Category Archives: Recipes

Chef Aram Reed shares his creations with the world

National Burger Month

Yes, National Burger Month is a thing. We’ve all become accustomed to the dozens of food holidays. And while I typically snub these fake holidays, there’s no resisting the burger.

I’m sure you have your favorite burger spot (Longman and Eagle for me), but if you’re looking to make a delicious burger at home, here are a couple of recipes that I like to make.

One question that I always get is about the best cut for a burger. I like to use a mix of grass-fed, free-range beef: 50% Sirloin (Ground), 25% Chuck, 25% Brisket (Ground).  Now, let’s get started!

The Working Man's Burger

The Working Man’s Burger

The Working Man’s burger is a burger that I originally created on The Next Great Burger. This burger has everything you love in a burger and more.

The Working Man’s Burger

Ingredients
1 lbs. sirloin (grass-fed or free-range for all three beef)
1/2 lbs. brisket
1/2 lbs. chuck
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
6 pretzel rolls
1 small red onion
3 garlic cloves
6 farm-free eggs
1 lbs. applewood smoked bacon
1/2 lbs. aged extra sharp Wisconsin cheddar
6 Roma tomatoes
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. hickory flavoring
2 Tbsp. steak and chop  rub
1 Tbsp. black lava salt.

Method
Grind meat, prep onions and garlic, finish meat and form patties. Grill tomatoes for 10-20 minutes. Brown the butter rolls on the flattop. Sauté bacon on the flattop. Cook eggs in a pan on the flattop. Take grilled tomatoes and finish them in a blender. After 20-30 minutes, put burgers on the grill. Then plate everything together.

Strawberry Chutney and Brie Burger

It may sound strange, but the strawberry chutney—made with raisins, brown sugar, lemon juice, honey, and red wine vinegar—complements the Brie and adds a dash of sweetness to an otherwise savory and hearty dish. Use burger recipe as shown above to make your patty and choose the bun of your choice.

Strawberry Chutney
1⁄4 c Raisins
1⁄4 C brown sugar
1⁄4 lemon juice
1⁄4 red wine, apple cider or raspberry vinegar
2 T honey
2 C fresh strawberries

Directions
In small pot, add first five ingredients and put over medium high heat, until boils. Stir in Strawberries. Down to a simmer for 10 min or until begins to thicken. Let cool and serve a top burger. To finish with a burger, Use our standard burger recipe, top with melted Brie, mesclun greens and our strawberry chutney.

Chers!
Chef Aram

Vacation Shrimp Ceviche

On the sunny beaches of  Mexico!

On the sunny beaches of Mexico!

 

As much as I love Chicago, there’s nothing better than getting away from the city for a little R & R on the beach. Spending several days south of the boarder definitely did my body (and belly) good! 

Without a doubt, Mexico is full of amazing food. Even a  simple plate of tacos just tastes better in Mexico. In fact, I loved the tacos so much so that my vacation diet primarily consisted of tacos and ceviche…and booze!

Early morning beachtime!

Early morning beachtime!

 

Now, I’m back in Chicago and I find myself craving those simple and traditional dishes of Mexico. With Daylight Savings under our belts, we’re well on our way to the spring and summer seasons. Soon enough, it’ll be warm enough for all of us to lounge on our city’s awesome beaches and take in Lake Michigan.

But until then, I’m going to savor my trip to Mexico. And don’t worry. You know I never travel without bringing something special back just for you. How about a little Shrimp Ceviche? Yeah, I thought that’d get you excited. My vacation-inspired recipe for shrimp ceviche is bright and full of flavor. Get the full recipe below and treat yourself to a little Mexico at home!

Cheers!
Chef Aram

 

Chef Aram’s Vacation Shrimp Ceviche

Ingredients:
1 and .5 cup fresh lime juice
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 medium white onion, small dice
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
6 plum tomato, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and small diced
1 to 2 tablespoons vinegary Mexican bottled hot sauce (such as Tamazula or Valentina)
About 2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
1 cup diced peeled seedless cucumber
1 small ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
Salt
Several lime slices for garnish
Serve along tostadas or tortilla chips

Technique:
Place shrimp in glass bowl and cover with lime juice for ~10-15 min or until becomes pink and opaque. In separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Remove shrimp from lime juice and small dice shrimp. Add shrimp to vegetables and pour in second batch of lime juice. Season to taste.

