Connect with Chef Alli

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks, Mom!

Her card reads “I am so blessed by you guys. Let us show our thankfulness each day, not just today. And may we savor our love for another just as we savor the delicious food on our Thanksgiving table. May we also laugh and love a lot! Thank you all. Love, Mom”. That is SOOO my Mom, always positive and appreciative, always so good at making everyone feel special.

Here’s how it works: if I placed the two of you together (it could be anywhere – waiting in line, grocery shopping, the coffee shop, Chiefs Stadium – the location doesn’t matter) within five minutes my Mom would know everything about you, including your most accomplished feats and discouraging struggles. And you would then be standing there with this funny look on your face, amazed at how this little woman got you to share not only your life story, but also your inner most thoughts and feelings! I have seen it take place more times than I can count, and it happens simply because she takes the time to ask. Once you begin that conversation, you realize without a doubt, that she truly cares about what you have to say; for those five minutes, you feel like the most important person in the entire world.

So on behalf of my Mom, I’m challenging you (along with myself!) this holiday season. In the midst of all the craziness, let’s see if we can take the time to make everyone around us feel like we truly care. As we welcome our friends and relatives into our homes on Thanksgiving, can we remember that it’s really NOT all about the food? Can we create special havens for our guests where they will find hospitality and warmth as we take a few extra moments to dote over them? Can we allow them to feel useful as we include them in our dinner preparations in the kitchen? As we pass the turkey and cranberry sauce, can we set our differences aside and give thanks for ALL who sit around our table?  It all begins with you and me – our actions make all the difference.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Now You’re Cookin’,

Chef Alli

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gram's Good Ole Turkey Gravy

Making gravy can sometimes be a challenge, especially when we only prepare it on special holiday occasions. To produce delicious, lump-free gravy for Thanksgiving dinner, here are a few Chef Alli tips, along with Grandma’s recipe, to ensure your success:

• Allow at least ½ cup gravy per person – more if you have several big-eaters coming for dinner. I usually double my gravy recipe, just to be sure plenty of gravy remains for leftovers – you can never have too much gravy!

• When making turkey gravy, I prefer to use cornstarch as my thickening agent, instead of flour, mostly because this is how my Grandma did it, and by using her exact recipe, it brings back a lot of childhood memories. Sauces and gravies made with cornstarch look rather “clear” in appearance, rather than opaque, and typically have a nice sheen, which is kind of nice for turkey gravy, in this humble chef’s opinion. I also think it’s unusual that Gram’s recipe calls for using milk to make the slurry, instead of water.

• To thicken gravy when using cornstarch, it’s usually best to make a “slurry first”. I make my slurry by whisking a small amount of water (usually ¼ - ½ cup is plenty) with 1 Tbs. cornstarch until smooth. The slurry is then added to the liquids (usually broth) and pan drippings that you want thickened to create your gravy. As a rule, you will need 1 Tbs. of cornstarch for every 2 cups of broth you are using to make your gravy. For a flavorful gravy, it helps to remember this: 1 Tbs. cornstarch (or flour) + 1 Tbs. drippings + 2 cups liquid. Just know that you will always be adjusting these measurements slightly, as you are whisking and thickening your gravy.

• Good tools are essential for creating good gravy – I recommend a silicone-coated FLAT whisk; this tool will allow you to get right up to the very edge of your pan so that you can whisk constantly for a nice, smooth, lump-free sauce or gravy – very important! Plus, you will need a nice, deep stainless steel (cast iron is even better!) skillet for preparing gravy – 12” is a good size.

Gram’s Recipe
Make giblet broth:
1 pkg. turkey giblets (this is the package that’s inside your turkey)
1 medium carrot, thickly sliced
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 medium celery rib, thickly sliced
1/ 2 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup whole milk
2 Tbs. cornstarch

In a 3 quart sauce pan over high heat, place reserved turkey giblets (these usually include the neck, heart, and gizzard) along with the vegetables, adding enough water to cover all. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low and simmer for approx. 1 hour, skimming any foam from the top. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and into a bowl, discarding solids. Cover and store in refrigeration until ready to use.

Place 2-3 Tbs. drippings from turkey roasting pan, into a large skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, combine 1 cup whole milk with 2 Tbs. cornstarch; whisk until smooth to make slurry. Whisk slurry into drippings, and bring mixture to a low boil. Simmer, whisking constantly, adding prepared broth as you go to achieve gravy consistency you desire. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

8-10 servings of gravy

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thanksgiving – Remember the 3 D’s of Dinner!

On Thursday morn, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes of TV time with Dave and Amanda on the WIBW Morning Show. With Turkey Day fast approaching, we discussed how much anxiety this can bring to Thanksgiving hostesses. Here's what I recommended to WIBW viewers:

The 3 D's of Thanksgiving Dinner
DON'T compare. Never compare your dinner to Grandma's or Mom's Thanksgiving dinner. They are most likely seasoned cooks and veteran hostesses who have hosted many holiday dinners. Remember that they have had years to refine their Thanksgiving preparations and presentations; when they first started out, they probably felt a little apprehensive and nervous, too. Have faith – you can do it!

DELEGATE! If you have volunteered to cook the turkey, feel free to assign ALL the Thanksgiving side dishes to your guests, including desserts. They are anxious to bring something to your dinner and are honored that you ask them to do so. If you have opened your home to host Thanksgiving and you are willing to be in charge of cooking the turkey, that's enough.
DO be a gracious hostess. As much as we might like to believe it is, the FOOD is not the most important element of Thanksgiving dinner – it's your GUESTS. As a gracious hostess, your job is to ensure that they have a good time while in your home. Even if you serve your guests frozen dinners on TV trays because you burned up the turkey, all is ok as long as they had enjoyable time as your guest. You have just created a very special holiday memory for them that they will never forget!
Watch for me on WIBW (and right here!) throughout this Thanksgiving season as I offer help and tips for making Thanksgiving dinner a positive experience in your kitchen!
Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli