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How to Slow Roast a Turkey (Part I)

It’s that time of year again! THANKSGIVING!!! What a freaking awesome holiday, right? I mean, it involves food, booze, dessert, more food and more booze. Plus like family and friends and stuff. Did I mention dessert?

Last year I slow roasted a turkey and it freaking rocked my world. So I am going to repost the majority of that post below, including last year’s menu.

Happy Early Turkey Day!!!

Love,

Rachel

Last Year’s Thanksgiving Post Follows

The menu:

Nosching plate of cheese, prosciutto and dried figs.

Slow roasted Turkey

Mashed Potatoes

Moose sausage stuffing (OMG soooo good!) (cornbread stuffing with sauted onions/celery, garlic, fresh herbs, dried cranberries soaked in chicken broth, pecans, and moose sausage flown in all the way from Alaska. This stuff was crazy good.)

Roasted brussel sprouts and carrots

Gravy

Cranberry-Pomegranate Relish (fresh cranberries, whole orange, ground ginger and sugar blended in food processor, then add chopped pecans and pomegranate seeds. Let sit over night if possible).

Canned Cranberry (of course)

Dessert: Classic pumpkin pie, triple chocolate pumpkin pie, apple-cran pie with streusel topping and super gingery gingerbread. Yes, I realize there are as many desserts as people for dinner, but that was planned. How else would you do it? A post on desserts will happen in the future (hopefully).

Amelia and I spent the day in the kitchen on Thursday (after staying up late on Wednesday making multiple pies). Here is a photo journal of what we did that day:

1. Remove turkey from basting bag. Turkey had been sitting in brine with pepper corns, tons of salt, fresh herbs (sage, rosemary and thyme), onions and bay leaves. Rub turkey down with butter/salt/pepper mixture, stick 1 quartered onion into cavity, insert fresh herbs into turkey breast (make incision into breast and insert herbs), also insert herbs under the skin, directly onto the meat. Put into 220F degree oven breast-side down. Baste every hour or so. When bird is about 140F or 145F, flip right-side up. Remove once breast temperature reaches 155F – you may want to cook for last hour at 300F to get the skin a little darker, because the skin doesn’t crisp up at 220F. Let sit for 20 minutes before carving.

Slow roasting the turkey. A 16 pound bird took about 6.5 hours.

2. Take dog for a run. Dog chases and barks at squirrels.

Chloe, dreaming big.

3. Maturely talk about our Thanksgiving dish preferences.

Debate about whether stuffing gets roasted inside the bird or outside. Outside the bird won.

4. Indulge a little while cooking.

Simple math: Case of wine + friends + cheese = wonderful Turkey day.

5. Indulge a little more. Four types of cheese (a triple cream, cambozola, something soaked in wine whose name escapes me right now, and a mushroom brie) served with prosciutto and dried figs.

To nosch while cooking.

6. Maturely discuss whether we like our mashed potatoes lumpy or smooth.

Settling another debate…with brussel sprout stalk.

6. Baste the turkey a few times.

You want me to do what with this?

7. Check the turkey for doneness. Bird should be 155F. You can also make the gravy once the bird is out (which is what is happening in the background of the picture below). Most people check the temperature with a meat thermometer. Amelia chose to use the old-fashioned way, the face thermometer.

Wait, Amelia! Can’t eat the turkey until there’s gravy!

7. Torment the dog.

Chloe wants dark meat!

8. Admire your handiwork. You can see the slit in the breast where I stuffed the bird with rosemary, thyme and sage.

Turkey!

9. Carve the turkey.

Light or dark meat?

10. Admire your spread.

Dinner time!

11. Do whatever dorky/endearing traditions that your family requires. We all had to have first bites that included a little bit of everything, and we went around the table and said what we were thankful for. I am thankful for cranberry sauce! And you know… friends, family… etc…

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Gobble gobble,

Rachel

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Quest for Perfect Cookie Recipes Part I – Dulce de Leche

Quest for Perfect Cookie Recipes Part I – Dulce de Leche

Well, after my disappointment with NYC cookies, I decided to test out a bunch of cookie recipes until I find the best ones. This fits in well with procrastinating. So here is Part I.

