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Catalan is the language spoken in Catalonia, near the border of France and Spain, and in the tiny country of Andorra (which was so small it was excluded from the Treaty of Versailles that ended WWI and therefore remained at war until the 1950s!).  The food from this part of the world is rich in flavor, inspired by the conquistadors’ travels in the Americas as well as the influence of north Africa and even Asia.  Catalan food was fusion food long before fusion became cool.  Catalan stew over Spanish rice with quinoa draws on the flavors of the old world and new world.

Alfred Crosby coined the term “Columbian Exchange” to bring the proper focus to the era of Columbus’s voyage.  To say that Columbus “discovered” the “new world” is inaccurate; the Columbian Exchange was not just about Europe finding the Americas but rather was people the world over discovering the rest of the world.  The era of the Columbian Exchange all comes together in this dish.  Turkey, avocado, and hot peppers all originated in the Americas yet were embraced by Europeans.  The original Americans also taught Europeans that not all nightshade plants (like tomatoes) were poisonous.  And from Africa and Asia Europeans learned to eat health-giving turmeric (popular in Indian cuisine), which I’ll use as a frugal substitute for saffron in my “Spanish” rice.  Even more recently the world has re-discovered the ancient South American grain quinoa*, which is rich is protein.  This fragrant, nutty stew full of familiar and exotic flavors is a great way to get your family to try new food.

Tip:  Start the onion for the stew first, and while it starts to cook you can prep the rest of the onion for the rice.  You can prep the peppers and garlic while the rice starts cooking.  Just keep working back and forth, and both dishes will be ready at the same time, about 45 minutes from when you start.

3-4 servings

Spanish Rice with Quinoa:

  • 1/4 cup sweet yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small pat butter (about a teaspoon)
  • 1/2 cup nutty brown rice, like Basmati or jasmine
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water  (Yes, you can skip the chicken broth and just use 1 cup of water, but why?)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa (I used a combination of red and regular)
  • 1 cup water (again)

rice after sauteing

Begin by sauteing the onion in the oil and butter on low heat.  After the onion has sauteed for a minute or two, add the rice, and continue to stir regularly over low heat for about 5 minutes. Most of the rice should transform from translucent to opaque as it toasts in the oil.  Add the 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric, stir, and then saute a minute more.  Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and 1/2 cup of water, stir, and put a lid on the pot for 20-25 minutes minutes.  Add the quinoa and another cup of water, and cook for 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Catalan Stew:

  • 3/4 sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or pushed through a garlic press)
  • 1 Hatch (Anaheim) chile, seeded and sliced lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 jalapeno, roasted and seeded and finely diced
  • 14-16 ounces diced tomatoes (canned is actually best here, whether home canned or good organic store-bought canned)
  • handful of raisins
  • 1/3 pound cooked turkey (or chicken or raw shrimp, cleaned.  I used leftover turkey, frozen and thawed.  You’re family will never spot it as Tom from Thanksgiving!)
  • handful of toasted, slivered almonds (Toast the almonds in a 325 degree F oven for about ten minutes.  Since ovens vary, watch closely!  You can do this after the stew and rice go on autopilot in the last 25 minutes of cooking.)
  • avocado, sliced in half lengthwise twice and then into thin slices.  (You can do this after you start toasting the almonds.)

Saute the onion in  the olive oil over low heat for about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and chiles and saute for about three more minutes, taking care to keep the garlic from burning.  Pour in the diced tomatoes with juice.  Add the handful of raisins.  Put the pot on a gentle simmer.  If you are using turkey or chicken, add it now. Otherwise, wait until the last ten minutes of rice cooking to add the shrimp to the stew.  The stew will be ready at the same time as the rice, about 45 minutes after you start.

