Greek Thanksgiving Turkey Bake

I wanted to do something different with post-Thanksgiving turkey. We’d had the glorious main meal, and fantastic sandwiches the next day. I was making stock for soup, thinking that’d be round three, when a Greek theme intruded on my traditional progression.

It began with feta cheese and great Greek olive oil, both of which I have on hand. We’d also just received some lovely Brussels sprouts from our CSA that didn’t make it into the Big Dinner. I’d cooked some Rancho Gordo Alubia Blanca beans for soup. Of course we have onions, garlic, lemons, and Greek oregano, along with a raft of other fresh herbs out in the garden. My next thought was along the line of, would Greek people in Greece really eat this? Turns out the answer is, probably so.

The Greeks call turkey ‘gallopoula,’ and that or pork is quite popular on a holiday table – quite a few people raise their own birds, and you can’t get better than that. Beans have been a traditional staple in Greece for a long time and are widely cultivated there. And yes, Brussels sprouts are enjoyed in Greece as well – Good to go, all around.

Greek inspired turkey bake

I decided on a baked dish, to transform the feta into a creamy, tangy delight, with everything bound by kalamata olive oil and lemon juice – And that just demands some freshly baked pita, right? Right!

As for herbs, there really is no ‘go to’ blend. If I had to pick must have herbs, I’d go with Greek oregano, dill, flat leaf parsley, mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, basil, and fennel. Christy Hohman, my Guru of Greek, makes a blend I love, with Greek oregano, garlic salt, dried grated lemon peel, marjoram, sumac, thyme, and black pepper. She added that, ‘the essentials for the Greek flavor in a mix would be good Greek oregano, lemon, and marjoram or thyme.’ And that is what I will use here.

Home made pita bread

Pita Bread

3 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour

1 1/4 Cups Water

1/4 Oz. active Dry Yeast, (1 package, if you have those)

2 teaspoons Sea Salt

Heat water to @ 115° F

In a large mixing bowl, combine water and yeast and stir gently to dissolve.

Add 3 cups of flour and the salt, then use a spoon or spatula to form a loose dough.

Spread the last 1/2 cup of flour on a working surface and turn the dough out onto that.

Knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, working the last half cup into the mix as needed when things get too sticky.

When the dough is nice and smooth and springy, cut it into 6 more or less equal portions, and roll those into balls.

Roll the balls out to about 6” circles.

Lightly grease a baking pan, and place the rolled out rounds onto that.

Allow to rise for about 50 minutes, until roughly doubled in height.

Preheat oven to 475° F and place a rack in the middle position.

Flip raised pitas over gently, and bake for 6-9 minutes, until they’re light golden brown

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Greek turkey bake

Urban’s Greek Thanksgiving Bake

1/2 Pound Turkey Breast

1/4 Pound Feta

2 Cups Brussels Sprouts

1 Cup Turkey Stock

2 Cups cooked White Beans

2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes

1 medium Yellow Onion

5-7 cloves fresh Garlic

2 fresh Lemons

1 bulb fresh Fennel

4-6 Ounces Extra Virgin Greek Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Kalamata Olives

1 Tablespoon Greek Oregano

1 Tablespoon Lemon Thyme

Sea Salt

Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 425° F with a rack in the middle slot.

Chop turkey breast.

Trim and halve Brussels sprouts.

Peel, trim, and chop onion.

Peel, trim, and fine dice garlic.

Slice olives into rounds.

Cut 1 lemon in half and zest. Cut the other into roughly 1/8ths.

Trim fennel and cut into roughly 1/4” thick rounds.

In a large casserole, baking pan, or whatever you’ve got, begin assembly.

Spread a layer of beans, then add Brussels sprouts.

Add onion, tomatoes, garlic, olives, fennel, and turkey.

Crumble feta evenly over all that.

Pour stock into the mix.

Squeeze lemon chunks and place evenly, then squeeze second lemon’s juice and spread zest.

Add olive oil evenly over all.

Sprinkle oregano and thyme evenly over all.

Add a three finger pinch of salt over all, then liberal twists of ground pepper.

Bake at 425° F for 30-40 minutes, until the tomatoes burst and the sprouts are fork tender.

Serve with fresh pita bread, which you darn well better make yourself – See above.

Dueling Roasts

Pot roast – arguably the epitome of a humble beginning becoming a glorious end – a paean to low and slow. Yet there’s more than one way to get there, and naturally we’d like to know if one is better than another.

In our kitchen, I prefer a slow cooker and M leans toward oven. When discussing which route to go recently, we naturally arrived at, why not both? Now, we ain’t Kenji Alt Lopez, but hey, it sounded like fun – and when she guaranteed me I’d lose the bet, it was on. We took two lovely local, grass fed pot roasts out and got busy.

