There are two schools of thought regarding cranberry sauce. First, there's the people, diehard believers, all of them, who purchase the can of jellied berries packed so tightly the little ridges show when you schlep it into grandma's crystal dish on Thanksgiving Day. Have at it.
My preference, however, is for the second group of Thanksgiving feasters: Those who appreciate the humble cranberry as a delicacy to be cooked slowly, carefully, and served at just the right moment as a compliment to a beautiful, brined turkey.
It's not difficult, or too time-consuming, but cooking homemade cranberry sauce does require some careful steps, along with a little imagination. Below is the basic recipe. Enjoy.
1 bag fresh cranberries (buy extra and freeze them to make more later)
2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
Ground cinnamon to taste
Orange zest to taste.
(Other additions may include a splash of lemon juice, mandarin oranges diced into small chunks, rosemary, or basil)
- Bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring frequently, until a simple syrup forms.
- Add cranberries and cover. Gently simmer on medium for 10-15 minutes, until the berries gently pop. Stir occasionally, and do not let the berries burn.
- Remove from heat, add orange zest and cinnamon to taste.
- If you like, garnish with a sprig of mint or rosemary.
You can catch up with this recipe, and a few other Thanksgiving favorites, on KFQD radio, where I once in a while chat about food and flying, my favorites. Check it out HERE.
Brining the holiday bird became an internet "thing" about 10 years ago, but those in the know have been soaking turkeys, ducks, or chickens in savory, flavor-y brines long before that. Why brine? Ever had a turkey that was just a bit too dry, chewy, or, god forbid, reminiscent of the one cooked in that holiday classic National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation?
Worry no more.
By sliding your uncooked Thanksgiving turkey into a herb-y, spicy liquid brine a day or so before eating, your family can be assured of a juicy, flavorful bird. Brining as a process breaks down the tough muscle tissues of turkey and allows moisture to infuse into the meat, especially for today's commercially-produced birds with enormous, er, breasts.
This brine recipe calls for several simple ingredients, but the door is open for other flavors in your cabinet or pantry. The key is to completely thaw the turkey, and place it in a non-reactive (as in, non-metal) container for the brining process. A handy trick is to utilize the roasting bags sold today, or even an extra-extra large zip-type food storage bag. Then, in case you need to use a regular, metal stockpot, the bag will prevent the metallic flavor of a reactive container.
Thaw the turkey in the fridge, or in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (i.e. yes, your Alaska garage may work, but check to be sure).
2 gallons water
3 cups apple cider
2 cups brown sugar
1 ½ cups kosher salt
A few bay leaves
A few twigs of rosemary (get the fresh stuff, it's worth it)
3 Tbs black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves, minced
Sliced lemon and orange.
That’s it… simple. What do you have in your pantry? Go crazy.
Brine turkey below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 24 hours.
Rinse bird in fresh cold water before preparing for roasting.
To roast turkey, preheat oven to 325F.
Follow directions on packaging for roasting times.
At the very least, make sure internal temperature is at least 165F at the deepest point in the turkey to insure safety.
Let turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.
Serve with all the traditional fixings.
Recipes for smoked salmon are as varied as Alaskans themselves. Cold-smoked, or hot? Spicy bring, or sweet? Whatever your preference, smoked salmon is a signature of Last Frontier autumn weather.
The Flying Chef's tried and true recipe is rather simple, and follows much of the traditional Alaska Native practices of drying salmon outdoors in the cold, dry, air.
It is recommended that you brine salmon for at least 24 hours (and up to 48), then dry on a rack with a box fan providing dry, cool air, or even out in the back yard during a brisk autumn windstorm, just until the surface of the fish is "tacky" to the touch. While September weather has dropped below freezing at night, daytime temperatures are still well above that; so it's best to wait until our days are at a consistent 40F or lower, AND -- the bears currently wandering around are fat, happy, and asleep for the winter (usually mid-October).
A cold smoke (around 90F for six hours or so in a simple plywood smoker) will impart flavor but result in a softer cure, as for salmon lox, perfect for breakfast on bagels or with crackers, capers, and perhaps a pickled onion or two as a happy hour treat.
