Secret Mushrooms: Thanksgiving Stuffing with Morels

stuffing thanksgiving morel mushroom

Perfect Thanksgiving Plate

Everyone has a food or two that they just won’t eat. I, for example, do not eat raisins (yes, I eat grapes) or chopped coconut. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an occasional Pina Colada and am happy to drink coconut milk. I just can’t stand the texture of raisins or raw coconut – no macaroons for me.

Some time ago, I was dating someone who refused to eat mushrooms of any kind. Seriously? We were on the verge of spending Thanksgiving together and his aversion to mushrooms put me in quite a conundrum. I mean, I had been making the Turkey and Stuffing for Friends-Giving since I was in college and had really perfected it.

And part of that perfection is morel mushrooms, the bacon of the mushroom family, and a key ingredient in my Thanksgiving stuffing. I had a difficult decision to make….Eliminate the mushrooms? Make two separate batches of stuffing? Or, just don’t tell him and hope for the best.

Hmmmmm….This particular boyfriend had a career where knowing things and figuring things out were sort of important. Like part of his job and such.

Bacon Mushroom

Bacon Mushroom

What he might not have known is that Morels are prized by gourmet chefs around the world. In the US, they are known by many names including Hickory Chickens, Molly Moochers, Merkels and even Miracles. In our house growing up, we called them Bacon Mushrooms because of their smoky, rich flavor.

So, I couldn’t imagine Thanksgiving without morel mushrooms…I took the risk and I put them in and didn’t say anything. What? Like you’ve never done that?

Old School Stuffing with a Bacon-y Twist (serves 8)

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. You can make this the night before to save counter space and pots and pans on day of
  2. Dried morel mushrooms are tricky to find…But, Eve’s Garden on West 23rd St usually has them
  3. You can never have enough chicken stock on Thanksgiving

Ingredients:

  • pepperidge farm stuffing thanksgiving morel mushrooms

    Stuff It

    2 Medium Onions – diced

  • 4 – 6 Celery Stalks, peeled and diced
  • 2 Sticks of Butter
  • 1/4 Cup of Rosemary – chopped small
  • 4 Slices Wheat Bread – cubed
  • 4 Slices Portugese or White Bread – cubed
  • 1 Bag Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing
  • 1 oz Dried Morel Mushrooms
  • 1 Box of Chicken Stock
  • Salt and Pepper

1. The night or two nights before, cube the white and wheat bread. Put into a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap. Poke some holes in the wrap and set aside. This will stale up the bread a bit. You can also just toast the cubed bread in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the oven at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes to crust it up a bit.

stuffing bread thanksgiving

Staling Up the Bread

2. Put the dried morel mushrooms in a medium bowl and cover with chicken stock to rehydrate – this takes about an hour or less. I usually buy Whole Foods 365 brand Chicken Stock – it’s not any more expensive and very good.

3. Preparation – so important. Dice the onions and celery and finely chop the rosemary leaves.

4. Remove the morels from the chicken stock and rinse gently to remove any residual dirt

morel mushrooms thanksgiving stuffing

Rehydrated and Gently Rinsed Morels

5. Chop the morels into small pieces

dinner stuffing mise en place

Mise En Place – critical to a successful Thanksgiving

6. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, melt two sticks of butter – I use salted and then I don’t need to add more salt later

thanksgiving stuffing butter

Butter makes it Better

7. Add the onions, stir for about 2 mins and then add celery and cook until softened – about :10 minutes. You want the celery to maintain some of its crunch.

stuffing celery onions butter

Add onions about a minute or two before celery

8. Add the chopped rosemary and morel mushrooms and stir to combine

stuffing recipe thanksgiving

Add the rosemary and stir until fragrant

stuffing dinner recipe thanksgiving

Gently stir in the Magic Morels – Tastes Like Bacon

9. Add salt and pepper to taste – if you use salted butter and/or chicken stock with sodium, be sparing in any addition of salt

10. Pour in 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock and stir to combine and warm through

11. In a large bowl, combine 1 bag of Pepperidge Farms Herbed Stuffing and the cubed, staled bread

12. In stages…like 1/2 cup at a time…pour the buttery, oniony, celery, morel-y, rosemary, chicken stock-y mixture over the stuffing/cubed bread mixture.

