Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turkey with a twist that will make you beg for more!

Kiran Verma's Tandoori Turkey

Last weekend I had the privilege of appearing on The Cleverley Radio Show in Houston again and it was really a magical show. We had Chef Kiran Verma with us as a judge for a cranberry throw down and she brought with her one of the most amazing roasted turkeys I have ever had. Even though most of us don't have tandoors in our homes, Chef Kiran maintains the recipe is easily adaptable to a home oven. 

Since I can not attend what sounds like an amazing Thanksgiving dinner at Kiran's  I plan on imploring Chef Kiran to make this delicious turkey a "holiday special". Meanwhile, she has been gracious enough to share the recipe with me and I am in turn passing it along for the betterment of humanity. Reach out and let me know if you attempt this recipe! 

All the best and Happy Thanksgiving! 

From Kiran Verma, chef/owner of Kiran's. This recipe calls for a 12- to 14-pound free-range turkey.


5 quarts of water
1cup coarse salt
4 bay leaves*
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds*
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries*
2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns*
1 tablespoon fennel seeds*
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 bottle chardonnay (if it's not drinkable, it's not for cooking)
*toast these ingredients in a dry hot skillet and add to the brine mixture

Tandoori Turkey Marinade

2 pounds sour cream
4 cups Greek yogurt
2½ ounces garam masala*
8 ounces chopped garlic
4 ounces sliced garlic
4 ounces chopped ginger
3 ounces Serrano pepper, minced
2 cups lemon juice
2½ ounces fenugreek
¹⁄8 cup paprika
¹⁄8 cup chili powder
3 ounces kosher salt
*All spices can be found at Indian markets

Filling for turkey

2 medium red onions, chopped
20 cloves peeled garlic
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 whole poblano peppers
2 cinnamon sticks
4 black cardamom pods
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 whole carrots, sliced
4 sprigs sage
4 sprigs thyme
4 bay leaves
1 stick unsalted butter


½ pound unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped red onion
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup Cognac
½ cup heavy cream

Instructions: Brine the turkey for 8-10 hours in the refrigerator using a brining bag and ingredients listed above for brining. Remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towel. Discard brining solution.

For the marinade: Puree all marinade ingredients in blender, and pour marinade into roasting bag. Add the turkey and turn it in the bag to coat with marinade. Tie the bag, and arrange the turkey with the breast side down in a large heavy roasting pan. Refrigerate this overnight. Take the turkey out of the marinade, stuff the cavity with filling ingredients, and place back into the roasting bag. Let the turkey stand in the bag at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Turn the turkey breast side up, and create steam holes in the roasting bag. Roast turkey for 40 minutes at 400 degrees.

Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and roast until the thermometer reads 160 degrees.

Be sure to insert thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. Reduce heat further to 300 degrees, and cook for 2 hours.

Take the turkey out of the oven, and cut the bag open. Be careful about steam and juices as they will be very hot. After removing the bag, put the turkey back in the oven for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees until the breast is deeply browned.

Take the turkey out of the oven and transfer it to a platter. Let it rest for half an hour. While the turkey is resting, strain the juices into a large sauce pan, and spoon the fat from the surface.

Simmer this over medium heat, until the sauce is reduced to about 4 cups. This should take about 15 minutes. Set aside.

Gravy: In a large heavy-duty sauté pan, melt the butter and sauté the onions until they are lightly browned. Sprinkle in the flour, and cook until browned. Add the cognac and wine, and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add your strained juices from the turkey that you had previously reduced into a sauce and set aside. After a couple of minutes, add the cream and cook through until warm.

By the way Cleverley just happened to win the cranberry throw down!  I just thought I'd include her recipe here as well! 

Cleverley's Raw Cranberry Crush

1 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 cup sugar (or more to taste)
1 whole navel orange, chopped, pits removed
2 Fuji apples, peeled, chopped, core removed
1Bosc pear, peeled, chopped, core removed
Lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
Fresh ginger zest, pinch, peeled removed
3 slices pickled jalapeno
Cumin powder, scant pinch
Salt, scant pinch
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Cointreau, (to taste)
Garnish: Fresh cilantro

1. I prefer to buy organic produce when available. Thoroughly wash all produce. I like to use a commercial vegetable wash solution (available in grocery stores) to make sure that produce is clean.

