Virginia Willis Blog

Chicken Wings for the Dirty Birds

 

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Other than the recent reports concerning Georgia’s Fifth District, the big deal right now in The ATL is that the Falcons are playing the Green Bay Packers for the NFC Championship — and a ticket to the 51st Super Bowl. In honor of the Falcons, also known as the “Dirty Birds,” I thought I’d share a few of my favorite recipes for wings. The sweet heat glaze for the Dirty Bird Chicken Wings is made with none other than Coca-Cola, which of course, also hails from Atlanta. And, the Curried Wings are served with a (Georgia) Peach Dipping Sauce. Both recipes are guaranteed winners. It’s a toss up to which one will score more points at your Falcon’s Tailgate! Each wing recipe can be made ahead and reheated; both recipes are baked, not fried, making for healthier wings; and lastly, no oil means a pretty easy clean-up. I’m also including a short video on how to make the Dirty Bird Chicken Wings. Check it out below or on my Facebook page. I’ve got a feeling!  (more…)

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Ground Corn 101: Cornmeal and Grits

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Corn

The importance of corn in the Southern diet cannot be overstated. Corn was eaten fresh in the summer, and dried and ground into meal for boiling and baking in the winter. Cornmeal has also played a major role in Northern foodways and while grits are far more popular down South, cornbread is a universally American dish. However, all ground corn is not the same.

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Grits and Cornmeal

I am a grits missionary. Comments like, “I don’t like grits” get me seriously riled up. If the only grits you have ever had came out of a packet and were cooked in a microwave, of course you don’t like grits! Grits are ground corn, and like many porridges, such as oatmeal or rice, the ultimate comfort food. The term “grist,” meaning grain for milling, became “grits.”

Cornmeal is ground corn, as well – simply a much finer, flour-like grind. In an artisan grits mill, very often when the grits are ground, the larger pieces are sifted and labeled as grits and the smallest, finest grind that falls to the screen below is reserved as cornmeal. 

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Types of Corn

Both grits and cornmeal are ground from “dent” corn, a type of corn with low sugar content and a soft, starchy center. Dent corn gets its name from the slight dent in the center at the top of the kernel. Flint corn is the type of corn used for polenta in Italy and for masa harina in Latin America.  Flint corn gets its name from being “hard as flint.” Regardless of being made from two different types of corn, grits and polenta are almost universally interchangeable. Ground yellow corn results in yellow cornmeal and grits and ground white corn results in white cornmeal and grits. The grits seen in the photo below are an heirloom corn that is white, yellow, and red. Masa is made from corn that has been treated with lime and water to loosen the hull in a process known as nixtamalization. It cannot be used interchangeably with grits or cornmeal.

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Types of Grits

Grits are further defined by how they are prepared and ground. There are hominy grits, stone-ground grits, and various grades of commercially ground grits.

Hominy is made from corn kernels soaked in an alkaline solution of water and lye to remove the kernel’s outer hull. When hominy is dried and coarsely ground, the result is hominy grits.

 Stone-ground grits are made from dried whole corn kernels ground between two stones, just as it has been for centuries, which guarantees their corn flavor. The same stone-ground corn can vary in flavor depending on the size of the grind. Stone-ground grits are more perishable and should be refrigerated or frozen. They must also be simmered very slowly for 45 minutes to an hour to coax out their tender, creamy texture. Examples of these grits include Anson Mills, McEwen & Sons, Logan Turnpike, and Hoppin John’s. Bob’s Red Mill corn grits are widely available in grocery stores and while the grind is not quite as large, the grits are not degerminated (how’s that for a word?!) and they maintain a good corn flavor.  

