Sunday, February 24, 2008

Coq Au Vin (p. 431) and Chocolate Sauce (p. 847)

::Sigh:: Another set of blogs. Actually, the last two are pretty much on time--but this one is late! I'm sorry!

The first item I made was Coq Au Vin (p. 431). Coq Au Vin is one of those dishes that has always intimidated me--I know it's just chicken cooked with wine but its fancy name always makes it seem difficult to make. I know that the dish is supposed to be made with an old co...rooster (I would giggle too much if I used the other term) or spent hen but, as I don't keep chickens in my backyard (much to my dog's dismay), I had to settle for chicken thighs from the grocery store. I always default to chicken thighs when TJOC specifies "chicken parts" because I think they are FAR more flavorful and juicy than chicken breasts and easier to eat than legs.
Plus they are cheap. Wonderfully cheap.

You know a recipe is going to be tasty when it starts by asking for bacon. Ummm....bacon... I cut bacon using my kitchen shears because bacon can be difficult to cut with a knife. I didn't have thick-cut bacon so I estimated the ounces of my normal-cut bacon.

I can never figure out what kind of skillets or pots TJOC thinks we have. I can't fit 3.5-4.5 lbs of chicken in any of my pots or pans and it always takes several batches...

I happily started to make my onion/carrot mixture--no problem, made that a thousand times. I add all the ingredients and get ready to add the wine...

I go to add the 3 cups of dry red wine. Obviously, this is an important part of the recipe--I mean, it's in the title. Josh and I don't tend to drink at home, so when I buy wine to cook with, it sits around for a while. I made Stracotto again (it was even more delicious this time because I cooked in less) and was under the impression that I had enough wine for both dishes. As you probably have figured out from the beginning of that sentence, it was a wrong impression.

I pour the wine into a measuring cup. It's only one cup. Crap.

I look in the refrigerator--there is a bottle of red in there! I taste it--it tastes fine to me (I'm no wine expert) so I measure it. One more cup. Crap. And of course it's not the same type of wine as the first.

So I look in the cupboard. No more red wine--but I have a bunch of the little bottles of white (I prefer these for cooking). And it's a Sunday so there are no liquor sales. So I pour that in too. So now we have three different types of wine in the Coq au Vin.

It smelled delicious. I started the butter, pearl onion, mushroom mix. I used a shiitake/cremini/button mixture for the mushrooms (that's my typical mix). It's shocking I used pearl onions because I find them to be a real PITA. Even if you blanch them, which I always do, it still sucks to take the skins off. But they do taste good...

After bacon, mushrooms must be one of the tastiest ingredients in the world:

This recipe makes a spectacular amount of dirty dishes so be prepared. You have the dish that the raw chicken was on (well, I didn't because I seasoned it in the Styrofoam), the dish the bacon is on, the dish the cooked chicken was on (I had it on top of the bacon), the skillet for the butter, mushroom mixture, and the platter for the final product (platter--right. I don't own a platter).

The chicken, piled on my "platter":

I reduced the sauce quite a bit and it was DELICIOUS! The whole recipe was really tasty. The chicken was moist and the sauce was rich. The mixed wine didn't seem to matter, which made me happy. And it heated up really well, which is always important in our house.

Reducing the sauce in my cool wok-y skillet:

I was hungry for a cake and felt like making something easy. Nothing in TJOC fit that requirements (at least at first glance). I am embarrassed to say that I made a cake that seemed like a cake Sandra Lee would have made on Semi-Homemade--it was one of those souped up cake mix cakes where you mix a pudding mix and several other ingredients with a cake mix. Plus, I could use my new Bundt cake pan! The cake was easy enough to make (I found it on I think) but really needed something to be added to it. It was pretty boring.

So I made Chocolate Sauce (p. 847). I didn't make the sauce in the world's tiniest food processor because the directions (pour hot cream into the running food processor) didn't seem like a very safe idea--plus I don't think that I can open my food processor with the motor running. I used vanilla rather than rum (I'm still feeling burned by the drunken icing incident, chronicled in the first few postings of TJOTJOC).