2. Chop cranberries, orange, apples, pear and jalapeños together in a food processor. You may have to do this in batches. Make it as chunky or as smooth as you like. You use the whole orange (including the peel). You do not use apple or pear peels.

3. Place mixture in large glass or ceramic bowl. Add sugar and mix well with wooden spoon.

3. Zest 1/2 a lemon and a pinch of peeled raw ginger into mixture and stir.

4. Add scant pinch of cumin and stir. Be very careful not to add too much cumin as it can overpower very easily. Taste mixture. Add more cumin if necessary, but be careful.

5. Add scant pinch of salt. Stir. Again, add very little salt. Taste mixture. If you add too much cumin or salt, just grind up and add more cranberries, oranges, apples, pears until it tastes right.

6. Add Grand Marnier or Cointreau to taste. This ingredient may be omitted if you wish.

7. Sauce is finished. Sauce is best if refrigerated overnight before serving. To serve, garnish with fresh cilantro.

8. This sauce can also be used as a roasting glaze on ham, pork loin, chicken, etc.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A casual birthday celebration goes wrong at Pondicheri in Houston, TX

Where to take a special relative for a belated birthday celebration on a Sunday night? Answer: Wherever she chooses! Hence we dined at Pondicheri as it is located near the office of my dear cousin Marilyn Vilandos who is a very hard working Houston attorney with little spare time. Although I would have preferred a more upscale setting, I acquiesced since Pondicheri offers “table service” at dinner. I am not one to highlight negative dining experiences, for the most part I try not to say anything at all until I give the restaurant a second chance. Truth be told I've been to Pondicheri thrice before and it's been acceptable, although never stellar.  

Tell tale signs were in abundance as our dining experience got underway. Owner Anita Jaisinghani was at the front of the house as we entered. It is usually reassuring to see an owner on the premises, but Ms. Jaisinghani was not up to playing the role of hospitable restaurant owner. There was no sign of acknowledgement, greeting or even a smile from her on this particular evening. I found this a bit disappointing.

Our server seemed very blasé about our encounter as he mumbled the one special of the evening. Upon quickly delivering our hot Chai, I had to flag him down for a form of sweetener, as there was none on the table. There were no spoons in the utensil holder that I believe should only have a place on the table during breakfast or lunch when table service is not offered. 

We ordered papdi chaat and saag paneer samosas as starters. The chaat was average at best, but the samosas were a real disappointment, as the dough was not cooked through. It was literally elastic and raw on the inside as I cut through it. 

Rancher Thali
For dinner I ordered the “Rancher” thali with butter chicken, sayel lamb, smoked eggplant, kachumber, tumeric rice and naan bread. I also ordered paratha with yogurt and pickle.

There was a ridiculous lack of chicken and lamb on my thali, all told I would estimate it did not surpass 2-3 ounces, the sauce on the butter chicken was passable but the sayel lamb was quite watery. The smoked eggplant, kachumber, rice and naan were acceptable. The purpose of a thali is to experience multiple dishes but as you can see from my one photo of the evening, the portions are severely anemic. As a bonus there was a thimble of something resembling rice pudding, I refrain from calling it Kheer, because it was gelatinous and hard, as if it had been sitting on a refrigerator shelf for a long long time. The paratha was apparently made of potato, although there was no mention of potato on the menu. 

Marilyn chose an unremarkable dosa filled with eggplant and keema. Needless to say, we did not stay for dessert. It is disappointing when a special evening is impacted by poor service and inferior food. 

Coconut Cream Pie
Luckily we made the best of it by laughing it off and going to Del Frisco’s Grille for dessert where we ordered the most sublime coconut cream pie! The portion size should be outlawed and is large enough to feed at least three. It just goes to prove that all you really need to make an evening a success is good company!