‘Pot roast’ may be any one of a number of different cuts
‘Pot roast’ may be any one of a number of different cuts

Certain proteins just need to be cooked low and slow. Sure, a wagyu steak is going to be super tender and a chuck roast not so much, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Thousands of years of cooking has proven that almost anything can be made tasty, and frankly should. We don’t have to go all Fergus Henderson on this, but waste isn’t cool, and buying expensive isn’t necessary.

Flesh is flesh – It’s all the connective tissues that are the toughies – tendons, ligaments, and fasciae. Most of these are collagens, the primary structural proteins. That stuff should never be looked upon as waste though. If you’ve checked out any of our posts on making stock, you’ll recall that rendering collagens is what gives meat stocks great body and flavor. If you cook collagen-rich cuts low and slow, you’ll be rewarded with the same benefits – tender meat, and a more balanced budget.

Cuts like pot roast, pork shoulder, and lamb shanks are all glorious when cooked low and slow, and they’re generally pretty inexpensive. I’ll go out on a limb a bit and say the cheaper the better when it comes to something cooked that way – you’ll get a bunch of great meals therefrom. I’d add short ribs and pork belly to this list, except that they’re still considered sexy, and as such, are nowhere close to cheap.

While our butcher cuts and marks stuff as pot roast, that’s not super common in the grocery. In any event, there are several cuts that will make a great one. Most cuts called Chuck will do great – you may also find variations called shoulder or seven bone roasts. Round will also do well – bottom round and rump roasts are probably what you’ll find most often.

Mire Poix and the Thumb Slayer

On to the cook off. I prepped equal amounts of our basic roasting aromatic blend, onion, carrot, celery and garlic, and we deployed our homemade beef stock as well.

My slow cooker roast went fully submarine

For my slow cooker version, I did not sear the roast, and I fully submersed that bad boy in stock, as you can see. M, for her oven version, seared, and used an appropriate amount of stock for a classic braise – maybe an inch and change, but not even close to drowning.

M’s roast seared in a braiser

Both went low and slow – M in a 275° oven, and mine on low in the slow cooker.

M’s oven roast set up for a classic braise

Both cooked until they hit 145° F, and were then given a fifteen minute rest, at which point they temp’d out at right about 155° F. For the record, M’s oven version did have a decent amount of liquid left when it was done cooking. In the image below, M’s roast is top and mine is bottom.

Oven roasted on top, slow cooker below

All three of us agreed, unanimously, that my version was far more tender and juicy. Granted, this wasn’t a full out scientific test with multiple runs and all conditions fully controlled, but it bears out what I believe about cooking such cuts – full submersion gives more moisture to the protein, you get a steadier temperature throughout the cooking process, and that leads to a tender, juicy roast.

Slow cooker pot roast with a cherry gastrique

The image below shows what that slow cooker version looked like the next day after being defatted – you can clearly see how much that stock was able to do.

Slow cooker pot roast did a job on all those tough collagens

And yes, for the record, it tasted great, and I am still gloating – just a little, and quietly.

We Got a Winnah!

A couple of weeks ago, an old friend PM’d me to say that the local paper, the Bellingham Herald, was running a national holiday recipe contest, and thought I might be interested.

I allowed that I was, and then noticed that the deadline for submissions was that very day. I thought about if for a sec, and what I figured was the perfect thing came to mind.

Back in 2017, I did a Thanksgiving Sides & Sweets post, and Pumpkin Flan was found therein. I took a look at that, edited it a bit, (as in, tweaked for a mass audience), rummaged around and found an image of that glorious stuff, and sent it in.

Urban’s Pumpkin Flan

The contest was run nationally by McClatchy, so to be honest, I really didn’t expect anything to come of it.

I was wrong, in the best sense of the word. I ended up taking the local dessert prize, and I won a hundred bucks to boot. I’m kind of ridiculously thrilled.

Homemade Hummus & Tahini

If you’ve ever had great hummus, you know it’s a treat. If you’ve experienced meh hummus, maybe too often, you owe it to yourself to make your own – while you can’t control the freshness or quality of store bought, you sure can do so at home.

Urban’s House Made Hummus

Ubiquitous in the Middle East, this dip/spread is built from chickpeas, (AKA garbanzos), which are widely cultivated and enjoyed throughout the region for good reason. They pack decent calories, mono and poly unsaturated fats, no cholesterol, and an excellent assortment of vitamins, and they’re a truly versatile ingredient. Add good olive oil, lemon juice, tahini (ground sesame seeds), garlic, and a pinch of salt, and you’ve got a delicious treat.

