04/17/17

Chef Perry’s Bacon & Four-Cheese Scalloped Potatoes

Bacon Four Cheese Scalloped Potatoes

Here’s a sneak-peek from the upcoming Home Chef Guidebook: “Bacon!” Let’s face it, as comfort foods go, scalloped potatoes are pretty hard to beat, and this version is completely over the top!

Creamy, cheesy goodness with a umami blast of bacon…these potatoes are my happy place!

~ Chef Perry

Bacon & Four-Cheese Scalloped Potatoes

  • 2 pounds yellow potatoes, unpeeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 small sweet onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for brushing
  • 1/4 cup sweet cream butter (for cheese sauce)
  • 1/4 cup AP Flour
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded raclette or comte cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 8 oz Thick bacon lardons, fried crisp and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Generously brush a large baking dish with butter. Combine the mozzarella, asiago and raclette in a bowl (but NOT the Parmesan).

Cut bacon into lardons.

Bacon Lardons

Fry until crisp, drain on paper towels, and set aside.

Fried Bacon Lardons

For the Roux: In 2-quart saucepan, melt the 1/4 cup of the butter over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic in butter about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper (this is a roux). Cook the roux, stirring constantly, until smooth and golden brown; remove from heat. Stir in milk a little at a time, repeat with heavy cream. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.

You now have a Béchamel, one of the 5 French “Mother Sauces” and the backbone of cheese sauces.

Remove the white sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese blend, 1/2 a cup at a time, until smooth. Keep warm.

Sliced Yellow Potatoes

Slice the potatoes skin on (optional). I like mine a little thicker, but you can slice them thinner than this, according to your preference. Blanch the potato slices in simmering, salted, water until just starting to soften. Shock in cold water to stop cooking.

Sliced potatoes in dish

To the baking dish, add half of the potatoes, spreading them out. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt, half of the cut-up butter, half of the bacon lardons, half of the cheese sauce, and pepper to taste. Arrange the remaining potatoes and bacon on top. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Pour the remaining bacon, then cheese sauce over the potatoes, then add the nutmeg. Dot the potatoes with the remaining cut-up butter.

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 Sprinkle the potatoes with the Parmesan.

Bacon Four Cheese Scalloped Potatoes

Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

04/12/17
Best Ham Leftovers Recipes

My 5 Favorite Leftover Ham Recipes

Best Ham Leftovers Recipes

So, yesterday we took a look at my favorite ham recipe, Peach-Ginger Smoked Holiday Ham, now let’s take a look at what to do with all of these delicious piggy leftovers…you will have leftover’s right?

Leftover ham recipesNot buying twice as much ham as you need for the holiday meal…total rookie mistake.

Sure, you could do three or four reheats of Thanksgiving dinner (I do this at least once for lunch) but don’t pass up the chance to add some of these great dishes into the menu plan for the week following the holidays…

My 5 Favorite Ham Recipes

leftover ham and bean soup recipeHam and bean soup – Use the ham bone and some leftover ham to make a hearty soup. I like to add a 15 Bean Soup Mix. Soak the beans overnight, so that they’re ready to use the next day. Saute a large diced yellow onion, a diced red bell pepper, and – if you like a little spice – a diced jalapeno.

Simmer until done, uncovered, adding water as needed. Serve with lots of soft, warm bread.

leftover ham brekfast bagel recipeHam and eggs – I love breakfast for dinner! Grill the ham lightly in butter, and pair with some toast or a toasted everything bagel and a little Gruyere cheese, and you’ve got a quick, and awesome dinner.

Fancy it up by making a Denver omelet!

 

leftover ham cobb salad

Cobb salad – Diced ham (as well as any other meats and cheeses you might have lying around Romaine and iceberg lettuce, red onion, olives, avocados, chopped bacon…you name it! Oh, and just one guy’s opinion, but it ain’t Cobb salad without some of those little mini corn things!

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 

 

Homemade Hawaiian pizza – dice the ham, and follow this Basic Pizza Dough recipe – Fresh pineapple is a bit more work, but totally worth it! Top the dough with a little tomato paste, some shredded Italian blend cheese and pop into a pre-heated 450 oven for 10-15 minutes. Or, grab a pizza stone and follow our recipe and made some next-level grilled pizza!

