Monthly Archives: April 2011

Kids in the Kitchen: Fried Turkey

Fried turkey? In April? Yes, that’s what I thought too. But after talking Brandan out of many other (more expensive and difficult to source) ideas (Rattlesnake? Eel? Yes, there is no doubt, the boy has an imagination. If it is an animal, then he’s wondered if it could be food.), this one was doable. In my mind, there’s a seasonality to frying a turkey (and if we’re being honest here…and why wouldn’t we be…I prefer a well-roasted turkey to a fried one). That’s generally the consensus in this country, as evidenced by the lack of abundance of turkeys in the stores. With a little luck and scrounging around, I managed to find one that was in the 18-pound range. Larger than I had hoped for, but it would do.

Here’s the rub: turkey is cheap. Even in April, the turkey I purchased was 88 cents a pound. (It was a conventional turkey – I would have loved to obtain a free-range, local turkey, but again…they’re seasonal.) Frying a turkey, however, not so much. Buying enough peanut oil to fry a turkey raises the price. Mind you, nowhere near the price obtaining eel in the Dallas area, much less the price of rattlesnake (Which can be free if you hunt your own, but since I wasn’t equipped to do that, I’d have to fork over $80+ a pound online. Not happening.) However, the thrill and experience Brandan would get from dropping a gigantic bird into a deep pot of oil was well worth the price. In addition, my preference for roasted bird is outnumbered by the rest of the family, who loves the fried stuff. This would be a delicious treat for the family.  (And with luck, I could make use of the leftover meat for some enchiladas – another family favorite.)

So we got started. While many recipes for fried turkey call for brining, injecting all sorts of concoctions, and/or rubbing the bird down with a spice mixture (and trust me, they sell a lot of preservative-laden, most-likely-gluten-filled products out there to help accomplish these tasks), we opted for simple. I brought out a jar of my favorite BBQ spice rub mix (minus the sugar), and we rubbed down the turkey with the seasoning. Other than that, no further preparation was needed. Once the oil was hot, we dropped the turkey, and waited. And checked the temperature of the oil, waiting for it to come up. And waited. It wasn’t coming up. It was windy that day (we’ve had day after day this spring of very high winds), and so I was afraid that the wind was keeping the flame low. We tried to block the wind to no avail. The oil was still reading around 200 degrees F. Finally, my husband suggests to check the temperature of the turkey. (It wasn’t nearly time to start checking yet, but I agreed that we should try.) That’s when we discovered the oil thermometer was inadvertently stuck, just slightly, into the bird, thus preventing an accurate oil reading. Whoops. We remedied the situation, discovered that the oil registered an accurate 350 degrees F (that’s more like it!). Thankfully, the oil wasn’t higher than 350 degrees, as we could have entered into dangerous territory! Before we knew it, the turkey was ready to remove and allow to rest.

For Brandan, the resting was the hardest part. The aroma was incredible, and the skin was so crackly. The bird looked good. However, we managed to restrain ourselves (minus one or two small pieces of the edges of the skin) until it was carving time. That’s when the boys in our house are suddenly immensely interested in what’s going on in the kitchen, and start hovering around the carver (that’s me!), waiting to swipe a morsel from the plate. I’ve learned to work swiftly.

How was our turkey? Well, in spite of my previous opinions about turkeys in April, it was quite good. The breast meat was unbelievably moist and flavorful – the best part of the bird, we agreed. Brandan enjoyed a wing and a leg. There wasn’t much conversation from him at the table – he was too immersed in his meal. Everyone eating that evening was more than pleased. Some of the dark meat was a bit dry, as the turkey was in the oil legs-down, so they most likely got more heat exposure than the breast. In spite of that, it was still quite tasty. While I do hold true to my opinion about roast turkey over fried, I will have to say – this was a good bird! And yes, we made enchiladas the next day with leftovers, so it was double the pleasure.

Lesson learned? Next time, I will be sure to not stick the oil thermometer into whatever I am frying!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Fried Turkey

1 whole raw turkey, 16-18 lbs (make sure it isn’t basted with butter or any gluten seasonings – check the label or contact the company) (a smaller bird can be used, and even preferable, as the legs might be less prone to overcooking)

Barbeque spice rub mix (omit the sugar) – I used about 1/2 cup for our large bird, but you can use less for a smaller one

About 3 gallons of peanut oil or other high-heat frying oil

A turkey fryer and propane burner

Before starting, place your still-wrapped turkey inside your fryer pot. Fill with enough water to just cover the turkey. Remove the turkey, and look at how much water remains in the pot. This is how much oil you will need to use. (You don’t want to measure too much and risk a hot oil overflow disaster!) Pour out water and dry the pot well.

Pat the turkey dry and rub seasoning all over bird, including inside the cavity. If you have a wire holder with which to lower the turkey in the oil, place the turkey on it now.

Pour required amount of oil into your pot (I used a little less than 3 gallons). (Do this outside, away from an overhead cover. You might opt to place a large board or cardboard underneath to catch splatters.) Place the pot on the burner and light the burner. Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Make sure you don’t leave the oil unattended.

Once oil is at temperature, carefully lower your turkey into the oil. Bring the oil back up to temperature (325 – 350 degrees is optimal). Your turkey should take about 3 minutes per pound to cook (my turkey took roughly an hour). Start checking the turkey’s temperature about 2/3 of the way through by inserting an instant-read thermometer deep  into the breast. Once it reads 170 degrees, remove the turkey and set it in a roasting pan to rest, covered with foil. Rest for about 30 minutes and then carve.

