Deep-Fried Turkey – It’s a “Guy Thing”

November 23, 2009

What activity provides the opportunity to buy dangerous new gear, play with fire, drink beer out-of-doors, and potentially burn down your house?  You guessed it, we’re deep-frying a turkey!

 Actually, I deep-fried my turkey a couple of years ago, and I’ll be doing it again this year, though not for Thanksgiving – we’ll be out of town with family.  When I last had Thanksgiving dinner at my house, I decided to go the deep-fried route.  After all, the method has quite a few advantages over roasting.  The bird takes an hour to cook instead of four or more, the resulting product is very tender and much moister than a comparable roast turkey, and the skin is crispy and tasty beyond belief.  On the other hand, there’s that issue with potentially burning down your house and, worse yet, risking the possibility of third degree burns over your entire body!  Yep, that’s what makes it attractive to guys.  There’s nothing more exciting than risking your life to deliver dinner to the family. 

All levity aside, this is actually an activity you should NOT ENTER INTO LIGHTLY.  I highly recommend that you read up on the safety issues associated with outdoor fryers well before you try this.  Get a good turkey fryer, not a cheap one.  This means sturdy, heavy, and with regard to the burner, powerful but controllable.  Read all instructions.  Then read the accounts of others who’ve done it successfully, i.e., without burning down the house or ending the day in the emergency room. 

The propane hose is wrapped in foil for protection. Note the fire extinguisher under the table.

I strongly suggest that you look at Alton Brown’s recipe at  Alton actually goes overboard on the safety aspects, but I must agree with most of his recommendations, especially the part about having a fire extinguisher handy! 

I followed most of Alton’s instructions, starting with brining the turkey for 16 hours before frying.  This is accomplished by icing down the turkey in a large cooler and immersing it in brine containing ice water, kosher salt, and brown sugar.  This process will keep the turkey moist, improve the browning of the skin, and dramatically enhance the flavor. 

I did NOT build a turkey derrick, as Alton suggests in his video, but otherwise I followed his safety recommendations.  He suggests that you place the turkey into the oil at 250 degrees, then bring the temperature up to 350.  Removing the turkey at an internal temperature of 151 degrees will result in a final internal temperature of 160 or so.  I prefer to go a bit higher than that, so I removed the turkey at 160 and it drifted up to about 172.

The result is shown below.  I think everyone should try this at least once.  Once you do, you may never go back to roasting.  One final suggestion: don’t drink too much beer until the turkey is safely on the platter!

The final product - yum!

Myrtle Beach Notes, Vol.1

October 26, 2009

 In the course of my job search, I decided to contact a few former business acquaintances and explore the employment opportunities elsewhere.  For various reasons, we elected to visit South Carolina.  A very good friend offered us the use of his condominium in Myrtle Beach, and that made the trip feasible.  So Sally, Andy, Sally’s parents, and I packed up the van and headed south.

 The first day we travelled through Ohio, West Virginia, and into North Carolina, stopping in Winston-Salem.  It rained incessantly throughout the entire journey.  Southern hospitality prevailed at the Holiday Inn Express, where we spent our first night out.  Although the Winston-Salem property is not of the newest design, the staff was courteous and friendly, and their service more than made up for any deficiencies in the facility.

We stopped at the Huddle House for a quick lunch, consisting of a chopped pork barbecue sandwich and onion rings.  I wasn’t expecting much from the BBQ, since Huddle House is a chain, albeit a small regional one. However, I was amazed to find that the chopped pork here is the real thing.  The sauce was sweeter than one would get further south, but very smoky, with a strong hint of spiciness.  The meat was slow-cooked, and the crusty burnt ends were chopped up along with everything else, resulting in a product that most Northerners wouldn’t even recognize as what they call barbecue. 

 We finally got a chance to walk on the beach and pick up a few shells the following morning.  Haven’t found any shark teeth yet, but we did get a chance to photograph some of the plant life, etc.

We had lunch north of Myrtle Beach, at Mama Jean’s Home Cooking, where we got some more barbecue, this time with the more familiar South Carolina vinegar-based sauce.  Again, the meat was sumptuous, and the coleslaw and hushpuppies completed the feast.  Magnificent!

After lunch, we checked out an antique mall and did some shopping. We decided to look for pizza near the condo, and luckily, found the Mellow Mushroom a stone’s throw away. Their pizza is incredible, loaded with toppings on a garlic-parmesan crust I can’t begin to describe. As Yogi Berra used to say, “Don’t miss it if you can.” Or something like that.

Gotta do some business tomorrow, but I’ll be posting more pics as the week progresses!


I Miss Zantigo Chilitos!

