• Holiday Leftover Hash: Something Good For Black Friday

    hashhash4We thought about doing a Thanksgiving turkey recipe for the blog, but truth be told, we aren’t big turkey people. We will be making J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Sous Vide “Turchetta” (turkey breast made like Porchetta) and a beef roast for the Thanksgivukkah holiday. But we will give you an awesome, and easy, recipe to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers- hash. We suggest you forgo the shopping and serve hash for Black Friday Brunch.

    hash5hash6hash7We like turkey or ham sandwiches just fine, but when you can take the leftover turkey/pork/beef, potatoes and veggies, add some seasoning and crisp them up in some bacon fat…well now you are onto something. And that is the beauty of hash. A good hash elevates your leftovers into an entirely new dish, and since most of the ingredients are cooked, it doesn’t take that long or require many pot and pans. Nice. And if you just “happen” to top off the hash with a fried egg or a zippy horseradish sauce…well then you really will have something to be thankful for.

    hash8hash9The key with making hash is to use what you already have and balance flavors and textures. Think about a mix of savory, sweet, vegetal and spicy flavors and soft, creamy and crispy textures (the browning will crisp up the dish). Pretty much any leftover you have may be worth adding, so be creative. And pre-cooked food is better in hash, as you don’t have to worry about even cooking of various raw ingredients. The only “fresh” ingredients we use are bacon, (to get its fat) onions and minced garlic we soften in the grease before adding the other ingredients. We top the hash with either a fried egg or a quick horseradish sauce (prepared horseradish, sour cream, mayonnaise, a touch of mustard, salt/pepper) but steak sauce or simple ketchup are just fine as well.

    hash10hash12hash14For this hash we used leftover beef, roasted butternut squash and boiled Yukon Gold potatoes seasoned with a bit of thyme, cumin and chili powder. It was great. But if we had leftover turkey, sweet potatoes, mashers or even creamed spinach or roasted brussels sprouts, we could use them (most stuffings will also work). Hard to go wrong here, as long as you liked the dish on Thursday, it probably work in hash on Friday….except for the cranberry sauce, best to keep that out of the hash.

    hash15hash13So we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! We hope you cook your turkey in pieces (trust us!), have a few fun cocktails and enjoy time with family and friends. We also hope you stay home on Friday, maybe build a fire, and cook this hash for brunch. Enjoy the day…the “holidaze” are coming.

    hash2

    Holiday Leftover Hash:

    Notes Before You Start:

    • The best way to make hash is to mostly use cooked leftovers. Raw ingredients have different cooking times and can mess up your hash. We suggest just a few softened aromatics and then whatever leftovers you have.
    • Cooking in a cast iron pan or steel skillet will get you the best browning and a crispy, delicious hash.

    What You Get: An easy, delicious and warm dish using up those Thanksgiving leftovers.

    What You Need: No special equipment required.

    How Long? About 25-30 minutes. A few minutes of chopping, otherwise this is as easy as it gets. Anytime dish.

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  • A Few Tips On Cooking For Thanksgiving

    Rule #1: Think happy thoughts...

    Rule #1: Think happy thoughts…and be grateful.

    We are not much on “how-to” or “5 keys to the best Thanksgiving x…” posts here at the farm, but with the holidays coming (including the once in a lifetime bonus holiday of “Thanksgivvukah”) we figured we should share some thoughts on how to make the most of your Thanksgiving cooking. Here is our take on the important stuff:

    Before the holiday:

    • Don’t worry about the specific dishes and recipes you are going to cook until you have a guest count. Some recipes work with small crowds, some with big crowds. Cook dishes that make sense for the size of the group you have (and your budget).
    • Once you have the guest count, decide what you want to cook and what oven and stove top space you have. Make sure you can cook the dishes you want with the appliances and tools you have. Then when guests ask “what can I bring?” you will have a good idea of what else you need, based on the resources you have.
    • Remember that your grill can be a useful tool if you are out of stovetop burners or ovens.
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    Remember your grill is an extra oven or burner.

    • When a guest asks “what can I bring?”, be very specific and ask for something you know the guest can bring and/or make. At first, you may come off a bit fussy or demanding, but when a guest brings the perfect dish, pie, bottle of wine, etc. that fits with the meal, they will feel great- and so will you and the rest of your guests. Everyone likes to be a hero. Don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring what will be best with the meal.
    • Desserts are often best made day ahead or earlier in the day to save you time and space. Most pies are better at room temperature anyway. Cakes need to cool before frosting. All of this is best done ahead of time.
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    Make desserts ahead of time to save kitchen space….and sanity.

