Friday, July 31, 2009

I know I'm behind!

I know I'm amazingly behind! I have made plenty of recipes in the meantime and I AM going to update through yesterday this weekend. Make sure to check back!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Coconut chicken curry (p. 431) and Baked white rice (p. 354)

I was starting to get a strangely large amount of cans of coconut milk in the cupboard so I thumbed through TJOC for a recipe that would utilize it. Coconut chicken curry (p. 431) seemed like the perfect match.

The first step was to brown a couple pounds of chicken--TJOC recommends thighs or breasts. I just bought a whole chicken and broke it apart myself (wwaaayyy cheaper that way--whole chickens only cost about four dollars). I browned the chicken and removed it from the pan--TJOC recipes are known for making plenty of dishes. They love to have you add things to pots and then remove them, some times four or five times.

I mixed onions, carrots, peas, scallions, a jalapeno, ginger, and garlic and cooked it until the veggies were soft. I then added coconut milk, (homemade) curry powder, raisins, and salt.

The recipe says to add the chicken back in and simmer for about 25 minutes. At a half-hour, the chicken was nowhere near cooked. Honestly, it took about an hour for the chicken to cook. And the sauce really never thickened, even though TJOC insisted it would.

It was really good! Not overwhelmingly coconut-y (and by that, I mean it didn't taste like sunscreen), which was nice. If I made this again, I would double the curry and not add the raisins--I like raisins but not in savory foods.

Many of you know of my struggles with rice. For some reason, I just can't get rice to cook. I decided to use the Baked white rice (p. 354) recipe and hope it would turn out, solving my rice woes once and for all.

The recipe was easy. I melted a tablespoon of butter in my casserole dish:

And then added the rice and stirred it until it was well-coated. I then added two cups of chicken broth and a little salt and brought it to a boil on the stove top and then baked it in the oven for about 25 minutes. What came out:

Perfect rice! The rice was cooked and beautiful but making it in the oven really was a pain, especially in the summer. My friends keep telling me to buy a rice cooker (right, Erin?) and I'm about ready to give in, even though I don't really have the counter space.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Molasses crisps cockaigne (p. 777)

My friend Rachel recently asked me what I was thinking when I put off making any of the desserts on the randomly generated list. The answer? I'm not completely sure. I don't particularly like making desserts in Colorado because they don't turn out half the time (due to the altitude), which is part of the reason. I'm not a big dessert eater is another reason. I figured she was right and it was time to make a dessert off the list.

I decided to make Molasses crisps cockaigne (p. 777).

I love gingersnaps and I was hoping these cookies would be similar.

The recipe is a two-day endeavor. I actually really hate cookies that require a refrigeration or freezer step because, typically, I am in the mood to bake cookies the first day and am out of the mood the second day.

The first step of the recipe required me to bring molasses to a boil in a saucepan. I actually picked up a set of sauce pots (3 pots and 2 lids) at a neighbors house during my undergrad--they looked really cheap but they've been excellent pots! They aren't non-stick but it's never been a problem.

Sugar, butter, milk, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves were added to the hot molasses.

The recipe says to blend until well blended--that was a challenge. When the batter starts balling up, is that considered blended? I really had no idea but decided it was good enough.

I formed the batter into a log and then refrigerated it overnight.

The next day, I cut the log as thin as I could (TJOC says 1/16 inch) and pressed them unto lightly oiled cookie sheets.

In the middle of each cookie I pressed a pecan half. They were cooked for about ten minutes.

How were they? Very, very strange. They were really reminiscent of baby teething cookies like Zweibacks. The cookies were really hard (to be expected since the word "crisp" was in the name). I ate the first one and decided I didn't like it. I ate a second one and thought that it was getting slightly better. About four cookies later, I still didn't like them that well but I couldn't quit eating them. They do have a nice molassesy flavor but I don't like the idea that I could clean the ice off of my car with a cookie.

Meringue kisses (p. 771) and Curried tropical chutney (p. 219)

I needed a dessert to finish out the Fourth of July and I thought that Meringue kisses (p. 771) would be the perfect light finish to a solid day of eating.

The first step was simple (or so it seemed). I took egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt and I was supposed to beat them until foamy.

So I beat it and beat seemed to be getting foamy...I slowly added the sugar...and then added the vanilla:

I was supposed to beat it until it was glossy and stood in stiff peaks. Well, it got glossy and it never stood in stiff peaks. It was so frustrating! It tasted terrific but it was not standing in peaks.

I decided there was no point in just tossing the batter and that I might as well finish the recipe and hope something tasty turned out. I was supposed to use a pastry bag and make "kisses". Because of the viscosity of the batter, it didn't make "kisses" so much as "discs".

I baked them for 45 minutes, switching them in the middle.