Fried potatoes and ham – Hash, as we call it down south, is a big favorite at our house. I like to mix the fried potatoes with onions, mushrooms, and pieces of ham, but you can serve the ham on the side, too. Sprinkle with a little cheddar cheese and top with a dollop of sour cream. You can use something healthier than bacon grease to fry the potatoes…but it won’t be as good.

I know, I said 5…but I can’t leave out my favorite…

Ham sandwiches – This old standby is great for lunch. Ham, cheddar, bread, and butter…simple and perfect! Fancy it up by adding a little sweet-hot mustard in sliced Italian bread, swapping the cheddar for Gruyere, and grilling it until golden brown on both sides. Bene!

So, what’s YOUR favorite “Holiday leftover recipe?”

 

 

04/11/17
Traeger Peach Ginger Ham

Traeger Peach-Ginger Smoked Holiday Ham

Traeger Peach Ginger Ham

I love just about any combination of spicy and sweet, and this peach-ginger glazed ham recipe is no exception.

My wife has informed me that this is the only ham recipe I am to use for Easter, from now on! :)

Chef Perry
www.joinmykitchen.com

Smoked Holiday Ham with Peach-Ginger Glaze

1 (10 pound) fully-cooked, sliced, bone-in ham
2 cups peach preserves
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 Tbs soy sauce
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. fresh ginger root. minced
1/2 cup apple juice

Unwrap the ham and place it, cut-side down, on a flat roasting rack.

When you’re ready to cook, turn Traeger to the “Smoke” setting, with the lid open, for 5 minutes or until the fire is established.

Preheat to 300F (lid closed).

Smoking a ham in Traeger


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Place the ham (on the roasting rack) on the Traeger grill grate and smoke for 1 hour.

While the ham is smoking, mix together the mustard, brown sugar, cider vinegar, soy sauce, apple juice and peach preserves in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil and then stir in the ginger.

Reduce heat, and simmer until the sauce has thickened, 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

Place the ham, rack and all, on a foil lined baking sheet, and return to Traeger.

Glazed ham on Traeger recipe

Baste ham with the peach glaze. Continue basting every 30 minutes until the ham is richly glazed and the internal temperature has reached 140 degrees, 1-1/2 hours more.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

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30-45 minutes before the ham is done, turn the heat up to 400, to “set” the glaze.

Remove ham from smoker and bring it (on the rack & pan) inside. Carefully turn the ham on it’s side, allowing the sliced to fan, and brush liberally with the remaining glaze.

Tent loosely in foil, and let the ham rest for 15 minutes before carving.

 

04/10/17

An elegant (and easier) Easter Dinner!

Easter leg of lamb dinner


 

Easter dinner should feel like a special occasion, one might even say a holiday!

So why should you have to spend hours and hours slaving away in the kitchen, while the rest of your friend’s and family are hangin’ out?

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could start cooking a little on Thursday, and spread the work out over the next three days?

Well…you can!


 
The Menu: Reverse Seared Garlic and Rosemary Leg of Lamb Potato, Leek, and Asparagus Gratin Strawberry Spinach Salad Petits Pots de Crème au Chocolat

This SimplySmartDinnerPlans special menu features a succulent roast leg of lamb with a simple, savory, and delicious pan-reduction sauce, a decadent gratin that bakes alongside the lamb, and a bright and beautiful spinach and strawberry salad.

 A sumptuous (and fun to say) Pots de Crème au Chocolat finishes off a meal that sure to impress, while still allowing you to spend more time with the ones you love. Just remember, these ingredients (see list below) were not included in your weekly shopping list, so you’ll need to swap out a meal if you want to do this.

Okay, here’s the plan…(all recipes, below…) Garlic and Rosemary Leg of Lamb (Prep on Sunday, Cook on Sunday) The leg of lamb takes just over two hours to cook but doesn’t require much attention during that time. Put it in the oven in the afternoon, and you’ll be free to go about other tasks until you take it out and make the sauce just before dinner. Potato, Leek, and Asparagus Gratin (Prep on Saturday, Cook on Sunday) The gratin can be assembled up to one day ahead. Cover and chill it, then take it out of the fridge when you put the lamb in the oven (so it can stand at room temperature for one hour). When the lamb has roasted for one hour and it’s time to uncover it, place the gratin in the oven alongside the roasting pan so both dishes can cook at the same time. MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday. Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

Strawberry Spinach Salad (Prep on Thursday, Assemble on Sunday) The base for the vinaigrette—the vinegar, sugar, and oil—can be mixed together up to three days ahead. Chill it, covered, then let it stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before tossing it with the salad.