To serve, fluff the Spanish rice with quinoa and pile it on each plate.  Make an indentation in the middle of each serving, and spoon on the Catalan stew.  Garnish with toasted almonds in the middle and avocado slices around the edge of the stew.  (Unfortunately, I covered the beautiful, nutty, yellow-tinted Spanish rice and Quinoa.  You can see a little of it on the lower right of the plate.)

*Quinoa is a nutty-flavored South American grain that, unlike other grains, contains a complete protein all by itself.  Quinoa is incredibly healthy and raises the protein quotient of Spanish rice.  If you haven’t cooked with quinoa yet, give it a try.  I think you’ll like it.  If you’d like to make this dish tonight and don’t have quinoa, go ahead.  Just use one cup of rice and two cups of water/chicken broth.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Reproduction of short excerpts (not full recipes) with attribution to Ozarkhomesteader and the full URL for the original post are welcome.

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Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader

On New Year’s Eve, I wanted something tasty to take to a party.  I was feeling traditional but wanted to use wholesome ingredients.  I decided to come up with an alternative to the old Bisquick sausage balls.  Unlike the Bisquick sausage balls, these have sufficient liquid to make permit the leavening agents to actually puff the the rest of the ingredients.  The eggs add an additional lightness.  The result is a light, fluffy, almost fritter-like barbeque sausage-cheddar bite!

  • 1 pound turkey sausage, uncooked
  • 1/2 pound, more or less, of good sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4-1/3 cup good barbeque sauce (I used Annie’s smokey maple barbeque sauce)
  • 1-2 tablespoons buttermilk, kefir, or half milk, half yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon-1 tablespoon red chili
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix everything together thoroughly.  Let the mix rest for a few minutes so the flour and liquid can get to know each other.  Drop 1-inch balls onto lightly greased cookie sheets.  (I used a cookie scoop for this task.) Bake at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes.  Mmmmmm.

*Do you really need to use Bisquick in the old sausage-ball recipe?  I’m pretty sure you don’t.  Bisquick is most flour with shortening and leavening (baking powder).  In the sausage-ball recipe, you don’t need the extra fat (shortening), and with minimal liquid, the leavening doesn’t do anything.  So was the sausage-ball recipe a vast Bisquick conspiracy, designed to get you to buy the box at least once a year?  You tell me!

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Okay, so I had two servings of turkey breast left, some Southern cornbread dressing, and some other odds and ends I didn’t mind parting with for this meal.  After thinking about eating plain turkey again, I decided that turkey croquettes were the best solution.  Croquettes combine cooked flesh (turkey, chicken, salmon, tuna) with bread of some kind plus vegetables plus seasoning.  My challenge was to integrate two major leftovers–turkey and dressing–without my picky (leftover hostile) husband’s sensing that he was getting leftovers.  Here’s the recipe for 4 good-sized croquettes (patties):

  • 1/3-1/2 pound roasted turkey, off the bone and diced
  • 1/2-1 cup cornbread dressing (stuffing for you yankees!)
  • 1 stalk fresh celery, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup homemade ranch dressing (or store bought if you don’t have homemade on hand)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • fine bread crumbs (about 1/3 cup)

Combine together everything except the bread crumbs, starting with less ranch and adding it as you need for binder.  You want a texture that will easily hold together but that also is not too dense.  Form patties using a 1/3 cup measure.  Turn each patty into your hand and press it together into a slightly thinner patty.  Roll each patty in the bread crumbs.

You now have two choices on how to continue.  The healthier option is to put the croquettes on a well-greased pan (I used cast iron), spray the tops with oil, and then bake at 375 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes, rotating and flipping to make sure that they cook evenly until they are nicely browned top and bottom.  You can also pan fry the croquettes, flipping half way through frying.  Frankly, baking works just fine for this recipe, so I took the healthier option of baking.

I served the turkey croquettes with a fresh salad of mesclun (baby greens) and a slightly sweet vinaigrette.  You may want it with buttered noodles, on a bun, or any number of other ways.  Enjoy!

