This blog has now been folded over into "The Left Chapter", a blog dedicated to politics, art, writing & food!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Quick Roasting a Holiday Turkey

Written with Natalie Lochwin

With the last days of the holidays approaching, many of us are preparing for a family dinner and a roast turkey is often the centerpiece of the meal. Cooking turkey fills many with dread as making sure that a turkey is properly cooked is, of course, important, but overcooking a turkey leads to that awful dry meat that needs to be virtually drowned in gravy to be at all edible.
Many times, as well, a turkey far larger than is required is bought, and this means not only many hours of laborious monitoring, basting and attention, but also endless turkey leftovers.
In this blog we will look at a method of roasting a 12-15 lb. turkey that is quick, relatively easy, produces a turkey with a wonderfully crispy, brown skin and excellent flavour. Done right, it will come out delectably moist. We will also roast it with mixed vegetables and have a nice side of gravy for all those gravy lovers out there (and who, I must ask, does not love gravy). And this is cheaper and can be done in as little as two-and-half hours!
Right from the start, let us note that this method can only be done for a smaller bird in the 12-15 lb. range, as you actually physically turn the turkey several times during the cooking process. This method is not recommended for birds larger than 15 lbs.
First, take the turkey, remove any giblets, and salt it all over generously. Put the turkey in a large, heavy roasting pan. Then take 2 or 3 tablespoons of melted butter and 2 or 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, blend the two together, and brush it all over the turkey.

Set the oven rack to its lowest setting and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 
Now take the turkey and turn it, inside the roasting pan, on one of its sides with the drumstick sticking up. You will likely need to crunch up some aluminum foil into several balls and place it all around the bird to prevent it from falling over. Put the turkey in the preheated oven and leave it for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the turkey from the oven, and carefully, using oven mitts (and if possible with the help of your designated family sous-chef!) turn the turkey over onto its opposite side so that the other drumstick is facing up. Baste the bird with more of the butter/olive oil mix and put back in the oven for another 30 minutes. After 30 minutes repeat this, flipping the bird again (and basting) and then after a further 30 minutes do this one final time (meaning each side will have been drumstick up for two 30 minute cycles.)
Finally after these two hours of cooking, turn the turkey so that it is breast side up, baste again, and put back in the oven for a final 15-30 minutes. You want an instant read thermometer to read 175 degrees when placed in the thickest part of the thigh for it to be done. (If you opt to stuff the turkey, it is best if the stuffing is heated to 160 degrees, but I always prefer to cook stuffing separately as it complicates cooking times if you overstuff, or dries out or burns if you understuff.)
When you turn the turkey for the last 30 minute drumstick up rotation, you can at that point add some assorted vegetables to the pan to surround the turkey and to roast with it and its juices. Take some classics like squash, beets, potatoes, leeks, onions, and carrots (you can use any, all or others!) cut them up into nice rustic style chunks, toss them in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper, (and, if you like, other seasonings like French Fry Spice or Italian Seasoning) and some fresh or dried thyme and place the seasoned vegetables around the turkey.
After cooking, take the turkey out, place on a platter and let sit for around 20 minutes. If the vegetables are not roasted enough for you, you can put them back in while the turkey rests.
As the turkey rests, it is time to make the gravy.
Once the vegetables and turkey have been removed from the roasting pan take the pan with any cooking liquid and leftovers and deglaze it on a medium heat burner with about 1/4 cup of dry white wine or a dry cider. Be sure to scrape off any remnants of vegetables and turkey to add to the mix. Add 1/2 a clove minced garlic or just smash a clove and simmer.

Add some whole dry thyme, 3/4 of a cup of vegetable or chicken broth and bring to a gentle simmer.

In a small frying pan add some olive oil and butter, and fry your favourite giblets until almost done.

Season with salt and pepper. Slice the liver giblets thinly to resemble mushrooms and set aside.

Thinly slice seven medium crimini  mushrooms (if crimini are not available you can substitute mushrooms of a different type) and sauté in the leftover pan grease where the giblets were cooked until lightly browned and soft.