A hot smoke, The Flying Chef's choice, starts with your choice of wood (alder is a good one), and generally starts at about 120F for two hours, then at 140F for two hours. Then, depending on the thickness of the fish and space in the smoke locker, the final two hours should reach between 160F - 180fF, for a total of six hours.
Want to get truly Alaskan? Dry the salmon strips on your porch after the first snow. For this method, The Flying Chef highly recommends king salmon, or at the very least, a solid sockeye. The oil content must be high for this method to insure a moist interior of the flesh. Be sure to use light salt brine and let nature take its course.
Enjoy Alaska; the next season is upon us.
About that brine....Here is The Flying Chef's go-to recipe. It's a secret. Or, it was.
Be sure to refrigerate and cook all fish thoroughly before consumption.
8 cups soy sauce
4 pounds brown sugar
8 cups water
5 Tbs garlic powder
3 Tbs seasoning salt
1 Tbscayenne pepper
Mix all ingredients in a large, clean, non-reactive (as in, non-metal) bucket or Rubbermaid tub with lid. Refrigerate.
Cut fish according to your desires and specifications.
Put fish in marinade and place in refrigerator.
Brine for a maximum period of two days.
At the end of the brining time, rinse fish thoroughly, and dry or smoke.
Here in Alaska, we're at the prime of harvesting a bounty of garden produce, and that includes the many herbs that grow quickly in our Midnight Sun environment. For many, preparing and freezing or canning veggies and fruits is a big part of late summer, because opening a package or jar of such in the dead of winter is reminder of all that is delicious in the Last Frontier.
This simple pesto recipe is perfect for freezing, especially if your basil crop got a little out of hand and you have more than you anticipated. Also, did you know pesto can be made with radish, kale, or parsley; and that walnuts can be substituted for expensive (and sometimes hard to find) pine nuts? Experiment, and enjoy this taste of midsummer all year.
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 large garlic cloves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Combine the basil, garlic, cheeses and nuts in a food processor or blender. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper and process to the desired consistency. Let stand five minutes before serving. To freeze, place in airtight container or zip-type freezer bag.
Makes about 1 cup.
Did you catch TFC on KFQD today? There's a whole list of new recipes to try this summer, starting with that great German potato salad posted last week. Today it's a delicate plum sauce that compliments the hearty flesh of Alaska halibut. Check it out and grill something good for Independence Day.
(Courtesy cooking website ratherbeswimmin' on December 29, 2007)
A sweet and tart side dish that goes with just about any meat or fish, German potato salad is a Southern German favorite. Served warm, the salad can also be converted to a main dish by adding ham or sausage. Here, though, we just add a lot of bacon.
Tip: Make sure you use a good-quality German mustard with a combination of distinctive yellow and brown seeds, and sometimes, horseradish for extra zing.
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
¾ cup chopped onion
½ pound bacon
1/3 cup rice vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbs German mustard
1 tsp minced chives for garnish
Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water to extended 2 inches above your spuds.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook for aproxamtly 20 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
Remove the skin with a dishtowel and your thumb (it is pretty easy once you get the hang of it). You can also, of course, just leave the skin on. Chop potatoes in desired-size cubes for the texture of your choice.
Slice bacon in small strips. Over a medium high heat, fry until crisp. Remove from heat and place on sheet pan with paper towels to remove excess grease, reserving about ¼ of the grease in the pan for the rest of the process.
Once the bacon cools, crumble in little pieces.
Chop onion in fine chunks, add to reserved bacon fat, and sauté until translucent. This should take about 4 minutes.
In the same pan and at the same heat, whisk in vinegar, sugar, and mustard. Salt to taste.
You want this mixture to brown and thicken, just a bit, so keep an eye on the process.
Add potatoes and half of the crumbled bacon. Toss and throughly coat the potatoes.
Sprinkle with the remaining bacon, and garnish with chives for color.