Thanksgiving stuffing morel mushrooms

Add moisture in stages – you don’t want it soggy

13. Gently fold together the ingredients until moistened and combined. You don’t want the mixture to be soggy…especially if you are going to stuff your bird. The stuffing will absorb the juices from the turkey during the roasting process

14. Allow to cool entirely before stuffing in the bird. You can choose not to stuff the bird…but will miss out on the flavorization that the turkey juices provides to the stuffing

thanksgiving stuffing recipe

I stuff the top and bottom of the bird

15. Depending upon size of your bird, you will have extra stuffing. Put this extra in a baking dish and reheat prior to serving. You may need to add a little extra chicken stock to keep it moist and delicious. Remember anything not stuffed in the bird won’t benefit from the turkey juices.

Thanksgiving that year was a big success. The boyfriend ate the stuffing and never caught on to the secret mushrooms. I’m not saying lying is a good thing – it’s not. But, I just couldn’t give up my bacon-y morel mushrooms. Some secrets are worth keeping.

For other Thanksgiving Day tips see Talkin’ Turkey….

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Ending the Curse of the Turanos: Tuscan Grilled Chicken

tuscan chicken on the grill

Better to offer a chicken to Italians…Never send a fish

My people are Italian….like Sicilian Italian Our people take vendetta seriously – did you see The Godfather? Family feuds are way more intense than Hatfield-McCoy.

Because we are innately aware of our peoples’ tendency toward revenge, my brothers and I grew up in fear of the Turano family. See, in the 1930s our great uncles – Gasper aka ‘Cap’ and Vincent married sisters – not just any sisters, Turano sisters. Uncle Cap, the eldest, led the way – the oldest must marry first in traditional Italian families. Vincent, the second son, followed shortly thereafter with his own Turano bride.

italian family feast chicken

Sal and Grandma – not a Turano. and my brother, no Turano blood.

It would have naturally followed that my grandfather, Salvatore – the youngest – would then choose one of the two remaining Turano sisters as his wife…and both families urged him to do so. Sal, as he was known, would, however, buck this trend and spurn the Turano girls. He instead married his high school girlfriend, my grandmother.

Ever since Sal made the choice to disregard tradition, the Turanos looked at us funny. Funny, like with evil, spell-casting glares, slanty eyes and stuff. We felt their hatred and sensed that they were cursing us behind closed doors. We blamed mysterious happenings throughout our lives on the Turanos…a bike went missing, a pet passed away, the car ran out of gas…must be the effing Turanos.

But, now, 80 years since Sal’s jilting of the Turano sisters…It’s time to bury the hatchet and end our fear of the effing Turanos. So, I offer the descendants of Cap and Vincent, (some of whom are kind enough to read this blog) an olive branch….a feast from a neutral region of Italy…Tuscan Grilled Chicken.

Tuscan Grilled Chicken (serves 8)

Tiny apartment tips:

  1. You could do this in your apt…just use a much smaller (3lb ish) chicken
  2. Open windows and doors to vent during grilling as the chicken should and will smoke up
  3. Yes, the butcher at Food Emporium, Whole Foods etc WILL de-backbone the chicken for you. Just ask.
  4. Plan ahead…chicken needs to marinate for at least 4 hours, though I’d recommend marinating overnight

Ingredients

  • rosemary lemon chicken on grill

    Always mise en place. Always.

    2 4-5lb whole chickens

  • 2/3 Cups Olive Oil – you can order DiGiovanna Olive Oil online – that’d really get the Turanos mad….
  • Lemon Zest from 4 lemons
  • 2/3 Cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic = about 5ish cloves
  • 2 TBSP minced rosemary leaves
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper

1. Ask the butcher to remove the backbone from the chickens and flatten them. We actually bought Perdue wrapped chickens and took them to the butcher who gladly helped us out. Put the flattened birds into baking dishes.

