Smoked Turkey + Garlic-Herb Dry Brine

I should start by saying that turkey isn’t really my thing.

Smoked Turkey Year after year, I’ve failed miserably at making that perfect, picturesque Thanksgiving turkey.  The first Thanksgiving I hosted in 2009 (pre-Kitchen Konfidence) was the worst.  The night before Thanksgiving, I was fumbling around trying to wet brine a 22 pound turkey, salt water and turkey contamination splashing all about my kitchen.  The next day, I got the turkey out of the brine (hands burning from the salt), dried, and on to the roasting pan.  A roasting pan that I later realized was too big to fit in the oven.  At the time, I didn’t own a meat thermometer, so I kept the turkey (which was sitting cramped in a 9 x 13 baking dish) in the oven until it “looked good.”  I remember the smile on my face as I brought the glorious golden turkey to the table, and the disappointment that quickly followed as I started to carve.  The turkey was bone dry with the texture of powdery saw dust.

In 2010, I surveyed all my friends and family for the perfect Thanksgiving turkey recipe.  Results and processes were widely varied.  Bake the turkey in a bag.  Roast the turkey covered in cheese cloth and baste in butter every 15 minutes.  Deep fry the turkey.  Start in a high oven.  Start in a low oven.  Cook the turkey in parts.  Somehow, everyone was cooking their turkey perfectly except for me!  Overwhelmed by the options, I chose what I thought was the easiest suggestion, “cook the turkey in parts.”  After a significant struggle to actually get the turkey in parts, the finished bird was blasé at best.

The next  year, I cooked 2 smaller turkeys side-by-side, slathered in truffle butter and fresh herbs.  Results were juicy, but underwhelming.  I was expecting a WOW moment given the white truffle butter.  And in 2012, I reverted back to turkey in parts.  Uninspired, and a bit dry.

In 2013, everything changed.  Last year, I put Jorge in charge of making the turkey.  He prepared this Smoked Turkey, and the finished bird was incredible.  Juicy insides with a mouthwatering, smoky flavor.  Our Thanksgiving guests couldn’t stop raving about it.  Preparing the turkey on the grill also freed up some much-needed oven space.  We had such an awesome turkey experience last year, that I just had to share it with you all this year!  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Pumpkin Chicken Chili [Giveaway]

Today I’m giving away a gorgeous KitchenAid 4 Quart Cast Iron Pot PLUS I’m sharing an easy (and healthy!) recipe for Pumpkin Chicken Chili.

Pumpkin Chicken Chili Let’s start with the chili. Freshly ground chicken thighs, skin and all, are sautéed with onions, bell pepper and garlic until fragrant and brown. Flavor and body are added by way of chile powder, red pepper flake, cumin, pumpkin beer, pumpkin purée, red beans and fire-roasted tomatoes. The chili is finished with a dollop of rich sour cream, cilantro, crunchy pumpkin seeds, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Made in just one pot, this comforting fall soup comes together in under an hour!  Rich, bold flavors.  Hearty, satisfying texture.  So.  Yum.  Continue reading for the recipe, and giveaway details.

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Beer Can Chicken

I’m not a big sports fan, but I sure do love game day/tailgating eats.

Half Beer Can Chicken Like this Beer Can Chicken.  Kosher salt, brown sugar, paprika, cayenne and black pepper get rubbed on first.  Then, the chicken takes a seat on a can filled with light beer, onion, garlic, lemon zest and thyme.  Cooked upright on the grill, this brazen bird gets infused with flavor from the inside out.  I like to serve simply with  lemon wedges.  And beer of course ;)

If you’d like to take this recipe on the go (to your next tailgating party), prep everything in advance for easy game day execution.  The bulk dry rub can be made a week in advance, and stored at room temperature.  Give your bird a rubdown at least one hour in advance, allowing the flavors to get into the meat.  The thyme, onion and garlic can be prepped and stored together; however, don’t zest the lemon in advance.  If not used immediately, the flavor of the lemon oils will diminish quickly after zesting.  Finally, when transporting chicken, make sure it’s well-wrapped in plastic and well-chilled on ice.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Pressure Cooker Tomato Sauce