You’ll find a lot of online recipes using canned garbanzos, but you won’t find that here – your finished product is only as good as your ingredients. The first time you cook top quality dried against anything canned, you’ll never use the latter again – it’s a night and day difference. Get dried garbanzos from Rancho Gordo and you’ll get the best of the best, and likely never look back.

For olive oil, my hands down choice is top quality Greek oil, and I’ll let my Tribal Sister, Christy Hohman Caine, explain why – “Your raw oil should come from Kalamata or Crete and be labeled PDO (protected designation of origin). Greek oils are usually greenish to greenish-gold in color. They are zippy, peppery, grassy, and herbaceous and very complex. They are definitely NOT buttery. Think of Greek oils as flavor enhancers and condiments. There are different tastes in Greek olive oils which are great to experiment with. Some have a tomato leaf essence, others are more lemony. You can get good Greek olive oils online at Greek markets and food shops.” Don’t know about y’all, but you don’t need to tell me twice – I’ve been a convert ever since I read that.

Toasted sesame seeds

Finally a note on tahini – it’s critical to great hummus. Finding good quality, fresh is far easier than it used to be, but if you want the best, you can build your own – here’s how.

House made Tahini

House Made Tahini

1 Cup fresh Sesame Seeds

+/- 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350° F and set a rack in the middle position.

Spread seeds evenly across a clean baking sheet.

Bake until seeds lightly brown and are fragrant, about 10 – 12 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

Pour seeds and oil into a processor, (or blender), and pulse until a smooth paste forms – add more oil if needed, a teaspoon at a time.

Store in a glass, airtight container in a cool, dark spot. Tahini may separate over time, but just flip and shake your container and it’ll be good as new.

Urban’s House Made Hummus

1 pound Rancho Gordo Garbanzos

2/3 Cup Greek Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 cup freshly squeezed Lemon Juice

1/3 Cup Tahini

3 cloves fresh Garlic

2 teaspoons ground Cumin

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

Vegetable crudités and/or pita bread for chowing

Cooking garbanzos a la Rancho Gordo

NOTE: volumes of ingredients other than garbanzos are to our taste – we think it makes great hummus – that said, the batch you make is yours, so adjust as needed to get what you love.

Cook the garbanzos in the RG manner – stove top, covered with 2+” of fresh water, with 2 bay leaves and 2-3 small cloves of peeled and trimmed garlic. Bring to a full boil for 10-15 minutes, then reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook until the peas are tender, always maintaining at least 2” of water above the peas – add simmering hot water from a tea kettle to top things off.

Do as Steve Sando advises on the RG website for cooking beans – reduce heat as far as you can while still getting a simmer bubble and let them go low and slow until they’re creamy and almost starting to fall apart a bit.

Drain the peas and reserve bean broth – it’s magic stuff as a base for soup or stew, or added to a pan sauce.

Allow the peas to cool to close to room temperature.

Add garlic cloves to a food processor and pulse until well minced.

From garbanzo to hummus

Add garbanzos, lemon juice, tahini, and cumin, and pulse a few times to get things incorporated.

Running the processor, add the oil in a slow steady stream. Stop several times to scrape the sides down with a spatula.

Add salt and continue to process until you have a smooth, creamy consistency. If things are too thick, add a tablespoon at a time of oil to thin it out.

House made hummus

Taste and adjust as desired – keep in mind that it takes a good 15 to 30 minutes for everything to get truly cozy and incorporated.

Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with a bit more oil, and dust with the paprika.

Chow down with veggie crudités, pita chips, flatbread, your finger, etc.

Branch out and maybe top a bed of hummus with spiced beef and pine nuts, a wonderful Lebanese treat.

Store refrigerated in an airtight glass container for up to 5 days, or freeze up to 2 months.

White Beans & Chorizo – A Paean to the Pyrenees

Yesterday was really yucky out. Add M and Casey driving back from Spokane in less than wonderful conditions, and I thought some serious comfort food was in order. I had a half pound of really lovely Spanish chorizo, which got the gears grinding.

I came up with this spicy paean to the Pyrenees, with ingredients from France and Spain, powered by the legendary piment d’Espelette chile. You can read more about those in this post on Basque Piperrada I did back in 2015, (that won a formal nod from the Basque tourist bureau). Feel free, of course, to tweak this as you see fit and make it your own. It’s a relatively quick dish to prepare, and an absolute joy to have cooking low and slow for a few hours.

