Shamleless Plug

I'm embarking on a new part of my life that is happier and going in a direction! It's really refreshing.

I was married May 19th, 2012 to a great guy I met at the C.I.A and we're go excited to embark on a life together. He has as culinary degree to match my baking and pastry degree. It's going to be a Good life.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts on food and cooking. I am but a humble baker, who happens to love cooking and embraces the joy of food.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pie Dough Meandering

I don't get the deal with pie crust. So many chefs and people who think they are pastry chefs religiously bleat on and on about the importance of cold fat, ice cold water and the proper distribution of the two. My last boss so deliriously and furiously defended her pie dough that the only time we were allowed to touch the damn mixer was cleaning it when she was done making her dough. Although it wasn't hard to figure out her recipe. About ten pounds Crisco, 50 pounds of flour, about a gallon of ice water and 2/3rds cup salt. Opps! There goes the "secret" recipe. But it sounds like your rough 3-2-1 ratio to me. The 3-2-1 ratio being 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat and 1 part water. Cut the fat into the flour and mix the water into that and you got pie dough.

Last year I was making a chicken pot pie, and forgot to both chill the fat and ice the water. I was annoyed over the tough crust I could expect. But that never happened. My crust was just as flaky, just as perfect as ever. This had to be a flaky fluke. So I tried it again the next time I made pie with the same excellent results.

Tonight, I made pulled pork pot pie. The crust, though needing a bit more salt, was tender, flaky and browned very nicely. So what's the deal with pie dough? I barely even followed the 3-2-1 method. Everyone seems to make a big deal out of it. Secret recipes, methods guarded with pretentious greed. Is there some Pillsbury dough boy conspiracy going on?

During the hay day of Food Network, Alton Brown was a very popular man. He had all the answers and could present it with flair, humor and understanding. His pie crust episode was no different. He stressed the importance of adding ice water in slow stages, even going as far as using a spray bottle. I remember thinking that while the idea was brilliant for proper water distribution, it seemed like a lot of work for pie crust. A mere vessel for transporting filling into your mouth.

Turns out, all this fuss is not needed. As long as you coat the fat with enough flour and make it into a cornmeal consistency, allow time for the dough to rest and use minimal rolling, you're golden. The culprit is over rolling and over working the dough. This is true for any dough you make. A cool hand and a firm but gentle touch is what can make puffy pastry dough or a tender pizza crust.

But of course, that's just my opinion. I've learned how to make the painstaking, multi-step, multi-hour pastry dough at school and one that took about an hour at home with identical results. Is either method right or wrong? No. Is one more traditional and therefore more trusted than the other? Sure. I love tradition. I love experiencing the way things were done classically. I have a deep respect for the classics. But if I can save myself several hours taking principles of those traditional methods and yield the same results, I'm going to take it.

Which brings me back to pie crust. There are incredibly fussy ways to make it, with people swearing this is the only way to make it properly. I have people like my former boss, who was defensive over a "secret" recipe. There is no secret recipe for pie crust. It's a ratio. A ratio, people! This isn't Grandpa Jack's secret recipe for moonshine.

Anyway, long story short, you probably don't need to worry too much about perfectly chilled fat and icy cold water. Nice to have, might increase the quality vaguely. But really, don't worry so much about deep coldness. In my opinion, as long as things are reasonably cold and you don't overwork the dough, you're probably good to go. Just don't flake out.

It's pork pot pie! And it's happy to see you!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Onions and Mushrooms

You know, I've never been a fan of mushrooms. For one, it's fungus. The word alone is unappealing. For another, the texture and mouth feel is weird and rubbery. It's almost as bad as biting into the gristle part of a steak. I know I'm eating a mushroom, and the word creeps into my head as I chew "Fungus...Fungus...Fungus!!!!"

But I've found when I chop them into a tiny dice and cook them with onions and red wine, they make an incredible (inexpensive) flavoring agent. Tonight I'm cooking burgers for dinner. You could just form the beef into patties and throw them into the pan, but why? Ground beef doesn't have to be boring. Ground beef isn't just the inexpensive dinner substance formed into the dry meatloaves of the 50's.

Burgers are usually my lazy go to dinner option. Or when I'm craving beef. But since I have leftover raw mushrooms and half an onion, I'm feeling like putting a little more effort into the burgers. Cooking the mushrooms and onions down in a little wine and Worcestershire adds moisture and a deeper beefy flavor to any kind of beef you pair them.

Onions and I are sort of like Gollum and The Ring. I hate what it does to me, but I love them. Slicing into just one onion is enough to make my eyes sting shut hours after we've cooked. They make me cry and I still keep crawling back to their caramelized love. One onion ring to rule them all. Please excuse the Lord of The Rings reference.

Mushrooms are starting to grow on me. Maybe someday I can cook them sliced thin and eat them without noticing their horrible unique texture. But for today I'm happy with my sauteed mushroom stuffed burgers. I really hope they come out well. They are a bit moister than I'd like, so I hope they don't fall apart when I cook them, but the egg yolk should provide enough of a binder.
Cheesy mushroom burgers and tator tots. I promise I usually make better dinners, but for a gal getting up (too) early for a weekend bake at work, it'll do deliciously for now.

.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I can't believe I haven't written anything since June. But summer is kind of a boring time of year when it comes to food for me. Don't get me wrong, I like the food well enough. I like the warm summer nights eating at the beach. I like grilled veggies. I like the one lobster roll I eat a summer. If Matt and I could afford the Farmer's Market produce prices we'd frequent them, but honestly summer food doesn't interest me too much. I'm not really a multi-colored heirloom tomato kinda gal. I'm a Fall girl. I love Fall probably more than any other season.

It's New England's time to shine in Fall. You have the best apples ready to be picked. You have an arsenal of pumpkin products. The food gets heavier and richer. Crusty bread becomes a side dish to the wonderfully meaty beef stew.
Food seems to taste better in the cooler months. During the summer, I make our favorite foods less often because it's too hot to eat slow cooked beef. Roasted root vegetables just don't fit into the summer. It's difficult to plan the week's dinner menu when all you think about is the food you're going to make in a few months. I relished the cool rainy days when I could get away with something heavier.
To be honest, summer kind of bores me. I'm not a beach girl, it's too hot and humid to go for a long walk, and I work. I'd rather be home putting time into a good meal than laying on the sand.

But I feel like I'm going to miss out on the heavy food this year. I'm getting married in 247 days. With dress fittings and engagement photos a bride to be has little need for rich foods. But I haven't really felt like too much of a bride apart from when I found my dress anyway. But that's another post.

For now, I'm looking forward to cool days, cozy nights, explosions of colors and slow cooked, slow roasted fall food.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Edo's

I haven't done a restaurant review in awhile, but tonight's dinner totally merits one.

I first went to Edo's almost three years ago. It was right next store to my job at that time, and my co-worker and I went to try it out. I was totally hooked by the good food and the reasonable lunch prices and took Matt the first chance I got.
We both completely fell in love with the place and have been going ever since. It's become our special date place. We never come here enough, but it's such a great place with such special food it might become overkill if we visited too often.

I'm really protective of Edo's and hesitant to suggest it to people. The owners are nice and keep the place spotless and the quality of everything is always above expectations. I'm protective because this isn't a quick bite. The servers are attentive, but un-intrusive. If you want to sit for two hours through their inclusive small bites of pickled items, dinner and dessert, they wont bother you or rush you. It's a little slow, but only because you want to have a real experience with your meal.

Anyway, back to tonight. I hadn't seen the owner since before I quit my job, so when we saw him, we cheerfully said hello to each other before we were seated.  After we ordered dinner (Matt got something with sweet potato noodles, beef and vegetables...with a name I cannot remember at the moment and I got the Gob Dol with beef) we nibbled at the complimentary small bites they brought out, and drinking the miso soup.
Mr. Hung was came to our table and set down a plate of mysterious handrolls.
"Mr. Hung! What's this?" I exclaimed, surprised at the sudden arrival of food. He wouldn't tell us, but smiled and told us try it "Doesn't need soy sauce!" He promised, and left.