Your gravy will have been simmering for several minutes. This is meant to be a more modern, thinner au jus style gravy.

Strain your gravy using a fine sieve forcing through any vegetable remnants. They will help thicken the gravy slightly.

Pour the gravy into a new pan, add the mushrooms and giblets. Taste and season to your liking.

It is now ready to serve. Carve the turkey, serve with the vegetables, cranberry sauce and any other sides of your choosing, top with lots of gravy, pop open a bottle of nice white wine and enjoy the holidays!
The best of the season from our family to you and your friends or family. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

5 Great Winter Beers: From Bah Humbug to Montgomery's Courage

The winter holidays are a great time to sit with friends and family and enjoy drinks and food. Today we will take a look at five great winter ales and beers to warm one up after expeditions out into the cold and the snow.

1) Winter Ale, Great Lakes Brewery

A Toronto based multi-award winning craft brewery, Great Lakes Brewery makes an excellent and succinctly named Winter Ale. Full of flavour, it is fortifying with its 6.2% alcohol content. Available for only a few winter months the ale is notable for its tastes of ginger and cinnamon and fruity tones. Priced in Ontario at $6.95 for a 750 ml. bottle.

2) Bah Humbug, Wychwood Brewery

Bah Humbug is a glorious looking winter warmer with a delightful aroma of Christmas baking that hails from the Wychwood Brewery in the UK. It has a slightly sweet taste that is very smooth and easy to drink, and that reminds one, in a good way, of a cinnamon banana bread. Perfect for Christmas Day. It has a 5% alcohol content and is priced in Ontario at $3.95 for a 500 ml bottle

3) King Goblin, Wychwood Brewery

Also from the folks at Wychwood is King Goblin. A strong ale that is available year round, this is not solely a winter beer, but I find that it is at its best during this season. It is lightly carbonated with strong flavours and hints of chocolate. A great by-the-fire after dinner drink. With a 6.6% alcohol content it will warm on the coldest day and is $3.95 for 500 ml. in Ontario.  

4) Montgomery's Courage, Black Creek Historic Brewery

From the wonderful brewery that has grown out of Black Creek Pioneer Village north of Toronto and that is committed to recreating historic beers as they were brewed in the 19th century, Montgomery's Courage is a rare rye beer. And it does, indeed, remind one of the more commonly imbibed rye whiskey, though with a more malty flavour. Really pleasant to drink, you need to get this one fast. It was brewed as a one-time only beer, and when it is gone, it is gone! 5% alcohol and $3.50 for 500 ml. in Ontario.

5) St. Peter's Winter Ale, St. Peter's Brewery

Established in 1996 on an abandoned farm, St. Peter's Brewery in the UK is dedicated to crafting traditional beers that are done in historically English ways. Their Winter Ale has long been a favourite of mine and is only available during the season. This winter warmer has great seasonal hints of spice like nutmeg and clove, and is nicely malty. It is only lightly carbonated and benefits from being not too sweet. It is also strong, with a 6.5% alcohol content and is priced at $3.95 for a 500 ml. bottle in Ontario.

Hope you have enjoyed our first tour of craft brews for the winter months and that you get to try or revisit some of them over the holidays.

The Dish: Gyro & Shawarma Poutine @ Grill Pit

The Dish: Gyro & Shawarma Poutine
Where: Grill Pit, 2836 Lake Shore W. (@4th St.), Etobicoke  

Opened only a couple months ago in New Toronto just a few blocks east of Islington, Grill Pit has a lot going for it. A Gyro & Shawarma take out restaurant with only a couple of tables and a few stools, it has excellent food across the board at very competitive prices.

The gyros, for example, are generously sized, truly delicious, and cost only $4.50 before tax. The falafel sandwich is one of the better ones I have had, with a unique seasoning blend for the falafel balls themselves. They are always made moist, are, again, very large and cost only $3.99 before tax.

By themselves, without fries, roast potatoes, salad or a drink, either of these sandwiches would be an ample lunch for many.