In commercially ground grits, the germ and hull are removed to prevent rancidity and improve the product’s shelf life. The grits are finely ground and produce a smooth, bland porridge without a whole lot of corn flavor.  Also, artisan stone-ground corn varieties are traditionally left in the field to dry completely, a practice known as field ripening. Commercial milling typically demands that the corn be harvested unripe and dried with forced and sometimes heated, air. Instant grits also have the germ and hulls removed and are cooked; then the paste is spread into large sheets. These are then dried and reground. They are virtually a pot of starch with no flavor. They have no soul. They are zombie grits. 

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Make Cornbread, Not War

Long before Europeans arrived in the New World, Native Americans used ground corn in their cooking. Early American and cookbooks refer to cornmeal as “Indian meal.” In many colonial recipes cornmeal was cooked with water into a porridge or mush, then shaped into cakes and baked. Colonists would have been seen cornmeal as inferior to wheat flour, but wheat production was difficult in New England and in much of the South, making wheat flour too expensive for regular use. Also, the high transportation costs were cost prohibitive to shipping in wheat flour from wheat-growing regions. Colonists turned to other crops, especially corn. The high cost of wheat flour was not the only factor favoring cornmeal breads. Most baking took place either in Dutch ovens or in reflector ovens placed in the fireplace until the invention of the wood-fired cook stove in the 19th century. For those cooking in the hearth, it was easier to prepare cornbread as baked-hearth flat breads.

Cornbread was for many years the basic bread of the rural South, the very poor South. Skillet cornbread, johnnycakes, hoe cakes, corn pone, corn dodgers, cornmeal griddle cakes  — are all forms of bread made with corn meal or flour. Cornmeal griddle cakes are the most basic of Southern breads. Biscuits require expensive dairy products, while cornmeal griddle cakes can be made with little more than meal, a bit of oil, and water. Cooks started adding additional ingredients as wealth increased and additional  products became easier to obtain such as butter, eggs, yeast, milk, buttermilk, sugar, and molasses. Then, in the mid-1800s chemical leaveners such as baking powder and baking soda became available allowing for the bread to be much less dense, effectively changing how cornbread was consumed.

Some purists, myself included, like to keep cornbread simple. There’s a joke that cornbread with sugar in it is called cake. It’s actually not quite that straightforward. Kathleen Purvis wrote a brilliant piece in the Charlotte Observer titled, “Why does sugar in cornbread divide races in the South?”  And, typically Northern cornbread recipes call for a small amount of sugar, along with regular milk and equal parts cornmeal and flour for a lighter texture. I feel as strongly about flour in my cornbread as I do sugar and feel that neither belong. Even the grand Gray Lady, the New York Times errs, offering a modification of Sean Brock’s typical Southern-style skillet cornbread stating, “Sean Brock of Husk restaurant in Charleston, S.C., uses a specific grind and brand of cornmeal to create a fluffy texture, though similar results can be had by using a blend of cornmeal and flour.” Which, I am sorry, is simply not true.

How to Make Cornbread Muffins

Clearly, I have strong feelings about cornbread. I love cornbread and make it often. It’s super easy, is whole grain, can be made with indulgent fats like bacon grease or butter, as well as more heart-healthy fats like canola and olive oil. Here’s a short video that I shot with Craftsy on how to make Cornbread Muffins. (Follow this link to receive 50% off my Southern Classics at Home video series which includes how to make grits and cornbread — plus, fried chicken, biscuits, greens, okra, macaroni and cheese, and a whole lot more!)

Let me know if you have any additional questions about grits or cornmeal — shoot me an email to info@virginiawillis.com. Lastly, very excited that my book Lighten Up, Y’all was featured in the James Beard Foundation newsletter, Beard Bites.  It’s on sale on Amazon for $16.98 if you want some inspiration for your “New Year, New You” resolution. I’ll be happy to send you a signed bookplate. I hope you enjoy my recipes for Buttermilk Cornbread Muffins and Classic Grits. Thanks for reading!

