Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thanksgiving (or Christmas) Dinner with Inghams Turkey

      Thanksgiving is not really something that we celebrate in Australia though some Christians do celebrate the occasion. The whole turkey Thanksgiving dinner is more of an American influence though us 'Aussies' tend to have our turkey for Christmas instead. The church that my parents attend did happen to have a Thanksgiving service last week with a feast to follow though I don't think there was anyTurkey or roast veggies in sight as it's a Vietnamese church and well, there was lots of Vietnamese food.
      The very first time I tried to cook a turkey it was a disaster. Our oven fan had broken a few days earlier and I was very reluctant to have our gas oven running over such a long period of time without a fan. Ryan and I tried cooking it on a kettle coal BBQ but it just didn't seem to want to cook at all. Mainly because I think both of us were a little clueless as to how to cook a turkey. We ended up slicing up the half cooked turkey and frying it off in a pan. I wouldn't call that one of my successful meals ever though the stuffing we made was pretty good. Luckily the turkey was only complimentary to a big BBQ spread my mum had put on for the family already.
      I didn't think I'd see another turkey again in my life until I received an email inviting me to sample some Turkey products from Ingham. I was definitely keen to give the turkey another go and was sent a Turkey Breast Buffe and a Whole Roast Turkey to try out.

     As it had been a long time since I last cooked a nice meal for my family, I decided that I'd cook a Thanksgiving dinner for my family with the Turkey Breast Buff. I wanted to keep the Whole Roast Turkey to use in a couple of weeks for a big Christmas dinner Ryan and I are hosting in a couple of weeks for some friends.
      Whenever I cook for my family it's usually been a meat and three veg kind of a meal. You might think it weird that such a staple western meal is considered special to us. Well, it is when you have a rotation of different Vietnamese noodle soups, braises, rice, and stews as your staple diet. I should be glad that my parents are willing to eat what I cook up, though I always have to put a bottle of soy sauce and chili sauce on the table for them. Generally my seasoning is ok but they always need their chilli kick from either some chilli paste or fresh chilli. It makes the food easier to digest for them as they are used to either rice or noodles for dinner.

      So about midweek I took the Turkey Buffe out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge. I decided that I was just going to make a nice stuffing and serve a simple gravy for the turkey. For my sides I was going to do my usual roast veggies - potatoes, pumpkin, beans etc.
      The Turkey Buffe comes pre marinated so all you have to do is pat it dry and pop it into the oven and cook according to the instructions on the packet. I did find though that my turkey required longer to cook, all up about 3 - 3.5 hours until it was a nice deep golden brown and the meat had reached the right temperature. I covered it in foil for the first hour and then took the foil off for the remaining cooking time. I also found that the water in the roasting pan evaporated so had to keep topping this up worried that my turkey would be too dry. While waiting for the turkey to cook I prepared all my veggies for roasting.
     An essential tool for roasting meats would be a thermometer, a digital one would give you the most accurate results. I googled temperatures to cook turkey and found that it should be about 77 degrees Celsius in the breast. The trick is to not constantly open the oven to check on the turkey, only often enough to replenish the water in the roasting pan. My turkey turned out perfect! I covered it in foil and let it rest while I popped all my prepared veggies into the oven to cook.

       For my stuffing, I tweaked this stuffing recipe from the Ingham's Turkey website. I didn't have raisins but found sultanas in the fridge but I didn't have enough sultanas either so substituted the remaining quantity for dried cranberries. I also used dried sage leaves as that's what I had on hand. As there was more stuffing than the amount needed for the turkey cavity I pressed the leftover stuffing mix into a baking pan and popped it into the oven with the turkey until it had turned golden brown on top. It had a nice drier texture in contrast to the stuffing that came out of the turkey which was a lot more moist from soaking up the juices. I loved this stuffing recipe, saltiness from the bacon, the sweetness of the fruits, fragrant sage, it went well with the turkey and gravy.

      My rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes are a big hit with the family so I make these for every family dinner I cook for. I tend to measure my ingredients by eye, dried rosemary (you can use fresh rosemary finely chopped), finely diced garlic, cracked black pepper and salt to season and also a small sprinkling of sugar to balance the salt (a very Asian thing to do but it works). Drizzle over some olive oil, toss the potatoes to evenly coat and then I roast them on a rack in the oven at 220 degrees Celsius for about 45-50 minutes.

      I absolutely adore roast pumpkin (though not as much as I adore roast potato). I'd be happy to have a whole bowl as it is. Usually I'd toss the pumpkin pieces in some paprika, cayenne and cinnamon (about 2 teaspoons of each per kilo of pumpkin) with olive oil and salt and pepper before roasting but this time I decided to roast them with maple syrup and cinnamon instead. They were a big hit, especially with Ryan.

      I believe that there should always be something green and mum had bought some green beans so I sauteed them in some garlic. It's the only way I enjoy my green beans. Mum did complain they were a touch under cooked but Ryan and I loved the crunch they still had. Oh and did I tell you how much I love garlic too?

      I made sure that the roasting pan was topped up with water during cooking so that any drippings from the Turkey wouldn't dry out and burn so I could use it to make a white wine gravy. I used this gravy recipe from the Ingham's Turkey website. It's actually a really great website that they have developed with recipes, how to's and product information on the other turkey products in their range.

