Sometimes You Just Gotta Get Yourself Some — Slow-Roasted Herbed Turkey Breast

Sometimes it seems the world is conspiring against you.  That is exactly how I’ve been feeling lately — at least as pertains to leftover turkey.  Thanksgiving went by and no leftovers got sent home with me.  I got a second chance at Christmas, but proceeded to forget my take-home bag in my hosts’ fridge.  Bah!  So, I buy my own freaking turkey breast and stashed it in my dad’s freezer until I came back to town and could make it for us.  He gets hungry and decides to cook it — without me.  Apparently it was good.  Sigh.

Do I give up? Never!  I picked up a fresh turkey breast yesterday and scurried it into the house under cover of night.  Mine.  All mine.  Ha ha ha ha!

I was going to just chuck it in the oven when I realized that I now have the knowledge to do better — or at least give it the old college try.  I dug out my new cookbook “All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art” by Molly Stevens, and flipped to “Slow-Roasted Herbed Turkey Breast”.  This recipe needs some pre-planning because the breast is rubbed with a herb paste and allowed to sit for 6 to 24 hours to allow it to be properly dry salted.

 Dry salted?  What the heck is that? Before I get into that, let’s talk for a minute about wet salting — a.k.a. brining.  I never really understood what it was.  It seemed to be a thing guys did before grilling.  I hate to admit it, but I assumed it was just a trendy guy thing to do that didn’t really do a lot.  My bad.  It actually is a useful technique.  Brining involves soaking meat in a salt solution, often flavored with herbs as well.  By the principles of osmosis (do not fret, there won’t be a quiz at the end) the solution on the outside of the meat has a higher concentration of sodium than the inside of the meat and so the salted water migrates into the meat, both flavoring it and adding extra water resulting in a flavorful moist hunk o’ meat after cooking.

While brining has its uses, Ms. Stevens usually prefers dry salting meat.  Her opinion is that brining draws water into the meat thus diluting the natural juices of the meat and reducing the intensity of the natural meat flavors.  Dry salting involves rubbing the meat with salt (and often other herbs and spices).  The salt will initially draw moisture out of the meat.  On the surface this seems to be a bad thing (less moisture equals dry meat, right?), however, the salt on the surface begins to dissolve in the liquid drawn from the meat.  The meat is then coated in a salt solution.  Just like brining, the liquid is drawn back into the meat (there’s that darn osmosis thing again), taking the salt and other flavorings with it.  Unlike brining, the moisture is all natural juice from the meat, resulting in a more flavorful undiluted meaty juice.   In addition, during the process, the protein structure unravels a bit making the meat more tender.  The salt also helps keep the juices in the meat making it juicier — If I remember my chemistry right there is an ion-dipole attraction there, forming a weak attraction between the Sodium ions and the water molecules.   Are your eyes glazing over yet?  That’s the last of the science, I promise.  However, being a science geek, I am now totally a fan of brining (either wet or dry).

The turkey in this recipe gets rubbed with a paste composed of garlic, salt, sage, rosemary, thyme, pepper, and celery seed (which I didn’t use because I didn’t have any) and allowed to sit in the refrigerator for 6 to 24 hours to let the salt (and osmosis) do its magic.  The result was a flavorful juicy roast.  It may have been a smidge salty for my taste (I traditionally don’t salt much, so I’m fairly sensitive to the flavor), but not bad and the overall flavor was quite nice. My roast was also smaller, so I could have used a little less salt and still had good results.  Definitely give it a try.  The same rub would work well on chicken too.  Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic

1-1/4 tsp kosher salt

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp finely chopped fresh sage (I used 0.75 tsp dry)

2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme  (I used 0.75 tsp dry)

2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary  (I used 0.75 tsp dry)

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp celery seed (I omitted because I don’t have any)

1 boneless turkey breast with skin (about 2.5 lb)  (I used a bone-in half breast that weighed about 2.5 pounds).

Directions:

1.)  Herb Paste – Combine garlic and salt into a mortar and pound with a pestle until you have a smooth (more or less) paste.  Transfer to a small bowl.  Add 2 Tbsp oil, herbs, pepper, and celery seed.  Stir to blend.

