Salt, Time, Smoke

Thanksgiving with Mr. Delicious

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As an American living away from home, Thanksgiving dinner is a perennial matter of great concern. I spent my first Thanksgiving abroad in Nice, France. We decided to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for a mixed group of American, French and other nationalities. We scoured the entire region along the southeast of France looking for ingredients like fresh cranberries and molasses.

Most non-Americans do not fully understand how important a holiday it is for us. For many of us (myself included) we would put it above Christmas. This being said I have had many a sub-standard Thanksgiving dinner living around the world. The worst though was in Las Vegas. Without any prior plans we ended up at the Rio Hotel’s buffet for a dining experience that literally made my soul ache.

This is why I made sure to blaze this trail this year. I set out to create the closest facsimile of the real thing that I could possibly create here. Also I had the good fortune of timing being on my side with my newly constructed brick smoker/oven to roast the turkey.

Mr. Delicious Thanksgiving Menu 2012

Apple Wood Smoked Turkey

Traditional Stuffing with Bacon and Dark Stock

Oyster Mushroom Stuffing

Green Bean Casserole with Creamy Mushroom Sauce and Fried Onions

Sweet Potato Casserole with Oat Crumble

1950’s Style Cranberry Salad

Mashed Potatoes

Cajun Dirty Rice

Lots of Gravy

Pumpkin Pie with Créme Anglaise

Starting with the turkey, I had about a 6kg (12lb.) bird that I brined for 12 hours. The brine consisted of 1 cup of salt and 1 tablespoon of curing salt for 1 gallon of water. I then added sugar, apple cider vinegar, peppercorns, dried chili flakes and parsley stems. I dropped the turkey into a large bucket I use just for brining and pickling and poured the brine over it. Then I weighted it down with a stack of plates. Since there was not enough room in the fridge I kept it iced down for 12 hours. Then remove and rinse.

Once it was cured, I placed it in front of a fan for about two hours to dry and warm up before smoking. I used a combination of charcoal and apple wood, maintaining a temperature of about 235f (110c). It smoked for about 3 hours until an internal probe reads about 160f (70c). I would later finish it in a hot oven before serving.

My coloring could have been better but it tasted really damn good and the skin still became crisp

Stuffing is a very misunderstood side dish but one of my absolute favorites every Thanksgiving. I was raised on oyster stuffing, but unfortunately I could not find oysters in time (at least I had bacon). There are a couple tricks to making good stuffing. First cook your mirepoix thoroughly before folding it into the bread. Use a good brown poultry stock and season it well. Finally add lots of the stock. Keep ladling more until it can take no more. Then just bake until it’s hot in the center and slather with gravy.

It’s best when the top is crusty but the interior is moist and soft

Also unavailable were fresh cranberries. However I was able to substitute dried with some success. I decided to mold the cranberry salad like you might see in cookbooks from the 50’s and 60’s. This was actually quite simple. I gelled some cranberry juice with sugar and garnished it with slices of orange, persimmon and chopped walnuts. I molded it in a cake pan and just warmed it in water to release it from the mold.

My sweet potato casserole sucked in a big way. I need to find a way to better adapt the local sweet potatoes into this dish. The local camote is much starchier than what I’m used to in the States. The result was a really dry texture that I think could be remedied by puréeing it.

My wife (who is also responsible for my conspicuously better photos), prepared two different types of pumpkin pie, both made from the local pumpkin. One was a classic variety and the other was finished with caramel and chopped walnuts.

Though I have cut back on the number of private events in to focus on Mr. D’s, I do still enjoy an occasional event like this. I like to keep it very casual and unassuming. Thank you to all who attended. It sure as hell beat the Rio…

World Eats by Pinoy Eats World in Podium Mall

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Mr. D’s Artisanal is at Podium on the second floor atrium right now along with a number of other food vendors for Pinoy Eats World, World Eats. I’ll be slingin’ sammiches here made from my Philippine Wagyu Corned Beef. I will be making a classic reuben and a killer slider with horseradish mayo, pickled red onion and a corned beef jus for dipping.

Also here today:

  • Tea
  • Spring by Ha Yuan-Hong Kong specialties
  • Cafe de Bonifacio
  • Pinkerton Ice Cream by Alexandra Rocha
  • The Fruit Garden Luxury Jams
  • Angus Beef Tapa Lady
  • Turkish Express Kabab

If you don’t follow me on Twitter now would be the time because today I will be announcing a secret code word worth a free slider. I’ll be here tonight, tomorrow and Sunday all day long. I will also be in Soderno Weekend Market tomorrow and Sunday (that’s right, two places at once). Come out and check it out. Get your food trip on!

Cashew Crusted Leg of Spring Lamb

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In wishing a happy Independence Day to all of my friends here in the Philippines, I decided to showcase some of the best local agricultural products from right here in the Philippines.

I’ve spent just over a year here scouring the markets for the best local products and I have learned a few things. For one, there is phenomenal lamb raised in Negros Occidental. I purchased this leg of Spring lamb from a vendor in the Salcedo Market. I’ve bought lamb from them twice now and the quality was superb both times.

Just across the way, in the same market there is a vendor selling local cashews, done. The cashews are raw and very sweet. He sells them all unsalted but the salt is not missed.

Cashew Crusted Leg of Spring Lamb

1 bone-in leg of lamb

1 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup honey

2-3 shallots, finely chopped

3 cloves garlics, chopped

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Remove the leg of lamb from the fridge a good hour or so before beginning so that it warms up to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 200c/400f.

Pat the leg of lamb dry with paper towels. Drizzle olive oil on the lamb and smear all over the surface. Season liberally with salt and pepper all around.

Place on a roasting rack or a sheet pan lined with a wire rack and pop it in the oven.

Allow to roast for about 30 minutes or so, until it begins to color. Turn temperature down to 160c/325f.

While your lamb is roasting (you could also do this ahead of time) prepare your crust. Mix together Dijon, honey, herbs, garlic and shallots.

Pulse your cashews in a food processor, or if your like me, pound them in a mortar and pestle. I like irregular pieces of cashew for texture.

Monitor the internal temperature of your lamb with an instant read thermometer. Stick the probe into the thickest part of the meat without contacting the bone. When the temperature reaches about 50c/120f remove it from the oven and increase the temperature to 175c/350f.

Smear the Dijon mixture all over the top of your leg of lamb. Then sprinkle your crushed cashews over that until you have a nice even and thick coating.

Return it to the oven. Monitor it closely at this stage so that the nuts do not burn. When the cashews are nicely toasted, remove it from the oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes in a warm place (like the Philippines).

When it’s time to carve, pick up the narrow end by the bone, resting the fat end on the cutting board. Cut straight through the meat, perpendicular to the bone. Then cut following the bone to create nice half circle cuts of meat. It’s always best to carve thicker cuts of crusted meats or you will lose your crusting when you carve it.

Notice these are carved into thicker, steak-like cuts. This is cut across the grain of the meat, making the lamb more tender.

Depending on how your lamb is butchered, you will be left with a leg, thigh and hip bone. There will also be some meaty trim left on the bones. Do not waste!

There is plenty of flavor still to offer here. The trim I removed with a paring knife and marinated for shawarma and the bones went into the lentils pictured above.

Enjoy your holiday!