Clumsily, I picked up a roll with my chop sticks and looked at it. It smelled wonderful. Matt thought the middle had salmon, and figuring I tolerated salmon, it was worth a leap of faith. Besides, Mr. Hung has never steered us wrong, nor has sent over anything we didn't like. I popped the whole thing in my mouth and what I experienced could only be described as a food explosion. The top of the hand roll was laced with avocado and lightly sauced with a gingery/sesame glaze. The sushi rice was glutany and sticky (my favorite qualities in rice). The avocado was creamy. The middle was...crunchy...Surprisingly . It was crunchy and not at all salmony. It was shrimpy!  It was shrimp tempura!

"Holy Goodness." I said, through a mouthful of endorphin inducing food deliciousness. "This is incredible." I had to laugh, it was so good.  I set my chopsticks down and sat back. I needed a minute to let what I ate sink in.  And I don't even like avocado.
I picked my chopsticks up again and began to use them to point at the hand rolls "We need to have these at the wedding. You want to have sushi, we got to have this, too!" I said, still quite in a daze of experiencing such a combination of sweet, creamy, sticky and crunch.
"We can't not finish this, it'd be rude not to." I said, ungracefully attempting to pick up another piece. I knew I wouldn't be able to finish my dinner of a sizzling hot stone bowl filled with meat, veggies, rice and egg. But this was such an explosion of flavors and mouth feels I couldn't stop.

Plus, it'd be rude to not finish. Had I known such a delicious world of things existed outside my favorite menu items, I'd gotten them years ago, A whole new world of options...I'm not a picky eater, but when you go somewhere infrequently and know that you can rely on something being perfect every time, you tend not to stray too often.

When dinner came, I was bubbling with excitement to tell the server to tell Mr. Hung how amazing the hand rolls were. She probably thought I was insane (or possibly tipsy; though I hadn't drunk anything); the Whitest Girl in Connecticut tripping over herself with excitement over their food.
My Gob Dol was sizzling hot, the raw egg cracked in the center cooking in about 25 seconds as the sever mixes it all together. You need to wait almost ten minutes to begin eating lest you burn your mouth. But the beef, cut so thin, is moist, tender and flavorful. The rice on the bottom of the bowl turning into crunchy bits of tasty brown. The veggies fresh and lightly cooked. The egg mixed thoroughly through your bowl. The steam emanates from the bowl and the sizzling lasts almost ten minutes. It's by far my favorite meal at Edo's. You can get Katzu anywhere, but Gob Dol is a special experience. 

This place is terribly under rated. I've always had a relaxing and delicious experience and Matt and I linger long past any other restaurant would usually allow.

Anyway, you need to visit Edo's. Come for the Gob Dol, stay for the deep fried Red Bean ice cream.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Potato Skins

Ever had potato skins at a chain restaurant? Growing up, my family would occasionally go to Bennigans; usually on New Year's Eve. I remember laughing over the name "Fuzzy Navel", eating burgers, Turkey O'Tooles and  fudge brownie sundaes.

But mostly I remember potato skins. They were probably deep fried skins. Which was hidden by melty cheddar cheese, greasy bacon, chopped chives and cold sour cream. The whole thing was a greasy, cheesy oily mess. And they were addictive as eating whipped cream straight from the can.

My 9-year old self never knew potatoes had a better topping than ketchup. Who knew?!

I haven't enjoyed potato skins in so many years. Matt and I have about four slices of extra thick cut bacon in the fridge, along with a half  pound block of cheddar cheese and sour cream. I don't need to tell you where this is going....

I know they wont be as good as what you could get in a chain restaurant circa 1994; there was a lot more leeway on assorted fats back then. I baked the potatoes and scooped them, and will just broil them later instead of deep frying the tasty skins. But the bacon will be greasy, the sour cream full fat and creamy and the cheese will be plentiful.

I'm saving the inside potatoes and the bacon fat for pierogies tomorrow.

Rendering the bacon fat is worth the slow effort. The bacon we picked was very lean, but it yielded a surprising amount of fat. It smells all bacony with a touch of smokey in here. I'm using extra sharp New York Cheddar, sliced slightly thick. It's going to melt beautifully draped over the chopped bacon. 

Holy Goodness. I have missed potato skins. The middle of each potato skin was full of melted cheddar, slightly crisp and salty bacon and sour cream. Like a surprise party for your mouth.

Okay, okay, okay. Sure. You can totally make these "healthy" Some kind of vegetable combination instead of bacon, less or no cheese, light sour cream...But...uhh..why? I understand healthy eating is great and can be completely delicious. I know. But what's life without enjoying your meal?...But that's another post.

Every time I bit into a bacon loaded, cheese laden mouthful of potato, it was like an explosion of awesome. Some bits of the bacon were slightly fatty and soft, providing incredible flavor. Sour cream, cheese and bacon. Could there be a more flavorful trifecta on a potato?

These potato skins were such a great splurge. Incredibly easy and a filling meal for a Friday night.

If only I had a good beer to go with it.....


Mmmmm...rendered bacon fat......


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Brinner!!

Our menu of dinners has been varied the past few days. Delicious, but in need of special prep. I'm starting to want something simple and completely different.

Which brings me to the magic of Brinner.

Brinner, if you haven't heard of it, is one of those combinations of meals. There's Brunch (Breakfast for lunch or even lunch for breakfast) Linner (lunch for dinner; in my mind it's mainly soup and sandwiches) and Brinner. Breakfast for dinner. I'm sure there's a dinner for breakfast (Dreakfast?) combination but 75% of my breakfast meals over my lifetime has been leftovers from dinner or non-breakfast food items (ranging from Pastina to burgers). 

Brinner is admittedly a lazy meal. You really don't need to go to the store. Crack a few eggs, pull out the bisquik and fry up some bacon. You can throw together a frittata with whatever you cooked the night before. And who (besides me) doesn't like a short stack for dinner sometimes?

It is the quick and easy dinner. Clean-up is a snap and everyone's happy.

I'm making Brinner tonight because I'm in the mood for a change. I'm also dying for bacon. We usually try to keep it in the fridge, but while I was job hunting I'd rather spend 5 bucks on a 5 pound chicken than 16 slices of cured pork. At work I'll have a cream cheese bagel with bacon, but I'm yearning for my Maple Bacon.  Maple bacon is one of the tastiest things I will ever eat at breakfast time....but that's another post.

We got this extra thick cut applewood smoked bacon. A little drizzle of maple syrup and brown sugar and you have created something so palette pleasing and sweet and the sweet bacon fat is just so........I'm losing track here. Bacon is mighty distracting.

Anyway, I don't really like categorizing meals into their own little boxes. I love a burger for breakfast as much as I do for dinner. I can put away an egg/sausage/cheese bagel for dinner or lunch. At work, I don't blink an eye if someone asks for Diet Coke at 8:30 in the morning. Hell, when I went into work during my externship at 4 am I'd start my shift off with some Diet Coke!

Don't go all cannibal on me, but meals are a lot like people. We shouldn't put them into these boxes and expect them to conform to what we think they should be. Why can't you have pancakes at 8pm? Why can't you have a chilli dog in the morning? Brinner, Brunch, Linner, Dreakfast, Dunch (?), why label? If you want to eat it my friend, don't let us judge you! If you order a turkey club at the diner at 7 am, I'll feel less embarrassed when I order my pattie melt, deal?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Shortcakes

This is probably my main motivation when making risotto. Yes, it is creamy and parmy and full of starchy goodness, but risotto cakes are where it's at.

Soft. Crispy. Moist. Compressed cakes of indulgence.

But that's not the cakes I'm writing about. I came across incredible looking strawberries today for a price that felt a little like stealing. Strawberries! They actually look deep red, ripe, plump and delcious!
I bought two packages for shortcakes for dessert.We had left over heavy cream from last night. It was such a beautiful sunny day, so it just felt like a shortcake night.

I used the raw sugar for the shortcakes, and sprinkled some on top to create a sweet sugary crunch.

The whipped cream was more or less an afterthought. I wasn't really planning on it, but Matt insisted.....I am so glad he did! I haven't had good whipped cream in months. Months and months. Before I quit my job. Their whipped cream was always over whipped and under flavored.