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Tonight I’m just not sure what to make for dinner.  We have few things that “have to” be eaten except for leftovers.  I thought of making turkey pot pie, but that would leave the potatoes.  I thought of making shepherd’s pie, but I’d prefer to make it with ground meat.  So I’ve decided to make Shepherd’s Pot Pie.  I can use everything that I’ve got left over, plus I can add carrots, celery, and some chopped onions.  You could substitute other leftovers for these.  How about butternut squash cubes?  How about mashed sweet potato as the topping?  It’ll all work–unless those sweet potatoes were loaded with sugar or marshmallows!

  • turkey, cubed
  • leftover green beans (cut small) with turkey bacon
  • leftover mashed potatoes, loosened with a bit of milk to make the mashed potatoes more easily spreadable
  • leftover gravy
  • leftover dressing (known as stuffing to some of you!)
  • onions, chopped and sauteed and then cooked in leftover bean liquid
  • carrots, chopped and sauteed and then cooked in leftover bean liquid
  • celery, chopped and sauteed and then cooked in leftover bean liquid

Prep the onions, carrots, and celery, beginning with the onion and adding the carrots and celery after the onions have sauteed a little while.

Then add the leftover bean liquid to help everything soften.

Cut the beans into small pieces.  Dice the turkey. Stir together everything except the gravy, dressing and mashed potatoes.  Add a little dressing to flavor the mix.  Add sufficient gravy to moisten everything. Put the mix in well-greased individual pie pans or ramekins (or in one big casserole).  Spread the mashed potatoes on top. Bake at 350-375 degrees F until the mix is warm and bubbly and the mashed potatoes are nicely browned.  Depending on how much milk you added to the mashed potatoes, you may need to broil the pies briefly to get the tops to brown.

You may also be interested in a more traditional shepherd’s pie: https://ozarkhomesteader.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/greek-inspired-lamb-shepherds-pie-with-ozark-grown-ingredients/

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Homemade gravy is one of those joys of life.  True, the turkey, dressing (stuffing with cornbread made in a pan, for the Yankee readers), vegetables, and pies bring a wonderful scent and flavor of home and family, but the gravy ties everything together.  Okay, I don’t use gravy on pie, but a little gravy may hit everything else on my plate for a holiday feast! As good as gravy is to eat, some folks have a hard time making it.  I’m going to give a recipe today for basic gravy that you can start with broth from the turkey neck bone and then expand with pan drippings.

When you prep your bird for brining, remove the turkey neck (it’ll be long, skinny and bony) and the heart, liver, lungs, etc.  If you wonder whether or not to brine, read here.  I have two cats that love turkey innards, and since they deserve a happy holiday too, I cook the innards separately for them.  I may address giblet gravy in a future post nonetheless. To make starter broth, boil the turkey neck, broken into a couple of pieces with a stalk of celery (cut into chunks), about half an onion, and a carrot, with enough water to cover.  I’ll also add fresh herbs from the garden, including a 6-inch piece of rosemary and a few sage leaves.  You could add a teaspoon or so each of dried sage and rosemary if you are not growing them fresh in your garden. Rosemary and sage are perennials where I live, if you give them a little help.  I cover them for a few months when it gets really cold, but just south of here I know of people who leave them exposed all winter and never lose them. Simmer the turkey neck and veggies and herbs for about an hour.  You’ll notice that this is a light broth, with very little fat.  You want it that way now, since you’ll be adding pan drippings later.  After that hour (or so), strain off the broth; that’s the base of your gravy.  Toss the veggies and herbs in your compost–they’ve done their job–or if you are really frugal you could save them for soup later.  Reserve the neck.  After the neck cools, you can pick off the meat.  It is full of good turkey flavor, making it perfect for turkey soup.  The remaining broth is a wonderful, protein-rich stock.  If you were to refrigerate now (which you could!), it would separate into a tiny line of fat on top with a jelly-like, fat-free aspic on the bottom.  The gelatin is protein.