    What to cook on Thanksgiving?

    • Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for all we have (and regardless of the craziness of everyday life, most of us have a lot to be grateful for). The meal is not about Norman Rockwell paintings or Martha Stewart magazine spreads. Thanksgiving should be about serving your best dishes to the people you love. Beauty is only skin deep, makes sure the food tastes good!
    • With that in mind, there is nothing wrong with serving something other than turkey. If you make great beef, chicken, pork (or even vegetarian) dishes for a crowd, then serve them. Serve them with pride. How about a small turkey and something else? There will always be the high-maintenance jerk  someone who will talk about “grandma’s this” or “traditional” that. They can cook next year…but usually they won’t. Forget ‘em (but with a smile, of course) and serve what you know tastes good. Tasty food wins over everything. Always.

    But what if I want to serve turkey?

    If you plan to serve turkey and actually want it to taste good and be moist, here are a few pointers that will make a big difference:

    • Deep-fried turkeys are great, but proceed with caution. Let’s face it, most of us drink a lot bit during the holidays. Booze, fire and hot oil are a very bad combination (particularly if you have kids running around). If you want a deep-fried turkey, hire a pro to do it. There are plenty of people who can do it for you. Seriously. DIY is great, but with hot oil? C’mon….
    • Your turkey will be better if you salt / brine it. You can use a water-based wet brine, or simply salt the turkey with what is called a “dry brine”. Either way, the pre-salting makes for moister, more flavorful meat (trust us, the chemistry is sound, even if it seems counterintuitive). There are plenty of good recipes for brined turkeys, but here is a good guide to the pros and cons of dry or wet brining your turkey.
    • One of the only drawbacks to brined turkeys is that you can’t use the drippings for gravy, as they will be too salty. We suggest you make a gravy using commercial chicken stock (usually it is your best option, that may sound heretical, but it is often true) or ask your butcher for turkey stock (they may have some) or extra turkey parts (like the backbone) for stock.
    • The best way to cook poultry is to do it in pieces. White meat is done at a lower internal temperature than dark meat and there is no magical way to change that. The easiest way to get perfect white and dark meat is cook the breasts and legs separately and then present them together (even Julia Child said this was the way to go). If you present the turkey well, no one will even notice. Actually, your guests will notice…that you served the best turkey they ever had.
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    Cook poultry in pieces. It works.

    • If you are cooking the turkey in pieces, you need to track internal temperature for best results. You need a quick read (cheap, like $10), or even better, a digital thermometer (over $50) to know the internal temperature of your meat. No excuses. And those “pop-up” thermometers in the turkey simply don’t work…unless you like to eat bone-dry turkey.
    • Rethink everything you know about the desired internal temperature of poultry. The “safe” 160-165 F degree internal temperature we hear about for poultry is based on the idea that you will eat the turkey at the very moment it comes out of the oven. Who does that? Nobody. At 165 F all bacteria are dead immediately. But turkey white meat starts to dry out above 150 F. This seems like an insurmountable problem, but if you cook the turkey breast to 145-150 F and let it rest for 20 minutes, the heat will increase to 160 while the turkey rests and the bacteria will be killed by longer exposure to temperature. You get a safe, but moist, turkey breast. (The government actually knows this, but figures we are all too stupid to understand this nuance). If you want more detail and a good recipe, see here and for the chemistry, see here.
    • Dark meat is very hard to overcook. Shoot for an internal temperature of at least 180 degrees. If you go a bit over, it’s no big deal. There is so much connective tissue in the dark meat that it will stay moist at higher temperatures. We suggest you simply cook the dark meat to the desired temperature while the white meat rests. Easy.
    • Don’t cook stuffing in the turkey. Just don’t. If you want to worry about food safety, cooking stuffing inside the bird is the biggest risk you will have.
    • You can deep-fry, roast or smoke your turkey at many different cooking temperatures. Many methods / recipes work, assuming you target the right internal temperature of your meat. Some cooking methods will yield more attractive, crisper skin than others. You can always crisp the skin of your turkey with a quick blast in a high-temperature (500 F) oven. If you crisp the skin for less than 5-10 minutes, it will have minimal impact on internal temperature but give you a golden brown skin.
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    Crisp the skin for a few minutes in a hot oven.

