Crab-Stuffed Salmon

Do you like salmon? Do you like crab (and who doesn’t)? If you answered “yes” to both questions try this decadent but truly simple recipe. Crab-Stuffed Salmon involves a handful of simple ingredients and about 30 minutes of total preparation and cooking time.


Crab-Stuffed Salmon
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 4

2 thin salmon fillets, about 1 pound each
8 ounces crab meat
8 ounces goat cheese
1/4 red pepper, finely diced
1/4 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs thyme, leaves minced
1 Tbsp cajun seasoning
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a skillet over medium heat bring the olive oil to a shimmer. Soften the onion and pepper for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute more. Allow to cool.

In a bowl, combine the crab, goat cheese, onion-pepper-garlic mix, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Fold the ingredients together with a spoon until fully incorporated.

On a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet place one salmon fillet. Spread the crab mixture evenly over the salmon. Sprinkle with the cajun seasoning. Place the second fillet on top of the crab mixture. Season the top piece of salmon with salt and pepper.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the center of the lower piece of salmon registers 145F on an instant-read thermometer. Serve immediately.

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Brine for Fresh Turkey

With less than two weeks until Thanksgiving you should be making a decision about what brining method you will use for your fresh turkey. There are many recipes available in cookbooks and on the Internet. Ample Bites suggests that you need look no further. This simple brine produces a very juicy, flavorful roasted turkey.

You probably have the Kosher salt and the required spices so all you really need from the store will be the brining bag and the apple juice.

Now that the brine decision has been made you can start planning your appetizers and side dishes.

Brining a Fresh Turkey
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

1 12 – 14 pound FRESH turkey
1 brining bag

For Brine
2 quarts of cold apple juice
1 cup Kosher salt
2 Tbsp dried sage
2 Tbsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp dried rosemary
2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper

Thaw turkey, if frozen, and remove neck and giblets. Mix brine by pouring salt and spices into the apple juice until salt is completely dissolved. Place turkey in brining bag and pour the brine in. Squeeze most of the air from the bag and seal it tightly. Place the turkey in a cooler with a bag or two of ice for 24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine after 24 hours and rinse it with cold water. Pat the turkey dry, inside and out, and leave uncovered at room temperature for about one hour before seasoning.

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Fresh Turkey or Self-basting Turkey?

The default choice of turkey for most home cooks is a self-basting turkey from the local grocery chain. The most popular brand is Butterball.



In recent years, there has been a very strong move to fresh turkeys which can be ordered from grocers or purchased frozen during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. One Midwest grower is HO-KA Turkeys.

The typical self-basting turkey is frozen and comes with a “ready button”. The turkey needs to be thawed in the refrigerator over several days. The rule of thumb for thawing time is 24 hours for every 4 pounds of weight. The turkey does not need to, and should not be, brined.

If you simply follow the directions that come on the wrapper, you will produce a quality main dish for your holiday meal. Whether you are cooking a Butterball turkey or a turkey from a competitor you should keep in mind that Butterball has on-line and telephone support for home cooks. You can call them or chat on-line if you run into a problem while cooking.

The fresh turkey, if frozen, should be thawed beginning one additional day ahead of the meal because you will want to brine the turkey for the final day before roasting it. If you have ordered an unfrozen, fresh turkey from the grocer or butcher you should pick it up two days prior to the meal to allow for a full 24 hours of brining time.

If you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, you should order your fresh turkey today or purchase your frozen turkey this coming weekend.

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Today’s Holiday Cooking Tip: Use A Reliable Thermometer

Regardless of whether you will be roasting a turkey with a “ready button”, a fresh turkey, or a roast it is imperative that you use a reliable thermometer to determine when your main dish is done. This may seem like an obvious tip but it is so simplistic that it is often overlooked by the home cook.

Like many of us you probably have a collection of meat thermometers in your drawers or cabinets. Ample Bites has owned at least a dozen meat thermometers. Ask yourself the following questions about your thermometer(s):
— How accurate are each of your thermometers?
— If you have more than one, do you know which thermometer is most accurate?
— If you spent $100 on a roast, would you trust your thermometer to tell you when the meat is done?

Further questions to consider are:
— Have you ever cut into a roast or turkey to see if it is really done?
— Has the turkey “ready button” ever failed you?

If the above questions raise any doubt in your mind, you have time to purchase the last thermometer you will ever need.


Ample Bites has a single trusted thermometer – the Thermapen. The Thermapen is a digital, instant-read thermometer that is well-made and tested in the best professional kitchens in the world. It is not cheap. It will cost you about $90. That said, you will be able to discard all of the other meat thermometers cluttering your drawers and you will never produce another overcooked turkey or beef, lamb or pork roast.