2.) Smear paste on turkey breast.  Be sure to get some under the skin.  If using a boneless breast, you may want to tie the roast in two or three places with kitchen string to hold it in a cylindrical roast shape.  Place roast on a tray and refrigerate, preferably uncovered, for 6 to 24 hours.

Herb Rub on Turkey Breast All Tucked in for a 24 Hr Rest

3.) Allow roast to sit for an hour at room temperature before roasting.  (I was cooking this during the week and didn’t have the time, so I omitted this step.  Plus, in December, my kitchen is cool and my roast doesn’t warm that fast.)

4.) Heat oven to 300 degrees.  While oven heats, add 1 Tbsp oil to skillet and heat on Med-high heat.  When oil is hot, sear the turkey breast skin side down, maneuvering and turning it with tongs so that the skin side sears evenly, about 6 minutes.  Turn turkey skin side up and brown lightly on the bottom, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer turkey skin side up to a shallow roasting pan or baking dish not much larger than it is. (I used a rack, but I apparently didn’t need to — I should read the recipe closer.  Although, it turned out fine with the rack.)

Seared Turkey Breast Before Roasting

5.) Roast turkey inside the oven until the internal temperature at the thickest part is 165 degrees, about 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours.  (My new leave-in thermometer came in handy!)  Let turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Finished! Crispy Skin. Juicy meat. Yum Yum Yum!

I served this with a simple medley of roasted root veggies (sweet potato, turnips, and beets).  Cut up veggies, toss with olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Roast uncovered at 400 degrees till lightly browned and centers are tender (about 30 minutes).  Turn once with tongs midway through cooking for even browning. (Beets cook slower than turnips and sweet potatoes.  They are cut smaller so everything gets done at the same time).

Roasted sweet potatoes, beets, and turnips.

Holiday Happenings — And An Update On My Hydroponic Herb Garden.

I hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas or Chanukah!  I had a fabulous time with family and friends. Hopefully santa was good to you all.  I know he was to me.  My BFF gifted me with a professional strength blender for Christmas (yes, she’s really that cool!), so be prepared for recipes with sauces early in the new year as I put it through its paces —- or maybe we can just have lots of margaritas and mud slides at my place!

As you may have noticed, there has been a bit of down time for my blog.  I’ve been doing plenty of eating, but not much cooking.  After a week and a half of eating all sorts of (mostly non-paleo) goodies, I am hankering to get back in the kitchen.  Unfortunately, I won’t get too much in this week as I am heading back out of town for New Year’s to spend time with my mom out in the country.  It won’t be a particularly exciting New Year’s for me as I will be rusticating with the ‘rents. Hopefully we won’t have a repeat of last year when I was woken up at 3 in the morning by an Amish buggy rolling past the house.  Definitely an odd occurance — even out there.  One can only assume there was a little late night booty call at widow Yoder’s place.

Fear not, I will squeeze a recipe or two in before I journey over the river and through the woods.  Tomorrow I will be making a herb roasted turkey breast.  It is currently in the fridge coated with a herb paste doing a dry brine overnight.  I’m using some techniques from my new roasting cookbook and you can be sure I’ll share the outcome with you all.

I used dried herbs to make the herb paste for the turkey because I forgot to pick up fresh at the store.  I can’t wait till I have some handy fresh herbs in my kitchen.   A few weeks ago I posted a quick post about my Aerogarden hydroponic herb garden.  Here’s a quick peak at its progress after about 3.5 weeks.

Aerogarden at 3.5 weeks

As you can see it’s coming along pretty well, but I wish I’d have started them earlier.   The two cilantro plants in the back row are going gang-busters and will need to be trimmed soon to keep them from shadowing the thyme and basil in front of them. The basil is just about ready for its first pruning to force it to fill out more.  The parsley, dill, and chives (three to the left) are lagging a little but doing fine.   In another week or two I can start harvesting for cooking.  🙂

 

 

Love Potions, Passion, and My (Current) Favorite Cookbooks

I once received the following love-life advice from a psychic (so you can take it for what it’s worth).  When you find someone you really like, and want to be sure they return the sentiment, cook them a stew.  As you chop and assemble the ingredients, concentrate on putting love into it, just like you do the meat and vegetables.  If it is meant to be, the other person will eat the meal and wham, bam, thank you ma’am, true love is born.  One part dinner, one part love potion.   While I can’t vouch for the efficacy of the technique in landing a spouse, there is a little nugget of truth there.