    Kitchen tips:

    • You are (most likely) not a chef, don’t try to act or look like one. Chefs do all that flashy and speedy chopping because they are used to prepping for hundreds of guests. For them, speed matters (and is a bit of a macho thing). For you, it is best to avoid slicing your fingers off. Even if you have 30 guests, the amount of prep you have to do is probably manageable. Take your time chopping and slicing. Even if you go slowly it will only cost you an extra 5-10 minutes. Take your time, keep your fingers intact and avoid a trip to the ER.
    • Plan on the right time and method for thawing your meat. If you have a fresh turkey or roast, that is great. But many of us will have frozen meat. Big frozen turkeys take a lot of time to thaw, and if you do it in the fridge (and you should), it will take days. Here is a guideThere is no better way to screw up your cooking for Thanksgiving than to forget to thaw the turkey or roast. Make sure you have a plan to thaw your bird.

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  • Beef Tri-Tip Roast: A Good Meal For A Small Thanksgiving

    Kobe Beef Tri-Tip Roast. A special treat.

    It may seem like sacrilege, but we don’t serve turkey at Thanksgiving. No ham either. Nope, we serve a version of our slow-roasted pork with apples and fall herbs and some kind of roast beef. If we have a big crowd, we roast a whole Tenderloin, but if we have a small crowd, we roast a Tri-Tip. And if we want to splurge, a Kobe Tri-Tip is one of our favorite roasts.

    The Tri-Tip is a triangular 2 to 2 and 1/2 pound cut of beef from the bottom sirloin primal of the cow. It has strong beefy flavor and, if cooked and sliced properly, is quite tender. Out here in California, “Santa Maria Style” Tri-tip, lightly seasoned and slowly cooked over red oak to medium-rare, is a very tasty regional specialty. And if you go into most butcher shops here in Norcal, you will find many custom Tri-Tip preparations and marinades (the black, ugly, but incredibly tasty “Fred Steak” is a local specialty). And as a special treat, most butchers feature a Kobe Tri-Tip. And this is a very special treat.

    While it’s expensive, the Kobe Tri-Tip is a great intro to Kobe beef. Kobe beef is a special type of beef with extra marbling of fat (fat is flavor) and very tender meat. Kobe is expensive, but the Tri-Tip is one of the more affordable cuts and is easy to prepare. The beefy flavor of the Tri-Tip doesn’t need much help, so we simply prepare a quick rub of olive oil, salt and pepper and let the steak marinate for at least four hours or overnight. Then you simply sear the outside of the meat for flavor and then slowly roast until the internal temperature reaches 130 to 135 degrees for medium-rare.

    We use our sous-vide machine for the Kobe Tri-Tip, as we can exactly control the internal temperature (we target 131). We then sear in a cast iron pan, slice and serve. But you can grill Tri-Tip using a two-level fire, or roast in a hot oven. We include cooking instructions for each method. The key to any Tri-Tip recipe is to avoid overcooking, so regardless of method, be sure to pull the roast from the heat before it reaches the target temperature (it will still gain five to ten degrees) and allow the roast to rest at least ten minutes before you slice and serve. And be sure to slice across the grain for a more tender bite. And now you have a very tasty roast that is the perfect size for four to six guests.

    So if you have a small group of guests for Thanksgiving, we have a suggestion. Make all the traditional sides like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, creamed spinach, stuffing, cranberries and pie. Pop open a good bottle of wine or cider, maybe make some punch. But save yourself a lot of time and cook up a Tri-Tip. And if you are feeling flush, try out a Kobe Tri-Tip. You won’t have to struggle with a turkey and you will have very happy guests. And if you just can’t bear the thought of beef at Thanksgiving, Tri-Tips are just as good for a casual weekend roast. Tri-Tip makes a good meal any time.

    Beef Tri-Tip Roast:

    Notes Before You Start:

    • Tri-Tip is sometimes called “triangle steak”. If you can’t find Kobe Tri-Tip, ask your butcher, it is a popular cut and usually can be ordered.
    • Tri-Tip does not have a lot of intra-muscular fat and is not a good roast to cook past medium rare. If you need to cook a roast past medium, other cuts will do better.

    What You Get: A quick, easy, tasty and tender beef roast.

    What You Need: No special equipment required. But a digital thermometer, or meat thermometer reduces the risk of overcooking. We cook this roast sous-vide, but the grill or oven also work well.

    How Long? If grilling or oven-roasting this dish takes about 20-30 minutes. Sous-vide cooking will take 4-8 hours and then 2-3 minutes of searing the meat. The beef benefits from an overnight marinade.

