Potato and leek soup--pure comfort food! This classic French soup has a place in any kitchen--easy-to-find ingredients and mild flavors--perfect for a chilly Sunday afternoon. Or a quick weekday meal--pair it with crusty bread and curl up with a blanket!
Leeks look like really big green onions, and are a very mild and flavorful member of the same plant family. I put the lemon in the photo to help show how big leeks can really be! I've seen them in a variety of sizes, so I think a measurement of the quantity of "sliced/chopped leek" is more accurate than "one leek". Leeks are often used in soups and other dishes where their mild flavor is treasured.
Leeks sometimes pose a challenge to clean, as they often have dirt packed firmly in the leaves. This is because during the growing process, dirt is piled up around the leek plants to help develop more of the tender white part. That just means that you need to be careful about washing. The white and light green parts are most commonly used, so the green fibrous leaves can be peeled back during slicing and any dirt rinsed away.
It's always a good idea, though, to put sliced leeks in a colander and rinse them well before cooking.
Lazy man's trick--you can measure multiple items in the same measuring cup if it is big enough to "add to". Here the diced onions were measured, then the diced leeks added to them. Less dishes to wash!
Saute the onions and leeks in the butter until the vegetables are tender.
Then add the potatoes and chicken broth, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender.
Add the half and half or heavy cream, then stir in the Ultra Gel® gradually with a wire whisk. Continue heating at a low heat to serving temperature. Keep a close eye on it--it will scorch easily!
If you want the soup thicker, add more Ultra Gel®, a tablespoon at a time. If you want it thinner, add more chicken broth or half and half.
You can serve it "chunky", or use a hand-held blender to smooth it into a silky smooth creamy puree that soothes both the stomach and the soul.
Best Potato and Pork (or Chicken) Sheet Pan Meal
So--I've always kind of wondered about what the big deal was with sheet pan meals? I mean, meat and veggies roasted together on the same baking sheet. And it seemed risky to me--What if things didn't get done at the same time? Who loves limp, lifeless veggies and underdone meat? Seemed like scary business.
But then I spent a substantial amount of time on roasted potatoesfor a recent post and kind of got my head around roasted veggies. . And they . . are. . .SOOOO. . . GOOD!!! And the really good thing is--cook's secret here--while they roast, you can do something else!! And suddenly I got it--time to greet guests--or make a salad--or set the table. While your dinner is merrily roasting away. And it can go straight from the oven to the table on the baking sheet if you like a "cottage" style meal.
I recently served this Potato and Pork Sheet Pan Meal for a Sunday evening group of 6 adults and 4 kids. I made one pan just as the recipe says, and another that was 1 1/2 of the recipe. So in theory there should have been ten servings. I served it with a simple fruit salad, and everyone had their fill with about a quarter of a sheet pan remaining. As we sat at the table and talked at the conclusion of the main course, forks leisurely picked away at one piece of roasted goodness after the other, until every single piece was gone--and everyone was wonderfully stuffed. Easy ingredients, easy to prepare ahead, and easy cleanup. I get it!
6 c. raw potatoes, preferably red or yellow, unpeeled and cut in 1" dice
2 T. Ultra Gel® Ranch Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix
1 T. vegetable oil
1 lb. pork loin, chicken breast, or other TENDER meat cut cut in 1 1/2" dice
1 T. Ultra Gel® Ranch Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix
1 T. vegetable oil
1-2 c. onion or shallot pieces, large dice
4 c. firm zucchini squash, sliced about 1/3" thick
1 T. Ultra Gel Ranch Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix
1 t. chili flakes (optional)
1 T. vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Wash and cube 6 c. potatoes.
Immediately toss with 1 T. Ultra Gel® Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix. The moisture left on the vegetables and will combine with the Ultra Gel® in the Salad Dressing and Seasoning mix to create a nicely seasoned coating that will crisp up during roasting.
Add 2 T. oil and toss to distribute evenly.
Spread out on a half sheet pan (12" x 18") or other shallow baking pan. Line with foil if you wish.
Trim the meat and cut into 1" cubes.
Immediately toss with 1 T. Ultra Gel® Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix.
Add 1 T. oil and toss to distribute the oil evenly on the meat.
Add to the potatoes on the baking sheet.
Sprinkle the onion or shallot pieces across the baking sheet.
Put the baking sheet in the hot oven and set a timer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the zucchini by slicing, tossing in 1 T. Ultra Gel® Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix with chili flakes, then in 1 T. oil.