Now the boiler where you were making the broth is empty but may still have some good stuff stuck inside, so let’s use it for phase two.  Begin by putting about 2 tablespoons of flour in the bottom, and then whisk in just enough broth to wet all of the flour.  Now add a little more broth until you have a smooth, thin paste.  Keep adding broth until it is all incorporated.  Now simmer the gravy base for at least 15 minutes, until the gravy base stops tasting like wallpaper paste.  No, it won’t taste good yet–we’ve added absolutely no salt yet–but it should be starting to look and smell like gravy.  Now turn off the heat and walk away.  If you’ve done this step well before when you’ll be serving the bird, refrigerate your gravy base.

When the turkey comes out of the oven (thirty to forty-five minutes before you want to serve it, since you need to let it rest to retain its juiciness), pour off as many pan juices as you can easily reach.  You can put the drippings in the freezer to speed its solidifying if you want to skim off the fat.  That said, it’s a holiday; just eat it!  Now start adding your pan drippings to the gravy base you made earlier, stirring as you add.  If you used salt in a brine or in other bird preparation, your pan drippings will give up some of that salt to your gravy.  Simmer the gravy to incorporate the pan drippings.  As you get the bird out of the pan, use a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or white wine to de-glaze your pan and get the fons (those wonderful brown bits!).  Incorporate the de-glazing mix in the gravy.  Taste the gravy.  How is it?  Does it need a little salt or pepper?  That’s easy!  Does it need something else?  See below for easy fixes to common problems.

Not enough gravy for your big family? If you are thinking of what you’ll need for days to come, don’t worry.  Just use your turkey carcass to make more broth after you disassemble the turkey.  It’ll have that great pan flavor with no additions.  Just follow the steps for above for making the broth and adding the flour.  If you need more gravy now, though, you can use a commercial chicken broth mixed with flour (see above) and simmered with rosemary to get a quick addition.  Follow the steps below to doctor the results.

Pan drippings didn’t give enough flavor? Consider adding apple cider vinegar, white port, or sherry, one tablespoon at a time.  Consider adding quality soy sauce (umami!) a couple of quick dashes (shakes) at a time.  It’ll solve both the flavor and the color problem.

Does your gravy look pale? This problem can happen especially if you’ve had to use commercial chicken broth to add to your home-created turkey broth. Take a trick from Southern red-eye gravy and add a few grains of instant coffee (won’t affect thickness) or a teaspoon or so (add very carefully!) of brewed coffee.  Your gravy will take on a warm color and flavor.

Is your gravy too thin? Remember that gravy will thicken a little as it cools.  (See the protein-gelatin note above.)  If you think it won’t thicken enough, you can add more thickener now, but you need to be really careful about what you add.  The easiest thing to add to hot gravy to make it thicken without lumping is potato flour (not potato starch).  Sprinkle about a tablespoon of potato flour on the top of your gravy.  Whisk for a couple of minutes, and it will disappear like magic.  If you don’t have potato flour but have already fixed boiled potatoes, you can take half a medium red potato (no skin) and mash it into the gravy.  Start by mashing the potato half in a small bowl and then add gravy a little at a time to make it thinner and smooth.  Once it’s thinned down quite a bit, add the mixture into the gravy.  If you’ve made traditional mashed potatoes without anything funky added, you could do the same thing with it. Whatever you do, do not add wheat flour or corn starch to hot gravy.  You’ll make dumplings of wallpaper paste.

Lumpy gravy? This happens to everyone at some time.  If you have an immersion blender (a long stick that will go straight into the pot), pull it out and blend those lumps away.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender.  Just be very careful!  Hot liquids tend to sort of explode in the blender, so start by spooning just the lumps in the blender and then adding just enough liquid to blend.  No blender or food processor of any kind?  Strain the gravy as your pour it into your gravy boat.