    Ingredients:

    (Serves 4 – 6)

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1, 2 and 1/2 pound Tri-Tip roast, trimmed (Kobe, if you like)
    • Vegetable oil or bacon fat, for searing (if cooking sous-vide)

    Assemble:

    1. Combine the oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix well. Dry off the Tri-Tip and coat with the oil mixture. Put the roast in a container or plastic bag and then place in the fridge for 4 -12 hours.
    2. If charcoal grilling: Build a two-level fire. Sear the roast for 2-3 minutes on each side, on the hot side of the grill. Then move the roast to the cooler side of the grill. Cover the grill and cook the roast, turning occasionally, until you reach an internal temperature of 125-130 degrees, about 20 minutes. Remove the roast from the heat and let it rest at least 10 minutes. Slice and serve.
    3. If gas grilling: Set up the grill for high heat. Sear the roast for 2-3 minutes on each side. Then move the heat to low, cover the grill and cook the roast, turning occasionally, until you reach an internal temperature of 125-130 degrees, about 20 minutes. Remove the roast from the heat and let it rest at least 10 minutes. Slice and serve.
    4. If oven roasting: Preheat the oven to 425. Place the roast in a roasting pan (with a rack, if possible) and put the pan in the oven. Cook for 5 minutes and then lower the heat to 350. Cook cook the roast, turning occasionally, until you reach an internal temperature of 125-130 degrees, about 20 – 30 minutes. Remove the roast from the heat and let it rest at least 10 minutes. Slice and serve.
    5. If using sous-vide: Set the sous-vide temperature to 131 degrees (or your desired temperature). Remove excess oil from the roast and seal in a vacuum bag. Cook sous-vide for at least 4 hours, 6 – 8 is preferred. When the roast is done, heat vegetable oil or bacon fat in a skillet over very high heat. Sear the roast 1 – 2 minutes on each side, or until well browned. Slice and serve.
  • Easy, “Perfect” Mashed Potatoes

    Easy, Perfect Mashed Potatoes.

    Ah, the “Mashed Potato Martini”, the symbol of swanky 1990′s catering. A cocktail glass brimming with buttery mashed potatoes and topped with your choice of butter, sour cream, bacon, cheddar cheese, chives and parsley. A pleasant, if somewhat excessive, relic of the dot-com era. But just as the excesses of dot-com left some valuable companies and technologies in their wake, the mashed potato martini left us with a valuable legacy, we got serious about making “perfect” mashed potatoes.

    And by “perfect” we mean, tasty, easy and predictable. And a recipe that easily scales for large events. After a few years of intermittent experiments we developed this recipe / process and never looked back. The basics are simple, we use Yukon Gold potatoes and plenty of cream, butter and salt. And we have just a few techniques that make a big difference in texture. And, of course, we add a plenty of extra butter, bacon, cheese, etc. We just don’t believe in “light” or “healthy” mashers. We save that for kale dishes.

    As for the ingredients, the main difference is using Yukon Gold instead of starchy Russet potatoes. The Yukons are a mix between waxy and starchy potatoes, and they have an overt “buttery” flavor. The big advantage of the Yukons is that they don’t dry out like Russets. So while you do need cream and butter, the Yukons add their own moisture without being watery. You get a creamy texture and pronounced potato flavor to match the dairy and salt. Good stuff.

    As for the key techniques, they are also very easy, but important. Firstly, after you drain the potatoes, put them back in the hot pot and mash with the warm dairy. The hot pot dries out any extra water (you don’t want watery mashers). Secondly, only mash just enough with the masher and then move to folding with a spoon. Too much mashing makes for a gluey texture, better to have a few lumps. And finally, have extra butter and milk ready to mix into the mashers if they seem stiff or dry. And feel free to keep adding butter…hard to go wrong. Then adjust seasoning, serve with more butter on the side and you’re done. All in less than 30 minutes. Perfect.

    And if you want to be “fancy” there are a few other steps you can take. If you just hate lumps, you can run the mashers through a fine mesh strainer to get a very smooth consistency (if you do this, you may as well add as much butter as you can- like a mousseline). And lastly, if you want to pull out the martini glasses and add a bunch of garnishes you may get a few extra smiles at the table. A slightly ridiculous, but also delicious, dish for the “holidaze”.

    Easy, Perfect Mashed Potatoes

    Notes Before You Start:

    • Yukon Gold potatoes are widely available. Use the largest Yukons you can to save time on peeling.
    • This recipe is for 4 – 6 as a side, but scales easily for larger groups.

    What You Get: Like we said, perfect mashed potatoes.

    What You Need: A potato masher, or a ricer. But the masher is the best tool for this recipe.

    How Long? About 30 minutes, with 10 minutes of active time. This is an anytime dish. Continue reading