When the mixture in the oven has cooked twenty minutes, add the zucchini and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Check to make sure veggies are tender and meat is no longer pink (ovens vary substantially!)
Wash the potatoes and cut into generous cubes. Sprinkle with 1 T. Ultra Gel® Ranch Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix and shake to evenly distribute. It's important that the vegetables are still moist, as it will allow the seasoning to adhere, creating a flavorful starch coating that will provide crispness as well as flavor. I like the visual effect of yellow and red potatoes, and I've even substituted sweet potatoes with really yummy results!
Add 2 T. vegetable oil, and shake the bowl of potatoes until the oil is evenly distributed. Pour the potatoes out onto a half sheet pan or other shallow baking tray.
Prepare the meat by removing visible fat, then cutting into cubes.
For ease, you can use the same bowl you used for the potatoes. Toss the meat cubes with 1 T. Ultra Gel® Ranch Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix, then with 1 T. oil., then add them to the baking tray. Tuck the pieces of onions or shallots in among the meat and potatoes
Roast for twenty minutes in a hot 450 degree oven. Prepare the zucchini by washing and slicing, then tossing with the Ultra Gel® Ranch Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix and chili flakes, then oil.
After the first twenty minutes, add the zucchini pieces to the pan and roast an additional ten minutes. Remove from oven and check to make sure the meat pieces are no longer pink and the vegetable pieces are tender. Serve as desired
Hearty Hamburger Soup
Cool evenings call for warm soup, and here's one that makes a pound of lean ground been go a long way. Lots of nutritious veggies and a soothing milk base. Light on calories and long on flavor!
Brown the ground beef with the seasoning salt in a heavy 4-quart pan until no pink remains. Add the onions, green pepper, carrots, and diced potato and cook for about ten minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent. Stir in the water and beef bouillon, then cover and cook on a low heat until all the vegetables are tender.
Stir in tomato juice and heat to a boil. Add milk, then stir in ULTRA GEL gradually, using a wire whisk. Continue heating to serving temperature. Please, don’t let the soup boil after the milk is added or the liquid might curdle, resulting in a soup that isn’t smooth!
Many recipes go to great lengths to develop starchiness on the outer layer of the potatoes to get the crisp crust. We can take the easy way out, because the Ultra Gel in the Salad Dressing and Seasoning mix will do that job--when the Ultra Gel is combined with the moisture of the freshly cut potatoes, the starch rehydrates (because it is an instant starch) and provides a very light starchy layer that browns beautifully!
Next--think potatoes. Having lived more than half my life in Idaho, I am inclined to think potatoes should have their own food group! The Idaho Potato Commission reports that the average American eats approximately 111 pounds of potatoes each year. That means most American consumers eat a serving of some kind of potato product almost every day.
From a supermarket shopper's standpoint, there are probably three main groups of potatoes: Russets, reds, and yellows (sometimes recognized by the variety name of "Yukon Gold"). The reds are earlier potatoes and are more "waxy", which means they have a higher moisture content and hold their shape better when cooked. Russets are traditional baking potatoes, with a drier consistency, and they are more apt to break down when cooked, making them perfect for mashed potatoes. Yellow potatoes have grown in popularity dramatically over the past ten years. Although they resemble red potatoes more than Russets, many home cooks praise them for their versatility--even calling them "all-purpose" potatoes. I have to admit a preference for the thin-skinned yellow potatoes easily available in most areas, which don't require peeling for many dishes and have a lovely golden color and buttery texture. But I usually have all three in my storage at any given time.
So--what potato is best for roasting?
I tried all three, and the answer is--it depends! Details to come!
First, scrub the potatoes and decide if they need to be peeled. If they are reds or yellows, the answer is "no". The answer is usually "no" if they are Russets (bakers). If you have bakers that have been stored for a long period of time, the skin may be tough and you might want to peel them.
Cut the potatoes into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes and measure about 4 cups.
Turn the potatoes out onto a shallow baking sheet lined with foil for easy cleanup. The potatoes on the left are yellow potatoes, the ones on the right are peeled Russets, 4 cups of each.
Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 20-30 minutes--until tender and nicely browned and crusty.
The analysis? The yellow potatoes and the Russets were very different in texture, as would be expected, but my panel of highly-trained sensory experts (family) deemed both varieties highly acceptable and requested them again--Soon! Everyone agreed, however, that the yellow potatoes were prettier.