They were actually pretty attractive! They weren't the correct shape but they were really attractive. And delicious--light as air. Hopefully I can get this recipe right in the future, I have to make two more versions of these cookies (cocoa and nutty versions). Any ideas what I did wrong?

As I was thumbing through TJOC Curried tropical chutney (p. 219) caught my eye--and and the strange part was that I had every thing on hand for it. I've never had chutney before but Wikipedia told met that American or European chutneys tend to be a fruit, sugar, and vinegar reduction. The recipe seemed pretty easy. Essentially, the chutney is a whole bunch of ingredients that seems bizarre together mixed up.

To start, I mixed onions, garlic, and a jalapeno in some vegetable oil. After cooking it for about five minutes, I added some curry powder, salt, and red pepper flakes:

Brown sugar was then added in. So, to recap, we now have onions, garlic, a jalapeno, curry, salt, red pepper, and brown sugar. A strange combination.

I needed crushed pineapple and didn't have any so I just crushed my own, in the can. I felt like Sandra Lee!

I added five cups of bananas (a LOT of bananas), the pineapple, some dried mango, peeled ginger, and cider vinegar to the pot.

The whole concoction was cooked for about a half hour and some lime juice was added.

Josh really wanted me to post a picture of his sandwich, an egg, chili sauce and chutney on toast from Red Dwarf. Red Dwarf says it's the ultimate hangover cure and it's even made it into the urban dictionary. This was just the first of many--Josh loves them now.

Any other uses for chutney? I have a huge vat and don't know what to do with it.

Seabreeze (p. 58) and Martini I (p. 56)

I'm not exactly sure why I'm breaking this blog apart instead of having one super-blog but...on to the alcohol! Josh and I do not have a well-stocked liquor cabinet but we do have the common stuff. And I had a fresh grapefruit on hand, which seemed to say Seabreeze (p. 58).

Seabreezes always remind me of the demon Lorne on Angel (uh oh--exposing my dorkyness!) because they were his cocktail of choice. I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I loved it's spin-off Angel (although I didn't like Angel ON BtVS, which seems strange). Anyone else a fan?

I've never had a Seabreeze before--I can't imagine ordering one at the bar.

Lorne--and my mom has a lamp almost exactly like that one (except her lamp is pink):

A seabreeze is vodka, cranberry juice, and grapefruit juice (I used fresh sqeezed):

Josh wasn't feeling the seabreeze for some mysterious reason, so I made him a Martini I (p. 56). I LOVE martinis--but I like them made with vodka. Josh likes gin ::shudders:: And he likes vermouth even more. So I thought TJOC's martini recipe would be perfect.

I shook gin and vermouth with ice and then strained it into an old-fashioned glass (we don't have martini glasses--yet. I'm really hoping we get some off the wedding registery). Easy!

Sorry the picture is blurry! Must have been the seabreezes!

Josh said it was stout and very good. Obviously it was stout--it has nothing in it but alcohol! I actually am a serious fan of the chocolatini, which lacks a TJOC recipe.

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Hamburgers (p. 510), Cheeseburgers (p. 510), Becker buffalo burgers (p. 531), and Cheese muffins (p. 636)

And now on to supper meal of the Fourth (Fourth of July Blog 2/4)! What is the perfect food for the Fourth? Hamburgers (p. 510), obviously. I think hamburgers are one of the many foods in TJOC that do not require recipes (eventually we will get the recipe I think is the most funny in the entire book--but not yet). I took ground beef, formed it into patties, and then I sprinkled a little salt and pepper on them.

I've been getting slightly concerned with the fact that I have cooked absolutely ZERO recipes from the Game chapter. The problem with the Game chapter is I don't really have anywhere to get rabbit, venison, mountain goat/bighorn sheep, bear, or boar. Neither Josh nor I hunt. Everyone I know who hunts lives ten hours away in Iowa and they mostly hunt gamebirds (which are included in the Poultry and Wildfowl chapter and are also causing me trouble). If you know any place I can get these meats for a reasonable amount of money in Colorado, please let me know.

The only game I can easily get is buffalo, so I picked up a pound while I was at the grocery store and decided to make Becker buffalo burgers (p. 531). The burgers were really easy. I mixed ground buffalo, a little onion, soy sauce, hot sauce, and some fresh ground black pepper and formed the meat into burgers.

The burgers were thrown on the grill. When the burgers were almost done, I covered half of the them with cheese (because they taste so much better that way!) and they became Cheeseburgers (p. 510).

How were they? Delicious! Buffalo can be dry but I think the all the additions made up for that. I like buffalo but I don't like it any more than I like beef, so I don't think it's worth the added money (personally). Even so, I love a good burger.