Cooking is more than just throwing ingredients into a pot.  It is one part art, one part passion.  The act of chopping, stirring, and creating a meal from scratch is deeply satisfying.  In some ways a little bit of love goes into every pot — especially when cooking with family and friends.  If you don’t feel a little passion for food when you cook, maybe you need to find a way to incorporate some.  If you can’t muster any culinary love, do yourself a favor and marry someone who does —- you’ll eat much better.  🙂

What brought to mind my unusual psychic encounter and the subsequent contemplation of food and passion?  I was trying to figure out why I loved my favorite cookbooks.  Have you ever read a cookbook cover to cover?  I have, but not very often.  The cookbooks that I have actually treated like a book rather than a recipe reference are the ones I keep coming back to.  What makes them so good?  It’s the passion for food. The zest for, well, zest, that differentiates the ordinary cookbook compiler from the great cookbook writer. 

Anyone can throw together a book of recipes.  Put a good index in it and if someone needs to know how to bake a bundt cake, they’ll know where to go.  Add some good pictures and you may catch my attention a little longer.  Take the time to tell me why something works, what you did wrong or really liked, why a specific recipe is special to you — in short put yourself into it — and I know that those are recipes I want to make.  Those are the ones I always go back to.   So what are my current favorites?  I’ll list three below.  One I have been using for over a year regularly.   The other two are very new for me, but I already love them.

1.)  “660 Curries” by Raghavan Iyer

As far as I am concerned, this is a must have for anyone wanting to explore Indian cooking.  You can tell by the curled cover and random post-its sticking out, that it is well-loved.  The recipes are the author’s family recipes, friends’ family recipes, and old family recipes from random people he met while creating the book.  These are old school Indian recipes, but the author makes them contemporary (and easy to understand for someone unfamiliar with the culture), and even includes a section of fusion cooking —- mixing his Indian heritage with his very american upbringing.  The recipes are interspersed with personal anecdotes and information on the origin of many of the recipes.  The multitude of spice blends in the beginning chapters alone is worth the cover price.  The smell of store-bought spices has nothing on a fresh ground masala blend.  I didn’t do an official count but I’d bet at least half of the 660 recipes are paleo or could be easily adjusted. 

2.)  “All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art” by Molly Stevens

I stumbled across this book by accident the other day while killing time perusing cookbooks at the bookstore.  After thumbing through it for a few minutes, I knew I had to adopt it and bring it home.  The beginning chapters cover the basics of roasting and talk about the different techniques for roasting and how and why each does what it does.  I learned more about roasting meat and veggies after a half hour than I’ve learned in the last 38 years.   It also includes sections on roasting  fish, vegetables, and fruit.   The recipes are fairly simple and let properly roasted food take the center stage.  The author’s passion for roasting (and good real food in general) comes across.  I wish there were photos for all of the recipes, but the photos that are there are beautiful.  I’ve used a couple of techniques I’ve learned already and will definitely be pulling this out a lot.

3.)  “Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat” by Melissa Joulwan

This one is hot off the presses and just came out this month.   Well Fed has it all — great pictures, good recipes, and commentary that is as entertaining as it is informative.  Plus the layout is fabulous.  There is a “notes” section on each page (no more squeezing notes in the margins) and references for which other dishes in the cookbook go well with it.    The cookbook features favorites from her website www.theclothesmakethegirl.com plus a few recipes that don’t seem to be on her site. 

The chocolate chili recipe I reviewed yesterday was hers.  I tried the mayonnaise recipe (I’m still determined to find a good paleo mayonnaise!).  I had problems getting mine to thicken properly, but the flavor was pretty good, so I’m going to work on my technique some more.  I already have a number of recipes bookmarked and on my list of “must-makes” including the Moroccan meatballs and Jicama “Potato” Salad.

