Saturday, November 21, 2009

Talking Turkey Part II

First, let me say that I have bought a turkey, plopped it into the oven to roast, ignored it entirely until it was done -- and it turned out great. I don't know if that was a fluke or not. These days, I put more effort into roasting the turkey, but there are a few popular steps that I skip.

The procedure and times below are for a turkey that is not stuffed. The official stance on stuffing birds is that the stuffing should be cooked separately. I find it easier to do it separately, because I can make the stuffing (officially called dressing if not inside the turkey, I suppose) the day before. One less thing to worry about. I pop it into the oven to bake an hour before we eat and it's always great.

For years and years I basted turkeys and chickens. Last year, I think it was Martha whom I watched insert butter under the skin of the bird, which I thought clever. My mother is a big believer in basting and we've spent many Thanksgivings treacherously tilting the pan to suck up the juices with the baster and squirt them on the bird. Not anymore. I side entirely with Alton Brown who experimented on one of his shows and declared basting unnecessary. In fact, he suggested that basting simply lowers the temperature of the oven because one opens it continually.

I know what you're thinking -- but the crispy skin is the best part! Quite by accident (and laziness) I discovered that leaving a duck uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours before roasting yields a fabulous skin. That's what Chinese restaurants do. They hang ducks to dry before transforming them into crispy-skinned Peking Duck. Turns out the same thing works great for turkey. It goes against our grain to leave the foil or plastic wrap off something in the refrigerator, but that's exactly what I do. The day before you plan to roast the turkey, set it on a rack in the roasting pan and slide the whole thing, uncovered, into the refrigerator until it's time to cook.

The other step that I love to skip is trussing the turkey. In The Diva Runs out of Thyme, Sophie trusses the killer, but I think tying the turkey is over-rated. On most turkeys, there is a flap of skin that crosses the bottom end. I do try to wedge the ends of the legs under that flap. It holds them tight and saves me from wrestling with the bird to tie it.

So, here are the basics that I'll be following:

1. SUNDAY Move the turkey from the freezer to the refrigerator. Most guides suggest giving a frozen turkey three to five days to thaw in the refrigerator. If you've ever tried to yank the giblets or neck out of a partially frozen turkey, you understand the need for plenty of thawing time.

2. TUESDAY NIGHT Brine the turkey. As discussed last week, if you bought an enhanced turkey (with a solution injected) or a Kosher turkey, you should not brine it. So what's the fuss about brining? At its most basic, the salt molecules penetrate the turkey meat and work magic on the turkey meat molecules, leaving the meat softer and moister. It also leaves some saltiness in the meat, so use a light hand if you salt the skin of a brined turkey.

Brine the turkey in any food-safe container (like a five gallon bucket) large enough to hold the entire turkey. It must remain refrigerated during the brining. I usually remove a shelf from my refrigerator to accommodate it. I've read that some people brine their turkeys in large coolers, but I've never tried that.

To brine:
Remove the giblets and neck, if possible.
Dissolve 3/4 cup Kosher salt in a gallon of water and pour over the bird. Repeat until the bird is covered. Add 1/4 cup sugar to the brine. Refrigerate 6-8 hours.

3. WEDNESDAY MORNING Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse inside and out with water. Place the turkey on a roasting rack, breast side up, and store UNCOVERED in the refrigerator until ready to roast, preferably 24 hours.

4. THURSDAY Dice carrots, onions, and celery and spread in the bottom of the roaster. Don't forget to add a cup of water so they'll cook instead of burning. They taste delicious plain, but I like to puree them and add them to the gravy -- yum!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Tuck the ends of the legs under the flap of skin as described above. Rub the skin of the turkey with salt (very little or none if brined) or your favorite herbs (optional). Turn the turkey breast down on the roasting rack and roast for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, turn the bird breast side up. SKIP THE BIG DANGEROUS TURKEY FORKS. People keep giving them to me as gifts for some reason. While they look like terrific weapons for use in a mystery, I find them extremely cumbersome. I get a much better grip on the turkey if I grab it with a clean kitchen towel on each end. But watch out! There may be HOT turkey juices inside the cavity of the bird. Be sure you don't tilt it so that the juices penetrate the towel.

5. WHEN IS IT DONE? Brined meat cooks faster, so take that into consideration if you brine your turkey. Last year I made a note that my 13 pound turkey was done in 1 hour and 45 minutes. A larger turkey might take a little longer. Do NOT rely on those little pop-up timers! I've had many of them get stuck -- they wouldn't have popped up if the turkey charred.

The best method of checking for doneness is a thermometer. I'm partial to my Thermapen, but there are less expensive thermometers that work well, too -- never mind how many of them I've killed . . .