For a full review of the Thermapen see the November, 16 2012 Ample Bites post titled “Thermapen – The Best Kitchen Tool Ever!”.

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The Most Valuable Tips for Planning a Big Holiday Meal

Plan ahead and get organized.


If you have every held a large holiday meal you will likely remember the last minute dashes to the grocery store for crucial ingredients or, worse, to the department store for a critical piece of cooking equipment. Even if you are extremely well-organized the trip to the grocery is probably unavoidable, almost everything else can be managed if you think it through ahead of time and have a plan.

If you are hosting Thanksgiving, now – 2 weeks ahead of Thanksgiving Eve – is the perfect time to start planning and organizing. You are probably thinking … “Why 2 weeks ahead of Thanksgiving Eve?” The answer is that you need to be well into your meal preparation by the time Thanksgiving Eve rolls around.

These two weeks will give you time to shop for and stock up on ingredients without battling the last-minute crowds. To do this you need to set your menu including exact decisions about brining and seasoning your turkey; any specialty items required for side dish recipes; and any themed cocktail or beverage you might be serving.

Getting organized starts with building menu lists, ingredient lists and a plan for how these items will be prepared and served in a 36-hour window. I know … 36-hours seems like an enormous amount of time to prepare a meal. Is it? Really? Experienced hosts and hostesses will tell you otherwise.

For the tech savvy cook, pick up the Thanksgiving: A Bon Appetit Manual for the iPad and iPhone.

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Homemade Whole Wheat Linguine with Chicken Italian Sausage Ragu

Making your own pasta is very easy with the right equipment. The same is true for making your own sausage. When you put the two together in Whole Wheat Linguine with Chicken Italian Sausage Ragu taste buds light up.


Whole Wheat Linguine with Chicken Italian Sausage Ragu
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 6 – 8

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
4 Tbsp cold water
2 pounds chicken Italian sausage, without casing (See recipe below)
¼ pound pancetta, cubed
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, thickly sliced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 cup roughly chopped basil leaves, plus more for garnish
½ cup roughly chopped parsley
4 (28-ounce) cans diced plum tomatoes
½ cup red wine
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan

Using a tabletop mixer, combine both flours, eggs, water and ½ teaspoon salt and, using a dough hook, mix until the dough forms a ball and comes free from the sides of the mixing bowl. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Bring 2 tablespoons of oil to a shimmer. Brown the chicken sausage in batches. Remove to a platter and set aside to be incorporated into the ragu sauce.

In the same Dutch oven that the sausage has been browned in, brown the pancetta over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Deglaze with the wine. Add the onion, mushrooms, garlic, basil, parsley and tomatoes. Cook for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the cooked sausage and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

While the ragu is simmering, roll the pasta dough out and cut it into linguine.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until the pasta is al dente, only a couple of minutes. Drain the pasta.

In a large serving platter, combine the pasta and the ragu sauce. Garnish with basil and Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Chicken Italian Sausage for Ragu
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 6 – 8

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 2-inch-by-6-inch strips
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp dried ground sage
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp garlic minced
1 Tbsp crushed fennel seed
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Extra-virgin olive oil

Feed pieces of chicken into a grinder set for a coarse grind.

Mix the seasonings in a bowl. Sprinkle the seasoning into the ground chicken and gently combine with your hands without squeezing too much.

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Baked Dover Sole with Lemon-Butter Sauce

Dover Sole is a very delicate white fish that is best prepared when baked and accented with a simple, light sauce. When making Baked Dover Sole with Lemon-Butter Sauce be sure to prepare enough sauce to top accompanying pasta or rice.


Baked Dover Sole with Lemon-Butter Sauce
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 2

2 Dover Sole fillets (1/2 – 3/4 pound each)
1/2 pound dried whole wheat spaghetti or linguine
1/4 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/4 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine at room temperature
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
Extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 medium lemon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter and soften the onion. Add, garlic, jalapeno and tomato. Cook for 1 minute more. Add wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil then simmer over low heat until ready to serve.

On a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, place the fish fillets. Brush both sides of fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and just beginning to flake.

Boil pasta in salted water over medium-high heat. Drain the pasta and divide between two serving plates. Place the baked fish fillets along side the pasta. Top the fish and pasta with lemon-butter sauce and serve immediately.

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Shrimp Salad Pizza

After eating fast food on our trip down to Ample Bites South we always want something light and tasty using seafood the first night, if at all possible. A new favorite is a pizza that is a salad and has spicy sauteed shrimp in it. Ample Bites calls this new creation Shrimp Salad Pizza. Warning! This not a traditional hot pizza. It is actually more of a salad … hence the “light and tasty” lead in.