Petits Pots de Crème au Chocolat (Cook on Friday) Before our present obsession with chocolate mousse, lovers of French cooking were filling individual porcelain pots with intensely rich, dense chocolate custard.

Oh, and if you’re looking for simply (and simple) stupendous make-ahead breakfast/brunch for Easter morning, check out Nana’s Chili Egg Puff!

SUNDAY SCHEDULE (We always serve around 4pm, adjust this schedule to your own liking.)

12:30pm Rub lamb and leave on counter to come to temp 1:30pm Lamb in oven 2:30pm Potato Gratin in oven 3:30pm Lamb out of oven to rest, make pan sauce 3:40: Assemble toss, and chill salad 3:55pm Slice lamb and plate 4:00pm Serve

RECIPES

Reverse grilled leg of lamb Easter

Reverse Seared Garlic and Rosemary Leg of Lamb Serves up to 12, with leftovers. 1 leg of lamb, bone in (about 6 pounds) 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 8 cloves garlic, minced 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves 1 tablespoon salt 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper Sauce: 1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley 2 cups diced onions 2 cups chicken stock 1 cup red wine

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Using your hands, rub the lamb all over with the lemon juice. Pat the garlic and rosemary evenly all over the surface of the meat. Season the meat with the salt and pepper and place the lamb in a roasting pan. Place the lamb in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to cook for about 1 hour longer for medium-rare, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the roast registers about 145 degrees F to 150 degrees F (be careful that the thermometer does not touch the bone.)

If possible, pull from the heat at around 140F, and finish on the grill over hot coals (toss a few springs of rosemary on the fire, for an extra punch.)

Remove lamb from pan, or grill,  and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

Position the roasting pan over your stove burners. Add mixed herbs and onions to pan, and stir to combine with pan drippings. Add chicken stock and wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to release any fond (that’s a fancy chef word for those yummy brown bits that stick to the bottom of your roasting/frying pan). Reduce over high heat until sauce consistency. Strain before serving, if desired.

Slice lamb and serve with sauce drizzled over the top.

Serve with warmed soft rolls (I like potato rolls) and plenty of sweet cream butter.

Potato, Leek, and Asparagus Gratin Potato, Leek, and Asparagus Gratin 4 Servings 1 pound Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, sliced very thinly 1 leek, white parts only, well-washed and cut into thin rings 1/2 pound asparagus spears, tough ends snapped off, cut into 2-inch pieces 1 1/2 cups cream salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste pinch freshly-grated nutmeg 1 cloves garlic, finely minced 1/2 cup grated good-quality Gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the potato slices, leek rings, and asparagus pieces. Add the cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally and very gently with a rubber spatula so the potato slices don‘t fall apart, over medium-high heat until the cream boils.

Pour mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. Wrap tightly in foil and refrigerate until ready to cook. (at 400F)

Removed foil, Sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake in preheated oven around 40 minutes until top is bubbly and golden, and potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and let sit for about 15 minutes. The dish will thicken slightly as it cools.

 Strawberry Spinach Salad Strawberry Spinach Salad 4 Servings 2 tablespoons sesame seeds 1/2 cup white sugar 1/2 cup olive oil 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon minced onion 10 ounces fresh spinach – rinsed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces 1 quart strawberries – cleaned, hulled and sliced 1/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, and onion. Cover, and chill for one hour.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Pots de Creme Petits Pots de Crème au Chocolat 4 Servings

Although this marvelous dessert looks very sophisticated, there is no great secret to success. Just start with the right kind of small, heatproof cups and a good-quality French, Swiss or Belgian bittersweet chocolate.

Mix the ingredients following the recipe instructions precisely, then strain the mixture to rid it of any lumps. Baking the filled pots in a water bath provides the gentle, moist heat the custard needs to thicken properly.