Southwest Chicken Soup- Don't Cook your Chicken to Death!
Here is a low-cal any-weather soup that is so satisfying you will make it again and again. I think it has just the right amount of heat--even my most wary family members eat it with gusto (and corn chips) and the more adventurous add a little cayenne. And although it looks like it has alot of ingredients, in truth it is a "dump" recipe--where full cans of ingredients are used. Don't you hate recipes that call for odd amounts of canned ingredients, leaving you with bits and pieces in your refrigerator which often are wasted? This recipe seems big, but it goes to work nicely for lunch, or even freezes for a quick meal on a future day.
1-10 oz can diced tomatoes and green chiles (Rotel is good)
2-15 oz cans black beans, drained
1-15 oz can corn, drained
1-15 oz can tomatoes, diced
4 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. Ultra Gel®
Heat the oil to shimmering in a heavy dutch oven. Add the chicken and brown on all sides on a medium high heat, then continue to cook until no pink remains. Remove the chicken pieces to a bowl and reserve.
Add the chile powder, the ancho chile pepper, and the cumin to the pan and stir while continuing to heat until the seasonings are fragrant.
Add the green pepper, onion, garlic and black pepper to the seasonings and stir until the vegetables are crisp-tender.
Add the diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained beans and corn, the diced tomatoes and the chicken broth and stir to combine. Then add the Ultra Gel® gradually while stirring with a wire whisk.
Bring the ingredients to a boil, then add the browned chicken pieces back to the soup and serve.
Corn chips are a nice accompaniment, and cheese, tomato, and sour cream are welcome garnishes.
First, cut the chicken into cubes. You may need to trim it a little but this isn't hard work. Just a hint: If you get jumbo breasts (the kind that are usually on sale for the best price), each lobe of the chicken breast will be roughly one pound. Hate cutting up chicken breasts? Just cut straight through into about 1 inch slices, then turn them on their sides and cut again if needed. Really--it's fast. . .
Heat the oil, then add the chicken pieces and stir while cooking untill all pieces are cooked all the way through and no pink remains. Then remove the chicken pieces to a covered bowl for later use.
And here is where I get on my soapbox and preach the virtues of not overcooking chicken!! The old days of killing the tough old red rooster and cooking it all day for chicken soup are gone. The chicken most commonly available in supermarkets comes from chickens that are between 6 and 8 weeks old. The breast is tender and easily overcooked. Think of an expensive pieces of tender beef steak--would you cook it for hours on end and expect a tender, juicy product? When cooking chicken, cook to a safe temperature (165 degrees), then serve for juicy, flavorful meat. (As a disclaimer, I like dark meat cooked to 170 degrees).
Add the chile powder, chile pepper, and black pepper to the pan. Don't wash the pan first--those flavorful chicken bits will add flavor! Heat until the chiles are fragrant.
Just a note on chile pepper vs chile powder--don't get these confused!! In the US, chile powder is a combination of dried, ground chile peppers with paprika, onion, and other flavorings. It is quite mild and recipes frequently use substantial amounts. Chile pepper will have only the dried peppers. There are many different chile peppers with different flavor profiles--you may want to have several. The secret is to check the ingredient statement before purchasing a powdered chile product to get an idea of how potent it is.
Add the green pepper, onion, garlic, and black pepper to chile seasonings in the pan and stir over medium high heat until the vegetables lose their crispness. Add an extra tablespoon of oil if the mixture is too dry.
Add all of the canned goods to the vegetables, then add the chicken broth. Stir in the Ultra Gel® with a wire whisk and heat the soup to boiling.
Add the chicken back to the boiling soup and cook for 2 or three minutes to heat the ingredients evenly and blend the flavors.
Rich and delicious! The Ultra Gel® gives the soup some body--The vegetables and meat don't sink to the bottom. Perfect quick meal for a chilly day--or any day!
Incidentally, you can make this soup even faster by using pre-prepped chicken (see World's Best Meal Prep Chicken https://carnetfoods.com/?p=1175 ). A package of frozen, pre-prepped chicken can be microwaved for about a minute, then added to the soup at the last step. Best ever!!
Low-Cal Ranch Dip/Salad Dressing
Super Low-Fat Ranch Salad Dressing is easy to make and inexpensive. It uses ingredients most homes have and can be assembled in minutes. And it has only 30 calories per tablespoon--less than half the calories of a standard Ranch dressing. The secret? Instead of using a full cup of regular mayonnaise, it uses 1/2 cup of low fat mayo, and a higher proportion of low fat buttermilk. The extra thickness comes from Ultra Gel®.
1 T. dry parsley (or 2 T fresh, snipped finely) and
2 t. Ultra Gel®
1/4 t. dry mustard powder (optional but you might be surprised at the flavor boost)
1/2 c. high-quality low-fat mayonnaise
1 1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk
Combine the garlic and onion powder, pepper, salt, parsley, Ultra Gel, and mustard if desired into a small container. Measure 1 1/2 c. buttermilk into a two-cup measuring cup. Buttermilk may not be a product you purchase regularly, but it's great to have on hand for this salad dressing mix. It can be purchased in small containers, and any remainder will make some great pancakes!
Some brands of buttermilk are thicker than others. You can adjust the thickness of the salad dressing by adding more or less Ultra Gel®.
Now add the mayonnaise. Mixing the ingredients in measuring cup is really handy because you don't need to use an additional measuring cup for the mayonnaise--just add the mayo until the liquid measures 2 cups. Couldn't be easier!
Sprinkle the prepared salad dressing mix over the combined mayo and buttermilk and stir in with a fork or wire whisk until smooth. The salad dressing mix benefits from a couple of hours to develop the flavors. If you want it thicker, add another teaspoon or so of Ultra Gel.
To make RANCH DIP, simply substitute low fat sour cream for the low fat buttermilk. Totally guilt-free!
Now--think of the low-guilt possibilities: topping for baked potatoes, steamed or raw veggies, chicken salad, gringo tacos or burritos, etc.
Remember not to taste products made with Ultra Gel® and return the tasting implement to the product. Even tiny amounts of saliva enzymes will break down the thickness of the product. And it isn't very sanitary, anyway!
World's Best Meal Prep Chicken Breast!
Chicken breast--my son describes it as "A blank canvas". No matter what your cultural background is, chicken probably plays a prominent culinary role. Boneless, skinless chicken breast is enjoying unprecedented favor for its low-fat, high-quality protein at a very reasonable price. Chickens have been bred to meet the public's demand for large, meaty breasts and the efficiencies in the chicken raising business mean chickens can go from egg to slaughter in as little as six weeks, resulting in record low prices.
Consumer demand has also led to new techniques in chicken raising--from Organic, to No Antibiotics Ever (either veg fed or standard), to Cage Free to standard. Regardless of your personal leanings toward chicken husbandry, at some point the goal becomes preparing the chicken for consumption.
In my busy CPA and mom world, the goal is for dinner to be on the table in thirty minutes. Sometimes that means cutting a corner here or there (like every day . . ). The biggest time-saver for me is to prepare protein items ahead and freeze for those busy nights (which seem to be about every night!!) If you have high-quality cooked chicken breast in the freezer, the opportunities for quick meals are endless!
Too many of us have been disappointed by dry, freezer-burned chicken breast. It doesn't have to be that way, and I'm excited to share what I think is the very best and easiest method of taking advantage of good buys on chicken breast to make your life easier.
10 lb high-quality boneless, skinless chicken breast without added salt and water
2 t. seasoning salt (or combination of salt, pepper, onion power, and garlic powder)
1 large (turkey size) roasting bag
Aluminum half-sheet pan or large roasting pan
5 T. Ultra Gel®
Position the roasting bag on the sheet/roaster pan and add the chicken breast pieces. Ten pounds will fit on one layer. I have been known to do twenty pounds at a time (two layers) and it can be done in the large roaster bag, but make sure you have a pan with high sides, so the liquid in the bag is supported.
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with the seasoning salt or other seasonings.
Close the bag with the provided tie
Cllp a few holes in the top of the bag per the manufacturers' direction
Roast at 250 degrees until the temperature reaches 165 degrees in the thickest part of the largest breast piece. DON'T OVERCOOK IF YOU WANT MOIST CHICKEN!
Allow the chicken to rest in the juices, without opening the bag for one hour. Pour the accumulated juices into a heat-proof container (a 4 cup measuring cup works great).
Measure 2 1/2 cups of the juices, then stir in 5 T. Ultra Gel®. The juices will thicken slightly.
Remove the chicken from the roasting bag to a cutting board and cut into cubes or slices, using a sharp knife. Collect in a large bowl.
Pour the thickened chicken broth over the chicken pieces, tossing gently to avoid breaking the chicken pieces.
Package in ten bags. Each will have the equivalent of 1 lb of raw chicken. I like to use zipper-seal sandwich bags for portion control and gallon size freezer bags for protection. Each gallon bag will fit 4 sandwich bags.
Allow each gallon bag to freeze before stacking to ensure quick and safe freezing.
When ready to use, start with one minute at full power in the microwave. Add an additional minute if the product needs more thawing--each microwave will be different.
If you're adding the chicken to a soup, stew, casserole, etc, wait until close to the end of the cooking time to keep those beautiful pieces of chicken intact!
So first--start with high-quality chicken breast. The first thing to look at is the ingredient list. Some chicken has a salt and water brine added to it, theoretically for extra moistness. Few of us need extra salt, though, and the consumer ends up paying chicken prices for up to 15% added water. Just don't do it! Watch for quality brands to go on sale and watch for a label designation of "No Added Salt". It really isn't any more expensive!
Good quality breast meat shouldn't have a lot of fat on it. The little bit it has can be left on and trimmed off after cooking if it is objectional.
Place the breast pieces in a large turkey roasting bag. Season with seasoning salt or your own combination of salt, onion, and garlic. Paprika adds some nice color.
A meat thermometer is essential to cooking high-quality protein. You can get instant-read thermometers for as little as $6-7. The one displayed has a probe with a wire that connects to the monitor read-out. Its easy to watch, and some even have wireless so you can check them on an app. Makes watching tv in the other room much more do-able! Remember that the temperature on the chicken will continue to increase after it is removed from the oven, so don't hesitate to take it out at 163 or 164 degrees. I usually plan about 1 3/4 hours for roasting.
After removing the cooked chicken from the oven, let it rest in the juices for about an hour without opening the bag. then carefully pour the juices off . They will still be hot, so be careful. If you just clip off the corner of the cooking bag, it is fairly easy to control the juice as you pour it off.
Remove the cooked chicken breasts to a cutting board to slice or dice. The objective is to try to retain as much of the internal moisture as possible. The cooking bag limits the moisture loss due to evaporation and also makes cleanup a breeze!!
Chicken can be sliced or diced to be used at your convenience. (Click on any photo to see a carousel of images)
In order to keep the chicken moist and protect it from freezer burn, the juices that cooked out will be added back to the chicken. Adding 2 T. Ultra Gel® to each cup of the collected chicken drippings will add just enough thickness to allow it to adhere to the diced chicken, providing extra flavor, moisture, and protection. Stir it in gradually and let stand a few minutes to thicken.
Pour the thickened chicken broth over the diced/sliced chicken. You may not want to use all of the thickened juices--Start with half, then see how much the chicken absorbs.
Toss the chicken gently with the liquid. Remember, you're just adding back the juices that cooked out. If you were starting from raw chicken, these juices would be a part of your finished product!
Moist and juicy chicken!!
Divide the chicken into ten bags (or one bag for each pound of raw chicken you started with). Most recipes call for a multiple of one pound of raw boneless, skinless chicken breast, so if you start with ten pounds of chicken and divide the finished product into ten bags, each bag will be the equivalent of one pound of raw chicken. Make sense?
I use sandwich bags for portion control--Gallon freezer bags for protection. They are flat and stack nicely after freezing. Each bag will have about 2 cups of cooked chicken.
Here's an easy idea--prepare a boxed Fettucini Alfredo, add a package of chicken chunks and some bacon for garnish. Thirty minute wonder at our house! Nice, meaty chunks of chicken give extra crowd appeal!
Lots more great recipes using Meal Prep chicken coming--stay posted!
Easy Chicken or Pork Stir Fry
A stir-fry is one of the easiest dishes to prepare ahead for a quick trip to the finish line. All of the washing, peeling, and dicing can be done ahead and the prepped ingredients refrigerated, ready to be quickly cooked when the time is right.
There are four main pieces of most stir fry dishes: The meat, the firm veggies, the soft veggies, and the sauce. See the printable recipe here:
Add soy sauce, 2 T. Ultra Gel, ginger, red chile flakes, and minced garlic to meat and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
Combine chicken broth, 1/3 c. soy sauce, water, sesame oil, and sugar and mix well. Add Ultra Gel gradually while stirring with a wire whisk or fork. Set aside.
Pour 2 T. vegetable oil into a large wok or frying pan. Heat on a high heat until shimmering, then add the meat. Stir meat regularly until it is no longer pink in the center. Remove meat from pan and reserve.
