Saturday, November 26, 2016

Roasted Celery

My favorite dish at Thanksgiving is stuffing. I make mine with Brownberry Sage and Onion bread cubes. To that I add turkey stock, butter, sautéed mushrooms, onion, hot Italian sausage and celery. A complete and delicious meal all in itself.

I buy the celery at Costco. Typical of Costco, it is sold in bulk and there is more celery than I would ever need for just my stuffing. So what to do with all of the extra celery? Roast it. It's fast, easy and absolutely succulent. And it goes great with those leftover turkey sandwiches!

1 head of celery, separated into individual stalks
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over the stalks, then season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast celery for 20 minutes, then serve.

Wine pairing: If I'm serving this with a turkey sandwich, I'll have a Merlot, please.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

Being obsessive-compulsive is actually an admirable quality if you are a cook. I find that it comes in especially handy at Thanksgiving, where micro-managing the production of an enormous feast is no small feat.

In order to handle the complexity of the Thanksgiving meal preparation, I create a very comprehensive list of every task that must be accomplished and at precisely what time to perform that task. It starts at 12:35pm with the convection roasting of the turkey. Then the schedule is set to make sure that everything gets done so that we can eat precisely at 6:00pm.

But regardless of the schedule, there are three items that always need my attention at the very last, frenetic second: the carving of the turkey; the mashing of the potatoes; and the making of the gravy. I cannot do all three at once by myself.

I'm really good at quickly carving a 25-pound turkey, so I take on that duty. The potatoes need to be mashed at the last second so that they are good and warm, which is a role my son Patrick has excelled at since he was a boy. Being a big, strong defensive back on the Macalester Football team, he is now able to execute his mashing duties in mere seconds.

Which leaves us with the gravy. I'm really anal about making turkey gravy from scratch. Use butter and flour to make a roux, then add turkey drippings and turkey stock. The problem here is that the drippings come at the end....after you've removed the turkey for carving.

But alas, Mark Bittman (food writer for the New York Times) solved my problem by creating this make-ahead gravy recipe. It can be made up to five days in advance, then re-heated just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. And the gravy still gets the flavor boost from the pan just add them in at the last second to your already "at serving temperature" gravy.

A small note here about the stock. Most grocery stores have an abundance of turkey stock on their shelves at this time of year. But if you couldn't find any or simply forgot to pick some up, chicken stock is a really good second choice.

1 stick of butter (I prefer Kerrygold)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper
4 to 5 cups warm turkey stock
Turkey drippings


    1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on the onions, stirring constantly, and cook until flour is golden to brown. Adjust heat so mixture does not burn.
    2. Gradually whisk in 4 cups stock until mixture thickens and is smooth. If it is too thick, add more stock. Cool, cover and chill.
    3. When ready to serve, reheat mixture over low heat, stirring. Scrape bottom of turkey pan and add drippings or to gravy. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve.

    Wine pairing:  A Thanksgiving meal has a broad stroke of many, big flavors.  So I prefer to drink a big, fruity Merlot. One of my favorites is Columbia Crest Grand Estates. It's a 91-point wine that sells for as little as $7.47 at Total Wine.

    Saturday, November 12, 2016

    Tyler Florence's Mashed Potatoes

    I love it when someone comes up with a great "aha" moment. It's one of those, "Why did no one ever think of this before?". Kind of like the EJ Dale method of wine preservation I reported in this blog some years ago.

    The standard cooking methodology for mashed potatoes is slowly heating them in cold water until they are cooked through. Once cooked, you drain the cooking vessel,  you mash the potatoes and combine them with butter and cream.

    Tyler Florence's "aha" moment came when he realized that all of the great potato flavor was going down the sink with the cooking water. To retain that great potato flavor, he decided to try cooking the potatoes in cream right from the get-go. He found the result to be spectacular!

    The important step here is to start cooking the potatoes in cold cream. If you were to use warm or hot cream, the exterior of the potato starts to disintegrate before the interior has a chance to cook. This recipe serves four to six people.

    2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
    2 cups heavy cream, cold
    3 garlic cloves
    1 stick (4 ounces) butter, cut into chunks
    Kosher salt to taste
    Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
    Coarse sea salt, to taste


    1. Cut the potatoes into 2- to 3-inch chunks. Add them to a medium pot with the cream, garlic, butter and kosher salt to taste.
    2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes.
    3. Place a colander over a bowl. Pour the potatoes through the colander, reserving the hot cream in the bowl. Shake the potatoes to drain off the excess liquid. Scoop the potatoes into a ricer (or you could mash them with a fork for a chunkier texture). Rice the potatoes, occasionally clearing the sides of the ricer with a spoon. Pour the still-hot cream over the potatoes in small increments, folding in to combine, until you achieve your desired consistency. Season with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Serve immediately or keep warm until ready to serve. 

    Tyler Florence

    Saturday, November 5, 2016

    Roasted Radishes

    When the summer gives way to fall, I usually change up my cooking. When it gets too cold to go out on the deck (which certainly has not happened so far in 2016), I go from grilling to roasting. Today I'm going to talk about a vegetable you don't think about roasting, but you should. Not many people know that the often overlooked radish is a super food. Consider:

    • Radishes eliminate excess mucus in the body.
    • Radishes are a natural cleansing agent for the digestive system.
    • Because of their high vitamin C content, they prevent viral infections.
    • They break down and eliminate toxins and cancer-causing free radicals in the body.
    • As a member of the cruciferous vegetable family (same family as broccoli and cabbage), radishes contain phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals that are cancer protecting.
    • With less than 20 calories in a cup of radishes, they are a great way to add nutrients, fiber and flavor to a no cost to your waistline.

    Most people relegate radishes to summer salads....a role in which they flourish. But roasting them reveals the mellow side of this delicious vegetable. Roasted radishes are a great side dish for fall and winter. When you are in the supermarket, skip the bagged radishes and go for the fresh-picked ones that still have the green leaves on them. Those radishes will be much more flavorful and nutrient rich compared to their bagged counterparts. This recipe serves four.

    1 pound of radishes, trimmed and halved
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


    1. Preheat oven to 400º.
    2. Toss together radishes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place radishes on a baking sheet and roast them until caramelized and tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
    3. When done, toss radishes with lemon juice and serve.