1 cup heavy cream 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces 3 egg yolks 2 Tbs. sugar 1 to 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat an oven to 325°F. Have a pot of boiling water ready.

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted and well blended. Let cool slightly.

In a bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar. Using a whisk, beat until pale yellow and thick enough to fall from the whisk in a lazy ribbon, about 5 minutes.

Slowly stir in the warm chocolate cream and add the vanilla extract, to taste.

Place six 1/4-cup pot de crème pots with lids or ramekins in a baking pan. Pour the chocolate mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the pots or ramekins, dividing it evenly. Pour boiling water into the baking pan to a depth of 1 inch. Cover the pots with their lids or the ramekins with a single sheet of aluminum foil. Bake until the custards are just set at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. They should still tremble slightly.

Remove the baking pan from the oven. Place the pots or ramekins on a wire rack, remove the lids or aluminum foil and let cool at room temperature. When cool, cover again and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days before serving.

SHOPPING Meat 1 leg of lamb, bone in (about 6 pounds) Produce 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 8 cloves garlic, minced 1 cloves garlic, finely minced 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves 1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley 2 cups diced onions 1 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, sliced very thinly 1 leek, white parts only, well-washed and cut into thin rings 1/2 pound asparagus spears, tough ends snapped off, cut into 2-inch pieces 1 tablespoon minced onion 10 ounces fresh spinach – rinsed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces 1 quart strawberries – cleaned, hulled and sliced Seasonings/Baking 2 Tbs. sugar 1 to 2 tsp. vanilla extract 1 tablespoon salt 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste pinch freshly-grated nutmeg 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces 2 tablespoons sesame seeds 1/2 cup white sugar 1/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered Canned/Boxed/Bottled/Other 2 cups chicken stock 1 cup red wine 1/2 cup olive oil 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar Dairy 2 1/2 cups cream 1/2 cup grated good-quality Gruyere cheese 1/4 lb sweet cream butter, softened Other 3 egg yolks 8-12 potato rolls Easter Wine and Beef Pairings Beverage pairings: A subtle Merlot or a firm, acidic Sauvignon Blanc would be nice wine options with this menu. For beer, look towards an American pale ale. Enough hops to cut through the fat without overpowering, and the fruitiness will go well with the gaminess of the lamb. A Belgian pale would bring more sweetness, and spicyness from the yeast and hop.

Personally, I like a thick, inky porter, with just about any red meat…but that’s just me.

04/9/17

Chef Perry’s Favorite Leftover Easter Egg Recipes

leftover easter egg recipes

Okay, Easter is coming to an end and, if your house is anything like mine, you have some happy egg-dying junkies, and a whole heap of hard boiled eggs.

So, what to do with all those eggs?

Sure, you can eat a few, straight-up, with a salt shaker; take a couple outside and play with your new driver, and maybe feed a few to the dog (However, I REALLY don’t recommend this…)

OR…you can use them to make some delicious lunches and snacks this week.

Here are three of my personal favorite recipes for that pile ‘o eggs…

153735

Egg Salad BLT Pitas

4 Sandwiches

I’m a big egg-salad fan, but the traditional white bread presentation is both bland, and a little too messy for me. I like keeping my gooey egg and mayo mixture self contained (and off my shirt), so I use whole-wheat pita pockets.

1/4 cup olive-oil mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped shallot
2 stalks crisp celery, diced
3 tablespoons Mexican crema (sour cream)
2 teaspoons deli-style mustard
dash or two of hot sauce (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 hard-cooked large eggs
4 large whole-wheat pita pocket halves, warmed
4 center-cut bacon slices, cooked and coarsley chopped
8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices tomato
4 large Boston lettuce leaves, whole or shredded

Combine first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well.

Coarsely chop the eggs, and add them to the mayonnaise mixture; stir gently to combine.

Arrange warm pita pockets on your work surface. Spread 1/2 cup of the egg mix inside each, then divvy up the bacon pieces, tomato slices (two each), and lettuce between them.

Serve immediately.

Of course, as go-to hard-boiled egg recipes go, good old fashioned deviled eggs are pretty freakin’ awesome….