Add another 2 T. oil to the pan and heat. Add the firm vegetables and stir fry until crisp-tender. Don’t hesitate to cover with a lid occasionally for more even cooking. Remove the firm vegetables and reserve.
Heat the pan until hot again and add the tender vegetables. Stir fry them only about 1 minute. Return all the vegetables and meat to the pan and toss with the sauce (which should be thick) until heated through. Serve with prepared rice..
For our Americanized stir fries, the meat is often boneless chicken or pork--easy to prepare for use--just cut the raw meat in 1" cubes.
The firm vegetables are the ones that "crunch" if you take a bite such as broccoli, carrots, celery, and bok choy.
The soft vegetables are usually very moist and include mushrooms, summer squash (ie zucchini), and small pieces of Asian cabbage. I see onions going either way, according to whether you like them soft or crunchy. If you like them soft, put them with the firm veggies. If you like them crunchy, put them with the soft veggies.
There are many different sauces--I'm including a very basic sauce but feel free to get creative!
Start with the meat. Add the Ultra Gel, soy sauce, ginger, red chile flakes and minced garlic to the meat and mix. The soy sauce will add a bit of salt, which will be absorbed into the meat, not only adding flavor, but also helping keep the protein moist. The Ultra Gel will also help keep the moisture in the meat, and will help it brown nicely. The ginger, chile flakes, and garlic will infuse the protein with the great flavors we expect in a good stir fry. But they need a little time to work, so prepare the protein element first and let the meat absorb the flavors while you prepare the other items.
Next, prepare the sauce by adding the chicken broth, 1/3 c. soy sauce, water, and sesame oil. Stir in the Ultra Gel with a fork or wire whip and set aside. The Ultra Gel will thicken the sauce--no cooking necessary!
Then prepare the vegetables by chopping into bite-sized pieces. Keep the firm veggies separate from the soft veggies as they will be cooked separately.
Don't discard the broccoli stems--if a knife will pierce stem pieces easily, they are totally usable. Pull the skin off if it is tough, then julienne the stem pieces and add to the other firm vegetables.
To cook the meal, start with a heavy frypan or wok. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and heat at a medium high heat until shimmering, then add the meat all at once and stir regularly while cooking until no pink remains. The meat will taste better if some browning is allowed to occur, so don't stir constantly--just regularly. When done, remove it to a bowl.
Add additional oil to the pan if necessary and heat again to shimmering and add the firm vegetables. Cook them until tender, stirring regularly. Add a lid for a few minutes if you wish to help the firm veggies cook more evenly, but for best color, make a lid infrequent and short-lived! The veggies should not be accumulating juices!! When the firm veggies are cooked to your liking, remove them from the pan. If more oil is necessary, add a little more and again heat to shimmering.
Add the soft veggies and cook quickly (only thirty seconds or so)-just enough for them to get a little searing on them. Remove the soft veggies from the pan.
Heat the pan back to a high heat, then add the reserved protein, crisp veggies, and soft veggies in that order to make sure everything is hot. Drizzle the sauce over and stir lightly, then serve immediately with rice. Yum!!
Jalapeno Popper in a Bowl!
Looking for that perfect dish for the holiday pot luck? Something easy to prepare, portable, but a little unusual? Try this warm, rich, satisfying takeoff of a favorite holiday appetizer. Who doesn't like a Jalapeno Popper?
Add chicken broth to heavy sauce pan or slow cooker
Add southern style hash browns. In different areas of the country, these may be called by a different name, but they are frozen, packaged, cubed potatoes that have not been fried.
Add chicken bouillon
and dehydrated minced onion.
Brown sausage in a frypan. I'm using turkey sausage and there is very little fat. If excessive fat accumulates during cooking, pour off and discard.
Cook until the potatoes are tender, then add the evaporated milk.
Gradually stir in the Ultra Gel. The product will begin to thicken. Add the parmesan cheese and cream cheese cubes and stir until smooth.
Add the sausage.
Seed and devein desired number of jalapenos, then dice. Do not add to soup until ready to serve to get the jalapeno "crunch"! I wish I could give you an exact amount of jalapenos to use for the perfect degree of flavor and heat, but there are too many variables. Some jalapenos are just hotter than others, even when you buy them from the same box. And different people like different degrees of heat. Rest assured, however--the milk base of this soup will temper any heat, so don't worry too much about getting it too hot.
Green peppers also provide crunch! And without the heat. Again--don't add until just before serving.
