Monday, November 17, 2014

Brining and Roasting the Perfect Turkey

I sheepishly admit that over the years I was spoiled and never had to cook for large family functions. Sure, I prepared green bean casserole, mac n’ cheese, and deviled eggs and hauled it to all my mama’s house for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve dinners, but I never had to host the entire meal myself. Until about seven years ago when it was decided that we would begin hosting Thanksgiving at the Poca house. And I was the star chef.

The first thing I stressed out about was cooking my first turkey.

I will admit that the turkey was NEVER my favorite part of the meal. The turkey was always so dry. When I say dry, I mean dry. Like puffs-of-sawdust-as-you-chew dry. I wanted my first turkey to be perfect. Melt-in-your-mouth, succulent and moist, (and yes you can use moist for other things besides cake. Ahem. That’s another story).

Back to the turkey… I began my research.

I first asked my mama how she cooked hers and filed the information away as “probably not the way to do it.” (I love my mama. But her turkeys were dry. Dry. Dry. And I wanted mine moist. Moist. Moist.)

The first thing suggested to me was to brine the turkey before roasting it. Brine? I knew nothing of brining. The recommendation was the first my southern ears had ever heard of brining anything, much less a turkey. The second thing I learned was what temperature to cook the turkey: 325° F. (Not 350° as formally suggested.) Aha. I was on to something.

Brining. 325° F. Got it.

The next thing I learned was how long to cook the bird. Fifteen to seventeen minutes per pound. (Not three hours or longer regardless of the size.) I was on my way to becoming Chef Extraordinaire a la bird.

Brining. 325° F. Fifteen to seventeen minutes per pound.

And that’s how I cooked my first turkey. And I must admit it was the most moist, tasty turkey I’ve ever eaten. And here’s how you do it:

Turkey Roast – Brine

2          gallons of water
2          cups kosher salt
2          cups packed brown sugar
2          tablespoons of poultry seasoning
1          teaspoon sage
            Salt and pepper at your discretion
            Butter (real butter – salted) – room temperature

1                    12-14 pound turkey

The day before you plan to roast your turkey, prepare your brine solution. Combine 4 cups of the room temperature water and add the kosher salt, sugar, and spices and mix, stirring until dissolved. (Do not heat. The kosher salt will NEVER dissolve – I learned this the hard way.) Combine the 4 cups with the remaining water.

Rinse the turkey inside and out and place it in a large pot (if you have a large stock pot, that is perfect, if you don’t, you can use any large container, even your roasting pan if necessary. Cover the turkey with the brine mixture. If the brine doesn’t cover the entire turkey, place the bird in the pot breast side up, and then turn over after six hours. Refrigerate for 12-15 hours.

When ready to roast your turkey, pre-heat the oven to 325° F.

Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse under cold running water, pat dry, and rub butter all over the bird and season with salt and pepper (or any of your favorite spices).

Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. For moist meat, cover with a foil tent. For browned, crisped skin, remove the foil the last hour of cooking. Basting isn’t necessary, but you can baste with pan juices after the foil is removed, which will help with browning.

Roast for 2.5 to 3 hours (15 to 17 minutes per pound for an unstuffed bird) or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone, registers 175 ° F and the breast reaches 165° F.
Voila! You cooked a delicious, moist bird!

Happy Turkey eating!

A few tips:

Frozen turkey – allow time for thawing. Place frozen turkey (still in packaging) in a shallow pan on the bottom shelf of refrigerator. Thaw 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds. After the bird is thawed, it will keep in the fridge for up to four days.

Fresh turkeys – are more expensive and have a shorter shelf life. Do not buy more than two days before you plan to cook it.

Never leave at room temperature for more than two hours.

Stuffing the bird – I don’t like stuffed birds, I think the stuffing is gummy, so I have no hints other than the best way is to bake your stuffing separately!

Next week: how to make southern pan dressing (aka stuffing). Yum, yum, good!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Big Mama Tyler is giving it up! A new recipe ... Stewed Summer Squash

Celeste and I were in the kitchen with Big Mama Tyler the other day, and she was prepping and cooking and talking and talking, and inadvertently gave up another recipe!

And here it is: Stewed Summer Squash

I love summer. Along with the long days and warm weather, we also have a variety of fresh vegetables, and one of Big Mama’s favorites (and mine too) is summer squash. According to Big Mama some “folks” call it crooked neck squash.

After you wash the squash, slice them up and chop a big, sweet Vadalia onion. Spray your frying pan with a spray cooking oil of your choice (Big Mama uses bacon grease). Put about a ¼ cup of water in with your squash and simmer on medium heat.

Cover and simmer until the squash and onions are nice and tender. Now here’s the trick … cook until browned and caramelized!

Yummmmmy! And in the words of Big Mama Tyler, “lip smacking good!”

Enjoy … and in the meantime, I’ll try to talk her into giving it up again for more of her secret recipes.

Later y'all !! 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Big Mama Tyler's Secret Recipe for Perfect Pulled Pork

I finally talked Big Mama into sharing her secret recipe for her perfect pulled pork, and let me tell you, I had to beg her to give it up! Celeste had to help me talk Big Mama into sharing ... so here it goes ~ from the mouth of BM herself:

You'll need a whole boston butt: a 7 pounder is perfect. Make sure it has a layer of fat so the meat will be tender and succulent, melt-in-your-mouth perfect, when it's done!

The day before we cook our butt, we're gonna brine it. What you'll need:

1/2 cup of Kosher salt
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 quarts of cold water

Add the salt to COLD water and stir until it dissolves. Add the sugar and stir until combined.

Rinse your butt and then you can either place it in a large Ziploc bag or any other container large enough to submerge your butt in the brine solution. Place it in the refrigerator and let it baste for at least ten hours.

In the meantime, you can mix the "rub" you'll be rubbing on your butt.

2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp ground pepper
2 tbsp paprika
1/2 cup brown sugar

Keep in mind that timing is important when you're planning to slow roast a butt. You need at least ten hours of basting time, and then your added cooking time. Your butt will require approximately an hour and half per pound. That means a 7 lb butt will take approximately ten hours to cook. And yes, I said ten hours. So this is how I do it, the day before you plan to serve your butt, you should brine it all day. Before you go to bed, place your butt in the oven and let it  slow cook overnight.

You need to preheat your oven to 225 degrees.

Take the butt out of the brine, place it in a roasting pan making sure your fat side is up, and dry it off. Then cover it with all that yummy rub, and don't be afraid to touch your butt, just layer on the rub and massage it in real good. Then place your butt in the oven....

The next morning, after the appropriate time for your size butt, check the internal temperature. We want our butt to reach 200 degrees, so it'll be falling-apart tender. When it's reached 200 degrees turn off the oven, cover loosely with foil, and let your butt cool for one to two hours in the oven.

When your butt has cooled below 175 degrees, remove from the oven and take off the layer of fat. You are now ready to begin the pulling process. Just take forks and pull and shred, pull and shred~ now if you followed my directions your butt should be so tender, it'll just pull apart.

You can serve your butt on buns, or you just eat the meat, whichever you choose, it'll be the best tasting butt you've ever eaten. 

Serve with my famous baked beans and coleslaw (and if y'all  talk real nice to me, I might share those recipes too!!)

Enjoy y'all !!