Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Apple Braised Turkey Thighs

A few weeks ago on a weekend, I was flipping channels on the TV, feeling lazy, when I got sucked into a cooking show on PBS. The woman hosting the show was making Apple Braised Turkey Thighs. It looked so wonderful that I went to find it online and finally got a chance to make it last night.

• 1 Tb EVO
• 2 turkey thighs (about 2 lbs total)--I couldn't find thighs so I used wings
• coarse salt and ground pepper
• 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
• 4 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
• 2 cups apple cider
• 14.5 oz low sodium chicken broth--Since I wasn't totally prepared and didn't have chicken broth, I used some Bisto I bought from a local Scottish shop.
• 2 tsp cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high. Season turkey on
both sides with salt and pepper and add to pot, skin side down. Cook until skin is golden and crisp, about
8 minutes. My God, it started to smell good almost immediately.

Transfer turkey to a plate and add shallots to pot. Cook until shallots soften, about 5 minutes. Add
apples and cook slightly softened, about 5 minutes. I've never had a reason to cook with shallots before. They are almost a cross between small onions and garlic cloves. When they started to soften, they took on the consistency of carmelized onions.

Return turkey, skin side up, to pot; add cider and broth. Bring to a boil, cover, then place pot in oven. Cook 1½ hour. Uncover; cook 30 minutes more. The entire house started to fill with an aroma (not just a scent or a smell) of roasted turkey, but this incredible combination of turkey, shallots and apples. I've never made ANYTHING that smelled that damn good.

Remove pot from oven and transfer turkey to a plate. Skim fat from cooking liquid and stir in vinegar. I didn't see much of a reason for the addition of the vinegar but I did it anyway. I'll probably leave it out though, the next time.

Slice meat off bones (discard bones) and serve turkey with apples and pan sauce.

This was the first time I braised anything and it was remarkably easy. The turkey did take on a beautiful golden brown color before it all went into the oven.

The only things I would do differently is reduce the amount of broth and cider by maybe using 1/2 cup less of each. On the cooking show, the apples really almost mashed themselves because they baked so soft in the oven and her sauce was truly more of a sauce with the apples. Mine was more of a broth still. When I put away the leftovers, I still had about 5 cups of the broth left. I couldn't just bring myself to toss it, so I stuck it in the freezer to become part of a soup base later on. :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Jalapeno Pepper Jelly

Recently, a friend of mine went up to Pennsylvania to visit some of her family. Her dad and step-mother have a farm up there and she brought back quite a few wonderful goodies from the farm. 2 bags of peppers, jalapenos and red peppers, were just a part of the bounty.

I had tried turning some of the jalapenos into baked poppers, without the breading. While the filling was wonderful, even boiling the peppers ahead of time made it impossible for me to eat them after the first one. It surprised me, because I've had milder jalapenos before and thought I could handle these.

But the hotness didn't stop me from trying another recipe: Jalapeno Pepper Jelly. I thought this would be a great thing to break out for Thanksgiving and Christmas as a snack when we have people over, because the green jelly strikes me as very festive.

--3 large green bell peppers, seeded, diced (this is where I used the mild red peppers)
--5-7 jalapeno peppers, seeded, diced
--1/3 cup water
--5 lbs. sugar
--3 cups cider vinegar (I didn't realize until afterward there's a difference between white distilled vinegar, which is what I bought, and cider vinegar. However, taste-wise, I really thought it still tasted good.)
--3 pkgs (3 oz.) Certo
--Few drops green food coloring, optional (I needed more than a few drops but be careful. If you decide to use the food coloring, it will bloom into green very quickly.)
--Rubber gloves (Trust me on this, if you've never prepared raw jalapenos.)
--8-10 hot sterilized canning jars

Using a scrupulously clean blender, process peppers with water until smooth. Note: Wear gloves when handling hot peppers and keep hands away from eyes.

In a large saucepan, combine pepper mixture, 1 5 lb. bag of granulated white sugar and 3 cups of vinegar. Stir together to dissolve sugar. Boil for 4 minutes, watching carefully (mixture boils over easily).

