In witf's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Food Wednesdays: Kitchen Traditions

Written by Donna Marie Desfor, Culinary Consultant and Chef | Nov 20, 2012 12:01 AM
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This time of year I have my hands full fielding questions and reading all the recipes that came across my desk in anticipation of the holidays!  Most people love to hear new ideas about how they can really change their traditional meal, but in the end most want what we already know.  It’s tradition.  Thanksgiving, especially the Thanksgiving meal, is laden with tradition and you just don’t mess with tradition.  Sure, you can tweak it.  Just do it so no one really notices.  So our approach this Holiday Season is to keep those kitchen traditions intact.  And with that in mind, you can find some ideas how to spice up those classics hereand one of my favorite recipes for spicing up your butter below. 

Mostly, though, I want to give you some peace of mind.  Here’s my quick list of quick saves just in case those old standards turn out a little too old and a little too standard. 

First, spice up that butter and then use it to top everything from your vegetables to your turkey!
Recipe:  Backwoods Bacon & Bourbon Compound Butter
Makes 1 cup

This recipe uses the intensely smoky and super-flavored Backwoods Hickory Rub from The Spice & Tea Exchange.  If you don’t have any on hand choose another spice blend that you do have.  Most herb or grill rubs would be perfect.  The Backwoods Hickory Rub is blended with fresh pepper, smoked sea salt, garlic, onion, smoked paprika, cracked brown mustard, hickory powder, soy sauce powder, brown sugar, this melds so perfectly with the hearty flavors of the bacon, the complexity of a good bourbon, and then the hint of sweet from the apple cider.  The resulting compound butter is perfect as a finish to your Thanksgiving meal. 

Ingredients
2 or 3 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon bourbon
1 tablespoon apple cider
½ to 1 teaspoon Backwoods Hickory Rub
2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 cup homemade butter, at room temperature (substitute store bought)

Preparation
Cook bacon in a small skillet over medium-low heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to render out the fat; let your bacon crisp, but do not over brown it.  Remove pan from heat and whisk in the bourbon, apple cider, Backwoods Hickory Rub, and brown sugar.  Return to heat and cook until everything is well-combined and bacon pieces well coated.  Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes.

Place your home made butter in the bowl of a food processor and add in bacon mixture.  Pulse to combine, scraping down sides as necessary.  Note:  you can use a stand mixer with paddle attachment.  The resulting butter will have chunkier pieces of bacon than with the food processor.

Turn out the butter mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper.  Fold the paper over the butter mixture, form into a log and roll to desired thickness (for finishing dishes I like logs about 2-inches in diameter).  Twist ends and tie with butcher’s twine.  Return to refrigerator until firm.  Slice off pieces of compound butter as needed, or wrap in heavy duty aluminum foil and freeze for up to 4 months.

Your Thanksgiving Survival Guide:
9-1-1 for vinaigrettes or salad dressings.
When there’s too much tang you need to bring things into balance. A little sweet to tone things down, or a little bitter (think cinnamon, allspice, cilantro) to bring up the other savory notes and flavors in your dressings or sauces should solve the problem. Choose anything sweet, like sugar or a sugar substitute.  If after a bit of sugar your flavors are still off, try adding a bit of salt and taste again.  Salt can really bring flavors into balance, so if you close, try a pinch of kosher or sea salt.

9-1-1 for frozen, canned, or store-bought gravy.
We all love the short cut, but when it comes to flavor, the premade stuff can be really disappointing.  The fix is easy. First, if it’s not too late, pour any turkey drippings into the store-bought gravy. Give it a good long taste and make sure that it’s not already loaded with salt. If it is make sure you resort only to herbs working with rosemary and sage, to start. From there add things like onion, garlic, parsley, etc. Stay away from hard spices like nutmeg, allspice, clove, or cinnamon.

Add richness to any sauce by stirring in a bit of butter or high quality extra virgin olive oil, or both!  The fastest way to turn canned (or even store-bought) gravy into a richly flavored stock or sauce is to whisk in a bit of Red wine or even a strong lager or ale, but just a bit.  A healthy pinch of herbs, garlic, and onions, can’t hurt either. 

