Playing doctor

Last week I played doctor with a turkey. It was, by far, one of the best cooking experiences ever. I took away the insides, injected the turkey, sewed it's skin, stuffed it... I felt like McDreamy.

But let me start from the beginning, because there is a beginning. Last week was the week after thanksgiving, and on Monday, Scott and I went to the store. They were out of almost everything, because like us, so many people were just back from the Holiday and needed to stock up with food. However, they still had a lot of turkeys, and because Thanksgiving was over, they were on sale. It was not my idea to buy a turkey (we had just had lots of turkey the week before), but I (almost) never say no to my fiance. You know, one time I said yes and he gave me a diamond ring, so now I try to always say yes, just in case. 

For 3 days the turkey was thawing in the refrigerator and I was looking for the best way to cook it. Then I thought that the best turkey I have ever had is the turkey that is roasted at my grandparents' house every Christmas. Besides, as I am not going to be home to eat that delicious turkey this Christmas for the first time in my whole life, so I had to make it myself.

My great aunt, la Tia Carmen, used to be the one in charge of making the turkey every year. After she passed away, my grandma and my aunt Isabel took over. Now it's mostly Isabel who makes it, but my grandma supervises her very closely to make sure that everything is perfect. 

Isabel gave me the recipe. She sent me a voice note through Whatsapp while she was at the grocery store. Gotta love technology! And aunts! ( Thanks Isa!)

I started by taking the giblets from inside the turkey. Then I injected it all with brandy. This was so cool, it really felt like being a surgeon in the OR. Once injected, I made the stuffing, which is a cooked mix of ground meats, bacon, sausage, apple, and dried fruits. I added some brandy to it too.

I stuffed the turkey with the stuffing, which was a lot harder than it seemed. Then, I was told that I had to sew the skin to close the cavity in both the head and tail sides. Here came the CRISIS! I didn't have a needle that was thick enough for kitchen twine (to be honest, I did not have ANY kind of needle). I asked my aunt if I could just not close the bird -what a terrible surgeon I am- but she said no because then the stuffing would come out (kind of like what would happen with real patients if you don't close them up) and would not finish cooking . More CRISIS. She suggested to staple it. I don't even have a stapler!

However, I had come this far and I was not going to give up on my Christmas turkey now, plus sewing it would mean more surgeon playing. I used my engineering skills and I came up with a solution. I tied the twine to a toothpick and attached both with tape. I am not kidding.

It was a hard task, but the coolest of them all. I must have used at least 10 different toothpicks,  as they kept coming out of the thread, or braking. But I did it! I sewed the cavity and it looked good! After that, the hard work as over. I just rubbed the turkey with salt and olive oil and roasted it for what it seemed eternity.

 It was perfectly cooked, the stuffing was good, the turkey was very tasty and moist. We made cranberry sauce and Brussels's sprouts too. And the turkey the tasted just like the one at my grandma's! Something to really take pride on.

My family's Christmas Turkey

For the stuffing
1/2 lb (250 g) bacon, chopped
1 pack dried shitakee mushrooms, rehidrated, OR 1 tbsp grated truffle
1/2 lb (250 g) white sausage
1/2 lb (250 g) ground veal
1/2 lb (250 g) ground pork
1/2 cup (120 ml) cognac or sweet wine
9 oz (250 g) prunes
1 apple, cored and cut in 1/2 inch cubes

For the turkey
1 fresh or thawed turkey, clean, insides discarded
1 cup (230 ml) of brandy
Olive oil or lard
3 cups (700 ml) turkey or chicken stock

Make the stuffing
Put the bacon and mushrooms in a big heavy skillet over medium heat. When a lot of fat is released add the sausage and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ground meats and season with salt and pepper. Add the wine or cognac. When it is partially cooked (about 10 minutes), remove from heat and mix in the prunes and the apple. Let it cool.

Make the turkey
Rinse well the turkey in and out and pat it dry. Add salt and oil inside the cavity, distributing it well.

Use an injector to inject the brandy in the turkey's meat, distributing well between the breast and the legs.

Stuff the cavity with the stuffing, packing it well inside. You might not be able to fit all of it, depending on the size of the turkey.

Using kitchen twine and a thick needle, sew the skin to close both entrances to the cavity.

Truss the turkey so that the legs ad wings are tight for an even roasting. Spread salt and lard (or oil) all over the turkey. 

Preheat the oven to 375°F (180° C).

Put the turkey in a baking pan. Cover the breast with aluminum foil. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and pour some chicken stock over the turkey, spreading it with a brush. Roast for 2 more hours (or until a total time of 15 minutes per pound of turkey), turning occasionally for an even roast and adding stock every 20 minutes. The turkey will be cooked when the juices come clear when inserting a knife between the thigh and the drumstick, or when the temperature on a thermometer inserted on the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165° F (70°C ).

Pour the juices in a bowl and let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes covered with foil before carving.


The healthiest fast food

I know I know I know, I haven't been writing a lot lately! And I am sorry! The truth is that I have a full time job and 3 kids and a dog and I volunteer on the weekends, so I really don't have time! Ok, all the former is a total lie, but what do you want me to say? I have been busy. And I have to plan a wedding. 

Anyway, last week was Thanksgiving, which means that I gained the 4 pounds that I had lost over like 2 months.  So all I want to eat now is low fat, low carb, low calorie food. I am obsesed with healthy food. I even started a pinterest board call healthy weeknight dinners, because even when I am in healthy mode, I refuse to give up taste and pleasure in food. I know this sounds like one of those Jenny Craig comercials, but the truth is that it is possible to enjoy low calorie food. 

Although I don't think I will completely stop making cupcakes or ice cream, this coming year I am going to try to cook healthier than I usually do...you know, we have to look skinny on our big day, says Vogue and all..

On my trip to Spain 3 weeks ago, my mom made salmon en papillote. Papillote is a beautiful french word that means parchment, but sounds so much better. This cooking technique involves wrapping the food in a  little parchment packet so it cooks in its own steam when you put it in the oven. It is super easy, super clean, super tasty and super healthy. So the other day I was looking through my food magazines in an obsesive look for healthy food and I found this recipe. Took like 20 minutes to make, of which at least 5 where for taking pictures. 

I started with some salmon, sliced zuchinni, some cherry tomatoes, half a shallot and fresh basil. You can substitute pretty much any other fish and vegetables you like.

I put it over a sheet of parchment, drizzled everything with olive oil and a splash of white wine, and seasoned it with salt and pepper.

Then I had to close the packet and I had no idea how to do it. This video was really helpful!

After 12 minutes at 400 degrees, tadaaaa, nicely cooked!

Salmon en papillote
From Bon Appétit, October 2012, serves 1.

1 salmon steak
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small zucchini , thinly sliced
3 basil leaves, chopped
1/2 shallot, thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine

Preheat the oven to 400° F (200°C).

Place a square of parchment on a work surface. Layer the squash, tomatoes, shallot and basil over it. Season it with salt, drizzle with the wine and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Place the salmon atop, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil.

Fold parchment over the mixture and crimp edges tightly to for a sealed packet. Put the packet on a baking sheet and place it in the oven for 15 minutes. Carefully open the packet and enjoy a tasty healthy dish.