Pass the cookies!

I made some oatmeal crispies. I got the recipe from a blogger that I super-respect. While these cookies were good, they were not awesome.  Until I tweak the recipe a little, I will not post it, because obviously I only want to be associated with cookies that will blow your freaking mind.

Mmmmm…. dulce de leche! That’s thick awesome caramel for those gringos who don’t speak Spanish.

Regardless, they are very pretty little cookies. Especially when made into little cookie sandwiches stuffed with homemade dulce de leche.

Nom nom nom!

I plan to tweak the oatmeal crispies recipe just a bit until I get something perfect. In the meantime, I will share my recipe (which I found on Pinterest) for homemade dulce de leche. Super easy. Yummy yummy yummy!

Oatmeal crispies with homemade dulce de leche!

(Obviously I couldn’t decide whether to use the flash or not.)

Dulce de Leche (Caramel)

Take a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Put can into slow cooker on low heat. Make sure the can is COMPLETELY submerged. Cook for 8 hours.

Then rinse under cool water and put into the fridge while still warm. The can needs to refrigerate for at least two hours to finalize the deliciousness-process (read: I don’t know what the importance of refrigerating the can is, but apparently it’s important).

Enjoy! Eat it with pretzels, with cookies, with apples… on a spoon…

With love,

Rachel

 

For Butter’s Sake! A lament for the lack of good pastries in NYC.

For Butter’s Sake! A lament for the lack of good pastries in NYC.

ARGH! Just freakin’ ARGH!!!

I have had it up to here (*holds hand above head*) with New York bakeries. Seriously. Fed. Up.

Have New Yorkers never tasted a good pastry? Is this because no one in NYC grows up with parents who bake cookies on the weekend or make real cakes from scratch? You’ve never eaten a pastry or frosting made with real butter? You want me to pay $3 for a cookie or $3.50 for a cupcake that barely can be called mediocre and thank you for it?!!? It’s a bakery that only makes cupcakes, so why did I think the cupcakes would actually be good?! Your cookies look gorgeous, so I buy one only to be sorely disappointed by the taste?!

I am ranting, I know and it’s because I am so OVER the New York thing where someone opens a shop that specializes in some darling trendy dessert, where the desserts look lovely, cost a small fortune and are NOT YUMMY! Either they don’t know that pastries can taste better, or they have no pride, or they think all NYC consumers are idiots. Whatever the reason, I am NOT PLEASED.

Ok, so this annoyance has been a long time brewing. I had been struggling to find a good cookie (my go-to when I have a sweet tooth). This cookie plight was recently elevated because cookies in Europe are nothing like American cookies, so after all summer in Europe, a chocolate chip cookie was all I could thing about.

Yes, I can and do make the world’s best chocolate chip peanut butter cookie at home, but if I can do it and it’s not that hard, why can’t a store that specializes in cookies do it?

Back to the story: I was in NYC and jonesing. I figured Magnolia Bakery, of cupcake fame, might have decent cookies, so I stop in. (Magnolia did have a very respectable oatmeal cookie, but their brown sugar cookie was lacking, possibly from too much baking soda.) While I was in there getting cookies, there were samples of a red velvet cupcake with “cream cheese” frosting.

Looks good right? Don’t be fooled.

I tried one and get this:
The frosting was made with shortening!!!

They were charging $3.50 for a tiny little cupcake made with shortening! Maybe there was a tiny bit of cream cheese in there with the frosting, but I know my frostings and I know that it was not made with real butter!! Are you kidding me, Magnolia? You pride yourself on deliciousness and you cannot use real butter? I should have said something to the guy working the counter about my disappointment, but I was too upset to talk rationally with the man.

How does Monica feel about low fat mayonnaise? “It’s NOT mayonnaise!” That’s how I feel about shortening: It’s NOT butter!

