THANKSGIVING: BRINE THAT BIRD, THEN MAKE GREAT LEFTOVERS

I am a big fan of brining. Using a brine solution is a time-honored chef’s secret for producing tender poultry and pork. More than almost anything, Thanksgiving turkey begs to be brined. Yes, it takes time because you have to soak the bird in the brine solution overnight. But trust me on this: It is worth a little time and trouble.

The secret is out: These Urban Accents Brine and Rub Kits have been extremely popular over the past month at Gateway Market.

For years, home cooks who wanted to brine had to put together their own solutions. It’s easy enough and the ingredients – salt, spices and herbs – are readily available. But recently, food producers have jumped on the brine bandwagon. You see brine mixes and brining bags everywhere. One fool-proof way to go is with a brine and rub kit. These kits take all the guess work out of the task. At Gateway, we started getting brine kits just last month from Urban Accents. These kits come with their own brining bags for turkeys up to 24 pounds. Our customers have been putting a steady dent in our supply, so clearly a lot of people are in on the secret.

ABOUT THOSE LEFTOVERS…

Growing up in an Italian-American household meant that my Thanksgivings were a bit different than the Norman Rockwell-approved gatherings. Besides those traditional, new-world dishes (turkey, stuffing, etc), Mom went all out on all our Italian favorites. We especially loved my Mom’s Thanksgiving lasagna, and I have fond memories of waiting in line at Graziano Brothers to get ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, sausage and Elana Piccola pasta, which my mom insisted on using for her lasagna (I’ll do a separate post about Mom’s Thanksgiving day lasagna down the road).

If you’re like me, you’ll have tons of this stuff left over after Thanksgiving.

So what does all this mean? Well, usually the family would go after all that good Italian food and largely leave the turkey and fixings untouched at our holiday table. For days after Thanksgiving, we’d eat the leftover turkey in the form of sandwiches on toasted American bread (that’s what my Mom called everyday sliced white bread) with Miracle Whip and sometimes a slice of cheese. While that’s still a classic approach, I’ve developed some new ways to take care of that leftover bird. And like me, you may even find yourself getting an extra turkey or the biggest damn one you can find just so you can try these out. Here are three recipes that make great use of turkey (or Gateway’s rotisserie chickens). I put these together in the Gateway kitchen and just pulled everything I needed straight from the shelves.

BUFFALO TURKEY SALAD PITA

1 pound cooked turkey breast, diced
4 ounces Gorgonzola or crumbled Maytag Blue
1 rib celery, finely minced
1 cup mayo
4 ounces green onions, finely chopped
1 ounce Louisiana hot sauce
salt to taste
4 pita breads, lightly toasted
finely shredded lettuce
diced red onion
diced tomato

Mix ingredients. Eat. It’s that simple.

This one’s stupidly simple. Just combine the first seven ingredients, mix well and stuff the finished product into a pita. Garnish it with the lettuce, red onion and tomato.

Finished product.

TURKEY, BROCCOLI & CHEDDAR MACARONI

1 pound macaroni, cooked to package instructions

For the cheddar cheese sauce:

4 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
6 tablespoons corn starch
8 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups blanched broccoli florets (cook in salted boiling water for about 2 minutes and cool)
1 pound cooked diced turkey
1/4 cup sliced green onions (green and white together is fine)
4 teaspoon Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Ol’ Cheese Mountain.

Mix corn starch and water together to make slurry.
Saute chopped garlic; do NOT brown.
Add cream and bring to boil; stirring occasionally.
Add salt and pepper.
Reduce heat and simmer.
Add corn starch and water mixture to thicken sauce; simmer for 1 minute to cook slurry.
Add sour cream.
Add cheddar cheese, melt into sauce.
Add cooked broccoli florets, green onions and Parmesan.
Toss with freshly cooked pasta.

Mix them all together.

How to show off: Top with toasted buttered panko bread crumbs and add cooked Niman Ranch bacon or crispy LaQuercia proscuitto on top.

All ready to go!

BLACK FRIDAY BRUNCH
1 pound diced or shredded turkey
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 small baking potatoes diced into small pieces
1 small onion
1 bell pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
8 eggs, beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
plenty of salt and pepper (chef’s secret: season each layer individually for maximum flavor)
Cauliflower, optional

The base of your Black Friday Brunch

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium high heat.
Add potatoes and without turning, let them start to brown.
Continue cooking till nicely brown season with salt, pepper and garlic powder; remove and set aside.
In the same pan, add onions, peppers and mushrooms and chopped garlic. You should have plenty of butter or oil left in the pan, if you need more, add 1 tablespoon before adding veggies. Brown slightly; season with salt and pepper.
Add cooked turkey and heat.
Add back fried potatoes.
Add eggs and cook; season with salt and pepper. Do not overcook or over mix.
When eggs are nearly done (or done to your liking), add cheese and melt.
Serve with warm tortillas, salsa and sour cream if you like.

Add some eggs into the mix.

Resist the urge to eat straight from the skillet.

Pair with tortillas, salsa and sour cream for the energy needed to face the deal-hunting savages.

DEMYSTIFYING THE SHORT RIB

You will find some of the nation’s best chefs putting beef short ribs on menus in a lot of great restaurants. The complex flavors of a well-prepared beef short rib dish can be intimidating. Sometimes we like to make it look like you must have a culinary school degree or be a dedicated foodie to be able to pull off short ribs. But I will tell you a little secret: Most of the things we do are more about following techniques than super-secret recipes. (The exception is at Zombie Burger. That place is full of secrets!)

