Monday, 31 December 2007
I finally started the "Turkey Production Line" on Friday. After multiple meals, our turkey yielded 3.5lb of meat for future dinners (now in the freezer). The stockpot of turkey stock is currently in the fridge, having simmered most of Friday night. We're away for New Year's, so I'll have to finish it off tomorrow when I get home.
Anyway, while I was pulling apart the turkey, it occurred to me that I never feel closer to my paternal, shtetl-living great-great-grand-mother than when I'm covered in bits of poultry, filling the stock pot with bones on one side and a bowl with meat on the other. Today's post is dedicated to her.
Smaltz is the Jewish answer to lard; rendered chicken/duck/goose fat. In the shtetl, goose was the all-important bird - like the cottager's pigs, they were fed any leftovers going. The goose provided meat, fat, crackling ("gribbene"), quills for writing, down and feathers for warm bedding or clothing.
Like all fat, you shouldn't eat too much smaltz. However, it adds a wonderful depth and chicken-aroma to chicken dishes.
There are two basic methods of rending poultry fat to make smaltz: the top of stove method and the oven method. For both, you need to collect a large amount of chicken skin, globs of fat removed from poultry before cooking, scrapings from the top of your chicken/turkey stock and the fat you drained out of the roasting pan on Christmas Day. (I usually skin my own chicken fillets and dump those skins into a bag in the freezer to await the day I make smaltz.)
Top of Stove. Empty the fat into a deep saucepan, add a cup of water, cover and cook on a medium heat until the fat is melted and the chicken skins are crisp. Approximately 40 minutes.
Oven. Alternatively, if you are using your oven, dump the assorted skin and fat into a roasting dish and place it in the bottom of the oven. Roast for at least an hour or until the fat is melted and the chicken skin is crisp.
Both methods. Line a colander with kitchen paper or muslin/cheesecloth. Place the colander over a deep bowl. Carefully pour the rendered fat, etc, into the colander. It will slowly drain through. When the fat has drained out of the colander, set the bowl aside to cool and then refridgerate it until solid.
The stuff in the colander is gribbene (crackling). Dust with salt and pepper and feed to the hungry hoards.
Okay, back to the fat in the fridge. You are almost done. To ensure longevity, it needs to be "washed". Take the bowl out of the fridge. Turn the fat out onto a board and scrape the bottom of it to remove any sediment. Place it into your largest, heatproof container. (I like deep but narrow for this.) Pour over a kettle full of boiling water and allow to cool. Chill until set.
Lift off the lid of fat from the water and scrape off the remaining sediment. Dump the fat into a saucepan and melt it.** Pour into tuperware container(s) and refridgerate until you need to cook with it (or shove it back in the freezer). It lasts indefinitely.
Uses: frying; any recipe that starts with "fry onion"; roasting vegetables; pastry (it makes a great flaky pastry); roasts; etc.
Next time you see a chef on TV talking about roasting potatoes in goose fat, smile smuggly - you've got your home-made fat ready and waiting. And it didn't cost you a penny.
**After I wrote this, I came across a facsimile of a Ministry of Food leaflet from World War 2, "How To Fry". It explains that when you reheat the fat for the last time before storing it, you should simmer it until it stops bubbling (to ensure the fat has lost any residual water content). That will ensure its longevity.
If you are interested in WW2 food, check out Eating for Victory by Jill Norman.
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
Here's what I do: I start a turkey products factory.
First, get the equipment. Large stock pot. Check. Measuring scales. Check. Supply of freezer bags, pouched open. Check. Bowl for any leftover chestnut stuffing. Check. Dish full of scrapings/bones/garlic paper from plates over Christmas. Check. Freezer bag full of chicken bones from previous meals. Check. Freezer bag with chicken skin and fat from previous meals. Check. Container of fat and juices from turkey roasting dish. Check. Giblets, neck bone, etc, from the turkey. Check.