Spiced Shrimp w/ Mango Jicama Salsa

Well, we’ve made it through the first couple of weeks of the new year with our resolutions still in tact, right? No worries if you’ve already fallen off the wagon. Let’s get back on it — together.

I’ve created a bunch of new healthy menus for the new year that will help you reach your goals without sacrificing the joy of eating. More details about that below.

Healthy menu revised-02

As we make our way through these cold winter months, let’s heat it up a little with my Spiced Shrimp. The key to this dish is to avoid overcooking the shrimp. Just a couple of minutes on each side. Full recipe below!


Spiced Shrimp with Mango Jicama Salsa 

shrimp ar

Ingredients:
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 jicama, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
1⁄2 small red onion, diced
1⁄4 fresh cilantro, minced
1 lime, juiced
2lb shrimp
3T Spanish spice blend

Technique:
Combine first four ingredients in small bowl, add salt to season. In second bowl, add peeled and deveined shrimp and spices with 1T of oil. Mix thoroughly to marinate. Heat large sauté pan on medium-hi heat. Add oil and swirl around in pan. Sear shrimp until nice browning occurs and shrimp becomes opaque. Finish cooking on other side 2-3 min. Serve shrimp over salsa.

I can’t wait to hear all about your healthy resolutions and create your special menu. Shoot me an email at chefaramreed[at]chefaramreed[dot]com and let’s get started!

Cheers!
Chef Aram

Bourbon Pork Chop

Going Beyond the Grill

WGN Selfie June 2015

My standard behind the scenes selfie! Happy to be back at WGN!

A slew of grilled recipes seem to circulate like crazy around Father’s Day.  I have no idea why grills and grilling are always associated with dads, but I’m pretty sure that dads love many types of food in a variety of preparation methods — not just grilled!

While planning the dish that I was to prepare for a recent Father’s Day segment on WGN, I realized that dads across the county are probably sick of the same old stuff.  So, I created a dish that was special but still satisfying and easy to prepare in your home kitchen.  Dads, you can thank me later.

Before you get started, I have a quick PSA… do not overcook your pork chop!  There’s nothing worse than a tough dried out pork chop.  Trust me, there’s no saving it once it’s been overcooked.  As you’ll see in the segment, I cook the pork chop  on just one side on the stovetop and then I transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking it for 10-12 minutes.  This will result in a perfectly cooked, juicy and tender piece of meat.   Here’s the recipe below and you can watch the full segment here.

 

Bourbon Pork Chop

A collection of shots from my segment! Photo: Kristina Miller

 

Pork Chop with Bourbon Glaze Over Spinach Greens

Ingredients
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon bourbon
2 bone in 1” thick pork chops
1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:
In a bowl, mix together the mustard, brown sugar, and bourbon. Rub the pork with the garlic and any preferred house seasoning, then brush with half the glaze. Pre-heat oven to 375F. Season pork with salt, pepper or spice rub of choice. Bring burner to medium high heat, sear one side of pork for 4-5 minutes or until nice browning occurs. Then flip pork over, top with glaze and finish in oven for 10 minutes or until pork has internal temperature of 165F. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Apply additional glaze over pork and serve over spinach greens. Garnish with Heirloom Tomato.

There you have it!  As always, I love seeing photos of your dishes, so be sure to tag me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Cheers to all the dads!

Chef Aram

The Power of Grilled Cheese

Truth be told, I’m not a fan of food holidays. It’s all gotten completely out of hand. Everyday seems to be some sort of food holiday—National Muffin Month, Turkey Burger On A Pretzel Roll Day, National Chocolate Covered Strawberry Week—you name it. The funny thing is, everybody knows these aren’t real holidays. I mean, there’s no patron saint of muffins, is there? Nope, just a group of really smart marketers. Yet we celebrate these days with enthusiasm. Well, bah humbug!

I recently found out we’re in the middle of National Grilled Cheese Month and the weirdest thing happened—I got a little excited about it. I mean, I love a good grilled cheese sandwich as much as the next guy. Oftentimes, it’s the simple foods that connect at an emotional level and spark nostalgia. Grilled cheese embodies “back in the day” and it’s the ultimate comfort food. For that reason, I decided to momentarily push my disdain aside and embrace this food holiday. But for the sake of this blog post, I’m going to ditch the lame name and call it NGCM.

Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

Since my appearance on Guy’s Grocery Games, so many people have asked me about the grilled cheese sandwich that I made on the show. So, in honor of NGCM, here’s my Outrageous Grilled Cheese, similar to the one that I made on Grocery Games. Oh, and I’m also including a Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup recipe, because what’s a grilled cheese sandwich without the tomato soup?

I can’t promise that I’ll be on board for National Walnut Week or any other food holiday for that matter, but then again, you never know. Maybe this grinch’s heart has grown just a little—Happy NGCM.

Outrageous Grilled Cheese

Outrageous Grilled Cheese

Outrageous Grilled Cheese
(Makes 4)

Ingredients:
8 slices of sturdy white bread
8 oz smoked ham (optional), thinly sliced
4-6 oz thinly sliced cheddar cheese
4-6 oz thinly sliced Monterey jack
¼ c quality mayonnaise
1 c finely grated parmesan
2-4 T unsalted butter

Preparation:
Lay 4 slices of bread on work surface
Layer ham & cheeses in equal amounts on one side of the bread
Top with 2nd slice of bread
Spread mayo lightly on outside of bread (both sides)
Sprinkle both sides of bread with cheese
Press to adhere cheese
Heat a griddle OR fry pan, over med to med flame (let pan get fully hot)
Add ~2 T of butter & let melt
Place sandwich in pan
Cook til golden brown on 1st side
Turn over & add more butter to pan
Repeat with 2nd side
Repeat, as necessary, with remaining sandwiches
Cut in ½ & eat immediately!
Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup
(Makes 6)

Ingredients:
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 red pepper, roasted, cut in large dice
4c chicken or vegetable stock
1 28 oz can crushed tomato
1t red wine vinegar
2t dried oregano
½ c heavy cream
Fresh Basil Leaves
Preparation:
Rub red peppers with vegetable oil, place on sheet tray under broiler
Broil until charred on all sides
Remove seeds and stem from pepper, dice in large chunks
Heat oil in saucepan
Add onion and sauté until golden, ~ 5 min
Add garlic and oregano, stir in until aromatic
Add tomato and roasted pepper, let heat through
Add stock and vinegar, bring to boil then down to simmer, ~20 min
Puree with immersion blender
Add cream and bring to simmer
Season with s/p
Garnish with basil and crème fraiche

Pink Creme Brulee

Getting my set ready!

Getting my set ready!

This Valentine’s Day, I wanted to give the guys something that they could add to their arsenal to impress that special someone.

Creme brulee is  one of the most commonly ordered desserts and arguably the most intimidating dessert to make.  But what if I told you it’s actually one of the easiest (and most fun) desserts to make at home?

Not only are we having fun with color by adding organic beet powder, but we’re also using a blow torch.  C’mon, man, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Pink Creme Brulee

Voila! Pink creme brulee! Just add a some chocolate drizzle and berries to a plate and serve!

 

Pink Creme Brulee

Click here  for the full recipe and the  step-by-step video as shown on WGN Midday.   Thanks to my WGN friends for having me on again and letting me spread the love.   

Ingredients:
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp beet powder
2 Tbs vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375. In a separate pot, bring 2-3 quarts of water to a boil and reserve. In small stock pot, heat heavy cream until bubbles form around the edge. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Let steep for 10 minutes. In a mixing bowl, add sugar and egg yolks and begin to whisk for 1-2 minutes, or until it thickens up and looks like mayonnaise. Once you have reached desired consistency, add beet powder and stir evenly.

Slowly add heavy cream, first to temper to avoid the eggs from cooking. Add cream in a slow steady stream while whisking until all together. Evenly distribute batter into ramekins . Place ramekins in casserole dish and then add water ½ way up the ramekin. Bake in oven for 30-35 min or until custard sets and quivers (like Jello)
Place in fridge for 4 hours to set.

When ready to brulee, add sugar on top and finish with blow torch to get desired texture or put under the broiler for about 30 seconds or until you see the sugar bubbling on top.

Makes 6 – 4 oz servings

This is one dessert you’ll definitely want to try at home.  Let me know how it goes!  Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook @chefaramreed.

Cheers!
Chef Aram

The Perfect Day of Service Menu

If you’ve ever volunteered at a shelter, you know how rewarding of an experience it can be.  Shelters, like food banks and soup kitchens, are extremely important institutions within our communities — especially here in Chicago where the winter months are brutal.  Even though the holidays are over, we’re still in the season of giving.  January 19th is Martin Luther King  Jr.’s birthday and it’s also considered to be a national day of service.  I can’t think of a better way to show someone that you really care than by cooking and serving them a warm meal.

Shelters hold a special place in my heart because several years ago, while working a corporate 9 to 5, I took some time to volunteer at one of the shelters in Chicago.  In that experience, I realized just how much I enjoyed cooking for others and it set me on the path to becoming a professional chef.

Volunteering at my local shelter

 

If you’re planning on spending your day of service at a shelter, I hope this guide will help you to maximize your volunteer shift into a memorable experience.  Now, gather a group of coworkers, friends and family members and let’s get at it!

 

PLANNING
The meal that you’re going to prepare on your day of service should be planned ahead of time.  Just as you would with a dinner party at your home, you must consider your guests and your budget.  Here are the top five things to keep in mind when planning your day of service menu:

1. Be sure to include veggies in your menu and keep the meal low in fat, sugar and sodium.  Ask the volunteer coordinator if there are any special dietary needs that you should be aware of ahead of time.

2. Keep your meal simple and straightforward.

3. It’s okay to serve meat, but make sure it is cooked until it’s well-done.  I also tend to avoid pork.

4. Consider bringing your own knife, rolling pin and spatula. The facility will have pots and pans, but you should expect minimal conditions.

5. Don’t serve anything that YOU wouldn’t eat and that includes instant foods such as mashed potatoes.  Don’t use anything instant!

 

MENU
Here’s a sample menu that you can borrow. It’s a well-balanced menu of comfort food that’s hearty and healthy.

Entree: Herb Crusted Beef Roast
Sides: Roasted Lemon Asparagus and Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Chives
Dessert: Apple Cobbler

Herb Crusted Beef Roast
Serves 6-8
1 (4-rib) standing beef rib roast (bone-in prime rib; 9 to 10 pounds)
1/4 cup mixed peppercorns (pink, white, and green)
3 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and each cut into 6 wedges (keep in a bowl of cold water to prevent discoloration)
3 pounds carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces

Preparation
Pat roast dry and put, fat side up, on rack in roasting pan.

Coarsely crush peppercorns in a mortar and pestle or folded kitchen towel (not terry cloth) with a meat pounder or bottom of a heavy skillet. Stir together peppercorns, 3 tablespoons kosher salt, thyme, and rosemary in a small bowl.

Rub roast all over with oil, then coat it all over with peppercorn mixture, pressing to help it adhere. Let coated roast stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lower third. Roast beef roast 20 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meat (do not touch bone) registers 110°F, 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. Transfer to a platter (keep fat and pan juices in roasting pan) and let stand, uncovered, 40 minutes (temperature of meat will rise to about 130°F for medium-rare).

While roast stands, put second oven rack in upper-third position and increase oven temperature to 450°F. Line 1 sheet pan with parchment paper.

Strain pan juices from roasting pan through a sieve into a glass measuring cup (reserve roasting pan). Drain potatoes well and toss in a large bowl with 3 tablespoons melted beef fat from roasting pan and 1 teaspoon kosher salt, then spread out on parchment-lined sheet pan. Toss carrots in same bowl with another 3 tablespoons beef fat from pan and 1 teaspoon kosher salt, then spread out on other rimmed sheet pan. Roast vegetables in upper and lower thirds of oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through roasting, until golden, 25 to 30 minutes for carrots and 30 to 35 minutes for potatoes.

Roasted Lemon Asparagus
Serves 6
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
36 asparagus spears, trimmed

Preparation
Preheat oven to 450°F.  Mix lemon juice, oil and lemon peel in 15 x 10 x 2-inch glass baking dish.  Add asparagus; turn to coat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast asparagus until crisp-tender, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Chives
Serves 6
2 1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut top 1/4 inch off head of garlic to expose tops of cloves. Place in small baking dish. Spoon oil over; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until garlic cloves are tender, about 45 minutes. Squeeze garlic cloves from skins and mash in small bowl.

