My Grandfather's Perfect Turkey Gravy

H A P P Y   T H A N K S G I V I N G !

I have a special recipe for all of you. The ultimate gravy recipe. My family has made this gravy year after year for generations... and I now have made it for my American and foreign friends while living here in Paris. Everyone asks for the recipe, and we all pine over it the next day when the last of the leftovers are being fought over. ENJOY.



Turkey giblets ( except the liver)
3 cups organic chicken stock
1 onion
1 carrot
1/4 cup chopped parsley
a few sprigs of Thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup Madeira wine ( important ingredient! )
3/4 cup cream
4 tsp flour
3 cups water plus 1/4 cup
S & P

Giblet Stock (to be made in advance while turkey is roasting): In a large sauce pan, brown all giblets (except liver) in butter and add 3 cups water, 3 cups chicken stock, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, 1 onion and 1 carrot (stick a clove in the onion if you have one).  Boil for 2 -3 hours and skim the fat from mixture.

When Turkey comes out of the oven and is removed from roasting pan to rest, skim fat from drippings at the bottom of the pan. Place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Pour drippings from pan into bag; let stand 10 minutes (remaining fat will rise to the top). Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner. Drain drippings into a bowl, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat. You can skip this step if you can effectively remove the fat content. It's important to get rid of the fat in order to obtain a velvety smooth gravy.

Pour drippings back into roasting pan and put pan over moderate high heat directly on your range ( place over 2 burners). Add 1 cup Madeira to drippings, and reduce by cooking over moderate high heat until 1/2 of original volume. Be sure to scrape in any bits and pieces of drippings stuck to the bottom of the pan into mixture as they will dissolve well and add a lot of flavor. You can use a gravy whisk. Once reduced, pour liquid through a sieve into a medium sized saucepan and return to range. 

Add the giblet stock to sauce pan over medium heat and reduce to 2 cups. Add 3/4 cup cream. Stir in 4 teaspoon's flour that has been dissolved in 1/4 cup water. Simmer 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8 - 10. For a larger group, simply double this recipe.

Hazelnuts, Chocolates and Vines

The Langhe region of Piedmont, Italy, surrounding the city of Alba has become one of our favorite places to visit regularly. Four out of the last five harvest (and white truffle) seasons have found us meandering through the countless hills, on our way to a meal, a vineyard, or in safari mode, hoping to cross paths with the enormous white boar we once encountered, (roughly the same size as our rented Fiat 500).

We recently had the pleasure of staying at Cascina Sant'Eufemia, a stones throw from Barolo (just outside the DOC designation), hosted by the charming Paolo and Chiara.  Here they produce the three classic varieties of red wine from the region, Dolcetto, Barbera, and Nebbiolo as well as the incredible Nociola Piemonte IGP, that is, the name-protected Piedmontese hazelnut.

It's difficult to describe why the Piedmontese hazelnut is so much better than the one we're all familiar with.  I suppose you could think of the difference between a tomato from a supermarket in the middle of winter and an heirloom tomato from the farmers market at the peak of summer ripeness.  It's that kind of difference.  It's also worth noting that the Ferrero headquarters is located in Alba, and is responsible for the city having the highest average income in Italy.  More importantly, Ferrero is the company that produces Nutella, and if you get lost it in the right part of town, you'll find yourself driving through a sweet-smelling , chocalate-hazelnut cloud.

If you're in the Langhe region, you're probably there to eat and drink, and it's likely that you'd   be interested in some of the sweeter things not always available at the restaurants and vineyards.   Ravera Cioccolateria in Cherasco gives the Piedmont hazelnut the respect it deserves in their delicious chocolates and the supreme gianduja (jahn-du-ya), a confection native to Piedmont, invented in the late 1800s, under Napoleon's reign.  Go there, and do your best to save some sweets for after dinner and maybe even a few for when you get back home.

Even in the fog of early winter, the changing leaves glow in the vineyards.  It is a serene joy to drive around these hills with nothing but a dinner reservation on the agenda and empty hours to explore the valleys and villages.

After a few days of hearing us tout the glories of the Piedmont hazelnut, Chiara offered to make us a flourless hazelnut torte from an old family recipe.  On our last morning at the cascina, we dunked slice after slice in our coffee before heading back home.  But not without the recipe...

(..which happens to be gluten free)


200 g (1 1/2 cups) toasted hazelnuts, finely ground in a food processor
200 g (1 cup) sugar
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 180˚ Celsius (350˚ Fahrenheit). Whip egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff, then add sugar and continue beating. Add egg yolks one at a time, whipping constantly. Add ground hazelnuts to egg white mixture until smooth and well combined. Pour mixture into a round cake pan ( about 20cm in diameter) that's been lined with parchment paper ( or buttered and floured). 

Bake for 30 minutes......e buon appetito!

Tijuana Makes Me Happy! Part II

Here is part II of the Tijuana report from Carlyn Aguilar... where they discover the Festival del Pescado y el Marisco in Playas , drive to Carlyn's favorite taqueria, Tacos Salceados and do some Mezcal tasting at La Mezcalera.