Pressure Cooker Tomato Sauce

Sharing a recipe for tomato sauce other than my mother’s is risky business.  Blasphemy really.  But when I saw this Pressure Cooker Tomato Sauce in Modernist Cuisine at Home, I was intrigued.  In this recipe, onion, carrot, garlic and tomato are cooked under pressure until the flavors melt together, forming a vibrant marinara sauce.  Finished with a drizzle of rich extra virgin olive oil and a handful of fresh herbs, this sauce is bright, well-balanced and full of flavor.  You can use this pressure cooked sauce in any way you would use a regular tomato sauce: chicken, pizza and pasta to name just a few.  Personally, I love to tear off chunks of crusty bread, and dip into a bowl of hot tomato sauce.  Now you may be wondering, which sauce is better?  This sauce or my other Homemade Tomato Sauce?  My answer:  neither!  Each sauce has a unique, delicious flavor.  I would be more inclined to make this Pressure Cooker Tomato Sauce during the week (because of the shorter cooking time), and my Homemade Tomato Sauce on Sunday afternoon.  Well that’s it!  I’m just hoping the Italian side of my family will forgive me ;)  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Puesto’s Red Michelada

Puesto's Micheladas If you are currently on the hunt for that perfect cocktail for Memorial Day weekend, stop here.  I’ve got one for you.  This Red Michelada comes from one of my new favorite Mexican hot spots, Puesto.  The most basic micheladas are made with beer, hot sauce, lime and salt.  Puesto’s Red Michelada is made with a bold blend of beer, fresh tomato, tomato juice, roasted jalapeno, onion, orange juice, lime juice and hot sauce.  Finished with a chile-salt rim, this tall glass of Mexican deliciousness is spicy, savory and surprisingly refreshing.  Enjoy one of these Red Micheladas grillside while you soak up some gorgeous afternoon sun.  I know that’s what I’ll be doing this Memorial Day.

In addition to this spicy libation, the man and I enjoyed a number of other tasty treats at Puesto including a flight of tacos, shrimp ceviche and two frosty paletas.  Continue reading for the recipe plus a recap of the entire lunch.

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Chicken Stock Recipe

Celery, Carrots, Dried Shiitakes, Onion and Garlic

Today I’m going to share illustrated step-by-step instructions on how to make the most amazing chicken stock you’ll ever have.  I decided to go into great detail with this recipe because it really is a game-changer.  I made the transition from canned stock to homemade last year and I’ll never turn back.  Use stock as a flavorful base to soups, sauces, risottos and grains (just to name a few).  If you start with a super tasty stock, your end result is almost guaranteed to be delicious.

A few notes about this recipe:  The amount of steps may seem a bit daunting, but really, the process breaks down into four easy techniques – prep, caramelize, simmer, strain.  Simply spend a few hours (mainly unattended) on a Sunday afternoon making this recipe and you’ll have flavorful stock at your fingertips for a month.  I should also mention that I don’t add salt to my stock.  I prefer to salt whatever the stock is going into.  Continue reading for a comprehensive guide to my homemade chicken stock.

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Squash Blossom Soup [Crema de Flor de Calabaza]

Squash Blossom Soup

I hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July!  I know I did.  Despite some of the major frustrations experienced the day before.  I woke up the morning of the 3rd refreshed and ready to have a productive day.  My to-do list included cooking and photographing five recipes, cleaning the house for a 7:30pm dinner party, then preparing some ceviche to have out just before my guests would arrive.

