Candied Ginger

I was looking desperately for "candied ginger" to put in the brine that I will use for our Thanksgiving turkey. Unfortunately, the ethnic section, nor the regular section of our grocery store does not carry it so I decided to make some from scratch.

What you need:

1 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 1/3 cup of sugar
1 cup of water

What to do:

Put the 1 cup of water in a small sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and bring to a boil. Drop in the ginger and let simmer for around 20 - 25 minutes.

Strain afterwards and dry. Then sprinkle with sugar. Good enough to be a dessert!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Make sure to dry the ginger before sprinkling with sugar. Otherwise, the sugar will just be absorbed.
2. If you don't want to discard the syrup, store the ginger in it. Sticky, but yummy!
3. Adding a few pieces of chopped candied ginger to lemon ice cream will give it a zing!


Alton Brown's Thanksgiving Turkey

We decided to try Alton Brown's Thanksgiving Turkey recipe, and I must say, this must be the most labor-intensive turkey preparation ever! But then again, nothing that tastes this good can really be rushed - especially if it concerns a humonguous bird!

What you need:

  • 1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the Brine:
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 tsp candied ginger
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:

  • 1 red apple, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 leaves sage
  • Canola oil

What to do:

Combine all the brine ingredients (except the iced water) in a large pot. Set over medium-high heat, and stir occasionally to dissolve solids. Bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from heat, cool to room te
mperature, and refrigerate.

On the night before you would eat the turkey, y
ou should start the brining process. Combine the refrigerated brine and iced water in a 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (giblets removed) breast-side down in brine. Make sure it is fully immersed, cover and set in a cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Place the bird on a roasting pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, a
nd a cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Stir around a bit, and put everything in the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage.

Get a large aluminum foil (large enough to cover the back of the bird) and shape it in the form of a triangle. Wipe it down with some canola oil. Do the same w
ith the skin of the turkey. Fit the triangle on the back of the bird and gently press it down to mold it to the shape of the turkey. The triangle foil will serve as a "tent" for the bird later so the skin won't burn.

Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast. Roast the turkey on the lowest rack of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F afterwards. At this point, put the triangle foil on top of the bird to prevent it from browning too quickly. Keep an eye on the thermometer as you want it to reach the perfect temperature of 161 degrees F. It should take around 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. But since different ovens have different settings, I suggest you trust your thermometer instead.

When the desired turkey temperature is reached, let it rest for around 15 minutes before carving. Delish!!!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:
1. Can't find candied ginger on the supermarket aisle? Make it from scratch! Click here for the recipe!
2. Use ground cinnamon if you don't have cinnamon sticks. Or try it with anise seeds instead.

3. It is best to brine the turkey in a 5-gallon ice chest similar to an Igloo cooler. You can also brine it in a stockpot, but remember to put a towel under it as it will sweat.
4. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling poultry!
5. To thaw a frozen turkey, leave it under cold running water for... oh, a couple of hours! If it seems to be wasteful, just put it in cold water. But make sure that the turkey is fully submerged! Change the cold water every 30 minutes. Using this method, it will take approximately 30 minu
tes per pound to thaw the turkey.
6. Fit the triangle foil on the back of the bird - then insert the probe thermometer. That way you won't damage the foil, or mess up the shape.
7. For gravy - just put the pan drippings in a fat separator. Put the grease back in a pan and add flour (about 1 1/2 tbsp). Whisk, then add the drippings and some chicken stock. It is delicious - you can actu
ally taste the apple and cinnamon from the turkey aromatics!

That's one gorgeous bird!


New Iron Chef - Jose Garces

Congratulations to Chef Jose Garces for winning the much-coveted title the "Next Iron Chef." Mario Batali's contract was not renewed by the Food Network so I am surmising that Chef Garces will be replacing our Italian jolly guy (with his trademark orange Crocs) in Kitchen Stadium. He will be sharing the title with Iron Chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Masaharu Morimoto, and Cat Cora.

I will surely miss watching Chef Batali's antics (e.g. dancing with the gigantic opah) in the kitchen, but am also looking forward to see more of Chef Garces' offerings. Kudos!

Picture Credit: Food Network website


Steamed Salmon with Lemon

Salmon is my favorite fish - be it raw (sushi), grilled, marinated, etc. Here is one of our favorite preparations - steamed salmon. It is light, fresh, and 100% delicious!

