At least the food was good

Things didn’t go as my light blue heart had hoped on the basketball court Saturday night. But you can’t blame the food. Perhaps these sliders can redeem themselves on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3.

Turkey Sliders with Cilantro-Lime Mayonnaise

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey

1/4 cup finely chopped jalapeno

1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 egg

About 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Dash of olive oil

Vegetable oil for frying

Small slices Monterey Jack cheese

16 small French rolls

1 cup mayonnaise

About 2 teaspoons lime juice

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

Sliced avocado

In a bowl, combine the turkey, jalapeno, bell pepper, onion, mustard, chili powder, garlic powder and cumin. Stir in the beaten egg. Stir in a good dash of olive oil.

Combine the mayo, lime juice and cilantro in a small bowl. Add more or less lime juice to get the consistency your prefer.

Heat about an inch of vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Form small patties of the mixture, about the size of a large soup spoon or what will fit the size of your rolls. Fry the patties on each side until brown and done through. Place cheese on top after turning the patties, if you want cheese. Drain the patties on paper towels and keep warm as you continue cooking.

Cut the rolls lengthwise and spread a thin smear of the mayo on each side. Place the patties inside and top with avocado slices. Keep warm until serving.

Makes about 16 sliders

Holiday horrors part 2: Cold turkey

The coupon in the paper showed a creation shinier than a plastic car bumper that was so mind bending, it left me a bit queasy: An ice-cream cake shaped like a Thanksgiving turkey.

According to the maker, Baskin-Robbins, the legs are made from sugar cones that are covered with the same glaze as the rest of the ice cream and topped with white paper poofs. The wings are doodled on. You can order it in any kind of  ice-cream you like, but I don’t think the company offers stuffing flavor.

Making gravy could be a problem with this turkey, unless you let it sit for a few hours at room temperature. It would solve the problem of what to feed vegetarian guests, and it surely tastes better than a Tofurky.

Food news roundup

Last-minute Thanksgiving planners, there’s plenty of help out there for you. The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer  offers management tips and quick recipes here, including a cranberry sauce recipe I can get behind – it has jalapenos. It’s in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), too, along with a rundown of the Triangle’s growing craft beer movement. Read about that here.

After the eating comes the shopping, and the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal offers gift ideas for cooks, including some fancy measuring spoons. Those may look silly, but I look at them as kitchen jewelry – it’s fun to use something funky if you cook a lot. Read more suggestions here.

And what comes after eating and shopping? The leftovers. Thanksgiving leftovers are great, but a little creativity makes them even better. There are some great-looking turkey sandwiches using cranberry sauce and Fontina cheese in the Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.), plus other goodies.

Thanksgiving is the most conservative, food-wise, of holidays. People expect certain things, like sweet potatoes the way Grandma made them, not the way you’d like to do them, with a little chipotle and tequila. But gratins are a nice way to sneak in something new in side dishes, and the Detroit Free Press has recipes here.

In my part of the world, there’s no over-the-river-in-the-snow Thanksgiving. Which means we can grill to our hearts’ content. For, I’ve offered a menu that puts most of the meal out of the house and over the coals. There are other recipes here as well.

Courtesy of USA Today, we have today’s wackiest Thanksgiving-related phrase: Beltsville Poultry Semen Extender. Find out what it is here.

Don't torch that turkey

Ah, the signs that Thanksgiving is on the way: Canned pumpkin shortage in the supermarket, Christmas songs on the radio and the annual photo of a turkey fryer going up in a fireball.

I have deep-fried turkeys for years, and I still have a house. Obviously, it’s possible to do this safely. But ever since the torched-turkey pics started hitting the media, people arrive, see the fryer and think I’m trying to kill us all. No, that congealed salad of coleslaw and lime Jell-O (my mother made that once) may kill us, not my turkey fryer.

I have extensive, safe directions for frying turkey in my cookbook “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home” (Harvard Common Press, 2007). But the most important ones are: Use equipment specially designed for deep-frying whole turkeys, do this only outdoors (not in a garage or carport), do not overfill the fryer with oil and never leave the fryer unattended.

To get the right amount of oil, I place the turkey in the fryer pot, then measure and add water a quart at a time until the turkey is covered but there’s still a few inches of room at the top of the pot. The number of quarts of water you used equals the amount of oil you’ll need. Dry the pot and turkey thoroughly before heating the oil to prevent spattering.

Turkey terminology

I called my local upscale market the other day to order my Thanksgiving turkey. The “holiday desk” confronted me with an array of choices: cooked or uncooked; then fresh, frozen, frozen organic, frozen kosher. I stopped her at that point. We didn’t even get to heirloom turkey or  – I hate to name the abomination – tofurky. Most people cook a whole turkey only once or twice a year, so I guess turkey producers are specializing. It used to be you hauled a frozen Butterball into your supermarket cart for 25 cents a pound (loss leaders to get you in the store to buy all the other holiday accouterments) and never gave it another thought.

Preparing Dressing

At the Association of Food Journalists conference I attended recently in New Orleans, I sampled a Creole-style Thanksgiving dinner. Besides learning that the Louisiana Thanksgiving table always includes gumbo to start the meal and that the deep-fried turkey phenomenon is strictly a Cajun thing, I tasted the best roasted turkey I’ve ever eaten. Why was it so good? The chef had rubbed a pound of butter into the bird.

Well, duh.

The chefs cooking for us that day included Frank Brigtsen of the classic New Orleans

restaurant Brigtsen’s. He said that he also cooks the turkey in two stages: at 500 degrees for a brief period of time, then at 325 for the rest of the cooking time, which he said was 15 to 20 minutes per pound. He also prepared a mirliton-shrimp dressing that is really different from the dressings you see around here. Mirliton is a squash that’s extremely popular in Louisiana. It’s also called chayote, which means you can find it here in the Hispanic section of the produce aisle or at Hispanic markets. Interested? Ask and I can dig up the recipe.