Thursday, December 29, 2011

Deep Fried Turkey

My brother-in-law Roupen had been obsessing over wanting to deep fry a turkey for the holidays. The rest of us were intrigued but not overly so. We finally tried it this week, adding a sublime new family tradition. It was by far the juiciest, most mouth watering turkey we had ever eaten. And it cooked in under an hour. Simply incredible. Just make sure you read and follow all of the manufacturer instructions.

Start with a cleaned turkey no bigger than 14 lbs. Dry it well. Generously season it inside and out with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning or your favorite spices like Cajun, and let it sit covered for up to 24 hours in the fridge. You can also do a brine injection. We didn't.

Before frying, bring the bird to room temperature first. Place in fryer basket and follow cooking instructions (we used a Butterball Masterbuilt Turkey Fryer). For safety reasons, it's essential you add the exact recommended amount of vegetable oil (we used canola) to the fryer to heat. Grease fires start when people add too much oil, creating a hot overspill when the turkey is lowered into it. This is serious business so don't screw up this step.

The fryer will indicate when the oil is hot enough. At this point, very slowly lower the turkey into the fryer and close the lid. We kept the fryer outside to avoid the smell and smoke released during cooking.

Cook until a meat thermometer hits between 160 - 170 degrees. Our 14 lb bird took a mere 45 minutes. 

Remove from fryer and let rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes, while you try to resist the urge to rip it apart with your hands. Carve up and feast. It has incredible flavor and a gorgeous crispy brown skin. There's no greasy taste either.

Now we're all obsessing over what to fry up next: chicken wings, calamari, Snickers bars. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The King of Butternut Squash Soups

Always a dinner party hit
Here's the creamiest, most complex butternut squash soup recipe I've ever tasted. It's ideal for the holidays and quick and simple to make. The secret ingredient is peanut butter. Adapted from British chef Antony Worrall Thompson, the Creole soup packs a kick from West Indian hot sauce, which can also be added to taste. It freezes beautifully (handy for unexpected guests). And you can substitute pumpkin for the butternut squash too.

Creole Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 4-6


1 medium onion, diced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk celery, diced - if you don't have, just use 3 carrots instead of 2
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg - freshly ground is best
4 cups (1000 ml) chicken stock
2 1/4 lbs (1 kg) butternut squash or pumpkin cut into 1 inch cubes - a little more is fine too
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter - I use no sugar added, organic
3/4 cup (175 ml) heavy (double) cream - a little less if you're watching calories
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1-2 tablespoons West Indian hot sauce - be careful - start with 1 tablespoon and add more to taste. I use Grace Scotch Bonnet.
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • In a heavy pot over medium heat, saute the onion, garlic, celery and carrots in oil until soft.
  • Stir in the brown sugar and nutmeg. Add the chicken stock and squash and cook over medium heat until soft.

Simmer til you can easily pierce the chunks with a fork

  • In batches, carefully puree the ingredients in a blender or food processor and return to the pot. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir in the peanut butter, cream, lime juice and hot sauce.
West Indian hot sauce is key
  • Add salt and pepper as necessary. Garnish with sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds, if desired. Serve immediately or freeze.
    One medium butternut squash should do the trick

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Celebrating Indian Street Food at The MasalaWala

Delicious Indian kofta 
If you dream of following Anthony Bourdain or Gordon Ramsey on their culinary treks through the streets of India, The MasalaWala is your ticket.

Just a month old, this casual LES eatery is a labor of love of the Mazumdar family, who hand picked authentic recipes from their native Calcutta, as well as regional favorites. 

There's a tempting array of South Asian snacks to explore aside from the basic samosas and pakoras (fritters).  From Calcutta, long known for some of the best street snacks in the country, try a stuffed Mughlai paratha or kati roll, an Indian gourmet wrap. Punjabi fish amritsari is batter fried with lime and red onion, and dum aloo is a classic Kashmiri potato curry.

One of my all time favorites, pani puri (hollow crisp shells stuffed with seasoned potato, onion, chickpeas and tamarind water), is also on the menu, along with the nacho-like papri chat.

'Masala wala' literally means spice carrier. If you spot the coin logo on the wall, you may recognize the jovial Mazumdar patriarch Satyen, who runs the cozy cafe, with his son Roni. He'll gladly explain the menu to you, as he offers you a complimentary taste of salty mango lassi.