Now, attack the turkey. I cut off all the remaining meat, in chunks, and divide it into either half pound (250g) or 1lb (500g) freezer bags. Once sealed, I label them with a description, the date and weight of the bag. When all the bags are full, I shove them in the freezer and forget about them for a few weeks until we can face having a turkey-based meal. (See tomorrow's instalment for meal ideas.)
If there are any fatty deposits left on the turkey, I cut them off and put them in the freezer bag full of chicken skin, etc. Scrape off the fat from the congealed roasting dish juices and add this fat to the bag. In due course, this will get made into Smaltz, but not today.
Scoup out all the remaining Chestnut Stuffing and deposit in a bowl. Fight DH to stop him taking the bowl and eating the contents then and there. Save for breakfast and spread on toast. It makes great sandwiches/toast toppings.
Now, make your turkey stock. Dump the turkey bones into your stockpot, together with the plate scrapings, the giblets/neck and the freezer bag full of chicken bones. (Don't worry about any chestnut stuffing residue, it'll just make your stock a little dark.) Pour in the congealed roasting pan juices. Add a small onion, a carrot or two, a couple of cloves of garlic and 3 peppercorns. If you have any, add some tarragon: either a heaped teaspoon of dried or a tablespoon of freshly chopped leaves. Cover with water, bring to the boil. Skim when it reaches boiling point. Simmer for three to four hours (you can start this one night and finish it the next). Allow to cool a little before straining the stock into a deep bowl (I put the bowl into the sink, put a colander into the bowl and then pour in the stock). Save the colander full of bones.
NOTE. If you need to add extra water to your stock pot, DO NOT ADD COLD WATER - it will make the fat disperse throughout the stock giving it a bitter taste and weird texture. Add boiling water instead.
Return the strained stock to your pot and boil down to one-third. Allow to cool and then chill in the fridge. Scrape off the fat that congeals on top and add to your freezer bag of fat. Then re-heat the jellied stock until it becomes liquid again, pour into containers, label and freeze. I re-use plastic soup containers for this, since they fit inside my freezer door shelves. I also make some "stock cubes", pouring a bit of the stock into an ice-cube tray.
This makes a strongly flavoured stock. When a recipe calls for stock, I'll use half frozen stock and half water.
Finally, pick over the bones from the stock and remove any remaining meat. Go carefully, because the bones will have softened considerably and it's easy to get small ones in with your meat. Bag up, label as "stock meat" and freeze. Use in strongly flavoured dishes where you don't really taste the chicken/turkey, e.g. "chicken" vindaloo. Add a chicken stock cube to the dish to enhance the flavour. DO NOT serve to small children or animals because of the potential for small bones to remain in the meat.
Now relax. You've processed your turkey and can forget about doing anything with it for a while.
- Pam (tomorrow: smaltz and recipe ideas)
Tuesday, 25 December 2007
It's Christmas morning here, so I'm half way through. There are big advantages to doing your main Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve: I don't have to worry about getting up at the crack of dawn to get the turkey ready and I have most of Christmas Eve to do the cooking. Normally, I stuff the bird on the 23rd, take it out of the fridge at 12 o'clock on the 24th to bring it up to room temperature and shove it in the oven around 2.30pm. Then I prep the veggies and start cooking those at about 6pm. I often do a veggie soup for a starter - it was my way of sneaking some vitamins into my FIL - this year was pumpkin and saffron soup.
This year, I still don't have a working full-sized oven (it's only my fifth Christmas without my stove wired in. Next year, I tell myself, I will have the kitchen sorted. Oh, yes, I will!). So I stuffed the monster turkey (7.8kg/16lb) and lugged it around to my MIL's to roast. There are three of us celebrating Christmas here this year, so maybe I should explain my turkey philosophy. In a nutshell: regardless of how many people are coming to dinner, always buy the biggest bird that'll fit in your oven and/or freezer. (I have been known to do length and side elevation measurements to ensure my turkey will fit. That always entertains the butcher.)