I have ranted about the need for making frosting with real butter before, but it obviously bares repeating: butter makes the best frosting. Butter has the same calories and fat content as shortening and tastes a million times better. Butter costs a little more than shortening but who cares? If you are charging $3.50 for a cupcake, you can afford to make it with real butter!!!!!!! If I am going to splurge some calories on a yummy dessert, it had better be yummy. Magnolia, have you no shame?!

This supreme annoyance at Magnolia Bakery has been smoldering for a while. This dessert-related angst resurfaced today when I went into Rocco’s bakery in the West Village to get a cookie. They have this display window laden with all sorts of heavenly-looking cookies that lure you in, thinking that anything that looks that lovely has got to taste good.

Another sneaky bakery that cannot be trusted.

I went in for the praline pecan cookie, but while I was waiting in line I was tempted to go for the trick-or-treat, a “caramel” cookie with bits of Twix in it. I asked the girl at the counter what she thought, and without hesitation she said the trick-or-treat.

I rue my decision to follow her advice. The cookie was subpar. Like Magnolia’s brown sugar cookie, it suffered from too much levening agent. The dough does not taste like caramel in the least, and the texture is meh.  It’s a little bland too, and while I cannot be certain, I don’t think it was made with real butter either because the darn cookie tastes fake. I know I made a last minute switch, but I doubt the pecan praline would have been good either.

And so, I am officially done with New York. How can it possibly call itself the best city in the world if far too many over-priced specialty stores cannot fathom the importance of cooking with real butter? If I overpay for one more mediocre pastry in the stupid city I am going to lose it! Like even more than writing-a-seven-page-rant-about-pastries losing it. It’s insulting to my intelligence, to my taste buds, to Julia Child, and to cookies all over the world.

Butter has been around for thousands of years (no joke). There is a reason: it is delicious. Do not accept substitutes! Gosh, New York!

For shame, New York specialty bakeries. For shame.

So, my dear readers, if you pass by Magnolia or Rocco, I suggest you skip it. And if you happen to know a place that makes awesome pastries, let me know. (But if you like Magnolia’s cupcakes, then we have different standards for pastries, so maybe keep your suggestion to yourself. Sorry for the snark, but I seriously am doubting the New Yorker’s ability to discriminate between what is good and what is expensive). Thanks for tolerating my rant. Or maybe you stopped reading 7 minutes ago.

Teetering on the edge,
Rachel

Munich is for Eaters. And Drinkers.

Munich is for Eaters. And Drinkers.

Munich is only a four-hour drive from Vienna. So, when a dear college friend of mine was coming to Vienna, I thought, Munich would be a lovely weekend trip (especially because its only another 90 minutes from Salzburg, where they filmed the Sound of Music – more on that later).

Munich is pretty small. The architecture is lovely. There are one or two interesting museums. But where Munich really shines for me: the victuals and beverages. Upon immediately getting of the subway in downtown music we saw the awesome Cathedral above. And then I spotted the Haribo Gummy Candy Cart!!! I am such a sucker for anything gummy.

Haribo Gummy Candy Cart! Are you freaking kidding me?!?

I managed to walk away from the gummy cart without buying anything, only to turn around and find myself in front Rischart – a truly phenomenal bakery.

Oh, yeah, they had some cakes too.

Chocolate and cherries and apples, oh my!

After a little snack-y-poo at the bakery (with fresh plums!), we went to a modern art museum, and then felt it was time for lunch. So we walked for what felt like ages until we arrived at a beer garden located within Munich’s ginormous and lovely English Garden.

Being famished and thirsty, we had some Weissbier.

Weissbier in the Biergarten.

Molly got the first round. I got the second round.

I am not much of a beer drinker. I usually prefer wine. But this Weissbier is AWESOME. It’s all the flavors and things I like about beer, but none of the things I don’t. It’s not filtered, so it’s super flavorful, but it’s not bitter at all. Not too hoppy. Super cold. Doesn’t leave you feeling bloated, only refreshed. I may have drank a whole liter of Weissbier at this meal, which is quite a lot of beer for someone who doesn’t consider herself a beer drinker. (Probably didn’t hurt that I was very thirsty and quite hot).