151_deviled_eggs_p27My Mama’s Deviled Eggs

As I’ve mentioned before, Mama wasn’t a big fan of cooking, but the few dishes she made, she did very well. One of these was her Deviled Eggs, usually reserved for church pot-licks, and “covered dish” parties.

Oh, how I loved them.

Click here for the recipe.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 

Cigar del pinar with Yellow Sriracha Sauce

Lastly, here’s an awesome appetizer to keep the zombie hordes away from your grill (or kitchen) at the next cook-out. I’ve made this recipe a couple of times last year, first for a big foodie dinner, and – because it was so good – again for an appetizer for our hautemealz  Easter feast.

Eggs, ground meat, olives, onions, all rolled in a wonton wrapper and fried.

Cuban egg-rolls, baby…how could that not be amazing?

Click here for the recipe.

How about you? Any good old-fashioned, or new and hip, hardboiled egg recipes you’d care to share?  Always looking something fun and tasty…if only to keep them away from this dang dog!

Enjoy!

Chef Perry

 

01/4/17
IMG_4027 (1024x1024)

Patatas y Huevos Tacos and a Second-Hand Christmas

Patatas y Huevos Tacos

In the winter of 1975, my parents divorced. My mother had a chronic heart condition that made it impossible for her to work and the two of us couldn’t quite make ends meet that first year on our own.

In previous years, Christmas had been a grand event in our home. Money had always been scarce, but my parents scrimped and saved for the holidays.

My first memories are of bright lights, rich smells and a pile of gifts with my name on them. That year, however, would be different. My mother received a meager social security check each month that almost, but not quite, covered the bare essentials, with nothing left for the luxuries of Christmas.

I remember that most of our meals consisted of potatoes and the big blocks of American cheese that the government passed out at the Social Security office.

My mother, alone for the first time in her life, found it difficult to put aside her own hurts and fears and participate in the holidays. I do remember that we had a small tree and brought a box of decorations down from the closet shelf, but there wasn’t much joy in our home that year.

One thing that did worry my mother was that there was no money for gifts. She fretted over this for weeks but the funds just were not there for presents. One day, a neighbor told her about a local toy charity, an organization dedicated to providing donated presents for children in need. My mother applied for the program and visited their office, bringing home a small box of gifts, which she wrapped and hid under her bed.

The night before Christmas, we ate our baked potatoes, and Mom read to me from a book of children’s Christmas stories.

Just before bedtime, there was a knock at the door, and my mother answered to find a young woman who had just moved in next door to us. She was Hispanic, speaking very broken English, and had twin sons who were my own age. She was also divorced and was in as bad, or worse, financial straits as we were. She came to the door asking to borrow some flour and looked so exhausted that Mother invited her in and made her a cup of coffee. I was hustled off to bed (lest I still be up when Santa made his appearance) and they stayed up and talked awhile.

I remember my mother coming into my room and gently waking me up, then sitting on the side of my bed and asking me if I minded if we had company for Christmas. I said no, unused to have my opinion asked in such matters. Then she took my hand and asked if it would be all right with me if Santa gave some of my presents to the two little boys next door. I thought about this for a while, wondering why Santa couldn’t bring them their own presents, but somehow my young brain sensed that it would make mother happy, and she hadn’t seemed happy in a long while, so I hesitantly agreed.

Mother kissed my forehead, and I went back to sleep.

The next morning I awoke to the most wonderful smell wafting under my  bedroom door. Hunger banished even the memory of Christmas from my mind, and I ran from my room to the kitchen to find the source of that glorious aroma.

I skidded to a stop as I rounded the corner into a strange dark-faced woman standing at my mother’s stove. She was rolling out tortillas and dropping them into a smoking pan, while our cast-iron skillet sizzled noisily on the back burner.

I blinked one or twice in confusion, until my mother walked in, then remembered that we had company, and even more importantly, that today was Christmas! I spun on my heels and ran into the living room to look under the tree. Two little Mexican boys sat, looking uncertainly around them, on our couch. Several small wrapped packages lay beneath the tree.

Mom followed me in and began to pass out presents, there were just enough for one gift each. I gazed longingly at the brightly wrapped packages in these stranger’s hands, knowing they should have been mine, clutching my solitary present tightly to my chest.

