Monday, February 28, 2011

Daiquiri (p. 60), Gin fizz (p. 56), Moscow mule (p. 58),and Cuba libre (p. 60)

I thought it would be a great idea to make Josh and myself a few drinks to enjoy during "The Amazing Race" to enjoy along with our delicious meal. Surprisingly, I am making great progress through the Cocktails chapter and I don't have a huge amount of drinks left to make.

I made myself a Daiquiri (p. 60). I shook light rum, lime juice, and sugar syrup together with ice, then strained them in to a chilled glass:

Odd. First, I don't really understand these drinks that have a couple ounces of liquid in the bottom of a glass. This drink was STRONG and way, way too sour for me. Plus I thought daiquiris usually had fruit involved. This daiquiri was fruit-free.

Josh's first drink was a Gin fizz (p. 56). I shook gin, lime juice, and sugar syrup (oddly, the exact same ingredients as the daiquiri, except for rum versus gin) with ice, poured it in to a glass, and then filled the glass with club soda:

Josh liked it. He thought the club soda really rounded out the flavor, nicely balancing the sweet and sour.

I made myself a Moscow mule (p. 58). I actually had completely forgotten about this drink and it took me quite a while to figure out what the heck it was. I poured vodka and lime juice in a highball glass (TJOC also recommends a mug [a mug?? Really??]), filling the glass with ginger beer.

I really don't like ginger beer. What a strange drink this was. It was like drinking a big glass of sour beer with a vodka chaser. I can't say I will sign on for this drink again.

I thought Josh would actually like a nice Cuba libre (p. 60). The drink was incredibly simple--rum, Coke, and lime juice poured over ice:

Josh was a big fan. It's essentially a rum and Coke with lime, so if that sounds good to you, order one the next time you go out.

These posts are really hard for me because how much can you say about a cocktail? I don't know how people write entire blogs about alcohol.

Random facts:
  • Ginger beer peaked in popularity in the early nineteenth century and was seen as healthy due to ginger's reputation as a digestive aid (Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, p. 259)
  • Ginger beer seems to be alcoholic while ginger ale is not (personal observation)
  • Some rum is fermented from molasses. (On Food and Cooking, p. 765). I totally did not know that
  • A gin fizz becomes a "golden fizz" if you add an egg yolk (Wikipedia). I think that sounds repulsive

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Spinach or watercress dressing (p. 573), Creamy caraway dressing (p. 577), and Green goddess dressing (p. 576)

I have gotten to the point where I have already made most of the salad dressings that actually look good to me, some of them many, many times. The dressings that are left over tend to be...odd. But I thought I would knock some of them out.

Josh had eyed the Spinach or watercress dressing (p. 573) recipe for quite a while. I have no idea why, I thought it looked exceptionally strange. Why is there chopped spinach in a salad dressing? It was certainly easy.

I whisked lemon juice, tarragon vinegar (the tarragon vinegar is a bit of a theme, I found a bottle of it on clearance at the grocery store), salt, and pepper together:

I added olive oil in a steady stream while whisking:

I stirred in my two cups spinach leaves, finely (or finally) chopped:

It was a very strange salad dressing. Very strange. It tasted like it already had the salad included, rather than just being dressing. And I think that TJOC can be too heavy handed with the olive oil--but I feel that way about all of their vinaigrettes too. I liked the bright green color.

I have been interested in the Creamy caraway dressing (p. 577) for quite a while. Caraway is such a strong flavor that I couldn't imagine it in a salad dressing. I whisked together sour cream, lemon juice, caraway seeds, coarse-grain mustard, shallot, and thyme in a bowl, and then added a bit of olive oil, while whisking:

The caraway was certainly bold in the dressing. It reminded me of eating pumpernickel bread in salad dressing form (I'm guessing that doesn't make you hungry!). That being said, it was pretty good. TJOC recommends using it on potato salad and I think that could be really interesting and different. In fact, I might have to experiment with that in the future. I also think it could be a delicious spread on tiny rye bread slices for a cocktail party--especially with a little cucumber on top.

I have very little experience with Green goddess dressing (p. 576) outside of dipping meat/seafood in it at The Melting Pot.

I minced anchovies. Or, more accurately, attempted to mince. They really sort of dissolved.

Appetizing, right? I mixed them with garlic, mayonnaise, sour cream, minced chives, parsley, lemon juice, tarragon vinegar, salt, and pepper:

The dressing was good but you better like the fishy, salty taste of anchovies, because it comes through loud and clear in this dish. I didn't really like it but Josh thought it was extremely good. I think green goddess works better as a dip than as a dressing.

