Thursday, November 20, 2008


This was originally a food blog. I am a chef.....and all that.

Thanksgiving is approaching. A time to give thanks for all we have. A time to guilt-trip relatives into assembling for a poorly prepared, miserable meal of brown things while college football on TV drowns out all meaningful thought and communication.

If you are under 10 and have access to a DirectTV remote......."The Wizard of Oz" is on at 5pm in Grandma's room.......

"I'm melting.........I'm melting......."

In Cachagua we try to keep the under-10's away from the psychedelics....with limited success.

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I have been working on my pedigree....tying in the wild-ass immigrants with the original Mayflower crew. "Speak for yourself, John...." The original American love story with John Alden and Priscilla Mullins....with Miles Standish playing Dick Cheney.....has still not been optioned to Hollywood.

Hmmm......Maybe I will work on that while I am not catering during the Bush Depression.

Anyway.....if you are not a fucking dummy....and are a regular patron of The Cachagua should order our chicken. Not because we are geniuses......we just get good ingredients and follow the rules.

Our chickens come from Fulton Valley. You can do better, but you have to work for it. We brine them, and roast them in the oven with olive oil and butter schmeared on there once in a while.

Add Murray River pink salt.


$10 for a half chicken......

And a pretty girl brings it to you, and cleans up your mess.

We do 80-100 dinners every Monday.....and sell 4 or five orders of chicken. Max.

Fucking dummies.

The beauty of the chicken dish is in the brine.

Our kitchen guru is Harold McGee. Harold is an English professor at Stanford....and the world's leading expert on science and the kitchen.

Here is Harold on brine:

Brining has plenty of advocates, and understandably so. It’s a flexible technique that makes a remarkable difference in the moistness of the meat, especially the breast. All you have to do is dissolve a few tablespoons of salt in a few quarts of water, keep the turkey covered withthe solution for a few days, then let its surface dry out uncovered for a day or two before roasting.

What simple brining does to meat turns out to be complex and pretty cool. The main driving force is osmosis, the natural shifting around of water and substances dissolved in it so as to even out any imbalances in their distribution. Meat contains a lot of water and very little salt. When we first immerse it in salty brine, salt moves from the brine into the meat, and water from the meat into the brine. The meat becomes saltier and drier.

But then the salt begins to modify the meat. The sodium attaches to the long, intertwined muscle proteins and causes the proteins to push apart from one another. This makes room for more water, and salt, and weakens the muscle fibers. The water flow reverses, so that water and more salt move from the brine into the meat.

All this shifting around takes time, especially in a cold refrigerator. In one laboratory study, little meat logs about a half-inch square and an inch long were still gaining weight after three days in the brine.

Brined meats end up gaining 10 percent or more of their original weight in water and salt. Then when they’re cooked to well done, their swollen muscle fibers can lose moisture and still have enough left to seem juicy. And the weakened fiber structure makes them seem tender as well.

The problem when it comes to turkey is that almost all commercial turkeys come pre-injected with a salt solution.

"Moisture Enhanced Meats."

The "moisture" is such that supermarket turkeys can be up to 10% brine. The "moisture" you are being thankful for is basically tap water and salt.

God forbid you should try to make gravy from the leakage from these fuckers. Think Boston Market.....or Dead Sea.

Even at this late date you pull off a great Thanksgiving Whole Foods and order a Diestel turkey. Pay the big bucks, which are not very big bucks.

I would brine the thing. The unstated by Harold McGee good side of brining is the antiseptic aspects. Bugs hate salt.

Finally....Harold points out that the turkey breast maxes out at 145 degrees, and starts to die at 155 degrees. The legs need to be cooked to 165, minimum.

Our secret process to produce gorgeous white and dark meat:

Stuff the neck cavity of your Diestel turkey with any and everything you find laying around: apples, garlic, onions, bread, etc. Think insulation. Put only a few aromatics in the body of the bird. We actually shove smoking hot rocks into the body cavity, but that is Level Two Turkey Roasting.

Brush down the turkey with mass quantities of melted butter. Cover the turkey with a butter soaked Safeway brown bag and put into a pre-heated 500 degree oven. Wait twenty minutes, and turn the oven down to 275 degrees.

At this point we remove the turkey, and bury the breast in layers of Corralitos bacon or pork fat.

Insert your remote digital thermometer deep into the leg joint of your turkey. Set the alarm for 160 degrees.

Start drinking Gruet.

Three hours later switch to local pinot or syrah and carve your turkey.

Don't forget to feel Thankful.


Blogger Sequoiagrapeboy said...

Hey Mikey -- If you make your damn chicken sound any better you will have to live with the consequences of driving a nearly-vegan sparkle-nuts to jump ship and indulge...

J and I are thankful, indeed, for you and everyone at the Store and AMF. We will be hoisting large glasses of Gruet in your honor come Thanksgiving Day. Hell, why wait 'till then?


12:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Michael!

Grow your own turkeys you lazy bugger, or pay children to do it like we (Slow Food Russian River) do!

We purposefully overpay 4H and FFA kids to raise 200 skinny, tasty, little heritage turkeys for us.

We are proud to say there is now an official 4H heritage breeds club in Sonoma County and we are working on creating a model so other convivia (or trailer parks with great restaurants nearby) across the country can start similar projects if they so desire. For the boring details and contacts see

Peace, and pass the gravy.

-Keith B

3:27 PM  

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