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Produce Profile by Mark "Guido The Gardner" ® Ferro
ThanksGiving 03
I'm cooking now!! Heaven's bells, the sparks will be flying in Guido's kitchen come a few days prior to Thanksgiving 2003.

This year I'm serving two meats. A brined / marinated turkey cooked slow on a gas grill and a bone-in leg of pork in the oven. On October 24th I published an entire article on said leg o' pork. If you didn't save that, check out www.producepair.com and it should be on Dan the Produce Man and my website under recipes.

If you are interested in brining a turkey, the internet is the place to look. There is page after page of info. Now, for those of you without access to the internet, I'll give you a short run-down. Now brining actually involves a salted water bath and rinsing etc. But here's another way to go. And that is a straight overnight, or longer, marinade.

First the liquid. Apple juice and water is a good combo. Next, onions and garlic, smashed and chopped. Fresh or dried herbs like sage, rosemary and parsley, Italian seasoning, oregano, black peppercorns, and juniper berries. Chopped fresh fruit like apples and pears also go well in this marinade. The idea here is combine lots of different flavors. Some are on the sweet side while others are stronger, more herby.

The easiest way I've found to pull this off is to put the bird and the marinade in a couple of clean plastic bags. Squeeze the air out, tie it off real well and put it in the refer. It is safer to put a big dish or platter under the guest of food honor to catch any leaks.

Before I put it on the grill (or just in the oven), I'll stuff the cavity with oranges, apples, pears, celery, basically anything. That is to keep it moist. I toss this out before I serve it. The other thing I do is peel lots of the skin back and rub down the bird with a rub of dried seasonings. You can even get bottles of poultry type rubs if you choose.

If this sounds like lots of flavors and seasonings, let me tell you. Only one time in thirty years of cooking have I ever OVER seasoned a meat dish. (The answer to the question in your mind is it was an over-rosemaried chicken. It tasted like lighter fluid. So there.)

For mashed potatoes, forget the standard russets. I always use Yukon Gold as they have a richer flavor. A constant hit is to mix the mashed potatoes with roasted garlic. Here goes.

ROASTED GARLIC MASHED POTATOES

  • 5 lbs potatoes diced
  • 1 cup milk/half and half
  • 2 whole garlic heads
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • butter, if you want

With the spuds, leave the peel on and steam them until they are tender. You can also boil them if you want, although steaming avoids water-logged potatoes. When the potatoes are cooked, put them into a large mixing bowl.

Add the milk, butter if any and mash up.

TO ROAST GARLIC-slice off the tops of the garlic head, exposing each clove.

Brush with some olive oil and wrap in foil. Put in oven and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the head is soft. Pull from oven, let cool and then squeeze cooked garlic from individual cloves and into a small mixing bowl. Mash well and then add to the mashed potatoes. It helps to mash the garlic along with spots of milk. This should serve between 6-8.

FOR REAL CRANBERRY SAUCE

  • 1 bag of fresh cranberries (12 oz)
  • 1 cup water (apple or grape juice would also work)
  • 3/4 -1 cup sugar (This is what the recipes will tell you. I don't like
  • cooking with sugar because I think it tastes phony. I'll use honey and
  • molasses, which will darken the mix some, but no matter.)
  • grated lemon and /or orange peel
  • sliced oranges or sectioned seedless satsuma mandarins
  • diced fresh apple or pear
  • fresh grated ginger
  • chopped raisins
  • cinnamon stick

Dissolve the sugar/honey/ molasses mix in water. Add the cranberries and simmer until they all pop, about 10 minutes. Add all the rest and simmer another 20 or so minutes, until flavors blend. Once it is cooked you can always add more uncooked ingredients for additional flavor and texture.

GUIDO'S NO-HASSLE APPLE SAUCE

The title says it all. I made this last week and it was not only yummy but fairly indestructible. It lasted a whole week in the fridge. (I just ate the last of it!)

I bought about six pounds of bargain shelf apples. You know the kind, a bang here a bruise there. They were tangy Gravenstein and sweet Fuji apples.

The exact apple varieties are not important. But what you do want is half sweet and half tangy apples in order to acheive a nice flavor balance. On the a tart side you can also use a Pippin, Granny Smith, Empire, Rome or Braeburn. For the sweet side a Gala, Jonagold or Gold Delicious will work.

All I did was wash, core and slice the apples and put them in a big mixing bowl. No, I didn't peel them, too much hassle. But you can if you need the excercise.

Next, I sprinkled the sliced apples with powdered ginger, cinnimon and nutmeg. You can use finely chopped fresh ginger for a more robust flavor.

I then put the apples in a crock pot and added water enough to cover. Using apple juice instead of water works even better. I also added a couple of tablespoons of honey. Molasses also works but it gives the sauce a dark color that I don't like.

I put the lid on the crock pot and cooked it on high for a couple of hours, just enough to soften them. At that point I mashed the apples with a wooden spoon to make the mix a bit creamier.

I then set the crock to low, took OFF the lid and let it cook a few more hours. The flavor noticably improved after the longer cooking. When it's done, add more sweetness or spice to your liking.

The above makes a fairly chunky sauce. Whip the mix in a blender or food processor for a thinner texture. And yes this can be made on the stove or even the oven. This makes a great side dish or every day snack. If you really want to make friends, make this for Thanksgiving din din!

How about some Thanksgiving shopping tips? All of your hardware buy NOW.

Onions, garlic, potatoes, yams/sweet potatoes, apples, pears, all citrus, bell peppers, fresh cranberries, all winter squashes, all root veggies like carrots, parsnips etc. These goodies are quite hardy and a Saturday/Sunday purchase will basically be the same as a Tuesday/Wednesday purchase.

Even though a store may get a delivery on Monday or Tuesday, given the volume of produce picked for Thanksgiving, it could be coming out of the same lot as a couple of days before.

Buy your fresh herbs, especially sage, no later than Monday. Stores consistently run out of fresh herbs by Tuesday or Wednesday. Keep herbs fresh at home by clipping off the stems and putting them in water. Same goes for mushrooms and green beans. Produce buyers are FOREVER struggling to get more green beans on Tuesday and Wednesday.

If you are worrying about storing all of this produce in your refer, please know that it is plenty cold on the back porch or basement this time of year for some produce items. Always refrigerate berries, mushrooms, asparagus, fresh herbs, celery, lettuce, green onions, cooking greens, spinach. In a pinch, keep cold outside of refer; beans, all roots, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bell peppers. All citrus, apples, pears, grapes and pineapple will keep longer in refrigeration but are pretty fine at colder than room temperature.

And remember ... give thanks.............