So, readers, what are your favorite salad dressings? Are any of these three on your list?

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Grilled or broiled fruit II (p. 214) and Ham loaf (p. 106)

I love pineapple but I'm becoming increasingly allergic to it. The only light at the end of the tunnel is that I can usually eat canned pineapple and cooked pineapple. So cooked, canned pineapple should be absolutely fine, right? Plus, I really like cooked pineapple! So I was looking forward to Grilled or broiled fruit (p. 214).

I took my pineapple rings, arranged them in a shallow baking pan, and sprinkled them with salt. I omitted the cinnamon because I don't like cinnamon. Into the oven they went to be broiled:

I checked them after a few minutes. Nothing. So I turned them all. I checked them a few minutes later. Still not done.

A minute later, they looked like this:

1. This proves how unevenly my oven cooks.
2. A lot can happen in a minute!
3. I'm pretty sure most of the pineapple has been rendered inedible.

Crap. The ones I could eat were kind of dry and rubbery--not as delicious as I expected. I don't think I would bother with this recipe more than the one more time I have to (Grilled or broiled fruit I).

I have a special attraction to the TJOC recipes that are obviously from another time. Ham loaf (p. 106) is definitely one of those recipes. Have you ever eaten a ham loaf? I'm guessing no. Have you ever eaten a meat based loaf other than the simple meatloaf? Unless you spend a lot of time in French areas that serve terrines (which I love) the answer is undoubtedly "no".

I was optimistic though. I love ham. I love loafs.

I pulsed two cups of diced ham in a food processor:

I mixed my ham with dry bread crumbs, eggs, and Dijon mustard. I let it stand to blend the flavors , then smashed it in to a buttered loaf pan:

It seemed too short when I filled up the whole loaf pan, so I scrunched it over so it was taller. I baked it until firm:

I loved this bizarre recipe. Not only would it be perfect for that "Mad Men" party you are throwing, it was delicious! Ham, mustard, loaf, yum! It was salty and perfect. It was good both by itself (as I ate it) or in a sandwich (as Josh ate it). And who doesn't want another way to use up ham? Eventually, you get sick of ham sandwiches and omelets.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chocolate cheesecake (p. 745) and Crumb crust (p. 667)

I read Josh a long list of cakes he could choose from for his birthday cake and he choose Chocolate cheesecake (p. 745). I wasn't particularly excited about this choice since I'm not a big chocolate fan, but it wasn't my birthday. I love cheesecake, though, and my previous TJOC cheesecake attempt had turned out perfectly.

TJOC says to make a Crumb crust (p. 667) using chocolate wafer cookies. I imagine that chocolate wafer cookies are like Nilla wafers but are chocolate instead of vanilla. I couldn't find those anywhere. I decided that instead of scouring Fort Collins for the correct cookies I would just make the crust using Nilla wafers.

I smashed the Nilla wafers in to crumbs using a rolling pin, which worked really well. It was actually rather fun to smash the wafers.

I write out a list of what I am making to keep myself on task when I have big cooking days. If you decide to lay your notebook on the stovetop, make sure you don't accidentally turn on the wrong burner, charring the notebook. Whoops! I'm lucky it didn't start on fire.

Finally, I had my cup and a half of cookie crumbs:

I mixed the cookie crumbs, sugar, and melted cooled butter.

The mixture was very crumbly and difficult to convince to stick in the pan. I also couldn't figure out if I was supposed to just line the bottom of the pan or the bottom and sides. I decided to line half the sides (an odd choice, I realize). I figured that would at least let us know which was correct.

I baked the crust for a few minutes:

So, crust finished, time for the cheesecake.

I beat a few packages of cream cheese until smooth:

I added sugar and vanilla to the cream cheese, beat until soft and creamy, and then added three eggs, beating after each addition. It's really important not to overbeat at any stage because beating causes air to be incorporated in to the batter, which can cause the finished cheesecake to crack.

Two cups of sour cream and some unsweetened cocoa powder were then mixed in to the cream cheese mixture:

I stirred semisweet chocolate (it seemed to me that bittersweet would make the cake way too bitter) with boiling water until the chocolate was melted and smooth. This took a surprisingly long time.

The chocolate was added to the cream cheese mixture and beat until blended. The whole concoction was poured into the crust:

The cake cooked for about 45 minutes. I let it sit in the oven with the door propped open (much easier if you have a gas stove than an electric stove) for another hour.