I took a spoonful to check the sweetness factor and was hijacked into airy heaven. It was perfect. Medium peaked, smooth, airy and creamy. A whole different kind of creamy than risotto. I couldn't have made it go better with the strawberries and shortcake; the medium peaks eased seamlessly into the fruit. It didn't just sit there like a dead bird. Ever had too whipped cream? It really ruins a great dessert.

I've missed fresh whipped cream! And strawberries. The strawberries were ripe and sugared just enough to bring out the flavor of the fruit without overwhelming it with sugary sweetness. It went really well with the shortcakes; the sweet crunch was every few bites, so it was an extra burst of sweet sugary flavor.

What a fabulous kick off into warmer days. If I wasn't so full from such a great meal and dessert I'd go back for more.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Risotto.

Cheesy creamy short grain rice. If I were to have an "issue" with food, it would be Risotto. I love it more than tuna and Doritos, more than beef stew. More than fresh marshmallows.

Risotto is a bowl of creamy Parmesany haven. It is a labor of love, needing care and patience, just the right amount of liquid and stirring. Stir too much, and you have a starchy mess, stir too little and you have a bowl of rice. Just the right amount of stirring and you are left with an evenly cooked, tender and creamy bowl of Risotto.

Basic risotto just has the main ingredients of cream, parm and white wine. Classic but stylish.
Risotto lends itself to any savory addition. vegetables, salmon, sausage, chicken, bacon. But I think bacon would be such an incredible indulgence with the risotto my tongue would surely die a thousand blissful deaths. It's a one dish meal. But it's not so much "healthy" or "quick" but you will soon find the end result is worth all that stirring and time.

But there's so much more to this dish. Leftover Risotto turns into cakes of pan fried, crispy on the outside soft on the inside risotto cakes. And those, my friend, are worth making risotto just to have the crispy cakes.Which are worth a post all by themselves. Risotto. Pan fried. There is no need for further explanation.

Risotto is a special meal for Matthew and I, partly due to the work involved and partly due to the amounts of rich ingredients. We made it for New Year's Eve 2010...Or what I refer to as my "Emancipation and leaping into a brighter future." So the dish is now a little more special. My freedom meal. That creamy mouth feel? That's my bright future, baby!

Anyway...If you've never had risotto, I cannot imagine why you haven't! It's like a high ten from the classic great chefs.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Over Efforting the Pizza

At my new job, I work 4-9 hours a day 6 days a week. So on my day off, I like to do as much as I can with my time. After going to the gym yesterday, I had to figure out dinner. Pizza would be quick and easy, but I was bored with the usual veggie/sausage. I wanted something different and a little sweeter.

Which made me think of BBQ chicken pizza.

I had been roasting chicken thighs at under 300 degree heat for about 3 hours, and added a thrown together BBQ sauce in about an hour ago. It turned into a thick, sweet, bbq saturated mass of delciousness. Matt told me that 45 minutes at 350 with the size of the thighs would have more than sufficed, but when did I ever do anything the easy way? I was home, reading and studying Bruegger's material, and had time to kill. What trouble was it to let chicken slow cook?

I suffered horribly as I caramelized two onions. But the end justified the means. The caramelized onions were worth the eye squinting watery pain when I spread it across my tomato sauce sweetened with what was left of the bbq sauce.

You know what? I really miss good parm. When I go to any grocery store I always pause in the cheese section, pick up a hunka hunka aged Parmesan and inhale. The fruity and nutty notes of incredible hard cheese makes me want to spend the 15.99 a pound pricetag.The real stuff goes so well sprinkled lightly on top of pizza. But for now, I just have the mozzarella and provolone.

The pizza came out really well, I bought a jar of yeast at the store and feed it with honey and a little molasses for a change of pace, so the dough has a darker tinge to it, but is still chewy and tender. Using chicken thighs really gave the pizza a deeper chicken flavor and the condensed flavors of the bbq sauce enhanced the pizza overall.
It was a really nice change to our usual pizza night. Can't wait to make it again! Maybe next time I'll do an Alfredo like sauce or even just a sauceless pizza!







Sunday, March 20, 2011

Total Utilization; Simplicity

Okay, so the title is boring, but it gets my point across.

For dinner last night we had my cousins over for a make-your-own-pizza dinner. We ended up with extra sausage, squash, caramelized onions, tomatoes and red peppers.

We didn't really feel like making pizza again, but he and I really enjoy total product utilization. We're taking the left over products and tossing them with garlic, olive oil and serving it over pasta.

Matt just jokingly asked me if "I'm blogging about "his excellent culinary skills again"

"I'm blogging our enjoyment of using our leftover ingredients in a different and tasty way; so yes, I am blogging about your excellent culinary skills."

It's a really simple dinner. We're kicking it up a notch with the carbs with the addition of well seasoned bread sticks, made with the left over pizza dough.

Not much of a post; just wanted to point out that using left overs is a nifty idea and an easy way to stretch the grocery bill....


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Corned Beef Hash Love

The first time I can recall eating Corned Beef Hash was about a year ago. Matt and I were on our way to Ikea to look at apartment stuff. We stopped at a diner on the way up, and something on the special's menu intrigued me: Corned beef hash with eggs.

I couldn't remember ever eating such a thing, but I knew I liked corned beef, and any food ending or starting with "Hash" (Hash browns being a favorite). I knew it was simple diced beef with diced potatoes and pan fried to a crispy savoriness. What omnivore doesn't like diced meat and potatoes?

I was presented with an incredible serving of corned beef hash with two scrambled eggs and a generous portion of home fries...And a slice of melon...And a side of buttery rye toast. There were so many different aromas going on in my plate. I picked up my fork and dug in; feeling something like an idiot for having such a large plate of food, while Matt opted for fruit with some oatmeal.
"Why is it whenever I order a big breakfast, you order fruit? I feel like you're Jack Sprat, or something." I said, jabbing the air with a fork of melon at him.

Meanwhile, my breakfast was delicious. The hash cooked to a crisp, moist, salt and peppery mass of deliciousness. I was in love. I feasted and savored...I admit it, I gorged. It was some of the best breakfast I had in a long time. The most simple dishes are the best dishes.

A year later and I'm excited to try Matthew's Corned beef hash. Last night we braised corned beef. For lunch today I enjoyed a corned beef pressed Reuben (regrettably sans rye bread). The only natural plan of action would be corned beef hash. And possibly eggs cracked into it. It is going to be an explosion of flavor and textures.

Matt's small dicing the potatoes, almost when he would occasionally make brunoise potatoes; a delightfully nastily difficult small dice. He'd then cook them with diced onions into an incredible crisp and crunchy breakfast side dish only edible with a spoon.

It smells garlicky in here. All the flavors are canoodling. It's sensual. The sound of frying, the oil popping and the steam rising from the cast iron skillet. It's a dance. A rehearsed tango of sounds, smells and flavors.

This is the hardest part. He's just cracked the eggs in....And now I need to wait until the eggs are cooked. Agony! It just smells like breakfast with the meat, crispy potatoes and now the cooking egg.

At first bite, I am enamored. This corned beef hash is better than I remember. The small diced potatoes, crisp but soft, the tender of the beef, the egg playing backup. It is crisp, it is crunchy, tender, salty, starchy and satisfying.  The crunch and mouth feel is a lot like a tator tot: outer crisp with a meaty inside.  Completely delicious and simple meal. I can't put into words the delight the crunch of potatoes and meat bring, but I know you know exactly what I am talking about.






Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Old Bagels

I know your secret. You have some day old bagels in your kitchen somewhere. I also know you will probably never eat those bagels, and it will sit there, getting harder and older and less attractive.

Matt came home from work with a paper bag of two-day old bagels (that he obviously was allowed to take home because they obviously wont sell one day old products, let alone two). At first I was incredulous. Why bring all these old bagels? We don't even have chive cream cheese to eat it with. We're never going to eat seven old bagels.

But then the light-bulb went off. Bagel chips. Of course. The perfect solution to old bagels or bread: slice or dice them, coat them in oil and seasonings, and dry them out into a tasty snack/salad topping.

