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Tasty Tufts Top Comfort Food

Kummerspeck. It literally translates to “grief bacon” in German, but really it is used to describe that weight you gain when you eat your emotions. We have all been there—maybe a bad day or final exams will cause you to consume comforting calories or unearthly loads of sugar to make you feel better. Then all of a sudden… Kummerspeck. But it doesn’t matter because food makes you feel good when you’re down, like a best friend cuddling with you as your Netflix queue is ready to be played. So as finals approach and the stress of the semester buries you in Tisch, just remember that food will always be there to help you get through the all-nighters, especially at 2 AM when you don’t care about your intricate summer diet or how many yoga classes it would take to make up for the splurge eating. Let’s face it, we all have that kryptonite dish that we binge eat while Icona Pop serenades our thoughts with I Love It. So I asked my foodie friends what comfort food they splurge on when they are feeling down and overwhelmed. Here’s what they had to say: Read more

Holiday Season Excite-Mint

While it’s only natural that turkey and stuffing may be on your mind (and soon in your stomach), don’t forget that December and its nights filled with hot chocolate and reindeer are jingling just around the corner. When you are out shopping for the ultimate bargain on Black Friday, do not forget to stop at convenience and grocery stores to start stocking up on holiday treats. Whether you are decorating the house, finding stocking stuffers, or just purely getting into the holiday spirit, there is one flavor that cannot and should not ever be underrepresented: peppermint. The characteristic red and white swirl that we all associate with peppermint is so much more than just a stocking stuffer or a breath saver.  So, here are some recipes that you can use to transform the sticks, canes and mints into perfect winter desserts. Read more

Thanksgiving Side Dishes: Forget the Turkey!

When Thanksgiving comes up, everyone always talks about The Turkey. Heated debates about the best way to cook the bird reverberate cross the country. Brined, grilled, roasted, rubbed, glazed, smoked, deep-fried, marinated, slow-cooked, or stuffed? Answer: any of the above, as long as it’s not dry. However, for me, Thanksgiving is all about the side dishes. Arriving at a festivity to find a diverse variety of sides is the best part of the holiday. There is always something for everyone. It’s important to try a bit of every dish, then go up for second servings of your favorites, then thirds, (and, if you’re a pro, fourths). Below are some of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes. Bring one of these to the meal this year to score major brownie points with your family. Read more

Cupcakes for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, Turn Your Pie Into a Cupcake!

Tired of eating pie on Thanksgiving? Sick of mainstream Thanksgiving desserts? Not feeling the crust to filling ratio? Ready for an innovative spin on the holiday meal? Here are some suggestions for ways to transform the classic flavors from Thanksgiving pies into cupcakes!

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Thanksgiving for the College Student: Tips and Tricks for Great Turkey and Gravy

Whether you plan on returning home this Thanksgiving or you’re planning your first solo run (Friendsgiving, anyone?), the issue of the turkey is probably on your mind. Assuming you’ve decided to keep the bird, you probably are  terrified of overcooking it. Never fear – Tasty Tufts is here. This year regardless of whether you’re feeding a crowd or keeping it small, you’ll be able to produce stunning and flavorful meat that might just cast out those nasty memories.

Rule 1: Keep it small. When in doubt, double up

While turkeys these days are often upwards of 30 pounds, most experts advise that you don’t go over 12-14 pounds. This is tied to two factors: meat quality and thermal conductivity. A big bird is generally a less flavorful bird: the breeds used for the 20+ pounders are rarely designed around the taste of their meat. Ideally, a turkey connoisseur will purchase heirloom birds, which rarely go beyond 14lbs and still retain the distinctive flavor of turkey. Even if you purchase a supermarket turkey, you’ll still benefit from the second point: a smaller bird will cook more evenly. Turkeys, especially the big ones, are mostly lean meat, which transmits heat extremely slowly. You’d need to roast a big one for hours to get the whole breast properly cooked, by which point the skin and majority of the breast have long since reached the boiling point of water and have turned chalky and flavorless. The dark meat won’t fare much better since, with smaller thermal mass and more fat to conduct heat, it has an even greater likelihood of drying out. So the easiest thing you can do is just get a smaller bird. If you need more, get two – at their size they’ll still fit in the oven.