A summer side dish staple. baked beans are as popular at cookouts and camping trips as the burgers, steaks, or grilled chicken they accompany. Sweet and smoky, and sometimes spicy, baked beans get their flavor from a rich tomato-based sauce filled with spices, sugars, and (here's the best part) - bacon, and often, whiskey.
What's fun about baked beans is the endless ways people have of jazzing up the basic recipe. From mustard to molasses, onions to peppers, baked beans don't ever have to be made the same way twice.
That said, you'll probably want to make this particular recipe over and over again, because it's that good.
A note about the whiskey: Any type will do, really, but for a deeper, richer flavor, you might try bourbon. Experiment and see which you like best.
4 strips bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cans Rotel brand diced tomatoes with chilies
½ cup molasses
1 small can tomato paste
½ cup whiskey
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can black beans
1 can white kidney beans
1 can red kidney beans
Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Set aside, cool and crumble. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
Add onion and green pepper to skillet and sauté for about 8 minutes until soft and translucent.
Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, molasses, brown sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, and
whiskey. Bring to a boil. Stir occasionally, then simmer for about 3 minutes.
Add beans and crumbled bacon, mix.
Pour into a shallow baking dish and cook at 350 degrees in the oven for 45 minutes.
Serves 4 as a side. Feel free to double or triple as needed.
If there's anything Alaskans know, it's not to let weather interfere with good food. Especially when it comes to grilled or smoked meats. Who says you can't fire up the grill or, in this case, the smoker, when it's -20 F outside? This guy.
This smoked chicken recipe takes some time (a three-step process, actually), so plan it for a day when you have little to do (like, say, a pandemic lockdown).
An important thing to remember with smoking any meats or fish is to appreciate the process; low heat and slow smoking to bring out the flavor of the meat, and the wood used for the actual smoke. Look for hickory, apple, oak, or cherry for a milder flavor, mesquite for a power smoke. Keep the wood burning and the temperature consistent, and you'll end up with the base to a wonderful meal.
I'll be talking up this recipe, along with a few sides, in my next appearance on Anchorage's KFQD radio later this week. Stay tuned, because you'll want to know what I usually pair with this fabulous smoked chicken.
First, the brine
The idea behind brining is to bring out a meat's juicy flavor. Tried and true, the extra step of brining before cooking will take a smoking game to the next level.
If you do not have a brinier there are several models on the market; “The Brinier” by Turkey Tom Products is my choice, but if you have a 5-gallon, food grade plastic bucket with a lid, that will work too. For that matter, so will a large zip-type bag, but in any case, be sure the meat you are brining remains submerged and it is kept at temperature below 40 F.
As far as brine mix, there are several brands producing a good formula, including Turkey Tom, but mixes are also available at local grocery or outdoor stores. If you are new to smoking meats, I suggest using packaged brine until you get the swing of things.
If you want to make your own brine, start with the basic and then add new spices as you gain skills. The recipe below is one that I have used with great success on chicken.
When not using a whole bird, I prefer to use chicken thighs for smoking. Fairly inexpensive and full of fat, this cut is very forgiving when it comes to smoking.
4-5 pounds chicken thighs (bone in preferred)
5 quarts water
½ cup canning salt or salt with no iodine contained in the package
¼ cup brown sugar
3 Tbs garlic powder
3 Tbs onion powder
2 Tbs ground black pepper
2 cups cranberry juice
2 cups orange juice
In a large pot bring water to a boil.
Add salt, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. Stir well.
Boil for about 10 minutes and cool to a temperature of less than 40F <---- KEY. It must cool.
Once brine is cool, add to the brining device (bucket, bag, or actual brining device), then add cranberry and orange juices.
Remove skin from chicken and place in brine. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
Use a thermometer to ensure the temperature of brine and chicken stays at or below 40 F. This is critical, as bacteria can grow on chicken very quickly and make you sick, then you can't enjoy your masterpiece. So, be safe.
Now, about that rub.
2 tsp dried parsley
2 Tbs onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs paprika
1 Tbs white sugar
½ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste. Less is better in this case
½ cup vegetable oil, to brush on chicken so that is will hold the rub.