As I was finishing up this soup (recipe 2/5 for the day), I opened the cabinets under my sink to find one of my pipes leaking all over the various odds and ends stored within.  For those of you who may not know, I am quite challenged when it comes to home maintenance and handy work.  After emptying a seemingly endless stash of wet cleaning products, bottles, bags and towels, I decided to try to fix this issue myself.  With a squeeze-tube of silicone in hand and flashlight in mouth, I made my way below.  I really should have taken a picture of my “fix.”  Just imagine globs of white silicon dotting pipes haphazardly mummified in tattered duct tape.  Utterly frustrated, I sat on my kitchen floor defeated.  And guests were arriving in four and half hours.  Continue reading for the rest of my story, plus a delicious recipe for Squash Blossom Soup.

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Brine Recipe

Brined Pork Chops

Do you know what I really hate?  Dry pork.  And dry chicken.  I always find it so disappointing when I slice into a beautifully golden piece of meat to find an abrasive assault of coarse saw dust.  I’m sure we’ve all been there.  So the question is, what’s a fool-proof way to prepare tender pork or chicken?  The answer… this brine :)  A brine is essentially a solution made of salt and water.  Meat is soaked in the brine for several hours allowing salt to penetrate throughout.  Brining both seasons the meat and causes it to absorb water, ensuring that the final result is both flavorful and juicy.

Made with kosher salt, onion, garlic, thyme, bay, lemon and black pepper, this Brine Recipe infuses some major flavor and moisture into any cut of pork, chicken or turkey.  Also, the process really couldn’t be easier.  Prepare the brine in under 15 minutes, let the meat soak for 2 to 3 hours, dry, rest, then cook any way you like (roast, fry, grill, saute).  Seriously give this a try.  It’s life changing.  Continue reading for the recipe.  Also, I’ve announced the winners of the Bella Sun Luci Sun-Dried Tomato prize packs giveaway.

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Braised Chickpeas with Spinach Salad [Giveaway]

Braised Chickpeas with Spinach Salad

When one hears the term slow cooker, thoughts of chili, pulled pork, stews and soups usually come to mind.  Major yum.  Not so healthy.  So several weeks ago, I decided I wanted to challenge myself to cook something completely healthy in my slow cooker.  This recipe for Braised Chickpeas with Spinach Salad is what I came up with.  Dried chickpeas are soaked overnight then cooked in a flavorful bath of homemade vegetable stock, carrot, onion, celery and bay.  Finished with fire-roasted tomatoes, salt, and pepper, these slow-cooked chickpeas are tender, buttery and oh so delicious.  The depth of flavor really is craveworthy.  A spinach salad dressed in a red wine vinaigrette is a fresh counter to the rich, bold chickpeas.  I enjoyed this dish several times for dinner.  No meat required.

Before we get to the recipe and giveaway, I want to mention two tips that will help you make this dish as tasty as possible.  First, be sure to use homemade stock or a high-quality store-bought stock.  The chickpeas will be braising for 8 hours in this liquid, so you want to make sure it’s top notch.  Second, do not use canned chickpeas here.  Starting with dried chickpeas allows you to really infuse them mouth-watering flavor.  Continue reading for the recipe plus a slow cooker giveaway.

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Homemade Vegetable Stock

Vegetable Stock

Spending a Sunday afternoon beside a simmering pot of stock has become a monthly ritual of mine this past year.  Engulfed in an array of comforting aromas, I just love sitting in my kitchen with a warm mug of coffee and my eReader.  Pleasant hits of parsley, bay and thyme briefly interrupt my casual page-turning.  If you are not making stock at home already, I would highly recommend starting now.  The process of making Homemade Vegetable Stock is fairly easy and the results are cheaper and tastier than store-bought versions.  All you have to do is brown some vegetables, add herbs and spices, cover with water and simmer!  It’s really that simple.  The ingredient list is also pretty flexible.  Taste will not be compromised if you only have 4 carrots rather than 5.  And if you have a stray leek or handful of mushrooms leftover from a previous recipe, this pot of Homemade Vegetable Stock would gladly welcome them with open arms.  So I urge you to block out some time this Sunday afternoon, and give this recipe a try.  Continue reading for the recipe, tips on making a perfect batch of flavorful stock and ideas on how you can use this stock.

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