2. Sprinkle the chickens with salt on both sides – don’t be shy here, the salt will help crisp up the skin

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary and 3 tsp of pepper

tuscan lemon marinated chicken

Green-y, Lemon-y, Garlic-y marinade

4. Pour the marinade over both sides of the chickens

chicken tuscan marinade

Marinating

5. Cover the chickens with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

wolf range stove dinner chicken

Guest-Chefing and a Wolf Oven – bonus

7. Heat a gas grill to low heat

8. Remove the marinated chickens from the fridge and temperate for at least :15 mins

9. Spray the grill with non-stick spray

10. Place the chickens on the grill breast-side up

chicken on grill flattened

Breast side up…lefty is a little slanty

11. Weight down the chickens with a heavy pan or baking dish to ensure that the entire surface of the bird is in contact with grill

weighted down flattened chicken on grill

We weighted lefty with a baking dish. Righty was weighted down with a cast iron skillet

12. Cook for :20minutes – leave the lid of the grill open as it’s a smoky deal

13. Flip the bird (not at the Turanos) – literally and re-weight down so that the entire breast-side is in contact with the grill surface

tuscan grilled flattened chicken

Our two little guys flipped

the flipping is hard

the flipping is hard

14. Cook for another :20 minutes

15. Transfer the browned birds to a baking dish and bake in the oven for :15 more minutes to ensure bird is wholly cooked.

16. Remove the birds from the oven, transfer to a cutting board, cover in tin foil and let rest for :15 mins before slicing

17. Slice and serve

tuscan chicken on grill

Sliced and ready

I hope that enough time has passed to heal the relationship between us and the effing Turanos. And I hope they see this chicken as the olive branch they may have been waiting for.

That said….when eerie things happen, I still have a thought in the back of my head, that it just could be the curse of the effing Turanos.

Great Guestification: Smoked Brisket with Dad Salt(tm)

beef brisket smoked on the grill

But Dad, It’s Smoky!

There’s a way old Steve Martin bit about teaching kids to talk wrong. The skit takes place in a classroom filled with young children. One child raises his hand and when called on asks; ‘May I please go to the bathroom?’. The teacher, a bewildered look on his face, says ‘I’m sorry?’ The student replies: ‘Sorry, can I moo-moo dog face to the banana patch?’ And, he is sent on his way to the bathroom.

As kids, we used ‘moo moo dog face to the banana patch’ all the time when we wanted to be excused from the dinner table or elsewhere. We all thought making up words or speaking wrong was a great idea. My brother took his own spin on Steve Martin’s craft and teaches his own kids wrong words…To be fair, he just elongates words, sometimes creating verbs out of nouns or adverbs out of …doesn’t matter. Just know that this happens and now his people (son and daughter) are also doing it.

spices salt mixes beef brisket

Dad Salt

My brother is also an inventor of sorts….and created a magical new mix of spices called ‘Dad Salt’. Don’t ask me what’s in it, cuz it’s like a secret… just know that you should put the stuff on everything. Still working on marketing and margins, but soon to be available everywhere.

I was recently with them all – GUESTIFICATING at their home in Cincinnati. And, we made a giant Smoked Beef Brisket as people in Cincinnati are wont to do. As the brisket was my brother’s creation, I have tried to channel his spirit in CRAFTIFYING this post.

Tiny apartment tips:

  1. Be a good GUESTIFIER – to ensure future invites
  2. Find GUESTIFICATION locations with outdoor grills
  3. Don’t try this in your tiny apartment
  4. LMK if you are interested in purchasing ‘Dad Salt’

Giant Smoked Brisket (serves an army….of 8)

NOTE: This is a two day process. A commitment to meat. COMMITIFY yourself.

