New year renews hope for dining out with kids

The traditional, adults-only New Year’s Eve celebration is not for me this year.

Instead, my family is consumed with planning an epic outing that includes a 7-month-old and 2 1/2 –year-old. Kid-friendly activities will abound, but we’ll have to pause amid all the fun for meals, not all of which can be plucked from a cooler or drive-thru window.

Recent, small victories give me hope that restaurant forays can once again resume. My older son comported himself commendably well last week at Red Lobster, where he gobbled macaroni and cheese between intermittent trips to the live lobster tank. But that was sans his younger brother, and restaurants with aquariums are fairly few and far between.

My husband and I have come up with a restaurant game plan over the past couple of years. Among the things we’ve learned is that there are always helpful hints if not genius strategies to be gleaned from all those other parents out there.

Here are some tips that I spied over the summer in the Washington Post. Yes, some we already know. Others are likely to become part of our restaurant routine in short order.

Pack to distract. Fill diaper bags with favorite books, toys and games. Keep your phone charged because your little one might need a quick video fix to prevent a meltdown.

Gear up. Don’t expect restaurants to have baby-friendly equipment on hand. Some don’t even furnish high chairs. So pack a sippy cup, plate, flatware, washcloth or wipes, the all-important catchall bib and a portable changing mat.

Start small. Begin by teaching manners and mealtime expectations around the dinner table at home. Then try dining at family-friendly restaurants before graduating to more formal settings.

Pick partners wisely. A successful dinner with other families often hinges on whether the children get along. Little BFFs can make meals fun for everyone while kids who don’t see eye to eye can derail meals and override even the most dedicated parents.

Fast food. Ask the staff to bring out the children’s dishes as soon they are ready — instead of pacing them to coincide with the adults’ course — as tiny diners don’t like to wait.

Be prepared to bail. If your child is annoying other diners, be ready to pull the ripcord. Ask for your meal to be boxed up, tip generously (good advice even if your child does behave, to compensate for the extra attention your table requires) and leave swiftly. Consider bringing cash to avoid waiting for a credit card to be processed. Alternately, give your server your credit card at the beginning of the meal to speed up the bill-paying process.

Practice makes perfect. Don’t give up if you have a bad experience. Watching your little one cause a major mess in public may be humbling, but it happens. Figure out what went wrong and how you might be able to fix it, then try again.

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Use citrus crisps in the kitchen or for home decor

It wouldn’t be Christmas without the annual, last-minute scavenger hunt for stocking-stuffers.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the tradition, starting from the time I was a kid, when my extended family’s stockings were decidedly untraditional. Knitted by an acquaintance of my grandmother, they were a shoe specific to each member of the clan. A high-top basketball sneaker for my dad, high-buttoned boot for my mom, ice skate for my aunt, roller skates for me and my sister and a rosy-hued bare foot with red-painted toenails for my girly grandma.

Now, the tradition is even more dear because an actual member of the family, my mother-in-law, has hand-sewn all our stockings. The newest is marked with an “X” for my youngest son.

Because even a 6-month-old baby needs a few trinkets in his stocking, I spent part of the weekend picking up a teething toy and soft books for him, plus some more interactive items for his older brother.

But what to stuff into my mother-in-law’s stocking? I’d rather spend the remaining time at home on last-minute, homemade items that I know she’d appreciate more than if I’d rushed around town.

The vanilla extract, featured in this blog’s previous post, would be lovely in a quaint, cork-stoppered bottle. If only I had more of the Meyer lemons that she brought me from a trip to California, I would dedicate some to the following project, appealing to cooks, DIY types and fans of country-kitsch home décor alike.

These citrus crisps also would be a good use for those bags of clementines, so numerous in grocery stores this time of year. Make enough, and you can hang them on the tree, string them across the mantel or loop them into a wreath, interspersed with cinnamon sticks, like one that I received on a Christmas past. Package them in some pretty cellophane for a stocking stuffer with suggestions to drop them into a beverage, press them onto a cake or scatter them over roast chicken.

Tribune News Service photo

Citrus Crisps

3 fresh, firm Meyer lemons (or standard lemons, limes, oranges or clementines)

Rinse and dry the fruit. Use a sharp knife to slice into 1/8-inch-thick disks. Discard any seeds. Settle circles on 1 or 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between slices.

