This Thanksgiving – I’m on your side

Holiday roasted turkey. Photo credit: Ralphs Website

There are a lot of decisions to make when it comes to preparing a Thanksgiving turkey.

Organic, natural or solution injected?

To brine or not to brine?

Oven roasted or fried?

It’s pretty head spinning.

By now, you’ve probably made the hard decisions about the bird. If you haven’t, these story links can help.

Talkin’ Turkey Tips with the folks at Ralphs
It’s brine time with Chef Daria
Thanksgiving is all about the turkey, but does it have to be?

But what about the sides? Are you good?

Or –  with all that turkey talk and high figuring, are you in a lurch for one more side dish to make or take as your potluck contribution?

Well, I think this recipe from the good folks at Family Features is perfect for your Thanksgiving dinner. It’s tasty, satisfying and healthy too.  So relax, exhale, you got this. Happy Thanksgiving!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Grapes and Balsamic Glaze

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Grapes and Balsamic Glaze. Photo credit: Family Features

(Family Features) The holiday season is typically marked by gatherings of friends and family. Whether you’re hosting overnight guests, drop-in visitors or an important seasonal meal, taking a fresh approach to the menu can make the get-together more special.

As you prepare for the festivities, consider recipes that feature healthy ingredients such as versatile California grapes, which come in three vibrant colors – red, green and black – and can add a palate-pleasing crunch and plenty of taste to everything from main dishes to sides and even desserts. Heart-healthy grapes are also perfect on their own as a snack and their natural beauty can help enhance any table as an edible garnish or fresh centerpiece.

Using grapes as a featured ingredient in your holiday dishes can provide a fresh twist on seasonal dishes, such as this  Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Grapes and Balsamic Glaze.

Find more holiday recipes at GrapesfromCalifornia.com.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Grapes and Balsamic Glaze
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup red California grapes
2 tablespoons ready-to-use balsamic glaze

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 450 F.
  2. On baking sheet, toss sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste, until sprouts are well-coated.
  3. Roast until deep golden brown, about 17-20 minutes, turning sprouts halfway through roasting.
  4. Stir in grapes and roast 3-5 minutes.
  5. Transfer to bowl and drizzle with glaze or drizzle platter with glaze and pile sprouts on top.

Nutritional information per serving: 150 calories; 3 g protein; 20 g carbohydrates; 7 g fat (42% calories from fat); 1 g saturated fat (6% calories from saturated fat); 0 mg cholesterol; 30 mg sodium; 4 g fiber.

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It’s brine time with Chef Daria

The holidays are upon us. And undoubtedly you will be enjoying some of your favorite foods.

daria-favorites-picmonkey-collage

A few of Chef Daria’s favorite Thanksgiving entrees. Left top: Herb brined turkey. Left bottom: cornbread dressing. Right top: candied yams. Right bottom: macaroni and cheese.

Everyone gets a  little nervous when making the holiday turkey.  While your family and guests are sitting around the dinner table admiring the glistening bird, their secret prayer is always this: please don’t let this turkey be tasteless and dry.

It’s a tall order to be sure.

While the star of your holiday dinner may be the turkey, it should not be a lame duck.

Well there’s good news. The hue and cry of the masses – well your family – has been heard.

daria-pickmonkey-collage

Left: simple brine and herb butter ingredients. Right: brined turkey

Los Angeles based Chef Daria Le Sassier of Le Sassier Catering  is back with a recipe for making your bird moist, tender and flavorful by brining. Brining? Yes and it is easier than you think. This ancient method not only hydrates the turkey, but it infuses the most subtle flavor. See Chef Daria’s quick video on how to brine a turkey and her brine recipe below. You can do it – yes you can!

Brine Ingredients
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
5 fresh sage leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
3 cloves garlic
2 quarts of water
2 quarts cold water
2 large turkey size oven roasting bags
14 to 16 pound turkey

Method
In a large kettle, combine the salt, brown sugar, sage, thyme, rosemary, peeled garlic cloves and 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Add the cold water to cool the bring liquid to room temperature.

Place the turkey-size oven roasting bag inside a second roasting bag. Add the turkey. Carefully pour the cooled brine into the bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible. Seal the bags. Turn and rotate the turkey to coat. Place turkey in a roasting pan and place in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Make sure you turn the bag several times while it marinades.

After 12-12 hours, drain the brining liquid, remove turkey from the bag and rinse it. Pat it dry.

With your fingers, carefully loosen the skin from the turkey breast. Rub half of the herb butter under the skin. Then rub the remaining herb butter over the turkey skin.

With the breast side up, place turkey on a rack in a roasting pan. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 3.25 hours to 3.45 hours or until the food thermometer reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to baste the turkey throughout cooking process with pan drippings.

When done, remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest 20 minutes before serving.

Herb Butter Ingredients
2 cups butter, soften
½ cup olive cup oil
1 cup packed fresh parsley sprigs, roughly chopped
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped

Method
In a small bowl, combine softened butter, olive oil and chopped herbs. Use a fork to mix together until well combined. Cover and put in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes, until firm but not hard.

Dishing and grilling with Chef Daria

Daria Vegetables

Vegetable medley from the grill of Daria Le Sassier of  Le Sassier Catering.

There’s nothing like the sound of women in the kitchen.

Their laughter and voice inflections are almost lyrical. Their animations and antics are enlivening.

And no matter what race, creed or color, when women gather around food, it’s always a magical experience bathed in warmth and richness.

