Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Brine it Baby!

Well, I did it... Finally at 36 years of age (wow I sound old) I cooked my first Christmas Turkey Dinner.

Last year, my sister made a turkey with a brine recipe from Pioneer Woman.

I found a butcher here in Senegal that was taking orders for Christmas turkey's. We ordered an 8 kilogram turkey.... 17.6 pounds (for just the four of us!). And of course, it arrived with it's feet and head attached in twine (not to mention the usual surprises stuffed inside).

Christmas Eve morning, I whipped up the brine hoping to recreate my sisters delicious turkey. For 24 hours, the turkey soaked. Brine, baby, brine!

Here is the recipe from Pioneer Woman (and also a great explanation as to why you should brine):

3 cups Apple Juice Or Apple Cider
2 gallons Cold Water
4 Tablespoons Fresh Rosemary Leaves
5 cloves Garlic, Minced
1-½ cup Kosher Salt
2 cups Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Peppercorns
5 whole Bay Leaves
Peel Of Three Large Oranges

Preparation Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover.

Allow to cool completely, then pour into a large brining bag or pot. Place uncooked turkey in brine solution, then refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours.

When ready to roast turkey, remove turkey from brine. Submerge turkey in a pot or sink of fresh, cold water. Allow to sit in clean water for 15 minutes to remove excess salt from the outside.

Discard brine. Remove turkey from clean water, pat dry, and cook according to your normal roasting method.

The turkey was juicy, flavorful, and fantastic.

My stuffing, on the other hand, was not.
I need a good stuffing recipe if anyone out there has one they would like to share. I used Pioneer Woman's, but had to do a lot of 'substituting' as I didn't have cornbread.

We also had mashed garlic potatoes, green beans with carrots, lots of gravy, and homemade apple pie. The only thing missing was cranberries, but it's impossible to get those here.

We all sat down for dinner and spent an hour eating, relaxing, laughing, and enjoying each others company.
It was a perfect meal (minus the stuffing!).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And this is Christmas.

For the last few days, I haven't been able to take a deep breath.

I don’t have asthma, I’m not sick, and I don’t have anxiety (right now, anyway).

It's because of pure and utter excitement.

The last few weeks have not been easy here in West Africa. Richard has been working around the clock...literally. As a journalist in West Africa, he is covering news that is violent, terrifying, and tragic. I have never truly appreciated being a US citizen, and all of our rights, until living here.

We have been falling asleep at night talking about a country that has two presidents, burning tires, smoke bombs, random politically driven killings, and mass graves. At the same time there are also people going through our garbage looking for scraps of food.

While trying to digest the rawness of reality here, we are also dealing with simple ‘day to day’ annoyances... like mild sickness, 8 teeth coming in with constant night wakings, being pulled over by police officers with machine guns simply because you are white, me working more than I should, power outages, water outages, etc.

Etc, etc, etc. Etc, etc, etc. I suppose the 'etc's' could go on...

These annoyances are trivial compared to what many of the people around us here are dealing with.

Christmas is helping us realize how truly blessed and grateful we are.

I have been ‘more than’ excited about Christmas, as this is our first Christmas as a family. It’s our first Christmas with our angels, Laird and Dylan. Granted, they have no idea that it is even Christmas, but for Richard and I, our hearts our so full of love and gratefulness that we can barely contain ourselves.

Last Christmas, we were fighting for their lives… not knowing what the future would bring.

And here we are, blessed with 2 amazing, healthy, happy little angels.

Right now, it’s 80 degrees, the harmatan winds are humming, and we still smell of mosquito spray from Christmas Eve. We miss our families and friends back home more than ever. But Richard and I have managed to get in to the Christmas spirit simply being grateful for what we have.

We are so so so so so blessed.

And so you are you.

Be grateful for what you have. Let go of your daily annoyances. Hug your loved ones and kiss your spouse. Take a moment and look at everything in your life that you have, rather than what you don’t. Take a deep breath and soak it all in. Life is beautiful, short, and wonderful…

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Luckily I had the camera out for Dylan's excitement!!!

Our little drummer boy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sunday at Club Med

Just another wonderful day....

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Application photos for Canadian citizenship.

Yes, these boys are going to have dual citizenship.
1/2 American and 1/2 Canadian.
Amerdians? Canadicans? Hmmm.

One thing for certain though...these boys will be shouting 'Go Habs Go'.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Yassa Poulet at Sonko's

Yassa Poulet or Poulet Yassa is probably Senegal's most famous dish. In fact, it has spread throughout most of West Africa because it is so tasty. At almost every restaurant here in Dakar, you will find Yassa Poulet on the menu (including a japanese restaurant). However, there is a right way to make Yassa and... well...the 'other way'.

Our guard, Sonko, brought over some Yassa that his wife and sister made on Tabaski.

It was heavenly.

I have eaten many, many, many yassa dishes as I think I am truly addicted to this meal. It takes incredible will power for me to not order the Yassa everytime we eat out. Sonko's yassa was one of the best I have had.

Last Saturday, we were invited to see how a good Yassa is made. It takes hours and hours....not just to prep, but to slow cook the chicken. And then to grill it on low heat. And then to let it simmer in the delicious sauce.

I sat in the kitchen with my notebook, pen, and camera feeling so so so lucky to witness this meal preparation....the right way. It took 6 hours...and it was delicious.

Maybe, just maybe, I will be the first toubob that can make a good Yassa.

Preparing the spices with the giant mortar and pestle.
(whole peppercorns, garlic cloves, full dried red pepper, and maggi cubes)

Then the special spices were put just underneath the chicken skin and rubbed all over.

Then, prepare the Yassa sauce spices. (peppercorns, green onions, salt, maggi cubes, garlic).

And this was amazing. Pounds and pounds of onions were pounded for about an hour. It was a lot of work...and even had to swap out arm power as you would get tired after just 10 minutes.

Rich and other family members relaxing in the living room.

Baby Kelly and I (my namesake).

Laird and Sonko's wife.

Relaxing in the kitchen while the chicken was simmering.

Checking the yassa sauce while slow cooking the chicken. No oven, just a fuel tank.

Then the slow grilling.

And the final addition of olives.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Doggie Transportation

Saw this on my way in to school the other morning.