A few years ago, I offered to bring a dessert for our Russian themed book club meeting. Our theme had nothing to do with the current US and Russian political climate, but was literary based around a love story from a classic Russian novella by Sergeevish Turgenev. At the time, the possibility of Russia interfering with the 2016 election was not even a blip in our imagination. Our job was to decipher the leads told throughout a melodramatic Russian love story and form an opinion if “First Love” was the definitive love story written in the 19th century. The task was not as insurmountable as it sounds, but my bigger concern lay with what should I bring for dessert?
After reading the story, and not feeling enthusiastic about it, I waltzed into researching ideas for a “Russian” dessert. It did not take long to discover a meringue dessert created to honor the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. Pavlova is a dessert consisting of a meringue nest filled with whipped cream and seasonal fresh fruit. Each bite is a choreographed dance of sensual textures and flavors. It is soft and crispy, sweet and tart, and as light as a ballerina pirouetting on a cloud.
In 1926 and 1928, Anna Pavlova toured with her ballet company to Australia and New Zealand. Her world tours were as anticipated as the Beatles and considered a major event for both countries. Chefs in Australia and New Zealand built on the excitement and honored her by creating and naming a meringue cake in her honor. Both countries have a long-standing dispute over the origin of the pavlova, inspired by the dancer’s tutu. The pavlova turned out to be as captivating as the ballerina’s graceful dancing, growing in popularity around the world for almost a hundred years. There is evidence that neither country created this meringue cake, but they did influence in its legacy. A true love story in its’ own right.
How to Make a Pavlova
Unlike other meringues, like my peppermint meringue cookies, that are crispy through and through, a pavlova has a crispy outside and a creamy-marshmallow center. A small amount of corn starch makes this marshmallow middle possible. The luscious contrast in texture is one reason for the dessert’s popularity.
Making a pavlova is not difficult, but like all meringues they are temperamental. The right conditions, cool dry air, and slowly adding sugar to the developing meringue are key to success. Another important factor is making sure your mixing bowl and beaters, or whisk, are clean. Any oil or fat residue will prevent the eggs whites from developing into an airy cloud. A new trick I just learned is clean out your mixing bowl and beaters with distilled vinegar then wipe the bowl and beaters dry with a lint free cloth. This extra step will ensure your bowl is free of any traces of fat.
Once the egg whites are all glossy and fluffy, bake the meringue in a low temperature oven. Don’t peek. Keep the door shut throughout the cooking and cooling process. Like a soufflé, meringue deflates when exposed to air before it is set.
Meringues are very sweet, so I offset the sweetness with tart fruit and lightly sweetened whipped cream. Adding extra sweet fruit, jams, fruit curds, or sauces makes the pavlova cloyingly sweet. Passion fruit has a tart flavor and is perfect with meringue. If you can find fresh passion fruit scoop out the flesh and seeds and drizzle it over the whipped cream for a dramatic affect. Otherwise you can buy frozen passion fruit pulp in the freezer section of your grocery store. I made a sauce with the passion fruit with a little sugar and reduced it slightly. Resist the temptation to add more sugar. The sauce is tart by itself, but combined with the sweet meringue, the tart flavor subsides.
Switch it up
For a dairy free option, make whipped cream with coconut cream found in full fat coconut milk.
For a vegan option make the meringue with Aquafaba, chickpea water, and use coconut milk whipped cream. Top with fruit and passion fruit sauce.
For more lemon flavor add 1 TB fresh lemon juice to the finished meringue. Fold it in with the lemon zest, corn starch. Omit the vinegar.
Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of unsweetened natural coco powder for a chocolate Pavlova. Fold in the coco powder with the corn starch until no streaks are left. (omit the lemon zest in this recipe)
My pavlova recipe is adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa, Mixed Berry Pavlova.
Lemon Pavlova with Passion Fruit and Kiwi
- 5 egg whites about 1/2 cup (125 ml)
- 1 cup 7 oz/ 202 g granulated sugar
- 1 tsp distilled vinegar
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 1 cup 250 ml heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 TB powdered sugar
- 1 kiwi peeled and sliced thin,
- 3/4 cup 185 ml frozen passion fruit pulp, or one fresh passion fruit
- 1-2 TB granulated sugar if using pulp
- Berries and fresh mint to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F /180°C and place the oven rack in the middle position.
Draw a 9 inch (23 cm) circle in the middle of a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover a large rimmed baking sheet. Turn the paper over, and place the parchment paper on your baking sheet. The drawn side is facing down. Set aside.