But how done is done?

The USDA says a turkey is done at 165 degrees.
Serious Eats -- The Food Lab says your turkey is overdone if it exceeds 150 degrees.
Most of the websites I checked go with the USDA recommendation of 165, but I wouldn't let it cook any longer than that!
(Note: I tried cooking a turkey breast to 150. Definitely undercooked! Shoot for 165!)

If you're only roasting a turkey breast, you might want to read my old blog post where I side with Rachel Ray about the temperature of the oven for roasting a breast. It goes against most of the turkey breast recipes I found on the net.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't -- and the rewards are scrumptious.

I wish you all a moist turkey, wonderful friends, loving families and the time to enjoy them.



That's right! You could win a Junior's Cheesecake for the holidays!

We're having our own Iron Chef weeks here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. We take a surprise ingredient and challenge all of our authors to come up with recipes using that ingredient. To add to the fun, we're looking to you to suggest the surprise ingredients! The person who suggests a winning ingredient for our January Iron Chef week will win a Junior's Cheesecake! But don't worry, we'll get it to you in time to enjoy over the holidays.

To enter, send an email suggesting an ingredient to It's that easy! And you could just win a delectable cheesecake to enjoy with your family or friends (or hog for yourself, shh, we won't know!).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cleo Coyle's Easy "Leftover Turkey" Pot Pie with Cheddar Cheese Crust and "No Brainer" White Sacue

This baby’s super easy to make. And, let’s be real, after your Thanksgiving day cook-athon, it's a relief to make a simple, one-dish dinner. The leftover pie keeps well in the fridge, too, and tastes just as good reheated for lunch the day after you make it.

Servings: 6 slices (fills one 9-inch pie pan)

Ingredients: For "No Brainer" White Sauce
1 cup cold milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Wondra Flour (see product picture at end of recipe)

For Pie Filling
2 to 2-1/2 cups cooked turkey cut up into bite size pieces (Thanksgiving leftovers will do nicely)
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (do not thaw!)

For Crust1 package Pillsbury pie crusts (room temperature)
2 cups mild cheddar cheese shredded

Step 1: Make an easy white sauceWondra flour is the key here. If you've never used it, Wondra is a super-fine flour that dissolves quickly into liquids, allowing you to make smooth sauces and gravies. (I pasted a picture of the product below.) Here's how to make the easy white sauce: In a saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat, add the butter and stir until it melts. Add the salt and pepper. While continuing to stir, sprinkle the Wondra flour over the warm milk mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil and stir for a full minute. (Yields 1 cup of white sauce.)

Step 2: Add frozen veggies and cooked turkey
Once your white sauce is finished, turn off the heat. Dump the frozen* mixed vegetables into the saucepan with the white sauce and stir to coat. Add the turkey and stir again, until the veggies and turkey are well mixed in with the white sauce. Set aside. *NOTE: You are not cooking or thawing the frozen veggies. The vegetables will thaw during the baking process, which will give them the perfect texture by the time the pie is fully baked.

Step 3: Cheese-ify your pie dough
This is a "quick and easy" recipe, which is why I'm using pre-made pie crusts. One package of "Pillsbury Pie Crusts" is all you'll need since it contains 2 unbaked pie shells, enough for 1 turkey pot pie. The pre-made crusts come rolled up inside the box. Allow both dough rolls to come to room temperature (about 15 minutes out of fridge or 15 seconds in the microwave). Gently unroll the crusts on a flat surface, and sprinkle each crust with 1 cup of the shredded cheddar. Lightly press the cheese into the softened dough. If the dough is too hard, it's still too cold from coming out of the fridge. Let it sit for another few minutes until soft. (If you aren't a big fan of cheddar cheese, try Swiss, gruyere, or another fave. Fusing it with the dough may seem odd, but it's a better way to use the cheese than just dumping it into the filling where it can overpower your other flavors. This way, the cheese crosses your taste buds during your chewing of the flaky, buttery crust. It's a much more interesting eating experience!)

Step 4: Fill your pieTo prevent sticking, spray a 9-inch pie pan with Pam or another cooking spray. Line the pan with one of the pre-made pie crusts (cheese side up). Fill with your veggie-turkey-white-sauce mixture. Cover with the second pie shell (cheese side down; i.e. facing the filling). Now seal the edges and make a few thin slits with a knife on the top of the shell to let steam escape. To prevent the edges of your pie from browning too much or burning, loosely curl strips of aluminum foil around the crust edges.

Step 5: Bake
Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-45 minute (until crust is golden). In the last 15 minutes of baking, be sure to remove the aluminum foil strips from around the crust edges so your edges will brown!