I nearly sliced my middle finger tip off trying to slice a way word chunk, but my bagel slices were thin, heavily seasoned and blood free. They only took 30 minutes in a low oven, and ta-da! Bagel chips. Cheaper than any chips you can buy in the store, seasoned to your liking, and fresh. I was a little too trigger happy on the garlic powder and some are just a little overly crunchy (to the point where I eat one all I can hear in the middle of my head is the *CRUNCH* of the chips. But generally, I like them. I went light on the oil, and they are salty and carbtastic. Everything you'd want in a crunchy snack.

Old bread? Croutons! Old bagels or pita? Chips! You will never waste a leavened  (or unleavened) product again.

Okay, so this isn't my 190th post, I deleted the old draft entries and now it's only a few away from 190..Guess now I can save it for something good!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sweet Potato Pierogies

I'm so excited to play with a recipe. I made some sweet potato Pierogi dough this morning, Matt and I are going to fill some of them with some sauteed ground beef and onions...A little like a Shepard's pie but absolutely not Shepard's Pie.

The dough is soft, smooth and pliable, like the normal dough for pierogies. I wasn't sure if the dough would come together any differently, but it's as soft and smooth as the standard. I'm sure cooked crispy and topped with sour cream they will be as good as any of the pierogis we've made...Except this time they are filled with beef instead of mashed potatoes.

We're having a bit of a "late" start with dinner. We went to Le Pain Quotidien for lunch with some family and I ate too much good food.  When we got home, I made an Apple Tartin for Matt's co-worker. He knew I was a little bored and looking for something to do on the weekends, for weeks he'd been joking to Matt that I should make a Tartin for him. Finally I told Matt if he got the ingredients, I would.

Anyway, between not being hungry and the deliciously apple caramelly smelling dessert, we began cooking around 6:30.

Matt is cooking the ground beef with the usual various spices. Matt waited to cook the onions so they could cook down with the little bit of beef fat...For an extra shot of tasty.

So far, these look a lot like empanadas....Which is making me fantasize about all kinds of savory filled pockets of dough from all over the world. Empanadas, pierogies, pasties, eggrolls, dumplings, ravioli....but I digress....

Usually we pan fry our pierogies, but we're going to try baking them tonight. Mostly in the interest of saving time and oil.

I'm really excited to try these pierogies. Our first batch of piergoi dough was made with leftover heavily seasoned mashed potatoes. With this batch I kept it clean; adding only salt and a little sugar. Along with the fact I used sweet potatoes I'm not sure what to expect; except that it will probably be crispy, sweetish and meaty.

Baking them in the oven gave them a characteristic of nearly every cultural pocket listed above: crispy like eggrolls, soft inside like dumplings, and they smelled a little like empanadas.

These are such good pierogies I have left my plate to express to you exactly how good they are. The beef flavor is so prominent and full bodied...Beefy and so moist. The onions blending with the beef and crust...the crust is tender, not even close to being overworked. The sour cream bringing it home like a cold, creamy back-up singer. It all comes together like the perfect melody.

The crust is unique. It's almost a pie crust. The standard pierogi dough that I've made has a more chewy taste to it...But the dough made with sweet potatoes is tender, almost flaky and a little crisp. It brings another layer of flavor that is subtle, but without it I know I would miss it.

Savory filled dough fashioned into a pocket is one of my favorite special meals. I love it for its prominence in every culture, for their adaptability, but especially for their reliable deliciousness.





I am so lucky to be marrying a guy who is such an amazing cook. Delicious.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pierogies and beer, Take Two

Matthew and I are simple folk. We're not the type to go out at 9pm and come in at 2 am. Occasionally we'll splurge on a nice meal, but more often than not it's our old favorite, Edo's , where the service is good and the food delicious.

On this chilly March night, our anniversary, we're staying in and making pierogies (again) and kielbasa. A favorite and always delicious.It's from the freezer from the last time I made the dough, but I want to use it up; I'm eager to make sweet potato pierogi dough and perhaps do a sweet filling (or ground beef. or pork, or veggies....).

Looking forward to seared polish sausage, crispy pierogies and caramelized onions.

Excuse the quick post, but there's beer to be drunk and kielbasa to be eaten!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Crispy Chocolate

The heat is turned off, my equipment is bone dry and my knife is sharpened.

I am, of course, about to embark on something I haven't done in many years. I'm going to temper lovely milk chocolate into a tasty candy bar. Creamy, sweet and crispy.

My five year anniversary with Matthew is tomorrow (March 1st!). I've been wanting to use my marble more, and I wanted to make him something special enough to put work into it, but not so ingredient dependent that I'd need to get cocoa butter, almonds and rice paper (although one day I will make nougat!).

Tempering chocolate isn't hard, and if I was someone who did this all the time it wouldn't take long. But since I'm a little out of practice, it's going to take some patience.
Thanks to my lovely fiance, I have my incredibly smooth, cool, cold retaining marble. The marbling method just feels special. Pouring a percentage of the melted chocolate on it, taking an off set and smoothing it out, and turning the chocolate into itself over and over, until it cools. Gently scraping it up and putting it back into the bowl and stirring stirring stirring.  It's a little messy, at least for me.

Something about standing there, smoothing the chocolate over the marble was relaxing. I knew the method of tempering chocolate and I had proper equipment to get there. 

The trick to melting chocolate well is to use bowl that fits into a small saucepan that allows for a lot of room between the water and the bowl. You use very low heat and chop the chocolate into small pieces without any large chunks. This allows the chocolate to melt evenly at a low tempreture. You do not want a lot of steam coming from the pot. The enemies of chocolate is direct heat and water. Both are equally bad and must be avoided at all costs. You don't want any moisture to get into the chocolate. There is nothing worse than burnt seized chocolate. It is unfixable and results in saddness and possible swearing.

It took some patience and lots of stirring, but I brought the temperature of the melted milk chocolate to 85 degrees. I poured some chocolate into a bowl to use for poprocks, and the rest for rice crispies.

It isn't anything special, you'd never find in a chocolate shop looking like this, but it's tasty and simple. I know Matt will be really happy with it and love that I made it for him. I just hope I can make it last to our actual anniversary and after that for more than a day.  

Marbling the chocolate to allow it to cool

Pop Rocks chocolate, nothing too special, but still interestingly fizzy

This demonstrates exactly why I am not a cake decorator. Piping skills are not my forte

So Happy Early Anniversary Matthew dear! This time next year we'll be planning a wedding!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Whoopie Pie Filling

I'm not going to lie to you...... I have two small glass bowls of whoopie pie filling in my freezer.

What is a whoopie pie, you say? What is it filled with, you ask?

Whoopie pies are similar to a Devil Dogs.  Traditionally they are flat disks of chocolate cake, filled with a vanilla marshmallow filling.

There are many creation stories with whoopie pies, ranging from the classic and rewarding baking mistake to being of Dutch Amish country origin. Wherever they are from, whatever variety they are, they are delicious. A good whoopie pie needs to have cake thin enough to not overwhelm the airy whipped filling, but not so much filling it squishes onto your fingers. Simple syruping the cakes is prefered.

I've made whoopie pies twice in the past month. Both times I've been left with superfluous filling. What's a girl to do? It contains some of the best confectionery ingredients: butter, powdered sugar, pure vanilla extract and of course, the multi-functional, light and creamy Marshmallow Fluff. Whip it on the paddle with a few other buffers and you have a Marshmallow Freak's icing: fluffy, airy, light, vanilla, sweet. I could never waste ingriedents! I could use it again for another dessert!

...At least that's what I told myself. 24-Hours later I found myself digging a spoon into the semi-soft mass of white. At the most frozen it feels a little like rolled fondant, but when it thaws it looks more like the wonderful bucket of tacky ooblecky fondant at school..I think I was the only one in the class that liked that stuff. Shockingly sweet, it melts in your mouth mouth. Subtle vanilla, all marshmallow goodness.
..Yes, I know I have a "problem" with sweets, and I'm sure my confectionery and baker peers would support my slight issues with marshmallow and all things icing.