Heat oven to 150 F —  or as close as it will get (170 may be the lowest setting). Bake, turning once, until dry (or dry-ish) to the touch, for about 3 hours.

Turn off oven and let citrus crisps cool to room temperature, for about 3 hours.

Pull sheets out of oven and let crisps sit at room temperature until completely dry. This can take anywhere from 12 hours to 2 days.

Gently peel crisps from parchment. Pile into a clean glass jar and seal it. Crisps will keep for up to 1 year.

Make about 2 dozen slices.

Adapted by the Chicago Tribune from “Food Gift Love” by Maggie Battista.

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DIY vanilla extracts are delicious, delightful gifts

Flavor extracts, mentioned in this blog’s previous post, are one of my favorite ways of making hot chocolate extra-special.

And making vanilla extract is an easy and inexpensive present for DIY-loving cooks. Prepare several batches, package them in pretty bottles and keep them on hand for the season’s hostess gifts and last-minute party favors.

Beyond bottles, all that’s required are vanilla beans, a bottle of vodka (premium isn’t even necessary) and time, primarily to foster the infusion. Just wrap the extract with a label indicating when it’s ready to use.

Real vanilla beans — look for Tahitian or Madagascar Bourbon varieties — harbor some 400 subtle scents. While chemists can copy vanillin, the single note at the flavor’s center, the full symphony comes only via a tropical plant — an orchid, actually — that unfurls a tiny, green-white flower of intoxicating aroma that lasts just a single day.

The plant’s fruit (or “beans”) are sold in packages and in bulk sections of many grocery stores. For the best-quality, browse www.vanillaqueen.comand try its vanilla in the following recipe from the Chicago Tribune.

Tribune News Service photo

Vanilla Extract

15 good-quality vanilla beans

1 (750-milliliter) bottle vodka

Using a small, sharp knife, slit the vanilla beans lengthwise. Slip beans into the bottle of vodka. Close and store in a cool, dark cupboard. (Consider sliding bottle back into its paper bag.)

Let mixture rest for 3 (or more) weeks. Shake a few times per week.

Set a sieve lined with cheesecloth over a quart-sized measuring cup. Strain extract. Pour strained extract into small, glass (preferably dark) bottles. If you like, add a length of vanilla bean to each small bottle. Leave as is, or get fancy with labeling.

You may continue to add vodka to original bottle for a time; eventually beans will have given their all.

Makes 6 (4-ounce) or 12 (2-ounce) gift bottles.

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Stovetop hot cocoa among life’s simple pleasures

A weekend power outage provided my family with something like a little trip back in time. Thankfully, it was just for a few hours.

Because we have a gas range, cooking a breakfast of bacon and eggs wasn’t such a tall order, even in dim lighting. Instead of using the electric toaster, we buttered slices of bread and grilled them on a cast-iron griddle over the burners.

Coffee also should have been perfectly straightforward, considering my daily ritual of boiling water and pouring it into a French press over the grounds. Except the grounds are derived daily from whole beans using an electric coffee grinder. Had I known we’d be without electricity in the morning, of course, I would have laid in plenty of coffee grounds for my caffeine-addicted parents, plus myself and my husband.

Just as my mom and husband were emptying the contents of Keurig pods into a tea strainer and attempting to pour water over them, I recalled my mother-in-law’s antique coffee mill. The Keurig grounds are far too fine to use in a French press anyway, I said, as they overflowed the tea strainer and pooled in a muddy mess in the bottom of the cup.

I knew that hand-cranking the circa-1890s mill to yield enough coffee grounds would take a good 10 to 15 minutes. Fortunately, the trip to my mother-in-law’s (just next door) was short enough to make the entire endeavor feasible.

I’ve never used that, she said, taking it off a kitchen shelf and dusting it for cobwebs. Returning with the contraption, I joked that hand-grinding beans was the next wave of Portland’s love affair with artisan coffee. But it worked like a charm, producing a more even grind than my electric coffee grinder. And the coffee tasted even more delicious for the extra effort.

That’s so often the way with some of life’s simple pleasures. It’s why I pop popcorn in a pan on the stove and mix up hot chocolate from sugar, cocoa powder and milk.

I’m teaching these basic methods to my 2-year-old son, who has just reached levels of interest and dexterity that allow him to “help.” With any luck, once he’s old enough to pull off these favorite snacks without assistance, he’ll still enjoy the slightly more lengthy process rather than resorting to the microwave.