Bon Appétit Y’all!
Virginia

 

11097_Southern_Classics_at_Home_Virginia_Willis16309_11097_11097

Buttermilk Cornbread

Makes one 101/2-inch skillet bread or 12 muffins

Use this basic recipe and add different ingredients to mix things up such as chopped jalapeno, herbs, cheese, and bits of cooked bacon or sausage.

2 cups white or yellow cornmeal (not cornmeal mix or self-rising cornmeal)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, bacon grease, melted or canola or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the butter in a 101/2-inch cast-iron skillet or ovenproof baking dish and heat in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

 Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine.

Remove the heated skillet from the oven and pour the melted butter into the batter. Stir to combine, then pour the batter back into the hot skillet. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Variation: Instead of baking in a skillet, this batter may be prepared as muffins. Preheat the oven to 425 F (218 C). In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine.Pour the melted butter into the batter. Stir to combine, then spoon the batter into a 12-cup standard muffin tin, filling each cup no more than two-thirds full. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

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Classic Grits

Serves 4 to 6

The ratio for cooking stone-ground grits is 4 cups of liquid to 1 cup of grits. You can use all water, but I find using all milk overpowers the taste of the corn. Generally, I like using a combination of milk and water or stock. When making shrimp and grits I often use shrimp stock and when making savory grits to serve with roasted chicken I will use chicken stock.

2 cups 2-percent milk
2 cups water or stock
1 cup stone-ground grits
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, or to taste, optional
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the milk and water to a boil over a medium heat. Whisk in the grits. Season with 1 teaspoon of coarse salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until tender and creamy, 45 to 60 minutes. Add the butter and taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.<
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Photo credits:

Skillet Cornbread – Virginia Willis

Grits and Buttermilk Muffins – Craftsy

 

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside! Soup’s On!

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Soups On!

Snow, sleet, freezing rain means that soup’s on in my kitchen.  There’s nothing like a steaming hot bowl of soup in in the winter to take off the chill. And, not being adverse to leftovers I love making a pot of soup early in the week and enjoying it for lunch for a few days. Towards the end of the pot, I usually freeze a pint or two for later. Then, when I am at a loss for what to have for lunch or dinner or don’t have time to cook, I love to go “shopping” on the soup shelf of our freezer. Between recipe testing and the saved last bits from the pot, we often will have quite the variety of soups.

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Soup Swap

My friend and colleague Kathy Gunst takes this concept on the road! She has a new book out called Soup Swap: Comforting Recipes to Make and Share. Kathy is an award-winning cookbook author, journalist, and radio host. She’s the resident chef for NPR’s “Here and Now” and I love her sense of taste, well-written recipes, and writing style. Her brilliant idea is to host a soup party where everyone brings a different soup — then everyone gets to go home with an array of soups for later. It’s genius!

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Sharing is Caring

The book’s premise is that there is no better way to cultivate community, foster friendship, or simply nourish family than over bowls of homemade soup. Kathy offers 60 terrific recipes, featuring such classics as Tomato Soup with Grilled-Cheese Croutons and New England Fish and Clam Chowder, plus international favorites like Provencal-Style Fish Soup with Rouille; Portuguese Kale, White Bean, and Chorizo Soup; and Sopa de Lima, the recipe I am sharing with you in this blog post. Kathy has suggested side dishes for each recipe that will make a pot a soup a meal (Buttery Biscuits, Skillet Cornbread, and Salads and Slaws) as well as tips for easy transporting, which makes them just right to bring to a soup swap where everyone can sample the offerings and then take home a variety of leftovers to enjoy all week. Love it!

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Southern Living: #CookingwithVirginia

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I want to share that my seasonal column “Cooking with Virginia” for Southern Living is going great! Thanks for all the kind notes and social media love. I am thrilled that my Cinnamon Pecan Rolls from the November issue were rated as one of the favorite recipes of 2016! YAY! This month’s issue features Brussels sprouts including a cool recipe for Brussels Sprouts Tacos inspired by my visit to Houston’s Eight Row Flint. If you give any of my recipes a try and post on social media, please tag me and post with the hashtag #CookingwithVirginia (By the way, Southern Living is currently offering a subscription promotion for both online and in print.)