Spicy white beans with chorizo

Urban’s Paean to the Pyrenees Beans & Chorizo

1 Pound Rancho Gordo White Beans, (I used my fave, the Mogette de Vendée)

3 Cups Bean Broth

8 Ounces Spanish Chorizo

1/2 Yellow Onion, (about a cup or so)

1-2 fresh Jalapeños (any chile you like is fine, as is green pepper)

1/2 fresh Red Bell Pepper

3 cloves fresh Garlic

2 large fresh Tomatoes

1 1/2 Cups Tomato Sauce

2 Tablespoons Agave Nectar

2 Tablespoons Rancho Gordo stone Ground Chocolate, (other good Mexican disc chocolate is fine too)

2 Tablespoons Rancho Gordo Pineapple Vinegar, (Live Cider Vinegar will do as a sub)

2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard

2 Tablespoons Smoked Paprika

2 teaspoons fine ground Black Pepper

2 teaspoons ground Piment d’Espelette Chile, (You can sub hot Spanish paprika if need be)

2 teaspoons crushed Celery Leaf, (1 teaspoon of seed or celery salt will do fine – crush the former, omit kosher salt for the latter)

1 teaspoon fine kosher Salt

White beans and chorizo in a veggie-laden, spicy sauce

Choose a baking vessel with a lid – If you’re cooking in clay, (and I hope you are), soak your vessel if needed.

Cook the beans in the RG manner – stove top, covered with 2+” of fresh water, with 2 bay leaves and 2-3 small cloves of peeled and trimmed garlic.

Bring to a full boil for 10-15 minutes, then reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook until the peas are tender, always maintaining at least 2” of water above the peas – add simmering hot water from a tea kettle to top things off.

Do as Steve Sando advises on the RG website for cooking beans – reduce heat as far as you can while still getting a simmer bubble and let them go low and slow until they’re done.

Drain beans, remove bay leaves, and reserve 3 cups of bean broth.

Stem, peel, and fine dice onion and red pepper.

Stem, trim, and devein chiles – you want the flavor from these, not the heat, (but if you’re a chile head, go wild.)

End trim and dice the tomatoes.

Smash, peel, trim and mince garlic.

Dice chorizo, (depending on the form of your chorizo, this may vary).

If you’re not cooking in clay, preheat oven to 300° F – No preheat for clay vessels!

In a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups of the bean broth and all other ingredients – whisk thoroughly to incorporate.

Add beans and veggies and stir well to combine – You should have a very soupy consistency at this point.

Load your chosen vessel and bake – for clay, I start out at 250° F for 30 minutes, then go up to 300°.

Check and stir your pot every 30 minutes or so – if things start to get too thick, add more bean broth.

The bake takes me roughly 3-4 hours to get creamy beans and a nicely caramelized, bubbly sauce.

Serve with fresh, rustic bread rubbed with garlic, (and if you don’t have that, whatever floats your boat).

Savor smugly while your diners swoon.

Gastriques

While we’re on the subject of sauces that seriously elevate your game, we must touch on gastriques. Not only are they fairly simple and quick, they’re delicious – and they give you another tragically hip French culinarily word to casually toss about.

Urban’s Sweet Cherry Gastrique

Gastriques are a combination of caramelized sugars and acids. They’re great for several reasons – Standing alone, they add a delightful zing to dang near anything – meat, poultry, seafood, tofu, veggies and spuds to name a few. Added to a basic pan sauce, they’ll elevate the flavor profile and add a really nice shine, (we do eat with our eyes, after all). They’ll also add depth and complexity to other sauces, soups, or stews. Of course they’re also perfect to play ‘what have I got that needs to be used’ with – If your kitchen’s like ours, fruit can find itself in that category fairly often, and a lot of that works wonderfully in these sauces.

Goodies for a cherry gastrique

If the description of a gastrique makes you think of sweet and sour sauce, you’re spot on. Many cuisines employ this trick in a dizzying array – whether it’s gastrique, sweet and sour, agrodolce, agre dulce, Thai sweet chile sauce, al pastor, hoisin, Worcestershire, or catsup, they’re all the same concept – Think about what most American barbecue sauces use for primary ingredients, and there you are again. Just as with those examples, a gastrique can be anything from a thin sauce to a very thick one, depending on what you like and want it to do.