You can download a free 30 page pdf  sampler of the cookbook on her website.  There aren’t many recipes in the sampler, but you get a great sampling of her writing and the full table of contents.  A number of the recipes are available on her website if you want to give them a try first.  The cookbook includes alternate ways of making things and suggested items to pair it with so its worth the purchase if you like what you see.

There is  a pdf version available as well as athe print copy.  When you buy a print copy, you get a code to get the pdf copy for only $1 more.  Do your self a favor and get the print copy.  I bought the pdf e-book  because I didn’t want to wait for shipping (I may have some impulse control issues).  I’m not super happy with the pdf version  because it shows two pages at a time and prints out at 11×17.  It’s nice because you can see facing pages as if you are looking at the open book, but its hard to view on the screen without increasing magnification and scrolling.  If thats not a problem for you, it may be a good option because it does cost half of the print price.   It drove me nuts though and  I ended up printing the whole thing on 11×17 paper and then cut the pages apart and punched and assembled it in a binder.  Its good enough for now, but I may end up splurging and getting the shiny, pretty print version eventually.   And it really is a very pretty well laid out book.  Hard to believe it is self-published. 

 

Paleo Chocolate Chili Recipe Review

Paleo Chocolate Chili

I’ve never liked beans — of any kind.  Black, pinto, lima, whatever the hell kind of beans are in baked beans  — doesn’t matter I can’t stand them.  I’ve spent the last 3 years trying to teach myself to like the darn things because they are super healthy, right?   Lentils and I finally reached a level of mutual toleration when I was introduced to paleo.  Imagine my joy to discover that the things were actually bad for you  — Ha!  Take that pesky beans!

Of the foods I’ve never been able to enjoy, chili ranked pretty high on the list.  I could have made a beanless chili before, of course, but it seemed wrong.  I don’t have that fear anymore and I’ve been looking forward to trying it.  I found a number of recipes that looked good, but then I stumbled across a chocolate chili on The Clothes Make the Girl’s website.  Perfect!  It contained two of my favorite things: chocolate and anything other than beans.

To call it chocolate chili is a bit of a misnomer.  Although unsweetened cocoa powder is a flavoring ingredient, there is no chocolatey taste.  Rather than copy her recipe over, I’ll just post the link RIGHT HERE.  Check out her site and other recipes while you are there.  It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite paleo sites.  She also has a new cookbook that I love and will be reviewing in a later post.

I pretty much followed her recipe for this as written.  The only thing I did differently was to reduce the amount of chili powder from 2 Tbsp to 1.5 Tbsp.  I cannot even imagine eating it with 2 Tbsp.  I don’t have a super high tolerance for spicy hot foods and at 1.5 Tbsp my mouth was on fire.  If you prefer milder chili, start out with 2 tsp to 1 Tbsp pf chili powder first.  After it has simmered for a while you can add more to taste.  If you like three-alarm chili, go ahead and load it up!

Overall I give the recipe 2 thumbs up.  I’ve eaten it for the last three days and it is even better on the second and third days.  I like to top it with fresh chopped onion.  Today I added a side of oven baked sweet potato fries. Yummy combo!

What’s Up Doc? Paleo Rabbit in a Creamy Coconut Bell Pepper Sauce

Paleo Rabbit in a Creamy Coconut Bell Pepper Sauce

I was going to use today’s post to review a beanless chocolate chili recipe I tried, but instead I bumped that till later this week to talk about my first attempt at rabbit.   I was pretty nervous.  Not only had I never cooked rabbit, but to the best of my knowledge I had never eaten rabbit.  A lot of cooking for me is pretty intuitive.  When I look at a list of ingredients, I have a rough idea of how something will taste, as long as the ingredients are familiar.  Start throwing in unknown ingredients or odd combinations of ingredients and I feel a little like I’ve lost my sense of smell or taste because I just don’t know what’s going to happen.  That is a little intimidating for me.  Fortunately for me, the recipe turned out to be more of a happy fluffy bunny recipe than a scary man-eating Monte Python (with big sharp pointy teeth) bunny recipe.  So cook on — and don’t fear the rabbit!