 

A Chicken in Every Pot

Thanks so much for reading. I hope you enjoy Kathy’s recipe for Sopa de Lima as much as we did! I am also sharing my quick and easy recipe for Chunky Chicken Noodle. Shhh. Don’t tell. It’s really vegetable soup with just enough chicken and noodles in it to warrant the name. And I’ve got another secret: both of our soups use a rotisserie chicken. Because, guess what? If you start with a store-bought rotisserie chicken and work with a little zip, you can have homemade soup on the table in just about 30 minutes.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
Virginia Willis

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Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup

Makes 9 cups to serve 6

2 teaspoons pure olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 cups homemade chicken stock or reduced-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
Bouquet garni (see note, below)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
6 ounces green beans, stem ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1/3 cups)
2 ounces (1 cup) uncooked egg noodles
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (about 12 ounces), from 1 (4- to 5-pound) rotisserie chicken

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms start to wilt and brown, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and stir to combine. Add the bouquet garni and sweet potato. Bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to simmer and cook until the sweet potato is just tender, 15 to 17 minutes.

Add the green beans, egg noodles, and chicken. Stir to combine and poke with your spoon to make sure the beans and noodles are submerged. Simmer until the noodles and green beans are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls and serve immediately.

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Sopa De Lima

Makes 8 to 10 tasting portions or 6 full servings

For the Tortilla Strips
Canola oil for frying
6 corn tortillas, about 51/2 in [14 cm] in diameter, cut into 1/2-in- [12-mm-] thick strips
Sea salt

For the Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 jalapeño chile, cored, seeded, and finely chopped, plus more as needed
1 cup [240 g] diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
4 cups [960 ml] Roasted Chicken Stock or canned low-sodium broth
1 cup [110 g] cooked shredded chicken
1/4 cup [60 ml] fresh lime juice, plus more as needed

For the Garnishes
1 poblano chile, seeded and chopped
1 ripe but not overly ripe or mushy avocado, cut into 1/2-in [12-mm] cubes
1/4 cup [10 g] finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup [80 g] cotija Mexican cheese or feta, grated or finely chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add enough canola oil to reach a depth of 1/2 in [12 mm] and heat until a small piece of tortilla or a speck of salt immediately sizzles on contact. Cook the tortillas, one at a time, for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and slightly puffed. Using tongs, transfer the tortillas to paper towels to drain; sprinkle with salt.

In a large stockpot over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the jalapeño, and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and oregano and cook for 5 minutes more. Turn the heat to high, add the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for another 5 minutes.

Just before serving, add the lime juice to the soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, jalapeño, or lime juice if needed.

Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls, top each with two or three tortilla strips, and serve. Have all the garnishes arranged decoratively on a large serv­ing plate and let guests add their own.
Cinnamon Pecan Rolls by Iain Bagwell
Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup 1  and Sopa de Lima by Virginia Willis
Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup 2 photo by Angie Mosier

 

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Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

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Turkey 101: All You Need to Know

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Turkey 101

The first time I ever brined a turkey was over 10 years ago. I had read about it in Cook’s Illustrated and was pretty curious, so we thought we’d give it a try. We made an overnight brine with salt, sugar, and spices. The result was a moist and tender bird with the most beautiful caramel-colored golden brown skin. I’ve wet-brined my turkey ever since! That’s step #1 for Turkey 101.

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BRINING

What’s all this business about brining? Brining – soaking meat in a saltwater solution – is the key to a juicy, tender turkey. Salt causes the food proteins to form a complex mesh that traps the brine so the muscle fibers absorb additional liquid during the brining period. Some of this liquid is lost during cooking, but since the meat is juicier to begin with, it cooks up juicier at the end.