The cake was cooled on the counter and then refrigerated for a day:

The cake was truly beautiful. And it was chocolatey. In fact, it was CHOCOLATEY. If you love intense chocolate flavor, this is the cheesecake for you (meaning, it was not the cheesecake for me). I'm actually really glad I made the wrong crust because I think it would have been over the top with the correct chocolate one. It also had a strong sour cream bite to it, which I thought was odd. I think I would have liked more cream cheese and less sour cream in the cake. Even so, it's always rewarding to see such a beautiful cheesecake. And, no, I still don't know what I was supposed to do with the crust.

Random facts:
  • Cheesecakes are considered a custard (On Food and Cooking, p. 97).

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Herb or roasted garlic muffins (p. 635)

Those of you who like reading about my cooking mishaps, this is a post for you!

I knew that we needed some sort of bread because Josh is a carbophile and it was his birthday meal. I've often eyed the Herb or roasted garlic muffins (p. 635), even going so far as the roast the garlic and forget what I meant to use it for a couple times. I like savory muffins much more than sweet muffins. I honestly think that Red Lobster's cheddar muffins are one of the most delicious things in chain restaurants today (although I unfortunately don't like most of the other offerings at RL).

In one bowl I mixed flour, baking powder, and salt. In the other I mixed eggs, cream, and melted butter:

I combined the two and folded in a head of roasted garlic (peeled and mashed) and some lemon zest:

It's imperative not to overmix when you are making muffins or they will get tough.

I spooned the batter into the muffin pans and popped them in the oven. At this point I noticed a problem.

I had forgot to add the 2/3 cup of sugar.

That's a lot of sugar to forget. It seems like that could be the difference between success and failure for a recipe. I had thought the batter seemed too dry, which is why I was re-reading the recipe. The sugar being left out wouldn't make the mixture seem dry but certainly could be a problem.

The muffins had only been in the oven for a minute or two so I took them back out, dumped them all back in to the bowl, and added the sugar and vanilla:

I mixed them again. I wasn't optimistic about how the muffins were going to turn out--this was a lot of dough abuse. In my defense, I was making a cake, muffins, ham, glaze, carrot puree, and salad dressing, so there was a lot going on.

I spooned them back in to the muffin trays and cooked them for about 17 minutes:

Perfection. Perfect outside and inside:

Believe it or not, they actually turned out quite good, which I would never have expected. They were still light and flaky (probably not quite as light and flaky as they would have been but very acceptable). They weren't particularly sweet and I think it would have been a disaster without the sugar. The roasted garlic was a nice undertone and they were terrific with the ham (although I think they would be even better with a pork roast). Next time I make them, I might add a little cheese.

I think this is a testament to why you should try to save screwups instead of just throwing them away. Sometimes you can rescue a mistake.

Random info:
  • Muffins stale quickly because the small amount of fat can't protect the starch (On Food and Cooking, p. 554). This is probably why if you add the higher amount of fat that TJOC calls for (a stick of butter rather than a half stick) and a higher fat milk product (cream rather than milk) the muffins last for much longer.

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Bday1: Japanese steakhouse ginger dressing (p. 575), Carrot puree (p. 266), and Mustard glaze (p. 583)

I decided to make a big meal for Josh's birthday, so there will be three posts in total.

When planning the meal, Josh and I both love ham, so that was an easy choice for the protein. It also seemed like a nice salad and some sort of vegetable, some sort of carbohydrate, and a cake would be a great idea.

I have been incredibly intrigued by Japanese steakhouse ginger dressing (p. 575) in TJOC for a long time. I love Japanese steakhouses. I've eaten at at least a dozen of them, in both Japan and the US (oddly different and the same). My favorite American teppenyaki joints are Ohana Steakhouse in Des Moines (I LOVE their scallop sauce) and Sapporo Steakhouse in Daytona Beach, Florida. I've eaten at those two many, many, many times and they never disappoint.

I combined celery, carrots, peanut oil, rice wine vinegar, ginger, onion, sugar, soy sauce, catsup, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce in my beautiful Vita-Mix blender:

Final product:

On some lettuce:

This dressing was EXACTLY like the ginger dressing at most of the Japanese steakhouses that I've been to in the US. In fact, it was a dead ringer. The dressing was good--it had a light kick due to the ginger and hot pepper sauce but was fairly sweet with a nice peanuty undertone. Plus, even with the giant list of ingredients, it was super simple. Throw everything in to a blender or food processor and finished.