I'm only about halfway through the first glass bowl, sporadically touched when I'm craving something sweet, and I haven't really touched the second one yet, so maybe I'm not beyond hope.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie Part Two

There are so many ways to use a left over roasted chicken: chicken quesadillas, chicken salad, chicken and biscuits.Chicken casserole, chicken wraps. On and on and on.

But the best way is making chicken pot pie. I've had a few pot pies in my day, and the only way to make it is with a roasted chicken. I've never been a  fan of boiled chicken, but I enjoy poached.  The flavor of roasted is so much better. But if you insist at least do more than salt, pepper and basic mirepoix. Whether it's one chicken or 10, it's worth the effort. That's what leftovers are for, right!?

No, a roasted chicken adds to the party. Moist and plump, a properly seasoned roasted bird adds flavor to the pie.

I have a little over 5 pounds of chicken. We used a little last night to make quesadillas, but I feel adventurous like filling some time today, and want to make some pot pies. A fun undertaking. I like to get my hands wrist deep in chicken fat. It makes me feel productive. 

For this pot pie, I chopped carrots, parsnips, potatoes and onions. Very traditional and basic. But I sauteed the onions with finely diced mushrooms and tossed in some corn towards the end. The best part about any pot pie or casserole is using up ingredients. I'm a big fan of not throwing out things if I can help it.

I'm making the crust, but if you aren't very handy around crust, the refrigerated store bought stuff is awesome, too. I'm using the basic ratio, although I'm doing half butter and half shortening. Which is my preference, some swear by using all of either, which is fine, too. It's "Grandma's secret recipe!!", because fat, flour, water, and salt is a secret. But really, it's not. It's a basic ratio that every baker and chef knows. 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part (ice) water. 3-2-1 pie dough. It's the first thing I made in my first Baking Principles class at the C.I.A. It's going to be full of tender flaky goodness.

As for the creamy binding filling, I allow myself one act of "cheating": cream of chicken soup. The only reason for this is it is always consistent. You know it will thicken and moisten properly and you know what to expect. I add the water according to the can, and season it accordingly with salt, pepper, garlic/onion powder and paprika.

I have a huge treat today! For Christmas, Matt gave me a beautiful marble slab. And I cannot wait to roll the dough out on its smooth cool surface. It's so pretty and smooth and sexy. It's all I can do to not shiver when I run my hands across it...I'm sure you can relate and appreciate this. It's the ultimate luxury to me.

....Anyway.....The dough rolled out beautifully. No sticking, no tearing. Smooth and silky.  The pot pies came together really well.  Slightly pink from paprika, the filling poured thickly into the shells.


I crimped and wrapped the two pies and put one in the freezer for a later meal, and one in the fridge for tonight.

The pie baked into a soft brown bubbly, savory smelling filling pie. This is the part that I am always uncertain about. Pull it too early, and the filling will run. Pull it too late and the filling will be dry and the crust over baked. Still haven't quite found that happy middle ground, but I'm happy with the runnier side because by the time we go to eat the leftovers the liquid seems to redistribute itself into more freestanding slices.

The crust was perfect. Flaky and tender. Thanks to my education and possibly Alton Brown. It served as a fantastic vessel for the filling, sturdy, but not tough. The inside was well seasoned with plump chunks of chicken peeking out with the assorted root vegetables. Other than the fact I really should have given it about a half hour to rest it was tasty.

For the two of us, a 9 inch pot pie goes a very long way. For the average sized family, it'll be deliciously filling with a salad.

I don't think it's any more or less labor intensive than the average family meal if you account for a leftover chicken and store bought crust. Who doesn't love a creamy, meaty, vegetable filled flaky pastry on a cold day anyway?



Pretty, pretty, pretty marble





Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beef Stew, Raspberry Lambic and Chocolate Mousse

"I'm not sure if the Raspberry Lambic will go well with the stew, but damn it's good!" I say, enjoying a sip of the aromatic raspberry Belgium beer.

Matt's bustling about the stove, finishing the beef stew, seasoning, thickening. Good smells and noises. The Raspberry Lambic is a treat. Matt gave it to me for Christmas, which was hilarious, as I gave him a bottle of port. But the Lambic we saved for today. It is cold, full bodied and tastes like fruit soda. It's deep purple with a pleasantly fizzy mouth feel.  It's a beer that doesn't taste like beer; it's sweet and fruity. I'd peg it for more of a dessert beer, if such things exist.
But I don't mind if it doesn't pair with the beef stew. Its bubbly sweetness will go well with the salty full bodied of the stew. Very palette cleansing.

The sauce was very impressive. Rich and bold with a slight peppery kick to it. Carrots, parsnips and mushrooms poked out of the richness. Falling apart cubes of beef nestled in with the root vegetables and pearl onions.

This beef stew is amazing. It was better than almost any stew I experienced at school.

The chocolate mousse parfaits could have done with slightly better presentation and chocolate cake, but they will be tasty, especially since I soaked the bottom cake layer with rum, and the second with vanilla simple syrup.
The mousse parfaits aren't bad, really. I think next time I'd use chocolate cake and a darker mousse. But it tastes like fresh chocolate marshmallows right off the kitchen aid. The rum was a biit too much, but no complaints!






Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hangover Pizza

A cozy restaurant is home to the quirkyily named "Hangover Pizza"

My mother and I visited my sister in Astoria, NY for lunch, to see her apartment and to walk around.
Our brunch location, Vesta is small and decorated with black and white photography art, a few tables and local wine on tap.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to try. I was craving a burger, but knew I can get a burger anywhere. But hangover pizza? With sausage, potato, pancetta and fried eggs? That sounded delicious even without a hangover.

When it came to the table, it easily could have fed all three of us. Two fried eggs nestled on top in the middle, the yolks barely cooked, and a little of the surrounding whites shimmied.
The crust was thin and crispy. I carefully slid the eggs off the pizza and poked at the yolks until they ran, and used it as a dipping sauce. The whites were sandwiched in between the crust with all the salty meaty fillings, the hot stringy cheese. The sauce was tangy and spicy. Getting a bite of each combination was pizza harmony. I was completely absorbed in my food.
Meanwhile, my sister's thick cut whole wheat french toast was airy, soft and sweet. Not soggy or too eggy with coating. It didn't really need more than the jam that came with it. My mother's Bankie: fried eggs on top of poltena, mushrooms, asparagus topped with a fried egg, was creamy. I haven't had polenta in a long time but if it was cooked as well as this I'd be adding it to my rotation of meals.
Everything was incredible. The local wine on tap was neat and pretty tasty. It's something I rarely, if ever see. The restaurant had a laid back feel to it.
We all shared eachother's meal, and my pizza was nearly finished. I could have polished off the last two slices without a problem. Something my sister assured me would not be anything horrible or looked down upon. I considered it, but thought about how delicious it was and how much more I could enjoy it the next day. To my delight they wrapped up the egg, too! Awesome.

I didn't take my camera, and I wish I did! But there's a photo on yelp, and it hardly does it justice.

Later, we visited Parisi, an Italian bakery in Astoria. When we first walked into the small bakery it was empty, but within 3 mintues the line was out the door. I had no idea what I wanted. I was yearning for the butter cookies filled with jam or dipped in chocolate, but did I want something more Italiany? Or did I want fresh bread or a New York Black and White?
I opted for the butter cookies. Chocolate jam filled and some chocolate dipped. My mother got eclairs, elephant ears, a linzer tart and canolis to take home for everyone. They filled the canolis to order, so the shells were flaky and crisp and the filling was creamy and sweet. If I had canolis like these in my youth, I'd probably like them a lot more now. And been spoiled with good pastries.
I waited til we got home to try the cookies. This is how Italian butter cookies should taste. Tender, buttery, and just the right amount of moist crisp. I wish I had gotten a whole pound. But of course there's always next time!
In my area, we have maybe four real bakeries...or at least what I'd call bakeries. In Astoria there's about four bakeries for every other block. It seems like every other block there is a bakery, restaurant and convenience store for each local ethnicity: mainly Greek, Italian and Spanish. What a luxury to live in such a place!

Blocks of all restauarants. Butcher shops with pigs dangling in the window, saying "Hey. I'm a pig. Hanging in the window next to a skinned lamb. Don't you want to buy me?" Yes. Yes I do.
Anyway, I was surprised by how reasonable the prices was. In Fairfield county you expect high prices for any bakery, weather they deserve it or not. But two cappuccinos, a hot tea, half a pound of decadent cookies, a biscotti and a lemon cookie was only about $13.

All in all a crazy delicious day.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chicken Nuggets

What do you think of when you think of Chicken nuggets? Is it childhood dinners of amoeba wonky shaped chicken from the freezer with a side of mac and cheese? Or sitting down to a happy meal with pink goo compressed into a "chicken nugget"?

Ask a dozen children what their favorite food is and chances are chicken nuggets are on the top 8. There's even a Tyson commerical vouching for that fact.

I was  am a chicken nugget lover. From Purdue's Fun shapes as a child to Trader Joe's "Drummets", even the alluring veggie nuggets. As long as it was crispy and had a good dip to go with it, I was and am a happy camper.

Now my tastes have changed. My chicken nugget with a side of fries has grown into something slightly more sophisticated. I've traded in fries for salad. And I've traded in the frozen stuff for my own fresh variety.

I made chicken nuggets tonight, and as most things are, they were better than the frozen stuff you can buy. They take a little longer to make, but they are worth the time.
Some people might think making your own chicken nuggets is a grievous task. Well...I suppose if you have a few kids, and you and your spouse work (if you have one) and you just got off of work and soccer practice and there's homework to be done and..... Yes. I totally get you....And you're killing my argument, buddy. Stick with me for a second.

But there's something you might not realize. Chicken nuggets require pantry ingredients. The only thing you need to buy or thaw out is the chicken breast or boneless/skinless chicken thighs.A little prep work and bada bing! You have dinner.

I took out skinless chicken thighs from the freezer this morning, and when Matt got home, he deboned and cut them into small chunks. Two chicken thighs yielded 14 nuggets. He dredged them in flour, egg and our own seasoned breadcrumbs and set them aside. It only took about 15 minutes.

Neither of us were very hungry yet. Well, I was, but I didn't want to eat so early. So I threw in potatoes to bake, washed lettuce for a salad and let the chicken nuggets sit on the counter.

When we were getting ready to eat and the baked potatoes were done, I heated up a medium pan with a shallow amount of oil. I only fried 7 at a time; about 3 minutes per side.
They bubbled and made that lovely noise. You know the noise. The sizzly cracking noise that instigates hunger?  The smell of frying breadcrumbs ascends the nose. When you turn them at just the right moment when they are the right shade of golden brown without even checking them and you think "Damn, I'm good!".

These chicken nuggets really aren't bad for you. If cooked at the right oil temperature you'll be enjoying perfectly crispy, non-oily chicken nuggets. They're possibly a little better than the brands: You know every ingredient going into the meal. No Sodium Phosphate, no Potassium Lactate, no Guar Gum, All of these ingriedents can be found here on a package of Purdue Fun Shapes chicken nuggets. But with your chicken nuggets you have chicken, egg, flour, and the bread crumbs (and bonus points if the bread crumbs are all natural!).


And they are delicious! Chicken nuggets made by hand are crispy and flavorful. The trick is you buy or make the breadcrumbs plain, and then season to your own taste. None of that "Italian Seasoning" if you don't want it. How about Spanish? Or you just want to go to town with a lot of paprika?


But my winning argument is this. If you're a busy parent, these can be made ahead of time. Got some time Sunday night? Prepare a batch of chicken nuggets. Only don't cook them. Wrap and keep in the fridge and if you plan on eating them in two or three days you're golden (brown).


Meanwhile, our dinner came out fabulously crunchy. All kinds of crunch. The prep and cook time was only about 25 minutes. We paired it with a simple salad, the wet crunch of iceberg marrying the dry crisp of the nugget. Add a drizzle of honey Dijon dressing and you have all kinds of captivating flavors going on. 


I wish I'd remembered to take a picture, but the nuggets looked like mini chicken cutlets. I really like using boneless/skinless chicken thighs for nuggets.Thighs are a little firmer than chicken breast, so for me they aren't my first choice for baking. But chicken thighs in nuggets is perfect. The flavor of the chicken is compressed in the thighs, and you don't really notice the firmness when they are sliced in bite sized pieces.


Making your own chicken nuggets is less embarrassing than having a package of drummets in your freezer. They are slightly impressive looking sitting on a bed of salad greens. Or stabbed with toothpicks with a fancy cheese dip on an Hors d'Ĺ“uvre platter. Even on your kid's dinner plate.


Trust me. Try making your own chicken nuggets once, and you wont regret it.

 








Monday, February 7, 2011

Fresh Tortillas!

I'm in the mood for some soft tacos, but we only have two tortillas. I'm not one to run out to the store for one thing, so the only solution was to make my own! I haven't made tortillas of any sort since school, but I remember them coming out well enough for me to have another stab at it.

The recipes online were all very similar when it came to flour/baking powder/fat/liquid amounts. Some swore by lard, while others said oil or shortening. But this recipe caught my interest with her photos, story and plethora of recipes.

I'm excited for it. I found the recipe from another blog if you'd like to check it out.  Meanwhile, it's an awesome website and I recommend spending a little time sifting through it. Anyone who has a recipe for bacon jam on their site is cool in my book.

So, I started these at about 3:45. I wasn't in a hurry and I knew ten or fifteen minutes of extra resting wouldn't hurt. I didn't roll mine out to as big as her recipe called for, but I figured by the time I got to cooking them I could hand stretch them accordingly.

By 5 I was ready to cook them,  The tortillas were soft, elasticy and ready to cook. I'm lacking the proper cast iron skillet, so I have to settle for my overly large, deep frying pan.

I love the way the air bubbles expanded and browned, and the ease in which the tortilla slid along the pan without any fat in the pan. It was all I could do to not swipe it and eat it directly out of the pan. A quick turn and 45 seconds later, my first tortilla was out of the pan.
These are the best tortillas I have had in a very long time. They actually have a texture and flavor. They're soft, and tender and warm. What have I been missing? They were good on their own.

Matt and I put together our plates and sat down. I ripped off a small piece of warm tortilla and piled a little sour cream, caramelized onions, corn and chicken. This was incredible! It actually brought something to the party other than a vessel in which to carry tasty fillings. Actually, we don't even really need anything with the tortillas. Matt and I can probably just sit here and eat these plain or with a little bit of fresh salsa.

I'm totally hooked. These tortillas have a bit of inactive time, but it's a relatively quick and such an easy recipe. It brought so much more to the meal and the quality was better than any brand name tortilla.

Thanks, Homesick Texan, for such an awesome recipe. I can't wait to look through your wonderful blog more and find another recipe to try!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cake Batter Cookies

There's nothing wrong with cake mix. The consistent yielding product, the ability to doctor it up, and its multi-use is inexpensive and tasty.

I like to keep a batch of cookie dough balls in the freezer. It's just the two of us. Two people cannot and should not be eating dozens of cookies. With cookie dough in the freezer you have fresh baked cookies on hand all the time! It's a wonderful thing.

The cake mix cookies use few ingredients, and are open to your own interpretation of fillings.Very thrifty, and you aren't compromising taste or quality for the sake of thrift either. I mean, sure, at a real bakery or cafe you can get gourmet cookies that are outstanding and possibly gigantic. But for two people who like to enjoy a fresh warm cookie once or twice a week, they do the job.  Warm and gooey, with a cold glass of milk?  No one can refuse such simple goodness.

For my cookies, I used mini chocolate chips, a sprinkle of white chips, and a smidgen of dried diced pineapple. Moist, soft, and just enough balance of everything.

For your entertainment, here's the recipe. I bet you have a box of cake mix in your pantry right now that's dying to be used! 

