Posts from the ‘Holidays’ Category
If you are laboring to figure out which is the best wine to serve with your roasted turkey and looking for a little direction, let us help you with a few simple and less dogmatic pointers about what to consider and what not to worry about before you delve into the world of ratings, scores and blog advice.
How to Choose Wine for Your Holiday Table
Wine Dinner or Holiday Dinner
Unless your holiday meal is just a festive backdrop for a gathering of wine enthusiasts intent on testing your wine acumen, there really is no best single wine per se. Second, if your family and friends find their way to your table every year because your menu and cooking are the main attraction, let the wine share the same purpose and status as a good side dish. Save buying or pulling out the best bottles for dinners that are intended to be about the wine as much if not more than the food.
A Veritable Feast for the Senses
If you build your dinner around the bird like the rest of us, with all the fruits of your labor laid out at one time, your holiday spread is likely a feast of tantalizing aromas and tastes, not to mention textures and temperatures all begging and worthy of attention. Forget about the turkey for a minute, because almost any wine, save for a few overpowering reds, will go nicely with it. Think instead Read more
We love turkey. We also love chicken. And, naturally, our love for all things duck is hardly in question. If you love these beautiful, bountiful birds as much as we do, why not have all three at once? That’s right, we’re talking about turducken, that gorgeous – and some say egregious – Cajun concoction made from a stuffed, deboned chicken inside a stuffed, deboned duck inside a stuffed, mostly deboned turkey (the wings and legs stay on the outside of the third bird, for presentation’s sake), roasted in toto, like a loaf. When properly prepared, cooked and carved, you get three delicious birds, three stuffings, no bones, all together in a single slice on your plate, smothered in spicy gravy. Magical.
All About Turducken
Today, turducken has become a Thanksgiving treat for many Americans, and more than a handful of hungry foreigners, and most people who know a thing or two about food recognize what you’re talking about when you mention the beloved turducken. This, however, was not always the case. Stories of the tri-bird roast’s origins vary, though everyone will concede that it was invented by Cajun folk in south Louisiana. The most popular theory is that the dish was invented at Hebert’s Specialty Meats in Maurice, Louisiana around 1985, when a local farmer brought in three birds and asked the butchers there to go ahead and debone them and stuff, stuff, stuff. But the big turn of the tide in turducken popularity surely came about in 1997 because of sports commentator John Madden, of all people, who was given the roast by the kind folks at the Gourmet Butcher Block in Gretna, Louisiana. His love for the dish was so deep that Madden wound up on air talking more about the turducken than about the football game. And, since American football fans are known to have a deep appreciation for all things meaty, the turducken’s star began its steep ascent.
No, John Madden did not invent the turducken. Nor did Hebert’s in Maurice, not really. The idea of stuffing one animal into another and roasting them all together has been around as far back as ancient Rome. During the middle ages, overeager lords would have their royal kitchen staff shove as many beasts inside each other as they could, for the sheer entertainment value of it all. In his 1807 Almanach des Gourmands, gastronomist Grimod de La Reynière documented his rôti sans pareil (“roast without equal”), a bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, apheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a woodcock, a partridge, a plover, alapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an ortolan, and a garden warbler. The turducken seems positively humble in comparison. Over the centuries, these kinds of dishes became known as “Russian doll roasts,” after the famous Matryoshka nesting dolls.
Looking to make your own turducken? A wise choice, if not an easy one. You can easily find three excellent birds here at D’Artagnan, as well as the sausage you’ll need for the spicy, meat-filled stuffing (the other two usually being cornbread and an oyster dressing), although deboning three birds in a manner that makes them easy enough to stuff with stuffing and then into each other requires some serious knife and poultry mastery. We recommend taking your birds to a professional for this task, as did that unknown farmer in Maurice all those years ago. Feel free to play around with your ingredients: try using bacon in the stuffing, experimenting with different types of sausages, or employing flecks of shaved truffles for a real gourmet kick. And, if that doesn’t satisfy your ambitions, you can always buy a small pig and create what’s known as the fowl de cochon, which is, you guessed it: a turducken stuffed into a deboned swine, which will feed about thirty people. Now that, friends, is some delicious ambition.
Here is an easy, straightforward method good for oven roasting a perfect capon for the holidays, or anytime you want to serve this fabulous bird. The method works for birds whether or not stuffed with dressing. Truss the capon first, as it will make turning the bird easier and help prevent the skin from tearing at the joints in the process. It is also a good method for roasting other large chickens.
The Holiday Capon Part 2
Two Stage Roasting
Roasting begins on the lower middle oven rack in a preheated 450°F oven, then 30 minutes into the roasting the heat is reduced to 350°F for the remainder of the cooking time. This jump-starts the browning process and sears the meat, sealing in precious juices. As mentioned, you turn the bird a few times in the process, and baste every 10 or 15 minutes. Rub the capon with our pure, renderedduck fat, lightly softened before gently ‘massaging’ it into the skin. Season the capon with a good salt and freshly ground pepper before putting it in the oven, and baste with melted duck fat until the bird creates enough of its own pan juices for basting.
If you are using an x-shaped rack, you can start the bird breast down for about 15 minutes. Then turn the bird on one side for 20 minutes, then onto its other side for 20 minutes. After that, turn the bird breast up and finish roasting. You can easily coordinate this with your basting. If you use a flat rack, forget about starting breast down, and instead start roasting on one side, then turn onto the other, giving each side an extra five minutes, and finish roasting breast up.
For a 7- pound capon, this should take about 1-1/2 hours. Use a quick read meat thermometer to test the internal temperature for doneness. Transfer it Read more
Here’s a super easy recipe to add to your holiday repertoire – Garlicky Truffle Butter Mashed Potatoes. Last week we gave you the recipe for garlic confit, an indispensable French pantry staple, and talked about the importance of truffle butter. Now we’re bringing it all together in an easy yet impressive recipe. If you’re feeling “extra rich,” as Ariane likes to say, add a flurry of paper thin slices of fresh white truffle upon serving, and watch your guests’ jaws drop.
Trussing is a means of binding a bird before cooking, to hold the wings and legs close to the body. This gives the bird a compact shape, often enhancing the symmetry in the process; and making for more even cooking, a beautiful presentation, and simplified carving. Some recipes call for turning a bird during roasting which is also much easier when trussed, and it will help prevent tearing the skin at the joints in the process. Of course, a full trussing will also help to hold in the dressing when a bird is stuffed.
No matter what method you choose, it is always a good idea to truss a bird – pure and simple. The only real exception would be if you plan to butterfly or spatchcock it before cooking. Untrussed legs on a whole bird may gape away from the body or even fall off, while the drumstick and wings stick up and dry out… Need we say more?
What’s Good for the Goose…
As with many cooking techniques, there are several types and styles of trussing, some suited to particular types of fowl. Since turkeys, capons and chickens share similar physical attributes, the same types of trussing and roasting methods will do for all of them. Geese and ducks on the other hand, have a narrower body and thicker skin with an abundance of good fat, which requires different trussing and roasting altogether. Smaller birds the likes of game hens and squabs need trussing only enough to bind the legs.
First Things First
Regardless of the technique you choose, a few things need doing beforehand. First, remove the neck and gizzards and reserve for making stock or perhaps as ingredients for your stuffing. Next, take a good look at the shape of the bird. Trussing will give you an opportunity to slightly cinch up the Read more
If you are considering an intimate holiday for two, or even a dinner party of six, and in a quandary about the practicality of a full on turkey versus stuffed chicken to stand-in for a celebrity bird, there is no need to fret any further, because we have the perfect solution. Forget about those two this holiday, and do something truly special and better scaled to your needs, by oven roasting a capon.
The Holiday Capon (Part 1)
Smaller than a Turkey – Bigger than a Basic Chicken
If you are not familiar with this hefty bird, do not think for a minute that a capon is a compromise you have to make because you are not feeding a small army. Quite the contrary, these extraordinary birds are raised exclusively to be a culinary treat of the highest order. Plump breasted with prized, white flesh wonderfully marbled with fat; capons are destined for greatness and can easily carry any holiday feast. It can be especially gratifying for the cook, as this is not a bird upstaged by any dressing or side dish. When you are lucky enough to have the pleasure of eating an oven-roasted capon, you will find the meat distinctively flavorful, lusciously rich and moist, and tender beyond belief. So much so, that this could be the start of a new tradition. At the very least, you will not want to wait another whole year before enjoying one again.
The News Just Keeps Getting Better
Another beauty is that there is no elaborate recipe, complex technique, or special handling required. Fill this bird with your favorite dressing, or season the cavity with a good sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and truss it. After, you just rub it with softened, rendered duck fat, salt and pepper the skin and oven roast, similarly to roasting a large chicken. You might even want to try on some new cooking methods to go with your new bird. In the Gascon countryside, capons are the traditional Sunday Chicken cooked as Poule au pot – slowly poached in a pot of vegetables and rich stock, and stuffed with a delicious soft dressing. Here are links to two of our favorite capon recipes.
The Well Trussed Capon
When roasting a capon for your holiday meal, truss it much the same as you would a turkey or a chicken. Remove the wishbone, and bind the bird so that its drumsticks rest nicely in place against the tip of the breastbone, with the wing tips folded back neatly beneath the shoulders. It will make for a beautiful shape, cook more evenly and be easier to carve. This is especially brilliant because capons are the perfect bird to carve at the table. Large enough to be grand, they make for an impressive entrance, yet they are small enough to manage easily. Use the links below to learn how to quick roast the perfect capon, and remove the wishbone before trussing.
In our third installment of Talking Turkey with Ariane, she’s sharing her favorite recipes for impressive yet easy Thanksgiving side dishes, like creamy and rich truffle mashed potatoes, Wild Boar and Apple Stuffing and Harvest Bisque Soup with Smoked Duck Breast.
If have the good fortune of a temperate climate, or are intrepid and adventurous enough to brave the elements, grilling can be a much more than just a novel way to prepare your holiday bird. Grilling aficionados will tell you “Where there’s smoke, there’s flavor!” and grilling one of our organic free-range turkeys or all natural turkey breasts is no exception.
Grilling Your Holiday Turkey
You can use the rack to roast a butterflied turkey, flattened halves or a breast; and a kettle barbeque will allow you to use a roasting pan to cook a traditionally intact bird. Add the science of seasoned brines, and a myriad of marinades, spice rubs, and BBQ sauces to the mix, and you may never throw a bird in the oven again. These wonderful preparatory techniques enhance the succulence of your bird, with a spectrum of flavor bases that run from the sublime to the wow. Remember too, one huge bonus is that grilling will also free up precious oven space.
Get to Play with Fire
There are a few considerations before grilling a big bird. For instance, it will take more than a humble pair of tongs to flip a butterflied turkey, and comparatively speaking summer steaks, plump chicken, and sausages all grill relatively quickly. Even a small turkey calls for a substantially longer Read more