Moroccan-Inspired Vegan Quinoa Skillet

I tend fall into a rut where I prepare meals in a somewhat traditional style (a protein, plus a veggie or two, maybe a starch such as rice or potato, or a salad), especially during the week. It’s simple, I don’t have to think or follow a recipe, it pleases those picky eaters that don’t always like a bunch of different vegetables mixed together, and I can easily customize each plate to some degree - meaning I can take my double-helping of whatever veggies are on the menu and everyone is happy. But when I am feeling more creative, I love to combine flavors and mix things. When time is no obstacle, this often results in complex dishes like menudo, curries, cassoulet, or stews. These generally not only take time, but also create more dishes than I’d like to tackle on a weeknight. So what’s an inspired girl to do to incorporate a lot of flavor without a lot of time or dishes?

Make a one-skillet dish! I came across Heather at Gluten-Free Cat’s Moroccan Yukina Savoy and Red Quinoa Skillet, and it intrigued me. A quick, filling, protein-and-veggie-packed meal that could be made in a single skillet? This was not only doable, but it sounded delicious. Of course, I tweaked it a bit, adding some additional spices (Which I realize makes it not as simple, but I have an arsenal of spices in my kitchen, so I love to put them to use. If you’d like, you can just use cumin and paprika, or come up with your own spice combination.), substituting swiss chard from my garden for the yukina savoy, and substituting raisins for the apricots. I also used regular quinoa rather than the red, because I only had a teensy bit of red quinoa left in the pantry. What resulted was a comforting, fragrant, filling dish that not only satisfied my hunger for complex flavors, but was stress-free to put together. In addition, the leftovers made for an amazing lunch.

Unlike so many “one-dish” meals that either require other “starters” or “accompaniments” (such as a salad, bread, etc) to complete the meal, this dish truly does stand alone quite well. I did find that a fresh orange at the end of the meal served as a perfect dessert, however. Unfussy, yet completely satisfying.

Moroccan-Inspired Vegan Quinoa Skillet, inspired by Gluten-Free Cat

1 c quinoa

1 T each paprika and ground cumin

1/2 t each ground turmeric, cinnamon, ground ginger, cayenne, and freshly ground black pepper

1 t salt

2 T olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 c sliced carrots

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/2 c raisins

1 c cooked white beans (I used navy beans)

3 c vegetable stock

1 large bunch of swiss chard, chopped (about 3 cups)

1/4 c chopped fresh parsley

1/4 c sliced almonds

Place the quinoa in a bowl and cover with water. Set aside.

Mix together all of the spices in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat a large, heavy skillet to medium heat (I used my cast iron skillet). Add onions, carrots, and garlic. Saute for 6-7 minutes or until onions are soft, but carrots are still just beginning to soften. Add in the spices, lemon zest and juice, raisins, beans,  and stock. Drain the quinoa, add it to the skillet, and stir. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer, stirring once or twice, for 15 minutes. Add in swiss chard and stir, and cover again with the lid and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until chard is wilted. (If the quinoa is too dry, add a bit more stock or water.) Remove lid, stir well, and serve, garnished with parsley and sliced almonds.

Serves 4 generously.

Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger: The Spunky Coconut

grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free cinnamon roll

This month, for Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger (a fantastic event, initiated by Sea at Book of Yum, where gluten-free bloggers “adopt” one another, cook one or more of their recipes, and share them with the world, in the interest of becoming more acquainted with one another and enjoying one another’s recipes), I adopted Kelly of The Spunky Coconut. The Spunky Coconut is a relatively “new to me” blog; one I’ve only been frequenting for the past few months. I discovered it around the same time I was given her latest book , Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts as a gift. I was immediately hooked – the recipes are nutrient-dense, simple, and delicious. I’ve made her vanilla bean cake and her coffee cake, both in the blog and in her book. I loved them so much, I purchased her first book as well - The Spunky Coconut Cookbook. I knew I wanted to adopt her, just as an excuse to try more recipes. So I did.

But what to make? There are so many choices! I did have a lot of raw nuts lying around, so I first opted to soak and dehydrate them, just so I’d have some yummy snacks (or potential nut butter beginnings!). Kelly outlines some easy instructions on how to do this.

All you really need is time (and a dehydrator – although I’ve also done this before on the lowest setting in my oven, in my pre-dehydrator days). Mine took around 24 hours to dry in the dehydrator at 115 degrees. The nuts were tasty and crunchy – perfect for snacking.

And then this morning, I turned my attention to cinnamon rolls. Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts has a lovely cinnamon roll recipe – and it’s completely dairy-free, grain-free, and refined sugar-free. The only change I made was that I added some raisins (about 1/4 cup) to the filling. They came out full of cinnamon-y flavor, but not overly sweet or sticky. They were a lovely “grown-up” breakfast treat, perfect with coffee.

These two recipes are just the tip of the iceberg of The Spunky Coconut. I encourage you to go. Visit. Browse around a bit. You might decide you want to try a vegan, raw-inspired caesar dressing for your salad. Or grain-free tortilla wraps (which are next on my list!). Or as it warms up outside, how about a chilled chia coffee drink? The recipes here are endlessly creative – I know they’ve opened up my mind to a lot of amazing possibilities in the kitchen!