I was already becoming something of an early regular at the Grill Pit, and had tried much of the menu (their souvlaki and Greek salads are also quite good) as the inexpensive prices, the fast and friendly service and the food itself made it an obvious lunch destination.

And then I tried the Gyro & Shawarma Poutine!

Grill Pit's poutine, while inspired by the Quebecois French Fried potato dish that has become popular across the country, does not actually have two of its most typical components, gravy and cheese. 

Instead, they take perfectly cooked and crunchy seasoned French Fries, cover them with a huge portion of assorted Gyro and Shawarma meat, top this with a thick layer of tatziki sauce, banana peppers, Middle Eastern style salad, sliced Mediterranean style pickle, and their house hot sauce. There are other toppings available, or one can hold the hot sauce, but this is the blend the owner and cook likes and recommended, and with good reason. It is fantastic!

It is pretty hard to beat this combination of flavours and textures in a French Fry dish. It is certainly one of the best and most original that I have had. It is also only $5.99 for a large size, and this is easily a full lunch or even dinner for most people.

So if you live in the west end or are out to check out the areas great parks and beaches (once summer rolls around again) be sure to stop in and try it. You will be glad you did.   

The Dish is a regular feature that will look at one dish that we particularly love at a restaurant, diner, food truck, etc. Please feel free to submit your favourite dishes from restaurants in your community. Please include a photo of the dish or establishment if at all possible.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

1922's Cocktails - How to Mix Them: With Five Great Holiday Drinks

Vintage Cookbook: Cocktails - How to Mix Them, "Robert"
Publication Details: Various editions and publishers. First published 1922

Published originally in 1922, Cocktails - How to Mix Them went on to become one of the most successful cocktail books ever printed. It ran through multiple editions over decades and remains, if you have a copy, a great resource for mixing some classic drinks.

Commonly printed in a handy pocket format, it was written and compiled by "Robert" of the "American Bar, Casino Municipal, Nice, and late of the Embassy Club, London." The "Robert" was Robert Vermeire, a well known bartender in the London club scene of the 1920's.

The book has not only Cocktails, but also Rickeys, Slings, Sours, Coolers, Cobblers and many, many more varieties of intoxicating blends, as well as a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails. It is introduced with a fanciful "history" of the cocktail as well as instructions on properly mixing them, shaking versus stirring, and so on. It ends with a fun "Do You Know That-" section of what amounts to alcohol trivia. 

Today we will share four drinks from the book (exactly as originally published) that go perfectly with winter and the holidays, and I will throw in one of my own making, The Caribbean Admiral, as an added holiday bonus!

[Editor's Note: The gill is unit of measure that has fallen out of use and is the equivalent, in the case of this book, of a quarter pint. Wikipedia has an entry giving some equivalencies.)

Hot Apple Jack Sling

Fill a tumbler half full of boiling water and Sugar Syrup to sweeten, 3/4 gill of Apple Jack Brandy or Calvados, and stir up gently. Squeeze the peel of a lemon into the glass, and add grated nutmeg.
Some people prefer a tablespoonful of fresh lemon juice also in it.

Hot Spiced Rum

Put into a tumbler 2 or 3 lumps of sugar and dissolve them in a little boiling water, add:
1 gill of Old Jamaica Rum
1 piece of butter as large as a small walnut
1 tablespoon of spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg).
Fill the glass with boiling water. Stir up well and serve.

Dragoon Punch

This punch is a favourite drink in the Northern countries of Europe, principally in Sweden and Norway. Here is the recipe for a party of four people:
1/2 gill of Brandy
1/2 gill of Dry Sherry
A small bottle of Stout
A small bottle of Lager Beer
1 bottle of Champagne
Sweeten according to taste and decorate with thin slices of lemon.
This punch is usually prepared in a big bowl, and the mixture must be well iced.


The Gluhwein is a German hot Claret Toddy, made as follows:
In a saucepan put 2 lumps of sugar, 1 slice of lemon, 1 piece of cinnamon and 1/2 pint of Claret. Boil and serve as hot as possible.

[Editor's Note: "Claret" is a generic term for a French or Bordeaux style red wine.]