Anyway, the key to making a fantastic beef short rib meal is using quality ingredients. Also, you’ll need a little patience and discipline. I am going to share a little insider information here that will make you look like a culinary genius. Remember, don’t rush and follow these steps exactly.

Using quality ingredients will result in a great-tasting beef short rib dish.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 meaty short ribs, about a pound each (currently available at Gateway!)
  • 1 bottle of good beer
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 quarts beef stock or chicken stock.

Put all ingredients in a heavy stock pot and bring to a boil. As soon as the pot comes to a boil, turn down to the lowest setting on your stove and cover.

Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. As liquid evaporates, skim the fat from the top and replace it with water. Make sure ribs stay covered with liquid. Cook the ribs until the reach and internal temperature of 209 degrees. (If you don’t have one already, buy an instant-read kitchen thermometer! It makes everything so much easier.)

This process will produce ribs that are tender but not overpowering. I like to keep the flavors in the braise neutral so that I can use the beef in many different recipes.

When ribs are done allow them to cool in the liquid of the stove covered.

After they’ve cooled but are still warm pull meat from the bone and discard fat and collagen. Skim the fat from the top of the broth and save it for soups and stews (you’ll use two cups in the recipe below).

BRAISED SHORT RIBS WITH NOODLES

Once prepared, braised beef short ribs are really versatile. They make a wonderful addition to tacos. I also like making a short rib panini with caramelized onion, taleggio cheese and truffle oil. But one great way to use short rib (especially when the weather begins to turn colder) is with noodles.

Braised beef short rib meat makes one of my favorite sauces for pasta.

Try this recipe out – although it may look like there’s a lot of ingredients here, you probably have most of them on hand already at home. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 onion,sliced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 package Gateway’s crimini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Shredded short rib meat (prepared as I explained above)
  • 2 cups of the beef stock (from the short rib preparation; fat removed)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 package of concentrated Demi-glace (available a Gateway)
  • Pinch of thyme
  • Pinch of fresh rosemary (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Gateway’s pappardelle pasta

Heat butter or olive oil in a large pan. Add onions, celery and carrots. Sauté until vegetables are cooked and just starting to brown.

Add mushrooms and garlic; heat until mushrooms are cooked, but do not let them brown.

Add the 2 tablespoons flour and mix in thoroughly.

Add the short rib meat, followed by stock, wine, Demi-glace dehydrated in one cup of water and spices. Simmer for 30 minutes. If mixture is too thick, thin it out with additional stock, wine or water.

Serve over pappardelle pasta, which is available at Gateway.

Chef’s trick: right before you serve this, add a few tablespoons of butter to the hot braised beef mixture (off the heat). This will slightly thicken the mixture and add a richer flavor to the finished dish. Enjoy!

IN SEASON NOW!

Before you really start to put on the pounds with carb-heavy comfort foods, there is one vegetable out there that can give you all the flavors you crave when the weather starts to cool down. This gourd gives you a lighter carb load than its namesake counterpart. Even with some diabolical sauce and topping combinations, this ingredient just seems a bit lighter – until I get my hands on it!

Spaghetti squash brings bright flavors this time of year to Gateway Market.

I am talking about… the spaghetti squash! Fast, tasty and even (depending on how you sauce it) kinda healthy, the squash can be paired with nearly any sauce you would put with regular spaghetti and doesn’t sit as heavily as pasta.

Want to give it a shot? Here’s an easy and delicious way to prepare it.

First, go to Gateway Market and pick up a large spaghetti squash or two. You’ll also need some sauce (from scratch or pre-made… I’ve included a recipe below if you want to make your own), mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and sausage (if you’re so inclined).

When you’re ready to cook, split the squash in two lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.

If you have the time, place the squash in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake it for an hour. If not, you can do what I do – place the squash on a plate and put it in the microwave, uncovered with the turn table off. Cook for about 12 to 15 minutes depending on the squash size. You can tell when it is done because the squash flesh pulls away easily like actual noodles. Since microwaving the squash can produce a lot of steam, you may need to set it in a colander and let the excess liquid drain.

When squash is done, scoop out the flesh and toss it with your favorite sauce, mozzarella cheese, sausage and Parmesan cheese. Season with a little olive oil, garlic and fresh basil.

This recipe comes together easily and tastes so good it may surprise you.

Place the mixture in an oven/microwave safe pan, top with a little bit of mozzarella cheese and Parmesan. Heat until the cheese is melted; if you’re using the oven, bake until the cheese starts to brown. If the squash/sauce mixture is too runny, you may need to add breadcrumbs or additional cheese to thicken it up.

GET SAUCY!

Some of my favorite sauces are carbonara, puttanesca, bolognese and tomato basil, but this recipe will work with your favorite meat sauce or cream sauce, too. Here is a scratch recipe for sauce that works great – this makes a little over a cup of sauce per four persons.

You only need a few ingredients.

You’ll need the following:

  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt (mix together with garlic to chop)
  • 1/4 cup corn starch (mix together with 1/4 cup water)
  • 1/2  cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
  • 1 quart heavy cream

Heat a pan. Add butter and garlic, cook gently but do not brown. Add cream and bring to a boil. Thicken sauce with corn starch and water mixture. Add Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. For thicker sauce, add 1 tablespoon mixed of the corn starch with 1 tablespoon water to desired thickness. Add crumbled Gorgonzola and toss desired amount of sauce with the squash and serve.

You can top all of this with sliced chicken breast, crispy prosciutto, toasted buttered panko breadcrumbs and toasted nuts for an extreme taste overload that you probably have never had from a squash.