Cook potatoes in heavy large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 18 minutes. Drain; return to pot. Stir over low heat to allow excess water to evaporate. Add whipping cream, butter, sour cream, and roasted garlic and mash together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in chives and serve.

Apple Cobbler
Serves 6
Apple Mixture:
5 c. peeled, sliced apples
1/2 c. sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. butter, softened

Combine first 7 ingredients; mix gently. Spoon into a lightly greased 9-inch square baking pan; dot with 1 tablespoon butter. Set aside.

Batter:
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. butter, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten

Combine batter ingredients; mix well. Spoon over apple mixture in 9 equal portions (batter will spread during baking). Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

 

SERVING
Depending on the facility, you may be able to choose between a buffet service where the diners line up with their plates and the volunteers will serve them buffet-style.  Or you may be able to serve the diners restaurant-style by plating the food and serving them at their table.

Either way, think of ways to make your meal more of an experience than a handout.  Add pitchers of water to every table as well as table settings.  Maybe print your menu and place one on each table alongside the table setting… it’s the little touches that will make your meal special.

Volunteering with some great guys.

Volunteering with some great guys.

 

DINING
You’ve prepared a tasty meal and all of the guests have been served. Now, if the facility allows it (and most do encourage it), grab yourself a plate and sit along with the guests.  Get to know them just as you would a guest in your own home.

 

WRAPPING UP
Don’t forget to clean your mess and wrap any leftover food.  Also, ask your volunteer coordinator if there are any people who will be dining later as you may need to prepare plates for them, too.

After you’ve completed your day of service, schedule another one.  Go back, build a relationship with the shelter staff and guests.  Don’t make your day of service just a one shot deal.

Oh and if you decide to donate food to your local pantry or shelter, here’s a list of the items that they need the most.

Remember to have fun on your day of service.  While your intention is to give to others, you just may leave with a gift yourself.  I’d love to see shots of your group, so tag me in your photos on Facebook and Twitter @chefaramreed and Instagram @aramreed.

Happy volunteering!
Chef Aram

It’s all gravy, baby!

This final Thanksgiving post goes out to my Facebook friend, Christina, who asked “hey chef, what about the gravy?!”  Well, Christina, this one’s for you.

In my post Thanksgiving Dinner Part I: The Bird I actually snuck in a quick and easy pan sauce with a twist – cranberries.  What I most like about this pan sauce is that you’re using the flavors from the turkey and taking them to the next level with the flavor of cranberry.  Here’s the full recipe:

Cranberry Pan Sauce

Add cranberry sauce to your deglazed pan for an amped pan sauce.

Add cranberry sauce to your deglazed pan for an amped pan sauce.

 Note: this sauce should be made in the same pan that you’ve used to sear your turkey.  Remove the turkey from the pan and place it on a sheet tray with a rack.  Leave whatever’s in the pan and anything that dripped onto the tray after it cooked.  Add that to the pan and get started on your pan sauce as follows…

 Ingredients:

1 Shallot, small dice

1 C White Wine

3 C Turkey Stock

1⁄2 cup Cranberry Puree

2T Butter

Salt and Pepper

Preparation:

Place the pan that you’ve seared your turkey in over medium-low heat, add extra oil to the pan if needed

Add shallot and sauté until tender, ~2-3 min

Take a sip of the wine, then add the rest to the pan to deglaze

Scrape bottom of pan to make sure all the bits come up off the bottom

Let wine reduce 2-3 min, then add stock. Lets reduce for 10 min

Add cranberry and butter. Swirl pan, possibly whisk to break up cranberry

Season to taste with salt and pepper

Serve and enjoy

What’s The Difference: Pan Sauce v. Gravy 

Gravy like your grandma's.

Gravy like your grandma’s.

Now some of you may be scratching your heads and wondering – is pan sauce and gravy the same thing?  Well, yes and no.  It’s true, gravy is a sauce, but pan sauce is not a gravy.  The basic difference is that with a pan sauce, you’re using the bits at the bottom of the pan where you’ve roasted your meat and then you’re deglazing the pan with a liquid, such as wine, to create a sauce.  

Deglaze your pan... get all the bits!

Deglaze your pan… get all the bits!

 

With gravy, you’re adding flour or cornstarch to the pan juices after the meat has been cooked.  This will thicken the sauce and add those lumps that we’re all use to when we think of traditional gravy. Pan sauce versus gravy is a personal preference, so just go with the sauce that you like the best.

