Monday, January 4, 2016

Country French Cabbage Soup

A friend we were staying with in Southern France treated us to a wonderful family style, road side restaurant near his home. When I say roadside, I don't mean it was anywhere equivalent to a roadside restaurant in the US. While situated on a dark road somewhere in the rustic French countryside with a large statue of a cow on the roof, this was a place of incredible, high end country style food.
This is the kind of place you find only if someone knows where it is or you have got lost on that road.
Inside it was warm, cozy and loud. Large, heavy wooden tables full of food and families enjoying the food and company. The large stone fireplace that was behind the counter, big enough for a person could walk into, not only warmed the room but also served as the grill that the meat was cooked on. Their specialties were goose and steaks cooked (very rare! ) in that fire. With the meal came a huge crock of cabbage soup. Even Violet, who can be very particular about food and wasn't even feeling that well that day loved that soup and requested I figure out how to make it. This is a wonderful, nourishing, comforting and EASY soup to make. I make it on cold, rainy days and eating it instantly takes us back to that wonderful. stormy night in France. I always make it in my crockpot but you could easily make it on the stove and just let it simmer an hour or so to blend the flavors.

8 cups of chicken broth ( I prefer using turkey broth when I have it. I always make my own broth whenever I roast a chicken or turkey so my pantry inventory changes a bit.  My guess is the restaurant uses goose. So you can really make do with what you have and decide what you like best. )
This serves 4

1 cup white wine
4 large potatoes, cubed
1/2 cup of finely chopped leeks
2 garlic cloves minced
1/2 head of chopped green cabbage
salt and white pepper to taste
small fresh rosemary sprig

Toss everything but the cabbage in a crockpot and cook on low for at least 8 hours. Throw in cabbage and cook on high about 20 minutes. This will cook your cabbage enough to soften but still leave it a little crisper. You can cook it longer if you prefer it softer.
This is really an accommodating dish. We usually prefer it simple like this because it seems really close to the one we had in France but I have certainly played with it and it always comes out delicious. Onions when I didn't have leeks, carrots just because, different herbs.......Make it your own.

Serve it with fresh, crusty bread, cheese, and of course, a bottle of wine.

Bon Apetit!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Portugese Turkey

This isn't actually a  recipe that I discovered travelling but it was quoted as being a traditional Portuguese recipe in the food section of the Chicago Times. However, once you use this recipe there is no going back. I have served this for to chefs, foodies, and friends who just hate turkey for decades and it has never failed to get RAVE reviews.
Since we always have a non-traditional feast for Thanksgiving I usually make this for Christmas Eve.  I put it in the oven early in the day and we eat it all day long. If we are in town we like to open up our home to anyone who would like to stop by for good food, wine and games. We have discovered that popping slices of the turkey back in the oven, along with the stuffing layers, and heating it up until there is a slight crisp is just as amazing as when it first comes out of the oven. The plates empty fast! So here it is......

10-11 lbs turkey (this is from the original recipe, I actually usually use a turkey somewhere between 12-14 and have gone up to 16 and just cooked it about a half hour longer. I wouldn't recommend going any bigger because it won't cook through but a 12-14 is perfect with the stated cook time)
2 lbs of salt (OK, I know that is a lot of salt! I use a box of course, sea salt and don't really use that much. I don't even measure it. I just pour it in the brine water and then really rub it into the turkey skin and pour it directly in to the cavity. )
1/2 cup butter
3 Tbs of olive oil
3 1/2 C chicken stock
2 lg garlic cloves
1 lg onion
1 lb of French bread
1/2 T salt and pepper
2 lg eggs yolk ( I have completely spaced using the egg yolk in the stuffing and it turns out fine. So if you don't eat eggs or don't happen to have them feel free to leave them out. )

1. Remove giblets. Fill neck and cavity with salt. Then rub skin well. Place turkey and rest of salt in kettle. Add cold water to just cover.  I use my roasting pan and simply turn my turkey a couple of times while it is soaking if the water doesn't cover it completely. The original recipe says to soak for  3 to 4 hours. I usually do it at least overnight and sometimes will let it brine for a couple of days and just change to fresh salt water after a day.

2. Put butter and oil in kettle over med. heat. Add chopped garlic and onion. Cook 3-5 minutes until onion is limp. Tear bread into small chunks. Stir bread, salt and pepper into garlic mix, toss well. Pour into stock and beat hard until paste like, reduce heat to lowest point, cover and cook 15-20 mins until all the liquid is absorbed. Add yolks and beat until smooth. Set aside off the heat. I often make this a day ahead and let it set in the fridge. It makes it a little easier to stuff when it's cold.

3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Drain Turkey and rinse well. Loose skin from breast to create a pocket between the meat and the skin. Push stuffing far down under the skin. Pack lightly, about 1" thick. Stuffing the paste-like stuffing is messy but so worth it! Put remaining stuffing in the neck cavity. Skewer neck skin shut if you want. I never do this. I'm totally OK with the stuffing spilling out when it cooks.

4. Roast for  2 1/2 hours. Yes, I promise you this is long enough! You are cooking this at a higher heat and using a smaller size turkey then the average "Thanksgiving" Turkey. Again, I have never had a problem with it cooking through with up to a 14lb turkey. This higher heat creates a wonderful, crispy potato chip like skin. Let rest uncovered 20 mins. Sprinkle with fresh parsley if desired.

Over the years I have tried different variations on this recipe. I have done different brines with oranges and lemons, different spices, wine, etc.... but I have never found them worth the effort. It tends to muddy the flavors. The one thing I do do, because part of the wonderful part of this recipe is the crispy crust with the stuffing layer, is to assure that it is as crispy and flavorful as possible. So I rub the skin with a light coating of olive oil and then sprinkle some seasonings on top of the skin. You could use any of your favorite rubs or combos. I stay pretty simple with salt, black pepper and paprika.