How to Make Gravy for the Bird / Herbed Turkey with Shallot Gravy
I walked in the door and smells of thyme and sage met me first, then the mild onion, then the roasting turkey. My daughter followed me--"Smells like Thanksgiving!" she said. And she was right! After trying a multitude of different recipes over the years, I found a recipe for Herbed Turkey with Shallot gravy in a Bon Appetit in 2000 and I've never looked back. There is good reason that the comments say 100% would make it again. Over the years I've updated and changed a bit, but it's still the turkey that makes my tender loving care in the herb garden all year worth it all!
Cooking a turkey for the first time? Or maybe for the hundredth time like a few of us oldies. . Cooking a turkey isn't trivial--there is usually a significant investment of money and emotion in the holiday turkey. And unfortunately, there are lots of variables that can effect how it turns out, which is what separates a mere recipe from an art form.
How to Make Gravy for the Bird/Turkey with Herbs and Shallot Gravy
1 1/2 T. fresh thyme, stripped from stems plus 2 sprigs
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 16 lb turkey
1 lb shallots, peeled and cut lengthwise
4 c. chicken stock (or more)
1 c. Ultra Gel (approximately)
3 T. flour
Cut the parsley and sage together until very fine. Add the thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Mix into the softened butter with salt and pepper until smooth (may be covered and refrigerated for up to three days).
Prepare the turkey by removing the neck and giblets and rinsing. Pat dry and salt inside.
Insert the herb sprigs and 2 shallots to the inside of the turkey.
Put the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. Put half of the butter/herb mixture into a different container and reserve--brush the other half of the mixture over the turkey.
Add the remaining cut shallots to the roasting pan around the turkey.
Roast the turkey in a 350 degree preheated oven. The bird will start to develop a lovely golden color. If at any time during the roasting process the shallots in the pan appear to be burning, add some chicken broth to the pan. When the breast meat gains sufficient color, cover it with foil and continue roasting until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh is 170 degrees. Monitor the temperature with a thermometer.
Remove the turkey from the oven to a serving tray and allow it to rest while the gravy is prepared.
To make the gravy:
Add whatever chicken broth you haven't used to the roasting pan and put on the top of the stove on one or two burners and cook at a high heat, stirring frequently, to loosen any of the flavorful crispy turkey drippings. Pour the pan liquid through a sieve into a bowl and evaluate how much you have. Wipe the roasting pan out with a paper towel or use a different pan to continue.
Add additional stock or broth to achieve your target amount (see explanation), remove as much fat from the top as you can, and return the gravy base to the stove. Season to taste, then stir in the Ultra Gel® gradually with a wire whisk. The gravy does not need to be boiling--in fact, it will be easier if it isn't. Continue to add Ultra Gel® until the gravy coats a spoon nicely.
Bring the gravy to a boil. Add the reserved butter/herb/flour mixture to the boiling liquid. It is added for color and flavor, as the gravy has already been thickened.
So--these are shallots. They're from the onion family but quite mild in flavor. I had never heard of them until I went searching in 2000. Now I know that in my area of the country (Pacific Northwest), I better grab them when I see them, as they aren't carried year-round and aren't always available. I was in Houston last year, though and they seemed to be plentiful and substantially less expensive, so I suspect this is a regional thing. Anyway, peel the shallots, remove the ends, and cut them lengthwise to prepare them for their destiny.
Next, prepare the herbs by rinsing and chopping. If you don't have your own herbs, get one of the packaged combinations that have these herbs. I think the easiest way to chop the parsley and sage is to put them in a glass cup and use shears to cut through until they're fine enough. (Yes, you can clean your paper scissors with soap and water or chlorine cleaner and use them). Thyme is a little different--it has a woody stem that wouldn't be very pleasant to eat, so prepare it by holding onto the leafy end, then sliding your fingernail down the stem, kind of like petting a cat the wrong way. The leaves will release. Then pull off the top quarter inch where you've been holding and use it as is--that part will be tender. Mix the chopped herbs with the softened butter, salt, and pepper and refrigerate for later. (This can be done ahead--and you will want to get this done and out of the way in preparation for the big day when kitchen space will be at a premium!)
Now--time for the bird, which needs to have been thawed. I cannot tell you the number of times I've misjudged the amount of time a turkey takes to thaw and ended up with a sink full of half-frozen turkey with cold water running over it to finish the thawing process! Optimally, you'll have the time and space to put the frozen bird in the refrigerator several days before so it can thaw slowly while keeping acceptable temperatures. If not, it's the cold water trick.