1 box of cake mix. Any kind, any flavor
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil (or one stick melted butter or margarine)
1/2 cup oatmeal (I choose to run mine through a food processor to make it more flour-like)
1 tsp vanilla
Combine in a bowl, adding a few tablespoons more water if the dough is too dry, but you want it to be a little like wet sand.
Add in
1 cup of any kind of filling you like, in any amounts. Small pieces of dried fruit, assorted chips, sprinkles, M&Ms, even chopped candy bars.

Mix well and drop by the spoonful onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Or take spoonfuls, roll into balls and place into rows on a small cookie sheet. Place in freezer for at least 30 minutes. Transfer into a freezer bag and freeze until you need a cookie! Just let the cookies thaw for about 10-15 minutes before baking as above.  I found the recipe here, where there are four other cake mix recipes.

This is a really fun idea for parents who want to have a baking activity for their kids but don't have the time, ingredients or patience. It only takes about 15 minutes and they can put in whatever fillings they want. Happy experimenting!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sesame Chicken Jeopardy

Brown rice is on the stove, the sauce is prepared and needs to cook. The chicken is "marinating" and the dry batter is ready to meet the liquids. Will this happen? Will I successfully prepare that crispy, sweet saucy, crunchy, so bad for you but so delicious sesame chicken?
I have a recipe and a hope. I hope that will be enough to throw together an American dish created by Chinese Americans.

Matt is slicing up Brussels Sprouts to stir fry. My only worry is the sauce wont come out sweet, spicy and tasty. But in case of something tragic we have some Hoisin and Rooster Sauce in the fridge. 
The kitchen is ripe with the mingling scent of a bleached sink, sesame oil and cooking brown rice.

The recipe for the batter and sauce was pulled from different recipes from the web. The Chinese cookbooks I leafed through at the library had similar ingredients....But being me, I have a difficult time justifying measuring a quarter teaspoon of salt or a tablespoon of soy sauce when I can just as easily do a dash and a few shakes of the bottle.I have no problem measuring something to the gram when I am baking or at a job. But when it comes to home sauce cookery you can usually get away with measuring a few spices.  

I forgot today started Chinese New Year!  I'm glad I remembered, or we'd be getting ready to eat sauteed chicken with Brussels sprouts and some kind of potato. Don't get me wrong, that's a great meal. Except when I have an excuse to eat deep fried Chinese food I rarely like to turn it down.

I really hope the sauce comes out well. We've all had our fair share of bad Chinese Takeout that tastes like they tossed your fried chunks of chicken in sweetened ketchup. Sigh....what a waste of calories. We have this place called Ching's Kitchen in town. They have the most amazing fried pork dumplings. Their vegetables always taste fresh and always end up cooked just exactly how I like them. Every protein I've eaten from pork to tofu are wonderfully sauteed, steamed or deep fried. . Their sauces never too sweet or too salty or too thick.  I know I can never copy their greatness, but I hope to manage something edible.

....This sauce is a complete pain. The liquid to cornstarch ratio is way off, I only used about an 1/8th cup rather than a quarter cup. But it was still way too thick! So now I have about 3 cups of sauce that is just 'okay'. I had to add in three times the vinegar, twice the water to make up for the thickness, and twice the soy sauce. A touch of ginger helped. But still, it's only okay.
I wonder if I called a restaurant and asked for a pint of their General Tso's, or their Sesame sauce. It would be weird and kinda embarrassing, but I wonder if they'd sell it to me. Probably not.

After squeezing in half an orange and a splash of fruit juice, the sauce is passable with the chicken, and I'm through playing with it. The brown rice is okay, but the Brussels sprouts were a little undercooked. The sauce was really thick, even after cutting it with more water and more vinegar. On one hand the meal was edible, but could have been better. But on the other hand, all that vinegar made my pot get cleaner and shinier than it has in a long time.

So there's that.

Also, this is my 175th post! Awesome! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Braised red cabbage, the recipe

I've been talking about braised red cabbage, people seem to be interested in it, I wanted to share the recipe!  This recipe will serve about 2-3 people.

Stovetop Braised Red Cabbage
Half a medium onion, chopped.
A quarter of a head of red cabbage, sliced on the thinner side.
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar or honey
Quarter cup water
Salt and pepper to taste, plus a dash of cinnamon
  • Saute the onions in a medium saucepan until soft. Throw in the cabbage, vinegar, sugar (or honey) and water and mix well. 
  • Cook uncovered for about 20-25 minutes over medium/medium low heat, stirring occasionally but attentively. You might need to add a few tablespoons water as it cooks.
  • As the cabbage cooks, it will look like the purple is fading from the cabbage, but as it continues cooking down the cabbage will condense into this wonderfully dark purple color. The water will reduce and all the flavors will begin to condense.
  • Since cabbage can be eaten raw, it's up to you when it is done. It is generally done when it is tender, soft and has a little bite to it. But if you prefer it a little softer or crisper in either direction wont cause any harm!
  • Season to taste and add the dash of cinnamon. You might want to add a little more sweetness to it, or a little more vinegar, but only do so a little at a time. You'll probably want to add a little more sugar. And by "season" I mean add the spices and seasonings you like: salt, pepper, garlic/onion powder/chili powder. Trust me on the cinnamon, it really makes the flavor of the cabbage pop!

Braised red cabbage is so tasty! It's in season, inexpensive and red cabbage is full of nutrition! What's best of all is it is sweet and delicious.

I never thought I would eat cabbage, and here I am excited to share a recipe for red cabbage with you.

Try it out, it's a nice change from the usual vegetable side dish! 





Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ch-Ch-Changes!

Decided it was time for a change in my layout. I know it's silly to point out, and it was a little hard for me to give up my dots! But this is pretty cool too. I enjoy the blue gas burner flames.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pancakes and Pulled Pork

I have no idea what to make for dinner. I wanted to make a sauceless sausage pizza. Like in those pizza chain commercials with sauce to dip? But we're out of yeast (unfathomable!). Matt still has a cold, so why bother making something tasty if he can't eat it. I offered him pancakes. Caloric, soft and easy to eat. Just what a sick person needs. I'm more of a savory breakfast eater. My sweet breakfasts are limited to real bake shops and holidays.But pancakes for one sick person is no trouble to make.

I'm staring into the freezer, debating frozen pizza, grilled cheese with bacon and looking into a jungle of frozen meats. Dinner for one is so unmotivating.
Matt wasn't in the mood for bacon, which rules out the motivation to defrost and cook bacon.

I finally settled on pulled pork. Put in a sandwich? Or eggs?....What about cooked inside a pancake?

Now, there's an idea. How would it taste? Sweet, fluffy pancakes with pulled pork in the middle?...It sounds like an interesting concept. It could be delectable or a wasteful disaster. Pulled Pork Pancake drizzled with maple syrup?...That actually sounds almost good, to my over active sweet tooth.

It sounds like something you'd find in one of those overly trendy restaurants that puts Celery Ice Cream and Bacon Vodka on the menu.  Not like that's a bad thing.

It'd kind of be like a filled crepe. Only thick. And a pancake.

...I'll have to think about it. I think I've been so bored today I'm dying for a reason to play with my food.


More Later!




**** Later *****
The more I thought on it, the more I wanted to try it out. I know eggs and pulled pork is all kinds of awesome proteiny deliciousness. But I really felt like playing. How bad could it be? Pancakes: Tasty. Pulled Pork: Delectable. How could this possibly go wrong!?

I made silver dollar pancakes. I figured pulled pork in the pancake might be a little difficult to make consistent throughout.
They came out a little thicker than I might have liked, but they are fluffy and light just the same.

I'm stacking these pancakes as artfully as I could, but I haven't taken a food photography class, so I can't figure out anything but making it taste good, and it never feels right when I arrange it this way or that. So screw it. It's going to get cold! So I'm sorry if it isn't ascetically pleasing.
The first forkful looks delicious. I don't know why I thought this would be weird. It looks just like a pulled pork sandwich. Isn't there a whole chain of Chicken and Waffles in the South?

The first forkful is delicious. The texture of the pancake is more pleasing
than bread or a bun; sweetish, light, soft...It's a pancake. The sauce from the pork absorbed into the layers of pancake.

