Archive for the ‘Turkey’Category

Château La Nerthe delivers warmth, finesse, and power

Turkey lentil cassoulet with 2012 Château La Nerthe from Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Châteauneuf-du-Pape might be the ultimate late autumn comfort wine. At its best, it’s rich, nuanced, and warm. It has a gentle power that responds to those hormones that surge when the days get shorter. It also plays very well with food.

Château La Nerthe from Châteauneuf-du-Pape on tableThe 2012 Château La Nerthe is the very model of what Hugh Johnson once called “a glowing, roast-chestnut warmth” characteristic of good Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Admittedly, good wines from this southernmost portion of the Rhone cost enough to be out of our league for everyday drinking. But this bottle comes in at a reasonable $65 suggested retail price—closer to $55 at discount wine shops. Just entering its drinking years (now through 2023, we’re told), it blossoms when double-decanted and served at around 60° F. We opened the bottle two hours ahead of dinner and found it tannic and tart. Placed back in the bottle after decanting and rested on a cool windowsill, it was spectacular with a classic cool-weather cassoulet.

Great Châteauneuf-du-Pape in tough year

Châteauneuf-du-Pape had a difficult year in 2012. A severe winter froze a lot of buds and some entire vines. Grenache was afflicted with coulure (a tendency not to develop grapes after flowering). Plus the region had a very dry summer. The 225 acres of vineyards at Château La Nerthe weathered these vicissitudes better than most.

Château La Nerthe vineyard in Châteauneuf-du-Pape Certified organic since 1998, the vineyards depend on a thick layer of glacial cobbles (galettes) that seal in moisture and radiate heat up to the vines at night (see photo at right, courtesy of Château La Nerthe). The vineyards were harvested on schedule in late August. The vintage ended up with a blend of 44% Grenache Noir, 37% Syrah, 14% Mourvedre, and 5% Cinsault. That’s about a quarter less Grenache than usual for Château La Nerthe, but Grenache still dominates the finished wine. The nose is rich with blackberries, dark cherries, and aromatic spices. Hints of oak remain on the palate, and just a hint of leathery Syrah comes through.

It was the ideal wine for the dank weather that followed Thanksgiving in New England. Low turkey prices inspired the following cassoulet using Puy lentils, roasted garlic, and charcoal-roasted turkey thighs in place of duck confit.


cassoulet-for-recipeTurkey is ridiculously cheap in the weeks running up to Thanksgiving. We butcher the birds, saving the breasts to brine and roast separately. The backs and wings go into stock. We slow-roast the thighs and legs in a charcoal grill to produce the next best thing to duck confit without the fat. Rub the legs with 2 teaspoons ras al hanout and 1 teaspoon sea salt and refrigerate in a plastic bag overnight. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the bag and rub well to coat. Roast about 15 minutes per side in closed but vented Weber grill with fire built on the other side of the grill. This produces smoky, overcooked turkey. Let cool and strip the meat. It should yield 12-14 oz. of stringy, smoky pulled turkey.

8 servings


4 ounces smoky thick sliced bacon, cut in 1-inch strips
12 ounces chicken garlic sausage
1 head of garlic
white wine to deglaze pan
meat from charcoal-roasted turkey legs

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
3 medium carrots, peeled, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme

1 bay leaf
2 cups French green lentils (lentilles du Puy)
8 cups chicken or turkey broth, preferably homemade
3 cups breadcrumbs made from day-old white bread (or panko, if necessary)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted, or equal amount of olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley


Set oven at 350ºF. Place half the bacon strips, sausages, and whole head of garlic in heavy-bottomed roasting pan or 12-inch cast iron skillet. Roast 25-30 minutes, turning sausages at least once, until sausages are browned, bacon has rendered its fat, and garlic is roasted through. Remove sausages and bacon to a plate to cool. Place garlic on separate plate to cool. When garlic is cool, cut head in half horizontally and squeeze out roasted garlic for use later with vegetables.

Drain fat from roasting pan into a Dutch oven. Deglaze pan with wine and reserve liquid.

Add remaining bacon to Dutch oven and heat over medium-low until bacon begins to color but is not yet crisp. Remove bacon to plate with sausages and other bacon.

Turn up heat in Dutch oven and add turkey meat. Cook, stirring often, to crisp up edges. Remove from pan and reserve.

Add olive oil to Dutch oven and add onion, carrots, and celery. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to become translucent and vegetables are al dente. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add cayenne, fresh herbs, and the mushy garlic squeezed from roasted head. Cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Remove from pot and reserve.

Turn oven up to 375ºF.

Deglaze Dutch oven with a little chicken stock. Then add lentils and bay leaf. Add remaining stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook about 15 minutes, until lentils are tender but not mushy. Remove bay leaf. Stir in vegetable mixture and turkey. Cut cooked sausages into 1/2 inch slices and stir in. Add reserved deglazing liquid.