These days, we’re blessed with a whole lot of options when it comes to sugars and vinegars – I see white, brown, dark brown, Mexican, rock, turbinado sugars, as well as honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, molasses, and various simple syrups we’ve put together. In vinegar, I see white distilled, cider, balsamic, white balsamic, white wine, red wine, sherry, port, malt, Japanese rice, Chinese Chinkiang (black, plumb, and white), banana and pineapple from Rancho Gordo, and likely some more I missed. You probably don’t have all that at hand, but the point is that you can if you want to. Lighter sugars give lighter flavor, even when caramelized, whereas using molasses means you won’t have to caramelize much at all. Light vinegars yield light taste, while intense fruit varieties, or smoky black Chinkiang are much bolder. Gastriques are a delight for experimentation.

All that stuff aside, a simple gastrique is fast. Let’s say you’re cooking beef, and you just want a little sparkle added to that – sugar and red wine or vinegar will do the trick – couldn’t be simpler. Add dried cherries or cranberries and you’ve got something bolder. With any variant, make sure that what you’re using tastes good to you. Taste the vinegar and the sugar, so you know exactly what to expect.

Booze, especially good stuff made from fruit, can make spectacular sauces – brandy in any of its iterations is wonderful, (plain old brandy, Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, and so on). Port and sherry will too. The cooking process will remove the raw alcohol flavor, and if you use fairly high proof stuff, you can flambé it to do that quickly without losing flavor – and it’s fun – just don’t burn your house down.

Damn near any fruit will work great in a gastrique. You can mash, blend, or purée before you add if you want, or you can let stuff cook in the sauce – it’ll release all its goodies that way, and ripe fruit generally cooks down quite quickly. Dried can be reconstituted first, or just tossed in to do its thing. Citrus fruit can simply be squeezed, zested and squeezed, or rough chopped. Do give some thought to what sugar and vinegar you use – heavy versions of either will overwhelm delicate fruit, so pair accordingly.

General caveats – since you’re caramelizing sugars, don’t leave gastriques unattended for long, because those will burn. Cook over medium to medium-low heat. A little butter added at the end of cooking helps the shine stand out. Herbs and spices are fine and go great with all the constituents mentioned – Just choose carefully, and watch your ratios – These should be a minor flavor note, not a knock out punch. Warm spices like cinnamon or allspice go well with stuff you’d expect them to, like apples and peaches. Rosemary or thyme pairs well with berries and citrus, and so on.

Think of the gastrique as specifically providing a tangy element to your overall presentation. For instance, you might use a honey/malt vinegar/tomato/lemon gastrique for a pan sauce made from a whole roasted chicken. Gastriques will keep for a few days refrigerated in an airtight bottle, (repurposed hot sauce bottles are perfect). That said, fresh is best, so Len toward building in small batches that will get used pretty quickly.

Here’s a super simple iteration that you can customize hundreds of ways. You can serve this stand alone, or add a basic pan sauce, as the second version below does.

1/2 Cup Sweet – Sugars, Honey, Agave, Molasses, etc

1 Cup Acid – Vinegars, Wines, Booze, or combinations thereof

1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter

Pinch of Salt

Add sweet to a sauce or sauté pan over medium heat and cook, whisking steadily, until whatever you’ve used darkens in color, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the acid and whisk thoroughly to incorporate.

Continue cooking and whisking until the sauce reduces to a syrup-like consistency, about 5-10 minutes.

Add the butter and salt, whisk to incorporate, and turn the heat off.

Plate your stuff and add the gastrique.

Sherry Gastrique is made the same way – it’s great for chicken, fish, and veggie dishes and sides. Raspberries also go great with this combination of sweetener and vinegar.

1 Cup Champagne Vinegar

1 Cup Amber Agave Nectar

1/2 Cup Dry Sherry

Urban’s Sweet Cherry Gastrique

This is great for lots of things – from beef, pork, or poultry, to Brussels sprouts. Varying the sweets and acids will yield whole new iterations.

1 Cup Sweet Cherries (dried, fresh, whatever you’ve got)

1/2 Cup Broth (see below for more on this)

1/2 Cup Cider Vinegar

1/2 Cup Blackstrap Molasses

1 Ounce Unsalted Butter

Pinch of Salt

If you’ve cooked a protein, grab the vessel you cooked things in, put it over medium heat, and add 3/4 cup water.

Scrape all the naughty bits off the pan bottom, whisk to incorporate, and let that reduce to about 1/2 cup.

A simple pan sauce

If you didn’t cook anything worthy of using, any stock will do – Match that to what you’re making the sauce for, (veggie stock for veggies, beef for beef, and so on.

If you braised, slow roasted, etc, use 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

When your stock is heated through, add the molasses and whisk to thoroughly incorporate.

Add the vinegar and cherries and whisk to incorporate.

Reducing a sweet cherry gastrique

Let the sauce cook at a bare simmer until you reach the consistency you want – from fairly light to very syrupy is a range of about 5 to 15 minutes cooking time.

Sweet Cherry Gastrique

Plate your meal, add the gastrique, and smile smugly while your diners swoon and make yum yum noises.

Pot roast with a sweet cherry gastrique

Blackberry Gastrique goes great with beef, pork, and meaty mushrooms like porcini. Blueberries and cranberries also are great with this combination of sweetener and vinegar. Again, this will go great with a pan sauce version like the cherry one above.

1 Cup Malt Vinegar

1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar

1 Cup fresh Blackberries

Pan Sauces

When you hear the term ‘pan sauce,’ what do you think of? You do think of something, right? Hell, gravy is a pan sauce, albeit on the heavier end of things – Something lighter than that but still plenty potent is the epitome of this genre, and a must have for your cooking arsenal – They’re easy, fast, and they elevate your cooking game appreciably – I’d argue that employing these well is a trait that separates good cooks from OK ones.

Pan sauces are created from the liquid and the little nasty bits generated by searing or roasting meat or fowl, and that’s why such a simple thing tastes so wonderful. These sauces are traditionally put back on the stuff they’re made from, but if you don’t try them on potatoes or veggies now and again, you’re missing a big treat. In fact, spectacular pan sauces can also be generated from roasting fish, potatoes, and vegetables, so never throw that stuff away.

Pan sauces lend themselves perfectly to meat and poultry for a couple of excellent reasons – First, they add a bit more moisture and pizazz to roasted proteins, and secondly, they can and should easily be prepared during the time those proteins are resting, subsequent to cooking and prior to carving.

In essence, these are emulsions, formed by combining two or more liquids that usually don’t stay together well – AKA fat and acid. Juices from what you’ve roasted, along with the fond, (that’s the hip chef name for the naughty bits left on the pan), provide the core fat component. An acid is added, most often in the form of wine. Then comes seasoning, a little more fat, and a little aromatic base. Everything gets whisked together, et viola. With minimal prep, a pan sauce can easily be put together in the time it takes your steaks or chops to rest.

As for what you should use, it’s really a ‘what have I got’ question. Fresh herbs of any kind pretty much always get the nod. Whatever red or white wine you’ve got on hand will do fine. Onion, shallot, and garlic are all good, as are capers and olives. Used sparingly, dried herbs and blends are fine – just keep in mind that they won’t have enough time to get much past their dried stated in a sauce made this quickly. Citrus makes a dandy minor note.

Get your mis en place together before you start the sauce – that’s key to keeping things simple and fast. On the flip side, don’t leave a pan sauce sitting for very long after it’s done – This is a temperature fused emulsion, and it will separate as it cools – so get it on the plate ASAP to avoid the uglies. You do warm your plates for service, right?

If you try a sauce from potatoes and/or veggies, keep in mind that there’s no fat, so add that accordingly – another couple tablespoons of oil and/or butter will do the trick.

Varying pieces of the puzzle will reward you with whole new flavor profiles – different wine and citrus, maybe a couple drops of Worcestershire or Maggi instead of fish sauce, different herbs or aromatics, mustard, horseradish, sweet minor notes from honey or agave – the sky is the limit, and again, the best way to experiment with this is to search your fridge and pantry and use what needs to be used.

Here’s my fave general purpose sauce to get you started. Branch out from there, and make ‘em yours.

Urban’s Go To Pan Sauce

The good stuff left over in the roasting pan

1/2 Cup White Wine (I use whatever is there and open)

2 Tablespoons minced Shallot

1/4 small fresh Lemon

3 Tablespoons Ghi (Unsalted butter is fine)

Spring or two fresh Herbs, (Thyme, Oregano, Sage leaves, Rosemary are all great – a light hand of dry is OK if that’s all you’ve got)

3-4 drops good quality Fish Sauce, (Red Boat is my go to)

Pinch of kosher salt

3-4 twists fresh ground pepper.

Pull whatever you roasted from the oven and the pan and transfer to a platter to rest, somewhere warm and loosely covered with metal foil.

Carefully pour off most of the fat from the roasting pan, leaving a couple of tablespoons.

Place the roasting pan on a burner over medium heat, (it’s already hot, so it doesn’t need a bunch of help in that regard – And handle the hot pan carefully!)

Toss in the shower, and sauté until it becomes translucent, about one minute.

Add the wine, and using a fork to scrape up all available naughty bits, and get all of that stuff loose.

Cook until the raw alcohol smell dissipates, about 1-2 minutes.

Squeeze in the lemon juice and whisk to incorporate.

Add the ghi or butter a bit at a time, and whisk steadily to incorporate.

Add the fish sauce and herbs and continue to whisk.

Turn burner heat off, add salt and pepper and adjust as needed.

Slice your protein, sauce, devour, accept raving accolades from your diners.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

I’ve often said that I’d write about food and cooking even if nobody read it. While that’s true, people do read what I write, and then they go onto make what I’ve written about. Some faithfully reproduce my recipes, and some, be still my heart, go on to make them their own – that seriously floats my boat.

To those why find mistakes and point them out to me, thank you – I’m my own editor, and sometimes I miss – I genuinely appreciate the help!

So here’s to the folks who make my stuff and let me know – especially during these trying times, y’all make me very happy indeed.

If you’ve cooked from this site, show your work, please! If you find something that works better or you like more, share that too.

Blessings.

Nancy Swenson did up Chicken ala Diane, prompting her Hubs, Steve to say, ‘you can make that again!’

John Joyce did the low and slow cook on a rolled roast – here he’s slicing that up for French Dip sandwiches – Looks stunning, yes?

Jenny Lynn Talton-Proulx rain with the Clafoutis et Flaugnarde post and turned out her own amazing blueberry version – Here’s what she had to say about it – “Today’s flaugnarde. Local fresh-picked blueberries. Changed the recipe slightly: Used 4 cups of blueberries, 1/2 cup sugar, put cast iron pan in oven to pre-heat while I pulled together the ingredients. When ready to assemble, pulled pan out and added 2 T butter and a layer of organic corn meal, then the layer of chopped pecans, the blueberries, and the custard mix. Put in oven for 25 minutes. Switched around and baked for another 25. Let it cool completely then ran a knife around the perimeter onto a plate. Then flipped it right side up onto another plate and dusted with powdered sugar. It is so freaking good and Mario loves it. Made a stabilized whipped cream to top it all off!”

As Monica said, ‘that looks sooooo good!’

Clafoutis, or Flaugnarde, or whatever

For the record, Limousin is not a car, it’s a chunk of central France. Well south of Paris and well north of Provence, here’s where roughly half the fine porcelain made in Europe come from, sharing its name with the regional capital, Limoges. Limousin oak is used to make the barrels that fine cognac ages in. They’re also rightfully famous for one of the most versatile desserts I know of, the clafoutis, (clah foo tee), which also happens to be incredibly easy and quick to make. It’s great any time, but right now, when berries and stone fruit are available in all their glory, it’s ethereal.

Clafoutis is an old creation, around in some form since fire and flour found each other. This was a big deal dessert in the 1800s, spreading across Europe, taking advantage of whatever favorite fruit was ripe locally. The classic Limousin version is made with unpitted cherries, but frankly, that’s a tradition I can do without – if, as claimed, the stones add a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish, I say just bake the thing in clay and keep your dental work intact.

The basic ingredients are pretty much what you’d use to make pancakes, and not too far off from custard or Yorkshire pudding, yet clafoutis is unique. Cherries are just the starting point – berries, plums, apricots, nectarines, peaches are all stellar, and in the fall, apples and pears are too, (how about an apple and extra sharp cheddar version?). Nuts go great with many of those fruit options – The traditional version uses almonds, but hazelnuts, cashews and walnuts are all solid bets.

Since this is a famous regional French dish, I do have to point out that calling anything made with fruit other than cherries a clafoutis is pas correct, because, well – it’s not – That would be a flaugnarde, (Flûn-yard). Yes, it’s exactly the same thing with different fruit – and yes, it’s nitpicky, but hey – now you have two cool French words to flash while making a delicious dessert.

I’ve done the recipe we’ll share with a bunch of different things, and varied the fruit content from 2 to almost 3 cups – while the latter versions were obviously, well, fruitier, they all were delicious and baked up just fine. If you pump up the fruit ratio, add baking time, and you’ll be fine. That’s another lovely aspect of the dish – you can eyeball things after making a few of these, which makes it a perfect last minute dessert.

You’ll note that there are no leavening agents in the dish. Just as with a pancake or a Yorkshire pudding, you want to get some air into the batter – small bubbles get trapped in the lattice of flour, sugar, and egg and expand as the dish bakes, giving you an admirable rise – from maybe an inch deep as batter, you’ll easily top a 2.5” baking dish when it’s done. Julia Child used a blender to do this, and advocated spreading a little batter over the bottom of the baking pan and cooking that a bit before adding fruit, nuts, etc. I love Julia with all my heart, but this is in essence a peasant dish, and you needn’t go to all that trouble – an immersion blender does a fabulous job and is much easier to clean. I tried the thin layer pre-cook, and frankly found zero appreciable difference from skipping that step.