- small turkeys are largely bone so the ratio of meat to bone is lower on a small bird than on a large one; getting a large one ensures you're buying mostly meat
- it takes as much time to prep a small turkey as it does a larger one
- once the bird is in the oven, the cooking labour involved is minimal
What? The thought of turkey leftovers doesn't make your mouth water? You've had so much dry, stringy turkey that on Boxing Day you want to throw the whole thing in the bin? More about the leftovers later....
First, roast your turkey
If you can't afford a premium, organic/free range bird that's grown slowly and knew how to gobble, per Jamie Oliver the secret is to shove butter or fat up under the skin over the breast meat, which will slowly baste the bird from within. At the neck end of the bird, shove your finger up under the skin towards the breast bone and gradually make a pocket. Then insert your butter and work it along under the skin until the upper breast area is covered.
Me? Well, we put money aside all year in the Christmas Fund to pay for our turkey, tree and all the trimmings. This year's bird cost £66; last year's was £70. The year before's was £38 but that was before bird flu put up the price of poultry. What we get for our money is a turkey with ample amounts of fat on it, so I've never worried about it drying out. Note: I have cooked supermarket turkeys in the past. Paying all that extra at a butcher shop really does make a difference.
What I do to cook the turkey is stuff the turkey with my Chestnut Stuffing, put it breast down into the roasting pan, baste it with a mixture of white wine and olive oil, seal it into the roasting pan with foil and roast it for 30 minutes per kilo/15 minutes per lb at 180C /gas mark 6/360F. In a gas oven, I'd rotate the baking dish every half an hour so that it cooks evenly. At half time, I'd turn the bird over to breast side up and pour over some more of the white wine/olive oil mixture.
Keep the turkey in it's foil tent throughout the cooking time. It'll still get nice and brown.
Plan your meal so that the turkey finishes cooking half an hour before you want to serve it. Remove it from the oven and either leave it in the roasting pan or put it on a warm platter. (NB: If you want to make home-made gravy, drain off the juices at this point and shove the container into the freezer.) Cover it with a good layer of foil to keep it warm.
Carve your bird and put the slices of meat onto a warmed serving dish, with the stuffing in the middle.
Mine is a half and half mixture of white wine and extra virgin olive oil, say 200 ml of each, put into a sealable container. Grind over some pepper, say, 20 grinds worth and stir in some taragon (1 teaspoon dried). You may also want to add some salt, but I don't usually bother. Shake well and pour half the mixture over the bird before you start roasting. When you turn the bird over, pour over the other half. Each time: grind over salt and pepper and whatever herbs/spices you want after you've annointed the bird.
This is my chestnut stuffing:
In a food processor, combine:-
- 4 slices of bread (I like using a grainery bread for this for the texture)
- a small onion, peeled and halved or quartered
- 4-6 cloves of garlic
- 4-6 peppercorns
- 1 egg
- the grated rind of two oranges
- 1 can of unsweetened chestnut puree (approximately 400g/14 oz). If you can't get this use 12 oz of peeled, cooked chestnuts and add extra orange juice
- 100ml/4 fl oz approximately of orange juice (or enough to make a smooth paste)
I always do roast potatoes, roast onions and baked garlic. Sometimes I'll roast pumpkin and parsnips, too.
Since British ovens are small, I do my veggies in a separate baking tray. Prep them all first: peel the potatoes and par-boil them for 15 minutes (see below). Top and tail the onions and peel them. For the garlic, take a bulb per person and remove as much of the external paper-like covering as possible, exposing the cloves in their wrappers. Wrap each bulb separately in foil (shiny side in) pouring over a teaspoon of olive oil (or dotting it with a teaspoon of smaltz) before you seal it in.
About an hour before you are due to take out the turkey, grease your baking tray, add the onions (turning in the oil) and garlic and put into a hot oven to heat the fat. Add the potatoes when they are ready.
The potatoes are par-boiled for 15 minutes, drained, sprinkled over with some fine-ground mazoh meal, tossed then turned into hot fat and roasted for 50-60 minutes at 180C/360F. You can par-boil them in advance, drain them and toss with the mazoh meal and stop at this point until you're ready to cook them. They will take a bit longer to roast, maybe an extra 10 minutes since they're cold.