The sauce was really good, especially if you like semi-sweet chocolate (it was still a little bitter for me, I'm not a big chocolate fan). It was easy and fast--and if you bake a lot, it was totally made out of things you probably have in your cabinets and refrigerator (at least I did--I didn't have to buy anything special).

I'm going to Mexico for a week so there won't be any cooking for a while!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake (p. 718), Indian Ground Beef with Potatoes and Spices (p.515), Curried Chickpeas w/ Vegetables (p.257), & Beef Stew (p. 479

Since I briefly got off-track again, I posted three blogs at once. So if you are reading this one, go back and read the next two--they're new too!

I am going to be EXTREMELY busy this week so I decided to make a TON of food. That way, we can have leftovers all week with no need to cook. Other than all of the desserts we made, I also made three other dishes. And for some reason, I was on an Indian food kick

First, I made Indian Ground Beef with Potatoes and Spices (Keema Alu) (p.515). Josh and I have several sets of prep bowls. A lot of people don't use prep bowls when they cook but they really help me--especially when I have to add a bunch of ingredients in quick order. These bowls are cute little nesting zebra bowls and I used all of them while cooking today. This recipe uses a lot of spices--and I have a TON of spices so it was nice to use a bunch of them.

I used turkey. Why would someone who does beef research and comes from a pork background possibly use ground turkey in anything? It is curious, but I just happened to have some on hand for developing cooking contest recipes and it was going to go bad.

Doesn't it look tasty?!

I probably used too many potatoes...but is there any such thing? I love potatoes. I also didn't put the cilantro on the top. I like cilantro a lot but I think it can overpower a dish if you aren't careful.

Next I made Curried Chickpeas with Vegetables (p.257). I got a really cool wok/skillet for Christmas, so I was really looking forward to using it and this was the perfect recipe for it.

So I had ground cumin but no cumin seeds. I don't know if that is an important difference...I worried about this for a while and then sent Josh to the grocery store to get the cumin seeds. The first line says to cook until sizzling...which I did (I think--sizzling did occur but I didn't want the seeds to burn).

Then you add the garlic, ginger, and curry. As I always say about TJOC recipes, they are incredibly white bread, so I usually double the garlic and curry. At this point, the mixture started to smell really really good.

I like chickpeas, Josh hates them. So it was a good thing I was making more than one main dish. This recipe calls for chickpeas, sweet potatoes (I used ACTUAL sweet potatoes, which are white, rather than yams, which are orange), cauliflower, and green beans (the cauliflower and green beans were frozen because both veggies are overpriced at this time of year--I can't wait until summer!).

Then you mix in yogurt and flour plus a jalapeƱo.

It was DELICIOUS! I made some rice to eat with it and really wished I had some naan, but I wasn't feeling quite that motivated.

I also made Beef Stew (p. 479). I knew that I wasn't going to eat it on Sunday and the recipe says that it's even better the next day. TJOC adores browning meat. I'm not such a big fan--I think that it takes cuts of meat that are tough (the whole reason you are slow cooking them in the first place) and quick cooks them (which toughens them up). So I always barely brown the meat--which means that I don't pay any attention to TJOC's cooking times which are WAY too long. This recipe calls for you to season the meat, dredge it, and brown it. You make a mirepoix (of course). This is where I found another TJOC error. It discusses removing the meat from the pot. It never discusses putting the meat back in! So I assume you put it back in after the mirepoix but before respicing. Then you add broth, carrots, and potatoes (plus parsnips and turnips, if you wish--I didn't). OMG this was terrific! This was among the best stew I've ever had--the meat was the perfect level of tender--tender but not mushy. The fat on the meat was great, it was just delicious. It didn't give me much juice though--next time I'll use more broth.

I know this isn't a very exciting picture but I was tired of taking pictures by this point.