      It was not a fancy schmancy dinner but the important thing is that everyone enjoyed it. I was just really happy that I managed to cook the turkey perfectly and that the meat was juicy and tender. As usual, plenty of leftovers which were happily packed for lunch the next day or turned into sandwiches.

Happy Thanksgiving dear readers! Have you had your turkey yet or will you be having a Christmas turkey?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Step-A-Side Diner, Cabramatta

     You've got to watch out for this train, one blink and you might miss it! This old decommissioned train carriage shipped all the way from Melbourne, houses an American style diner inside it and has only been open for a couple of months. Step-A-Side Diner faces the busy Hume Highway in Cabramatta and can easily be missed, but I was on a mission to find it.

      A long overdue brunch catch up with a good friend meant that we needed somewhere to go (good food mandatory). I thought that I would venture out west to meet her and I'd heard of many great places popping up in Sydney's west but when I stumbled across this little diner on Urbanspoon, I was excited to go and check it out and so was Miss Tran after I sent her links to the website and to one of the blog reviews with photos.

      We instantly fall in love with the funky fit out inside. The vinyl stools and booths, the old records, the black and white photos of old rock 'n roll or movie stars. There's even a funky vintage juke box.
      We're a little wary as it seems as though we're the only customers, but we were there for brunch so either arrived after the breakfast crowd or were early for lunch. We noticed that there was one person ordering take away when we sat down and another two customers came in while we were dining but apart from that no one else came at all. It seems that not many people know about this place yet, but as I said, blink and you'll miss it.

There's tables with stools to sit at...

Or there's comfy booths, which we opt for.

The vintage juke box pumping out happy tunes.

Girls, Audrey Hepburn, or Marilyn Monroe?

     The inside of the train carriage has been kept intact in it's original state, apart from the addition of the tables and stools and decorations. The booth seats are the original train seats which have been re-furbished. You can even sit in the driver's seat and drive the train if you feel inclined to.

      All the essential condiments, including American mustard. I love how they recycled old vinyl records and turned them into holders for the condiments.

      The menu isn't huge but pretty much covers all your American basics, some classic burger options along with a few gourmet burger options. There's two PO Boy's, either a chorizo or prawn filling and a hot dog. Drinks include milk shakes, spiders and sodas. Dessert options consist of waffles, sundaes, melbas and a banana split.

Prawn Po' Boy - Sauteed prawns in a garlic chilli salsa, with lettuce, tomato and Tiger sauce. Served on a 12 inch baguette.

      The garlic chilli salsa grabbed Miss Tran's attention so we agreed to order one of these to share. I forgot that it was a 12 inch baguette but I am sure that what came out to our table was a lot larger than that.
      The baguette had just enough crunch on the outside and was soft and fluffy on the inside. The prawns in salsa were spicy enough without being too overbearingly hot offset by the cooling crunch of the lettuce leaves and the Tiger sauce was like a light mayonaise binding everything together. The more I bit into it, the more I loved it. We both agreed we could finish off an entire one.
     The only issue I had was that it got quite soggy towards the end with sauce dripping everywhere on my plate. But I think it's just that I am a messy eater as Miss Tran's plate was squeaky clean. I left the end bit of my baguette behind and ate all my prawns because I wanted room to try the burger.

Cheeseburger - 100% beef pattie, with sauteed onions, lettuce, tomato and a side of chips.

      I thought we couldn't come to a diner and not have a burger. The burgers come in 2 pattie sizes, 120g or 180g. Beetroot is optional but Miss Tran says no. We opt for the 120g classic Cheeseburger so we could have room for dessert but we never had room for dessert :(.
      The burger was a little cold by the time I got through my share of the massive prawn po' boy but I still enjoyed it, what I could fit in anyway. I did find that the mountain of cheese on top was a little rich but the pattie was well seasoned and juicy and the hamburger bun was soft and fluffy. The chips were nice and crispy but even a potato lover like me couldn't finish them after the po' boy and the half burger I had just eaten.

Caramel Milkshake, Lime Milkshake.

      I had not had a milk shake in such a long time that with the opportunity right then and there before me, I jumped and ordered a caramel milkshake. I'm glad I did because I enjoyed every drop. It wasn't too sweet and had just the right amount of caramel.
     Even coming with empty stomachs we both struggled to finish our food, the servings are very generous (or we are just tiny eaters).

      As we are leaving, we're told by the owner to check out the other end of the carriage where it is a different set out. The kitchen separates the two ends of the carriage and one end can be closed off for parties and large group bookings.

It would be a pretty nifty idea to have a party in a train carriage diner.

      I came to this train carriage not really knowing what to expect but am glad that we decided to go. It might not be Jazz City Diner but for something that's all the way out in the western suburbs of Sydney, it's quite a unique addition for those who don't want to come all the way out into the city. Go on, go and try it out for yourself and decide wether or not you like it. I think they deserve a chance. I'm definately coming back to try the waffles!

Step-A-Side Diner is located at 40 Roebuck St, Cabramatta, NSW, 2166
(Corner of Hume Highway and Cabramatta Road)
Open 7 Days 11:00am - 10:00pm, 8:00am - 11:00am on weekends for breakfast.

Step-A-Side Diner on Urbanspoon