Friday, October 31, 2008

Scrambled Eggs (p. 198) and Happy Birthday Irma Rombauer!

Happy Birthday Irma Rombauer!

I can't recommend reading about Rombauer enough--it's really inspiring. She self-published TJOC in 1931 to make some money after the death of her husband. In 1936 the publication was picked up by the Bobbs-Merrill Company and a more comprehensive edition was released and the rest is history!

I make passable scrambled eggs--I will preface this blog entry by saying that even I know how to make decent scrambled eggs. Even so, I wanted to make breakfast burritos for dinner and figured I could knock out a TJOC recipe at the same time.

Scrambled Eggs (p. 198).

Combine a few eggs, some salt, a little cream, and bit of paprika. I measured it into the measuring cup so that I could have one less dish to wash.

Pour into a pan (with melted butter) and push the eggs around.

And you keep pushing the eggs around....

And push them around some more...

Finally! The eggs are done. The recipe says the eggs should thicken in about two minutes. It took my eggs CONSIDERABLY longer than that.

How were they? Well, they are scrambled eggs. Unless they are absolutely horrible, there isn't much to say about scrambled eggs. Although I think they are particularly good in a tortilla with some cheese, bacon, and hash browns. Nothing healthy about the combination, but delicious.

Of course, today was Halloween, my favorite holiday! This was the first time in years that I didn't get dressed up and go out on the town . I refused to have no holiday spirit in the house so Duchess got costumed up.

Duchess, Halloween 2008, in her pig costume:

And as a pop star:

She even got special treats--Doggie s'mores from Three Dog Bakery!

Happy Halloween from Josh, Jessica, and Duchess!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fried Eggs (p. 196) and Fried Egg Sandwich (p. 182)

I've made the realization that the best way to knock out plenty of TJOC recipes in a month is to turn to TJOC when I'm hungry and look for a fast recipe. That was my method tonight. I decided to make a Fried Egg Sandwich (p. 182), which starts with the obvious first step of making Fried Eggs (p. 196).

This is one of those recipes of those recipes that 99% of people already know. So have I ever made a fried egg before? No. I don't like fried eggs, so I've never made one before, and it always seems challenging to make them without bursting the yolks.

The start is really easy--melt some butter in a pan (bacon grease would be even better but I didn't have any bacon) and crack two eggs into it (the recipe is for four eggs but I seriously doubt it will matter).

I wanted a firm yolk for the sandwich, so I covered the pan and cooked the eggs for a couple of minutes. Eventually, we got:

Fairly attractive! And the eggs are done--easy enough! On to the sandwich...

First step, toast an English muffin, add some grated cheese, and broil. A perfect job for the toaster oven (we have a really fancy toaster oven from my godmother and like to use it as often as possible, especially in the summer, because it doesn't heat the whole house).

I have to admit, I made two of these sandwiches, one the TJOC way and one the even easier way. The TJOC method:

My method--a Kraft single. Probably not quite as good but it cuts a couple minutes out of the recipe!

And there we had it:

How was it? Amazingly good and really really filling. Super easy--I think this is a great dish for anyone who doesn't have much time and doesn't want to make tv dinner.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Jonnycakes (p. 633)

Jonnycakes (p. 633)!

I remember spending weeks in middle school (in the sad, difficult days before Wikipedia) trying to figure out what the heck a jonnycake was because they figure strongly into books about the Civil War (maybe The Red Badge of Courage? I don't know what I had read that interested me in jonnycakes).

So what is a jonnycake? Pretty much a cornmeal pancake. Very few ingredients though and I imagine it would be easy to make on a campfire.

TJOC recommends that eating them with a pot roast which does sound really good. I ate them by themselves.

First, you combine cornmeal, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Boiling water is then added in as you whisk (to avoid lumps). This would be a lot easier if you had a third was really hard to hold on to the bowl, whisk, and pour, all at once.

Next, melt some butter in a pan...always a great start to a recipe (and one of TJOC's favorites).

About a quarter cup of batter (such as it is) was dropped in the pan. I was a little concerned at this point--this is less a batter and more cornmeal swimming in water. How is this possibly going to work? actually did work!

Bizarrely, the cakes stayed together! I made sure there was enough water to keep the cornmeal moist. I then topped each one with butter and happily ate them...

How was it? Really rich but pretty dang good. I think they would be EXCELLENT with a pot roast...yum! Has anyone else ever had these before? I also think they would be really fun to make with kids when they are learning about the civil war (I loved doing that kind of thing as a kid).