I’ve blogged before about both my penchant for spiced, stovetop popcorn and hot cocoa. The following recipes from Tribune News Service, aren’t at all sophisticated, like the ones suggested for the 2010 holiday season. But that makes them all the more appropriate for young palates.

When making hot chocolate, I like to start with a simple syrup of sugar and water, stirring in the cocoa powder to make a paste. Whole milk makes for a perfectly satisfying drink, but I often combine half-and-half or cream with the 2-percent milk usually on hand. Consider a splash of some type of extract —peppermint, raspberry, orange or coffee — in place of vanilla

And for kids who don’t use their family’s stove, a microwave version follows.

Favorite Hot Cocoa

Tribune News Service photo

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Dash of salt

4 cups milk

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped cream or marshmallows (optional)

In a saucepan, mix the sugar, cocoa powder, salt and 1/3 cup hot water. Stir continuously over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil (for about 2 minutes.) Stir in the milk and heat. Bring hot chocolate to desired temperature but do not boil. Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract. Divide into mugs and top with the whipped cream or marshmallows.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

 

Perfectly Chocolate Hot Cocoa

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Dash salt

1 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped cream or marshmallows (optional)

In a large mug, combine the sugar, cocoa powder and salt. In a separate microwave-safe container, heat the milk on high for 1 to 1 ½ minutes or until very hot. Carefully and gradually add heated milk to dry mixture. Stir well. Add the vanilla extract. Top with the whipped cream or marshmallows.

Makes 1 serving.

Source: www.hersheyskitchens.com

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Tender ginger thumbprint cookies are vegan, too

A tender alternative to the classic Christmas gingerbread house filled the inside of this week’s A la Carte.

Gingerbread meant to hold up as a holiday centerpiece, of course, isn’t really meant for consumption, a fact I reiterate every year covering Medford’s annual GingerBread Jubilee.

The shortbread cookies that the Washington Post offered are strong enough to sandwich several together in a miniature gingerbread “birdhouse.” But tasting of chocolate and vanilla, they lack the season’s quintessential flavor of ginger.

So here’s a recipe strong on ginger and other warming spices that requires little fussing. Lacking butter and eggs, it also appeals to vegans and anyone watching their fats and cholesterol. If you don’t have flaxseed meal on hand, you can simply substitute a single egg.

The Sacramento Bee tested these using a lemon glaze, cherry jam and Meyer lemon marmalade, all with delicious results. Here are a few more of the Bee’s holiday baking tips.

Use a melon baller (the back of the smaller scoop) to make indentations for filling. The handle provides more control than a measuring spoon.

To make a lemon glaze, combine about 1 cup powdered sugar, the zest from 1/2 of a lemon, about 3 tablespoons lemon juice and a bit of water.

Before starting, check your baking soda and baking powder for potency. Be sure your spices are fresh.

Read the whole recipe through to make sure you have the right ingredients and the right equipment. Do you need parchment paper? Do eggs have to be separated? Does anything have to be pre-chilled? Make time for that, too.

If you’re planning a whole day of baking, eat breakfast first and plan your lunch. That way you won’t be noshing off the raisins and chocolate chips all day.

Don’t soften butter in the microwave; it won’t hold air if it gets melted. Instead, let it sit out until you can press a fingertip into it and leave a mark.

Avoid putting cold dough on a hot cookie sheet. Alternate sheets or cool off a warm one with cold water. Or put the dough on a parchment sheet ready to slide onto the metal pan when it’s cool enough.

Gingerbread Thumbprints

Tribune News Service photo

1 tablespoon flaxseed meal

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) Earth Balance buttery sticks, at room temperature

1 cup light-brown sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1/4 cup granulated sugar (for rolling)

Filling options: About 3/4 cup total of fruit jam, marmalade, peanut butter and/or a glaze (see below)

In a small bowl, combine the flaxseed meal and 3 tablespoons water, letting mixture sit for at least 2 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda and salt.

In a larger bowl, using a handheld mixer, or in bowl of a stand mixer, cream the buttery sticks and brown sugar for a minute or two, until somewhat fluffy. Add the molasses and flaxseed mixture, mixing until combined. Slowly blend in flour mixture until all flour is incorporated.