To prepare for roasting, remove the turkey from the plastic packaging, reach in the cavity and pull out the neck (I like to simmer this for stock for the gravy). Pull up the skin from the neck cavity and remove the little bag of giblets--you're on your own there--I'm not a giblet fan, so I discard them. But I know people who live for their giblet gravy, so it's a personal thing. Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the "shoulders" to keep them from burning. Salt the big cavity thoroughly, then add the sprigs of herbs you have saved and a couple of peeled shallots.
Divide the herb butter into two somewhat equal portions. You will be using half on the raw turkey and you don't the other half to potentially become contaminated, as it will be used later. Take one portion and spread it over the turkey, using a pastry brush or paper towel. Add the 3 tablespoons of flour to the other portion and save for the gravy. Spread the rest of the shallot pieces in the roasting pan around the turkey. Start roasting at 350 degrees. Don't open the oven any more than necessary, but monitor it for color--when the color gets to where you're liking it, cover the breast with foil to protect it from more browning while the internal heat gets to 170 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. Look at the photo with the foiled turkey--see the thermometer that is in the thigh? It is a type of thermometer that can be left in the turkey as it roasts, giving a read out on a screen that stays outside the oven. Or you can use an "instant read" thermometer, which you insert each time you want to check the temperature. They aren't expensive and worth every penny. You can save the price with one overdone steak.
Now--for the gravy--which is what this post is all about. When you've removed the turkey to the serving plate and tented it with foil to keep it hot, the pan with the juices will look something like this. Hopefully, the sugar in the shallots has done some carmelizing, which adds an amazing color and flavor. If the pan is mostly dry with crusty bits in it, that's great--this will be really flavorful as long as there is no burning. This is one of the challenges of turkeys--so much depends on the oven. Some ovens don't distribute the heat evenly, some oven heats and temperature dials bear no resemblance to each other, and sometimes you have to put the turkey on the lowest rack in order to get it in the oven. Those situations require special treatment. It's really nice to have an oven thermometer that resides in the oven so you can tell really how hot the oven is cooking. Then you can adjust the oven heat to get the results you want. If you have to put the rack really low and the bottom is threatening to burn, add some chicken stock to keep things moist and watch it closely. Put foil over the whole thing to try to equalize the heat if you have to. But back to gravy.
If you're lucky, you can put your roasting pan on the stovetop to make the gravy, as you want all of those yummy crusty bits to end up in the gravy. Add a quart of chicken stock to the pan and bring it to a boil, stirring to release any drippings. Then pour it through a strainer. If your family likes the flavor, the roasted shallots can be added back to the gravy where an immersion blender will smooth them nicely. Some people reserve the shallots to add to other dishes. But somewhere you end up with a measurable amount of gravy base. So here's the secret my grandmother taught me back in the early 70's.
Figure 1 1/2 servings per pound on a 16 lb turkey (a 22 lb turkey might go to 2 servings/lb and a 10 lb baby might only be 1). So that means we can plan for 24 standard servings of meat from the 16-lb bird. Then you'll need 1/3 to 1/2 cup of gravy per serving. So imagine all of your people around the dinner table and think of how they pour gravy--if there are a lot of adults and they like a lot of gravy, figure 1/2 cup per serving. Otherwise figure 1/3 cup of gravy per serving of meat. So 1/3 cup each serving x 24 servings says I would need 8 cups of gravy. Or 12 cups if I want 1/2 cup per person. So skim the fat from your gravy base and add enough chicken broth or stock to get to the number of cups you need. (This is where the broth from the cooked neck comes in). You might need to add some paste chicken base to boost the flavor. Anyway, season to taste, then start to thicken.** The pressure is on--it seems like there are hundreds of hungry eyes looking at the turkey, then you, then the turkey. This is where you need to feel secure and in control. Sprinkle the Ultra Gel® into the gravy base gradually, while stirring with a wire whisk. Continue adding until it coats the spoon. You will see a lovely clear-colored gravy because it is a cornstarch gravy. For general gravy-making, you can stop here and serve it up. But there ARE people in the world whole like the opaqueness of a flour gravy, and in deference to them, and because extra butter and herbs are really tasty, we can add the remaining herb/butter/flour mixture and bring to a boil for some truly beautiful gravy. There isn't enough flour to thicken this much gravy, but the combination of cornstarch and flour is really amazing. (Disclaimer here--the gravy really isn't this dark--the light isn't as good for photos.)