It goes without saying that the turkey is the “piece de resistance” of the Thanksgiving meal, the part of the meal that is most likely to succeed or fail. Therefore, it is imperative to have a fail-proof recipe which not only looks perfect (or close to it), but tastes fabulous as well.

But as with all things in life, nothing, not even the best recipe can guarantee an award-winning roast turkey, as components like your oven and indeed, the bird itself, matters greatly. But by all means, give this one a go and keep on trying until you find the best recipe that works for you.
First in line for what could be the “Best Turkey Recipes Ever” is Alton Brown‘s, which is a rather scientific method of what could be a foolproof way of making a good turkey roast.

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1 gallon iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket. Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement) for 6 hours. Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.

A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.

Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.

Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil.

Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.

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For many people – and that includes yours truly – the best time to make a really good meal is on the weekend. This is because you have enough time to spend in taking care to prepare an elaborate meal. During the week, you normally only have less than an hour to make a quick meal. I suppose that is the beauty of Gordon Ramsay’s Sunday Lunch cookbook, which helps you come up with some of the best weekend meals you can ever make.

Gordon Ramsay is no stranger to good meals and he shares his expertise in a simple manner. The cookbook is described by Amazon as:

Gordon Ramsay’s aim is to get us all cooking up a storm and sitting down at the table with friends and family to share lunch on Sundays and at other leisure times. In the second series of “The F Word”, his highly acclaimed topical food programme, he visits people all over the UK of all ages, backgrounds and ethnic origins to help them cook up a meal for family and/or friends. These range from traditional Sunday roasts to lighter summer fare, from easy 30-minute meals to Italian, Indian and Moroccan influenced family feasts. As always, Gordon is there to help the home cook at every stage – buying the right ingredients, preparation and serving and helping to co-ordinate the cooking of several dishes to arrive on the table simultaneously.

I do not have my own copy of the cookbook but from what I have seen in previews, the recipes are quite simple, especially if you have at least the tiniest experience in the kitchen. Who knows, Santa might bring me one tonight?

cornish crabsAre you up for some seafood this Christmas? Well here is something for you to try, straight out of British celebrity chef Delia Smith. She is a legend in her own right and this dish is quite simple but has enough kick to make you a star on Christmas Day. Recipe courtesy of The Telegraph.

Ingredients:
• 1 pack of six savoury pastry cases (M&S)
• 2 x 100g packs hand-picked white Cornish crab (Seafood & Eat It, Waitrose)
• 1 x 110g pack hand-picked brown Cornish crab (Seafood & Eat It, Waitrose)
• 3 level tbsp half-fat crème fraîche
• 1½ tbsp dry sherry
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• a pinch of ground mace
• a good grating of nutmeg
• 40g grated Parmesan
• ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
• salt to garnish
• 2 cartons of mustard and cress, or salad cress

Procedure:
You will need a small baking tray. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

All you do here is put the tart cases on to the baking tray, then place the white and brown crabmeats, the crème fraîche, sherry, lemon juice, mace, nutmeg and a little salt in a medium-size bowl. Mix it all together with a large fork, and taste to check the seasoning.

Now divide the crab mixture evenly among the pastry cases and even it out using the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the Parmesan all over the crab and finish off with a dusting of cayenne.

Bake the tarts for 25 minutes until puffed and golden, and serve them from the oven with a mustard and cress garnish.

Christmas is definitely in the air, so what better time to start baking cookies? If you have children, this simple action can turn into a wonderful holiday tradition! These Linzer cookies from Ina Garten are festive and elegant enough to also serve at holiday get-togethers, and also make fabulous presents to give away.

Linzer Cookies

3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup good raspberry preserves
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/4-inch thick and cut 2 3/4-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter. With 1/2 of the rounds, cut a hole from the middle of each round with a heart or spade shaped cutter. Place all the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. Spread raspberry preserves on the flat side of each solid cookie. Dust the top of the cut-out cookies with confectioners’ sugar and press the flat sides together, with the raspberry preserves in the middle and the confectioners’ sugar on the top.