Wipe your mixing bowl and beaters with some distilled vinegar then wipe dry with a lint free cloth.
Add the egg whites with a small pinch of Kosher salt to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Turn the speed to medium-high and whisk until the egg whites become foamy and hold soft peaks.
With the motor running add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking between each addition. This will take some time, about 5 minutes, but it prevents the egg whites from deflating. When all the sugar is added, turn the speed up to high and beat until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks and all the sugar is dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Test if the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a small piece of whipped egg whites between your fingers. If it feels course, then the sugar has not fully dissolved. If so, continue beating the egg whites or a minute more, but be careful to not over beat the meringue because it will deflate.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the cornstarch over the meringue. Add the lemon zest and vinegar then carefully fold the ingredients into the meringue until evenly combined.
Pour the meringue on to the parchment paper aiming for the middle of your circle. Spread out the meringue to evenly fill the circle.
Place in the oven and turn the heat down to 300°F / 150°C Bake for 1 hour then turn off the oven. Keep the oven door closed no peeking. Cool the meringue in the oven for an hour, or until it reaches room temperature.
You can make the meringue a day ahead and store in an airtight container on the counter. A cool oven is a great place to store the meringue overnight. Do not refrigerate.
Passion Fruit Sauce
Pour the passion fruit sauce into a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and add 1 TB of the sugar. Whisk to combine and bring to a gentle simmer. Taste add another tablespoon of sugar if needed. Remember the meringue is very sweet so keep the passion fruit sauce on the tart side. Whisk to combine and simmer. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken and slightly reduces. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce into a heat proof container. Cool to room temperature.
Make the Whipped Cream
Add the chilled heavy cream to a medium bowl and whip with a hand held mixer, or use a free standing mixer, until just starting to thicken. Add the vanilla extract and sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Cover and keep refrigerated until needed.
Assemble the Pavlova
Just before serving, slowly peel away the parchment paper from the meringue. A thin spatula helps release any stubborn parts. Slide the meringue onto a serving plate, then layer with the whipped cream. Scatter the fruit on top of the whipped cream then drizzle with the passion fruit or some of the sauce. Garnish with fresh mint if using.
Serve immediately with extra sauce.
Once assembled, pavlovas do not keep very long because the whipped cream makes the meringue soggy. You can cover any leftovers with aluminum foil and keep in the refrigerator for one day with the understanding some of the crispiness will subside.
Meringues are temperamental to humid condition. Store in an air tight container until needed. A cool oven is the best place to store a meringue, just make sure you don't accidentally turn it on.
You can also make 6 - 8 small nests instead of one big one. Each meringue then gets a large dollop of whipped cream and fresh fruit.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Most of us had, and possibly still have, foods we did not, or still won’t, eat. Currently, raw oysters are on my list of undesirable foods, but when I was a kid I disliked peas, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. Honestly, it is a miracle I overcame any of my childhood food prejudices, especially vegetables. Mom only made frozen vegetables and she burnt them 8 times out of 10. Over time I grew to love all vegetables with Brussels sprouts being the last holdout.
About 15 years ago at a holiday celebration, a beautiful plate of Brussels sprouts was served with dinner. Up until then I did not give this cruciferous vegetable any thought or attention, but out of politeness and curiosity I put aside my childhood opinion and ate them. After one small spoonful of Brussels sprouts, my attitude changed forever. I cannot remember how my sister-in-law made them, but what I do remember was how surprisingly sweet they tasted. Even with the innate bitter components found in all types of cabbages, a tender and sweet flavor emerged. My sister-in-law’s meal tasted nothing like the Brussels sprouts of my childhood.
It is possible my attitude changed because now I tolerate bitter flavors. Whatever the reason, Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables during the fall and winter seasons. The key to delicious and sweeter tasting Brussels sprouts is cooking them properly. What I learned over the years is, they taste their best with fast cooking methods because the longer they cook the more bitter they taste. The cooking method that retains the most amount of nutritional benefits is steaming them. This is true for all vegetables. Yet, I like to sauté, braise or roast Brussels sprouts. Each technique creates a caramelized sear on the sprouts that add contrasting color and flavor. They are not as quick to prepare as green beans or asparagus,, but like most green vegetables they finish cooking within 20 minutes.
How to Cook Brussels Sprouts
This recipe uses two cooking methods. I first sear them in a hot skillet. Once they are nicely browned I add garlic, shallots and add some hot red pepper flakes then sauté them with the Brussels sprouts. For this recipe, I add the garlic after I sear the Brussels sprouts because I do not want the garlic to brown or burn. Then, I braise them in stock or water until they are just tender. I believe the steam from the liquid cooks them faster than they would if only sautéed. Plus the liquid gives the Brussels sprouts a nice coating for the pomegranate glaze to adhere to. Once they finish cooking, I add a glaze of butter and pomegranate molasses over the tender sprouts. It is just that simple.
The pomegranate molasses has a bitter-sweet taste adding just a touch of acid to brighten up the flavor. You can find pomegranate molasses at specialty markets, like Middle Eastern markets or Asian markets, or online. Or, you can make it. I recommend store-bought pomegranate molasses because it has a long shelf life. You can also use pomegranate molasses in a variety of recipes like, Muhammara.
There are so many variations for additions and garnishes for this meal. I added pomegranate seeds for a pop of color and compliment the pomegranate molasses. A touch of acid like lemon juice brightens the meal, but too much lemon juice, or any acid, will change the color to a drab green.
Other nice additions are crispy pancetta or fried prosciutto. Anything salty like cured meats or anchovies will cut out some of the bitter flavor. If you use anchovies, omit the pomegranate molasses.
Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze
- 1.5 lbs (750 g) Brussels Sprouts
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt plus more to taste
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cloves shallots thinly sliced in half moons
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or dried red pepper flakes
- 1/2 - 2/3 cup (125 - 150 ml) chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
- 2 TB butter
- 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
- Fresh ground black pepper to Taste
- Garnish with pomegranate seeds or fried slices of prosciutto, or crispy pancetta (optional)
Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts. Cut off the bottom stem then slice the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. Remove any loose outer leaves that are not in good shape.
Add 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil to a very large skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the olive oil starts to shimmer add the Brussels sprouts and lay them cut side down. Sear the Brussels Sprouts until golden about 2-3 minutes. Once seared to your desired color, stir them around then add the minced garlic and sliced shallots. Cook until the shallots start to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add the stock or water, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook until the Brussels sprouts are tender in the middle, when pierced with a fork. about 7-9 minutes.
When the Brussels Sprouts are tender, remove the lid and cook off any remaining liquid in the pan.
Once the pan is just dry, add the butter, or 1 TB olive oil for a vegan dish, and pomegranate molasses, stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with pomegranate molasses, lemon zest, and or crispy prosciutto.
If you are cooking for a large crowd, roasting Brussels sprouts is the easiest way to prepare them. Coat them in extra virgin olive oil and roast in a 400°F / 200°C oven for about 35 minutes on rimmed sheet pans. Turn them over from time to time during roasting. Add the pomegranate molasses immediately after they finish roasting with extra olive oil or melted butter and salt and pepper to taste.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Roasting a 15-pound turkey is intimidating and not without its challenges. It is difficult to get the white and dark meat well-seasoned, properly cooked and done at the same time. The size of a turkey is enough to stop people from cooking one. Not everyone needs or wants the whole bird and fortunately turkey parts are more available. When I entertain a small group for a holiday meal, I like to make turkey breast roulades. It has the wow factor like a roast turkey, but is more impressive seeing the cheese and herbs rolled inside the turkey breast. The bonus is, it takes 45 minutes to cook.
This recipe is from 2014 Oct/Nov issue of Fine Cooking Magazine. It is a great recipe by Jenn Louis and perfect alternative to roast turkey. What first attracted me to the recipe was a couple of things. I was hosting a small gathering for Christmas dinner and did not want to roast a whole turkey.
Second, there is a special ingredient in this recipe and it is not the bacon. Fennel Pollen. If you have never had it you are in for a treat. In this recipe, fennel pollen is mixed with bread crumbs, garlic and fresh sage. This mixture gets rolled into the turkey breast with fontina cheese and gives the turkey an exotic flavor. A lively je ne sais quoi flavor. If you tasted this recipe without the fennel pollen it would still taste great, but adding the fennel pollen brings the turkey roulade to another level of surprise and sophistication.
I first discovered fennel pollen a few years ago and believe it is a magical ingredient. I could cook with fennel pollen every day and never get tired of it. The flavor is more pronounced than fennel seed, but in a complex way. It is amazing with goat cheese, which is how I first discovered fennel pollen. A little goes a long way because the flavor is not shy. I love bold flavors and if used properly and with nuance, transforms a meal from delicious to unexpected in an extraordinary way.
Fennel pollen is expensive and hard to come by, but I believe it is worth it. I purchased fennel pollen at Savory Spice Shop in St. Petersburg FL, when I was visiting St. Pete. You can source fennel pollen at your local spice shop or farmers market. Or, you can also buy it online at Amazon or at Pollen Ranch.
Turkey Breast Roulade
Making turkey breast roulade is a production, but once assembled it is easy to cook and one you will feel very proud of. This impressive entrée is worth the extra effort. I found the most difficult part is pounding out the turkey breast to an even half-inch thickness. It is not that it is hard to do, it just takes some elbow grease and extra time. The good news is you can release any pre-entertaining angst with each whack of your meat mallet. It took me about 20 minutes to finish shaping the turkey breast. Essentially, you are taking an uneven shaped lobe and pounding it into a half-inch thick, 9 x 10 inch semi-rectangular shape. If you do not have a meat mallet, use a heavy-duty skillet. I tried it with both and found I had more control with a mallet.
Rolling up each turkey breast then wrapping them in bacon is something that requires some coordination, but gets easier each time you make it. The first time you make this, don’t let any insecurity of the unknown seep in and question your performance. Read the directions carefully and trust your instincts. After you see your first turkey roulade you gain twice as much confidence to tackle the second one. The plastic wrap is an excellent helper and assists in rolling up each turkey breast and wrapping the bacon over each turkey roulade. I included a video made by Fine Cooking that shows how to make a roulade for your convenience. Hopefully, all your questions get answered between my instructions and watching the video.
Helpful Hints for Making Turkey Breast Roulade
Time is the extra ingredient. Make sure you give yourself lots of time, especially the first time you make the roulade. It is important not to be rushed or cut corners due to time constraints. Whenever I feel rushed or cut corners, I make mistakes and do not get as good results. You can make turkey breast roulades the day before you want to serve it, which is a huge stress reliever and time saver when entertaining. Plan ahead and give yourself enough time to brine the turkey breasts for 12 – 24 hours, and assemble the roulades ahead of time. There are 8 steps – brining, pounding, stuffing, rolling, wrapping, cooking, making the au jus, and slicing the roulades. No one step is difficult, they just take time.
I always find it is helpful to read the recipe from start to finish a couple of times before I start cooking. Being familiar with the process helps anticipate each step.
If you cannot find boneless skinless turkey breasts, ask your butcher to cut one for you. Most stores carry whole turkey breast on the bone. A good butcher will use it and prepare it any way you want.
How to work with raw turkey breast
Making the turkey breast roulades requires you handle the turkey meat and get your hands dirty. As long as you have your Mise en place, cross contamination of unwanted bacteria won’t be an issue.
- Remove all jewelry from your hands and wrists. Even if you wear latex gloves, take off your rings. If you have a plain ring, like a wedding band, you can leave it on.
- If you have medium to long hair, tie it up to keep it out of your face.
- Push your sleeves up and wear an apron to protect your clothes.
- Do all your prep before you start handling the turkey breast and station them at your work area. Place all the utensils, plastic wrap cut to size, roasting pan within reach, and a couple of kitchen towels nearby. Mise en place.
- Wash your hands a lot. I wash them before I start, between steps, and when I’m finished. Every time I step away from raw poultry, I wash my hands.
- Throw out unused ingredients, like the extra grated cheese.
- Wash and rinse the counter and area where you worked.
I know you can do it. Turkey Breast Roulade with Fontina and Sage is an impressive and delicious meal. One that you will feel proud to make as well as enjoy eating.
Turkey Breast Roulades with Fontina and Fennel Pollen
- 2 TB granulated sugar
- 2 TB Kosher Salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 medium garlic cloves halved and green germ removed
- 2-1½ lbs 750 g boneless, skinless turkey breast halves, remove tenderloins from each breast
- 1/3 cup 75 ml fine unseasoned bread crumbs
- 4 cloves of garlic green germ removed and minced
- 2 TB finely chopped fresh sage
- 1 tsp fennel pollen or ground fennel seed
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 6 oz 175 g fontina, grated (about 2 cups / 500 ml)
- 2 brined turkey breasts
- 1 lb bacon about 18 - 20 slices total
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 2 oz / 4 TB 50 g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 TB pieces
- 2 medium shallots thinly sliced
- 6 fresh sage leaves finely chopped
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2 cups 500 ml homemade or low sodium chicken broth
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice plus more to taste
- Kosher salt
Brine the Turkey Breast
Combine all the brine ingredients, except the turkey breast, in a medium saucepan. Bring the brine to a boil and simmer until the sugar and salt dissolves. Turn off the heat and pour the brining liquid into a large, non-reactive bowl. Let the brine cool to room temperature. Once cooled add the turkey breasts and up to 4 cups (1 liter) of water so the turkey breasts are completely covered in the brining liquid. (I needed less than 2 cups of water). Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
Make the Roulades the following day.