At this point we were about to explode and trying to drive a car full of 6 people uphill in Otay made us realize how much heavier we had become.  Everyone was too full for dessert, but one place I love in Tijuana that is perfect after lunch is Tepoznieves, an ice cream and sorbet parlour with over 100 interesting and exotic flavors: anise, fig, mezcal, guanabana, tequila, black zapote, papaya, cactus fruit, red plum, guayaba, cajeta, rose petal, mamey, piña colada… But my friends were too full, so we drove to Playas, the beach town that hosts the US/Mexican border.


Fortunately when we got there, the Festival del Pescado y el Marisco was going on, so food from all the local restaurants had booths set up with free tastings. We walked a bit on the malecon and danced some cumbia, but we couldn’t help but try some of the local delicacies and drink some more tequila.  My tequila was served in a clay cup with tamarind, lemoncello, margarita mix, soda water, hot sauce, and a spicy tamarind candy that acted as an edible straw.  I got warm in about 2 seconds.


After drinking and dancing alongside the border, we drove to the neighborhood of La Mesa to eat at my absolute favorite taqueria, Tacos Salceados.  This taqueria makes tacos like no other- the famous quesotaco, a taco with a slice of toasted grilled cheese filled with any kind of meat or fish, pineapple and a strawberry sauce wrapped in a homemade tortilla.  It’s like dinner and dessert all at the same time.  We also ordered a taco with grilled jalapeño filled with carne asada and guacamole and a taco with New York steak and shrimp.  My vegetarian friend had a quesotaco filled with cactus, mushrooms and melted cheese.


Now that we had hit our eating limit, it was time to go back to drinking.  La Sexta (6th Street) off the Avenida Revolución has some great bars all right next to each other.  We first stopped at the  Tijuana classic Dandy del Sur, a nostalgic dive bar with a juke box that has been around since 1957 and became even more famous when members of Nortec Collective hung out there (We actually spotted Hiperboreal at the bar!) and then wrote a song with the same title.  After some tequilas and beers, we crossed the street for a mezcal tasting at the ultra hip La Mezcalera.  You can try mezcales puros (Minero, Tobala, Pechuga, Gusano, Reposado, Añejo), mezcales de sabor (mint, anise, maracuya, mango, raspberry), or cremas de mezcal (coconut, cajeta, piña colada, mocha, hazelnut, coffee).  We drank our shots of mezcal with slices of orange and chapulines (grasshoppers) cut up and mixed with chile and lime… ¡que rico!


Driving back to the border I knew I would be coming back to Tijuana muy, muy pronto!

Text by Carlyn Aguilar
Photos by Conrad Starr and Daniel Lara

Tijuana Makes Me Happy!

Los Angeles based journalist, fellow world traveler and gastronome, Carlyn Aguilar, sent us a report from her recent trip to Tijuana with her husband, artist Daniel Lara. They have a lust for life and a wide-eyed curiosity for all cultures they explore. We have had many awesome moments on the road with these two. Enjoy part 1 of their experience in this US/Mexican border town... and loosen your belts. Get ready for grub city.

Let’s face it, Tijuana has always had a bad reputation.  In the past, Americans would come here for “tequila, sexo, marijuana” as the song goes.  I remember Avenida Revolución in the 90s full of frat boys, marines and gringas dancing on tables at Papas ‘n Beer.  Yes, it was nasty.  Well, the good news is that most of that scene has withered away.  However, now the media is portraying Tijuana as a war zone, with bullets flying all over the place and people being kidnapped and decapitated.  Yes, it’s true that the drug war is happening, but it’s also true that the media is exaggerating and using fear culture for its own self-interest.

As I watch the news, I wonder why the media hasn’t put Tijuana’s food scene in its headlines. This city has 1.5 million people, making it one of the largest in Mexico.  Due to its border with the US and its many factories, Tijuana is one of the most diverse places in the country; Migrants are coming from everywhere, so you can find everything from a Poblano chile en nogada to a Sonoran steak or Sinaloan seafood.  Times are changing and I really believe that Tijuana, along with its other neighboring towns in Baja California Norte, is going to be the next big thing.  All you foodies out there, Welcome to Tijuana!

Now I’m not the first person to realize this.  In January, the New Yorker wrote a feature about Javier Plascencia, master chef of the famous Misión 19 in Tijuana.  Soon after that, Anthony Bourdain also made a trip there for his Baja Episode of No Reservations.  Even at Comic-Con a couple of weeks ago in San Diego, Bourdain was heard telling people to go for dinner in Tijuana rather than on this side of the border.  And last weekend at the LA Street Food Fest, Mariscos “La Guerrerense” from Ensenada won “Best in Show” for its sea snail tostada, giving Baja California the top prize for its second consecutive year (Javier Plascencia won for his oysters with chicharron and sea pickle in 2011).