The shrimp are accented with a fresh salsa using mango, tomato, zucchini, red onion and lime juice. An Asian dressing and sliced avocados join lettuce atop a pre-baked pizza crust. The crust soaks up the spicy, salty and acidic dressing and the sweet shrimp give the dish the seaside protein we desire.

This salad is best consumed with a wine, a margarita, or a cold Yuengling lager — or two.


Shrimp Salad Pizza
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 2

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (size 41-50)
2 limes
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, greens only, chopped, divided
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped, divided
1/2 head Romaine lettuce, cleaned and spun dry, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 fresh mango, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1 zucchini, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1 avocado, sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
1/2 pound shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 prepared pizza dough, roughly 12-inches by 12-inches

To prepare the dressing: In a small mason jar, combine the garlic, jalapeno, about a quarter of the chopped green onion, rice vinegar, sesame oil, juice of 1 lime, and about a quarter of the cilantro. Cover and shake until combined. Set aside.

To prepare the salsa: Combine the mango, tomato, a quarter of the green onion and a quarter of the cilantro, zucchini and the juice of 1/2 a lime. Set aside.

Toss the shrimp in a few dashes of olive oil and the Cajun seasoning. Bring a medium skillet with oil up to temperature over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the shrimp and cook them, turning once, until they are cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Remove the shrimp to a plate and cover it with foil.

Preheat oven to 400F. Bake the pizza crust for 10 minutes until it is warm but still flexible.

To serve: Quarter the pizza crust. Place two pieces on each plate. Sprinkle the crusts with a generous portion of cheese. Top the crust with lettuce and the remaining cilantro and green onions. Divide the shrimp between the plates. Top the shrimp and salad with the salsa and sliced avocado. Drizzle with dressing, squeeze the remaining 1/2 lime over the serving plates, sprinkle with additional cheese, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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Italian Sausage and Chicken Soup

There are few better comfort foods than the classic chicken soup. Italian Sausage Chicken Soup kicks up the flavor a bit through the addition of Italian sausage.

Chicken soup can be made with carcasses of previously roasted chickens or a whole chicken. To get the most flavor into the soup stock use the whole chicken but remove the chicken halfway through the cooking process to keep the meat firm. This recipe also requires that the vegetable used in making the stock be removed because they will be soggy if they are left in for the entire cooking process.


Italian Sausage and Chicken Soup
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

1 large whole chicken with most of skin and excess fat removed
4 carrots, halved and sliced crosswise
4 celery stalks, halved and sliced crosswise
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
1 garlic bulb, cloves separated and peeled
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 32 oz. low-sodium, fat-free chicken stock
1 quart cold water
2 pounds Italian sausage (hot or mild)
3 carrots diced to 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch
3 celery stalks, diced to 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch
1 large zucchini, diced to 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
2/3 cup small dry pasta or orzo

Combine the whole chicken, sliced carrots, sliced celery, onions, garlic, thyme, chicken stock, water and a dash of salt and pepper in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to low and simmer partially covered for 2 hours. After one hour remove the chicken from the pot. Allow the chicken to cool and break into large pieces. Remove meat from the chicken and reserve. Place the bones and any skin back in the pot for the remaining hour.

While the soup is simmering, grill the Italian sausage over medium direct heat about 10 minutes total. Refrigerate the cooked sausage.

After 2 hours of simmering, remove any remaining meat from the chicken bones. Discard the bones and any skin from the stock. Carefully remove the onions, carrots, celery, thyme and garlic from the stock.

Add the reserved chicken and sausage with the diced tomatoes to the stock and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and the diced carrots, diced celery, zucchini and green beans. Add the dry pasta. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve warm with grated parmesan cheese and crusty warm bread.

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Spicy Citrus Chicken Thighs

This Ample Bites exclusive recipe is perfect for the grill. Spicy Citrus Chicken Thighs melds the sweet citrus flavor of orange juice and orange zest with spicy Sriracha. The recipe is simple. It requires about 4 hours of time to marinate the thighs in the refrigerator and about 20 minutes to grill them to a juice finish.


Spicy Citrus Chicken Thighs
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

8 bone-in chicken thighs with skin removed
2 large oranges
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 Tbsp Sriracha
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large non-reactive bowl or a large zip-top plastic bag combine the thighs, juice and zest of the oranges, Sriracha and thyme. Refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Preheat the grill for medium high indirect grilling.

Remove thighs and shake any excess pulp from them. Allow the thighs to come up to room temperature before grilling. Season the thighs with salt and pepper to taste.

Grill the thighs for 8-10 minutes per side or until they are cooked through. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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