Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Earthen Oven Roasted Turkey with Brown Sugar/Mustard Glaze

*For the full Earthen Oven Thanksgiving story, visit this blog*

1 Turkey, cleaned and pat dry
olive oil
1 bunch fresh sage
1 bunch fresh rosemary
1/2 cup Brown Sugar (packed)
1/4 cup Spicy Brown Mustard
Tin Foil
Roasting Pan

Arrange turkey breast side up in roasting pan or alternative (we used a metal grate on top of a baking pan).  Grease bird all over with olive oil.
Pour 3 cups water into pan.
Stuff  sage and rosemary into turkey.
Tie legs and wings together with twine.
Cover with tin foil and roast in Earthen Oven (or conventional oven) door closed at approx. 350 for 30 min. In the meantime, mix Brown Sugar and Mustard together in a bowl.
After 30 min, remove, check temp, glaze, rotate 180 degrees, recover with foil, and put back in.
Continue to glaze and rotate every 30 min. until meat thermometer reads 160. Remove, keep covered and turkey will rise to 165 on it's own.
Our turkey was 11 lbs and took approx. 1 hr. 15 min.
If you prefer a crispier skin, remove foil during last 30 min.
Turkey after only 30 min

Prepped bird, ready to roast

Earthen Oven Turkey after full cook time (probably a bit too long)http://www.dirtqueenarchitect.blogspot.com/2011/11/earth-oven-thanksgivingand-deep-fried.html

An Earth Oven Thanksgiving....(and deep fried pumpkin pie)

Now that we have this Earth Oven in our backyard, and Thanksgiving is one of the few cool weather/bug free times of the year here in Charleston, we decided it was the perfect year to host Thanksgiving at our house.  So both sides of our family came from Virginia and North Carolina, as well as some South Carolina family and friends...all total 20-25 people!  I knew there would be tons of yummy foods...and some interesting ones too... and so here begins this tale of gluttony and goodness which we get to selfishly enjoy once a year!

We decided we better fire up the oven on Wednesday night and go ahead and knock some things out before company arrives later that night. We lit the oven around 6pm and got the fire real nice and hot and let it burn for the next 2 hours.  I had decided to make a cake called The Hobo Cake which is a spice cake made in a cast iron skillet and cooked over fire or in an earth oven; this was going to be a surprise birthday cake for my mom and Matt's mom's birthdays.  I killed the fire and let the oven cool a little, but my impatient self threw the cake in when the oven was still WAY too hot! We closed the door and started sniffing the sweet smelling goodness cooking. After only 9 min. I decided to check on it; I pulled it out and it was black as tar and smoking!!!  Completely black!  
Lesson #1: Never underestimate the Earth Oven's capability to hold heat, hot heat....for a long, long time. 

 Moving on....

We all dug into the middle of the burnt cake (I'm very sad I have no pictures to show) and decided it was pretty damn good as long as you didn't get a really big burnt chunk. We let the oven cool down more, and then I threw in 2 loaves of wheat bread I had made earlier in the week.  Once again...too hot! There's a definite learning curve to the Earth Oven.  They seemed to brown on the outside faster than the inside could cook.
(look back at my previous post for bread baking)
Lesson #2:  See Lesson #1.

After patiently waiting for over an hour since initially killing the fire, we threw in Jake's 2 home made pumpkin pies, which cooked up beautifully in about 20 min!  I think we were finally at a good baking temp.

Earth Oven Pumpkin Pie
Lastly, we threw in raw chestnuts to roast....YUM!  This was my first chestnut experience!

At the end of the night we filled the oven with semi-damp wood and closed the door as to dry out the wood and help retain heat for the morning cooking.

firing oven
The next morning we lit the fire around 11am.  The wood was surprisingly dry from spending the night in the oven, and the oven still very warm. The fire lit right up instantly and began to burn hot and clean.  After only an hour we decided it was time to have some pizza appetizers!  I rolled out a thin dough, which cooks up best in about 3 min, and we enjoyed a few wood-fired pizzas, just to wet our palettes.  Mom made a pumpkin bread dough which was rising in the sun.
Pumpkin Bread and Pizza Dough

We decide that the oven needs to cool quite a bit before sticking the turkey in. So mom and I prepped the turkey (she shows me how....yik) and we leave the oven alone for about an hour with the door on; this helps the temperature equalize all over, which is good for baking and roasting.