Giblet gravy

Giblet gravy

 

Here are a few gravy recipes that you should consider this Thanksgiving.

Chicken Giblet Gravy

Traditional Gravy

Gluten-Free Gravy 

I’d love to see what you’re serving this Thanksgiving, so don’t forget to tag me in your Instagram photos @aramreed.  You can also ping me with your turkey day questions on Facebook and Twitter @chefaramreed.

Cheers!

Chef Aram

Thanksgiving Dinner Part II: The Sides

In my last blog post, I covered the ins and outs of the Thanksgiving turkey.  Now, let’s get into what’s arguably the most exciting part of Thanksgiving dinner – the sides.  Side dishes are the real stars of the table and many of us will happily make an entire meal out of them.  For this reason they deserve just as much attention as the turkey.

See The Kitchn's tips on organizing your buffet table.

See The Kitchn’s tips on organizing your buffet table.

Below are a few of the side dishes that’ll be gracing my table this Thanksgiving.  For those looking for vegetarian options, it’s important to note that variations of these recipes can easily be made by simply substituting the turkey stock with vegetable stock and by removing the bacon.

Of course, I haven’t forgotten about my gluten-free friends.  My Sweet Potato Puree is a great gluten-free side dish and the Brussels Sprout and Bacon Gratin can easily become gluten-free by substituting for GF breadcrumbs.  Here are some additional GF side dishes to check out.

Gluten-free side dishes abound.

Gluten-free side dishes abound.

Prepping and Serving Go ahead and make it easy on yourself by prepping some of your side dishes, such as the start of the stuffing, the night before.  Here are a few pointers on what can be prepped ahead of time.

Whether buffet-style, family-style or a combination of both, the manner in which you serve your Thanksgiving dinner is totally up to you.  Generally, a buffet is a great option, especially if you’ll be feeding a lot of people.  Here’s a nice guide on how to organize your buffet for ultimate enjoyment.

And lastly, without a doubt the most important thing that you should do this Thanksgiving is enjoy your time with loved ones. Have fun creating new memories.

Cheers!

Chef Aram

P.S. – Have a last minute Thanksgiving cooking question?  Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook @chefaramreed!

Enjoy your company

Enjoy your company!

Cranberry Pecan Cornbread Stuffing 

3 boxes, Cornbread Mix ( I love Jiffy)

3 Eggs

1 C Whole Milk

1 C Candied Pecans, rough chopped

1 C Dried Cranberries (Dried Cherries can be used as a substitute)

3-4 C Turkey Stock (see my Thanksgiving Part I post for an easy DIY turkey stock)

3 T Sage, minced

Preparation:

Bake off cornbread recipe following directions on the box

Once cornbread is done, using thongs, break up the cornbread

Add stock, cranberries, sage and pecans

Return mixture to cornbread pan until stuffing has absorbed and dried the stock

Return to 400 degree oven and bake for 10-15 min

Serve and enjoy

 

 

Sweet Potato Puree

4 lb of Sweet Potato, small dice

2 T butter

1⁄4 cup Makers Mark

2 T Brown Sugar

2T Sage, minced

Preparation:

Small dice sweet potatoes and place in pot of water

Bring to a boil and cook until tender, approx. 20 min

Drain water

Add remaining ingredients and puree with immersion blender until smooth

Season with salt and pepper to taste

Serve and enjoy

 

 

Brussels Sprout and Bacon Gratin 

1 lb Bacon, cooked until crispy, then rough chop with knife

1⁄2 C Reserved Bacon Fat

3 lb Brussels Sprouts, julienned

1 1⁄2 C Heavy Cream

1 Shallot, minced

8oz White Cheddar, grated

3 Rosemary Sprigs, minced

1C Breadcrumbs

1T Vegetable Oil

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In large sauté, bring to medium heat. Add bacon fat

Sauté brussels sprouts until bright green, remove and place in bowl

Add 1T of oil and sauté rosemary and shallot until tender, 2 min

Add cream and leave on heat until bubbles appear.

