Saturday, November 29, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Fragrant Smoked Turkey (Happy Thanksgiving!)

© Constantine William Spyrou

I hope everyone was able to have a great Thanksgiving with family and friends! Whether you were on vacation and had a cool meal together, or got together with lots of family and massive amounts of food, I hope it was special. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a special time, regardless of where you are.

This year, our family hosted a couple of family friends over, and we had a true feast! There were stuffed pumpkins, cornbread, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, curried butternut squash, and more! I got to be responsible for two of the dishes: A spicy shrimp as well as the turkey! (with help from Mom of course)

I've seen barbeque restaurants smoke turkey before, and with the smoker that my dad has at home, I wanted to give it a try. To help out with the turkey flavor, I gave it a fragrant rub and a brine beforehand so that the turkey had plenty of flavor that not only would complement the smoke, but also create a brilliant flavor within the turkey! 

Recipe works for a 8-10 pound turkey.

For the Brine:

2 gallons water
1 gallon ice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sea salt
2 lemons, sliced
1/2 cup black pepper corns, lightly crushed
5-6 bay leaves

For the Rub:

1/2 tablespoon smoked sea salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon lemon pepper
1/2 tablespoon sumac
1 tablespoon ground cumin seed
1/2 tablespoon ground ancho chili (chili powder also works here)

For the Turkey:

1 8-10 pound turkey
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound apple wood chips (for smoking)
1 lemon, whole
1 medium-large yellow onion, skinned and quartered
Salt and pepper to season.


1. Combine all of the ingredients for the brine except for the ice in a large pot and bring up to a boil. Pour into a brining bucket or container with the ice in it. Once the brine has cooled in the ice, add in the turkey and leave for at least 12 hours.

2. Combine the ingredients for the rub together and sit for at least an hour to let the flavors combine.

3. The night before you are making the turkey, pat dry the turkey and season the inside of the cavity. Lift up the skin covering the breasts, and cover partially with the dry rub. Cover, and let it sit overnight.

4. The morning you are making the turkey, set up the smoker. As that is happening, remove the turkey from the fridge.

5. Season the inside of the cavity of the turkey, and stuff in the quartered onion and lemon.

6. Cover the entire outside of the turkey with the rub on both sides. Add in your olive oil and rub the turkey. This will prevent the skin from burning in the smoker.

7. Place your turkey in the smoker, and cook at an ideal temperature (around 225 degrees F) for roughly 40-50 minutes per pound. (We smoked our 8 pound turkey for 5 1/2 - 6 hours, for example).

8. Serve with all the trimmings!

This turkey gets a lot of strong flavor from the smoke and the rub on it. The onion and the lemon not only impart flavor, but also steam the turkey from the inside as well, keeping it very moist as it comes out of the smoker. All of the fat rendering out also makes this a healthier version of this Thanksgiving centerpiece!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Orzo Patsitsio

© Constantine William Spyrou

If you haven't figured out by now from seeing a lot of my posts, orzo is probably one of my favorite pastas to utilize. It can take on liquid very well similar to rice, and has a cool unique toothy texture that no other pasta can achieve. I've used it in several dishes, ranging from orzo salad to spiced orzo with pork. This one is my first fusion dish involving orzo: Orzo Patsitsio.

Patsitsio is a Greek form of lasagna that involves a bechamel topping with bucatini (hollowed-out spaghetti), ground beef, and spices underneath. This form uses orzo instead that has absorbed liquid to become a thick mixture that can support the bechamel. Making the orzo in this form also gives a nice creamy element, as some of the bechamel still gets into the orzo, giving a creamy overall texture to the finished product. This orzo mix has strong Italian flavors, making it a great, comforting fusion of Italian and Greek Cuisine! 

Recipe serves up to 16 people.