I have been complaining for months that I can't find a double broiler to buy. Not even a cheap one--one at all! They are available in sets but not by themselves, it seems. So the strangest thing happened when I was rearranging my cupboards...I found that I already have a double broiler! I swear I've never seen it before, and is possible that some sort of house brownie placed it there, but regardless, I have one!

Today was Josh's birthday and I wanted to make him a cake. He wanted a chocolate cake--I usually don't like chocolate so I figured I wouldn't be that into any of the cakes he was interested in. I decided on the Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake (p. 718). Personally, I think the title sounds disgusting but the intro says that it is so rich and moist that it doesn't need icing (great because I didn't want to make any). And I know some people use applesauce in cake, which seems equally strange to me...

You all know that I haven't been baking because of the elevation--it's ruined a number of cakes for me. You have to adjust a lot for recipes to work (baking soda, baking powder, liquid, flour).

The double broiler was necessary to melt the baking chocolate without ruining it.

Then you mix the mayo into the chocolate. I found that to be a strange step...

After that you mix the chocolate/mayo mix (how often do you get to use that combination!?) into a egg, sugar, vanilla mixture. Then you alternate water and dry ingredients. At this point of the recipe I was concerned--the batter looked very water-y. But I poured it into the cake pans anyway.

The cakes were BEAUTIFUL! They didn't have the dent in the middle that elevation causes, they were not overcooked, they were awesome! It made two, so I brought one to work. The cake was really was light and moist but not overly sweet. If you like a really really sweet cake, this isn't the cake for you. The best part of baking this cake is that it increased my confidence in Colorado baking (and I miss baking!).

Josh also made cookies and I made cupcakes (from a box) for him to bring to work. I find it strange--they bring treats in for their OWN birthdays (like in elementary school). I also have started down the road to DELICIOUS cake mix cupcakes. Josh beats the batter by hand and for some reason it seems to make the cupcakes much more light and airy. I figure it limits the batter from being overbeaten and adds more air to the batter--that might not be the case, but it makes sense.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage and Scallions (p.296) and Shepherd's Pie (p. 102)

First, how do you keep all of the blogs you like to read straight? I have a ton that I like to read but I forget about them! So are there any good gadgets to keep them organized? I kinda like igoogle but if there is something better, I would like to know about.

Second, some people were telling me that the pictures on this blog weren't showing up for them--I don't know why, they always show up on my anyone else having this problem? I recognize that I'm not a wordsmith, so the pictures are important :)

Third, you don't have to have a blogger username to comment, so comment freely! I love reading them :)

I decided that Josh and I were going to have "Pub night" so, obviously, that means some sort of meat pie. I was content with cottage pie, because I don't always like ground lamb, but Josh decided he wanted to be a purist, and go for lamb--so, shepard's pie (cottage pie is the same thing but with beef--obvious, you aren't a shepard if you don't have sheep!).

Although Shepherd's Pie (p. 102) is a complicated recipe, it isn't very difficult. First, you boil and mash some potatoes. Every time I make mashed potatoes I wonder why I don't make them more often--they are so easy and I like them so much! I also couldn't find my ricer so they had to be mashed with the smasher. I bought my ricer at a antique market in FL (there are dozens of awesome kitchen gadgets at antique shops), and it's about a billion years old, but it has character and I like it. That being said, it seems to have disappeared--maybe it went to find it's old family.

Josh is always in charge of the mashing, he really takes joy in it. I think he works out some aggression that way.

The next step is to make a mirepoix. I think a mirepoix is the base of at least half of the recipes in this cookbook. The recipe does say chopped instead of diced, so this isn't an example of my terrible knife skills (well, not this particular picture).

You mix in the lamb (you can use cooked lamb but I can almost guarantee that we will never have any leftover cooked lamb), add broth, and spices. When this is done, you have the base to the recipe! Again, the recipe has a lot of steps and produces a bunch of dishes to be washed but doesn't really require much talent (my kind of recipe!).

The meat mixture is put into a casserole dish, with the mashed potatoes on top. It said to make peaks in the mashed potatoes--I have no idea how to do that, so mine were peak-less. Mmmm....and butter on the top...

Now, this recipe looks pretty before you break into it but it doesn't cut easily. Even so, it was really good.

The recipe is online.

I also decided to make Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage and Scallions (p.296), which, if fried, is known as "bubble and squeak" which is a great name! Now, I have no idea how or why you would fry this concoction, so mine neither bubbled nor squeaked. If I ever go to the UK, it's first on my list of things to try (and fish and chips...I LOVE fried fish more than I should). I've learned during this cooking experiment (cooking through TJOC) that I really like cooked cabbage, which I didn't know. And cabbage is EXTREMELY cheap, which is awesome. And everyone likes mashed potatoes! But scallions--not only do I not keep scallions on hand but there weren't any at the grocery store.

I decided to cut them out (I know they're in the title but I wasn't going to search the town for the stupid things!) so I added some garlic instead.

One of the first instructions in the recipe is to core the cabbage. How does one core cabbage? Where is the core? I opened the cabbage up, looked into it, didn't see a core, and randomly cut some parts out of the middle. It didn't seem to matter or impact the recipe at all.

So, to begin, you pretty much put some potatoes (I used Yukon Golds, of course) in a pot, add water, cut some cabbage, and layer it on top. Then you boil this for a while.

It's really hard to fit that many potatoes and cabbage pieces into a pot.

I used heavy cream instead of half-and-half or milk, plus a full stick of butter (obviously not a low fat recipe) and the recipe was a little runny. It was delicious anyway. You end up mashing the whole mixture, which is fairly easy. Apparently cabbage mashes down easier than potatoes so the whole thing is fairly easy.

It was great although it made a huge amount which we ate for about a week afterwards.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Peanut Dipping Sauce (p. 570)

When we went to the grocery store we found pork stew meat BOGO free--so we got a couple packages. I didn't know what to do with it, so I decided to cook it up and coat it in a sauce that I found in TJOC. I read through the "Savory sauces, salad dressings, marinades, and rub" chapter and was highly interested in the Peanut Dipping Sauce (p. 570). I knew that we had most of the ingredients!

I immediately ran into a problem. First off, our peanut butter was so old, I think it may have been in the cupboard when we moved in. And the recipe says to use chunky, unsweetened PB...not only was this PB creamy (I don't like chunky!), it was honey roasted (so in all actuality, it was double sweet).

It seems like a waste to buy a new piece of ginger every time I cook and throwing half of it away, so I bought a tube of ginger. I also feel no there is no point juicing limes every time, so I used canned lime juice. I wasn't confident that this was going to be the same. Here is a picture of the three offenders:

The first step of this recipe is to brown the ginger, red pepper, and garlic (I used extra) in vegetable oil. Yum! It was already looking great.

You then add the rest of the ingredients. You wait for the peanut butter to mix in. If it's four hundred years old like my PB, it takes quite a while. It was already smelling delicious though.

The peanut sauce looked just like peanut butter, but it tasted GREAT! It was sweet and spicy and had a nice kick to it (likely from the red pepper, ginger, and garlic). I didn't add any peanuts or mint to it.

The sauce was GREAT on the pork. And I half-expected the pork to be tough, since it was "stew meat" and that can mean anything--but it was tender and delicious. The sauce even kept well, which was more than I expected.

I threw out the ancient PB and bought some new stuff--it's funny because I don't like PB and Josh likes the fresh stuff from Whole Foods so we only use the jars to cook with :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Chicken Enchiladas (p. 104), Vegetable Soup (Soupe Paysanne) (p. 128), and MY TRIP TO JAPAN!