Cover and chill dough at least 1 hour, preferably several hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 F and place a sheet of baking parchment on a cooking sheet. Scoop out dough to make balls that are about 1 inch and roll them in the granulated sugar. Place balls about 2 inches apart on baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, turning pan about halfway through. Cookies should be set along the edges and have some cracks in tops but still be soft.

Remove cookie sheet to a cooling rack and immediately use a spoon or other utensil to make thumbprints in cookies while still hot. (Thumbs not recommended for hot cookies.) Cool about 5 minutes, then transfer cookies from pan to rack to finish cooling.

Once cookies are cool, spoon about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon filling into each center. Because filling is not cooked, these cookies should be stored in a single layer.

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen.

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Pull up a chair, dish restaurants with local Yelpers

Love it or hate it, Yelp.com has become a powerful force in the restaurant realm.

The anonymity of reviewers whose rants can dominate a restaurant’s ratings is one of the site’s most common critiques. Who are these customers, anyway? What do they really know about food or the food-service industry? So goes the typical response of restaurateurs.

But restaurant owners have been known to fight back, enticing employees, family and friends to boost their Yelp ratings. In New York, 19 companies were fined $350,000 by the state in 2013 for posting fake positive reviews, according to a story by the Virginian-Pilot.

The dining scene in Medford doesn’t imply such intrigue. But there is an insiders’ club, who gamely set aside preferences for their own establishments to nominate their compatriots for Sunday’s front-page piece in the Mail Tribune.

Readers also met insider Jon Theriault, a self-proclaimed Yelper whose goal is to patronize all 675 restaurants in Jackson County and review them for the site. His aim, he says, is pure altruism. He just wants to give fellow foodies reliable restaurant recommendations in Southern Oregon. Yelp is merely his mouthpiece.

And Theriault isn’t hiding behind a pseudonym. Using his real first name and last initial (“Jon T.”) on Yelp, he organized a November gathering for other local Yelpers that drew 30 to 35 people to Medford’s Immortal Spirits for refreshments, prizes and mingling.

“Literally, they have this crazy passion that they want to discuss,” he says. “It’s almost like a food support group.”

The “eclectic” group, says Theriault, largely consisted of 30- and 40-somethings with a few in their 20s and 50s. It was clear, he adds, that tastes in food varied even more widely.

“I think they liked being a part of something, rather than just being on a website.”

A spring gathering is in the works and open to anyone interested in food, says Theriault. A presence on Yelp isn’t a prerequisite. Messaging Theriault on the site, however, is his preferred means of communication. Or follow @RufioJJ on Twitter.

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Mingle several holiday sides in hot potato salad

This week’s food-section story on holiday potatoes highlighted a few of the classics, including the perfect mashed potatoes.

Ambivalent to most potato preparations, certainly mashed, I’d rather go big or go home when it comes to spud side dishes. So I couldn’t help but recall this recipe for hot potato salad that just wouldn’t make the cut for a summertime spread but would be worthwhile holiday fare. It basically marries cocktail olives to a cheese ball under a bacon blanket.

I’d even cook this one on our pellet smoker to infuse the processed cheese with still more funky flavors.

Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey

Hot Potato Salad

About 4 pounds russet potatoes

Kosher salt, as needed

1 pound processed cheese, such as Velveeta, well-chilled

Cooking spray, as needed

1 1/2 cups low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)

1 cup half-and-half

1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and hopped

1 cup small, pimento-stuffed Spanish olives (about 57)

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 thin bacon slices, cut into 2-inch pieces

Thoroughly scrub the potatoes, then place them in a large pot. Cover with water and add a pinch of the salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cover partially and cook for about 25 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool completely.

Peel potatoes, then cut them into 1-inch cubes. Grate the cheese on large-holed side of a box grater; the yield is about 4 3/4 cups.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease a broiler-proof, 9-by-13-inch baking dish with some of the cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and half-and-half, then add the onion, olives, potatoes and cheese, tossing to coat and distribute evenly. Season lightly with salt and the pepper. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish, spreading it evenly. Scatter the bacon pieces on top.

Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 65 minutes, until bubbling, then transfer to stovetop (off heat) while you position a rack 4 to 6 inches below oven broiler.

Return baking dish to oven; broil for about 5 minutes or just until bacon has crisped.

Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Adapted by the Washington Post from “Ultimate Book of BBQ: The Complete Year Round Guide to Grilling, Smoking and Barbecuing,” from editors of Southern Living with Christopher Prieto (Oxmoor House, 2015).

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Homemade baby food doesn’t have to be a hassle

As my 2-year-old clamored for macaroni-and-cheese at the Thanksgiving table, I had to sigh over so many good intentions gone awry.

Rewind to the 2013 holiday, when he was still happily eating squash, sweet potatoes and vegetable soups pureed with turkey stock. Because I made all his food, I naively assumed that he was developing, if not a sophisticated palate, at least a preference for wholesome meals.

It’s just a phase — the beige-food phase — other parents tell me. He’ll come around.

In the meantime, his younger brother is filling up on the same menu of roasted, steamed and simmered ingredients mashed or blended to baby-friendly consistency. I may not have sent out his baby announcements within his first six months of life or jotted down all the myriad milestones in his baby book. But I make the time to make his baby food. In addition to health, economy is major factor.

Winter squash are basically free from my own garden while sweet potatoes, even organic ones, are affordable. Today, I threw a few of each in the oven, left them alone for an hour, then peeled and pureed them, using an immersion blender, with some organic pear juice. In about 15 minutes of hands-on time, I had enough food for the fridge and freezer to last a couple of weeks.

Even quicker is mashing fresh avocado or banana. Even very ripe, peeled pears can be pushed through a sieve. About once a month, I poach a couple of pounds of dried apricots and prunes and run each through a food mill to remove any pit fragments.

It’s as simple as that, I say, when other families have asked me how to make baby food.

Here are a few more tips from the Washington Post:

Whole grains

Grind ¼ cup brown rice, millet or oatmeal in a blender for 1 minute.

Boil 1 cup of water; reduce heat to low and add grain.

Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve, refrigerate (for two to three days) or freeze in ice-cube trays (up to one month).

Meats

Grind cooked chicken, fish or meat in a food processor or blender and refrigerate (for one to two days). Babies should be 7 to 8 months before eating most poultry, meat and fish.

Serve alone or mix with pureed vegetables or cooked grains.

Homemade stock

Homemade stock is full of vitamins and minerals. It aids digestion and builds bones.

Mix homemade chicken or vegetable stock into baby’s cereal or vegetables to liquefy and add nutrition.

Babies can drink homemade vegetable stock from a bottle after the age of 9 months.

Worried about allergies? Introduce one food at a time, and wait at least four days before introducing another. Common problem foods: cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, soy, nuts, shellfish and artificial additives. Shellfish and honey should be avoided until at least a year.

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Roast squash on hand makes quick, healthful side

After paying top dollar for a locally raised, free-range, heritage-breed turkey, I feel duty-bound to appropriately honor its remains.

But I only have so much stomach for the same ingredient for days on end. So while I’m recasting turkey in various forms with a variety of flavors, I usually shun the bird’s traditional side dishes: potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans and the like. There is one commonplace holiday food, however, that we simply can’t — and shouldn’t — eschew in the coming weeks.

Dozens of butternut squash arose from a single straw bale planted in our garden with the popular variety. Several of the larger squash have been roasted and pureed for a 6-month-old’s palate. Yet there’s no reason he should derive all the benefit from this prolific plant, not when it’s so easy to roast ahead of time and add to our meals.

The cooked or raw squash cubes, refrigerated for several days or frozen for several months, deliver a dose of nutrition and fiber when we’re running short on energy and inspiration for meal-planning. With roasted squash on hand, the following dish would come together in about 10 minutes with pantry staples, including the pomegranate in my fridge. This recipe comes from the Chicago Tribune.

Tribune News Service photo

Caramelized Butternut Squash With Sherry, Maple and Blue Cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons each: dry sherry, pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 medium butternut squash, 3 1/2 pounds total, halved, seeded and peeled

4 ounces (1/2 cup) blue cheese or feta cheese crumbles

1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus rosemary sprigs for garnish

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Heat oven to 400 F. Position rack in top third of oven.

In a small bowl, mix the oil, sherry, maple syrup, salt and pepper.

Cut the butternut squash into 1-inch pieces. Put onto 1 large or 2 small, rimmed baking sheet(s). Toss squash with oil mixture to coat it nicely.