October 9, 2009

LogoOnce upon a time, long,  long ago (actually, it was in the 70’s), in a galaxy (a city really, Norwood in fact), far, far away (250 miles to be specific) there was a Mexican fast food restaurant called Zantigo’s.   The Zantigo chain had a reputation for fresh, fast, simple, flavorful Tex-Mex at low prices.  Without a doubt, the most memorable item on their menu was an item known as the Chilito, a wonderful mixture of chili and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla.  The Chilito was not merely a wonderful fast food product, but it was, beyond doubt, the perfect eating-while-driving entree.  The chili-cheese ratio was perfectly balanced to insure that after a minute or so of cooling off, the chilito simply would not drip, run, or drop into the lap of the unsuspecting driver.  Three chilitos was the minimum order for a real man (or woman), and to a Zantigo’s aficionado, there was simply no substitute.

Alas, Zantigo’s was a small operation, lacking the gargantuan funding of their primary competitor, Taco Bell (owned by the even more gargantuan PepsiCo), and as time went by, Pepsico took notice of Zantigo’s market penetration.  Eventually, PepsiCo bought Zantigo’s and folded their locations into the Taco Bell chain.  Some of us were aware of the acquisition, and took whatever measures we could to stave off the inevitable.  A friend of mine actually stockpiled Zantigo’s taco sauce packets in his freezer to ward off the day when he would no longer have access to its spicy goodness.  Even I was saddened when he informed me, about two and a half years later, that he had finally run out. 

When Taco Bell absorbed Zantigo’s, the Taco Bell menu took precedence.  Zantigo’s essentially disappeared.  But one small trace remained, a trace that still appears occasionally even today.  It’s called the chili-cheese burrito, and it’s pretty good, although Taco Bell simply can’t seem to get the proportions of chili and cheese right to make it a driving food.  You really don’t want to try eating a chili-cheese burrito in the car without a couple of napkins in your lap.  Nevertheless, it’s the only thing most of us have left by which to remember Zantigo’s (Ha! You thought I was going to end that sentence with a preposition, didn’t you?).

But this story has a (sort of) happy ending.  It seems that two brothers, Don and Kevin (no last names given on their website) have purchased the trademarks, recipes, and franchising rights to the Zantigo restaurants, and now have six locations in operation.  Unfortunately, all the locations are in Minnesota, so for the time being, I’m not likely to get a fix for my Zantigo jones any time soon.

So, today in Elyria, Ohio, I found a Taco Bell that was still serving the chili-cheese burrito, and consumed one reverently with a Diet Pepsi,  all the while silently praying for the success of a couple of fellows named Kevin and Don, somewhere in Minnesota….

Zantigo's menu - almost worth a drive to Minnesota!

Zantigo's menu - almost worth a drive to Minnesota!

Note: the parenthetical comment about ending a sentence with a preposition is inserted in honor of my high school English teacher, Sarah Kensinger, who is often in my thoughts as I compose this blog.

Apple Butter Braised Pork Chops

September 30, 2009

 Sally made apple butter this weekend, (see her blog: North Coast Muse) and we had a nice pork loin in the freezer, so I decided to see what I could do with available ingredients.   I thawed the loin and sliced off four chops about ¾” thick.  Seasoning the chops liberally with salt, fresh ground black pepper and powdered ancho chiles on both sides, I seared them in a large, hot skillet on the stovetop.  Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees F. 

When the chops were brown on both sides, I deglazed the pan with a cheap chardonnay wine (about 1 cup).  Then I added approximately 8 ounces of Sally’s homemade apple butter, spreading it thickly over the top of each chop. 

Pork chops in the skillet after the apple butter was added.

Pork chops in the skillet after the apple butter was added.

Keeping the heat at medium high, I brought the mixture to a boil, reduced heat to a simmer, and placed the lid on the skillet.  I simmered the mixture for about 15 minutes, checked the liquid level (add more wine here if it’s getting too low), and placed the skillet, covered, into the oven.

I left the skillet in the oven for about 45 minutes, checking only once to be sure the sauce wasn’t beginning to burn.  When the skillet comes out of the oven, it may be necessary to reduce the sauce somewhat, but I didn’t need to do so.  Here’s the finished product:
The pork chops are firm but tender, and the sauce is very tasty!

The pork chops are firm but tender, and the sauce is very tasty!

If you have more time you could reduce the oven temperature and braise it a while longer, but this first pass worked pretty well.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

The Joy of Empanadas (or, How to Make Leftovers Presentable!)

July 19, 2009

I’m convinced that the first empanadas were made by an enterprising Mexican cook who was faced with unexpected dinner guests and a pile of unappetizing leftovers with which to create a meal.   You can stuff almost anything into an empanada shell, deep fry it, and create something that tastes better than the sum of its parts.  That’s what I call cooking for real men!  Unidentifiable morsels of meat soaked in chiles and sauce, wrapped in a pastry shell, and deep fried in hot grease – heavenly!!