After about half an hour in the oven, turn the potatoes and onion to expose a different side to the cooking and baste if possible with hot fat.
Put your veggies into a warmed serving dish and serve.
I use drain off the liquid in the bottom of the roasting pan and use that to form the basis of my gravy. I'll freeze it for half an hour or so, to facilitate separating the fat from the gravy, and then pour off the fat into a separate container to save for making smaltz.
About five minutes before serving dinner, bring the juices to the boil in a small saucepan. Taste: if it needs salt or pepper add it now; if it isn't very tasty, add a chicken stock cube now.
Meanwhile, combine 50ml of white wine with 1 tablespoon of cornflour in a small dish. Add to the saucepan and, stirring all the time, bring back to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
Pour into your gravy boat and dinner is ready.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Pam (tomorrow, I'll talk about leftovers)
Friday, 21 December 2007
On Tuesday, we had a P.A. training day and finished it off with an evening of Go-Karting. Here I am (second from right) with some nice colleagues.
This is almost all the female contingent who attended (one girl took the photo). It was freezing. Note the coat. They had to talk me into taking it off. Also note the stylish overalls, supplied by the Centre. They were colour coded by size.
There were 19 of us competing (we had the track to ourselves for the evening). Each of us drove in 6 heats of 5 laps. If you qualified for the final, you got to drive another 20 laps.
The guys were really competitive. Last time I went Karting, (in 2000), it was with Head Office Finance at my old company for our "year end" celebrations (err, celebrating publishing the statutory accounts and surviving the audit). That was a much more gentle affair - the men in the department were outnumbered - and the women competed for last place.
Don't let the smile fool you - this time, I was scared. I didn't have a good practice (the yellow helmet was too large) and it was extremely easy to spin on the track. I was frightened I'd drive into a wall because either I was going too fast or my reactions were too slow.
Eventually, I replaced the yellow helmet with a better fitting one. It took me three of my heats to relax.
Eventually, the killer instinct kicked in. I wasn't going to let anyone beat me. I was determined not to be last! Foot flat to the floor, I refused to give way and let people pass me. I had the Karts in front of me in my sights. "Look out world! Here I come!" Faster and faster I drove.
Then I spun out.
But, in each of those races, I wasn't last! There was always someone behind me at the end. And boy was I pleased!
- Pam (came 19th overall)
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
On the A4 motorway outside Schiphol Airport is a sign which proudly proclaims “London 525..[km]..”. I’m in the Netherlands for a meeting in the morning, and I’m reminded once again how this is a nation of contrasts. On the one hand, my hotel’s TV has programs in four languages and I don’t know a Dutchman who doesn’t speak at least two. (I’ve just seen the L’Oreal Expert for Men advert staring that guy from Lost – he’s speaking English; the voice-over is Dutch, and nobody bats an eyelid.)
On the other hand, many of the modern buildings have moat-like ponds on their street side so that, as one of my colleagues explained, invading tank drivers would have a problem driving into them to take them out. I can understand the logic, even though it doesn’t explain what happens if the tank commander decides to shell them instead.
Tonight at the airport, I saw a group of illegal immigrants being led away by the police. I was waiting at Immigration, wondering why there was a group of young-ish men milling around by the counter into the office area – only when they were marshalled out did I realise they were handcuffed. The group looked South East Asian, possibly Filipino. How they were picked up, I don’t know – I didn’t witness what gave them away.
Sunday, 9 December 2007
Having said that, I'm proud of my ability to turn a couple of dull, boring ingredients into a really good meal. Take last Sunday night, when I turned some wizened, forgotten-in-the-bottom-of-the-veggie-drawer parsnips into Parsnip & Lemon Soup. (Having just re-read that post, I realise that I seem to be making a habit of this.) Sunday is the day we usually play role-playing-games at the club DH runs, so food on Sunday night is always rushed and relatively uninspired. Tonight, I made Tuna Sorrento and baked potatoes.
