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Posts Tagged ‘Russ Parsons’

Here’s the Rub

In Food on November 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm


No doubt if you’ve looked at any food sites or read any editor’s letters, you’re in a freaking frenzy that you have waited TOO LONG and needed to start prepping the meal two weeks ago, and that you are a total domestic failure. Relax. Pour a glass of wine. Worst case, you may be a little late to make your own gravy, but if you are in Los Angeles, just grab some at Joans on Third and be done with it. Focus your attention on making the most flavorful bird that is dripping with juice and has perfectly crisp skin. Having worked for years at a food magazine myself, I’ve tried countless turkeys—wet brined, cider-brined, beer-brined, smoked, grilled, deep-fried, turkeys rubbed with compound butters, Cajun spices, turkeys glazed with maple, citrus, soy, you name it. But the best, hands down, is Russ Parson’s Judy Bird inspired by Judy Rogers’ legendary roast chicken at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. Flip through any food magazine since Russ published the recipe in 2007, and you’ll find countless knock-offs. His original recipe is still the best.

Make it your own by adding a pinch of dried herbs to the salt—I like to pick up on one of the flavors from the stuffing like using dried sage or fennel—or citrus zest. The basic formula is 1 tablespoon of salt for every 5 lbs of bird. If you can start it tonight, perfect. But tomorrow will give you enough time to produce a bird like no other. I promise it will be the first Thanksgiving where people actually want to eat the turkey.

A Tale of Two Turkeys

In Food on November 24, 2010 at 10:50 am

Yesterday afternoon I blew my stack. I’m not proud of this and I’m sorry, Dan at Heritage Foods USA, that you were on the receiving end. But here’s the thing. After pacing like a jungle cat all afternoon in anticipation of the arrival of my 12-14 lb heritage bird (which I’d ordered on August 3), the box arrived. And it was surprisingly light. Upon opening the box I wondered if my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me because the turkey was only slightly larger than the two pork chops that were also tucked inside the box.

More surprisingly, Ashton Kutcher did not jump out from behind a door wearing a trilby to inform me that I’d just been punk’d.

And so, in a panic, I called Dan at Heritage Foods USA in Brooklyn, NY, who was able to get a bird on a truck to catch a redeye to Los Angeles for arrival this morning. The new bird is indeed here and, well, he’s a beaut. A 16 pounder. But I’m super bummed out because the bird is frozen and will have just one night of dry brining before 10 people gather at our table tomorrow night. (Thank god we are eating late.) So what do you do with a frozen 16-pound bird in order to get it on the table in 24 hours? I frantically texted the pros and here’s their sage advice:

Janet Taylor McCracken, associate food editor at Bon AppétitIf it’s still frozen, keep it in an airtight bag and place it in a cooler filled with cold water. It should defrost pretty quickly, as in a couple of hours. If the water gets too warm (above 45°F), put some ice in it.

Russ Parsons, author and Food Editor of the Los Angeles Times: You can even roast it if it’s still partially frozen. It’ll take more time. And it may be slightly mushy (defrosting too fast), but this is about survival, right?

Kristine Kidd, Bon Appétit‘s former Food Editor (for 20 years!!!) and author: To thaw quickly, put in a large bowl or sink with cold water to cover (if possible). I would do this wrapped in an airtight plastic bag. Change water often, and it will thaw surprisingly quickly. Another idea, Gelson’s carries Diestal Heritage birds. I pre-ordered, but you could call around and see if they have extras. These are not pure heritage as from Heritage foods, but a cross breed. I am grilling one right now, à la Russ. Mine got only a 24 hr salting, followed by 8 hour drying in fridge. I started the process  yesterday morning at 10 AM. I’ll tell you how it comes out. A third idea—cook your small heritage turkey, plus another small turkey from Gelson’s or Whole Foods, and let everyone have a taste of each.

Amelia Saltsman, TV host and author of The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook: I wouldn’t worry about brining turkey. Rub with butter or olive oil and kosher salt. Roast on a “rack” of whole carrots, celery, quartered onions, etc. After about 30 minutes add some water to pan, which will start some steam going to keep breast moist, not to mention augment juices later for basting and gravy. Hope this helps!! Happy turkey day!

So the moral of the story is to BE THANKFUL FOR YOUR FRIENDS, especially those who are far better at making lemonade from lemons than you could ever be. And it helps if these friends are some of the best cooks in the whole wide world! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and check back for progress on our bird, which is currently frozen rock solid and cooling its wings in our kitchen sink:

How Did This Happen???

In Food on November 18, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I woke up this morning and immediately deployed a four-letter word. Maybe even a few of them, if I’m going to be totally honest. How on earth are we only a week out from Thanksgiving? Fortunately, I am a creature of habit and so the menu isn’t changing all that much. There will be Escarole Cornbread Stuffing (above), rich with prosciutto, parm and fresh ricotta. It’s pretty much the BOMB. And a Heritage Turkey is waiting to wing its way west to be dry brined à la Russ Parson’s Judy Bird recipe in the LA Times. My favorite Brussels sprouts with shallots and fennel will of course be making the scene.

