Monday, December 19, 2011

Needlepoint tree ornament

I just finished sewing this little needlepoint ornament and hubby did the honours of hanging it on our tree.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

The tree is up and hubby's vintage nutcracker dolls are holding court on the windowsills.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Brining the Turkey

Here you have it—my brining technique—the easiest way to inject as much moisture and flavour into a turkey.

Brining sounds more anxiety-ridden than it really is. In essence what you are doing is immersing the bird in a salt-water bath with a few aromatics. The aromatics can be any combination of herbs and spices that you fancy—see the slideshow below for my curated selection.

My secret ingredient is buttermilk—the staple of a lot of southern fried chicken recipes. I use just a little water to steep the aromatics and dissolve the salt, then substitute the rest of the water with tangy buttermilk. The result is to be tasted to believed.

These are the important proportions to remember:
Salt: 1/4 cup Salt for every 5 lbs of turkey
Buttermilk: 9 oz. Buttermilk for every pound of turkey
Herbs: 1/4 cup of Assorted Herbs for every 5 lbs of turkey
Spices: 2 tbsp of assorted whole spices for every 5 lbs of turkey

If you have a pre-brined turkey, you can still use my recipe to impart maximum flavour. Just skip the salt all together.

[Click here to see the images in a larger size.]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rosemary Tangerine Martini

In the midst of all my Thanksgiving prep, I ended up with a few extra cups of freshly squeezed tangerine juice, left over from the cranberry sauce that I made earlier in the day. In lieu of saving the juice for next morning’s breakfast, I poured it with some citron vodka and fresh rosemary sprigs over ice, gave it a quick shake and voilà—a late afternoon pick-me-up! This can also be a terrific pre-dinner drink for Thanksgiving.

8 oz freshly squeezed Tangerine juice
3 oz Lemon-flavoured Vodka (I prefer Absolut Citron)
3–4 sprigs Rosemary
  1. Pour tangerine juice and vodka into a cocktail shaker. Add 2 sprigs of rosemary torn in half. Top with ice cubes and shake. 
  2. Strain into two chilled martini glasses garnished with leftover rosemary. 
[Serves 2]

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving countdown

Thanksgiving is 5 days away. I find that the only way to survive the marathon cook fest and entertaining while working full-time, and without accumulating any extra strands of grey hair, is to plan plan plan. If I make lists and prep ahead of time, then come Thursday, I can actually enjoy my time in the kitchen.

First on the to-do list—menu planning. Finalising a menu for Thanksgiving is fairly easy since the centrepiece is usually always a turkey or a roast of some sort. The trick is to choose side dishes that are standards in your repertoire and are easy to pull off, along with one or two surprising dishes that allow you to flex your culinary muscles and truly wow your dinner guests.

Here is my menu for Thursday:

First course: 
Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese on Buttered Brioche

Main course:
Spice-and-Buttermilk-brined Roast Turkey
Moulded Cranberry Sauce
Sage Sausage, Cranberry, and Pine nut Stuffing
Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta 
Green Beans with Almonds and Champagne-Mustard Glaze 

Caramel Apple Pie 
Maple Pear Upside-Down Cake 

With a finite amount on time on hand, I always make a day-by-day checklist divided into things to buy and things to make/ to do. I usually have one big shopping excursion on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, where I procure most of my ingredients. But I save some things like flowers for the table and deli meats for hors d’oeuvres till the day before Thanksgiving, for optimum freshness.

I also itemise all my prep-work in the checklist, and divide the work as evenly as possible over 3-4 days. If you’re lucky enough to have two ovens, then you can multi-task more easily on d-day. But if you’re like me and have to juggle all the dishes on one stovetop and oven, then it is essential to make a lot of things ahead of time and refrigerate them till ready to use—like making the cranberry sauce and the dough for pie crusts, blanching green beans, toasting nuts, rendering bacon and pancetta, etc.

One year I tried to heroically bake the dessert early on Thanksgiving morning. But I ended-up delaying the whole day so much that the turkey didn’t get to the table till well after sundown. I’ve learnt my lesson now, and will finish baking both my dessert items on Thanksgiving-eve.

So, come Thursday, if all my pre-planning yields me a spare 30 mins or so, I’ll enjoy every one of those spare moments lingering over an early glass of bubbly!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Red Chard with Tomatoes and Blackened Chillis

We’ve had our first snow fall in New York already, even though it is still October! This means that the farmer’s market will soon be devoid of all fresh leafy produce. So as a last hurrah to the vestiges of warm weather, I cooked-up two bunches of glorious red-tinged chard, accented with beefy steak tomatoes and smoky blackened chillis. Until April . . . .

1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
6–8 whole Dried Red Chillis
2 tbsp Olive Oil
6 cloves Garlic, finely minced
2 lbs [1 kgs] Red Chard, washed and cut into 2-inch strips, including stalks
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
Salt (to taste)
1 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
  1. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or frying pan over high heat. When the oil is smoking, add chillis and sauté briskly for 1 min until they are blackened. Remove chillis to a small bowl. When they are cool to touch, using your hands, crush the whole chillis roughly into small pieces and set aside. 
  2. Add olive oil to same pan and heat. Add garlic and stir for 1 min until lightly golden. Add chard in batches and stir briskly until the leaves are wilted. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper, lower heat, and continue cooking till the tomatoes have softened, about 5 mins. Turn off heat. 
  3. Sprinkle with crushed chillis and stir gently. Let the flavours steep for 15 mins before serving.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rainbows and sunshine

The sunlight is pouring through my living room windows and refracting little rainbows off of the chandelier-- they're everywhere!

© Copyright 2012 Shubhani Sarkar