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With Thanksgiving barely over and leftovers still smouldering in the fridge, theres no better time to start thinking and planning for the next big day ahead – Christmas!!

Ok, call me a bit of a sadist, but unlike Thanksgiving which really only involves a singular meal (maybe you were even lucky this year and played guest and not chef) , Christmas is so much more, especially so if you have a family with little children.

You know what I’m talking about – stockings, tree, decorations, outfits, parties, pantomimes and presents – to a list which seems to get longer every year! So yes, early preparations for this particular holiday does make good sense.

And since this blog is about chefs and therefore food, I’ll be posting about some of my favourite celeb chefs’ Christmas menus. Depending on your mood, gathering and needs this year, you can decide early on what tickles your fancy most. After all, Christmas is the season for celebration, joy, and splashing out indulgently – as Nigella so rightly reminds us in her Christmas Menu below.

I think the mistake people make most when entertaining is to get too fancy with the food. No one is ever too sophisticated for the basic pleasures of home cooking, and there is something about those old favorites that makes everyone feel a little leap of joy in the heart………The whole point of a feast is that it is unnecessarily abundant
Nigella Lawson

Nigella’s Rustic Christmas Menu

Crab Cocktail
Seasonal Breeze
Perfect Roast Potatoes
Petits Pois � la Fran�aise
Green Bean and Lemon Casserole
Standing Rib Roast
Chestnut Cheesecake

For recipes, start HERE.

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emerillagasse.jpg

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time of gathering and renewing family ties. It is about giving and sharing our blessings. It’s also about sitting in front of the fire and talking all night, sharing stories of christmases past and the visits of Santa.

Of course if you are going to be awake all night and talking all night long, while hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa, you can’t do it with a dry throat. This calls for a drink that is meant to be savored with friends while gathered around the tree watching the kids play. It is one of the best nights of the year.

Try Emeril Lagasse’s Chocolatey Christmas Cafe Au Lait. Though cafe au lait is normally a breakfast drink, this drink is perfect even if you drink this before your first meal of the day.

Have a merry christmas everyone!

Emeril’s Chocolate-y Christmas Cafe Au Lait

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 ( 2-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 strip orange peel, about 1/2 inch by 3 inches
10 whole cloves
2 to 2 1/2 cups hot brewed strong coffee

1/4 cup cold heavy cream
Ground cinnamon, for garnish
Cocoa, for garnish

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the milk, 2/3 cup of the sugar, and cocoa until smooth. Add the cinnamon sticks, orange peel and cloves and bring to a simmer, stirring, to dissolve the sugar and prevent the cocoa from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whip the cream with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar until thick and frothy, and peaks form. Set aside.

Strain the milk mixture into a coffee pot or carafe and add 2 cups of the hot coffee (2 1/2 cups for stronger coffee flavor, to taste). Pour into cups or small mugs and top each with a dollop of the sweetened whipped cream.

Serve immediately.

While watching the holiday-appropriate “Turkey Challenge” episode of Iron Chef America, in which the contestants were each given the Thanksgiving bird to get creative within the show’s time slot, I watched half-interested as to who was challenging Bobby Flay (yet again) with Alton’s semi-sarcastic drawl in the background.

When I saw that it wasn’t Mario and that it was two affable ladies – a blonde in bright pink and a diminutive brunette with funky glasses, it got my attention. I realized after a while, that it was the Two Hot Tamales, also known as Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.

The most interesting dish of the show by far was the Hot Tamales turkey (yes, turkey) ice cream, which used the bourbon Wild Turkey, and (regretfully) turkey stock. As one of the judges aptly put it, high marks for originality, low marks for the proteiny taste. Much as I like Mary Sue and Susan, I have to say that they reached a little too much here – who on earth would eat a poultry-flavoured ice cream? I must say that the presentation was beautiful though, a chocolate ball crust in a chocolate turkey-shaped basket.