Assemble and finish

At this point you can transfer everything into a 4 quart casserole, if desired, but the Dutch oven will work fine as well. Mix bread crumbs with melted butter and spread evenly over surface. Place lid on Dutch oven or casserole (or use aluminum foil) and bake in oven about 30 minutes. Remove lid or foil and continue cooking another 20 minutes until breadcrumb topping has turned dark gold.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Let rest about 15 minutes before serving with a green salad topped with pear slices and dressed with a mustardy, garlicky vinaigrette.


12 2016

Grits with black truffle and poached eggs

grits with black truffle and poached egg
As Pat and I developed ways to use black truffles, we generally opted for the simplest and most straightforward combinations. Keeping in mind that truffles pair well with corn—and that northern Italians sometimes eat truffles on polenta—we decided to try truffles with some of the best grits we’ve been able to lay hands on. We’ll be writing shortly about our food and drink visit to central Kentucky, where we had the good fortune to drive from Lexington out to Midway to visit Weisenberger Mill. This is a truly old-fashioned mill that has been stone-grinding grain for six generations, starting in 1865. Living in Yankeeville, we have a hard time finding good white grits, but now know we can order them online from Weisenberger at Their grits are ground from locally grown non-GMO corn. They even put the name of the farm on the package. Ours came from the Rogers Farm in Hardin County, Kentucky.

For this truffle dish, we made the grits according to the directions on the package. It really doesn’t get any easier than that. The eggs that we poached had been stored in a sealed container with a truffle for about three days to pick up the truffle aroma. Along with being simple, it looks great on the table with sunflowers from the garden. Don’t forget to order your Australian black truffles from The Truffle and Wine Company’s USA office at



Serves 2

2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grits
salt and butter to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 eggs
10 grams black truffle

In a medium saucepan, bring water to boil and add salt. Stir water to create a swirling motion and pout in grits. Bring to boil while continuing to stir. Reduce heat and cover. Cook 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 2 inches of water in a large, deep frying pan. (A cast iron chicken cooker is perfect.) Bring to boil, reduce heat, and cover until grits are done. When grits are ready, season to taste with additional salt and butter.

Add 1 teaspoon salt and vinegar to water in deep frying pan. Break each egg into a shallow bowl and lower into simmering water. Let cook about 3 minutes, or until whites are largely set and yolk is still runny.

Spoon grits into two serving bowls. Using a slotted spoon, lift each poached egg onto grits. Shave truffle over top and break the yolks to flow over grits.


07 2015

It’s always Thanksgiving at Hart’s

Hart's Turkey Farm story in Boston Globe The motto at Hart’s Turkey Farm is that “every day is Thanksgiving” at this family-dining fixture. It sits in Meredith, New Hampshire, on the west side of Lake Winnipesaukee. Truth is, the busiest days of the fall season are already over. The place was jammed over Columbus Day weekend. But they’re gearing up for the onslaught of diners (probably around 1,600) on Thanksgiving Day.

On a busy day, Hart’s serves more than a ton of turkey and 40 gallons of gravy. Most diners choose the turkey plate with gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a choice of vegetable and potato. It is available in three serving sizes with either all white meat, or a mixture of white and dark meat. The jumbo plate can even be ordered with a spare plate for sharing.

We had fun writing about the Granite State fixture for the Boston Globe. We hope you click your way over to read all about it. If you’re planning to visit on Thanksgiving, be prepared for a wait of around 45 minutes. You can sit outdoors in the tented beer garden, watching TV until you’re called–almost just like home.


11 2014

Two favorite restaurants in Istanbul

Ulus 01 Whether you prefer to go fancy or casual, we found great food in Istanbul. Shown above was our table at Ulus 29 (Adnan Saygun Caddesi, Ulus Parkı İçi No:71/1, tel: +90 212-358-2929,, one of the city’s top restaurants, where we met designer Zeynep Fadillioğlu and her husband Metin. He owns Ulus 29, and she designed it. Placed on a hillside overlooking the Bosphorus Strait, the restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s worth dining here just for the view. Ulus 02

The food is pretty spectacular as well, leaning toward contemporary fine European cuisine. While we made a point of eating a lot of Turkish meze and drinking Turkish wine, we also ordered some dishes that wouldn’t have been out of place at an upscale restaurant in Paris. Among them were the bone marrow appetizer and the whole sea bream cooked en papillote. Both are shown here. Ulus 03We also tried a Turkish classic: the Ulus 29 version of a doner kebab, which has been on the menu since the restaurant opened. People dress up to dine here and often stay until the wee hours at the lounge to drink and dance.

