Friday, November 27, 2009

cooking a perfect turkey at the last minute

It has been quite a month. I went on a trip with my mother on the river boat Odyssey through Austria and Germany. We had a truly wonderful time. (I will devote an entire blog to the trip soon). As a result, I of course cleared out the fridge before I left with no plans for cooking, instead planning on having a small Thanksgiving dinner with friends.

Well my dear friend came down with a cold, so I decided to cook a little dinner for myself. I got the last slot on Tuesday for a 7:00 pm Safeway delivery. Since I don't own a car, Safeway delivery is a very convenient way to shop and usually orders are accurate and complete. Well not this time. In addition to no vegetables, lemons, nuts, milk and pancetta, the turkey was m.i.a. So off to the store on Wednesday. By the way I did get my delivery fee credited with no hassle.
I kept it simple. Cream of broccoli soup, roast turkey with a wild rice side dish with pancetta, a mixed green salad with dried cranberries and balsamic vinaigrette and a crisp chardonnay. I skipped dessert. I had enough Bavarian cream and apple strudel recently to last awhile.

Everyone has their favorite way to cook turkey and I have mine. Cover with soft butter and rub with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 450 degrees, place bird breast side down on rack in roasting pan (keeps breast meat moist as juices from leg run into it). After 15 minutes, turn down heat to 350 degrees. Turkey is now sealed. Baste with hot chicken stock every 20-30 minutes.
Know your approximate cooking time—rule of thumb is 20 minutes for every pound. Turn the turkey breast side up during the last hour to evenly brown and check the meat thermometer.
When it reaches 170 degrees, remove the bird even if it is under time—the thermometer rules.
Tent the bird and let it rest 20 minutes before cutting. Perfect every time.

By the way, this is for an unstuffed bird. I don't like moist stuffing and this is where cooking times can vary. Cook your stuffing in a casserole next to the bird the last 45 minutes.

The crispy top and tender middle is worth it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

great burgers and decadent milkshake bar at burger bar, san francisco

I made the trek to Burger Bar, (Macy's Union Square) this week. And guess what, so did everyone else—at least it seemed like everyone I spoke to had either just been there, was going or was there while I was there. John Kenneally from Southern was at the bar and Carmen from Neiman Marcus joined me for lunch. All in all a very social scene.

So how was it? Good. A lot of variety choice of meats, buns, cheese, toppings, sauces and even sides and unexpected combinations like the peppercorn burger with a peppercorn cream sauce from Fleur de Ly, surf and turf burger with Black Angus and grilled lobster and a bunless burger sandwiched between portobello mushrooms. Zucchini fries are crisp and delicious and a nice substitute for fries.

But watch out, there is a milkshake bar and even the simple chocolate shake is a decadent swirl of chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Served with a very thick straw, thank goodness.

Monday, November 2, 2009

the book club reads the girl with the dragon tattoo and enjoys spaghetti with fresh marinara

I love books. I love reading. I can't tell you how many times a book has made it all better—you know the time—about 3am when things don't seem solvable. Books put things in perspective and they transport you to another world. I love books. So about eight years ago a group of us who wanted (and needed) a combination social, cooking and book club came together.

Our little group just finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This excellent mystery, the 1st of a series of 3 translated from Swedish and written by the late Stieg Larsson is all the rage right now.

So besides the chance to read, vent, discuss politics and gossip, food is the center of the book club. When my turn for dinner comes, I spend weeks writing menus, changing the menu, making grocery lists, editing the list and a day or two to bring it all together.

I followed a craving I was having and decided to do a classic Italian meal with a homemade marinara with spaghetti and meatballs, garlic french bread and creamy caesar salad. I made a simple sauce the day before that turned out absolutely delicious. My dear friends even requested to take their leftovers home to enjoy the next day.
Ingredients for the marinara:
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic, minced fine
2 TBL butter
2 TBL olive oil
2 TBL tomato paste
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 TBL pesto
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup good red wine
dash red pepper flake
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup of chopped Italian parsley, no stem
Saute garlic and onion in butter and oil 5 minutes till soft, add all other ingredients and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Best made the day before. Reheat and pour over hot spaghetti. If you make meatballs, rewarm them in the sauce and spoon over pasta. Pass grated parmesan cheese.