All in all, pretty tasty. Almost exactly what I expected. The pork needs more sauce to make up for what is lost in pancake absorption, but now I know. Pancakes and pulled pork: not as weird as I thought.

Chicken Broth, Julia Child and Food Love

Another lazy Friday (it is Friday, right?) I got a stack of movies at the library the other day to get through the "Snowver Kill" and Matt's cold. Mostly animated movies like "Hoodwinked", "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Up". But I also got "Julie and Julia". I put it on as I was making chicken broth with what was left of the roast chicken. 

I've forgotten how much I enjoyed this movie. I love Meryl Streep as Julia. She's so charming. It's awakening the old me. The person who existed at The Culinary Institute of America. Who'd leap out of bed in the morning, put on her chef whites and with eager enthusiasm went to breakfast in the lower floor kitchen (Best breakfast and best place to eat!). The in-classmade sausage! The perfect homefries! The indescribable eggs, cooked to order! The fluffy pancakes or crisp and soft waffles. The kitchen was a carnival of so many wonderful aromas of breakfast. I wasn't an egg eater until I experienced a C.I.A Breakfast. Their Daily Special Scramble has changed my Breakfast Life.

I loved to eat and to learn at school. I couldn't get enough of sitting in the bakeshop, listening to these incredibly talented Chefs explain to me how these wonderful ingredients work together to create crusty sourdough, airy chocolate mousse and caramel filled chocolates.

Julia is showing me again that love of food. Food! Food is life for me. I long for what Julie and Julia has done. At home in the kitchen, experimenting with this and that just for the experience of learning.
I loved learning that in the baking world, precision is practically anything. A few degree difference in the water temperature when proofing yeast can make your yeast well fed, bubbly and happy or a dud. Or how well your meringue will whip depending on how clean your bowl is and how warm the whites are. It's all so fascinating and delicious.

If I had a job that could allow me to spend my time off and my money just playing with my food again Matthew and I would be incredibly happy, well fed and a few pounds overweight. I would spend all day on a beef stew. Hours on tempering chocolate for candy. Work endlessly on creating the perfect baguette. Aahh, maybe someday.

I can't fully describe the love I used to have for food...The love that's coming back little by little since I left my last job. Now I love to plan meals, think of the best way to cook beef or pork. Dream of a great pizza dough. Food is such a simple joy and pleasure. It's love. It's creating something out of simple things. And Julia got that. She wanted us to know that. Her passion for cooking and helping us be able to cook well is a gift.

...My chicken broth is a little fatty. Which adds an extra step of chilling the broth so I can skim it before I put it in the freezer in little baggies,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Haphazard Soup

Matthew has had a cold for a few days. Which means I'm cooking dinner for one. Last night I made myself pulled pork quesadillas with corn and cheddar. It was everything a quesadilla needs to be: cheesy, meaty and crispy. The sour cream was the usual deliciously creamy cold addition.

Last night Matthew asked me to throw together some soup: sauteed cabbage, chicken, carrots. We keep boulion cubes for assorted uses, and served as the base. It really wasn't much, but when cooking for someone who couldn't taste anything I didn't have much to loose; how would he know if it wasn't great?

He asked for the same thing today, so I took more care this time, and made a bigger batch. I chiffonaded the cabbage into smaller bite sized pieces and sauteed it with more spices and some corn. I picked apart the chicken to nothing more than skin and bones, and threw in a drumstick into the pot for a little more flavor. I even threw in a bay leaf for good measure. I went more heavy handed on the pepper, paprika, onion and garlic powder.
The soup is simmering and it really doesn't smell too bad. I'm just waiting on the carrots to cook through and it'll be ready to eat. Even though it smells alright, I think I'm going to stick to something else. We have a small amount of beef in the fridge that might be tasty in a stir fry or sauteed for a salad.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cara Cara Oranges

My winter love has returned. I have a very small window for the relationship, and it is quick and delicious.

These little jewels appear to be normal oranges. But on the inside, the flesh is a light pink. They are juicy and some of the sweetest fruit I have ever tasted.
I discovered them this time last year at Trader Joes. Their quirky display and promise of "The sweetest orange" sold me. I wanted to get healthier anwyay, and my favorite Honey Crisp apples were out of season, and I was craving a sweet replacement.
When I got them home I peeled it carefully with a paring knife, the way Matthew had shown me in oranges of the past. Very carefully peeling away as much as that bitter white stuff as I could.
I was surprised by their pink flesh. A little pinker than the flesh of a grapefruit. I sniffed it suspiciously before popping a segment into my mouth....Holy Cow.  This particular orange was juicy. An explosion of sweet juice. It was sweet as a perfect summer melon. I was completely hooked. I ate two more of them before restraining myself, as they were a tiny bit pricey (but totally worth it).

My love for theme continued all winter. I'd go through a 3 pound bag every few days; one for work, two after work. It got a little excessive. But better for me to buy bags of oranges than Kit-Kat Bars, right?

Anyway, I went into the New Year quitting my job, and about a week later, I see the display of Cara Cara Oranges, and I felt such a sense of sadness! I'd have to kick my two bag a week habit fast and somehow pick out one perfect bag. One bag of oranges that looked the most perfect and succulent, and that would be my one bag of the season. Better than nothing, right?...I think I need to get just one more bag. I'm a little disappointed by the bag I selected! A few oranges were tasty, but maybe my memory is exaggerating the incredible swetness of last year.

These oranges are incredibly sweet and tasty and outrageously good for you, so if you see them, grab a bag and enjoy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pulled Pork

I can sometimes be difficult. Maybe it was the years of learning disibilities and taking a longer road to make things more effiicent for me to learn ("It's longer and more efficient!"). But now I'm an adult, and find it hard to shake the difficult tendencies sometimes.
Case in Point:
I was wandering around Stop and Shop, looking for something tasty (and inexpensive) to cook for dinner, when I saw Pork Shoulder. Not only was it on sale, it had a $2.00 off coupon on it, which made the cost of the pork only $.77/lb. Even counting fabrication loss, it would only drive the Edible Purchase Cost of the pork to about $.99/lb, which was the sale price to begin with. Still a good deal.

Anyway, I get it home and clean out the sink to rinse and trim the fat.
12:30
The fat was thick and resistant to being parted with its lean meat. I struggled with the girth and the resistant fat. I washed my hands and the knives and sharpened them.  I wished Matthew was here. He's a chef, and much more skilled with meats and trimming the fat than I am.
I sighed and kept struggling, working slowly and carefully with the now razor sharp knife. Inch by excruciating inch, I worked my way around the shoulder, carefully trimming away the bulk of the fat.

This is ridiculous. But finally the last of the fat tore away, leaving me with a 82% trimmed fat pork. Better than nothing. If I had more patience and more skill, I'd have a perfectly lean piece of meat on my hands.  But since I am but a simple baker who likes to dabble in meat cookery, I had to take what I could get. besides, a little fat in pulled pork just means juicy tender moist meat.
Into the pan it goes and I massaged it well with oil and basic spices before putting it in a low oven.
After disinfecting the sink area, I'm ready to make some BBQ sauce. Easier and tastier than it sounds!
1:15 The sauce is simmering on the stove, I'm not going to bother tasting it until it has simmered for at least an hour.
2:36
The pork is coming along slowly. I thought it would be a little further along by now, but I have about 8 pounds of pork to cook, so it's going to take awhile. It even smells moist. I went a little too heavy handed on the paprika, but I think when it mingles with 8 pounds of meat plus the BBQ sauce, it'll taper out. The BBQ sauce is tasty! Sweet, and has a kick, but the aftertaste is a punch in the face of acidity that needs to be calmed with a lot of brown sugar and honey.
6:30Pork has been cooled, and it has been picked and pulled right down to the bone. Just need to sauce it and let it cook a little bit more. The meat is so good! Moist and tender and there's so much delicious dark meat! Can't wait to let it socialize with the BBQ sauce.
7:23

Holy Goodness. This meat is moist, sweet, tender. As far as flavor goes, it is sweet and mellow, something I prefer with my pulled pork. But it might need a little more spicy kick to it. But I'm overall happy with it and excited for a pulled pork omelet for Breakfast!