Month: November 2016

Turkey stock and hot turkey sandwiches

Turkey stock and hot turkey sandwiches

If you had a turkey sometime last week  (ours was Saturday) you probably want to make the most of the leftovers. We decided to make some fresh turkey stock and use it to make  gravy for hot turkey sandwiches. We had frozen the wings, neck and the partially carved drumsticks: enough meat right there to make some great stock.

We tossed the frozen meat and bones into our Instant Pot and added 2 carrots, two stalks of celery and a small onion, halved.

Then we raided our not-quite finished garden for parsley and thyme and added a bay leaf.

Then we added water up to the Max line and closed the pot up. Probably an hour would have been enough, but since we had the time, we set the pot to 120 minutes, using the Soup setting, which keeps the liquid from boiling too vigorously, and let it cook.

At the end of the 2 hours, we let the pot slowly cool for 15 minutes so it wouldn’t spurt and then released the pressure. We bailed out all the vegetables and discarded them, leaving almost 5  quarts of rich turkey stock.

To make the gravy, we put a couple of Tb of olive oil in a cast iron frying pan and cooked 2-3 Tb of flour for a minute or two, and then poured in 2 cups of turkey stock.

After it thickened, we added slices of turkey, so they would heat through.

We buttered the bottom bread slice, since a little fat carries the flavor better, and added several slices of turkey on top of the bread.

Then we topped the sandwich with more bread, and spooned some more gravy over the top.

Not only did we get delicious turkey sandwiches, we got nearly 4 quarts of stock, that we froze for later use. You could use it anywhere you would use chicken stock, and this tastes way better than canned stock does.

Low labor, big success!

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Delicious hot yeast dinner rolls

rolls-in-basketFor Thanksgiving, or any special celebration, it is great fun to bring our piping hot, just baked yeast dinner rolls. You can make these in a bit more than 2 hours rising time, but the preparation time is only about 10 minutes total.

Making dinner rolls sounds like a lot of work, but in our house they are something everyone looks forward to for major holidays, birthdays and other celebrations of course you can always take them to restaurants where the Kids Eat For Free. Kids like to taste a bit of the dough, and enjoy helping roll out the dough and cutting it, so it becomes a family affair!

There really is nothing better than these soft just-risen and baked dinner rolls, and this recipe is one of the most popular ones we know. It is really simple to make, using a food processor to replace the usual kneading step.

  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 package yeast (not rapid rise)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3-4 cups flour
  • 3 Tb butter
  1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and stir in the 1/2 tsp of sugar. Let the yeast proof for a couple of minutes until it starts to foam.
  2. Put the milk, sugar and shortening in a glass pitcher and microwave for one minute. The shortening does not need to melt completely.
  3. Put one cup of flour into a food processor and add the warm milk mixture. Be sure to scrape in any remaining sugar or shortening.
  4. Pulse briefly until mixed.
  5. Add the yeast mixture and the egg and pulse the food processor until the mixture is uniform.
  6. Add about 2 cups more flour and mix until smooth. The dough should be smooth and no longer sticky. If it is still sticky, add more flour a little at a time until it is no longer sticky.
  7. Allow the dough to rise for about an hour, until doubled in bulk.
  8. Melt the 3 Tb butter in the microwave for 30-45 seconds.
  9. Remove the dough from the food processor and pat into a single mass on a floured board.
  10. Roll out the dough about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick and cut into circles with a large drinking glass or biscuit cutter.
  11. Dip each circle in the melted butter and fold into quarters.
  12. Place each folded circle into a muffin pan.
  13. When the rolls are all formed, cover with a damp towel and allow to rise about an hour.
  14. Preheat the oven to 375 º F.
  15. Bake the rolls for about 10 minutes until light to medium brown.
  16. Brush each roll with some of the remaining melted butter, place in a bowl and serve.

Stand back, these will go fast.

We have found that yeast packets on supermarket shelves are really variable in activity and some proof and bubble hardly at all. So we are now buying yeast in jars and keeping it in the refrigerator once opened. It is much more lively that way.

Enjoy your rolls!

Easy chicken mole 

Easy chicken mole 

Chicken mole has a huge number of variations both by chef and by region. It apparently is not strictly Mexican but has Spanish influences as well, and a lot of legends about how mole sauce came about. It amounts to chicken served in a rich, fruity sauce that is mildly hot.

Most mole sauces involve hot peppers and many involve chocolate, not as a sweetener but to make a dark, smooth sauce. Some recipes use unsweetened chocolate and some use semi-sweet. The classic mole frequently uses pasilla chili peppers, which are available dried, but in our local grocers not at all. You can order them online, or you can do as we did, and grow your own. You eventually get dark brown peppers that are somewhat hot, but also have a fruity flavor ideal for this dish. As they turn from green to brown, they get a bit wrinkled: pasilla translates from Spanish as “little raisin.” We ordered ours from Burpee. They have a fairly long growing season, so you want to plant them as early as you can. We planted ours in May, but did not pick them until October.

Pasilla peppers are also somewhat vague in definition, as some writers described them as a small, dark chili negro and others as a dried poblano or ancho pepper. In our recipe, we used saws made specifically for cutting meat, but you can also use fresh dark, green glossy ancho peppers with some added jalapeno peppers to increase the heat. Dried poblano peppers would also work and are probably hotter. We found the fresh poblano peppers all too mild, which is why we added the jalapenos when we didn’t have pasillas available.

This recipe is adapted from the excellent new Weight Watchers cookbook Turn Up the Flavor, and should be relatively low calorie. The recipe recommends that you serve the chicken on brown rice.

  • 3 dried or fresh pasilla peppers or 1 poblano and 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 6 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed and minced
  • 2-3 large plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 oz semisweet chocolate
  • Chopped cilantro or parsley
  1. If you are using dried peppers, brown them briefly, and then soak in boiling water for 20 minutes and then drain. If you are using fresh peppers, split them and remove most of the seeds. Then cut them into pieces and sauté until soft.
  2. Put the peppers in a blender or food processor with 1 cup of the chicken stock and puree. Set aside.
  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown in the olive oil for 4 minutes on each side. They do not need to be fully cooked yet. Set the chicken aside on a plate.

3. Put the remaining oil in the pan and add the onions and garlic. Saute until soft and add the diced tomatoes. Add the cumin, oregano and cinnamon and cook until fragrant. Put the mixture in the blender with the remaining cup of chicken stock and puree until smooth.

4. Put the two blended sauces back into the pan and cook with stirring until thickened.

5. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. We weighed out 1 oz of semisweet chocolate chips: they are a bit less than 1/4 cup. You can add as much as 1/4 cup of chocolate just as easily.

6. Return the chicken to the pot and cook, covered until the chicken is cooked through, perhaps 10 minutes longer.

Serve over rice and sprinkle with chopped cilantro or parsley if you are allergic to coriander/cilantro (as many are.)

Decorate each plate with small dots of chutney.

Beef Bourguignon in a Instant Pot

Beef Bourguignon in a Instant Pot

A really good Beef Bourguignon can be an extraordinary meal. However, in its conventional form, it takes a great deal of time and effort. We adapted Craig Claiborne’s classic recipe for the Instant Pot and made the dish in about an hour, mostly unattended. It is warm, steamy, flavorful and comforting on a cold evening and it is so much easier than the “old” way that you are likely to want to make it often.

In fact, while there are many excellent uses for the Instant Pot, this one is far and away the best reason to own one. You just can’t make as good a Beef Bourguignon any other way. The results are really superb.

Since we typically serve stews like this on rice (you could use noodles if you prefer), we made the rice in the Instant Pot while we were browning the meat and vegetables, and then we kept the rice warm in a covered dish in a warm place while we cooked the stew. This worked out very well.

Now, it is certainly possible to brown the meat and the vegetables in the Instant Pot, but the sautéing space is limited and you would have to do it in several batches. And we are not big on flaming brandy inside our Instant Pot anyway.

We elected to do the initial browning on the stove in s conventional frying pan and then add the ingredients to the pot. While Claiborne’s recipe is for 5 lb of stew beef, we used only a quarter of that amount in making a dinner for two. You can scale it back up for larger crowds if you want to. And, since the Instant Pot loses essentially no water during cooking, we used only the cup of wine, and did not add the water mentioned in the original recipe.

  • 1 cup rice (or ½ package egg noodles)
  • 1 ¼ lb stew beef (chuck) cut into large cubes
  • Flour
  • 2 Tb butter
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/8 cup brandy, warmed  (about 2 Tb)
  • 3 strips bacon, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • ½ leek, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • Chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 cup red wine (Burgundy)
  • 12 small, whole(pearl) onions
  • Sugar
  • ½ lb sliced mushrooms
  1. Cook the rice in the Instant Pot while you prepare the vegetables and meat. If you are using noodles, you can make them while the stew is cooking.

2. Sauté the onions, leeks, carrots, half the chopped parsley and garlic with the bacon in the butter and oil and set aside in a small bowl.

3. Shake the beef in a paper bag with the flour, coating the beef on all sides. Shake off the excess in a colander, season with salt and pepper and sauté the beef in butter and oil until browned on all sides.

4. Pour the warmed brandy over the beef and ignite it to burn off the alcohol.

5. Add the beef, vegetables, thyme and bay leaf to the Instant Pot. Add the red wine, so it comes up part way on the beef. For a full 5 lb recipe, you would use a whole 750 ml bottle of wine. Close the pot and press the Stew button, to cook for 35 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms and pearl onions in butter and oil until slightly browned. Add a dash of sugar to enhance the browning.

