Foodie Chap With Chef Alison Mountford of Square Meals
KCBS Foodie Chap Podcast:
Square Meals was started by Alison Mountford in 2006 and has since grown from a one woman, personal cheffing business to a thriving small business with a passionate team hailing from all over the map. Our goal is to re-imagine what take-away food can be: to elevate it from greasy containers and unhealthy calorie splurges to wholesome meals and fresh, tasty dishes you can feel good about eating.
Alison grew up in a small town in Rhode Island and began cooking in high school to taste dishes that just weren’t available there. After high school she went to NYU and got a degree in anthropology then moved to San Francisco just to see the west coast. She worked in sales for a year before she enrolled in the California Culinary Academy to unite her desires to start a business and cook professionally.
“For Thanksgiving, plan and prep ahead and leave plently of time to enjoy with family and friends.”
- Chef Alison Mountford, “Square Meals”
Square Meals has grown from cooking in people’s home kitchens, to catering, to working out of commissary kitchens and as of 2011, a permanent home on Polk Street. They cater private and corporate events, serve top-notch prepared foods 7 days a week, and also deliver full meals to families around the city.
Alison has some terrific turkey tips for your THANKSGIVING gathering. Her scumptious turkey recipe is on the site below. And as she told me ” keep it simple, prep as much ahead of time and enjoy your day with family and friends”. And if you need a few things prepped for you SQUARE MEALS may be the ones to turn to but sooner rather than later.
“5 Questions with Chef Alison Mountford”
Classic Herb Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey with Pan Gravy
Serves 8-12 people depending on how many leftovers you crave!
3# Turkey Parts (legs, necks, wings, backs – if you can’t get these ahead, it wouldn’t be the end of the world to substitute chicken bones from your butcher)
1 yellow onion
6 cloves garlic
1 stalk celery
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
One 14-16 pound Turkey – ideally, organic and humanely raised but not a heritage breed
1.5 Tablespoons Salt
1 teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
5 Tablespoons mixed chopped winter herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram, parsley)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 yellow onions
6 cloves garlic
1 stalk celery
I like to make this the week before the holiday to get it out of the way. Its essential to making gravy on the day of Thanksgiving. You can purchase turkey parts at a good butcher shop usually the week before, when in doubt, turkey legs are always available and you can sub in some chicken bones.
Roast bones and legs in a roasting pan at 350 degrees until nicely browned all over – about 45-50 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and transfer everything to a large pot. Set the roasting pan over medium high heat, and when hot, deglaze with 1 cup of white wine, then 3 cups of water. Bring to a simmer and scrape up the brown bits. Add the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns to the pot with the bones and cover with about 6 additional cups of water. Bring to a simmer. When the brown bits are off the bottom of your roasting pan, add that liquid to your stock pot.
Bring stock to a simmer and cook, gently simmering, for about 1 hour.
Cool stock off the heat for another 30 minutes.
Then, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot or other vessel to cool.
Cool completely then transfer to a Tupperware or other airtight container. Store in the freezer for 3 months or in the fridge for up to 5 days.
3 days in advance – Make sure you bring your turkey home and let it defrost.
1. Bring your butter to room temperature and chop your mixed herbs finely. Mix herbs into the butter. Mix in the lemon zest and juice. Store the butter in an airtight container until needed.
1 Day before Thanksgiving – remove your turkey from the fridge, make sure its defrosted. If not, submerge it in a bucket of cool water in the sink for a few hours – when you do this, be sure to keep a thin stream of running water circulating in the bucket in your sink so the water is constantly cool and moving. Don’t leave it longer than 3 hours.
2. Remove packaging, remove the plastic or metal leg clip, remove guts/backbones/giblets. Dry off the turkey inside and out. Rub inside and skin outside with 1.5 Tablespoons of kosher salt. Place turkey in a roasting pan or sheet tray and let it sit uncovered in your fridge overnight.
Day Of Thanksgiving
1. Remove your turkey from the fridge 2 hours before you plan to start cooking it! Remove your herb butter as well. Let it sit at room temperature.
2. Coarsely chop your onions, carrot, celery and toss with garlic in the bottom of your roasting pan.
3. Starting at the neck, gently put your fingers and hand between the skin and the meat of the breast. Be careful you don’t poke through the skin with your fingernails. Work your way down to the legs, and up over the top of the meat there, still under the skin.
4. Generously massage all of your herb butter under the skin, pushing it up into the legs and over the whole breast. Add a little salt as you go – about 1 teaspoon for the whole bird.
5. Fold back the wing tips so they stay tucked back, and tie the drumsticks loosely together with a little twine. Place bird breast side up, over the chopped veggies. Pour about 1 cup of your premade stock into the bottom of the roasting pan.
6. Place in the oven at 450 degrees. Put your turkey in with the rack near the bottom 2/3 of the oven. Turn temperature down to 375 after 10 minutes.
In the last hour of cooking, baste the skin with butter – I like to use a brush and melted butter, or use a cold stick of butter partially unwrapped, you can just rub it on the skin. Do this twice in the last hour of cooking for really beautiful skin. If any part starts to look too brown, you can loosely cover it with foil.
7. The turkey should be the ONLY thing in the oven save your side dishes for after its cooked, while its resting. The classic rule is about 13 minutes of cooking per pound (or about 3 hours for a 14-16# bird) but unstuffed, and in a hotter oven, I find it goes quickly.
8. To test if its done, a reliable thermometer is the only way to take the guessing out of it! Insert near the thigh, as deeply as you can, but be sure you don’t touch bone. Remove the turkey from the oven between 160-165. Transfer bird to another pan and tent the turkey with foil for at least 35 and up to 60 minutes. This is when I put all of my side dishes in the oven!
9. Strain out the veggies from the pan and reserve the juices and fat. Spoon off the fat and reserve it, mix the clear juices with the stock you’ve previously prepared. Place the roasting pan over the flame of your stove and put it on medium heat. Deglaze pan with ½ cup white wine. Cook until its reduced and whisk constantly to pick up the brown bits. Set aside.
10. In a heavy bottomed pot, add your turkey fat, about ¼ cup (strain this off the top of the liquid you poured out of the pan. Make up any extra with butter). Then add ¼ cup flour and whisk for about 4 minutes. Slowly whisk in the pan juices and stock mixture – about 4 cups worth. Whisk constantly into the roux so it doesn’t clump. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring often, especially on the bottom of the pan where it will thicken first. Cook gravy for about 15-20 minutes until you reach the desired consistency. (If you’ve saved and cooked them, you can add your chopped gizzards here.)
When the gravy is cooked, finish with a splash of sherry, grand mariner, or lemon juice for a little balance.
Day Of Thanksgiving – Carve your Turkey
1. The only way to carve a turkey is in the kitchen. So, show off that bird to your guests, then bring it back to your cutting board. Remove the legs and thighs in once piece and set them aside.
2. Remove the wishbone from the front.
3. Slice down the center of the 2 breast pieces, once on either side of the bone that runs the length of the breast. Follow the lobe around the bottom and up underneath the ribcage to remove each breast in one piece. Slice across the grain of the meat so a piece of skin tops each slice.
4. Slice your drumsticks and thigh meat off and around the bone. I like to now re-platter all of the meat on a nice platter and garnish with herbs and fruit. Serve with gravy.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING to one and all!
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