Two other points...
1. I have been making GREAT progress on TJOTJOC through October...I have made a TON of recipes. Great job, Jessica (patting myself on the back)! :)

2. I have been obsessively reading Jim Butchers Dresden Files series. I can't recommend it enough if you like urban fantasy books...the series is spectacularly good! And Jim Butcher and I share a birthday (so you know he's awesome)!

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic (p. 424), Becker Express Stock (p. 120), Beets in Sour Cream (p. 259),Beet Greens (p. 278) & Steamed Beets

So today was my birthday! I LOVE my birthday! My best friend from undergrad, Rachel, came to visit (we make a BIG deal out of birthdays and try to spend most of them together). Friday we went out on the town in Boulder and Saturday Rachel must have tried on fifty bridesmaid dresses (still haven't settled on one). We decided that it would be fun on Sunday to make a big dinner out of TJOC. We didn't decide what to make until we went to the grocery store but quickly decided that Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic (p. 424) sounded absolutely delicious! We both LOVE garlic so it seemed like the perfect choice. Although 40 cloves of garlic seems like a ton, it also sounded amazingly good.

Reading through the recipe, I noticed that it required chicken stock. I was totally out of chicken stock. That being said, there was about two hours in the middle (where the chicken was to soak in the spices) that seemed perfect for stock-making. Starting the recipe, I laid out the chicken...

There is just something really funny about chickens. First off, I always want to make them dance around. Second, I'm reminded of that Friend's episode where Joey puts the turkey on his head and it gets stuck (I'm fond of that one!). And third...well, it just looks so naked!

I gave the chicken a nice olive oil massage (giggling the entire time--what can I say, I'm immature). Next step? Making the spice mixture. Thyme, sage, salt, rosemary, and black pepper are mixed together. I used my prep bowls--and just noticed that they have measure lines on the side (that could be useful in the future!).

The spice mixture is then rubbed all over the chicken (both inside and out, tee hee!) and a lemon is shoved up the "cavity" too.

The chicken was then supposed to be placed in a flame-proof casserole--and I had the perfect dish to use! My brand-new Le Creuset enameled cast-iron Dutch oven that my aunt Charlotte sent as an engagement gift (part of a five piece set! How awesome is that!). It was the absolute perfect size for a 4-lb chicken. The chicken was plopped in it and it was placed in the fridge.

Onto the chicken stock. I knew there was a recipe for a quick stock that I had been meaning to make...Becker Express Stock (p. 120). The recipe was pretty easy...take three cans of broth (I used two chicken and one vegetable, although I would have used beef consomme if I had been reading the recipe [Rachel read it for me]). We added the leftover chicken pieces (the giblets, neckbones, and assorted other pieces--but not the liver, learned that the hard way) and some bouquet garni to the canned stock. The recipe for the express stock is online.

Next, an onion, carrot, celery, one garlic clove, and some sad, wilted scallions were chopped up in a the food processor.

Some white wine was then added along with the vegetables to the stock mixture.

It's simmered for about thirty minutes and strained and there you are! Chicken stock. Fairly fast and easy, good enough, but not quite as good as "real" stock. Still, better than just pouring something out of can. My biggest problem with canned stock is that it's really hard to control the salt content and that can spin your dishes salt profile out of control. Obviously, this doesn't account for this problem, since the main ingredient is canned stock.

When the chicken came out again, 3 heads of garlic, some of the chicken stock, and some white wine were added to the pot. Now 3 heads of garlic might not sound like that much--but it is a HECK of a lot. And the mixture is brought to a boil (which is why I'm glad I have a flame proof casserole--in and out of the oven with no problem!). Look at all the garlic!

The chicken is popped into the oven until it gets up to temperature. I think this roasted chicken is one of the most beautiful things I've ever produced--a gorgeous golden brown. And you should always use a thermometer to check temperature--it's the only accurate way to know if your food has been cooked enough.

The chicken and garlic are removed from the pot and covered in foil. If you have a normal amount of dishes, you probably have a platter, and that's what you would have removed the chicken to. I don't have a platter, so the chicken was moved to a big glass pan.

The sauce is then boiled down for awhile. The recipe says to boil to concentrate and although it never got thick like a gravy it still smelled delicious.

The recipe says that you can mash six or so of the garlic cloves and mix them into the sauce. OF COURSE! Sounds wonderful!

The garlic was mixed into the sauce and then boiled for a while....mmmm......

Rachel and I were pretty proud of our chicken! And it was super fun to have someone new to cook with! (I must be getting old when cooking wins out over going to the bars) old enemy.