If I’ve never tried something before, I will find a recipe that sounds good and follow the directions pretty closely, maybe adding or subtracting minor stuff that I think would go.   That’s exactly what I did here.  The trouble I had was finding a recipe that sounded good to me and didn’t have a sauce that was wine based (wine not being paleo friendly).  I was beginning to wonder if there was something about alcohol that made rabbit more palatable —- or if every rabbit chef just liked to drink.  Eventually I found one on allrecipes.com that was  completely different from the rest.  This one uses green and red bell peppers and coconut milk for creaminess.  If that doesn’t sound paleo, I don’t know what does!  The result was a creamy, naturally sweet sauce.  I was afraid the bell pepper would be very prevalent, but the long simmer time really mellowed everything out.   Here’s the link to the original recipe to give the recipe posgter their props.  The version of the recipe that I actually used, with my tweaks and comments, is below.

For those that have never had it, at the risk of sounding completely cliché (not that that usually stops me), rabbit tastes a lot like chicken.  A friend on Facebook says that properly prepared rabbit tastes like a cross between chicken and pork chop.  That’s a pretty fair comparison in my (limited) experience.  As a matter of fact, the sauce for this would taste good with chicken as well, and I will may that in the future.

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp coconut oil

1 (2 pound) rabbit*, cleaned and cut into pieces (Need to know how to cut up a rabbit?  I found this video to be helpful — although my rabbit was much smaller than his and I didn’t have enough breast meat to merit cooking the breast.  Also, my rear legs were small enough that I didn’t cut them apart).

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips

1 bird’s eye chile, seeded and minced (I had no idea what this was, so I used a serrano pepper and had good results)

1 large tomato – peeled, seeded and chopped (I threw mine in seeds and all.  Feel free to try a can of diced tomatoes, drained).

2 cups chicken stock

 1 teaspoon salt (If you brine the rabbit first, you may want to reduce this or omit it until the end and then salt to taste.)

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 can of coconut milk – I only used the “cream” from the top of the can, so don’t shake it up.

Whole rabbit before cutting up. This guy had tiny legs and could have benefitted from some weight training!

Rabbit all cut up. Rib cage discarded. You should have 6 to 8 pieces depending on how big your rear legs are.

Veggies. Duh.

Directions:

1)  Although not included in the original recipe, after cutting the rabbit into pieces I soaked it in a brine solution (4 cups water and 1/4 cup salt) in a pan in the fridge for a couple of hours.  I was concerned about rabbit being tough and after spending the morning reading my new “All About Roasting” cookbook I wanted to give it a try.  Feel free to consider this step optional.  Before cooking, pat rabbit pieces dry with a paper towel.

2.)  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the rabbit pieces until browned on the outside. (Don’t over-cook, particularly if the rabbit is small.  This thing has a long simmer time and will fully cook through. I barely browned mine).   Transfer the rabbit pieces into a dutch oven.  To the oil still in the skillet, add the onion, garlic, green pepper, red pepper and chile pepper; cook and stir until onion is translucent. Transfer to contents to the pan with the rabbit pieces.  I dumped any residual oi in as well — no point wasting the coconut oil!

3.)  Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, salt and pepper to the saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat for about 2 hours. (FYI: When I put this in the pan, the liquid covered the rabbit, but some of the veggies stuck out of the liquid.  I was skeptical that this would be enough liquid to last through a 2 hour simmer.  Do not fear!  The veggies will shrink up and everything will produce a little extra liquid.  It worked out perfectly).  Remove the rabbit pieces with a slotted spoon, and keep warm.  Turn the heat up to medium-high under the pan, and boil the liquid until it has reduced by half (This took about 20 to 30 minutes on my stove).

Reduce liquid down to at least half. This will be your sauce, so you decide when its thick enough.

4.)  Add the coconut cream from the top of the can, leaving the whey-like component below the cream behind.  Stir to mix.  Return the rabbit pieces to the pan.  Cook, stirring gently, until heated through.  Serve.

