7

My Crazy is Showing, but I’ll Tuck it in Later

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My husband says that I have a tomato problem.

  I don’t.

He uses words like “addiction”, “compulsion”, “obsession”.

I respond with words like “whatever”, “nu-uh”, “ugh” (yes, they are words in my vocabulary)

My kids say things like “Stop saucing, Mommy!” “Can’t we just go to the pool, like other kids?” “Why are you making mooorrrreee???”

My responses… “I just have a few more to do.” “You love Mommy’s sauce.” “Can I just have one hobby?”

Why can’t my loved ones embrace my annual hobby of stalking my favorite secret farm stand until the Romas are ready, then packing my car full of red, juicy little friends, and crafting some of the finest homemade sauce (or “gravy” as my Italian friend, Lisa, corrects)? No one else we know has a basement stockpile of tomatoey awesomeness!! My family is lucky, damn it!

I’m a pretty simple girl. I do not like shopping. The mall is not my happy place, and the outlets, which are right down the road from my farm stand oasis, make my heart palpitate with anxiety! I prefer to cook, and grow, and relax. In an ideal world, I’d live on a small farm, next to the beach, and I’d have enough money to stay home with my kids and cook fabulous meals. It’s not a lot to ask.

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But now, the season of saucing is upon us. The Romas are ready; this is shopping that brings me joy! I woke up this morning, recruited my sister, Rori, who is crazy enough to join my adventures, and off we went. The sun was out, the breeze was warm, the top was down, and the doors were off. It was heavenly.

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Our morning was awesome. Kid & husband free, we popped into several farm stands snatching up peppers, pickling cucumbers, cheese, blackberries, and the coveted Roma tomatoes. I have a super secret special spot that grows them to perfection. Here we bought SIX BUSHELS. As I transferred them from the baskets to cardboard boxes, a calm washed over me. This is my happy place, this is my happy place, THIS IS MY HAPPY PLACE!!   After we loaded them into the car, I stood to ponder our stash. No buyer’s remorse. I had buyer’s delight!

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After a happy drive home, I pulled into the driveway and fought the urge to yell, in the spirit of Maurice Sendak, “LET THE WILD RUMPUS BEGIN!”

It is time to sauce.

So, as I pull the first tomatoes from the box, and my family watches and waits for my crazy to show, I do consider the stages of addiction…

  • Admitting that one cannot control one’s addiction or compulsion:
    • I totally admit that I cannot control my compulsion to make & can homemade pasta sauce
  • Recognizing a higher power that can give strength;
    • I totally thank God often that I live in such a beautiful place on Earth, with fertile soil, and Amish neighbors who grow the BEST ROMA TOMATOES EVER!!!!
  • Examining past errors with the help of a sponsor;
    • I will totally own my errors. Two years ago I didn’t make enough and we ran out in January. Last year, I made a little too much, and I still have 8 jars left.
  • Making amends for these errors;
    • I bought less this year.
  • Learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
    • I will live with less canned sauce, and embrace my passion for making sun pickles too 🙂
  • Helping others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions;
    • I assisted my sister in securing a few cases for herself, and I am willing to help you all as well.

There you have it. I may be a little obsessed, addicted, or compulsive, but Hell, it’s a lot of fun, and so, so good!

If you need to know how I make my sauce/gravy, check out my Positively Perfect Pasta Sauce!

3

The Best Freakin’ Turkey EVER!

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Turkey IS NOT turkey!

We all know what it is like to have awful, dry, sawdust turkey topped with watery, bland gravy that tastes of the floury lumps that plop out of the gravy boat. It is usually at the hands of a well-meaning, elderly relative that does not own a meat thermometer.

This post is an attempt to end the tradition of turkey travesty, and I intend to turn you into a turkey snob.

THIS IS THE BEST TURKEY!!!! It is unbelievable, and if you don’t use any other recipe on this site, TRY THIS ONE!!

Imagine serving the moistest, most amazing meat, topped with golden gravy goodness that will make you crave leftovers for days.

Go ahead, step out of your comfort zone, and just do it!

Now, to be fair, I cannot take credit for this. The original recipe is courtesy of Emeril Lagasse and can be found here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/brined-and-roasted-turkey-recipe/index.html

But over the last ten years, I have made some adjustments that make it a bit easier.

Brined and Roasted Turkey

Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2001

Ingredients

  • 1 (10 to 12-pound) turkey
  • Brine, recipe follows
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 8ths
  • 1 large orange, cut into 8ths
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken or turkey stock, for basting

Turkey Broth:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Reserved turkey neck and giblets
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 3 cups turkey stock, chicken stock, or canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 3 cups water

Gravy:

  • 4 cups turkey broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

THE DAY BEFORE–

Brine:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 oranges, quartered
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sprigs rosemary

To make the brine, dissolve the salt and sugar in 2 gallons of cold water in a non-reactive container (such as a clean bucket or large stockpot, or a clean, heavy-duty, plastic garbage bag.) Add the oranges, lemons, thyme, and rosemary.

I cook a 22lb. turkey, so if you have a big turkey and need more brine than this, use 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar for every gallon of water.

Remove the neck, giblets, and liver from the cavity of the turkey and reserve for the gravy. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water.

Soak the turkey in the brine, covered and refrigerated, for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. I cook a very large turkey, so I put the turkey in a doubled trash bag with the brine. Then, I store it in a large cooler with ice overnight, on my patio.

 

THE NEXT MORNING

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels, inside and out. Place breast side down in a large, heavy roasting pan, and rub on all sides with the butter. Season lightly inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff the turkey with the onion, orange, celery, carrot, bay leaves, and thyme. Loosely tie the drumsticks together with kitchen string.

For the turkey broth: I add all the broth ingredients, along with the “turkey parts” into a medium pot and boil it for about an hour. Strain, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids. Reserve this broth for the gravy.

Roast the turkey, uncovered, breast side down for 1 hour. Remove from the oven, turn, and baste with 1/2 cup stock. Continue roasting with the breast side up until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the largest section of thigh (avoiding the bone), about 2 3/4 to 3 hours total cooking time.Baste the turkey once every hour with 1/2 to 3/4 cup chicken or turkey stock. BE AWARE THAT THE BRINING PROCESS CAN SHORTEN THE COOK TIME! Keep a close eye on the thermometer.

Remove from the oven and place on a platter. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.

For the pan gravy: Pour the reserved turkey pan juices into a glass-measuring cup and skim off the fat. Place the roasting pan on 2 stovetop burners over medium heat add the pan juice and 1 cup turkey broth and the white wine to the pan, and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining 3 cup of broth and bring to a simmer, then transfer to a measuring cup.

In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, to make a light roux. Add the hot stock, whisking constantly, then simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Pour into a gravy boat and serve.