I had high hopes for Carrot puree (p. 266) because a carrot/mashed potato mix sounded absolutely amazing. I love carrots. I love potatoes. What could be better?

I placed a half pound of sliced potatoes in water and boiled them for about five minutes:

I added sliced carrots and cooked until the vegetables were tender. The potato/carrot mixture was then drained, returned to the pan, and mashed. I added heavy cream, salt, butter, and pepper:

Absolutely delicious. The mash was creamy and smooth. The carrots elevated the dish from simple mashed potatoes and the cream made it seem slightly decadent. I loved the carrot puree and will absolutely make it again. It was also amazing leftover.

I decided to make a Mustard glaze (p. 583) for the spiral sliced ham I was making. I mixed brown sugar, mustard, and honey:

Slathered it on the ham:

This glaze was probably my favorite so far. The sweet mustard flavor complimented the ham perfectly. I saved the glaze as a dipping sauce and it was great for days. I also really like easy glazes and this one was incredibly simple and made with stuff I already had on hand.

Random fact:
  • Robert Timothy French started work for a spice merchant at 21. When he was 60, French bought a flour mill and bakery with his son, starting the RT French Company, where they sold spices, including powdered mustard with turmeric. They introduced their French's cream salad mustard in 1904 (The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, p. 398)
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (p. 768)

I have a never-ending love for oatmeal cookies. When I was a child, my mother and I used to make them constantly. In fact, in Campfire in elementary school we were supposed to write down all the ingredients and steps of a recipe from memory, and then compare it to the real recipe. Everyone's recipes were extremely wrong--except mine. I forgot baking soda and my temperature was slightly off. That's how often we made them.

I was optimistic about Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (p. 768) because although I know that dried fruit is delicious in oatmeal cookies, Josh disagrees. My previous TJOC oatmeal cookies had been pretty good, although I like my oatmeal cookies cakey rather than crisp, so they weren't ideal.

The recipe was essentially the same as the one linked above except it had no cinnamon or nutmeg (hooray! I don't like cinnamon!) and used chocolate chips instead of raisins:

They were flat but not as flat as the original oatmeal cookies.

They were good! They also stayed soft, which was nice. I still think they needed nuts to be truly tasty but I deferred to Josh's hatred of nuts in cookies because I knew I wouldn't eat them all.

So what do you think? What do you like in your oatmeal cookies? Raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, other?

Random facts:
  • Oatmeal is common in Scottish cooking because oats were far more suited to the wet growing season in Scotland than corn or wheat (Wikipedia). Haggis, anyone?
  • Oats can be eaten cooked or raw (Wikipedia). I guess I knew this but I never thought about it. I eat raw oats in granola or on bread relatively often.
  • There is no actual Quaker connection for Quaker Oats. The original marketers at QO thought the image of a Quaker man holding a scroll that read "pure" represented "integrity, quality, and honesty" (Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (p. 487).

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Beef Stroganoff (p. 476)

I've been putting off making Beef stroganoff (p. 476) because if I have a nice steak, I want to eat it as a steak, not as stroganoff. I've had a lot of mediocre stroganoffs in my life and I'm pretty sure I've never had a particularly good version of it. I happened to get a great steak on clearance and I decided to make a half recipe of the stroganoff so I could knock it off the list.

I sliced the steak into thin strips, seasoned them, and browned the meat in a little olive oil:

Watch it closely--thin strips of meat brown REALLY quickly. I removed the meat to a plate:

I melted butter in the pan and added a chopped onion. Once the onions were softened, I added sliced mushrooms:

I added two cups of beef stock, a little bit of Cognac (too good of Cognac for this dish, all I had was Courvoisier) and simmered it for about ten minutes. I finally added sour cream, Dijon mustard, and a little more salt and pepper.

I added the meat back in and cooked the whole concoction until it was heated through:

I didn't have any egg noodles for some reason, so my beef stroganoff sat on top of elbow macaroni.

I don't know how I felt about this dish. I didn't love it. It was okay, sort of boring. I thought the sauce needed to be a lot thicker. The beef was extremely delicious and tender. It heated up extremely well.

Random facts:
  • Beef stroganoff became popular in the 1940's, partially due to it's ability to be kept in a chafing dish (which was a newly popular invention), (Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, p. 292)
  • The first major wave of Russian immigrants to the US followed the Russian Revolution in 1917. These were mostly Russian aristocracy and they brought stroganoff and blini with them (Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, p. 511)

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