November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving Turkey!

Through hundreds of cookbooks, thousands of recipes, and 28 years of Thanksgivings, I officially - and finally! - made my first whole turkey.  I didn't actually make it for Thanksgiving, though, I made it at work, but it was still delicious as ever, and definitely deserves a spot on your holiday recipe lineup.  Check out the best way to get crisp skin, juicy breasts, and one hell of a mix for a gravy.  Enjoy!

What You'll Need:
  • 1 1/2 cups carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 rosemary sprigs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 lemons and 1 orange, sliced in rounds
  • 1 whole turkey, 18-20 pounds
  • 1 pound butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons each: salt, pepper, paprika, poultry seasoning

1.  In a very large roasting pan, mix carrots, celery, onion, thyme, and rosemary with olive oil until coated.  Pour white wine over top and cover with about 2 cups of water.  Rest a baking rack on top of vegetables.  On the rack, place slices of lemon and orange for the turkey to sit on.

2.  Clean your turkey.  Start by removing the wrap/zip-ties around the legs of the turkey so you can get into the cavity.  Remove the bag of giblets, liver and the neck.  You can save these if you want to put them in the gravy, but I don't.  Trim any excess fat that's just hanging out, but leave that beautiful skin on there.  Using your hands, separate the skin from the back of the turkey (yea, the back) - careful not to tear through it.  Separate it as best you can all the way down to the legs, and all the way around towards the breasts.

3.  Whip the butter and the honey together.  Using your hands, stuff the butter under the skin, and spread it all around, making sure you get every nook and cranny.  Whisk all spices together and season the bird all around both sides with all the spices.  Really rub it in there, making sure the bird is nicely seasoned.  Set on top the rack, breasts down, and cover with foil.

4.  Put in a 375-degree oven and cook for 3.5 hours, basting around the back every now and then, but don't baste the skin too much.  For the last half hour, cook uncovered to get that skin really crispy.  Let rest for about 15-20 minutes before cutting into.

5.  Optional gravy: Strain the drippings from the vegetables into a saucepan.  Whisk in 4 tablespoons of butter, 2 cups of chicken broth, 1 cup white wine, a one bay leaf.  Simmer until thickened.  Enjoy!

November 16, 2015

Third Annual Thanksgiving Side Dish Challenge

Welcome to the Third Annual BEST Thanksgiving Side Dish Challenge!  I almost forgot about this bad boy, but then I realized I've been such a slacker for The Community Plate lately, and this is such a great time to get some brand new recipes posted on here.

Every year, the same side dishes always reign supreme: stuffing and mashed potatoes.  Aiming to cater to some different sides this year, I am urging all of you to choose the sides that sound the most appealing - because you are going to want to see these recipes! So, if you're thinking you like potatoes way more than you like green beans, think about it this way: do I want to see another mashed potato recipe make it all the way to the finals, or do I want to see some battered green beans with a lemon-honey-balsamic aioli?  Let your imagination do the clicking!  Follow the link to take the first-round survey of The Community Plate's favorite challenge: START VOTING!

Don't Forget! There are 4 "regions" (categories) and we're looking to crown one champion by Thanksgiving Day.  Happy voting!

Region 1: Starches/Grains
Region 2: Savory Dishes
Region 3: Vegetables
Region 4: Sweet Dishes

October 12, 2015

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Shrimp

Stuffing shrimp is a hell of a lot harder and more time-consuming than I imagined when I was hanging out by the seafood counter figuring out what to make for dinner.  It's recipes like this that make me wish I had an island in my kitchen with stools so I could sit down while tediously stuffing.  It took me about an hour, maybe longer, to complete this dish from start to finish, but it was SO worth it in the end.  I know most people like their crab stuffing to be simple, without the extra flavors of peppers, pimentos, etc. but I'm not a true Marylander, and I like to add lots of fun to my stuffing. Enjoy!

What You'll Need:
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon roasted red peppers, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons juice from lemon, divided
  • 1/4 cup Marsala wine
  • 1 pound crab meat, backfin or claw meat is best for stuffing
  • 1/4 cup croutons (I used butter/garlic croutons), crushed
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 pound 16/20 raw shrimp, peeled (tail-on)
  • 16-20 slices regular-cut bacon
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

1.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a frying pan.  To the oil, add green pepper, celery, and roasted red peppers.  Saute until vegetables become soft.  Add mustard, salt and pepper, and 1/2 the lemon juice, and stir to combine.  Deglaze with Marsala wine, and reduce until the wine has cooked out.  Transfer ingredients to a bowl and refrigerate until cool.