Rule 2: Reshape your Bird

As mentioned above, the fundamental problem with large birds in the oven is that they cook unevenly. This phenomenon doesn’t completely get resolved by limiting the size of the bird. The next thing you can do is adjust the degree to which each part gets cooked. The logic is sound: heat in an oven comes from top and bottom. This means that the top (the breast and skin) and the bottom (bone) will get cooked much more than the sides (thighs, underside of breasts, interior). If you reorganize the bird, you can ensure more even cookery.

You have three options when it comes to re-organizing your bird. The easiest is taking it apart. This is ideal for a smaller and more casual event, and because you can treat the meat separately, it could be a great way to explore multiple flavors of turkey.  Turkeys are built like chickens and breaking them down is pretty similar – separate the thighs and wings from the body, cut the breast (and the breast bone) from the rest of the carcass. You can separate the breast pieces, but for Thanksgiving you may want to keep the bone and skin on.

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A Spatch-cocked Turkey. Source: Serious Eats

Another option is the whole-bird equivalent of butterflying: spatchcocking. A spatchcocked bird has much greater surface area on a horizontal plane, which produces a far more distribution of heat. The actual butchery is somewhat complex: J Kenji Lopez-Alt describes it best in this article: How to Cook a Spatchcocked Turkey. The spread-out bird isn’t as pretty, but considering the improvements on the meat you’ll probably get away with cutting it up in the kitchen and presenting it divided.

This year Mr. Lopez-Alt presented a third way of doing turkey which he claims is even superior to spatchcocking, especially since it’s also presentable whole on the table. Describing his ‘Turchetta’ (really more of a Turkey galantine) doesn’t do his research justice, so we’ll just link his article: How to Make a Turkey Porchetta. If you wanted to convince your elderly relatives that college has turned you into a rebel, presenting your turkey like this might just do it.

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The Turchetta. Source: Serious Eats

Rule 3: Take a Temperature

Turkey and chicken cooking follows the same basic logic: Don’t overcook the thing! The major downfall of all poultry is getting it too hot. With light meat especially, you’ll end up with meat so dry that you might be chewing on chalk. The easiest way to cook meat right is to buy a thermometer – good models are no more than $25.

If you’ve ever cooked a steak you know to let it rest. The same logic applies to turkey and even chicken. While health-and-safety suggests cooking to a temperature of 165F, for superior turkey you might consider the laws of thermodynamics. A turkey straight out of the oven with an internal temperature of 160 could be 20-25 degrees warmer on the outside. Allowed to rest for twenty minutes, the internal temperature will rise by five to ten degrees as the heat redistributes. The result: meat cooked to a safe and moist 165-170 all the way through.

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Source: Serious Eats

These days a lot of stuffing-related advice suggests a separately-baked dressing over an in-the-bird method. If your family is committed to the old method but you’re wary of the downsides of a stuffed stuffing (longer cooking time = drier bird), try this trick: microwave the stuffing in a cheesecloth bag until it is at least 160 degrees, then stuff the bag into the cold turkey. By starting it at well above safe temperatures, you ensure that it remains above those temperatures even as the turkey around it leeches heat. Additionally, the hot stuffing also provides an additional source of heat to the inside of the turkey, expanding the cooked surface area (not as efficient as spatch-cocking, but a bit more presentable)

Another point on turkey is the importance of the temperature at the start. Not frozen. Not straight from the fridge. You’ll want your turkey to sit and warm up a little before cooking. Given the size of the bird, you’ll want to begin defrosting a frozen turkey up to a week in advance: a good rule of thumb is 4lbs/day. If it feels a little cool, you can draw out the chill with a water bath, but make sure to use cold water to avoid sponsoring bacteria growth.