Roast squash butternut on top rack of preheated oven, stirring several times, until fork-tender, for about 25 minutes. Cool. May refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days.

To reheat, turn on oven broiler. Place squash on a baking sheet. Broil 6 inches from heat source, until squash has golden edges, usually for 2 to 4 minutes. Put squash into a deep serving bowl. Stir in the cheese and chopped rosemary. Toss to mix. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds. Serve garnished with rosemary sprigs.

Makes 8 servings.

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Getting under turkey’s skin produces moist meat

Deconstructed turkey roasted on a bed of stuffing isn’t exactly a new concept. The method, explained by Oregon State Master Food Preservers for the newspaper’s annual holiday guide, was championed by Julia Child and America’s Test Kitchen.

But it’s one I hadn’t touted in years of editing the paper’s food section. And unlike so many recipes and suggestions that make the paper with just a few days until turkey day, this one won’t alter an already planned Thanksgiving menu, but it may just save a couple of hours of cooking.

For cooks who still don’t want to wrestle a slippery turkey with sharp knife in hand, or who simply like the look of a whole bird: consider placing the stuffing UNDER the skin.

You heard right. Like compound butter, a stuffing mixture of fats, aromatics, herbs and fine breadcrumbs puts moisture and flavor on the breast meat. This technique, also news to me until this week, helps to crisp the bird’s skin.

Pulling the skin back from the bird’s breast is bit less intimidating than dismembering the carcass. Just work carefully to avoid poking holes in the skin. And distribute the stuffing mixture as evenly as possible.

The bird’s cavity still can be a repository for herbs, onions and fruit that help to flavor it and keep it moist. The only hard-and-fast rule for turkey cookery, remember, is to bring it to an internal temperature of 165 F before carving.

Tribune News Service photo

Roast Turkey With Herby Pork and Apricot Stuffing

Olive oil, as needed

1 sprig fresh sage, leaves picked

6 strips pancetta or thinly sliced bacon

1 garlic bulb, broken into cloves

4 medium red onions, peeled

2 ribs celery, trimmed and chopped

1 big handful breadcrumbs

1 handful dried apricots

10 ounces ground pork

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch of grated nutmeg

1 large egg

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

12 small sprigs fresh rosemary, plus a few extra

1 turkey (12 pounds), at room temperature

2 carrots, peeled

1 large orange

2 tablespoons plain flour

1 quart chicken or vegetable stock

Heat the oven to maximum temperature. Heat a saucepan until medium hot and add a splash of the olive oil, the sage leaves and pancetta or bacon. Peel and chop 2 of the garlic cloves and 1 of the onions. Add garlic, celery and onion to saucepan and fry everything gently until soft and golden-brown. Take pan off heat, add the breadcrumbs and, while mix is cooling down, chop the apricots roughly and stir them in. When stuffing has cooled down, add the pork, lemon zest, nutmeg, egg and lots of salt and pepper; mix everything together well.

Chop remaining onions in half and slice carrots thickly. Give the turkey a good wipe, inside and out, with paper towels; place it on a board, with neck end toward you. Find edge of skin covering turkey’s breasts and gently peel it back. Work your fingers and then your hand under skin, freeing it from meat. If you’re careful you should be able to pull all skin away from meat, keeping it attached at sides. Go slowly and try not to make any holes. Lift loose skin at neck end and spoon stuffing between skin and breast, tucking flap of skin underneath to stop anything leaking out. Pop the orange in the microwave for 30 seconds to warm it up and stuff it into bird’s cavity. Weigh stuffed turkey and calculate cooking time (about 15 minutes per 1 pound).

Place bird on a large roasting pan, rub it all over with olive oil and season well. Surround with chopped carrots, onions and remaining garlic, cover with tinfoil and place in oven. Turn heat down right away to 350 F; roast until juices run clear from thigh if pierced with a knife or a skewer. Remove tinfoil for last 45 minutes to brown bird.

Carefully transfer bird to a cutting board and loosely cover with foil; allow to rest, at least 1 hour. When resting time’s nearly up, skim surface fat from roasting pan and add the flour and stock. Place tray on stovetop and bring to a boil on a high heat. When gravy starts to thicken, strain it into a bowl. Carve your turkey, serve with gravy and dig in!

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Chicago Tribune from Jamie Oliver’s “Cook With Jamie.”

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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