7. When the cooking time has finished, release the pressure, remove the lid, and stir in the mushrooms and onions. The stew should be rich and thick. If it seems a little thin, blend 1Tb flour with 1 Tb butter and slowly mix it into the boiling stew. We found this easier to do on the stove, as it heats more quickly and is easier to stir the butter-flour mixture (beurre manie).

stew-in-pan8. Garnish with more chopped parsley and serve. You’ll have an amazingly delicious Beef Bourguignon in about an hour!

Having trouble closing the lid tight on your Instant Pot? See our simple video.

New York Times’ wrongheaded GMO article ignites scientists

New York Times’ wrongheaded GMO article ignites scientists

The front page of last Sunday’s New York Times featured a major article by Danny Hakim titled “Doubts About the Promised Bounty of GMO Crops.”  Hakim is an investigative reporter who has primarily been an economics correspondent. He apparently interviewed quite a number of experts before writing the piece, but he got his main point completely wrong. None of the major biotechnology seed vendors are marketing GM seeds to improve yield, so there is no “promised bounty.”

And while the lengthy article cites a lot of data both in the US, Canada and Europe, it manages to lump together statistics from completely different climates and growing regions, so that his final conclusions are pretty confused. But don’t take my word for it, let’s look at what experts have already written.

Molecular geneticist Nina Federoff, who has been a science and technology adviser to Secretaries of State Condaleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton, as well as having had a distinguished research career, writes in Hakim’s Effort to Skewer Biotech Crops in Sunday’s NY Times, that GM crops were never intended to improve yield.

Writing in the Western Producer, Stuart Smyth says New York Times Ignored GMO Crop Benefits, and goes on to list the benefits by crop and region. Farmers would not be spending money on expensive seeds if they didn’t realize some benefits.

Nathaniel Johnson, writing in Grist on What the New York Times Missed in its Big GMO Story, points out that by lumping together farm statistics from North America where we grow GMO crops with data from Western Europe (where they mostly do not) is very misleading. Not only do the climates differ, but the pests do as well. He suggests Hakim ought to look at all the available evidence rather than just cherry picking data that suits his narrative.

And weed scientist Andrew Kniss writes “Straw men and selective statistics: Did the New York Times botch its critique of GMO Crops?” where he calls Hakim’s statistics “borderline disingenuous.” He notes that the figures he cites are convoluted and misleading, because they aren’t even in the same units, and comparison of total pesticide use in France versus the US ia absurd because the US is so much larger. More to the point is the usage per acre. Kniss converted them to the same units and found that the total herbicide use per hectare is and has been less in the US than in France. They may be the same in the final year measured (2012).

kniss-herbicide
From Kniss: herbicide and insecticide use: US and France.

Following Kniss’s argument further, Kevin Folta, Professor and Chair of Plant Science at the University of Florida writes “Rehashing a Tired Argument” in his Illuminations blog, along with another article “Some Actual Yield Data” that clearly shows the yield improvements provided by crop when biotechnology traits are added.  He noted that Hakim lumped together insecticides, fungicides and herbicides as “pesticides” and only reports the total pounds rather than separating them out, which makes a great different, especially when the lower impact herbicides like Roundup are included. Folta was recently awarded the Borlaug CAST Science Communications prize.

And, of course, Monsanto responded to Hakim’s sloppy reporting, noted that they had talked with him several times while he was developing the article, but that he chose to cherry-pick a few data points to fit his preconceived views. Monsanto’s article refers directly to the peer-reviewed literature. For example, Qaim and Kouser showed that insect resistant GMO cotton increased family income and food security. And Brookes and Barfoot (2016) showed that conservation tillage made possible by glyphosate tolerant corn and soybeans removed  22.4 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Further, unlike Hakim’s assertions, GM crops have reduced pesticide spraying by 8.2%.

Finally, even Mother Jones magazine, which normally takes an anti-biotechnology stance comes around wiht two articles. One by Tom Philpott takes a predictably anti-GMO stance as he always has, but in a more nuanced article, Kevin Drum accuses Hakim of “lying with statistics.”

And the ever ascerbic Steven Novella writes The Times gets it wrong on GMOs, noting that the journalist started with a preconceived conclusion and then selected facts to support his erroneous conclusions.

Finally, Professor Jayson Lusk notes that farmers are consistently choosing GM crops because they provide financial benefits despite their higher costs.

In this article, I have summarized most of the blistering opinions on Hakim’s feature article (and one which praises it) but it would seem that scientists and science writers have consistently found the article to be wanting. However, all of the references are linked here and you can read them and decide for yourself.