Forget any misconception that the food will be heavy and oily. Everything we tried was rich in flavor and aroma, but had no hint of greasiness. In fact, it's some of the healthiest tasting Indian food I've had. And the menu is full of vegetarian options.

Chicken kabob lunch special
Take the satisfying kofta, for instance. Chicken ($5) is blended with peanuts and spices and served with coriander and tamarind chutneys. The veggie version ($4.50) is like a V-8: carrots, beets, peas, and green mango are mixed with spicy seasonings.

A variety of kabobs, cooked in a tandoor oven brought over from India, are standouts. And the excellent value lunch special includes rice, salad and warm naan with your choice of kabob for $8-10. The curry box special also comes with the same generous sides for $8-12.

In a few weeks, the menu will introduce Indo-Chinese fusion dishes, wildly popular in India, but relatively unknown in New York. I happen to go nuts over it. Hello, Hakka chilli chicken.

Another enlightened touch is the biodegradable serving ware. The chic square plates are made of bamboo and the flatware is sturdy sugarcane. And if you pay by credit card, the iPad-served bill will email you a receipt. Very helpful for the cool late night crowd who want to keep it moving.

179 Essex St (near E Houston)
212 358 9300
Sun-Thurs 11am - 3am
Fri-Sat 11am - 5am 
delivery + catering available

The MasalaWala on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top Foodie Gifts at Union Square Holiday Market

Decisions, decisions

Chances are there's a foodie on your holiday gift list. Union Square Holiday Market is in full swing through Dec 24th, and offers one stop shopping - plus vital snacking - during the festive season.

Specialty oils, vinegars and salts
The Filling Station - Fill 'er up with gourmet oils ($9.95), vinegars ($9.95) and specialty salts for the chef of the house. Popular oils include nutty butternut squash seed oil (perfect for Thai food), fig dark balsamic vinegar (great on ice cream, fruit, or pork), dark chocolate vinegar (for steaks); and the value priced truffle salt with grated truffles ($10.95). Throw in the trivia board game Foodie Fight ($18.95).

Beer making in a box
Brooklyn Brew Shop - If you can make oatmeal, I'm told you apparently can make a home brew. A $40 starter kit is all you need. It's also reusable and comes in a variety of seasonal wintery brews. Each kit yields a gallon of beer or about 12 bottles. Additional refill bags of ingredients are $15. And there's even a Brew Shop Beer Making book for $20. Cheers.

Handcrafted beef jerky
Kings County Jerky Co. - Artisanal beef jerky is a tasty idea for the discerning carnivores on your list. Kings County offers chewy 100% organic, grass-fed jerky in addictive flavors such as Classic, Korean BBQ (spicy), and Szechuan Ginger. Slices are handcrafted using fresh spices and ingredients. You can also try before you buy. $10 for a 2-oz package.

The Brooklyn Salsa Company - Five varieties of this popular local market staple named for each of the New York City boroughs are perfect stocking stuffers. And you can sample them all before you buy. Make sure you taste the seasonal butternut squash salsa, a delicious holiday best seller. $6 each or a six-pack for $30.
Macaron Parlour - The très elegant hostess gift of the season. Beautiful boxes filled with a rainbow of colors and flavors - from red velvet to classic caramel fleur de sel or candied bacon with maple cream cheese. Gift box prices range from 8 for $20 or 18 for $40.

Exotic spices galore
Spices and Tease - For a spice hoarder like me, this stall is heaven. Dozens of exotic tea and spice blends can be mixed into a 6-tin gift box for $35. Individual tins are $7 each.

No Chewing Allowed - What chocoholic wouldn't want the pure indulgence of a box of traditional French chocolate truffles? A 75-year-old recipe and mouthwatering samples keep this stall a popular one all season long. $12.99/box of 22. 

And while you're working up an appetite shopping, check out Mighty Balls gourmet meatballs, Sigmund Pretzelshop, Crack Pie at Momofuku Milk Bar, apple cider donuts and gingerbread girls + boys at Breezy Hill Orchard, warm Nutella crepes at Bar Suzette, Stuffed Artisan Cannolis, and hot gluehwine (made from 13 fruit juices) and hot apple cider from German Delights.

Market open daily through Dec 24th.
Mon-Fri 11am-8pm
Sat 10am-8pm
Sun 11am-7pm