The size of the salt grains used in a brine is very important. Grains of table salt are very fine, while those of kosher salt are larger. The crystals of the two most widely available brands of kosher salt, Morton’s and Diamond Brand, differ. Half a cup of table salt is equal to 1 cup of Diamond Brand kosher salt or 3/4 cup Morton’s kosher salt. My recipes call for Diamond Brand because the conversion is easy at 2:1.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for brining – it all depends on how long you want to brine. However, keep in mind that the stronger and more concentrated the brining solution and the smaller the piece of meat, the shorter the brining period. A turkey is best brined in a weak solution for a longer period of time. For smaller pieces of meat, my philosophy is to use a strong brine that takes an hour or less.

I recommend an overnight brine for a turkey. Since most of us don’t have a refrigerator to place a turkey in a 5-gallon bucket, I suggest using a cooler with ice and ice packs. With a 10 to 14 pound turkey, dissolve 1 cup Diamond Brand kosher salt and 1/2 cup sugar in 1 gallon of hot water. Stir until dissolved, then add 1 gallon of ice water to cool the solution. Pour the brine into the bucket or cooler. Add the turkey and if that’s not enough liquid to submerge the turkey, repeat the process in a second container and pour the cooled brine over the bird. Store overnight in a cool place. If you store it outside, make sure to weigh down the lid of the cooler so a curious raccoon or other critter doesn’t take a peak, look-see, or nibble.

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ROASTING

What about Roasting? That’s my step #2 for Turkey 101.  I roast at a higher temperature to start, then reduce the heat to finish cooking. In general, the main point about roasting a big bird is food safety. I suggest using an instant read thermometer. Instant-read thermometers are indispensable when cooking a large piece of meat because, while the doneness of steaks and chicken breasts can often be gauged by touching the meat and feeling for firmness, a large piece of meat such as a turkey needs a thermometer to really register what’s inside. The plastic pop-up timers found in many turkeys are unreliable, often resulting in an overcooked bird. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with an instant read thermometer. (I swear by my Thermapen.) Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

Here’s a general guideline for cooking times for  unstuffed birds: 
8 to 12 pounds 2¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds 3¾ to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4¼ to 4½ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4½ to 5 hours

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CARVING

First, once the turkey has reached the correct temperature, wrap it tightly in foil and let it rest for about 30 minutes to let the juices redistribute.

When carving a turkey, let the bird guide the way. That’s my step #3 for Turkey 101. This may sound a bit odd, but the parts should separate at the joints with little or no effort. If the bird is fighting you, the knife is not in the right place.

Place the turkey breast side up on a cutting board, preferably with a moat to catch the juices.  If the bird is hot, I use a clean kitchen towel to protect my hand and fingers instead of a carving fork, but you can use a fork or a set of tongs. I prefer to use the towel because it doesn’t tear the skin.

Pull the leg and thigh back to expose the joint that attaches it to the body.  Use a sharp knife to sever the thigh from the body, cutting through the separated joint. As you separate the leg, using the tip of the knife, be sure to get the “oyster,” a yummy nugget of delicious dark meat toward the back of the turkey, just above the thigh. Halve the leg quarter into the drumstick and thigh. Repeat the process with the other leg and thigh.

Place each leg quarter on the cutting board, skin side down. Use a chef’s knife to cut through the joint that connects the leg to the thigh. (It should be fairly easy to cut through the joint.) Look for a line of fat, and if the knife meets resistance, your knife is hitting bone and is not placed at the joint, which is easy to carve through. So, reposition the blade slightly and try again.

With the turkey breast still breast-side up on the cutting board, feel for the breastbone, which runs along the top center of the carcass. Begin separating one side of the breast from the body by cutting immediately alongside the breastbone with the tip of your knife. (You are removing the breast from the carcass, not cutting the breast on the carcass.) Work from the tail end of the bird toward the neck end. When you hit the wishbone, angle the knife and cut down along the wishbone toward the wing, then make a cut between the breast and the wing.