Here’s what I came up with tonight at the spur of the moment.  A sort of Hostess Pig Pie, if you will, created from the remnants of Alton Brown’s Grilled Pork Tenderloin (, a can of salsa, and 10 Goya Empanada Discs.  Here are the specifics, though you can deviate to the max and still have a good meal:


Leftover Pork Empanadas

3/4 to 1 lb. leftover pork tenderloin (or pulled pork, or whatever’s handy)

1   7-3/4 oz. can El Pato Jalapeno Salsa (or about 1 cup of whatever you like)

1 pkg. Goya Empanada discs

Canola or other high temperature cooking oil

Shred and/or chop the pork.  Pour on the salsa.  Mix.

Use a serving spoon to deliver 1-1/2 to 2 Tbs. of the pork filling to the center of each empanada disc.  Using your finger dipped in icewater, wet the outside edge of the disc where you’ll be crimping the edges together.  Fold the empanada in half, join the two edges and crimp with a small fork.

In a large saucepan, place enough oil to submerge the empanadas, and heat to 360 degrees F.  Use a meat thermometer, and try to keep the oil temperature between 325 and 375 at all times.   Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to fry as few as two empanadas at a time.  When they float to the top, turn once or twice to brown them evenly.  If fully submerged, they will require about 2 minutes total cooking time to become golden brown.  Remove and drain on paper towels.   Serve with your favorite condiments and a side dish of vegetables, or whatever you like.


The nice thing about empanadas is that the filling can be made from almost anything from savory to sweet, from meat to vegetables to fruit.   They make great lunch entrees, dessert items, or appetizers.  Have fun!!



I’m Still Alive, Just Too Lazy to Write!

July 7, 2009

I’ve been very lax about catching up here since we returned from vacation.  The Wednesday after I started back to work, I had to fly to North Carolina, where I spent three days making sales calls with one of our distributors.  Normally this would be an opportunity to catch up on my indulgence in southern barbecue, but not this time!  The day before I left, I broke a back molar, which had to be extracted, leaving me on a liquid and jello diet for the entirety of the trip!   So, the hospitality was great, but the food was nonexistent..

 I suggest you look at Sally’s blog for the account of our day in Ashtabula for the Beach Glass Festival.  It was great fun, and the remainder of the day was equally nice.  We rode about ten miles on the bike trail in Austinburg, then had a picnic in the township park nearby.  All in all, just about a perfect day.

No trip to Ashtabula is complete without a trip to the overlook!

No trip to Ashtabula is complete without a trip to the overlook!

This weekend we took in the Mesopotamia Ox Roast, and annual benefit for the volunteer fire department.  It’s an annual affair, and the food and the flea market make the trip worthwhile.  Mesopotamia is in Amish country, so the horses and buggies are everywhere. 

The Hitchin' Post

The Hitchin' Post

It takes a lot of beef to serve up 15,000 sandwiches in three days!

The smell is amazing!!

The smell is amazing!!

The line for the food is very long, but it moves fast, and the conversation can be very amusing.

Great roast beef, but the sauce could use a little more spice!

Great roast beef, but the sauce could use a little more spice!

Hey, this guy's been to Paint Creek Lake

Hey, this guy's been to Paint Creek Lake!

I particularly enjoyed listening to an obvious city-dweller asking an Amish lady how they keep their horses from breaking loose when they’re tied to the hitching post.  She patiently explained that the reins are attached to a neck rope, and they can’t pull back without choking!  

Hey, cutie, whattaya say we bust outta this place and go sow a few wild oats?

Hey, cutie, whattaya say we bust outta this place and go sow a few wild oats?

The flea market had some cool items, including a few vintage bikes (my particular weakness), but nothing really that interesting.

Once again, check out Sally’s blog for more info and photos.  

 We headed out to Middlefield in search of dessert, and unfortunately found ourselves at a very tempting and well-known locale, Mary Yoder’s Amish Kitchen.  We ordered “Homemade pie” and were asked if we wanted ice cream on it.  We both said yes, and neither of us asked either the kind of ice cream or the price.  What we eventually got was a shot of soft-serve vanilla on top of the most obviously commercially-prepared pie I’ve ever eaten.   Then to make matters worse, the price of that ice cream was almost equal to the price of the pie!  I won’t rant any further about this place except to say this:  Don’t waste your time or your money coming here.  Most people coming to an Amish restaurant are expecting a little place where everything is made from scratch, or at least using minimal prepared ingredients.  This place is one step above the school cafeteria! 

On the 4th of July, I finally got back on the bike for another 10-mile jaunt.  This ride was at Headlands Beach, close to home.  The ride was a little more strenuous than the Austinburg trip, and I’m hoping to get back in shape before the summer is over.  More on that subject to come…..

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