Ingredients:

  • brisket dinner smoked

    Meats En Place

    1 Giant 12lb Beef Brisket – we got ours at Costco, the land of giant meats

  • 2 Cups Apple Juice
  • 1 14oz Can of Beef Broth
  • 2 TBSP of minced garlic – I never use the jar stuff, but a guest really shouldn’t say such things
  • 1 TBSP EVOO
  • Loads of DAD SALT(tm)
  • NOTE: If you haven’t yet ordered or received your Dad Salt, you can create your own poor imitation by mixing together – sea salt, bacon salt, garlic powder, paprika, ground pepper, onion powder
  • A meat injector
  • 2 cans of Darkish beer or ale – we used 1 can of Boddington’s and 1 can of Guinness
  • Applewood chips for the grill
  • Buns
  • Store bought sweet bbq sauce

1. HEATIFICATION of the Injecting Agent:  Heat 1 Cup of the Apple Juice and 1/2 of the can of beef broth with the garlic and olive oil over low heat in a sauce pan

meat injecting beef brisket smoked

Injecting agent heating on STOVIFIER

2. Once the flavors have come together and the mix is FRAGRANTIFIED – about :05 mins…let the mixture cool slightly

3. TRIMMITIZING: Pat dry the giant brisket and trim off most of but not all of the excess fat. The fat lends flavor and moisture to the meat…so leave about 25% of it on the giant beef

beef brisket trimmed dinner grill smoking

Giant knives scare me. Note some fat remains.

4. RUBIFICATION: Rub Dad Salt(tm) generously all over the giant meat

brisket smoked dinner grill

Rubbified with Generous Amount of Dad Salt

5. INJECTIFICATION: Fill the meat injector with the garlic, broth, apple juice mixture and inject liberally all over the meat

meat injector dinner smoked brisket grill

Injectifying Juice – messy job, so yes, do this in a large roasting pan lined with foil – those are my brother’s man hands, btw.

6. Cover the INJECTIFIED, RUBIFIED meat and refrigerate overnight

THE NEXT DAY……

7. RE-RUBIFYING: Remove the meat from the fridge and rub AGAIN liberally with Dad Salt

8. SMOKIFIER; Early, like way early in the morning, prepare the grill with very low indirect heat.

9. Prepare a large drip pan with 2 cans of beer (a darker beer is better here) and a 1/2 cup of Apple Juice AND the fat trimmings from the brisket and place it on the low rack of the grill

smoked brisket grill dinner

BEERIFYING – step 1 to SMOKIFIER prep

beef brisket recipe grilling smoking meats

Setting up the Smokifier – note coals are contained by large pieces of hickory that have been soaked for over an hour

10. SMOKIFICATION: Replace the second rack and put the Brisket over the side with the beer/juice/fat pan. On the other side, place several applewood chips that have been soaked for at least an hour in water in a smoker box

smoked beef brisket dinner grill

Let the Smoking Begin

11. Cover the grill and let meat smoke forever….Like 8 hours

12. FOILIZING: After 8 hours, remove the brisket from the smoker, put in a large roasting dish lined with foil….And, then seal the meat in foil.

beef brisket smoked on grill

FOILIZED – Ready to be ovenized

13. OVENIZATION: put the giant meat into a 250 degree oven for an additional 2 hours

14. REJUICIFICATION: Remove the meat and let it rest for :20 – :30 minutes

15. SLICERIZING: Serve warm by the slice

beef brisket smoked service dinner

Slicerizing the meats. Note fab smoke ring

We served the tender, smoky slices atop potato buns with some cole slaw and sweet bbq sauce.

I’m not sure it’s a great idea to TEACHIFY kids to speak wrong….But, I will say that now that the kids are older and able to make up their own words…it’s fun to watch. Plus, I’m sure it helps keep their creative juices flowing.

Listen, when in Rome, right? Being with my Cincy peeps is always a great GUESTIFICATION.

IMG_7457PS – LMK if you want to know more about Dad’s Salt(TM)

Cro-Nutting: The Privilege of a Great Houseguest

cronuts trader joe's frozen croissants dessert

Cro-Nutted Croissants

Cro-Nutting, v. The Art of Frying That Which Should Not Be Fried.

Truth – I don’t like to fry, deep fry, stuff in my apartment. A few good reasons…

  1. cronuts kitchen frying

    Coffee Tin

    It’s a bit messy and the hot oil can escape the cauldron and dirty surrounding cabinets and counters.

  2. When the frying is over and after you’ve overindulged in a good fried treat, you’re left with a large vat of used oil and no where to dispose of it…OK, you’re supposed to put in into an empty coffee tin and freeze it before throwing away…But, I think you have to go back to 1985 to find an empty coffee tin.
  3. The frying leaves a certain odor – note, not really aroma, but odor – in your tiny living space and on your furniture, walls, carpets, floors and towels.
  4. OH, yeah….and technically frying anything is super fattening.

So, I only fry during away games. Listen, I’m a great house guest. Someone even recently named me guest of the decade. I mean, I keep a clean room, cook, entertain people’s kids, run errands and always wash my sheets and towels before my departure. So, letting me do a little frying in your kitchen seems like a small price to pay.

On a recent visit to the middle – that space between New York City and LA where my brother and his people live – I decided to entertain my two favorite teenagers with a frying bonanza.

Prior to my arrival, I emailed the kids with some culinary options that we could deep fry in their large suburban kitchen.

But the only thing they wanted was….Cronuts, the croissant/donut hybrid that is all the rage in NYC right now, a treat that is not yet available in Cincy.

The attention span of any teenager is similar to that of an ant – even my incredibly intellectually advanced niece and nephew. So, I knew that creating cronuts from scratch wouldn’t be an option. I did some research and decided the best way to go would be to cronut frozen croissants from Trader Joe’s.

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. Don’t deep fry in your apartment for reasons already outlined above
  2. Do be the best guest to earn the privilege to deep fry when guesting outside of the city

Cro-Nutted TJ’s Croissnts (servings…really, no one should eat any of these, so at a serving size of one bite, this’ll make about 24)

Ingredients:

  • trader joe's frozen croissants cronuts

    NOT mini

    1 Box Trader Joe’s frozen croissants – they come  8 to a box – AND the box says ‘Mini’…but, they are not mini

  • 1 Large Cauldron of vegetable oil – about 1 1/2 – 2 inches deep
  • 1 Candy Thermometer – I’ve been trying to find the one that has the temp taker attached to a long cord vs the glass one that clips to the side of the cauldron…but, haven’t found it yet. LMK if you have any ideas
  • 1 Fry Spider kitchen tool – readily available everywhere and a kitchen must
  • 1 Tub of Dolci Frutti Chocolate hard chocolate shell OR A Jar of Nutella Hazelnut Spread

1. The night before you want to make these ridiculously caloric and fat heavy treats…You have to take the frozen Trader Joe’s Croissants out of the package, separate, set on a plate and let sit out overnight. The frozen croissants magically rise while you’re sleeping and double in size – again, not mini

2. Pour 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil into a large, deep cauldron….Or big pot

3. Heat the oil to 350 degrees. OK, maintaining 350 degrees is tricky – so, heat the oil higher, then turn it way down. Oil must be between 325 – 350, so keep checking that now dangerously hot glass candy thermometer that’s clipped to the side of the cauldron and adjust the stove as needed

4. Using a tiny (1 inch) biscuit cutter (remember, buy the full set of biscuit cutters that nest) cut the croissants into little bite-sized pieces

sur la table biscuit cutters

Space Saving Biscuit Cutters

5. Gently…very gently….using a spider or other good frying tool…lower the croissant cut-outs into the scalding oil

croissant cronuts trader joe's frying with kids

Gently frying away

6. Fry each side for about a minute – you’ll know when to flip cuz they brown up nicely

7. Remove the friedness from the oil and transfer to a paper towel to blot the excess oil – this is a step that just makes you feel better…but really, these are fried, so get over it.

cronut recipe trader joe's croissants

Fried Goodness – light, flaky and….FRIED

8. While frying, in the microwave melt up some of those Dolci Frutti chocolate shell chocolate chips

dolci frutti chocolate dip cronuts trader joe's

Find in Produce Section

9. Once the Cro-Nutted Croissants are quasi cooled – hand them along with the melty chocolate to your niece and nephew who can then spoon chocolate-y goodness over the deep fried delight

10. Eat….But eat only one, seriously

I always gain about 500lbs when I go to the middle…Or does just the fat go to the middle, whatever. But, you can’t put a price on entertaining kids with the art of deep frying. And, if you want to feel a little better, Cro-Nutted Croissants are technically vegetarian. Just remember to be a good guest and clean up. You don’t want to lose your fry-privileges.