CLEO NOTE: If you've never used Wondra Flour, look for its blue cardboard canister in the same grocery store aisle that shelves all-purpose flour. It's a handy little helper for thickening gravies and making quick sauces. You can make an easy cheese sauce for vegetables by adding 1/2 cup of your favorite cheese to the white sauce recipe above.

For more of my recipes or to find out more about the books
in my Coffeehouse Mystery series, click this link to my virtual home at

Eat with Joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

author of The Coffeehouse Mysteries
"Where coffee and crime are always brewing..."

A Coffeehouse Mystery
Now a National Bestseller!

Text and photos coypright (c) 2009 by Alice Alfonsi
who writes as Cleo Coyle in collaboration with her husband, Marc Cerasini
To leave a comment, hit the COMMENT
hot link below...


Win a Famous Junior's
New York Cheesecake!

To see all of the mouth-watering
flavors to choose from click here!

We're having our second Iron Chef Week in early December! All week long, each of our mystery writing cooks will post a recipe with the same secret ingredient.
To enter our upcoming drawing for a famous Junior's Cheesecake of your choosing sent right to you doorstep, all you have to do is send an e-mail, suggesting a new Secret Ingredient to:

NOTE: You must be a follower of our blog for your entries to count. Just click on one of the "follow" buttons in the right column and you're all set. If you don't see a right column, just refresh this page. One entry allowed per day per person. Again, if you're not following our blog, another winner will be chosen, so be sure to follow!

Good Luck!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Thanksgiving Side: Asparagus Casserole


Thanksgiving has always seemed fun to me. America is such a new country still, and it’s neat to have our story about the first Thanksgiving with Pilgrims and Native Americans enjoying a feast after a rough winter.

Life seems to slow down a little bit then, too—not like Christmas which can get wild. The emphasis is on a good meal, a good visit…and maybe a good nap afterwards.

I know I’m pressing asparagus on y’all again, but it really is so good. This is a different way of preparing it than the last time I put in a recipe. It’s easy—you can used canned asparagus. And you’ll probably have the other ingredients on hand. It’s nice to have a simple side on Thanksgiving. And we all need to eat our greens! :)


Asparagus Casserole

3 T butter
4 T flour
2 C milk
2/3 C sharp cheese
1/2 t salt
1/2 t paprika
2 sliced hard boiled eggs
2 cans of drained asparagus
Crushed, buttered crackers

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt butter in a a saucepan
Stir flour until smooth.
Stir in the milk, slowly.
Keep stirring until thickened.
Blend in the cheese, stirring until melted.
Season with salt and pepper

In a 2-quart baking dish, layer sauce, asparagus and the sliced egg, topping with the rest of the sauce.

Top mixture with bread crumbs.

Cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Pretty is as Pretty Dies –Elizabeth Spann Craig
Delicious and Suspicious (May 2010)—Riley Adams

And please don't forget to keep your eyes open for our next Iron Chef contest in December, with the special ingredient to be announced in January. Continue to sign up and drop us suggestions! Someone will be a lucky winner close to the holidays! And the prize is a Junior's Cheesecake! Remember, one entry per person, per day, and you must be a follower of the blog.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chili Egg Puff

One of the unexpected perks of getting
married was gaining a mother-in-law
who happens to be a great cook and who
is willing to share recipes. Thank you,

I remember the first time I had this at my
in-laws. It was a holiday morning, and I thought,
WOW! I still think that and so I am sharing it
with you.

This is a quick and easy breakfast dish to share with
holiday company, but I've also made it for dinner.
The dudes love it. And on a crazy week like this one,
when I have page proofs and copy edits and a book
all due at the same time, this recipe really saves my
bacon (although, there is none in this recipe it goes
nicely on the side).

Chili Egg Puff


10 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 pt cottage cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cans diced green chilies
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced tomato

Beat first 7 ingredients until smooth. Pour into a greased
9 X 13 baking dish. Stir in green chilies, onion and tomato.
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

The eggs puff up nice and fluffy and the
cheese and veggies give it a wonderful flavor.
Truly a terrific dish!

Jenn McKinlay
March 2010

aka Lucy Lawrence

Sept 2009
April 2010

Don't forget to keep your eyes open for our next Iron Chef contest in December, with the special ingredient to be announced in January. Continue to sign up and drop us suggestions! Someone will be a lucky winner close to the holidays! Remember, one entry per person, per day, and you must be a follower of the blog. Come on, WOW me!!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving Side Dish - Garlic Green Bean Bundles

Thanksgiving was always my mom’s holiday. I remember when my brother and I would set the dinner places in the basement of our little house. The basement was the only place big enough to seat everyone together—and that was only because my dad had crafted his own tables to fit the odd-shaped space. Twenty-six people would sit around in a cobbled-together L-shaped space and my brother and I would not only set the places, we were charged with dusting the chairs. As kids we thought this was nuts. You *sat* on chairs. Why did they need to be dusted?