Do you have a gravy problem I haven’t mentioned here?  questions?  Feel free to post!


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My turkey brine is quick and easy.  I just put it together in a few minutes, and you can too.  Start by putting 1 cup of salt without anti-caking agents added, like canning salt, in a medium-sized pot.  Add 1/2 cup (or a little more) of honey, brown sugar, or molasses.  Use what you have! Add enough water to come about half way up the side of the pan, completely covering the salt and honey.  Bring the pot to a boil.  While the pot gets hot, assemble the rest of your ingredients.  Put 2 tablespoons each peppercorns (mixed or all black) and 2 tablespoons whole allspice berries together to be crushed.  You can crush them in a chopper, with the side of a heavy knife blade, with a cast iron pan, or with a mortar and pestle.  As the salt-honey-water mixture comes to a boil, drop in the sort-of crushed peppercorns and allspice berries.  Now add 2 tablespoons juniper berries.  Juniper berries add a wild flavor to farm-raised turkey.  Has the pot boiled yet?  Let it boil for a minute or two and then turn off the heat.  Add a heaping tablespoon of celery seed and some chopped garlic or dried garlic.  (I had some dried garlic that I wanted to get rid of, so I put that in.) Now put a lid on that pot and walk away until it cools down.  In a few hours, I’ll add at least one cup of cider vinegar.  Sometimes I’ll add a sweetish wine too, like white port.  I also will put in handfuls of fresh herbs:  rosemary, sage, and thyme.  I have a canning pot that is large enough to hold the 18-pound turkey I’ve been thawing over several days.  I’ll put the turkey in the canning pot and alternate adding my brine mixture with water until the turkey is completely covered.  You can use a very large ziplock bag if you do not have a pot big enough to hold your turkey.  Refrigerate the turkey until you are ready to roast it, preferably giving the brine time to work overnight.

  • 1 cup canning salt (Kosher or sea salt are okay too but more expensive; do not use standard table salt)
  • 1/2 + cup honey, molasses, or brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons peppercorns (mixed or all black)
  • 2 Tablespoons allspice berries
  • 2 Tablespoons juniper berries
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon celery seed
  • 1 scant Tablespoon garlic (dried okay)
  • 1 cup (or more) real apple cider vinegar
  • optional:  1 cup white port (homemade wine is really good for this purpose)

What special ingredients do you add to your brine?  Please share!

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Of all of the things that my Georgia grandmother did well, roast turkey was not one of them.  Every winter holiday she produced a beautiful roast turkey, but then she’d take it out of the oven, carve it, and put it back in, uncovered.  Thus I came to really love gravy.  You can mess up a good turkey in lots of ways, and letting it bake, uncovered, a second time after you’ve carved it is one of them.  You can also buy a bad turkey.

The best turkeys are those that are butchered naturally, with no “retained liquid.”  If you’ve read the fine print, you know that grocery store turkeys can contain “up to 14% of retained liquid,” although I’ve found some with as little as 6%.  That “retained liquid” is a combination of water and chemicals, and you’re paying for it by the pound.  That’s not my idea of a good deal.

Instead, I get a turkey that is butchered the old-fashioned way (look for products that are organic or local to find a naturally butchered turkey), and then I brine it myself.  Brine is a salt-vinegar-spice-herb solution in which you soak the turkey for several hours.  The combination of liquid and salt helps the turkey absorb and retain the good liquid.  Brine keeps your meat juicy and succulent instead of dry, and it can add great flavor.

Alton Brown is one of my favorite TV chefs.  Here is one of his brine recipes.  Here is my brine recipe.  I use vinegar and/or wine, and I use more fresh veggies to avoid coming up with a gallon of veggie stock.

Could you use a great brine recipe on a grocery-store turkey?  Yes, but you’ll be wasting more money.  Your commercial turkey is already plumped up with liquid and chemicals, and it will not be able to draw in your good herbie-spicy brine.

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