For the Bechamel:

1 quart whole milk
1 whole egg
1 cup butter
1 cup flour
Salt to season
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp parmesean cheese

For the Orzo Mix:

1 package orzo
4 cups water or vegetable stock
1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
Salt and pepper to season
1/2 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
2 cups raw spinach or kale
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or red wine)
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried rosemary
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 cup Parmesean Cheese


1. Start by making the bechamel. Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan on medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour, and stir constantly until the roux cooks out and flour can no longer be smelled, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Slowly add in your milk in small portions, whisking thoroughly to combine until smooth each time. When all of the milk is added, bring up to a boil while stirring to ensure the bechamel doesn't burn. Once the bechamel is at a boil, bring to a simmer and cook for at least 20 minutes. At this point, you can add in the salt and nutmeg.
3. Stir in the parmesean cheese. When it is all melted, beat an egg and slowly whisk it into the bechamel. Take off of the heat and let cool.
4. In a pot on high heat with some olive oil, add in your garlic, onion, celery, and carrot. Stir in the seasoning and herbs, and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
5. Add in your tomato paste to the center of the pan, and cook out for a minute. Stir into the vegetables, and cook the spinach.
6. Deglaze the pot with the red wine vinegar. Add your diced tomatoes and water/stock. Bring up to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes,
7. Bring the liquid back up to a boil, and add in the orzo. Stir on a medium heat until all of the orzo is cooked and the liquid is absorbed, ensuring that the orzo does not stick to the pot. This should take about 15-20 minutes.
8. Let the orzo cool, then preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
9. Pour your orzo into a large baking dish until it fills up half of the dish evenly. Top with your bechamel, and cover that with the remaining Parmesean cheese.
10. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown, and serve!

This dish is all about the comfort factor. The spinach and vegetables give some unique fun textures to the orzo base, and the rich creaminess of the top combined with the sweet, hearty tomatoes in the orzo make for a delicious combination!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Monday, November 10, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Southern Bubble and Squeak

© Constantine William Spyrou

This recipe is one of my first to come from a recipe request! That makes me excited =). This one is for Katie Green! Thanks so much for the idea!

Katie approached me with the idea of taking leafy greens and turning them into a tasty dish. Usually, leafy greens all have very similar preparations from what I've seen: Cooked with acid either on very high heat or boiled. However, it's the perfect accompaniment to the richness of Southern southern dishes and the bold flavors that can also be found in Southern cuisines. 

This recipe takes that base collard green flavor and gives it some Southern flavor with kicks like cayenne, smoked paprika, spicy tasso ham, and a creamy potato base to take in all of the flavor. However, this is all combined in a British dish known as Bubble and Squeak! Traditionally a dish that is made to use up the leftovers potatoes and vegetables from a Sunday Roast, it can take on any flavors that you place into it! That makes this the perfect vehicle to drive the fusion of British and Southern cuisines into one dish! 

Recipe serves 4 people.


3 cups collard greens, whole
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp sea salt
1/4 cup cracked black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 pound Russet potatoes
Water to boil the kale
1/2 cup tasso ham, roughly chopped (Cappacola or another spicy cold cut also works in place)
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced onion
Salt and pepper to season


1. Add your distilled white vinegar, collards, sea salt, black peppercorns, and bay leaves to a pot. Fill with water, and bring up to a boil. Turn down to a simmer for 45 minutes, then remove the collards and chop coarsely. DO NOT DRAIN THE WATER.

2. Using the same water, boil your potatoes for 15 minutes or until cooked. Add more water if needed. When cooked, crush with a fork and mix in half of the butter and some salt and pepper to taste.

3. Add the rest of your butter to a pan on medium-high heat. Once it melts, add in your onions. tasso, and garlic, and season with some salt to taste. Add in the cayenne and smoked paprika, and cook the onions until soft, about 3 minutes.

4. Add in the chopped collards, and cook for another 3 minutes, combining all of the ingredients together.

5. Add your crushed potatoes, and mix well. The end result should be a combined mixture throughout the pan. Press this into the pan and let it color for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Turn over and do the same thing for another 3-4 minutes.

6. Take your bubble and squeak out of the pan; it should look like a frittata almost. Cut into wedges and serve!

This dish is simple, but takes some preparation to cook down the greens into something delicious! The greens have a slightly bitter note that can be taken out with the seasoning and the rich spicyness of all of the ingredients in the bubble and squeak. They all work together to bring out the great flavor that collard greens have when cooked properly.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =)