11/10/17 Turkey Brine

3 cups apple juice or apple cider
2 gallons cold water
4 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cup Kosher salt
2 cups brown sugar
3 tablespoons peppercorns
5 whole bay leaves
Peel of 3 large oranges
Choice of other items for the cavity of the turkey such as roughly cut celery, oranges, other fruits, and chopped herbs.
Combine all ingredients in a large pot.  Stir until salt and sugar dissolve.  Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover.  Allow to cool completely.
Ensure that  the giblet bag and extra fat or organs are cleaned out of the neck and the cavity.  Fill the bird’s cavity with the roughly chopped oranges, celery and herbs from the brine.  You can also inject the bird with the brine liquid – that will add moisture to the meat, especially the breast.
Place the turkey in a large plastic bag, put the bag into a tub and pour the cooled brining solution into the bag.  Seal the bag and put the tub with the bag/turkey into refrigeration for 16-24 hours.
When ready to roast the turkey, remove it from the brine.  Submerge turkey in a pot or sink of fresh, cold water.  Allow to sit in clean water for 15 minutes to remove excess salt from the outside.  Discard the brine.   Remove turkey from clean water, pat dry, and cook according to your normal roasting method.

Bacon & Swiss Chicken Sandwiches

¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
4 boneless skinless chicken breast portions (4 oz each)
½ teaspoon McCormick’s Montreal steak seasoning
4 slices Swiss cheese
4 whole wheat hamburger buns, split
2 bacon strips, cooked & crumbled
Lettuce leaves (optional)
Tomato slices (optional)

In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, mustard and honey.  Pound chicken with a meat mallet to ½ inch thickness.  Sprinkle chicken with steak seasoning.
Preheat grill to medium heat.  Lightly oil grill grate to prevent sticking.  Grill the chicken, covered, for 4-6 minutes on each side or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.  Top with the cheese during the last minute of cooking to melt it.
Grill buns over medium heat, cut side down, for 30-60 seconds or until toasted (or toast in toaster oven or toaster).  Serve chicken on buns with bacon, mayonnaise mixture and, if desired lettuce and tomato.
Serves 4
From prep to table 30 minutes

Feta Cheese Stuffed Turkey Burger

¼ cup finely chopped red onion
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground turkey
6 tablespoons (1.5 oz) crumbled feta cheese
cooking spray
¼ cup grated English cucumber
¼ cup plain fat free yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
4 slices tomato (optional)
4 green leaf lettuce leaves (optional)
4 Kaiser rolls or hamburger buns

Combine red onion, oregano, lemon rind, salt, ground black pepper and ground turkey.  Divide mixture into four portions.  Indent center of each portion; place 1.5 tablespoons feta into each.  Fold turkey mixture around cheese; shape each portion into a ½ inch thick patty.
Heat grill pan over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add patties; cook 5 minutes on each side or until turkey is done and not pink any longer.
Combine cucumber, yogurt, and mint in a small bowl.  Arrange 1 turkey patty, 1 tomato slice, 1 lettuce leaf, and 2 tablespoons yogurt mixture on bottom half of each roll.  Top with top halves of rolls.
Serves 4

Beer-Brined Barbecue Chicken

3 12 oz cans amber or bock beer
1/3 cup + kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons hot sauce
4 bay leaves
6 pounds asst skin-on bone-in chicken pieces – or two whole chickens, cut up
Juice of 2 large oranges
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sc
1 tablespoon chili powder
vegetable oil for grill grate

Brine the chicken: combine 1 can beer, salt, granulated sugar, hot sauce and bay leaves in a very large bowl and whisk until the salt and sugar dissolve.  Add the remaining 2 cans of beer, 4 cups water, and the chicken.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Make the barbeque sauce: combine the orange juice, vinegar, onion, garlic, ketchup, brown sugar, honey, Worcestershire sauce and chili powder in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly, then puree in a blender until smooth (the sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate).
Preheat a grill to medium low heat and brush the grates with the vegetable oil to prevent sticking.  Remove  the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels; discard the brine.  Lightly season the chicken with salt, then arrange on the grill skin-side up.  Cover and cook until marked, about 12 minutes per side. Continue cooking, flipping and basting the chicken with the bbq sauce every 3 to 4 minutes (keep covered in between), until a thermometer inserted into the center of a breast registers 165 degrees F, about 15 more minutes.  Transfer to a plate and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Serves 8
Prep and cook time 1 hour – overnight brine time

Butterflying a Whole Chicken (Spatchcock)

A whole chicken grills so much quicker and the meat cooks evenly if it is butterflied and lies flat on the grill.  Following are instructions on how to do this.  Or you can have one of Mert’s meat cutters butterfly it before you leave the store.

Step 1: Remove neck and giblets from the cavity of the whole chicken.

Step 2: Place the chicken on a cutting board breast-side-down.  Working from the cavity opening up to the neck, cut down each side of the back bone with a pair of kitchen shears. Discard the backbone.  Grab the chicken with one breast in each hand and open it like a book, exposing the cavity of the bird. The breast bones should crack a bit – that’s totally normal.

Step 3: Running from the middle of the bird down between the two legs is a soft bone – this is the breast bone.  It’s a triangular shape that is firm towards the middle of the bird and becomes softer cartilage as it tapers down between the legs.  To remove it, use a paring knife to cut down either side of it.

Step 4: Once you’ve cut it free, use your fingers to simply pull out the breast bone.  Discard the bone.