It’s OK To Be In The Can: Spicy Easy Bean Dip

spicy bean dip vegetarian recipe

It’s in the Can

I heart my iPhone 5…even though it has some glitches. Like I had to get the speaker replaced when all noises – text pings, Twitter tweets, phone chime, email bings etc stopped. And, for whatever reason…when my phone reaches 35% battery and I try to take and post a picture (sort of the way of life of a food blogger) it just shuts off. Telling me in it’s own Apple way that it’s done with the social media thing for that day. I’m OK with it, though.

iphone 5 texting vegetarian corn dip

Heat

One thing that does drive me crazy is the auto text correct. Sure, generally, the phone is right and I mean to type rosé, not rose. The phone seems to have picked up on summer wine season. So smart.

But, I almost…wait, I actually never mean to type that ‘I’m in the can.’ For whatever reason – maybe it’s because the iPhone speaks ‘Californian’ and those people don’t take cabs like we do in NYC – the iPhone refuses to accept that I’m in the ‘Cab’ not the ‘Can’. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to text ‘I mean Cab, not Can’ to people who are waiting for me and now think I have an ‘issue’.

That said, there are times when it’s OK to be in the Can….Like when people are coming over and it’s national hot and spicy food day and you need to quickly get an appropriate array of appetizers ready.

My most recent favorite mix is:

Spicy Easy Bean Dip (serves a bunch – but lasts two days, so just make it all)

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. You should probably always have these ingredients on hand, they don’t take a ton of space and last a long time…Oh, and they’re inexpensive too
  2. You don’t need or have room for an electric can opener…I was guest chef-ing…and the kitchen had one…fun, but sorta silly and a space waster for NYC apartments.

Ingredients:

  • Gindo's Spice of Life fresh and spicy pepper sauce

    That’s Hot!

    2 Cans Shoe-Peg or Whole Corn Kernels

  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1 Can Garbanzo Beans
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1 Bunch of Cilantro – Like a hearty handful of leaves
  • 1/2 Medium Red Onion
  • Gindo’s Spice of Life Fresh and Spicy Honey Habanero Pepper Sauce…You can use the green mild sauce or the original Pepper Sauce but since it’s National Hot and Spicy Food Day…Go for the gusto!

Pay attention – this is tricky…

1. Open the cans of corn kernels and pour into the bottom of a large mixing bowl

2. Open the can (or box, sometimes it’s a box like 365 brand at Whole Foods) of Garbanzo Beans, drain, and pour into the bowl

bean dip recipe vegetarian dips hot an dspicy

This is exhausting!

3. Dice the 1/2 red onion and pour dices in

4. Open the can of black beans, rinse thoroughly, and throw them in the bowl

can opener electric bean dip vegetarian recipe

Who still has an electric can opener???

5. Chop up the cilantro – chop it pretty well…and, yes, if you absolutely hate cilantro, you can use parsley… whatever makes you happy. I don’t judge.

6. Pour 3 TBSP-ish of the salad dressing over the mixture

7. Toss in a few dashes of Gindo’s Spice of Life Fresh and Spicy Pepper Sauce – this’ll get your guests to go ‘hmmmm…wow!’ as the heat hits their tongues. Don’t be afraid here, the smooth taste of the garbanzo beans and the cool, fresh, sweet avocado will balance out the spicy hot sauce.

vegetarian bean dip hot and spicey

I guess at the amount of the dressing – it’ a pretty design!

8. Mix…just get in there and mix

bean dip vegetaran cold dips

This really is TOUGH

9. Cube up about a whole avocado and gently fold in…This part isn’t shown, because our avocados weren’t ripe enough and we had to do without…But, I recommend including them if you can

This dip is best if allowed to sit, chill for a while – at least 2 hours…The flavors all meld together and add to the deliciousness.

Serve with the dippers – you know the Tostito Scoops corn chips…

I can’t really think of an appropriate time to text anyone that you are ‘in the can’…still can’t figure out why my iPhone wants me to say that. Unless the iPhone thinks that somehow I’m shoe-peg corn or black beans or garbanzo beans. Then, being in the can is totes OK.

Happy National Hot and Spicy Food Day! Enjoy the dip!