Ciya 01
Ciya Sofrasi (Caferağa Mh., Güneşli Bahçe Sk No:43, Kadiköy, tel +90 216-330-3190, is one of the most celebrated of Istanbul’s lokantasi, or high-class buffet restaurants. It’s on the Asian side of town in Kadiköy, about a 20-minute ferry ride from the fish restaurants under the Galata Bridge. The chef here is Musa Dagdeviren, and he’s gotten a lot of well-deserved press. Once you find the right street, you simply have to keep walking through the fresh market until you reach Ciya.

Ciya 02 Like most lokantasi, you need to look at the various hot offerings and point, indicate how many servings, and take the order slip that the cook will give you. Then you load up your plate with the cold offerings (priced by weight), take a seat, and give your order slip to the waiter. In minutes your meal will suddenly appear.

Ciya 03There is a printed menu available in English, German, and Turkish, but it bears only a slight relation to what’s being served on any given day, so the waitstaff is reluctant to offer it. We ordered extensively – meatballs stewed in beef-onion broth, red lentil soup, chard leaves stuffed with bulgur, steamed bulgur with chopped tomatoes, a vegetable-lamb stew, and some local beer and soda. The grand total was about $46.


04 2013

An Istanbul take on mideastern muhamarra

P1000932 One pleasure of dining in Istanbul was getting reacquainted with muhamarra, the walnut and pomegranate spread found all around the Middle and Near East. We buy it at home from Samira’s Homemade in Belmont, where Lebanon-born Samira Hamdoun fashions all sort of tasty spreads. But we found it on every mezze tray in Istanbul, and decided we had to learn to make it for ourselves. Fortunately, our friend Elif Aydar of the Marti hotel group gave us her own recipe.

It was a bit of a challenge to adapt, since we can’t pop into the grocery store for red pepper paste or sour pomegranate condiment. Moreover, colloquial kitchen measurements differ between Turkey and the U.S. and the breads have different textures. But with a little experimentation, we figured it out. One unusual aspect of Elif’s recipe is that she uses a little bit of soft cheese. Using chevre provides a nice tang and smooths out the consistency.

While we’d normally reach for the food processor to make a spread, we elected to use hand tools for this one to keep a certain amount of texture. It’s worth the trouble to grind with a mortar and pestle, chop with a knife, and grate to produce soft bread crumbs.



3/4 cup walnut halves
2 roasted red peppers, skin and membranes removed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 English muffin, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons chevre
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon crushed Aleppo pepper
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1/3 cup olive oil


1. Using mortar and pestle, crush walnut pieces to texture of coarse meal.

2. On chopping board, finely mince red peppers. Add to walnuts and blend well. P1030712

3. Add garlic, grated muffin, chevre, cumin, and Aleppo pepper. Mix well. Stir in pomegranate molasses, then olive oil.

Serve at room temperature with triangles of pita bread or as a dressing for meat or fish. We like it as a spread for sandwiches made with sliced roast chicken. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.


04 2013

What to bring home from a Turkish grocery store

Turk 1 Yusuf Kilig When we were in Istanbul last week, we were surprised to discover that it’s common for unmarried men and women to live with their families well into their 30s. So when we asked our first guide, who is 30-something, what to buy in a grocery store, he was utterly clueless. His mother does all the cooking, and apparently all the shopping too. He’s not even sure what’s in her recipes.

Turk 2 Olive oil But our second guide proved a more modern young Turk. Yusuf Kilig works in Istanbul, far from his family’s village in the south, and shares a flat with roommates. He knows his way around the kitchen, and the supermarket aisles as well. Yusuf had also worked for a few months at Walt Disney World in Orlando, and remembered vividly the foods he couldn’t find at the local Publix. So off we went to Migros, where we discovered that vivid packaging helped ameliorate our inability to read Turkish.

Turk 3 coffee Because he grew up in an olive oil producing region, Yusuf is particularly knowledgeable (or at least opinionated) about which oils are best. He recommends the Kirangic Çökeltme extra-virgin oil as Turkey’s finest. And he has strong feelings about the best Turkish coffee (Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi).

Turk 4 mantiAlthough he cooks a lot of simple meals from scratch, Yusuf is a big proponent of dried soups and spice mixes for dips. The classic red lentil soup of Turkey (ezogelin çorbasi) is widely available as a dried mix in pouches, and the spices to make a tomato dip (domates çeşnisi) or a yogurt dip (yoğurt çeşnisi) speed the process of getting an assortment of mezes on the table. They’re often found together with the vast array of dried soup mixes, many of them made by the Turkish branch of the Swiss firm Knorr. One of our favorites proved to be manti soup – a yogurt broth with tiny pieces of pasta wrapping bits of ground lamb and mint. Yusuf, though, is partial to tarhana soup – an ancient dish made from a mixture of yogurt, cracked wheat, and vegetables that have been fermented together, then dried. Cooks all over Turkey rehydrate it and chop some red peppers on top to make soup. Turk 5  tarhana

“It’s what your mother makes for you when you’re sick,” says Yusuf.


03 2013
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