Add to brussels sprouts and stir

Place brussels sprouts in casserole dish.  Add cheese, breadcrumbs and bacon

Place in oven and cook until cheese has melted and is golden brown, approx. 15-20 min

Serve and enjoy

Thanksgiving Dinner – Part I: The Bird

Let’s be honest, Thanksgiving is America’s favorite holiday because it’s the only day that’s all about the food.  We’ve waited the entire year for that big, golden bird with all the trimmings.  This is the day where foods that dare not meet during other months, now, happily rub shoulders with one another to form glorious food-collages on our plates.

Thanksgiving Dinner If you’re the person who’ll be preparing this year’s dinner – kudos!  I’ve got a few pro tips that’ll make this the easiest (and best-tasting) Thanksgiving dinner ever.

In this blog post, we’ll start with the turkey.  First, let’s decide which type of turkey you’ll buy.  This is really all about preference.  If you’re interested in purchasing a local bird, here’s a good list of places in Chicago where you can pre-order your bird.  There are several turkey variations available such as “natural”, “kosher” and  “heritage” all of which can be a little confusing, but Saveur has laid out the differences for us.

See Saveur's list of what's what in the world of turkeys.

See Saveur’s list of what’s what in the world of turkeys.

Now that we’ve selected our turkey, let’s get cooking. The first mistake that many make with the turkey begins with the cook’s picturesque vision of a whole bird cooked to perfection and served on a platter all ready to carve.  If you have that vision, dump it.

For the best turkey that you’ve ever had, I want you to deconstruct your turkey into two parts: leg/thigh quarters and breasts.  Why?  Well, we all know that white meat cooks faster than dark meat, so by breaking down your turkey, you’re allowing for a more even cooking process.  It’s called the cut-up-and-cook approach and in addition to a juicier turkey, you’ll also get a richer tasting gravy with this method.

Here’s a video on how to deconstruct your turkey at home with just a few simple cuts.  Make sure that you have a good, sharp knife.  And if you feel uncomfortable breaking it down yourself, just ask your butcher to do it for you. (Note: I recommend keeping the leg and thigh quarter together and this video separates them. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your preference.).  Once you’ve deconstructed your turkey, follow my Thanksgiving turkey recipe below.

Thanksgiving Turkey

1 Turkey, broken down into two parts, leg/thigh quarters and breasts, on separate sheet trays

4T Dried Herbs de Provence

Salt and Pepper

1 Shallot, small dice

1 C White Wine

3 C Turkey Stock

2T Butter

1⁄2 Cup Cranberry Puree

 Preparation:

• Season turkey with salt, pepper and dried herbs

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees

• In large sauté pan, medium-high heat, add olive oil

• Place turkey skin side down, sear until golden brown ~4-5 min

• Add 1-2T of butter to pan and swirl around

• Flip over, and sear the other side until golden brown

• Remove turkey from pan and place on sheet trays, then in the oven

• Cook until turkey reaches internal temp of 165 degrees.

• 1 hr for white meat, 1.5 hrs for dark meat quarters

• Turn the heat down to medium-low

• Add extra fat if needed to pan, then add shallot

• Sauté until tender, ~2-3 min

• Take a sip of the wine, then add the rest to the pan to deglaze

• Scrape bottom of pan to make sure all the bits come up off the bottom

• Let wine reduce 2-3 min, then add stock. Lets reduce for 10 min

• Add cranberry and butter. Swirl pan, possibly whisk to break up cranberry

• Season to taste with salt and pepper

 Turkey Stock

4 Carrots, rough chop

5 Celery Stalks, rough chop

4 Fresh Rosemary sprigs

Salt and Pepper

Turkey carcass

1 Lg Stock Pot

 Preparation:

• In large stock pot, add carrots, rosemary and celery along with turkey carcass

• Fill stock pot with water just short of the top

• Bring to boil, then down to a simmer for 2 hrs.

• Strain stock to remove all impurities

• Return stock pot to burner and reduce until desired color and flavor

• Season with salt and pepper to taste

Make sure the internal temp reaches 165 degrees!

Make sure the internal temp reaches 165 degrees!

Once the turkey is done, go ahead and grab that beautiful platter of yours and arrange the turkey for presentation.  Trust me, once you and your guests take a bite of this bird, they’ll be singing your praises.

 In my next blog post I’ll share a few side dishes that I like to add to my Thanksgiving spread.  Don’t forget to ping me @chefaramreed on Facebook and Twitter with any Thanksgiving cooking questions.

Cheers!

Chef Aram