The end of the summer is near, and the last big summer holiday is approaching. My friend, and Los Angeles based caterer Daria Le Sassier of Le Sassier Catering,  gathered a few sister friends together for a little pre-Labor Day celebration.

Pat Karani Daria and me

The girls. Left to right: Yours truly along with: Daria Le Sassier, Owner Le Sassier Catering; Pat Prescott, broadcaster and Morning Show Host of  LA’s  94.7 The WAVE; Karani Johnson,  Los Angeles based writer and television editor.

Daria has been a caterer in this town for over 30 years. She has a vast client list that ranges from individuals, social organizations, politicians and the entertainment industry.

She is one of the most sought after caterers in Los Angeles largely because of the authentic New Orleans style influences in her menu offerings.  Her “food to tablescape” approach always elevates ordinary dining experiences to casual elegance.  Paella, jambalaya, ribs, red beans and rice, catfish and crab cakes are among her most requested items.  And she has a flare for transforming basic “comfort food” into coveted cuisine.

Early lessons learned

“Growing up in New Orleans, everything was about the food,” reflected Daria. “Sunday was our food day with family, cousins, and close friends.  Everybody would get together with their kids, and we all cooked together.”

Those early experiences showed Daria the important role food plays in deepening and strengthen family ties.  When she became a parent, she said those lessons learned were more defining than she ever imagined.

“My son loved to eat.  When we sat down to have a meal together, I had his attention,” said Daria.   “So it was easy to have a conversation with him and he was always open to listening.  While it was just a conversation, we worked though a lot over a meal.  Food is important. It absolutely matters.”

After years of experience as a caterer, her artistry and mastery of all aspects of her profession have been at the center of her success.  And let’s not forget about the food.  It’s certainly her calling card and what sets her apart from so many.

Daria PicMonkey Collage

Daria says simple, fresh ingredients always work best. Left: Daria preps vegetables for the grill. Right top: seasoned ground turkey burger destined for the grill. Right bottom: boiled potatoes for potato salad.

Daria dishes about food

In this age of epicurious intrigue, food adulation and culinary stardom, Daria remains true to her passion for cooking “good food” and remains unfettered by the latest gastronomic movement.

“I think people are getting away from the simplicity of making good food and mixing too many foods together,” said Daria in reference to some of the wild and whimsical mash-ups she’s seen of late.  “They are over doing the  combinations in an attempt to make the dish sound exotic and look intriguing.  I like food to look good and taste good. But everything doesn’t go together.”

Our pre-Labor Day feast

When planning our pre-Labor Day menu, Daria focused on the favorites – all which were fit for a girls day dinner.  Baked beans, baby back ribs, boneless chicken breasts and wings, corn salsa, Texas caviar, grilled catfish, potato salad and peach mint sweet tea. It was a menu that left us wide eyed and speechless.

Darias spead

Our pre-Labor Day spread. Barbecue ribs and chicken wings, baked beans, grilled turkey burgers and boneless chicken breasts. Not shown: Grill catfish, potato salad, corn salsa and Texas caviar.

We dished, slipped and watched as she prepared these Labor Day delights. She even enlisted our help in chopping, stirring and helping out.

Daria Pat Karani plated dish tablescape PicMonkey Collage

Top: Pat Prescott, Daria Le Sassier and, Karani Johnson enjoying the meal.  Bottom left: a plated delight. Bottom right: holiday place setting.

Planning is the key to success

The execution of our pre-Labor Day feast was flawless.  Daria shares a few basic tips for making your special event or holiday bash a success:

  • Plan your shop time.  Shop for your ingredients at least three days prior to your event. The selection is better, there aren’t as many people in the store and it’s less stressful.
  • Prep ahead.  Cut vegetables and meats and store them in the refrigerator. This way you aren’t doing everything on the day of your event, tiring yourself out.
  • Season everything at least two days before your event. The longer it sits in the refrigerator seasoned, the better it is going to taste.
  • Ask for help.  Have a family member or friend come over and help cut, dice and help with your prep.
  • Use catering services.  Some menu items you many not want to cook like ribs, appetizers or desserts.  But plan ahead because holidays are peak seasons for caterers.
  • Pace yourself on the big day. Get an early start, get your grill going and ease into cooking now that most of the prep work has been done.  Remember the secret to great ribs is to cook them on low heat and slowly.
  • Set up a buffet or serving table.  This allows guests to serve themselves. Just keep it replenished and freshened up.

How to grill vegetables

In this video, Daria shares how you can create a grilled vegetable platter that has the “wow factor” in taste and presentation.

With the wealth of great family recipes that have become the cornerstone of her business, Daria says they may find their way in a cookbook someday. But for now she’s focused on her business and perhaps expanding her brand into the realm of event consulting.

But in the meantime, Daria shares a quick and easy baked bean recipe. The food hack is to use canned beans. The method is to cook the beans in a cast iron skillet slowly in the oven,  stirring them frequently, and adding more barbecue sauce, butter and yes pancake syrup to keep them moist and saucy if they begin to dry out. Daria says, “The more love, time and care you put into your food preparation, the better it is going to taste.”

You can follow Daria on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LeSassier-Catering-Events-242470832545353/.  Now – get cooking!

Chef Daria’s Easy Baked Beans

Darias baked beans

Ingredients
48 ounce can of Bush Vegetarian Baked Beans
½ cup barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons  mustard
½ cup pancake syrup
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup diced brown onion
3 tablespoons of melted butter

Method
In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients together and pour into a cast iron skillet. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour until the beans become thicken.  Stir them several times during the hour.  If beans start to become dry, add more barbecue sauce, syrup or butte, to  your taste.