Mix all ingredients, except the oil, in a bowl.
Remove chicken from brine and pat dry. Discard brine, do not re-use.
With a brush or paper towel, coat chicken in oil.
Dust chicken with dry rub.
Set on smoking racks.
The smoking process
Heat smoker to 230F (your smoker has a temperature gauge, follow it)
Wood used is a personal preference. For this recipe I used mesquite.
I prefer a Bradley Smoker, but use what you have.
Smoke the chicken at 230 F for three hours, with smoke running the entire time and the vent at the top cracked about ¼ inch. Venting is just a function of regulation, (remember, it was 20 below zero outside so I did not want too much heat to escape).
After 3 hours check the temperature of your chicken thigh meat; it should read 175F to be safe. <----There's that thermometer thing again.
Remove from racks, plate, and serve with sides.
*NOTE* If you are smoking meats in bear country (pretty much everywhere in Alaska), please be nearby to ward off any bruins that might come running when they smell this deliciousness. They can get their own dinner.
If last weekend's summery weather didn't convince you to fire up the grill and take advantage of fresh Alaska halibut, maybe this delicious grilled 'but recipe will.
Halibut season has begun, and there's nothing better than a slab of this firm, mild fish on the barbeque. The salsa, made to add a sweet-spicy flavor that compliments the fish, is easy and is also tasty on snapper, cod, or rockfish.
Serve this one up with a margarita, and maybe the guacamole recipe I posted last week. Make sure you have extra chips.
Halibut filet at least one inch thick, sliced into desired portions.
2 mangos, peeled and chopped
¼ cup crushed pineapple (fresh or canned. If going fresh, whirl in a blender for a bit)
½ cup chopped bell or sweet pepper
3 Tbs chopped shallots or red onion
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely sliced
½ Tbs chopped basil or cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbs FRESH lime juice
Salt to taste
First a few thoughts: I left several options open for ingredients, depending on your taste or whatever you have on hand in the cupboard or refrigerator. These are by no means rules, so feel free to make it your own.
Combine mango, pineapple, peppers, shallots/onion, jalepeno, garlic, and lime juice in non-reactive bowl.
Reserve the cilantro for garnish.
Grill the halibut over medium heat until the fat turns white (about 4-5 minutes). Time will vary with thickness. I like to make a foil boat and add a little butter to protect against burning. Don’t overcook halibut; it can go from tender to leather in the blink of an eye.
When done, remove halibut from grill and get ready to plate. In the photo above I used jicama strips to add a crunchy texture. Coconut rice would work great too.
Think you know guac? You don't know nothin', at least not where guacamole infused with the spirit-ual flavors of Alaska's own VooDoo Jams is concerned. Handcrafted in small batches, this small company's jams, marmalades, and finishing sauces are too good to pass up, so I went bold and whipped up a batch of The Flying Chef's guacamole, spooning in a few tablespoons of mango-vodka-peppery goodness known as "You Juicy Devil."
Go ahead, take a twist on a favorite summertime snack -- it'll change the way you think about avocados, and guac, forever.
3 to 4 ripe avocados, depending on size
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, sliced diagonally into quarters
1/3 cup diced red onion or shallot
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime (FRESH lime juice, please. This is a masterpiece we're working on.)
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced, seeds in for hotter flavor, or remove for a milder punch
2 heaping TBS of "You Juicy Devil: Ghost pepper, vodka, and mango jam"
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, mash the avocado with a fork, making sure to leave a few tasty chunks.
Add lime juice, tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, VooDoo Jam, salt and pepper.
Mix to desired texture. Make sure not to overmix, otherwise guacamole will become mushy.
Reserve some cilantro and jalapeños for garnish.
Serve with chips or sliced red bell pepper as "scoops."
P.S. Do check out the VooDoo Jams website for the complete list of products, you won't be sorry.
Favorites from Chef Mark Bly
Looking for a copy of a favorite Flying Chef recipe? Need a tip for your next gathering? This is the place.