NOTES:

1. All purpose flour is your best choice – it’s got the right amount of protein/gluten to make a nice stretchy batter happen.

2. If you live where you can get Rainier cherries in season, there is no finer dessert on this earth.

Urban Clafoutis / Flaugnarde

2 – 2 1/2 Cups fresh Fruit

3 large Eggs

1 Cup Whole Milk

2/3 Cup Bakers Sugar

1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour

1 Tablespoon Honey

3 Tablespoons Nuts

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract (or liqueur)

Pinch of Salt.

2 Tablespoons Turbinado Sugar

Measure out milk and leave out at room temp – same with the eggs.

Preheat oven to 350° F and set a rack in the middle slot.

Lightly butter a baking dish, (anything around 10” x 7” or 11” x 8” works great).

Add a tablespoon of flour to the dish and tap it around to lightly coat the butter. Turn the pan over the sink and tap out any excess flour.

Pit any stone fruit. Cherries can stay whole, as can berries – rough chop larger fruit.

Rough chop nuts – if you have raw, a quick toast in a hot skillet until they turn golden brown and fragrant is a nice touch.

Combine sugar and honey with the eggs, and whisk to a smooth blend.

Add flour and salt to the wet mix and whisk to thoroughly incorporate.

Add the milk, vanilla and almond extract, and whisk smooth.

Process the batter with a stick blender for about a minute, until lots of small bubbles form.

Scatter fruit and toasted nuts over the bottom of the baking pan.

Pour the batter over the fruit and nuts.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180° and sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over the top of the dish.

Bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the top of the clafoutis or flaugnarde, or whatever you wanna call it is golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.

It beats the heck outa granola bars for breakfast the next day, if any of it survives that long.

Perfect Roasts, Every Time

If you’re going to buy a big hunk of meat, whatever you do to cook it better work well, consistently – flunking out isn’t an option. We’ve tried a bunch of different methods for something as potentially knock out as a local, grass fed rolled rump roast, but this last weekend, we hit on a super simple method that delivered the best we’ve ever made. This isn’t a secret, and we didn’t invent it, it just works and is absolutely worth sharing.

Low and slow doesn’t often go wrong, as long as it’s monitored and you know what you’re after. What we wanted was a perfect medium rare roast throughout, with minimum fuss and equipment, repeatable and dependable in method. That’s what we got. It’s nothing earthshaking, but it sure did deliver stellar results – best we’ve ever achieved, and here’s what we did.

This was a large, 3 1/2 pound rolled roast – you want to leave that in its string while cooking – being tightly rolled helps with even cooking results.

What you’ll need –

A heavy pan, a big skillet, Dutch oven or braiser – Cast iron or heavy steel are both fine.

A fast read thermometer – we use one that gets plugged into the roast and left throughout the cooking process, but any fast read probe type will work just fine.

A rack big enough for the roast that’ll get it around 1/2” off the bottom of the cooking vessel.

A quart of stock – Anything you like will do, and if you don’t have any, use water and add half an onion, a carrot, a stalk of celery all rough chopped, and a couple of bay leaves – you’ll make your own stock that way.

Preheat oven to 225° F and set a rack in a middle slot.

Unwrap the roast and pat it dry with a clean kitchen towel.

Set your cooking vessel onto a burner with medium high flame.

When the pan is nice and hot, start searing the roast, one side or end at a time. Let it sit long enough to get a consistent, light golden brown crust formed before you turn it to the next face.

When your roast is fully seared, set it on your rack for a minute.

Pour the stock into the pan, (carefully, it’ll be frisky at first), and let the steam and boiling loosen all the charred stuff on the pan bottom – scrape that all loose.

Put the roast on the rack into the pan, rolled end up, (if you’re not cooking a rolled roast, roast fat side up.)

Lightly season the roast with coarse kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

If your temp probe can handle cooking, sink it right into the middle of the roast.

Pop that into the oven until the internal temperature of the roast reaches 100° F.

Drop the oven temp to 175° F.

Now is a good time to add halved potatoes, carrots, onions, or other veggies to the roasting pan – Keep an eye on those, as they may cook faster or slower than the roast.

Continue roasting until you reach an internal temperature of 135° F.

Pull the roast to the stove top and allow a 10 to 15 minute rest before carving. You can loosely tent it with aluminum foil, but this isn’t required.

Don’t even think about throwing away those roasting juices. They’ll make amazing gravy, or a fine base for a soup or stew – you can freeze that for up to a couple months.

This will work with anything you want to roast – Just refer to proper temperature range targets for whatever you’re cooking.