Their other dishes beat Mr.Flay’s multi-turkey breast renditions (all the same, different sauce) by a mile I thought, with things like turkey meatball soup and a scotch egg which looked absolutely scrummy. You don’t get to see of the humble scotch egg on television much, and I have to say that the last time I saw one was at a garage shop in a UK motorway.

Sadly, it was a tie (the injustice!!), and even if Alton said that that was “rare” for the show, I should really email them and say that the last time I watched it was also a tie.

But anyway, one good thing was that I got to see the Two Hot Tamales again, who I hadn’t seen in years and had actually forgotten about in the sea of the new breed of Celeb Chefs (or dare I say media whores?). Now you know who I’ll be blogging about next.

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And more Thanksgiving tips from your favourite chefs…..

the Hearty Boys
Remember WHY your guests are there. Sure, we all want the food to be glorious and the table setting to be stunning….but we’re talking real life here. When things go awry, your family will just be glad to be together and your friends will probably be thrilled to have something to hold over your head for the next 15 years. That being said, when you plan your menu, don’t be overambitious and bite off more than you can chew. Plan on dishes that can be at least partially prepared one or two days in advance

Michael Chiarello
If you sit down for even a few minutes ahead of time to write down all of your dishes and the ingredients you need, you will actually get to be a guest at your own party. Ask yourself what can I do two days ahead, or even one day ahead? Also, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help.

Nigella Lawson
Keep the sides to a minimum, but make sure you have a lot of each. You need to create a mood of welcoming plenty, but too many pots on the stove will not help you feel hospitable. Make a homemade cranberry sauce�it’s easier than you think and will make everyone feel you’ve made a real effort. What’s more, you can make it in advance.

Paula Deen
Do as much as possible the day ahead. Casseroles are great because you can cook and freeze them ahead of time and just pull them out and heat up at the last minute. Serve things that can be eaten at room temperature.

Robin Miller
Take a deep breath, enjoy yourself and don’t try anything too complicated. Most people enjoy simple holiday foods. And, don’t forget to delegate!!

Sandra Lee
Make as much as you can ahead of time and freeze it. Thaw it in the fridge overnight and heat just before serving. Let guests bring the more labor-intensive and baked dishes. Don’t panic! Perfection is overrated, and anything is fixable.

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After the trick or treating is over, its time to start thinking of the holiday season, which is now really starting to creep up on us. For Americans all over the world, one of the biggest holidays, Thanksgiving, is marked on the calendar, a time when the word “preparations” means something rather large and daunting – especially for us mere mortals and not mini-Marthas.

So here I’ve found some of the best advice from Celeb Chefs which should ease some of the holiday aggro you most probably are experiencing now. So take their advice and get ready for a stress-free Thanksgiving.
Bobby Deen
Start early, have a plan, know how many you’re cooking for. Try frying your turkey this year and have fun with your friends and family�that’s what it’s all about.

Dave Lieberman
Don’t make too much and get your relatives to help. Delegate.

Ellie Krieger
Get as much done as you can ahead of time so you can relax and enjoy the company!

Emeril Lagasse
Don’t panic. Plan ahead and do your shopping in advance.

George Duran
Invite mom over.

Giada De Laurentiis
Do a Potluck�assign a dish to everyone so that you don’t have to do all the work yourself. And don’t be afraid to let your guests help out in the kitchen and with other loose ends. It makes them a part of the meal, while also taking off some of the workload.

Guy Fieri
Test run a turkey in your oven with the recipe you’re going to use a week ahead of time, making sure you track time, temp and method. Everyone can always use some extra turkey and if you do end up blowing the turkey deal on the big day, you already had some the week before and it won’t be so traumatic. Make real cranberry sauce�it is so worth it.

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Everyday Italian

When Giada De Laurentiis was pregnant — and her nesting instincts started early. She’ll be sharing Thansgiving recipes in her show Everyday Italian But the chef will be reinventing Thanksgiving fare, serving salad instead of corn bread.

She says most of her family is married to Americans, and so it’s become part of her personal family traditions. And have to admit, nothing like a table full of food to satisfy those first-trimester cravings.