Mom helping me prep turkey
Pizza read to cook!

Once the oven felt to be a good temp for the turkey (375), we slid it in, closed the door, and waited 30 min. to check.  After 30 min the turkey was starting to brown in just a few places already and smelled delicious! We rotated 180 and put back in (after glazing) for another 30 min.  We check again, looking even browner and better! Rotate 180, glaze, put back in.  Lucky for us, my brother Kevin shows up right after the third 30 min. interval (he can be very slow), with the meat thermometer. We checked the temp and it rose to almost 180 degrees! (it only needed to be at 160).  It was golden brown and crispy, the most beautiful turkey I've ever laid eyes on! (Recipe on blog to follow) So, it cooked for a total of an hour and a half, but I honesty believe it was done around 1 hr - 1 hr. 15 min. (11 lbs bird).  
Lesson #3: Same as 1 and 2. 

Earth Oven Roasted Turkey

Once the turkey came out, other people threw a variety of dishes into the oven to either heat up or to cook; just to name a few: eggplant casserole, mac n cheese, stuffing, vegetable medley....(drool).

Jake let up the grill and we all consumed local oysters with a buttery/spicy dipping sauce.

Grilled Local Oysters
The day was spent almost entirely outside, near the oven, eating, in the yard, under the oak, playing music, eating, laughing, at the bon fire, playing corn hole, can-on-a-stick, and eating....we all slept like babies.

Everyone digging in


The day after. 
Food coma. 
There's only one way to cure a food coma: to eat again.

We decide to roll out more pizza dough as well as some Chapati dough made by Anne.

Wenny tosses dough
 Once again, the fire is easy to light and the oven gets fast quickly (in about 45 min.) due to it being the third cooking day and contains so much retained heat.
We start with normal pizzas, but then we decide to get a little crazy with the leftovers.
Kevin makes a turkey/mashed potato/gravy pizza, then there's a kale/mashed potato pizza. Then someone pulls out the eggplant casserole and it's one of the most delicious pizzas we've ever had!!!  We try for vegetable medley but it's too wet and rips the dough.  As we get hungry for something sweet we try cranberry sauce with cream cheese icing and sliced apples, then we throw a brie wheel in a skillet, pour fig jam all over it and melt it into creamy goodness!
Cranberry/Cream Cheese Apple Pizza

Turkey/Mashed Potato/Gravy Pizza

Melted Brie w/ Fig Preserves

Once we are all completely pizza'd out, Kevin and Matt decide they must re-use the gigantic cast iron skillet filled with peanut oil(i was worried about my kitchen).

These guys are turning it out....the music is blaring, the oil is popping, and the geniuses are at work.  They fry pickles (frickles) and jalapenos.  They fry mashed potatoes.   Then...the grand finale....they fry pumpkin pie bites!  But wait, that's not all....then they inject the pumpkin pie bites with home made whipped cream!!!  It's like a Thanksgiving Twinkee!!! 

Matt and Kevin's Deep Fried Pumpkin Pie w/ Injected Whipped Cream!!!

In the mean time, we wait for a 'baking ready' oven temp and bake 2 trays of mom's pumpkin bread for the morning.

After delving into the fry master's inventions, we are all completely full and content (and a bit sick feeling).  Although these 3 days were over the top, extreme, a bit unhealthy, and probably somewhat wasteful, the beauty in it all was the coming together of family and friends...to cook and to create and to eat together.  The Earth Oven definitely did it's job this year! I heard several comments such as, 'It just makes cooking fun again' and 'it completely changes the whole eating experience!'  
Lesson #4: Eat, drink, and be merry...over-indulge every now and then, sit back and laugh, and most of all, be Thankful for being able to experience this kind of a life!!!  And NEVER, underestimate the Earth Oven. 

Me, rather impatiently waiting for my turkey

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Holmes Inspection: Making Homes Right????