Finish separating the breast by simultaneously pulling back on the meat and using short strokes of the knife tip to cut the meat away from the carcass. Place the whole breast on the cutting board. Slice the breast into 1/4-inch thick slices. (Do the same to remove the breast meat on the other side.)

Find the joint where the wings connect to the body and bend until the joint pops apart. Use a sharp knife to sever the wing from the body, cutting through the separated joint. Using a chef’s knife or your hands, remove whatever meat remains on the carcass. (Reserve the carcass for stock.) Arrange the legs, thighs, wings, and meat on a platter, pour over any accumulated juices to moisten the meat, or use in pan sauce, and serve.  (If you need more information, here’s a great video by Chef Brendan Walsh from the CIA on how to carve a turkey – he’s a fellow Blue Ribbon Advisory Board Member for Seafood Watch!)

Giving Thanks

Whether this will be your 1st bird or your 50th, I wish the best for you and yours. I am most grateful for my family, friends, and my many blessings.

Everyone has their “must-have” dish for Thanksgiving and for me, it’s Cornbread Dressing. My thoughts and suggestions on Cornbread Dressing are included in this piece by Kim Severson in the New York Times.  I’m also excited for my holiday feast that’s featured in Weight Watchers magazine this month – it’s on the newsstands, now!  And, if you have any additional questions about Turkey 101, I will be on the Food52 Thanksgiving Hotline on Wednesday night 23 November from 5 to 6 pm.

Lastly, as you start your holiday shopping, please know that my cookbooks are on sale online. For more information, check out my cookbooks page.  I’m happy to send you a signed and personalized bookplate if you shoot me a note to info@virginiawillis.com with “bookplate” in the subject heading.

Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Virginia Willis

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ROAST TURKEY WITH APPLE CIDER GRAVY
Serves 8 to 10

1 cup kosher salt, more if needed
1/2 cup sugar, more if needed
1 gallon hot water, more if needed
1 gallon ice water, more if needed
1 12 to 14-pound turkey, neck reserved for stock
2 stalks celery
2 onions
1 carrot
5 cups chicken stock or water
1 apple, halved
2 sprigs fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 fresh sage leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Apple Cider Gravy, recipe follows

Using a cooler or a 5-gallon food-safe bucket combine hot water with kosher salt and sugar as directed above. Add ice water and stir until combined and quite cold. Add the turkey, cover and chill for 8 to 10 hours. If using a cooler, make sure to add additional ice or frozen reusable ice packs to keep the turkey about 35°F.

(FYI – Make sure to place the ice packs in a sealable plastic bag before placing in the brine so there’s no chance of the ice pack rupturing and contaminating the turkey.)

Place the turkey neck in a medium saucepan and cover with chicken stock or water. Coarsely chop 1 stalk of the celery, 1 onion, and 1 carrot; add to the stock. As you prepare the remaining vegetables, add the stems and skins to the saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until fragrant and flavorful, about 1 hour.

Heat oven to 425°F, place oven rack in lowest position. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold running water. Pat dry and season turkey inside and out with freshly ground pepper. Place remaining celery and onion, apple, parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary, and bay leaf in cavity. Working from large cavity end, run fingers between skin and flesh of breast to loosen skin without tearing. Put 2 tablespoons butter under skin and spread butter evenly. Tie drumsticks together with kitchen string and fold wings under the body. Place the turkey on rack in a large roasting pan. Add 1 cup of the stock to the roasting pan. Brush remaining 2 tablespoons butter over turkey, roast 30 minutes. . Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Baste turkey with pan drippings and continue roasting, basting every 30 minutes, until a thigh registers 165°F on a thermometer, and additional 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Carefully tilt turkey to release any juices from inside cavity into roasting pan. Transfer turkey to serving platter. Discard celery, apple, parsley, thyme,  sage, rosemary, bay leaf and onion from cavity. Allow turkey to rest 30 minutes before carving. Serve with Apple Cider Gravy.