You can tell from these pictures that I used different plates for the raw and the cooked product--don't cross-contaminate from raw product to cooked product. Just use another dish!

I thought that Cheese muffins (p. 636) would be a terrific accoutrement to the burgers. I often mention that the most difficult foods in TJOC to force myself through are dishes that I (or Josh) already make well. And, honestly, this point is valid because so far very few TJOC recipes have beat my current versions.

Josh doesn't have that many foods that he really likes to cook. But he does have an excellent cheese muffin recipe that tastes EXACTLY like the delicious cheese muffins at Red Lobster. These muffins have impressed EVERYONE they have been served to. So how would TJOC possibly stack up?

It was a pretty similar to the other muffin recipes. Flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt were mixed in one bowl with an egg, milk, and melted butter in another bowl.

A cup of cheddar was then mixed into the dry ingredients.

The dry ingredients were added to the wet ingredients and lightly mixed (always the most important part of any muffin recipe--DO NOT OVERMIX! It is okay if there are lumps).

The muffin batter was then ladled into the muffin pan and baked for about fifteen minutes.

They were delicious! They were not as good as Josh's version but they were really good. I think what I really liked about them was the fact that these were muffins with cheese, not cheese with muffins. They were also very attractive--I thought they were a good, but unexpected, carbohydrate for the meal.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

BLT (p. 180), Calico macaroni salad (p. 172), and American potato salad (p. 168)

The Fourth of July! I love the fourth! And I went on an absolute cooking binge, so there will be three posts about the holiday. There are certain foods that just scream American to me (s'mores, crab rangoon, anything with Velveeta cheese) and a BLT (p. 180) definitely fits that description.

I imagine that most people know how to make BLT's--I have no idea if they are common in other countries (I actually have quite a few international readers--do you have BLT's in your country?). Easy--spread mayonnaise on some white toast, add a few slices of tomato, a little lettuce, and some bacon, add the other slice of bread, and eat!

So good! The recipe didn't add much but I have taken to thinking of TJOC as the quintessential American cookbook (like I think of the Silver Spoon for the Italians) and I figure that some of these recipes are for international readers. I (I'm not sure I should admit this) ate four BLTs for lunch. I just couldn't help myself. Thankfully, it's a problem I only have with a handful of foods (s'mores, bacon, BLTs, fudge, and tortilla soup), otherwise I would weign 700 pounds.

I decided to make the traditional accoutrement for the July 4th meal--pasta salad and potato salad. There are a number of pasta salads in TJOC but I settled on Calico macaroni salad (p. 172).

So why calico macaroni salad instead of one of the other pasta salads? I have a sitemeter on TJOTJOC so I can see what people are searching for when they find my blog. People find my blog at least once a day by searching for "calico macaroni salad joy of cooking". I've been intrigued for quite a while about this pasta salad--what is so awesome about calico pasta salad so that people search for it on a daily basis? And what better time to find out than the Fourth?

The recipe had an easy start--I mixed red wine vinegar with vegetable oil and then added (cooked, rinsed, and drained) macaroni.

(The vinegar mixture before the macaroni was added):

The macaroni mixture was refrigerated for a few hours. In another bowl, I combined onion, celery, parsley, pimiento-stuffed olives, salt, pepper, and sour cream:

One of the things that make this recipe so strange to me is that it also says that you can use pesto instead of the vegetable mixture. I think that's bizarre. Basil+Parmesan+pine nuts+garlic+olive oil =onion+celery+parsley+olives+sour cream???? Not a single ingredient is the same! I'm not saying that it wouldn't be tasty but it would be an entirely different food.

Either way, it came smoothly together:

How was it? Good but I don't understand the love for it (certainly not the best pasta salad I've ever had). If someone stumbled upon this blog looking for this recipe, I would love to know why you are searching for it! Please comment! It was good, although very, very briney. I can't imagine taking it to a potluck--I don't think it would be one of the first things to disappear.

I settled on American potato salad (p. 168). I'm not a huge fan of potato salad. Honestly, at times, I feel I'm the only American who isn't fond of potato salad.

I was digging through boxes in one of our upstairs rooms when I found that my immersion blender had another attachment--a chopper attachment! I had managed not to unload the box all the way. The attachment is excellent and I used it to dice celery, onion, and parsley. I then added some mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, and relish.

The vegetable mixture was added to two pounds of potatoes (I used Yukons because they are my favorites but the recipe actually calls for waxy potatoes).

And done! It was actually a pretty damn good potato salad. I liked that it wasn't extremely heavy on the mayonnaise and I liked the potatoes being a little softer than they normally are (the difference being Yukons versus waxier potatoes). The relish added a little briney finish that went well with the pasta salad. And both the salads kept incredibly well--in fact, I think they were better after being refridgerated for a day.