With all of this in mind, a group of us Angelinos departed LA early in the morning to spend 24 hours in TJ para comer y comer y comer.  Our guide for the day, Omar Foglio, from the Tijuana-based media art collective Bulbo, met us out in front of Sanborns (sort of a fancy Denny’s) on Avenida Revolución.  No, we did not eat at Sanborns, as I’ve had my share of enchiladas suizas.  Instead we headed towards Colonia La Cacho for 24 Horas, a restaurant that never closes.  24 Horas is actually not its real name.  It’s called Restaurante Mexicano, which is the most common name a restaurant in Mexico could have.  So instead, locals just call it 24 Horas.

When you walk into the restaurant, you literally enter the kitchen, full of cooks and action.  This is an informal family-style place that serves authentic and traditional plates.  We were the only tourists in the place…and we knew this was a good thing.  We started off with sweet café de olla (coffee brewed with cinnamon and piloncillo).  For breakfast we ordered huevos rancheros (3 fried eggs on an open fried tortilla covered in a spicy red sauce), red enchiladas filled with queso fresco, and cecina de res (thinly-sliced aged beef) with grilled cactus and scrambled eggs.   All entrees came with chilaquiles, refried beans, fried potatoes, chorizo, chicharrón guisado, tortilla chips, several salsas and homemade corn tortillas.  There is also a fruit bar that makes freshly squeezed juices and healthy salads.

In this area there are a lot of very good restaurants nearby.  Just across the street is Las Ahumaderas or “taco alley”.  This street of taquerias was happening in the 80s and early 90s.  It was a traditional place to go for tacos, but lately this strip has been forgotten, especially with so many new taquerias popping up around town.  However, Anthony Bourdain ate a campechano taco (carne asada and chorizo) on his show, so maybe the area will come back in fashion.  And just around the corner is La Fonda Roberto’s that specializes in food from Puebla, Dolce Salato which does amazing pastries and El Taller, which serves “Baja Med”-style pizzas among other things.  This is definitely an excellent gastronomic area to visit.


We were so full and needed to walk it off, so we ended up at Mercado Hidalgo, a block-long street market full of produce from all around Mexico.  This is where the chefs come and find ingredients such as epazote (wormseed), huazontle (a prehispanic plant), squash blossoms, tomatillos, chayote, cactus leaves, miel de maguey (sweet maguey nectar), chiles of all kinds like habanero, jalapeño, guajillo, chile de arbol, chile pasilla, and much much more.

After walking around in the sun, it was time for some Tijuana-brewed beer at la cerveceria.  Up on a hill, the Tijuana Brewery is big and definitely makes its presence on Blvd. Fundadores.  The inside is wooden, with an English pub feel to it, but better because it's full of Tijuanenses.  The best thing to do your first time there is to try the Taster, 6 beers from the light Guera to the dark brown Cerveza Bufadora.  Now that we were all nice and drunk, it was time to eat some tacos.


Winding up and around the city to the barrio of Tomas Aquino, we ate at a Sinaloan taqueria Mariscos El Mazateño.  Little did we know that at the same time we were there, this restaurant was winning the “Judge’s Honorable Mention” at the LA Street Food Fest for its taco de camarón enchilado (a spicy shrimp taco dressed with shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, crema and green salsa).  Yes, we tried this taco as well as taco de pescado empanizado (fried fish, tempura style), taco de marlin, taco de pulpo (octopus), and my favorite, the delicious taco de chicharrón de pargo (fried fish) like no other.  All tacos come with a shrimp consommé as an aperitif to prepare the palate for an incredible adventure.

Part 2 coming up... stay tuned!

Text by Carlyn Aguilar
Photos by Conrad Starr and Daniel Lara

Reine-Claude Plum Tart

This summer we visited some friends in a small village in the Loire Valley. One of the highlights was when Imelda made her grandmother's Pâté aux Prunes, a Reine-Claude plum tart. It was beyond delicious. I have a new favorite stone fruit now. Can't get enough.

Pâté aux Prunes

1 1/2 kg (about 40)  Reines-Claudes plums  (Greengage plums)
500 g / 4 cups flour
100 gr / 4 TB sugar
200 gr / 16 TB soft butter
1 egg
125 ml / 1/2 cup of warm water
25 cm / 10 inch tart pan
parchment paper

Pre-heat oven at 180°C. / 350°F. Mix the flour, sugar, butter, egg and water together and form into a ball. Let it rest for an hour. Then separate the dough into two balls and roll them into 2 round 1/4 inch thick discs, one being slightly larger than the other - 14 inches in diameter for one and 10 inches for the other. The first disc must line the tart dish and should be rolled out on a piece of appropriately sized parchment paper, and come up the sides with extra to flip back onto the top disc to create a good pastry seal.

Place the whole Reines-Claudes, stem side up, over the first disk and sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top. Then cover with the second disc of dough and carefully fold the sides together to form a seal. Cut a cross in the middle and fold back to make an opening in the middle of the tart ( see above photo). While the tart is cooking take a pastry brush, dip it into the center opening and brush plum juices over the top to give the dough a golden finish. Don't worry about the pits. They are easy to separate as you devour your slice.

Bake for 1 hour and let cool.

Serve among dear friends in a magical summer garden if you can.

Recipe courtesy of Imelda Picherit, creator of the wonderful paris based blog: 20 Little Cities

Other posts you might like...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...