While mindlessly flipping through TV channels at my mother-in-law’s house the other night, I got caught by a show on HGTV called ‘Holmes Inspection.’  The featured show casts a tough looking builder guy with a crew cut and overalls, along with his trusty entourage of tight black T-shirt wearing guys with dust masks which he orders around by saying things like, ‘drop this ceiling!’ and ‘kill this stud here!’  The edition, like so many shows these days, showcased the confused homeowners with a house full of problems and no idea what to do.  So the trusty building team came to the rescue to renovate while the couple is away;  turning their problem-ridden home into the ‘healthy’ and’ safe’ home they deserve.

Mr. Hot-Shot Builder guy starts in the bathroom where I do admit, the bathtub recessed into the floor to be a bit strange, declares this to be a ‘tripping hazard!,’ and this is simply ‘unsafe!’  He stands up, dramatically bangs his hammer into the tile shower surround, and orders one of the tight black shirt crew men to ‘Take it out!.’

Mr. Holmes
 Next Scene: the fiberglass tub and tiles are ripped from the bathroom and thrown into the oversized green dumpster sitting in the driveway of the house.  Later in the show we learn that a brand new fiberglass tub and new tiles are re-installed in the exact same place!  I could never quite understand why the same perfectly good tub couldn’t be reused?  Or why all of the tiles had to be ‘dumpstered’ as well, and retiled? Or why the perfectly good tub went to the landfill to begin with???

Mr. Holmes continues to stroll through the house, prodding walls, and saying things like, ‘This probably doesn’t meet code, so let’s go ahead and tear out all of the ceilings and rebuild them!’ …..and ‘This probably DOES meet code, but let’s go ahead and pull it out anyways, just to be on the safe side.’

Dumpster filled with construction waste
The camera crew then shows us shot upon shot of demolition....walls and ceilings coming down all over the place….and the big green dumpster outside is filling…and filling…and filling…................

Obviously Mr. Holmes is not really in control of a real budget with real money, because most homeowners don’t like to hear things like ‘It’s probably alright but we’re going to spend $5000 of your money replacing it anyways, is that OK?’  And I suppose it never occurred to him that checking the code book really isn't rocket science, but then again this is TV and thumbing through the Building Code doesn't really make for good ratings.

While it is funny to sit back and crack jokes and poke fun at the annoying home remodeling shows (and trust me, Architects love this kind of fun ), all jokes aside, shows and messages like this are disturbing and are a disservice to all who watch it and believe in this model as an industry. The message of this show, as I saw it, was to throw away, and rebuild; just toss it all in the big ol’ dumpster that takes all of our garbage into the invisible landfill that we will never have to see again! Voila!  The decisions made were made from speculation; not knowledge.  Not once was the idea of salvaging or recycling or simply improving the house with a minimal amount of impact and waste ever entertained; not even with the perfectly good bath tub that was tossed in the big green dumpster.  

Landfill; construction waste

In the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s, the building industry was flooded with cheap, fast housing; cookie cutter houses;  houses with little to no thought about materials, functionality, aesthetics, or longevity.  Investments were the focus, and faster and cheaper was better.  That was then and this is now. The year 2011; we’re knee deep into ‘Green Building’ for Pete’s sake! The construction industry produces the largest amount of landfill waste over any other industry in the United Sates.   In a world which is currently overpopulated, over-polluted, and natural resources are diminishing, we as individuals...and especially those of us who serve in the building industry have an obligation to become creative and efficient in how we deal with these situations; our decisions should be based off of research and knowledge and when we do have to demolish items, have we exhausted all options for re-use and salvaging before mindlessly tossing our fiberglass bath tubs into the dumpster???  HGTV's message of unconscious wastefulness and uneducated decision-making is influencing 78,000 people across America who are now watching this show,  I personally find this to be disturbing.  Not only do we as individuals and professionals need to take responsibility for our construction-based decisions, but our TV networks should have an obligation to think harder about the messages they are broadcasting as well.  Perhaps if these well-watched programs focused even a little on the ideas behind conservation and creative solutions and less on the wasteful practices which have been haunting us for over two decades now, then maybe a small percentage of the 78,000 people might make different decisions about their own home and their own waste; and in this inter-connected world in which we live, better decisions equals a better future for all of us and for this fragile Earth.

Typical 1950's House

Typical 1990's House