11/27/13

How to calibrate your probe thermometer

Have you every followed one of those “cook to XXX temperature” recipes (you know, like the ones in our weekly meal plans) to the letter, and ended up with an undercooked or overcooked dish?

What the heck?

Let me ask you this…when was the last time you calibrated your probe thermometer?

These little stick thermometers that look so cool in the pocket of a chef’s jacket are also infamous for sliding up and down from “true” zero at the drop of a hat.

This will, of course, give you a false reading, high or low, on your food.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to test if your thermometer is reading correctly, and even easier to get the little bugger to tell the truth again! Water boils at 212F*, so a probe held in boiling water should read 212F. If it doesn’t, you need to calibrate it.

First: write down how many degrees (plus or minus) your needle is off.

How to calibrate a probe thermometer

Now, turn your thermometer over, and you should find a little hex nut right at the base of the probe. By turning this nut left or right, with a small pair of pliers, you’ll move the needle right or left.

How to calibrate a probe thermometer

This thermometer, which ended up rattling around in the bottom of a gear box for awhile, was reading thirty degrees low (which would make me want to pull my dish off the heat 30 degrees too late…imagine that roast turkey…ugh!) So I let the needle return to room temp, and then turned the nut until the needle reads thirty degrees lower than the original reading at room temp.

Finally, retest your probe, if it now reads 212, you’re done!

How to calibrate a probe thermometer

Seriously, it’s just that easy!

Make sure to test your thermometers on a regular basis, more often the more you use them. Every little bump, and even just regular handling, can knock it off true, and even 5-10 degrees can have a significant effect on your recipe.

Be sure to adjust those thermometers before starting your Thanksgiving feast!

Happy Holidays!

-Chef Perry

*Water boils at 212°F at sea-level.  Each 500 foot increase in altitude causes a drop of about 1° in the boiling point. The reason that water boils at a lower temperature at a higher altitude is because the pressure exerted upon it from the atmosphere is less at higher altitudes and so it is less “held together”.

Check your altitude on this chart, and adjust accordingly.


Approx. Boiling Temperatures of Water
Altitude Temperature
Sea Level 212 degrees F
984 ft. 210 degrees F
2,000 ft. 208 degrees F
3,000 ft. 206 degrees F
5,000 ft. 203 degrees F
7,500 ft. 198 degrees F
10,000 ft. 194 degrees F
20,000 ft. 178 degrees F
26,000 ft. 168 degrees F
11/26/13

My family’s favorite brined turkey recipe

1

Even my Mother-In-Law said this was the best turkey she’d ever had.

High praise, indeed!

I gotta say, if given a choice I will never, NEVER serve another turkey (or chicken) that has not been brined. The improvement in moistness, flavor, and general “cook-ability” makes it a no-brainer.

The aromatics make a huge difference as well. My wife had made it clear that the testing is over, THIS is our Thanksgiving turkey recipe from now on, and no modifications are allowed!

Aromatic Brined Turkey

* 1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:
* 1 cup kosher salt
* 1 cup of honey
* 1 quart turkey stock
* 1 quart boiling water
* 2 tablespoon black pepper
* 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:
* 1 gala apple, sliced
* 2 med Asian pears, sliced
* 1 orange, peeled and sliced
* 1 sweet onion, sliced
* 1 cinnamon stick
* 1 cup water
* 4 sprigs rosemary
* 6 leaves sage
* Canola oil

2 to 3 days before roasting:

  • Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
  • Combine the stock, water, salt, honey, and pepper in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil.
  • Remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you’d like to eat:

  • Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
  • Place the bird on roasting rack, breast up, inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Combine the apple, pears, orange, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
  • Roast the turkey, breast up, on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes, watching closely as it browns. Flip and insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 155 degrees F.
  • A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 hours of roasting.
  • Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for 30-45 minutes before carving.
11/26/13

Thanksgiving Breakfast: Sausage Roll-Ups

Johnsonville Sausage Roll Ups

Whipped up these super simple “Easy Sausage Roll-Ups” from Johnsonville this morning…BIG hit! I’ll definitely me making  a batch of these for breakfast, Thanksgiving Morning!

Here’s a quick, sweet & savory dipping sauce I made to go with them:

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Thanksgiving Dipping Sauce
1 can jellied cranberry sauce
1 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. Better Than Bouillon Ham base
1 Tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 Tbs. (to taste) garlic chili sauce
1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds (opt)

Add all ingredients to a small pot over medium-low heat and still until combined and warm (or microwave 1 minute, stir and repeat, until combined and warm.)

Serve alongside sausage roll ups at breakfast, and save the extra for turkey dippin’ at the big dinner!

Enjoy!

Chef Perry
hautemealz.com

11/22/13

Crazy Creamy Once-A-Year Mashed Potatoes

Creamy Whipped Potatoes

I like mashed potatoes.

I mean, okay…most people like mashed potatoes…but I sometimes like them to the exclusion of everything else on the plate.

In my not-so-humble opinion, the best mashed taters are smooth, creamy, savory, and can stand on their own without the need for gravy, extra butter, or sour cream.

Here’s the recipe that I’ve perfected after many, many (don’t ask) Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Oh, and I don’t what to hear a bunch of whining about calories and fat and blah blah blah…a reasonable portion, once or twice a year, ain’t gonna kill you.

If you’re still feeling guilty, skip that nasty marshmallow and yams dish instead.

Ugh.

Anyway…

Crazy Creamy Once-A-Year Mashed Potatoes

  • 3 ½ pounds russet potatoes
  • 4 ounces grated Asiago cheese
  • 16 fluid ounces (2 cups) half-and-half
  • 6 oz Sour Cream (preferably Mexican style)
  • 16 oz (2 cups) chicken broth*
  • ½ cube sweet cream butter, melted
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Salt & white pepper, to taste

Peel and dice potatoes, making sure all are relatively the same size. Place in a large saucepan, and cover with milk and broth (add more of each, in equal amounts to cover, if necessary.) Bring to just a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to maintain a simmer.

*I like to mix 3 teaspoons of Organic or Low Sodium “Better Than Bullion” Chicken base, with 2 cups of very hot water.

Cook until potatoes fall apart when poked with a fork, about 20 minutes

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Heat the butter and the garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat until the garlic has softened (do not brown). Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove the potatoes from the heat and drain off extra fluid, reserving. Whip with a hand or stand mixer and add the garlic-butter mixture, sour cream, and asiago cheese, add reserved fluid, if needed, to reach desired consistency.

Let stand for 5 minutes so that mixture thickens and then serve.

Enjoy!

-Chef Perry

11/13/13

Everything I know about Thanksgiving…I learned from Alton Brown

Here’s a great 3-part video series by Food Network’s Alton Brown that will give you all the essentials of a perfect Thanksgiving feast, and a lot of laughs, as well.

No worries, I’ll be posting the step-by-step recipe for Alton’s turkey (or at least, my version of it), later this week.

Enjoy!

-Chef Perry

Good Eats – S01E14P1 – Romancing The Bird Special

Good Eats – S01E14P2 – Romancing The Bird Special

Good Eats – S01E14P3 – Romancing The Bird Special

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11/11/13

Kitchen skills: How to hold a knife

How to Chop with a Kitchen Knife While Keeping Your Fingers Intact from Kaley Perkins on Vimeo.

This video was taken during an interview with journalist Kaley Perkins, and published on her blog, KaleyPerkins.com, as part of her post, “Local Chefs Fight Monsanto With Knives” November 9, 2013.

Click here to read the full interview and listen to the additional podcast.

11/8/13

No Kid Hungry

no-kid-hungryAt hautemealz.com we sponsor several charities and non-profits through our outreach program, including The Amy Roloff Charity Foundation, The Father’s Heart Street Ministry, Sparks of Hope, Impact NW, and the national No Kid Hungry campaign.

Our involvement includes financial contributions, volunteering our time and resources, auctioning off our private chef services at fundraisers, and preparing and serving meals for fundraising and outreach events.

No child should grow up hungry in America, but one in five children struggles with hunger. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending childhood hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day. The No Kid Hungry campaign connects kids in need to effective nutrition programs like school breakfast and summer meals and teaches low-income families to cook healthy, affordable meals through its Cooking Matters program.

This work is accomplished through the No Kid Hungry network, made up of private citizens, public officials, nonprofits, business leaders and others providing innovative hunger solutions in their communities.

If you’re subscribed to a hautemealz.com menu plan, you’re a part of this outreach, and on behalf of ourselves, and those we support…thank you!

Chef Perry

11/7/13

Officer Robert Libke Fundraiser

Officer Robert LibkeHey everyone, hautemealz.com has been given the opportunity to provide a number of dishes for a fund-raising dinner for the family of fallen Oregon City Reserve Police Officer Robert Libke, who died this week in the line of duty.

The dinner is being held by the Canby Police Department on December 11th, and we would, of course, like to donate the supplies and ingredients needed for the dishes we’ll be cooking, so that all raised funds in the raffle and donations can be given to Officer Libke’s family.

We’ll be providing all of the side dishes for the meal, and possibly a dessert, for around 100 guests. Estimating an ingredient cost of around $400.00, total.

If you would like to contribute toward this meal, we’ll be accepting donations, via PayPal, here.

If you have any questions, please comment, or leave your contact information below.

If you would prefer to donate directly to Officer Libke’s family, a fund has been set up at Clackamas Credit Union. Any monies received by hautemealz.com, over and above the cost of the meal, will be donated to this fund.

Thank you,

Chef Perry
hautemealz.com

11/6/13

Q&A: Dicing tomatoes

TomatoesSimplySmartDinnerPlans subscriber, Judy H., asks – “I’m trying to get away from using canned tomatoes, and use fresh instead. This may be a dumb question, but…what’s the best way to dice tomatoes?”

Judy, while I’m a big believer that there ARE dumb questions (and plenty of them), this is not one of them. :)

Everyone has to start learning their kitchen skills somewhere, so thank you for coming to us!

First of all, kudos on switching from canned to fresh tomatoes! You’re going to get so much more flavor, and a fraction of the sodium, by going fresh. As you’ll see in the video (below), it’s really not that much more work to dice a fresh tomato than it is to open a can, either!

Two quick tips before we get started…a very sharp knife, and a fresh firm tomato makes all the difference in ease of cutting. Once a tomato begins to over-ripen, the skins get tougher, and the insides get soft, making it much more difficult to cut, even with a properly sharp knife.

Here’s the video…please feel free to post any questions you have, below!

-Chef Perry