APPLE CIDER GRAVY

1 cup hard cider
4 cups turkey stock (see above)
2 large onions, finely chopped
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, more if needed
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Remove rack from roasting pan and pour pan juices through a sieve into a 1-quart glass measure. Place roasting pan across two burners over high heat, add cider and deglaze pan, stirring and scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes. Pour cider through sieve into glass measure with pan juices, skim fat, reserving 1/4 cup. Add enough turkey stock to drippings to equal 4 cups.

Using a large sauté pan over medium heat, add butter. Sauté onions, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add sage and cook, 1 minute. Add turkey stock mixture and any turkey juices accumulated on platter and bring to a boil. Using a small bowl whisk together flour and reserved 1/4 cup fat. Whisk into gravy, reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Want to keep up with my culinary wanderings and wonderings? Lets connect on  Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Copyright © 2016 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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Classic Egg Recipes and a Crack at Big Bad Breakfast

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Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day — and the one we have the least time to prepare for and the shortest time to eat. Studies show that eating a healthy breakfast gets you off on the right start and can lead to improved concentration and enhanced performance from the classroom to the boardroom. For a lot of folks breakfast consists of a coffee from a drive-thru on the way to work. And, needless to say a monster chemical-laden biscuit sandwiched with flavorless meat, pre-cooked eggs, and processed cheese is most definitely not the answer. This week I am sharing three classic breakfast egg recipes that will get you going sunny side up.

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Egg it On

Eggs have long been a fundamental way to start your day. While in culinary school, one of the first dishes we learned to make was scrambled eggs. (Mama got a good laugh out of that one.) What? Scrambled eggs in culinary school!? YES! The key to moist and tender scrambled eggs is to cook them slowly and gently — and a double boiler is your secret weapon. Scrambled Eggs in a Double Boiler are unbelievably good.  

Why is this? Eggs are essentially water and protein. As eggs cook, the protein strands unfold and then get tangled up with each other. If you overcook the eggs, the protein strands become too tight and tangled, forcing the water out and resulting in dry, rubbery eggs. The lower the heat, the less likely the water is to be forced out.  A double boiler protects the egg from direct heat. It takes longer, but with constant, careful stirring the results are delicate curds and creamier eggs. 

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Easy Does It

Another simple and delicious method of cooking eggs are Shirred Eggs, the technique of baking eggs in a ramekin. With a minimum of hands-on time you can make a fresh, hot breakfast while your coffee is brewing. Baked Eggs are as simple as putting a dollop of something tasty on the bottom of a ramekin — it could be store-bought salsa, tomato puree, cooked greens, chopped ham, last night’s leftover vegetables, you name it — and topping it with an egg. Pop it the oven for about 10 minutes until the white is set but the yoke is still runny. It’s just that simple.

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Big Bad Breakfast

My friend and colleague chef John Currence has a new book called Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day inspired by his restaurants Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama. Now, you’re probably a bit confused. John is a rock star chef — you’ve seen him on Top Chef Masters,  you’ve seen him featured in every food magazine on the rack, you know he won the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the South  — and he’s written a book about lowly breakfast? Yes, he has and it’s really fantastic.

Big Bad Breakfast on www.virginiawillis.comNot Your Average Diner

His new cookbook Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day is packed with a slew of mouth-watering breakfast recipes including biscuits, cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, classic eggs, grits, and yes, even breakfast cocktails. Paired with Ed Anderson’s glorious photography and John’s smart, witty writing Big Bad Breakfast illuminates why the Southern breakfast is one of America’s most valuable culinary contributions.

In the introduction John recounts what occurred during the very opening moments of BBB in Oxford. He divulges that he told his shocked wife Bess that of all of his restaurants that this was going to “put us on the map.” Now, this wasn’t unbridled ego. He goes on and explains that “BBB is not going to vie for awards or be lauded in a roomful of puffy white men in tuxedos.” But, he knew “it was a place people wanted, even if they didn’t know it themselves.”