I unwrapped the box to find a GI Joe action figure, the old fashioned kind with the moving knees and elbows, the kind that came with a little rifle and a little backpack and a string that you pulled to make them say cool army things. Except mine didn’t have a rifle, or a backpack, and there was only a hole in the back where the string had once gone. I stood there in the middle of the living room, my lip trembling, clutching my broken toy.

I looked to see what the other boys had gotten, what gifts I had missed out on. One package revealed a cap pistol (without caps) and a worn plastic holster (I had a much nicer set in the toy box in my room), the second box revealed a plastic bag full of Legos, in various shapes and sizes. I stood there and watched these two boys whooping and laughing like these were the only toys they had, turning their meager gifts over and over in awe, and suddenly I realized, that these were the only toys they had.

Soon I would learn that these two, who would become my closest pals, each had exactly two shirts, two pairs of pants, and a worn sleeping bag that they shared on the floor of their room.

As I watched my mother talking to this strange woman in our kitchen, tears running down their cheeks, I was suddenly happy that she had woken me up, and that Santa had shared my presents with these boys, for how terrible would it have been to wake up with nothing under the tree, no presents to play with, no Santa at all?

The boys, Jay and Julio, followed me to my room, where I showed them, to their amazement, the wealth of my toy box. Soon we were playing like old friends, until called out for a breakfast of seasoned eggs and potatoes wrapped in fresh, warm tortillas. It was the best breakfast I could ever remember having.

I’ll never forget that morning, as I’ll never forget my friends from Mexico who taught me that there is always something to be thankful for, often much more than we think.

And that sometimes there is no greater gift than sharing a meal with a friend.

– Perry
MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

 

(“A Second-Hand Christmas” by Perry P. Perkins. Originally published in Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas, 2007, and Sassee Magazine, Dec 1, 2009,)

Patatas y Huevos Tacos

Okay, so this is a little touched up from that Christmas breakfast, but even if you leave out the sausage, poblanos, and toppings, it’s pretty darn good!

1 lb bulk breakfast sausage
2 large russet potatos, sliced and seasoned (unpeeled)
1 large ancho chili, seeded and diced
2 Tbsp oil
8 eggs
1/2 tsp each: salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder
3 Tbsp milk
1 cup pico de gallo
1 cup Mexican Crema
1 cup cheddar cheese
10-12 50/50 tortillas, warmed

Brown tacos in a skillet with very little butter. Set aside and keep warm.

Patatas y Huevos Tacos

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Patatas y Huevos Tacos

Take sausage out of casing and cook in a separate pan, breaking it up, until no longer pink.

Drain, and set aside.

Patatas y Huevos Tacos

Slice potatoes in thick matchsticks (can use a French-fry slicer.) Heat oil in an ovenproof skillet.

Patatas y Huevos Tacos

Place potatoes and diced poblano chili in a single layer in pan and cook potatoes until golden brown, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Patatas y Huevos Tacos

Beat together eggs, milk, and spices with a whisk.

Patatas y Huevos Tacos

Add egg and milk mixture to pan; heat until almost firm, folding once or twice with a wooden spoon.

Patatas y Huevos Tacos

Add sausage. When egg mixture is almost firm, add cheese, cover, place in oven and bake until eggs are firm and cheese melts.

Patatas y Huevos Tacos

Divide evenly between tortillas, topped with potatoes, and serve with pico and Crema.

Patatas y Huevos Tacos

Number of Servings: 6

NOTE: To take this recipe up another notch – substitute 8oz chorizo for half of the breakfast sausage. Just make sure to drain the meat before adding it to the potatoes.

 

11/23/16

The Best Turkey Gravy You’ve Ever Tasted

The best turkey gravy ever
 

It wasn’t a proper Thanksgiving or Christmas without Dad showing up early in the day with a couple of armloads of groceries and his knife-roll. (It also wasn’t a holiday meal without Mom reminding Dad she was neither his sous chef, nor his wife, that it was her kitchen, not his restaurant, and if he wanted the butter he could damn well get it out of the fridge himself…)

We had an…interesting…family dynamic.