Tuna Sorrento is my take on a sandwich filling from The Sandwich Box, in Warren Street, W1, near where I worked for five years in the mid-1990's. In those days, The Sandwich Box was owned and run by an Anglo-Italian guy, Frank, and his family (his wife, his mother, his uncle). Every year, they'd close for a few weeks over the summer and go home to Italy.
We used to call The Sandwich Box "Frank's". In the days prior to Starbucks, Frank's was one of the few places you could buy a decent takeaway cappuccino in London and for the not-so-exorbitant price of 60p. After a night of little sleep, when I felt almost hungover, I'd pop into Frank's and buy a second breakfast, my "Jewish Girl's Special"; a bagel filled with egg-and-bacon-mayonnaise, topped with extra bacon and sometimes a slice of cheddar as well. (What can I say? I coined the name in a fit of self-mockery.)
My favourite lunch from Frank's was a sunflower seed bap filled with Tuna Sorrento. (A bap is a large bread bun at least 5 inches in diameter and 1.5-2 inches deep.) I'd probably buy it at least once or twice a week before I left Warren Street in 1997.
Frank sold up in the summer of 1999. He'd been mugged a couple of years earlier, fetching cash from the bank, and then the shop was robbed. He told the regulars that his heart had gone out of the business. He'd been there for 15 years. I missed his last day by a couple of weeks; popping in to my old office to meet some friends I saw the "under new management sign". I don't know if the new management ever made Tuna Sorrento nor if they're still there 10 years later.
2 x 180g/6oz cans tuna in brine, drained
1 x 400g/14oz can cooked kidney beans, drained
2-3 spring onions, chopped
1/4 - 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Combine all the ingredients, beating in the mayonnaise until the tuna forms a smooth paste-like consistency and the beans are a bit mushed up. Grind over some black pepper and use as a sandwich filling, or on baked potatoes, or even stir through some pasta.
- Pam (Frank, where-ever you are, this one is for you)
Friday, 7 December 2007
We flew in on Friday 9th November and were met at the airport by DH's aunt. Aunty lives in West Island, not far from Pierre Trudeau Airport.
First step was to collect our hire car, a Toyota Yaris. Only thing is - it wasn't a Yaris as we know them. (Saw a few of those wearing an "Echo" badge.)
Nope, even in daylight, it still wasn't a Yaris. It was the size of a Corolla. And when did they start making Yaris sedans?
We alternated driving days, but I claimed the first drive. It's a really nice car. Big boot/trunk, reasonable legroom inside and lots and lots of well thought out storage spaces. The centrally positioned displays put DH off a bit (he prefers the speedo directly in front of him), but I got used to it quite fast and it wouldn't put me off buying one of these cars.
On the Saturday, we followed Goodstuff3's advice and went to Parc de Mont Royal with DH's Aunt. This is me and Aunty.
We parked up and walked up to the Chalet. Here is a view of modern Montreal from the Chalet steps.
Looks like most modern cities in North America, Australia, South Africa or New Zealand. A bit different to European cities where people still live in the centre and the central business district isn't deserted at night. I felt quite at home.
Here is a shot of the Chalet which was built to entertain the Queen on her first visit to Canada.
The rafters of the Chalet are decorated by squirrels.
Afterwards, we drove into Montreal and visited the Basilica de Notre Dame.
Although none of us are Catholic (I'm not even Christian), we attended evening mass. They have a choir mistress/Cantor with the most beautiful light soprano voice. She is easily in her 40's but sounds like a teenager. The church is beautifully decorated inside, with very elaborate paintwork. Sadly, you aren't allowed to photograph it, but you can see more here. (Although the site doesn't seem to be working right now.)
Sunday was spent watching NFL on the TV, knitting and chatting to Aunty. We had planned to go out, but the chance to watch a match or two was too tempting. So we didn't visit Old Montreal until Monday.