The Caribbean Admiral

My own concoction, this is based on a drink I tried and modified to my own taste by substituting Ginger Beer for Ginger Ale and making a few other modifications! It is rather strong and warms without the need for any actual heat!

In a large tumbler place 2 ounces Rye Whiskey, 1 ounce bitters (like Alpenbitter), 1 ounce lime juice and 6 ounces chilled Ginger Beer. Mix by either gently shaking or stirring thoroughly. Serve poured over a two-or-three ice cubes in a large glass. (As an alternative, vermouth can replace the bitters, though I prefer bitters).


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook: A Dr. Seuss Inspired Romp through Cooking!

Vintage Cookbook: Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook, Georgeanne Brennan

Publication Details: Random House, 2006

Published in 2006, though sadly already out of print, The Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook is a truly fun and zany look at cooking through a Dr. Seuss inspired lens. Meant to appeal to Seuss fans young and old alike, it is full of illustrations of Dr. Seuss characters and photos of over-the-top food offerings.

It is also full of really great recipes, over 40 of them, with terrific ideas to jazz up breakfast, lunch, snacks, dessert (of course!) and mains. The recipes are specifically designed with ideas and components that kids should be able to participate in the making of.

Today we are sharing two recipes, one for Hoop-Soup-Snoop Group Potato Soup and one, needless to say, for Green Eggs and Ham! The text and recipes are exactly as originally presented.

Hoop-Soup-Snoop Group Potato Soup  

Soup is good for spooning and sipping, and this creamy potato soup is worth jumping through a few hoops for, especially with its toppings of croutons, cheese, and bacon - and more, if you want.


1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into several pieces
1/4 cup chopped onion
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup croutons
1/2 cup minced green onion (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes, onion and water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot saucepan. Mash them with a potato masher.
3. Stir the milk into the mashed potatoes and return to medium heat, stirring, until the soup is well blended and hot, about 5 minutes. Taste and add slat and pepper as desired.
4. Put the cheese, bacon, and croutons, and, if you want, the green onion in spate bowls to accompany the soup

Makes 4 servings

Green Eggs and Ham  

If you, like Sam-I-am, also like green ages and ham, you will like these green guacamole eggs and green glazed ham-just try them. You can make the guacamole as mild or as spicy as you like. (If you don't want to cook a whole ham, try making a tablespoon or two of the glaze for a slice of ham.) You can also eat them here or there. You can heat them anywhere.

Ingredients for Ham:

1 Fully cooked and smoked ham, about 8-10 pounds
1 cup apple or mint apple jelly
3 medium tomatillos, husked and minced
1 cup minced cilantro leaves or 1/2 cup minced cilantro leaves and 1/2 cup minced parsley leaves

Ingredients for eggs:

4 ripe avocados
juice of 2-3 limes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white onion, minced (optional)
2 Serrano chilies, seeded and minced (optional)
4 ounces butter or 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or other light cooking oil, such as canola or sunflower
12 pasteurized eggs (pasteurization is necessary for safety when yolks aren't fully cooked)

Directions for Ham:

1. Heat the ham as directed by the package instructions. Let cool to almost room temperature, about 20 minutes.
2. Mix the apple jelly and the minced tomatillos together to make a glaze. Spread the ham all over with the glaze, except on the cut side.
3 Using your hands, gently pat the cilantro, and parsley, into the glaze until it is solid green.

Directions for Eggs:

1. Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. With a spoon, scoop the flesh out into a bowl. Mash it with a fork, then add the lime juice and salt and, if you want, the onions and chilies. Mix again.
2. In a large frying pan, melt the butter or heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, crack the eggs into the pan.
3. Cover the pan and cook until the yolk has a pale white film over it and is slightly to very firm.
4. With a spatula, gently slide the eggs onto plates or a serving platter.
5. Spoon the guacamole over each yolk, covering it. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 servings.

Editors Note: If you cannot find pasteurized eggs, simply cook the eggs fully and then top. This loses some of the effect, but ensures safety.

Next Post: 5 Great Winter Ales.