First off, I'm pumped! I seem to have readers--and some of them aren't family members! Hooray! And I was mentioned on Jennifer's awesome knitting blog, , which is one of my favorite blogs (even though I'm far, far too uncoordinated to knit). I'm not going to mention that she is one of my extremely good friends, who I've known since 2nd she kinda has to read the blog...but she doesn't have to mention it to others!

I had a rotisserie chicken that we bought from CostCo, so we had a lot of extra cooked chicken. I decided to make Chicken Enchiladas (p. 104). This is a relatively time consuming process. You make the enchilada sauce (which you don't have to do--you can buy it--but I wanted to be authentic), make the meat mixture, heat up the shells, dish out the meat, roll them up, cover in sauce, and bake. Not difficult, but time consuming.

Sauce, pre-puree:

Sauce, post-puree. Remember, I have the smallest food processor in the world, so this took about five batches:

And I thought they were bland...but maybe I'm just not an enchilada fan. Are chicken enchiladas typically bland?

Corn tortillas are amazing. I had some in the refrigerator that were so old, I swear they came with the fridge. But they still tasted good and rolled fine. Any cracking was due more to my lack of ability than to the tortillas.

Tortillas. pre-roll and post-roll:

The finished product (cheddar on top):

I made Vegetable Soup (Soupe Paysanne) (p. 128) while I was making the enchiladas. It was a simple recipe, make a mirepoix, add stock (I used store bought vegetable stock), tomatoes (I used canned--it isn't like "fresh" tomatoes are that fresh this time of year), potatoes (no turnips, I'm not a big fan), and spices. Later I added some cabbage and pepper.

This was a delicious soup that heated up extremely well. The cabbage was a really good addition--it's cheap, has a lot of flavor, and is filling. The soup is tomato-y, but not overwhelming, and has a great pepper bite. I have been thinking about this soup for the last few days so it is going to be re-made--but I think some peas or corn added would be even better.

Josh was disappointed by the lack of meat but I like my vegetable soup vegetarian.

Only one picture of the soup--there wasn't much to photograph.

So, I'm sorry I was out of commission for a few weeks--I WAS IN JAPAN LAST WEEK! How cool is that? So, some food related photos from the trip (not all of them, don't want to bore you!).

1. Although Japan has a lot of their own foods, they have interesting versions of brands that are common here. I had a delicious green tea doughnut from Starbucks (I know, I know, but it was next to the Hotel Okura, where we were staying), for example. And there are green tea versions of almost everything, such as Green Tea Kit-Kats:

2. Shabu-shabu! Delicious. So is tonkatsu (which I don't have a picture of) which is essentially fried pork that you dip in sauce. But take raw pieces of highly marbled beef, swish them around in a pot of broth (apparently the sound is supposed to sound like shabu-shabu), dip it in sauce, and eat it. Yum! My father brought a whole set home from Japan, so I had eaten it before, but it was amazing to eat in Japan.

Raw beef, sliced thin, and the sauces, seseme based and soy-sauce based:

Getting dipped:

3. The Tokyo fish market, which is getting torn down soon (or so I hear). Well worth the trip if you're in Tokyo, even though you have to get there really early (like 4 am). They auction off tuna, both fresh and frozen, the size of which is AMAZING! HUGE fish...and then you can walk through the market and see an incredible assortment of fish.

Tuna ready for auction:

Giant clams (mussels? What's the difference?):

Octopi--Yum--We eat these every Christmas!:

4. I thought that it was just a stereotype that Hello Kitty is popular in Japan. Apparently not, because I saw her EVERYWHERE. Including (during a trade show) in a bento box display, made out of both rice AND meat, with little sausages that are imprinted with Hello Kitty on the side. I adored it...Hello Kitty rocks!

5. I ate the most expensive meal I've ever seen. A former grad student's father treated us to a meal, six courses, and the main was Kobe beef, with black truffles, drizzled in truffle sauce. It was delicious and I was excited to try both Kobe beef and black truffles! They lived up to my expectations BUT I still think that American Corn-fed Prime beef is every bit as good.

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