Of course, at the Biergarten, we had some brat with kraut and mustard, a side of french fries and some awesome country-style kartoffelen (potatoes). Yum yum yum. So simple, yet so unbelievably good.

After lunch, we did a little shopping at an European clothing store you have probably never heard of, H & M, because who shops in stores that are available in America when they are in Europe? Oh wait….

Saw some more buildings and things…

This building is HUGE. And only part of its hugeness is captured by my picture.

It was about time for another meal here (are you noticing a pattern?), so we went to Lonely Planet’s top pick for beer halls in Munich, Augustiner Bräustuben. We were not disappointed.

Locals and tourists alike gathered around large rustic wooden tables, drinking tankards of beer and eating a variety of meat straight off the bone. Waiters wore Lederhosen and waitresses wore Dirndl (think Saint Paulie’s girls…). In fact, some guests were wearing their traditional bavarian attire, as well, because there is a great deal of Bavarian pride. And rightfully so. The food and beer were great. It was the kind of food where there are no fancy bells and whistles; it’s basic stuff done just perfectly. It’s the type of food that one might expect a soldier to eat before going to battle to pillage some villages. And the beer is what you would expect that soldier to drink upon return to celebrate his victory.

Molly had the pork knuckle. It was awesome.

I ordered the Bavarian mixed plate. It did not disappoint.

With a meatball, some pork saddle, a dumpling and mushrooms in a delightful gravy.

Later that evening, we waddled back to our hotel to dream about gummy candies, incredible bakeries, pork products and beer. Two days later, I decided to sign up for a half-marathon to undo some of the damage. But man, do the Bavarians know how to feed their people!

Miscellaneous Viennese Things

I’m in Europe – on a quasi vacay. So my blogging has been put the wayside. Forgive me. Here is a smattering of Viennese things that I have been enjoying. I am too tired from a day of sightseeing to write a funny story about it, so why don’t you just pretend I’ve written something hilarious and chuckle out loud to yourself on occasion? Great. Thanks!

Mit Liebe,

Rachel

Sacher Torte: A intensely rich, dense chocolate cake, covered with a layer of chocolate ganache, and with a middle layer of apricot jam. Served with an espresso and a bit of schlagobers (whipped cream), this cake is not to be missed.

 

Austrian Gulasch: Unlike Hungarian Gulasch which is a mixture of meat and hearty vegetables, Austrian Gulasch is a thick stew of just beef. Then they add this massive bread dumpling (yum) and a fried egg (in case you hadn’t gotten enough protein from the whole cow served up in a bowl of yummy gravy). Solid, though I might prefer the Hungarian dish to the Austrian preparation. After a cold day though, this really hit the spot.

 

The gardens at Schonbrunn Palace will blow your freaking mind. Aside from being gorgeous, entrance to the gardens is free. This is where I am training for my upcoming half-marathon because the grounds are extensive, and great for running because everything is covered in tiny pebbles, not cement.

 

More of Schonbrunn gardens. That is the “little gazebo” built out behind the palace. And it’s own reflecting pond. Running here totally beats running on a treadmill (or running pretty much anywhere else in the world, for that matter).

 

Pelicans at Schonbrunn Zoo. Yep, that’s right – the oldest zoo in Europe – possibly the WORLD! This zoo is on the pricey side (15Euro) but sooooo worth it. Bring a sack lunch and spend the whole day.

That is a sealion, jumping completely out of the water to grab a fish from the zookeeper’s hand. Also at Schonbrunn Zoo. The show was incredible.

 

 

 

It’s about time… for SCHNITZEL!!!

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It’s about time… for SCHNITZEL!!!

I have been in Vienna for over a month now, and somehow I have not written anything about schnitzel?!? How did that happen??!?

Nom nom nom!

Schnitzel is probably the most famous food to come from Austria, next to apple strudel (since, you know, both of them are mentioned in the Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things”). I already talked about strudel, so it is time to show schnitzel some lovin.’ And I love me some good schnitzel.