What you need:

  • 1 large salmon fillet
  • 2 tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 - 3 stalks of green onion, cut horizontally
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger, cut in matchstick sizes
  • 1 lemon
  • A dash of sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. rice wine vinegar

What to do:

Rinse and drain your fish, being careful not to da
mage the skin. Pat it dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.

Meanwhile, in a shallow container, mix soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Place the salmon in the soy sauce-vinegar mixture and squeeze half of the lemon over it. Slice the other half into strips and set aside. Allow the fish to marinate in the fridge for around 15 minutes.

After marinating, p
lace the fish in a lined steamer. Put the ginger slices, lemon, and green onion on top of the fish. Pour the marinade on top for extra flavor. Steam for 10 to 15 minutes, then drizzle with sesame oil. Serve with hot rice. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. As with other cooking devices, it is advisable to have a layer of steamer that is used only for seafood. Especially if using a bamboo steamer.
2. Line your steamer with parchment paper for easier cleaning. However, cut slits on the parchment paper to facilitate better steam flo
3. I like to use a mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil as a dipping sauce.


Plush Gang Funnies

A cat has very strong maternal instincts...


Chocolate-Dipped Banana

I was thinking of something creative to do with the banana sitting on the counter, so I decided that the best way to eat it is with my favorite thing - chocolate!

What you need:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • Chocolate ice cream topping
  • A handful of peanuts, crushed
  • Chopsticks

What to do:

Put the banana in the freezer for an hour or so (trust me, it will make your job easier!). Afterwards, cut the banana in half and skewer it using chopsticks. Now here's the tricky part - pour some chocolate topping on the banana while slowly rotating it for even coating. You have to do this fast as the topping will slide off your fruit. Sprinkle it with crushed peanuts. Put it back in the freezer for another hour or so. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Chopsticks are best to use rather than metal or thin wood skewers. The wider the surface is for the banana to grip on, the better.
2. When pouring chocolate topping on the banana, have a plate under it to catch the drips. You can scoop it and use on the fruit.
3. Try lightly salted crushed peanuts. The subtle contrast of sweet and salty is delightful!
4. Microwave your chocolate topping for about 5 seconds to make it easier to pour.
5. Don't try to make it easier by dipping the banana in the chocolate topping bottle - it will be almost impossible to get it out!
6. If you are not a fan of chocolate topping, try it with Magic Shell!


Buffalo Wings

I have always wondered why there is a serving of celery sticks whenever we order Buffalo Wings in restaurants. Later on, I found out that it is to cut the searing heat of the spicy wings. It is no surprise, then, that when I made my own version of Buffalo Wings, I also put a side of the sticks. I fried these wings cause I like the contrast of the crunchy skin to the juicy meat of the chicken.

What you need:

20 - 25 pieces chicken wings
2 cups seasoned flour
oil, for frying

For the sauce:

1 tbsp. butter
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tbsp. red pepper flakes
4 tbsp. garlic chili sauce
6 tbsp. barbecue sauce

What to do:

In medium heat, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic cloves, saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Put in the honey and brown sugar, and wait for the mixture to be heated through, around 1 minute. Add the barbecue sauce, garlic-chili sauce, and the red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally for a minute or two. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, heat oil in your deep fryer. Dredge chicken wings in seasoned flour and put them in the deep fryer (in batches). Fry until golden brown and let drain on a cooling rack.

Transfer the wings to a large mixing bowl and add in the sauce. Make sure to coat each wing by giving the bowl a slight toss. Serve with blue cheese dressing.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. If you can't handle the heat, reduce the amount of chili-garlic sauce.
2. Substitute chili-garlic sauce with Sriracha or Sambal-Oelek.
3. If you don't have ready-made seasoned flour, click here for a recipe. Still too complicated? Just add your favorite (dry) spices in a cup or two of flour.
4. Keep your fried wings crispy (before adding the sauce) while you fry the remaining wings by putting it in a 150F oven.
5. Add an ounce of Bourbon with the brown sugar and honey for a twist.
6. Don't like the grease? Bake your wings instead. Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease with cooking spray. Preheat your oven to 400F and bake for about 45 minutes, turning the wings over halfway for even cooking.
7. For easier coating, put the wings and sauce in a covered container and shake vigorously.

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