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Proper Respect

John believes that breakfast should be “revered, respected, and adored.” He asserts that in the 1970s dining out stopped being an experience and became a simple fuel stop — and that breakfast suffered the worst. He set out to do something about it, first with the BBB restaurants, and now, with his cookbook. That’s one of the things I love about John the most. He didn’t just decide to open a breakfast joint. It was a thoughtful process.

John has been a long-time hero of mine for his work on social justice issues. He thinks about what is right and wrong in this world and takes a firm (and sometimes profanity-laced) stand. He’s a good man and I have tremendous admiration for him for his conviction. He’s  a wicked talented chef, a proud fellow member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, and a real leader in the field of modern American hospitality. John feels things strongly — even about something as seemingly simple as breakfast.

Weekday to weekend –  we’ve got you covered. I’m sharing recipes for three classic breakfast egg recipes: Scrambled Eggs in a Double Boiler, Shirred Eggs, and John’s French Omelet. Give them a try – and make sure to order up a copy of Big Bad Breakfast, you’ll be glad you did.

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Virginia Willis

 

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Scrambled Eggs in a Double Boiler

Serves 1

3 large eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Place a couple of inches of water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Place a heatproof bowl or the top the double-boiler over the simmering water.  Add the butter and let melt. Crack the eggs into a 2nd bowl and season with salt and pepper; whisk until smooth. Pour the eggs into the double boiler and stir to combine with the butter. Using a wooden spoon, silicone spatula, or whisk cook the eggs, stirring often for small curds and less frequently for larger curds, until the eggs are set, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

 

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Shirred Eggs

Serves 1

2 tablespoons charred tomato salsa, or the filling of your choice
1 large egg
Red pepper flakes, Piment d’Espelette, or ground chilies, to taste
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the filling in the bottom of a heatproof ramekin. Crack an egg on top and season with red pepper, salt, and pepper. Transfer to the oven and bake until the whites are set but the yolk is still runny, or to your taste, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

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French Omelet

Serves 1

FILLING
1cup asparagus tips, trimmed to 1 inch pieces
1cup thin-sliced bacon,chopped (a smoky-flavored bacon is ideal)
3 tablespoons sliced shallot
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Salt and black pepper
OMELET
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons whole milk
Pinch of salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons clarified butter  or your preferred cooking fat
1cup grated Gruyère cheese
Set up an ice bath by adding ice and cold water to a large bowl. To make the filling: In a small saucepan, combine 6 cups of water and enough salt to bring the water to the salinity of seawater. Bring to a boil. Add the asparagus tips and cook for 1 minute, then remove and plunge into the ice bath to stop the cooking. Remove from the ice bath and set aside.
Warm a skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Place the bacon in the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly brown, about 2 minutes Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until it begins to turn transparent, about1 minute. Stir in the asparagus and thyme and season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside.
To make the omelet, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt,and pepper in a bowl until well combined and the whites are no longer stringy and the egg begins to hold bubbles when whisked, about a minute or so. Warm the clarified butter in a nonstick 10-inch skillet over low heat for 1 minute. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and allow to sit for about 30 seconds. Stir the eggs with the back of a fork, while continually swirling the pan in a circular motion, so the uncooked egg filling the cracks left by the cooked egg being pulled away from the surface. When the egg is about 70 percent cooked, about 112  minutes, stop stirring, but continue swirling the pan for another 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat briefly and place the filling and cheese in the center of the omelet. Fold the sides of the omelet to cover the filling. Slide the omelet onto a plate, seam side down, and serve immediately. 
“Reprinted with permission from Big Bad Breakfast by John Currence, copyright © 2016.Photography by Ed Anderson. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.”
BBB photos by Ed Anderson.
Other photos by Virginia Willis

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