Thanksgiving meant the combined scents of roasting turkey, sizzling turkey liver and sautéed onions (which provided the start for the best stuffing in the world ever), Polish sausage, sauerkraut (I married into the name Hyzy which is blessedly short. My maiden name was a whopper!) and Lemon-Pledge as we prepared for the relatives to arrive.

Side dishes usually included buttered/salted green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (my brother and I avoided those) and an amazing lemon Jell-O I’ll have to share here some day.

My birthday is mid-November, so my family party was always held at our Thanksgiving celebration. There I am, acting all dramatic... "For me??"

Check out those tablecloths...
We were really stylin' weren't we? ;-)

When our dad passed away, I was married with all my kids and I’d taken over Christmas and Easter when other relatives aged out of hosting responsibilities. When our mom died three years later, I inherited Thanksgiving too, and kept it for several years. But my brother and his partner have now taken over the November holiday—and they do a more amazing job than I could have ever imagined. They prepare printed menus, provide place cards, and make everyone who visits their home feel pampered. It’s much fancier than the five different-patterned tablecloths covering our Dad’s home-made tables and the drinks served from atop the washing machine, but no less warm and welcoming. They invite us, my husband’s mom and sister, our closest cousins, and cousins, aunts, and parents from my brother’s partner’s side. It’s a great collection of fun people who really just enjoy being together. I can’t wait to see everyone again this year.

I’m usually in charge of the fresh Polish sausage, and a vegetarian dish for our youngest. This year I may also add something from my second White House Chef book, Hail to the Chef. I made these for Christmas dinner last year and they were such a hit that I keep making them at home whenever I can. They are so fabulous and so easy—an incredibly tasty side dish that is put together quickly. Not to mention these bundles look gorgeous on a platter.

Garlic Green Bean Bundles

(This recipe serves about 6-8 people, give or take.)

Two pounds fresh green beans, washed, and with ends and strings (if applicable) removed.
1 pound good smoked bacon, raw.
1/2 cup olive oil.
3 cloves garlic, cleaned and minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

On a sheet pan, cookie sheet, or jelly roll pan (e.g. a large flat pan with an edge sufficient to prevent the grease you’re about to make from running all over your nice clean oven), lay out the green beans in bundles of roughly 10-12 beans, with all the beans laid out in parallel formation.

Wrap each bundle loosely with a slice of bacon, tying it on top with a simple knot and arranging the loose ends artistically.

In a bowl, whisk the olive oil and the garlic. Brush this oil liberally over the green bean bundles.

Bake until the bacon is cooked to taste and the green beans are warmed through.

Remove bundles to a serving platter with a spatula. Serve warm.

Hope you enjoy…

My White House Chef Mystery series includes State of the Onion, Hail to the Chef, and, coming in January -- Eggsecutive Orders!

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And please don't forget to keep your eyes open for our next Iron Chef contest in December, with the special ingredient to be announced in January. Continue to sign up and drop us suggestions! Someone will be a lucky winner close to the holidays! And the prize is a Junior's Cheesecake! Remember, one entry per person, per day, and you must be a follower of the blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Say Cheese! Say Fromage Fort!

Dear Readers, our latest contest might be completed, and we'll be using the special ingredient suggested by our winner Molly Ebert in December, but we'll be having another Iron Chef contest in December, with the special ingredient to be announced in January, so continue to sign up and drop us suggestions! Someone will be a lucky winner close to the holidays! And the prize is a Junior's Cheesecake! Remember, one entry per person, per day, and you must be a follower of the blog.
Also...I've just got to brag...about one of my blog pals. Cleo Coyle is now officially on TWO national bestseller lists. Holiday Grind hit the #6 position on the National Bookscan Hardcover Mystery Bestseller List and #9 on Barnes and Nobel's Hardcover Mystery List for the Chain Nationwide and Espresso Shot, which was just released in paperback last month, came in as the #2 ranked paperback bestseller for the month of October by the Independent Mystery Bookseller's Association. Wahooooo!

Now, on to the regular portion of this blog. If you are a fan of Krista Davis’s Domestic Diva Series (and you should be!!!) , prior to Mystery Lovers Kitchen, you might have checked out her solo blog, The Diva Dishes. On that blog, I shared the recipe below , so I apologize for any duplication, but heck, I promised this fabulous find to our MLK fans, and I try never to break a promise. [I didn't have any great pictures then, that's a plus now.]