All the usual suspects will be there, including our friend Vincent’s saucy roasted cranberries with a jalapeño kick. For a complete look at this years menu, check out last years. In fact, not much changes year to year—and a recent facebook poll confirmed that this is true at most tables. We like the familiar. This is a holiday about tradition after all. But still. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, so check back tomorrow for ideas, including what I’ve humbly determined to be the ultimate Thanksgiving appetizer…

The Refrigerator Personality Test

In Food on April 8, 2010 at 10:18 am

“Show me what you store, and I’ll tell you what you are,” wrote Los Angeles Times Food Editor Russ Parsons in a column last year entitled “The Refrigerator Personality Test.” I’ve known Russ for over a decade, and worked with him for at least half that long, but after reading that column learned a little more about this superb human being. Like that Russ is sentimental and hangs onto hot sauce for 20 years. That he is perhaps also fickle in love, which explains the fleeting flirtation with a tube of cast-aside yuzu-koshu pepper paste. I’ve never forgotten the story, and was reminded of it again this morning when I was looking for something as simple as a jar of Dijon mustard (we’re out) and instead found a random of assortment of condiments that included four spicy mustards of varying heat, jars of capers, lemon curd, fig paste, pomegranate syrup, two jars of Nuttzo (god forbid we run out, but seriously, it’s great in a smoothie), almond butter, pistachio and walnut oils, Sriracha, tubes of anchovy and tomato paste and several bottles of apéritifs and rosé in the refrigerator door alone. They are joined by less esoteric tubs of mayonnaise, ketchup, maple syrup, soy sauce, Diet Dr. Pepper and butter.

My refrigerator shelves reinforce that I am far less imaginative than Russ, whose fridge boasts caramelized onions, olives he’s cured, undeveloped rolls of film, Spanish pickled anchovies and Cougar Gold canned cheese. In my own icebox, I find enough dairy to start, well, a dairy: milk, buttermilk, cream, eggs, plain yogurt (sheep and cow), mascarpone, and more cheese than I could ever eat (which is a lie; I will eat it all: parm, goat, feta, blue, pecorino, Swiss, Vermont cheddar, fresh ricotta, cream cheese, shredded pepper Jack; string cheese for Tiny G). There’s more rosé, Madeira, several bottles of Japanese and Belgian beer, a bottle of Henriot, half finished jar of chocolate sauce, a jar of my aunt Margaret’s homemade peach preserves, two kinds of hummus, puréed squash and ground chicken for Tiny G’s lunch, his sippy cup of milk unfinished from this morning, bacon, a ribeye (for Mr Foodinista’s dinner while I’m at book club tonight), radishes, green onions, cured green olives, a bag of flax seeds, half a red pepper, broccoli, asparagus, basil (most other herbs come from the garden but we need to replant basil, which got attacked), cold cuts of roast beef, a couple bottles of mineral water, huge jar of Bubbies bread and butter chips, blood orange juice, tortillas, strawberries, cantaloupe and a bowl leftover cherry tomato and bocconcini with basil salad from last night’s dinner.

Now that I write that all out, it sounds like a LOT. I guess it is a lot. But in reality the depth of our fridge is pretty shallow, which I love. Items are less likely to get lost and go to waste. (Our freezer drawers are another story for another post.) And after cataloging the contents above, I think I’m going to try to cook my way through our condiments. And cheese, of course. Any ideas? And while we’re at it, what’s in your fridge????

Thanksgiving Countdown

In Food, Media on November 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm
Photo by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Photo by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is a mere three weeks from tomorrow? I was reminded of such while reading a great article in today’s Los Angeles Times by Russ Parsons, which compares how all the food magazines are handling Thanksgiving. Over at The Foodinista’s, here’s how we’re handling the menu, and it’s looking a lot like this:

Roast Salted Turkey: Known in foodie circles as The Judy Bird, this recipe was published several years ago in the LA Times by Russ Parsons, who was inspired by his friend chef Judy Rodgers of Zuni Café in San Francisco. It’s a dry-brine technique that results in the world’s juiciest bird. Parsons suggests three days of dry brining in the fridge, but we will have to settle for two since our Heritage Turkey arrives on our doorstep on Tuesday, 11/24. So excited!!!

Cornbread and Escarole Stuffing: Indulgent and rich, with fresh ricotta, prosciutto and parm balanced by bitter escarole and toasty pine nuts.

Gravy: I usually do a simple pan gravy, but this year I might go easy on myself and pick up some house-made gravy from the Larchmont Larder. Sacrilege or smart?

Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes: A dollop of mascarpone adds creamy decadence to the classic.

Butternut Squash Purée: My mother makes this comforting classic, which has been featured on her family table for more than half a century.