Headed off on our own on Monday and promptly got lost. I missed the correct exit in the tunnels that run under the city and we came out on the far side. Drove around in circles for a while DH tried to work out the map. Eventually, I did the "I'll take the next right and pull over" thing. It's just as well I did park up - I rapidly realised that I'd turned the wrong way down a one-way street!!!
After an "Oh shit" u-turn, I found a nice girl to ask for directions. And we were on our way. Five or six kilometers out of town on the opposite side to where we were staying. We parked up at the car park beside the Town Hall. Not bad value to this British resident at $16 a day. I have no idea if that is expensive to Canadians. (Parking in an equivalent spot in London would be £40+.)
To me, the Town Hall looks vaguely French, sort of colonial-Victorian with French touches. It is impressive inside - got a grand entrance hallway - but we missed the tour. It does, however, have really nice toilets that are open for the public to use.
I was really taken by the Egyptian style lamps that grace one of the court buildings nearby. Doesn't it look like papyrus?
We wandered around the shops in there and I purchased a really lovely black knitted cardigan with a shawl neck. I had been so wound up by work that I hadn't really put much thought into packing - it showed when I realised I'd only packed two sweaters. (I'll post photos of the sweater later.)
In the meantime, here is DH outside the Town Hall.
On the Tuesday, DH drove the 3.5 hours to Quebec City. We parked near the Station and Town Hall. Here is a shot of the Town Hall.
And the station. One day, I would like to take the train along the full route of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was one of my Dad's day-dreams, which I've shared.
Quebec City is the most European of all the cities I've visited in North America. Very French. It reminded me of Montmatre in Paris and parts of Geneva.
This is Montmorency Park, the site of Canada's first parliament building. When the building burnt down, the Canadians stopped alternating their parliament between Toronto and Quebec City and moved it to Ottawa. We speculated that these guns had once been trained on the English.
Whilst we were wandering around Quebec City, we stumbled over a sport shop displaying a Patriot's sweatshirt. It was the only one they had and it was the wrong size for DH. Before the shop assistant double checked the stock room, he had DH try on a Bengals sweatshirt for size. Here you are public (Amy, close your eyes!), for one picture only, DH in a Bengals top!
Quebec city has lots of sculpture in it's public spaces. I was especially taken by this one.
The building below has an aluminium roof. I think it's the local office of Alcan (their's is the plaque on the left of the door).
Quebec City is a walled, gated city. This is one of the gates.
And here I am admiring the view from the walls nearby.
Just for Kim (and any other Arsenal supporters out there), here is street sign for Rue de l'Arsenal.
Originally, I was meant to share the drive back from Quebec City, but I got cramp. We stopped to swap drivers, I got out of the car and the muscles in my right thigh and groin siezed up. Agony.
So, instead, I did the drive to and from Ottawa City on the Thursday; a drive of about two hours. DH's Aunt came with us. Here they are outside Parliament House.
This is a full shot of Parliament House. The Peace Tower is a memorial to Canada's war dead, built after the First World War.
We did the free tour and I can thoroughly recommend it. The library is amazing (sadly, no photography allowed). The tour ends at the foot of the Peace Tower, so we took the lift to the viewing deck and were greeted by an amazing view. Here is the roof of the dome of the Library, with Hull in the background.
Aren't they cute?
Later, we spotted the lions guarding the post office entrance.
I think this one should be labeled: "Just Call me Leo". Isn't he dignified?
Further down the same street, we spotted these two characters guarding the entrance to a bank:
We spent the Friday helping Aunty to rake up the leaves in the front and back gardens. She'd arranged for a handyman to do it, but he stood her up. (We'd volunteered several times over our week there - the last time, she gave in.) As you can see, we filled six or seven huge bags with leaves.
Had loads of fun squashing the leaves down, although DH managed to burst a bag when he leapt on top of it and the air couldn't vent. The above shot was taken in the afternoon before we left.
Wednesday, 5 December 2007
Per DH, we took 377 photos in Canada. I'll do a sift tonight, I hope, and put up the best 10.