But, back to the point…

One of the amazing things to come out of those grocery bags were the ingredients for Dad’s homemade turkey gravy. That gravy was, I kid you not, the best part of the dinner. It could have turned an old flip-flop into haute cuisine. I’m not comparing mom’s turkey to a flip flop, but…well…

Dad’s been gone for almost a decade, Mom for almost three, but I still feel their presence, the friendly bickering, and the underlying love for each other that neither knew how to express, when I whip up the gravy each year.

You can make pretty much any type of gravy with this recipe, simply by changing up the type of stock or broth you use. It’s the simple, old-school way that gravy’s been made for hundreds of years.

And it’s still just as good.

Dad Perkins’ Turkey Gravy
(Makes 10-12 generous servings)

1/2 cup (1 stick) Sweet cream butter
1/2 cup AP Flour
4 cups hot homemade turkey stock (below)
2-4 cups boiling water*

The Roux.
Melt your butter in a heavy bottom stock pot over medium heat.

3

4

When the foam has cooked off the butter, add flour and whisk vigorously to a smooth paste. This is call a “roux.”

5

Continue whisking slowly until roux becomes deep brown in color. You know when your roux is done by the roasted nutty smell.

Add hot stock, one cup at a time (the first will create a thick paste…press on) whisking in each until smooth.

6

Once all your stock is incorporated, keep whisking at a lower simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Add hot water (again, a cup at a time) until you reach the desired consistency.

Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

*You can also use milk, just make sure it’s hot. Rule of thumb – never add cold liquid to a hot one (especially milk, as it will curdle.)
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*Simple Turkey Stock
2 whole turkey thighs and/or necks, skin on
Salt and pepper
6 cloves of peeled garlic
2 tsp. whole peppercorns
1/2 cup butter
1 lg. yellow onion, peeled and quartered
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
2 lg. Carrots, roughly chopped
1 stalk each: rosemary, sage, thyme
2 bay leaves
8 cups of water

Preheat over to 350F

Sprinkle thighs with salt and pepper. And roast about 40 minutes, until skin is a deep golden brown.

Best turkey gravy ever

Left/Center: Turkey thighs and necks, roasted for stock. Right: Brined turkey thighs ready for dinner!

Meanwhile, melt butter in a heavy-bottom stock pot over medium heat. Add peppercorns and garlic and sauté a couple of minutes, stirring, to infuse the butter. Add onion, celery, and carrots, and sauté until carrots begin to brown.

Add water and bring to a simmer.

Add fresh herbs (whole) and bay leaves.

Perfect Chicken Stock

Add roasted turkey thighs and simmer, uncovered, until liquid is reduced by 1/2. Strain your stock and discard the herb, bones, skin, and veggie remnants.

http://i0.wp.com/hautemealz.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Wing-tip-chicken-stock4.jpg

Roughly chop the meat, and return it to the stock (optional, but great for gravy). Taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking.

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11/21/16

Chef Perry’s Perfect Turkey Brine

Simple Turkey Brine

Always, always, always brine your turkey!

There, I feel better now…

This is a simple overnight brine that will yield an amazingly moist and delicious turkey. One gallon is good for a  15 to 20-pound bird, and works best for fresh turkeys. Check the label of your turkey and make sure it hasn’t been “injected” with any kind of “solution” (ie: plain iodized salt water…ick.)

Trust me, this brine, combined with a properly cooked turkey (try my Perfect Roast Turkey in 90 Minutes) will make you a Thanksgiving legend!

Perfect 90 Minute Turkey

Perfect 90 Minute Turkey

1 gallon water
2 cups kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 whole cloves
4 bay leaves
1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 stalk fresh rosemary
1 stalk fresh sage leaves
1 stalk fresh thyme leaves
2 cups apple juice

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add salt and sugar and stir until completely dissolved; bring water back to a boil. Add cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, rosemary, sage and thyme to the water, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook mixture at a simmer for about 20 minutes.

Simple Turkey BrineAdd apple juice, and refrigerate brine until completely cooled. Then add to a container to completely submerge turkey. Brine 8-10 hours, or overnight.

Important: Rinse turkey thoroughly after brining, and before roasting.