So when a friend of a friend (Hi Tony! Hi Nate!) was visiting town, I figured it was as good a time as any have a night out at one of the most famous schnitzel places in Vienna: Figlmüller. This place hasn’t changed since 1905! They only serve authentic Viennese food. They don’t even serve beer because it was originally a wine house. Also, I am glad it hasn’t changed in over a century – look how freaking classically awesome it is:

Check out that chandelier. For realz, yo?

Just charming.

And check out this link that explains how they make the schnitzel. It even has a picture of where the meat comes from on the pig.

Now, lots of people make schnitzel in Austria. Duh. But it’s difficult to find a really nice schnitzel – it can be a bland and dry, despite the fact that it’s fried up and oily. Not great. But the schnitzel at Figlmuller is awesome. And serve with their traditional Austria potato salad (I MUST learn how to make this), and some Austrian coleslaw, this schnitzel will blow your mind. Plus, one schnitzel is big enough for two people.  If you order it, make sure you ask for some currant jelly to go with it (it’s kinda like cranberry sauce – yum).

At some point, I will attempt to make schnitzel on my own. But maybe back in the US where I have all my kitchen tools. And it’s not 100 degrees in my tiny little kitchen in my small apartment that lacks air conditioning. We saw what happened last time I tried cooking in the heat in my apartment. Until then, enjoy thinking about eating this:

Nom nom nom! Again!

Jealous? I am jealous of past Rachel that got to eat this and didn’t leave anything for future Rachel.

Mit Liebe,

Rachel

Well, this is embarrassing…

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Well, this is embarrassing…

I set out this summer to learn how to make yummy Austrian food. I bought an Austrian cookbook even.

First on my list to make: Linzer Torte. A sweet, nutty pastry crust, almost a shortbread, holds a layer of tangy current jam, covered by a criss-cross of more pastry, sprinkled with sliced almonds and powdered sugar. Sounds good, no?

Though I have not actually tried one, I know what sounds yummy when I hear it, so I figured that I am decent enough baker to undertake this task.

In my head, the results would look like this:Image

Being that I am subletting an apartment for the summer, I forgot about all the loops that one must jump through when learning to bake in a foreign land. Do I have the correct pots? When can I buy ground almonds? How do I say ground almonds? What is the cooking temperature in Celcius? Is the oven I am using true to temperature, or is it off a little bit? Will the fact that I am making a pastry when it’s 90 degrees in my apartment with no air conditioning affect the outcome?

I pondered these all quickly and threw caution to the wind. I mean, how hard could it be, right? It’s like a pie, and I have made about a million pies. No biggy.

Boy was I wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I couldn’t find ground almonds, so I figured I would hand chop mine until they were very fine. I got them pretty small, but never the same texture as buying ground.

I didn’t let the dough chill enough because my refrigerator here was actually pretty spotty on the day.

I swore that I had seen a 9 inch spring form pan in the apartment, but in reality, I had only seen the bottom portion of the spring form pan, but the sides were no where to be found. So I used an 11″ tart pan that had seen better days.

I converted the degrees on the Internet, but this oven is an electric convection oven that is warmer/faster than my oven at home.

I was sweating buckets (not into the dough, mind you). The dough wasn’t properly chilled. The pan was too big. The almonds were too course. This porridge is too hot! That porridge is too cold! Wait… wrong story.

Anyway, when the evening was over, this is what I had made:

NAILED IT!

At least she tasted good. I doubt she tasted how real linzer torte is supposed to taste, but still, the butter, nuts and jam, it’s hard to go wrong.

I know this picture is going to be all over Pinterest any minute now for being so lovely.

They say it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? Well, let this be a lesson to those 4 people who read my blog: sometimes even bloggers make mistakes. Shocking, I know. I still haven’t bought the correct pan, but when I do, I will try again. Maybe it will be better next time. Maybe I will redeem myself. And maybe not. I guess that’s part of life’s journey.

Yum, right?

Like how I turned this into some greater life lesson even though in reality it was me failing abysmally in the kitchen and throwing a small tantrum?

Mit Liebe,

Rachel