When I started writing The Cheese Shop Mysteries, I knew I liked cheese, but I didn’t realize there was so much to learn about cheese. For instance, did you know that you could sample a different cheese every day of the year? Did you know that cheese and wine are considered soul mates? Why? Because they both come from the earth. How does cheese come from the earth, you ask? Well, you probably know that cheese is made from the milk of cows, goats, and sheep. Did you know that what the animals eat affects the flavor of the cheese? That’s right. The grasses of a season affect the flavors of the milk, and therefore, the cheese. And... cheese made from milk drawn in the early summer differs from one made late in the summer because of the maturity of the grass. Makes sense, right?

Well, put wine and cheese together in one dish and, voila! Major yum!

For a budget-wise treat, here is a great way to use up all that cheese that you bought when you went cheese tasting, but know you can’t finish right away. [I do that when I go to a cheese shop. Buy too much. It all looks, and tastes, so good!] [Also, cheese left over after a holiday bash...a party...any reason.]

Anyway, never discard those little leftover pieces. The French call this concoction fromage fort or strong cheese.


Ingredients & directions:

Gather one pound of leftover cheese, three kinds is enough but five to six kinds would be superb!!! Trim off any mold or rind or dried parts. Cut the cheese into cubes. Put the cheese in a food processor.

Toss in three to four cloves of garlic smashed up. Chop for a few seconds.

Add one half cup of dry white wine and one teaspoon ground pepper.

Puree until creamy, about thirty seconds.

Remove and transfer into a crock or bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Let warm to room temperature to serve with crusty bread or crackers.

Note: I’d probably pair this with my favorite every-day sauvignon blanc, St. Supery. It’s always consistent.


If you want to check out more about me, check out my website: Avery Aames. And don't forget to signup for my newsletter, filled with facts and, well, news!!
Better yet, become one of the first to buy The Long Quiche Goodbye. It's now available on Amazon, Borders and Books a Million for pre-order!! The publishing date is July 6! No cover art yet, but that's coming soon!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

You Talking to Me? by Guest Blogger Sue Ann Jaffarian

Sue Ann Jaffarian 1 When Riley asked me to guest blog on Mystery Lover’s Kitchen, my first response was: Who? Me? She told me I was welcome to share favorite recipes or recipes from my books. Again: Who? Me?

I was once considered a pretty good cook. Not a fancy cook, mind you, but definitely a good, homey cook. And being Armenian, I was also known amongst my friends for several Middle Eastern dishes. My baklava will make you swoon. My stuffed grape leaves are addictive. But that was before I was published. Once the books started coming out and my writing time was shared with promotional and marketing activities, and everything was shared with the time I spend at my day job as a paralegal in Los Angeles, decent cooking fell to the wayside.

With five released books and writing two different mystery series, my culinary expertise is now limited to whatever can be cooked or heated within ten minutes on my stove, in the microwave or on my George Foreman grill. A meal simmered in the crock pot is my idea of a big elaborate meal. I can’t even remember the last time I fired up my oven – seriously. I think it was about three years ago over Thanksgiving. And I am loathed to tell you how many restaurants I have on speed dial.

My idea of a gourmet meal is watching Top Chef while downing Taco Bell.

By the way, I am single. Big surprise, huh? If I were married, he’d have to be able to cook or starve, or learn to like the kibble I pour for the cats.

Now about those recipes…

Ghost_a_la_Mode Thumbnail In spite of the steaming apple pie adorning the cover of my latest book, Ghost à la Mode, or the title of my upcoming book, Corpse on the Cob, there is only one recipe in any of my books. It was published in The Curse of the Holy Pail, the second book in my Odelia Grey mystery series.


1. Wait until March;

2. Go to nearest supermarket;

3. Locate young girls in brown or green uniforms; they can be found in front of the store by a folding table, usually accompanied by a parental figure;

4. Purchase at least twelve boxes of Thin Mint cookies;

5. Place cookies in freezer, consuming no more than one box per month, preferably less;

6. Next March, repeat steps 1-5 above.

Thanks so much, Sue Ann, for visiting the Kitchen! Since I have a 3rd grader in one of those brown uniforms, I highly recommend Odelia’s favorite recipe! ~Riley

And remember--we're taking suggestions for a secret ingredient to cook with in January. It's not too early to send in your suggestions. And just for the holidays, this time the prize is a Junior's Cheesecake, delivered right to your door!

Yesterday we kicked off a week of Thanksgiving recipes here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. After a week of Thanksgiving goodies, you'll be ready for feasting!