Chicken Pesto Roll-Ups

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
½ cup Pure Harvest fresh Basil or Sun Dried pesto, divided
1 pound medium fresh mushrooms, sliced
4 slices provolone cheese, halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Pound chicken breasts with a meat mallet to ¼ inch thickness.  Spread ¼ cup pesto over the chicken breast fillets.
Coarsely chop half of the sliced mushrooms; scatter remaining sliced mushrooms in a 15x10x1” baking pan coated with cooking spray.  Top each chicken breast with a fourth of the chopped mushrooms and a halved cheese slice.  Roll up chicken from a short side; secure with toothpicks.  Place seam side down on top of the bed of sliced mushrooms.
Bake, covered, until chicken is no longer pink, 25-30 minutes.  Preheat broiler; top chicken with remaining pesto and remaining cheese.  Broil until cheese is melted and browned, 3-5 minutes longer.  Discard toothpicks.
Great served with warm fresh bread and fruit salad.
Serves 4
From prep to table 45 minutes

Shirley’s Cajun & Panko Chicken Breast Sandwich Fillet

chicken breast  halves
cajun seasoning
panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
eggs, beaten
cooking oil/olive oil – 3 to 1 oil to olive oil

Remove excess fat and tendon from chicken breast half.  Fillet chicken breast into three slices.  Put cajun season, panko bread crumbs and beaten eggs in separate shallow dishes.  Coat chicken breast with cajun season.  Dip coated chicken breast in beaten egg – let excess drip off.  Coat cajun/egg breast with panko bread crumbs.  Do the same for all fillets.
Heat 1/8 inch or less oil in heavy skillet until bead of water evaporates.  Fry chicken fillet on first side for 4-5 minutes or until brown.  Turn over and finish browning on the second side until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.  Fillet should be crispy on both sides.  Prepare sliced bun with favorite condiments and/or vegetables.

Chicken Breast with Dijon Sauce

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning or freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup half & half creamer
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon grated lemon peel (optional)

Sprinkle chicken with salt and lemon-pepper seasoning or ground black pepper.  Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat.  Add chicken; cook 5 minutes on each side.
Reduce heat; cover and cook about 10 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender and juices run clear.  Place on serving platter; cover to keep warm.
In small container with tight fitting lid, combine broth, half & half, flour, mustard and honey; shake well (ingredients could be whisked in a tall bowl instead).  Pour into skillet; cook over medium heat until mixture is smooth and bubbly, stirring constantly.  Stir in lemon peel.  Spoon part of sauce over chicken; serve with remaining sauce.
Serves 4
From prep to table 40 minutes

Spicy Chicken Chili

½ lb ground chicken (or diced cooked chicken)
¼ cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15 oz) can spicy chili beans, undrained
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 teaspoon chili powder
In a large saucepan, combine ground chicken, onion and garlic; cook 5 to 8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, stirring frequently. Drain grease.
Stir in all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serves 2
From prep to table (using ground chicken) 30 minutes

11/11/16 About Cooking Fresh Turkeys

About Cooking a Fresh Thanksgiving Turkey

We get questions every day about cooking a fresh turkey versus a frozen turkey. There is a huge difference between a frozen turkey and a fresh turkey, both in quality and in price, but there isn’t much difference in cooking a fresh turkey and a frozen (thawed before cooking) turkey. Following is an easy “recipe” for cooking a plain fresh turkey. We’ll leave the fixin’s to you.

Remove the giblet pack from the neck cavity. To add a lot of flavor to your gravy, add the giblets and cook thoroughly.
Wash the turkey cavity and the outside of the bird – pat dry.
Allow the turkey to get to room temperature.
If you are stuffing the turkey – always stuff it loosely – about 1/2 to 3/4 cups of stuffing per pound of turkey in the cavity. Tie the drumsticks together if you are using stuffing.
Spread unmelted butter under the skin, next to the flesh of the turkey. Gently pull the skin away from the meat and find areas that you can get to the meat to spread the unmelted butter. (Best to use salted butter for this task.) You can add flavorings to the butter if you wish – mix the room temperature butter with your favorite spices or herbs before spreading under the skin. You can also add sliced mushrooms to the mixture.
Brush the skin with melted butter. If you use spices or herbs to the butter for under the skin, we suggest that you put the same herbs or spices in your melted butter.
Now is the time to make a decision on whether you want a beautiful turkey or a delicous, moist turkey. If you want a beautiful turkey, you will cook it breast up (whatever part is up will brown while cooking). If you want a delicious, moist turkey, you will cook it breast down (cooking with the breast down will allow the juices that naturally flow with gravity to flow into the breast, keeping it moist).
Preheat your oven no more than 300 to 325 degrees F. Remember that low and slow is the preferred method to cooking most meats in the oven.
Place the bird on a rack (you don’t want it resting in the liquid that it will create while cooking) in a roasting pan and into the preheated oven. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The thermometer should point towards the body and should not touch the bone.
Bake until the skin is a light golden color and then cover loosely with a foil tent. During the last 45 minutes of baking, remove the foil tent to brown the skin. Basting is not necessary, but helps promote even browning. Use melted butter if you want to baste.
All turkeys will cook much faster if you don’t stuff it. So if you have a deadline, then you can cook the stuffing in a casserole dish and that will speed up the process of cooking the bird.
The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F at the thigh.
Most turkey labels have a cooking time chart. Mert’s suggests the following chart be considered, but always use a meat thermometer to determine whether your turkey is cooked sufficiently.
10 to 18 pounds unstuffed 3.5 to 4 hours stuffed 4.5 to 5 hours
18 to 22 pounds unstuffed 4 to 4.5 hours stuffed 5 to 5.5 hours
22 to 24 pounds unstuffed 4.5 to 5 hours stuffed 5.5 to 6 hours
24 to 29 pounds unstuffed 5.5 to 6 hours stuffed 6.25 to 6.75 hours
Allow the turkey to rest for at least 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

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