To explain why I don't like them I have to give a little background. My father can be a little obsessive about food (an understatement). My parents have been divorced for almost twenty years and my mother still can't eat winter squash because she ate it so often one winter with dad. I would spend a month a summer with dad while I was growing up and 5 our of every 7 meals consisted of pork, green beans, beets, and squash (don't let this make you think my father is a bad cook--far from it, he and my mom are both excellent cooks. But dad likes to use all of the garden's crop and those three vegetables are prolific). I never liked green beans, so I never got burned out (in fact, I think I like them better now). I LOVE squash, so I never burned out on that either. But beets...

Beets have such a specific sweet taste that I burned out BAD one summer and haven't eaten one since. I also always hated how they stained the rest of my food. I bet I haven't eaten a beet in fifteen years.

So why start now? There are four beet recipes in TJOC and they are in season. Rachel likes them, so I had someone to eat them if I couldn't. Josh didn't know about beets--he had never had them before, but he was willing. It seemed like the perfect time to make a beet recipe.

Of course, after the greens were cut off of the beets, I was left with beet greens. I ate a lot of my dad's beet greens in my day and I really hated them, but I figured that I might as well knock out another recipe with what I had on hand. My main problem with beet greens is that they often seem bitter. Either way, I decided to make Beet Greens (p. 278). Beet Greens I is barely a recipe--pretty much, prepare beet greens like spinach. Beet Greens II is much much more of a recipe.

Easy enough...the greens, horseradish, onion, Dijon mustard, and salt are all added to a big skillet with some water. So far so good, although none of those ingredients were really interested in being mixed...

The greens are then covered and cooked down.

How was it? Surprisingly good! The horseradish and mustard compensated for the bitterness--it was really tasty. Rachel slowly kept picking at it as we finished the rest of the food up and it was a hit with Josh too. I recommend this recipe if you are making beets--it's a terrific compliment.

I decided to make Beets in Sour Cream (p. 259), which requires cooked beets. Might as well knock out another recipe...Steamed or Cooked Beets (p. 259).

The beets are washed, the tops are cut off, and they are placed in the steamer and steamed until tender.

Easy enough! The jackets are then slipped off (I didn't do this part, Rachel did, but she says it's really easy), the beets bleed all over your cutting boards, sink, hands, and everything else they it, much like turmeric beets are used as a dye.

To test the actual recipe, we each ate a steamed beet. Tasty! Nice and sweet...maybe I am ready to eat beets again...although this picture is disturbing and looks like a murder scene.

The cooked beets are placed on top of a double boiler and sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice, a pinch of chopped chives, and some salt are added and it's heated...but you have to be real careful or it curdles. I don't know this from experience because mine didn't curdle, but I trust TJOC. The beets were such a beautiful color! A gorgeous magenta...I loved it!

Josh got me a carrot cake from Whole Foods--I LOVE their carrot cake cupcakes and knew I would love a cake from there. Now, most of you are also CakeWrecks fans and if you are, then you know the Naked Mohawk Carrot Jockey entry, which is one of my favorite blogs of all time. Bizarrely, I have a set of naked babies (from years ago) because I think they make every cake much more funny (to understand how odd it is that I have these, you have to realize that I have changed locations five times since buying these guys and have MOVED them with me!).

We made our own version! Ours are less mohawk and more mullet and I loved it! Ours were riding tandem.

And remember--beets can turn your urine pink. It's pretty disconcerting if you aren't expecting it :)

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quick Tomato Sauce (p. 562)

I was tired of cooking but figured that it would be a good idea to whip something up before Survivor and Supernatural started (I know, I love TV way too much...) and pasta sounded like a great idea. Now as many of you know, I am 50% Italian and my mom makes delicious (and speedy!) sauces so I wasn't optimistic on how the Quick Tomato Sauce (p. 562) was going to turn out. I haven't been spectacularly impressed my TJOC's sauce recipes so far.

The recipe starts out easy enough...cook an onion in some olive oil until softened.

The recipe then calls for a 28-oz can of whole tomatoes with their juice...which I totally didn't have on hand. I figured that a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes and a 14 oz can of whole tomatoes was close enough. Tomato paste, a mixture of dried herbs, some sugar, and salt were added. I started to worry...I really hate sweet tomato sauce. I also tend to like at least some sort of meat essence...but I went with the flow of the recipe.

The sauce is then cooked for about twenty minutes and pureed (I used my immersion blender, the most awesome kitchen appliance in the world). I transferred bowls because I baby my Teflon--I didn't want metal blades coming anywhere near it.

How was it? Eh. Pretty good but too sweet (as I suspected it was going to be). Some sausage and no sugar may solve the problems...but my mom's quick sauce is way better :)

I am proud to say that this journey (through TJOC) IS helping my cooking skills. I've made several delicious meals recently that I've adapted from TJOC--how exciting! Most have been potato based, I'll totally admit :)

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