9-1-1 for Cranberry Relish
Try blending in some Ginger (candied is fine, too, just chop it up), or tangerine or orange segments – make sure that bitter white pith is all removed!  Or, for a nice aromatic punch, use tangerine or orange zest – but just the zest again,  no bitter white pith. 

If your relish is too sweet, you can soften it with a bit of Pumpkin Pie Spice. The simplest answer? A few grinds of sea salt or kosher salt may just do the trick.

9-1-1 There’s no Chicken Stock!
While most have resorted to canned chicken stock (which admittedly has little flavor compared to homemade) if it’s not at your fingertips you can feel lost. To create a flavorful stock start with about 1/2 cup more water than you need. Put it in a sauce pan and add 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped or Kibbled Mushroom and 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.  Add in a bay leaf and gently simmer the liquid until reduced by about 1/2 cup. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remember, all you need is a flavorful stock, not a delicious soup base! Remember to adjust your quantities for the amount of stock you are trying to replace. The above quantities are for 2 cups finished stock.

9-1-1 The turkey is supposed to be done and the skin is not browned or crisped.
If you set your turkey into a deep roasting pan, the heat of the oven can’t circulate around the bird and crisp the skin.  In 1/2 cup water (or apple cider is even better) melt 2 tablespoons of butter and a few teaspoons of maple syrup and some sugar.  Bring to a boil for a few minutes until everything is melted and reduced just a bit. Baste the mixture all over the outside of the turkey. Return to the oven (at least 350 F) for 10 to 15 minutes.

9-1-1 for potatoes that don’t taste like much of anything!
For the mashed potatoes: Your quick fix is onion and garlic powder or salt, plus some olive oil.  The olive oil will create a creamy mouth-feel. If you have some fresh herbs, chop some up and just sprinkle them on top.  As they get scooped through the aromatics will be released. 

For the sweet potatoes: The flavor of sweet potatoes needs to be grounded in something earthy and a bit aromatic, after all potatoes come from the earth.  Cinnamon, a bit of clove (just a tiny bit) or some allspice mixed in should do the trick.  You can also use some ground ginger or nutmeg, but a judicious hand is needed here.  A sprinkle of some Pumpkin Pie Spice isn’t a bad option, instead of fussing with individual spices. 

9-1-1 for tasteless stuffing.
All savory dishes are looking to their root flavors to push forward. If you’re stuck with flavorless stuffing give it a good slow taste. You’ve got a few options here: Sweet, Salt, or Vegetal. Most likely you’re going to be looking for a combination of the three. Try sea salt or kosher salt, and a generous pinch at that.  Then chop us some fresh herbs if you’ve got them.  Or, grate some orange, tangerine and even lime zest and toss a little in.  That will brighten flavors up.  If you need something earthy to help pull all the richness together, try a bit of nutmeg or ground clove. 

9-1-1 I forgot to buy bread for the stuffing!
Prepare your recipe as normal substituting rice, especially if you have a Pecan Style on hand.  If not, opt for a combination of brown rice and wild rice blends.

9-1-1 I don’t have all the spices I need for my pumpkin pie….
Many of the classic recipes call for the litany of spices that have come to be known as pumpkin pie spice. If your recipe reads something like… 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. all spice, 1/4 tsp. cloves, ginger, nutmeg… etc. you can substitute Pumpkin Pie Spice blend for the full quantity of spice. If you’re without that, start with some bourbon (about 1 to 2 teaspoons and then add in the spices that you have. If you are out of cinnamon, some Maple Syrup Granules ground fine in a spice mill or up to 1 tablespoons of maple syrup will work in a pinch. Not the same, but deliciously different.

9-1-1 Leftovers… oh, no! not again!
Curried Turkey Salad
is easy enough and different enough the day after Thanksgiving to get everyone back to the table for sandwiches at lunch time! Use a 1 teaspoon of a Thai inspired spice blend like Coconut Thai Spice for every 2 cups chopped turkey. Add about 1/4 cup each Greek yogurt and mayonnaise (substitute sour cream for one) and 1/4 cup mango chutney (or a fruit based marmalade or jam). Mix well to combine flavors. Serve.

From in WITF’s Kitchen t we wish you a truly blessed Thanksgiving and, of course, super-delicious meal.

Published in In witfs Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

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