The resulting blend of reduced broth, coconut cream, and simmered bell peppers is sweet and very flavorful.

*The rabbit I bought was pretty small (1.5 pounds) but it looked plenty big for several meals for just me.  If you’ve never made rabbit before, you should know that there is next to no meat on the ribs of a domestic rabbit (I don’t know if wild rabbits are any meatier), so you will be throwing away (or at least not eating) the whole rib cage section — however, you could definitely save it to boil with a batch of broth.  As a result, you may want to buy more than you think you may need based only on the weight.  The above recipe makes enough sauce for a 2 lb +/- rabbit.   Plan to make more if increasing the amount of meat significantly.

Deconstructed Paleo Pork Egg Rolls – Victory!!!

Deconstructed Paleo Pork Egg Roll

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A couple of days ago I posted about my first effort to create a paleo egg roll.  Since you really can’t have a paleo egg roll wrapper, I opted for a deconstructed version.  While the first effort was OK, it needed some work.  I had a couple of hours to kill tonight while my paleo chocolate chili bubbled merrily on the stove (recipe review will be coming!), so I decided to give the egg roll another go.   I think I may have gotten it!  Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 lb ground pork

2 Tbsp bacon fat (or other fat of choice, but the bacon grease worked well with the ground pork)

About 1/4 head of cabbage

4 shallots

3 stalks celery

2 Tbsp Coconut Aminos (paleo alternative to soy sauce)

Pinch of sea salt

Chinese hot mustard (optional)

Directions:

Shred cabbage, celery, and shallots in a food processor.  Set aside.

Break apart and cook ground pork until brown and crumbled.  Add bacon fat to pan.

Add shredded veggies to pan and saute until cabbage is softened but still slightly crisp.

Add coconut aminos* and a pinch of salt.  Stir well.  Cook for a few more minutes to let flavors blend.

Serve with a side of chinese hot mustard or topping of choice.

*I’ve always been a shaker, I don’t know why.  I’ll shake milk, ketchup, whatever.  However, whatever you do, do not shake coconut aminos!  The result is a cross between shaking a can of Pepsi and a lava flow.  You take off the cap, set it on the counter and next thing you know there is a foaming brown mess spewing from the top of the bottle and slowly oozing all over your counter.  Shakers of the world — you’ve been warned!

My Newest Kitchen Toy

There’s no snow on the ground yet, but the first Christmas gift has made its way beneath my tree.  I may have put it there myself, but I’m still counting it!  I’m all grown up, but I’m still a sucker for toys — although the adult me likes kitchen toys.  My gift of choice this year?  A new meat thermometer!  Exciting right?  I’ve never actually had one, but considering the amount of meat I’ve been cooking lately, I thought it was about time I got one.  Plus I had a 20% off coupon at Meijer I hated to waste — kinda like throwing money away, right?

Here’s the one I picked:

My newest toy. Does everything but turn the oven off!

The thermometer got its maiden voyage while roasting my leg of lamb the other day.  I used to think meat thermometers were for sissies.  A true cook should just know when the meat is perfectly done, right?  I am a bit of a moron at times.  After using the thermometer just once, I don’t know how I’ve cooked meat without one!  It did everything but turn the oven on and off for me.  You just set it for the type of meat and the level of doneness you want and it beeps you when it gets close to the right temperature and again when it hits the temperature.  Don’t like the temperature options it provides? No problem, just custom adjust the settings.  You can even wander around the house getting other things done, because it comes with a handy portable pager unit that you can wear around your neck or clip to your belt.   As an extra special bonus, it also doubles as a kitchen timer.  How much would you pay?  If you act now, we’ll also through in a set of Ginsu knives!

O.K., perhaps I’m a little overly excited by a meat thermometer.  Can you imagine what I’d be like if I could afford a Vitamix or Soux Vide or an iPad?  Technically an iPad isn’t a kitchen toy, but I could open cookbooks on it and pretend it was.

While the thermometer is cool and still shines with the glow of newness, it’s not my all-time favorite.  My Kitchen Aid stand mixer holds the top place in my heart.   What is your all time favorite kitchen toy?   Respond below and let me know.