In a small bowl combine the breadcrumbs, sage, fennel pollen and minced garlic. Stir to combine.
Remove the turkey breasts from the brine and pick off any spices. Pat each breast dry.
Place a large piece of plastic wrap down on your work surface and place one breast, skin side down on top of the plastic wrap. Cover the turkey with another piece of plastic wrap. Do the same for the remaining turkey breast.
Use a meat mallet or the underside of a heavy-duty skillet, and pound each turkey breast to an even ½ inch (1 cm) thick, and approximately 9 x 10 inch (23 x 24 cm) rectangle. It won't be exactly like a rectangle, but it will be close. Use a downward and forward motion when pounding on the turkey breast, stopping every now and then to straighten out the plastic wrap on top of the breast. When you think you are close to done, stop and feel each flattened turkey with your hands for any uneven areas. Pound out these parts until each piece is flat with an even half inch width.
Remove the top piece of plastic wrap from each breast and evenly sprinkle Kosher salt over surface, about 1/4 tsp each breast. Add a few rounds of freshly ground black pepper over each breast.
Sprinkle the breadcrumb and herb mixture over each turkey breast, leaving a ½ inch (1 cm) boarder around the perimeter of each turkey breast. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the breadcrumbs and herbs. Make sure you have a nice even layer spread over the turkey's surface.
Fold inward a half-inch boarder along the long sides of each rectangular turkey piece. This will enclose the bread crumbs and cheese so they don't spill out when you are rolling it up and while cooking.
Start at the short end and roll up each turkey breast, keeping the folded edges inside the roulade. Use the plastic wrap to guide the turkey into place. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C / Gas Mark 7 and place the rack in the middle position.
Lay a piece of plastic wrap lengthwise on a work surface. Arrange the bacon slices lengthwise across the middle of the plastic wrap. Overlap each piece of bacon, about 1/3 of the way over each piece lengthwise. Make sure there are no gaps. The bacon should line up across the middle of the plastic wrap to equal the length of each roulade. About 8-10 slices of bacon per turkey roulade.
Lay a turkey roulade across the middle of the bacon slices, so that the bacon strips run perpendicular to the turkey roulade. Lift the top side of plastic wrap with the bacon, up and over one side of the turkey. Peel away the plastic wrap while holding the bacon in place. The bacon slices should lay over half the width of the turkey roulade meeting close to the seam. Repeat with the other side. If the bacon ends do not meet, stretch them until they completely cover the turkey around its girth. Secure the bacon to the turkey with toothpicks. Set aside and repeat with the other turkey roulade.
Place a medium flameproof roasting pan on a burner set at medium-high heat. Add the extra virgin olive oil and heat until shimmering.
Add the roulades top side down into the roasting pan and sear the bacon for 4 minutes. The bacon will begin to brown. Turn each roulade over on its' side and sear for one minute. Repeat for the remaining sides, ending with the top side up.
Place the roasting pan in the oven and bake until an instant read thermometer registers 165°F / 74°C at the thickest part of each roulade, about 35 minutes.
Place each roulade on a cutting board and let the turkey rest for 10 minutes and up to an hour.
Make the Au Jus
Pour the drippings from the pan into a fat separator and let the pan juices settle. Place the roasting pan on a burner set to medium heat. Add 1 TB of the fat from the pan juices and 1 TB of butter to the roasting pan. After the butter melts, add the shallots and sage to the pan and cook until the shallots are soft, about 3 minutes. Stir to prevent the shallots from browning. Add the chicken stock and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. If there are any drippings at the bottom of your fat separator, not the fat, add them to the stock. Whisk to combine, and taste then correct for seasoning. Bring the au jus to a gentle simmer. Turn the heat down to low and add the remaining butter one tablespoon at a time, whisk between each addition until the butter is incorporated. Turn off heat and add the lemon juice. Season to taste.
Carefully remove all the toothpicks and slice. Serve with the jus.
The turkey roulades can be assembled and wrapped in bacon up to 12 hours before cooking. Cover each roulade in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator before cooking. Remove the roulades 30 minutes prior to baking to bring up to room temperature.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.