Remove from heat and stir in Certo and food coloring (if using). Stir well until all is combined.

Pour into hot sterilized jars. Seal and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I didn't actually do the boiling water bath for mine. Several years ago, I learned from my husband's grandma that canning is a huge hassle and not worth the time, effort and money to get the supplies. She said freezing is an easier way to preserve food. I still used the canning jars with the threaded rings and flat lids. After I poured my jelly into them, I laid the flat lids down on all of the jars (I had enough for 7 1/2 jars) and then screwed the threaded rings on them. Because the jelly was poured into room temperature jars, I allowed them to cool, undisturbed, on the counter overnight. By late the next morning, the jars had sealed themselves, pulling the the lids down flat like jars of food that have been sealed for safety in the grocery stores. I'm storing them all in the freezer. I did try a bit of jelly from the half jar though and it turned out very well!

I Like Zombies

Zombies are just about the last truly scary monster, I think, and I think I love them for that reason. They seem to have replaced vampires as the latest en vogue monster.

Think about it...books have been written about the upcoming zombie apocalypse (which, by the way, was a very good book: great plot and extremely well written, and it's even being turned into a movie for 2012...that seems fairly appropriate for a release year, since that's supposedly when the world is supposed to end anyway).

The idea that zombies could rise up, en masse, against humans, is kind of like the idea of the end of the world scenarios. Or maybe it's like Darwinism at it's best: only the strong will survive, nevermind the reasons why or how it could happen.

But it was a good year locally for zombies. On my way home from work on Oct. 30, I passed by a Domino's Pizza in Virginia Beach on a busy street. Sometimes when the weather is nice on the after-work ride home, they have someone on the sidewalk, trying to attract business. One day, someone was throwing pizza dough. On the 30th, however, they had someone dressed as a zombie with a pizza sign. I honked and waved. The zombie waved back. You've got to enjoy that for Halloween.

It was even this costume he was wearing.

But it wasn't just random pizza franchises that got into the act this year. Even Sears redid their website for the time being. Zombies are customers too, you know. The best can translate the zombie gurgling into regular English.

Even the normally stoic Washington Post got into the fun this year. On Oct. 29, the WP hosted an online discussion of zombies with Salil Maniktahla, Self-Appointed Professor of Zombieology. That's a position I'd like to hold. Questions ran the gamut from fun to interesting to thought provoking. I liked this question from Greenville, TN: "When the zombie outbreak occurs, what is the best "safe zone" to reach? Would it be a rural, isolated area where one can grow his or her own food and build shelter, or would it be more appropriate to see the confines of an area such as a Walmart and weld the doors shut?"

Salil's response was, "Being a city boy raised in the South, I can see pros and cons to both methods. I suggest that if you spend your time outside to take appropriate precautions: sunscreen and bugspray, and a decent-gauge shotgun with sufficient ammunition. Being indoors can induce a siege mentality. You can be lulled into thinking you're safe, when in fact your entire family has been infected. Three days later you'll be very sorry you welded the doors shut."

"Survive Norfolk" was held for the first time this year in Norfolk through word of mouth and Facebook. Imagine the power of zombie tag with 7,500 people that wanted to play and 17,000+ that said they were maybe's. I got there in time to watch the 1,500 allowed humans run for their lives and then the release of the original 15 zombies. Next year, I'm going to play, and I'll take the day off from work if I have to, to get there in time. But I want to be one of the starting zombies. (Salil, the zombieology professor, organized "Survive Alexandria.")

I thought this photo collection of the evening on Flickr was especially good.

Even as I type, I'm going through the DV-R, watching scary movies that I recorded. I haven't even gotten through to the first episode of "Walking Dead" on AMC.

So, Halloween is over for another year. It gives me time to plan decorations for my yard. I think for next year, I need to rig up a great zombie to scare the hell out of people. We've got a reputation to uphold and a neighborhood to represent!