Saturday, December 26, 2015

Perfect Turkey Gravy

I've only managed gravy this great twice, so I'm writing it down:

The day before
Roast some turkey parts in the oven at 350 degrees until they are caramelized. If you have spatchcocked your turkey, these parts can be the backbone and neck. If you have not, you can purchase a package of wings or drumsticks and use those. 

After you've roasted the pieces, deglaze the pan with a cup of water, scraping all those wonderful roasting bits from the pan. Pour all the liquid into a container and store in the fridge to use the next day. 

Take the pieces you've roasted, and simmer them for a couple hours in 6-8 cups of water. Store that stock you made in the fridge for  the next day. Do not pour the stock into the pan drippings you made. Use a separate container.

On gravy day
Melt a stick of butter in a saucepan and whisk in 3/4 cup flour. Turn it down low and cook this (yes, it's a roux) for 4-5 minutes. Keep stirring it during the cooking time to prevent scorching. Don't allow it to get very brown...just a dark golden color.

Get the pan drippings and the stock containers from the fridge. Skim off the fat layer from the top of the pan drippings and discard. Whisk the remaining pan drippings into your roux. Now start whisking in some of the stock in 1/2 cup increments. You most likely will use 3 cups of the stock, but add it slowly. You want to monitor the thickness of your gravy so you get exactly what you want. As you add 1/2 cup, it'll seem watery and then tighten up with a few more seconds of cooking as it absorbs the flour from the roux. Once you get it the thickness you want, adjust the salt and pepper. Let it simmer for a few minutes.

I made my gravy about 3 hours before dinner. So poured it into my very small slow cooker and let it wait there on warm. It didn't scorch and didn't require any real attention. But you'll want to check it periodically to be sure your slow cooker isn't too hot. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Pour Over Coffee

I found one of these in my stocking and immediately put it to good use. Really, I don't know why I never bought one. They really aren't expensive...maybe $10...and they do make the best cup of coffee you can have. 

The real advantage of pour overs is that you can control the temperature of your water and the speed of the brewing. And if you periodically end up buying beans that "aren't your favorite" because you couldn't get to your regular purveyor, you can fool around with the grind, temp and pour to make it work. After all, if you popped $12 for the convenience of getting beans at your grocery store, you don't necessarily want to throw them away when the coffee sucks. Granted, sometimes you have to. I threw away a pound of organic, free trade beans marketed by a local grocery store chain once because there was just no redeeming quality to them that I could find. But this morning I brewed a cup of a major coffee chain's "Breakfast Blend" that I think is roasted too dark, and it was a lot less bitter than it was yesterday through my drip maker.

Do you really need this ceramic pour over cone to do a pour over? Not really. I have done pour overs using the brewing basket from my small Black&Decker coffee pot (Mine doesn't have one of those shut-off things that stops the water from coming through if you pull the carafe out). I just put a filter in there, set it on top of my coffee cup, and pour over that. But the basket of my coffee pot has a flat bottom, so while it makes a pretty good cup, a cone makes a REALLY GOOD cup.

Cones work better because, when you pour the water in and wet the all the grounds, it runs down through more grounds before landing in your cup. Flat bottoms allow the grounds to cover a wider surface area in a thinner layer, so you end up extracting less coffee from each square millimeter of grounds.

As to the temperature, my trusty Black&Decker doesn't heat the water all the way to 212 degrees. Again, it makes a pretty good cup of coffee, but when the water is at boiling and poured, I find I get a better cup. For me. Other people might prefer it cooler.

Do you need a fancy schmancy pour over pot, with it's curvy spout? No. My electric kettle works just fine. Just pour over the grounds in a thin stream, wetting all the grounds, and wait for it to go through. Repeat a time or two, and then enjoy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Peace Doves

I started making paper cranes on November 18, 2009. I was sitting at the reception desk at work during our regular receptionist's lunch. I was bored. I can't do my own work there because all the stuff I do is confidential. So I started surfing the 'net and stumbled upon origami cranes. I always give the cranes away and the following spring I made 132 for the class of 2010 and mailed them in a letter after graduation. I've done this for every class since then.

In the letter I congratulate them on their accomplishment, tell them who I've sent their final transcript to (if they are going on in their education), and how they can get transcripts in the future. 

I've always closed with a personal note based on Psalm 91:4 (which I've also written on the inside of each crane), telling them it's my prayer that they will always sense God's leading and guiding and protecting hand in their life.

Each year I reconsider making all those cranes. The classes have gotten larger and larger and should I continue to put a Christian message in that letter? Each year, as I think about that and fold cranes, I end up with one or two parents or graduates who cross my path and tell me how much the letter and crane and meant. And so I keep doing it. Last year I reached 1000 paper cranes, hitting 
 with the class of  2015.

But I think it's just a matter of time before someone complains about the letter. 

So I'm going to switch it up before that happens. I'm going to switch from cranes to doves and I think my letter is going to mention peace. These are hard times now, with suspicious, angry people all around and scary things happening. I want our graduates to seek peace and help spread peace. 

Here the first few I've made. I think I'm going to use colored origami paper and fold them inside out. That way there will be little peeks of color on some of the edges. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Movie: Caffeinated

Saturday we watched "Caffeinated" on Amazon Prime. This is a
"Farm to Cup" documentary about the coffee we drink. There was a lot of good information about good coffee. Not mass-roasted and sold Folgers, but the small batch coffees we drink at our local coffee shops and roast in our homes. (Yes, I'd love to get into that.)

The documentary allowed us to meet a couple of families who grow coffee, taking us from the plant to the bag, and then we followed the coffee to the roaster and ultimately the cup.

Oh, and this film confirmed what I've always sort of half thought: sometimes the worst cup of coffee you can have is in the place where it is grown. Most growers send their best beans to the U.S. and other countries, and they drink the leftovers at home for the locals.

If you like food movies and documentaries, this is a great one to watch.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A New Home for My Knives

Yesterday Mensa Boy put up my new knife magnets. I'm delighted with them! Last year I received my first Shun knife from Taylor for Christmas and since then I've added a couple more, along with a Victorinox slicing knife.

We have pretty much no wall space in our kitchen, so we really had to think about where to put them. The options were: on the side of the cupboards by sink (our choice), underneath the cupboards, or inside them. Because the slicing knife is so long (the blade alone is a foot), and to avoid accidentally snagging one doing things around the kitchen, this location seemed best. It's slightly creepy having sharp knives hanging at eye level, but we should adjust ok. The magnetic strips were $15.95 each and are 10 inches long. They come in a variety of lengths and you can buy them at Lowes and other places, but the shorter lengths are harder to find. Be sure you read reviews. Some strips out there don't have magnets that are strong enough to feel secure.