"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Jellied Borscht

See, this is the problem when you have a backlog of recipes. What to write about when you can finally snatch a quiet moment to compose a post? Tripe? The triumph of grilled margarita pizza? The promised post on sauterne-soaked cake?

If I followed my methodical approach, I think I'd be writing about blue cheese-stuffed hamburgers, but I find myself wanting to tell you all about jellied borscht instead.

Yes. Jellied Borscht.

One of the things that absolutely delights me about The Gourmet Cookbook is when I make something beyond my realm of experience that turns out to be amazingly good. Of course, you have to enjoy the key components here, namely: beets, radishes and gelatin, but if you're down with those things you'll love jellied borscht.

It's not on epicurious, so here we go. It's so simple I can even recite it from memory.

You'll need:
a jar of borscht
fresh lemon juice
unflavored gelatin
sour cream
fresh dill

Strain the solids from the jar of borscht, and save those for something else. Put the liquid in a bowl and add 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice. Sprinkle 1 1/2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin on top and let it soak in, then put it in a pot on the stove, bring to a boil and let simmer for five minutes.

Pour into a pyrex dish and put in the fridge.

When it's set (it'll take at least 2 hrs), chop it up and put it in a bowl. Put some diced radishes on top, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of fresh, minced dill.

Here's what mine looked like. Forgive the tupperware; I was taking it to work.

Should you be wondering, borscht jello tastes like a deep, complex cherry jello. Adding radishes, sour cream and dill rounds out the flavor. I used daikon radish--that's why they're completely white.

I have to confess part of my pleasure in making this dish was chortling over imagining O'Malley coming home from school and digging into the jellied borscht (which didn't happen, alas). I DID get him to take a bite of the whole thing, ensemble, only to discover that apparently he hates both beets and radishes, and was very sad that I had put that stuff in his mouth. Oh, the face!

And it turns out that some people hate gelatinous stuff. I was going on and on about this dish to my friend Elizabeth, and all she could do was shudder in horror.

But Don and I loved it, and one of my cooking clients was so keen on the idea when I described it that she wants me to make it for a dinner party next Thursday.

As the weather gets warmer (and for some of you it's damn hot already) keep this one in your toolbox.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Lemon-Marinated Turkey with Golden Raisins, Capers, and Pine Nuts (and Poached Whole Turkey Breast that looks like the Loch Ness Monster)

On the whole, I think of turkey as a not-so-interesting form of protein, unless you count turkey SKIN, which I adore and could make a meal of. I mean, you do not want to leave me alone in the kitchen on Thanksgiving next to the turkey that just came out of the oven, especially not with a little kosher salt at my elbow. Because naked turkey is just sad, and stripping that sucker is what I'd do unless held back by the social convention of not sending turkey to the table with out its clothes--er, skin--on.


But it's really sort of odd that I'm not such a pal with turkey, considering that we cook with chicken all the time and it's not so different. Perhaps it's because turkey is so BIG, and it wasn't until recently that you could buy just turkey breast, or even turkey tenders. I guess the turkey farmers are getting good marketing people, finally.

And before I launch into the way the good old Italians prepare turkey, can I just mention that wild turkeys abound here in Rockport? And that every time I see one I think, "Dinner"? So fear not, KC (that's my brother who's preparing for the post-peak-oil societal crash) wild turkey is a potential food source as long as we can catch them, and considering the saucy way they take their time crossing the road all we have to do is speed up a little. Oh, we won't have cars, so we'll have to just go fast(er) on our bikes.

So let's get down to turkey business, which is that the first step to making Lemon-Marinated Turkey with Golden Raisins, Capers and Pine Nuts is to prepare a Poached Whole Turkey Breast. Which is where the Loch Ness Monster comes in. I couldn't decide which picture looks more menacing so I'm giving you both and you can decide.


I kind of like the side view--the top one looks like it would eat your hand if you got too close. I mean, not as scary as the monkfish down below, but scary in kind of a if you had smoked too much dope you might be a little freaked out. NOT that I do that sort of thing, seriously I don't. MaryJane was never my drug, I'm too much of a control freak.

But drugs and monsters aside, poaching the turkey was a pretty straightforward poaching experience, which is that you simmer your protein in water with aromatics until it's cooked through. Which in the case of turkey is a little more than an hour, which seems like a long time but for something that large it's really just right.

After it cools, you can do what you wish with it, and what I wished to do with it was proceed to step number two which was the above-mentioned Lemon-Marinated Etc., which the headnotes helpfully tell us is a typical Italian agrodolce treatment. That's "sweet and sour" for those of us who studied a language that we thought would help advance our careers. Italian just helps you seduce the ladies. Although, sometime remind me to tell you how I talked my underage way into a nightclub by feigning a complete lack of English, whereupon the manager (who had taken a few years of French) was hauled out to try to understand pauvre moi who had lost her luggage, including the passport which confirmed her legal drinking age of 21. Ha! All for crappy American beer, bad disco music and loutish fraternity boys.

Anyway, should you be in the mood to marinate your turkey, Italian-style, what you do is soak some raisins until they're plump, remove the zest from a couple of lemons, and the squeeze the juice out of said lemons. Then make a little vinaigrette out of the juice, some balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Combine it with the lemon zest, the plumped raisins, and about 1/4 cup capers, pour it all over the turkey and stash it away in your fridge for about half a day or up to 12 hours..

When you're ready to serve, take the turkey out and let it warm up on the counter, then slice and put on a platter. Strain the marinade, and sprinkle the zest, raisins and capers over the sliced turkey. Whisk chopped parsley and mint into the marinade, and spoon it over the top and then sprinkle the whole thing with pine nuts. I don't usually go into so much blow-by-blow with the recipes (thinking that maybe you might have the book yourself, or at least might find it at Epicurious) but this one isn't online.

For a gal who usually eats her turkey at Thanksgiving with cranberry sauce, this was a tasty, welcome change of pace. I really loved this treatment, even though the poaching step was kind of a pain in the ass. But still--summer is coming, and who wants to cook a turkey in their oven when it's 95 degrees? Not me. Although let it be noted, there IS a recipe for Grilled Turkey in here, so maybe this summer is the summer I experiment with large poultry on the grill. All this to say that cold poached turkey with lemon, raisins, capers and pine nuts might be just your speed when it gets sultry.

P.S. and I have it on expert authority that Adam is going to be trying this dish soon, so keep your eyes open for his take on it.