve ever ordered this house special in a Mexican restaurant, I challenge you to give it a try. I simply threw all the ingredients together before I went to bed and let the slow cooker do its magic overnight. The next morning, the aromas will drive you crazy! Be creative. Have tacos, tostadas, nachos, or simply eat them as is. I did, without regrets. Mmmmm.
PAN-SEARED PORK CARNITAS
7-pound pork shoulder, bone-in
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon oregano
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 tablespoon Hawaiian Rub*
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup pickled jalapeño peppers, sliced
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vinegar
Rinse and dry pork shoulder. Pat dry. Cover with olive oil. Rub in oregano, cumin powder, Hawaiian Rub, garlic powder, kosher salt, and black pepper. Place the pork shoulder, fatty side up, in a slow-cooker. Add chopped onion and jalapeño slices. Mix together orange juice and vinegar. Pour over all. Cover. Cook on Low for 10 hours. When done, the meat will be very tender. Remove the roast from the slow cooker. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Shred the meat using two forks, allowing some pieces to remain in bite-size chunks. Strain the juices into a medium size saucepan. Discard solids. Warm the drippings over medium heat to skim off the fat. Set aside. To serve, warm an iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Place shredded pork in the skillet and drizzle in a ladle of juices. Avoid overcrowding. Use a screen lid cover to eliminate splatters. Let the juices evaporate for 2-3 minutes so the bottom of the pork appears charred and crusty. Carefully turn over the pork pieces to cook golden brown. Overcooking will reduce tenderness and juiciness. Remove pork from skillet. Take a lime wedge and squeeze fresh lime juice over all. Garnish with cilantro. Leftovers may be divided into storage containers. Pour the juice equally over the pulled pork in each container. Freezing is also an option.
*Available through Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salts. I receive no recompense for promoting their product.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Iowa Loose Meat Sliders! If you’ve ever taken a road trip through Iowa, or are fortunate enough to live there, you’re already familiar with its popular loose meat sandwich found at local diners. Made of 100% freshly ground beef, the Midwest tradition began around 1926. Bypassing the form of a patty and omitting the sauce of a sloppy joe, what you saw was what you got—all loose meat. The steaming technique plus the combination of spices remain a trade secret. But if you’re willing to come pretty close, give this recipe a try. Just remember to hold the ketchup.
IOWA LOOSE MEAT SLIDERS
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 Vidalia onion, minced
1 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon Lea & Perrins sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 1/2 cups beer
1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules
6 slider buns
Sliced dill pickles
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Add ground beef. Cook until brown and crumbly. Add yellow mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, garlic powder, seasoned salt, and black pepper. Mix well. Stir in beer. Bring to boil. Add beef bouillon. Reduce to low heat. Simmer uncovered until all liquid is absorbed. Serve on toasted slider buns. Top with dill pickles, mustard, and minced onions.