2.  Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, fold together crab meat, crushed croutons, Old Bay, parsley, egg, and mayo.  Be careful not to break up the crab meat any further, or it just becomes mush.  When everything is incorporated, and the stovetop ingredients have cooled, mix everything together.

3.  Now comes the hard part, in my opinion.  Lay your shrimp on a cutting board, upside down, so the tail is facing down.  Using a very sharp paring knife, slice down the back of the shrimp, careful not to cut through.  Flatten to the cutting board, so you have a butterflied shrimp.  Lay the stuffing on top of the butterflied shrimp.  Take a piece of bacon and wrap all the way around the shrimp.  This will secure the stuffing, and make it taste a million times better, because... bacon.  Repeat over and over until all shrimp are stuffed and wrapped.

4.  Using the same pan that you cooked the vegetables in, coat with the rest of the oil.  Heat the oil and lay a few shrimp in the pan at a time.  Sear each side of the shrimp until the bacon is crisp all the way around.  Transfer to a plate, and repeat until all shrimp are finished.

5.  In the empty pan, deglaze with white wine.  Add the butter and the rest of the lemon to the pan and simmer until butter has melted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Finish with the chives, and spoon over shrimp before serving.  Enjoy the heck outta this one!!

September 28, 2015

Apple and Kale Pork Loin

Welcome to the recipe that had everyone raving at Tomato Day 2015!  The recipe that made my grandmother call me to tell me that she has decided if she wins millions on her trip to Vegas, she is giving me money to open a restaurant instead of money to put towards a house.  Because, she said, "I realized that you really know what you're doing in the kitchen."  Honestly, this was pretty easy.  All I did was raid the fridge and spice cabinet for what I thought would work - and it worked!  Let me know how this recipe goes for you when you make it!

What You'll Need:
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 apples, diced
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1 bunch kale, torn from stems
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups applesauce
  • (2) 2-lb. pork loin
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons butter

1.  Mix first five ingredients in a small bowl until incorporated.  In a large mixing bowl, mix diced apples, red onion, garlic, kale, and HALF the spice blend until incorporated.  Lay on the bottom of a roasting pan with a rack on top.

2.  Season pork loin liberally with the other half of the spice blend, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.  Place pork loin on top of rack.  Cover and put in a 375-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160-degrees (medium) or 170-degrees (well done and most likely dry).  Let pork rest so the juices redistribute, about 10-15 minutes.

3.  While your pork loin is resting, dump the remaining ingredients from the roasting pan into a skillet.  Saute for about 5 minutes, and then add white wine and butter.  Stir until butter melts and sauce becomes rich and velvety.  Slice pork loin and spoon sauce over top.  Enjoy!

August 23, 2015

Italian Macaroni and Cheese

Oh good God.  Oh yessss! Make this today.  That is all I have to say.

What You'll Need:
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound sausage, casings removed
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons red wine
  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pound medium shells
  • 8 slices pepperoni, sandwich-style, diced
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded 

1.  Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add sausage to the pan.  Break up sausage with wooden spoon under crumbled.  Add garlic to the pan and saute until sausage starts to brown.  Add red wine to the pan and incorporate.  Cook until browned all the way through and drain onto paper towel-lined plate.  Set aside.

2.  In a sauce pot, heat butter until melted.  Add flour and Italian seasoning, and whisk until incorporated.  Let cook until browned and flour is cooked.  Add room temperature buttermilk and heat.  Then, add milk and heat through.  Add crushed tomatoes.  Whisk everything together and bring to a slow boil.

3.  Cook pasta shells according to package directions, but drain about two minutes before they are finished cooking.  In a large mixing bowl, toss pasta, crumbled sausage, and pepperoni.  Transfer to a large baking dish.  Top pasta with a mixture of 1 1/2 cups Parmesan and 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella.

4.  Pour tomato cream sauce over top the entire dish evenly.  Wiggle the dish around a little bit, ensuring the sauce starts to fall through the pasta shells and start melting that cheese.  Top with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and 1/2 cup mozzarella.  Put in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Now you may begin eating the most glorious macaroni and cheese ever.  You're welcome ;-)