 Rule 4: Don’t Forget the Salt

For lean meat, salt has been touted as a not-so-secret weapon against dryness. Meat proteins in the presence of a salty environment loosen up and hold moisture more readily. There are several schools of thought on the best method of salting:

Wet brine has been promoted in the last ten or so years as a surefire way of injecting flavor and moisture into a bird. Alton Brown’s brine, which uses vegetable stock, sugar, candied ginger and a mixture of ‘sweet’ spices and poultry-friendly herbs, is a solid option if you’ve got the container (at least 5 gallons) necessary to contain it. Here’s the recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-roast-turkey-recipe/index.html

From J Kenji Lopez-Alt’s corner we get dry brining, or salting. By heavily salting the bird, you make the bird brine itself without adding any water. His method is light on the seasonings and described in depth in this article.

A note on commercial birds: If you’re purchasing a cheaper supermarket bird, it may have already been brined to improve its shelf life. Likewise, if you purchased from a kosher butcher, the koshering process is very similar to the dry brine method. Turkeys prepared in either these ways won’t benefit very much from brining and can have a watery or over-salted flavor.

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Source: Serious Eats

If you’re not going to feed a crowd this Thanksgiving, you might consider alternatives to the whole turkey. Depending on your meat preferences, you might do better with just the breast or with a pair of thighs. The smaller size of the meat means you don’t have to resort to fancy butchery or multi-day preparation. Mark Bittman’s Braised Turkey  is a good method for a scaled-down approach to both light and dark meat. If you’re a breast man/woman, you could do cutlets or roast the breast whole (with skin on). Mr. Lopez-Alt even suggests a casserole combining dressing and turkey breast in one dish: Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast and Stuffing. If you prefer dark meat or have left-overs from Turchetta, you could try Pumpkin-Glazed Turkey Legs or Red Wine Braised Turkey Legs .

Making Gravy:

If you’re using a smaller piece of bird such as a breast, the lack of meat and bones might make gravy preparation difficult. Before you resort to the packaged kind, try a vegetarian or chicken stock-based preparation. Some options to consider: mushroom gravy (1qt stock, 1 lb mushrooms, ¼ cup flour, 4 tbsp butter) or ‘cheater’ gravy (low-sodium stock, aromatic herbs, and for an extra savory element, soy sauce, Worcestershire, or fish sauce).

-Edmund Brennan

Cover image source: Coconut and Lime

Coffee Around Tufts

As an avid coffee drinker, I can confidently say that I have tried all of the coffee hot spots around Tufts.  Yes, I have my own coffee machine and French press at home, but sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself to a wonderful cup of Joe handcrafted by a friendly barista to start your mornings.

The Rez
This gem of a coffee shop is located right in the campus center and run by your fellow Jumbos.  The Rez has a great coffee-shop atmosphere where you can do some homework and chat with your friends.  As a dedicated Rez goer (notorious for filling up two punch cards in one semester), my favorite parts of the Rez experience are the friendly baristas who remember their usual customers, the variety of coffee options, and the fact that they are open at very late hours when you desperately need caffeine to finish your paper.  My favorite drinks are the Lucy in the Chai and Soylent Green.  If I need caffeine, the Mind Body Soul will be sure to wake even Sleeping Beauty up from her slumber.  Oh, and did I mention the punch card reward is a FREE drink of your choice and size?!

Rez

 

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A Tasty Tufts Guide to Lobster

Two hundred years ago, lobster would have been a staple of Boston poorhouses and Northeast fishing communities. Without refrigeration, the quality of lobsters outside of a limited area along the Atlantic would have ranged from bad to terrible, which combined with their leanness might have inspired the famous historical fact that prisoners used to riot about having to be fed lobster.

Today, of course, with lobster matching the price of good beef, we look at its past reputation with a smile and maybe a tinge of jealousy for a populace that was so naïve as to what they had in front of them. However, it really is a combination of modern technology and practice that has helped turn these humble aquatic bugs into the stuff of fine cuisine.

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