By the way, you can buy you fresh herb separately, but many stores carry them in these convenient “poultry herbs” pre-packs, especially around the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chef Perry

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

11/3/16
the difference between stuffing & dressing

The difference between dressing and stuffing

the difference between stuffing & dressing

With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, I posted a very brief chef’s rant on this subject a couple of days ago, and I was amazing to learn how many people actually didn’t know the difference between “stuffing” and “dressing”.

So…

It’s only “stuffing” if you cook it INSIDE the bird. If you cook it OUTSIDE the bird, it’s “dressing” (A dressing is placed around the protein on a plate or platter, to “dress” the dish.)

Want some more great holiday tips and recipes? Check out or free Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide!

Typically, I do both…what doesn’t fit inside the turkey is baked in a dish. Then we mix the two together to spread the tasty flavor if the turkey drippings throughout.

Doesn’t stuffing from inside the bird make you sick?

Oh, and I had a friend on FaceBook ask: I always thought stuffing was the best way to give everyone salmonella for thanksgiving, what are your thoughts?”

My response:

Nah, but then I don’t think that Elvis was abducted by aliens and is still alive on the planet Zorb, either.

The stuffing myth is based on the stuffing staying in the “danger zone” for an extended period of time.

MY  KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

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newsletter:

The three rules of safe stuffing:

1. Never stuff a bird with cold stuffing, as the meat will dry out long before the stuffing is cooked. Always stuff with cooked (or at least heated) stuffing,

2. Stuffing should be COOKED in the bird, not LEFT in it. Remove stuffing from the bird while still hot, and serve separately.

3. Not quite as important as the first two, but not a bad idea…once you remove the stuffing from the bird, spoon it into a casserole dish and pop it under the broiler for 10-15 minutes (watch closely so it doesn’t burn) or until it reaches an internal temp of 165F.

The added bonus to this step is you get a lovely, golden, breadcrumb crust across the whole surface.

Thanksgiving stuffing in muffin pans

If you want to fancy this up a bit, brown the stuffing in a muffin pan, and serve individually.

So, no…I’m not concerned with the “no stuffing” myth, follow the safety rules, and you’ll be fine.

Personally, I’d be more worried about getting sick from a grocery store turkey! 😉

A better way

By the way, there is a third option, which I feel…in my not-so-humble opinion…trumps both of the aforementioned styles. Check it out in yesterday’s “Perfect Turkey” post!

This has been a public service announcement, we now return you to your regularly scheduled political griping and Starbucks bashing… :)

Chef Perry
joinmykitchen.com

10/29/16

Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide

Here’s my ultimate guide to a fantastic, and low-stress Thanksgiving.

50 pages of my best tips & tricks and favorite recipes!

Enjoy this free guide, and from everyone at SimplySmartDinnerPlans and MY KITCHEN Outreach, have a blessed and memorable Thanksgiving!

Chef Perry

Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide

Click here to download this free e-Report!


 
Here’s what’s inside…

Tips & Techniques
10 Thanksgiving Survival Tips, Thawing Your Thanksgiving Turkey, Perfect Holiday Wine Pairings, What are Giblets (and what do I do with them?),
The difference between dressing and stuffing

Thanksgiving Menu Plan & Shopping List
Aromatic Brined Turkey,  Garlic Mushroom Stuffing, Best-Ever Mashed Potatoes,  Old Fashioned Giblet Gravy, Simple Grilled Asparagus,  Roasted Cranberry Brussels Sprouts,  Cream Cheese Shrimp Dip,  Caprese Tomato Bites, Pumpkin Praline Pie,  Timeline and Notes,  Shopping List

Additional Recipes
Holiday Turkey Explosion, Thanksgiving Breakfast Sausage Roll-Ups, Traeger Peach-Ginger Smoked Holiday Ham, Peach-Ginger Smoked Holiday Ham, Old Fashioned Russet Potato Pie, Sweet Potato Gratin Stacks, Honey Ginger Carrots

Post-Thanksgiving Dishes
Thai Turkey Soup, Roast Turkey Risotto, Ham & 15 Bean Soup, Ham, Eggs & Cheese Breakfast Bagel, Quick Cobb Salad. Fried Red Potatoes & Ham, Ham & Gruyere Sandwich

How MY KITCHEN Outreach Works (the Reader’s Digest version…)

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.