For Japanese style recipes and food info go to

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Beer Can Turkey and Panzanella Stuffing

It was a small family gathering this year, just Chiko and I plus my dad and his wife. We decided to try a few variations on the classics this year and were quite pleased with the results. We've been brining our turkeys for the last several years, and this really helps keep the breast meat moist. I tried a new brine recipe this year, consisting of maple syrup, brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic and fresh herbs from my garden. It gave a delightful sweetness to the bird and also helped develop a beautiful bronze color to the skin. One other thing I tried this year that was a little different, was that I cooked the Turkey standing up "beer can chicken" style. I used the holder from my Turkey fryer to keep the bird upright, placed it in a roasting pan and cooked it in the oven on 350 for about three and a half hours. This kept the bird from laying in it's own juices and developed a beautiful crisp skin all over.

For the dressing we went away from the sausage stuffing of my youth, and tried a variation on a recipe that I found in the November 2002 Bon Apetit magazine for mushroom and leek stuffing. I wanted to make it lighter and less gummy than the standard bread based stuffing, so I didn't wet it down with broth in the traditional manner and made what I am calling my Panzanella Stuffing because I used large toasted croutons like those found in the Italian bread salad.

I started off sauteing a blend of shiitake and trumpet mushrooms, to which I added finely sliced leeks, garlic, white wine and fresh herbs.

While this cooked down, I cut up a loaf of rustic whole wheat bread into one inch cubes and toasted them in the oven with a little olive oil.

When the veggies were sauteed and the bread was browned on all sides, I tossed them all together with a couple of lightly beaten eggs.

All of this went into a baking dish and into the oven at 350 for about 45 minutes. The moisture from the veggies, plus the eggs were just enough to bind it all together, and yet the bread remained crisp and had lots of air pockets in it. Sliced and topped with gravy it was just right.

Instead of the same old mashed potatoes, we made a blend of winter root vegetables (red and gold beets, baby potatoes, baby turnips and radishes) that I first braised in chicken stock for about 40 minutes before draining them, dressing with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting them in a hot (450) oven for about 20 minutes to caramelize.

For the wine, we stayed firmly rooted in the Veneto, starting with a pair of wines we brought back from our trip to Verona in January. These were wines made by the owners of the Agriturismo that we stayed at. The first, a white known as Lugana, is particular to a small region at the southern tip of Lake Garda. We drank it with our appetizer course, beautiful wild white shrimp from the Carolinas, that Chiko sauteed with garlic and cayenne pepper in the Gambas al Ajillo style of Catalonia.
The next wine was a Cabernet, also from our Agriturismo in Peschiera del Garda, which we served with the pasta course, fresh pumpkin ravioli from Whole Foods, simply boiled and tossed with melted butter and sage leaves. Finally, to complement our main course, we enjoyed a 2003 Sartori Amarone. By the time we were at the table, I had completely forgotten to bring the camera and take pictures, so you will have to imagine how everything looked when it was done!