Brussels Sprouts and Walnuts with Fennel and Shallots: A recipe from my super-talented friend Carolynn Carreño, who wins James Beard Awards and authors cookbooks with the likes of Nancy Silverton. We’ve been using this recipe of Carolynn’s at our Thanksgiving table for almost the past decade. I’ll post it soon.

Cranberry Sauce: We’ve never quite settled on one we love, and so this year I’ve charged my friend Vincent, who is joining us!, with finding the ultimate in tartiness, a challenge to which he will undoubtedly rise and surprise.

Pumpkin Pie: My sister is a genius with piecrust. With a little coaxing, perhaps she will share her secret before the big feast. What I can tell you is that she makes beautiful leaves from leftover dough and uses them to decorate the edge of the piecrust.

Bourbon-Pecan Tart: From the November issue of Bon Appétit, this looks amazing. My husband’s family only serves pecan pie (two versions of it) at Thanksgiving, so this one’s for him—unless, that is, I can get my mother-in-law to part with her excellent recipe.

Okay—one final question. Do I need another veg? I hate salad at Thanksgiving. Ditto on peas. Plus, in addition to the Brussels sprouts dish, I figure the stuffing has escarole. But should I be thinking along the lines of adding sautéed kale or broccoli rabe? Maybe green beans and shallots?

Farro with Snap Peas, Chicken, Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions

In Food, Recipes on February 12, 2009 at 7:27 am


This past weekend, my husband slow-cooked onions for hours and hours à la Russ Parsons, the results of which were nothing short of spectacular. We had some leftovers from the happy endeavor and were eager to use them, so last night was clean-out-the-fridge night for what turned out to be my new favorite farro riff. Let’s see…there were some sugar snap peas from the farmers market this weekend, half a log of chèvre in the fridge, and about 1 1/2 cups of farro (a pleasantly chewy and nutty grain) in the pantry just waiting to be pressed into action. So I grabbed a boneless skinless Mary’s chicken breast at Whole Foods on the way home for some added protein. By the way – Whole Foods on 3rd/Fairfax is currently out of semi-pearled farro, but promises they will restock within the week. The caramelized onions make this dish, so the next time you’re up for a project—slow cook the onions on a weekend, and save a 1/2 cup or so for this midweek treat. If you are a multi-tasker, dinner will be ready in under 20 minutes! If you are like me and get easily distracted, it may take a wee bit longer.

farrosnap peas


A comforting mix of savory, creamy, nutty, sweet, toasty, chewy, crunchy goodness…

1 1/2 cups semi-pearled farro

1/2 cup caramelized onions

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, broiled (or grilled), and sliced

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 cup snap peas, trimmed

In a pot of boiling water, cook farro for 10 minutes.  [Note: while farro was cooking, I broiled chicken breast, about 4-6 mins a side depending on size.] While farro is boiling, toast cumin seeds until darkened in a small skillet, about 1 minute, and remove from heat. (Optional – coarsely grind in mortar/pestle.) Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil for parboiling snap peas… When farro is finished, drain and transfer to medium bowl. Add caramelized onions, chicken breast and toasted cumin to farro, and fold in goat cheese to melt. Place snap peas in the small pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, and drain, rinse in cold water, and add to bowl with farro and goat cheese. Divide into bowls and serve.

Note: Serves two for dinner, with leftovers for lunch the next day…yippee!!!

The Onion Eaters

In Food on February 8, 2009 at 8:43 am


How can a vegetable that is so cruel be so sweet? We’re talking about onions here. I absolutely refuse to get anywhere near a raw one if I’m wearing mascara. But I looooove them all the same, and after reading my former colleague and CALIFORNIA COOK columnist extraordinaire Russ Parsons’ story on caramelizing onions a couple of weeks ago in the Los Angeles Times, have been obsessing about making a pot of my own. And by “my” I mean “my husband’s.” He is the official onion handler in the house, and so yesterday afternoon, he hauled out the mandolin (two days in a row!) and sliced up several huge onions. These were drizzled with canola oil in a 3 1/2- quart Le Creuset dutch oven and sprinkled with some sea salt. Note: We were only caramelizing the three large onions we had on hand; Russ’s instructions call for six large onions, as well as a 7-quart dutch oven. If you’re going to all this work, better to make a huge amount as Russ suggests, especially since the onions keep for a week in the fridge.

I’m going to let Russ’s story speak for itself—it is required reading with great tips and techniques. I’m told it was the most emailed LA Times story the day it ran—which was the day after the inauguration I might add. And any onion eater will see why. And to echo Russ, stir, stir and stir some more. Ours ended up spooned over perfectly grilled New York steaks. Oh my god. So sweet,rich, complex, like having dinner and dessert all at once. We plan to use the leftovers next week on homemade pizza. Stay tuned!

Onions begin to soften.

Hour #1: Onions begin to soften.

Swimming in liquid.

Hour #2: Swimming in liquid.

Onions beginning to darken; house smells amazing

Hour #3: Beginning to darken; house smells amazing.