Feeds:
Posts
Comments

I am kind of at a loss to figure out what to do with this blog. There are lots of cooking blogs out there, and I still see myself as a student of sorts when it comes to cooking.

february-2009-019

Yes, my friends and family all think I am a great cook, but there are so many things I have never made, and my knife skills, among others, are lacking. My food isn’t nearly as pretty as I would like, and I rarely have time or cash to cook the things I really want to.

What I am very, very good at, though, is checking the grocery ads every week, and trying to stock up on things when they are on sale (meat, in particular). This would be easier if I had a standalone freezer- which I was going to buy in the next few weeks, but the car repairs that are in my near future will probably eat up all my extra cash.

I also like having things made and frozen that help get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour- I don’t get home until after 6 most weeknights.

I have to plan meals carefully to use up the produce and other perishables I buy (I especially hate throwing away half of the parsley and dill and cilantro. I wish they sold them in smaller bunches!).

I love a good roasted chicken. I have that nearly every week at my mom’s for Shabbat dinner, though, so when whole chickens or chicken parts go on super-sale (less than .69 a pound for bone-in, or 1.99 for boneless), I try and make good use of it.

Boneless breasts get vacuum-sealed (I bought a machine for $30 at ALDI a few months ago. The bags are costlier than plastic wrap, but I don’t have to worry about freezer burn when I forget everything that is packed in my freezer) two in a package, or used for chicken salads or pot pie. I save boneless thighs for stir fries, because they are much better in that application than breasts- which tend to be dry, no matter how you cook them, and need a more substantial sauce if you are going to cut them up before cooking.

If you are like me, and like to make extra work for yourself on occasion, you can cut up whole chickens- always cheaper than parts, unless there is a sale- yourself, but if you live in a decent sized metropolis, you probably don’t have to, if you watch the sales. It is a good skill to have, however, and it seems to impress people when you can bone out breasts and stuff like that.

I usually make chicken stock out of leg quarters or whole birds. Homemade stock/broth (the only difference, really, is the amount of meat vs. bones you use. I make what is technically broth, but it works fine for any application you would use “stock” for) makes everything taste better. No one’s cold was ever cured by boullion cubes, I know for sure!

This is how I make my chicken stock/broth. I am not going to call it a recipe, because it doesn’t really require one. This will make about six quarts of stock; you can halve the recipe if you wish, but this stuff takes all day to cook, practically, and though it is easy to make, it just makes sense to me to make it in large quantities (also, freezer containers of stock are easier to store than chicken parts)

you will need:

5 pounds (or so) of bone-in chicken parts – if you are using whole chickens, cut them up first- it’s easy; just cut down both sides of the backbone, and then cut each half into quarters above the thigh.

a pound-or-so package of chicken feet (optional for the squeamish, but it really adds to the body of the stock- all those gelatinous structures cook into the stock and are also really good for you, particularly if you have joint issues, like I do)

a few ribs of celery, chopped up into large chunks

ditto for carrots (you can peel them, if you want, but I just scrub them)

ditto for a couple of parsnips

one parsley root, if you can find it, peeled (it’s knobby and pretty dirty) and chopped into a few good sized chunks

a couple of yellow onions, rinsed well and cut in quarters with the skin still attached

a few cloves of garlic– you can leave them unpeeled, but smash them a little with the side of your knife to release the allicin (happy garlic flavor chemical).

three peppercorns

a bay leaf

a sprig of thyme, or a couple of good pinches of dried – I only buy fresh herbs (other than parsley, dill and cilantro) when I know I will use most of the package, which is not often. I like the “poultry blend” or “pasta blend” packages, though, because they have a few sprigs of three or four kinds of herbs- much more manageable when you are cooking for two.

about a quarter of a bunch each of dill and parsley (I can only get those huge bunches of parsley and dill- if you can only get them in the little packages like most other herbs, that will be fine, just use the whole thing)

You can make the stock “white” (by not browning the meat first), or “brown” (duh)

If you want a deeper color and flavor for the stock, it really helps to brown the meat first.  It’s much easier to skip this step, though.

I usually brown the pieces of chicken in the pot that I will be making the stock in. You can roast them, but I don’t like dirtying another pan, and this way the fond that is created by browning the meat goes into the stock without much extra effort required.If you are using the chicken feet, don’t brown them- it’s too much effort without much reward.

I would also like to mention that I don’t have a big enough stock pot to make the massive quantity of stock this makes, so I usually use two.

So, browning the meat? A little oil in the pot, and a medium-to medium high heat. Don’t cook the chicken all the way through, just enough so it gets nice and toasty on both sides. You will have to do this in batches; I usually brown the chicken in one pot, and put them in the other as they are done. Then I deglaze the pot I browned the chicken in with some water, and split the fond-y liquid between the pots, and redistribute the chicken.

Put enough water in the pot (or pots) to cover the chicken by a few inches, and bring to a bare simmer. By bare simmer, I mean only a *little* bubbly action is going on. To the point that you can barely tell it is cooking. The temperature of  a stock cooking should be just under the boiling point- if cooked at a higher temperature, all the stuff in the meat and bones cooks out into the stock too fast and makes it cloudy. As the meat cooks, a bunch of gunk will rise to the top. Skim it off as it comes to the surface. After about a half hour or so, all the gunkiest stuff should be skimmed off; if more seems to be coming up,  keep skimming until it looks like it has stopped.

After the initial simmering and skimming, I add the rest of the ingredients. I was recently reading Michael Ruhlman’s book ‘The Elements of Cooking’, though, and it suggests to add the aromatics closer to the end of cooking.  I have never had a problem with my stocks, but Mr. Ruhlman is just awesome enough that I may try this the next time I make stock- which will be months from now, as I have a ton in the freezer now.
february-2009-033
Let the stock cook (still at a bare simmer) for at least a few hours- I cook mine for three or four, but I like mine nice and reduced. Your house will never smell so awesome. I would buy “simmering chicken stock” air freshener, if they made it. More crud will probably come to the surface, and you should skim, this, too.

When the stock is done, drain it as soon as possible through a cheesecloth lined strainer into another large pot or bowl (or bowls). I like to strain it again, but like I said, I tend to make extra work for myself, and you can skip this step if you want. If you have some way of cooling down the stock quickly (i.e. an ice bath, or the back porch when it is below 40 outside- just make sure to cover the pots/containers well), do, but if not, portion the stock into freezer containers (I like to do mostly quarts, a few pints, and a few ice-cube trays worth for jazzing up sauces and the like), and let cool at room temperature, then refrigerate.

The next day, you should have stock that looks like this:

february-2009-041

You can scrape off the fat that has risen to the top, and save it for cooking (onions cooked in schmaltz and matzah balls made with schmaltz are some of life’s most wonderful simple pleasures), or just toss it. But if you throw it out, you are missing out, seriously.

If you took my advice, and both used the chicken feet, and cooked the stock for an extra-long time, you get stock that does this when it’s cold (not frozen, mind you , just cold):

february-2009-0421

If your stock looks like jello, you have done good!

If you make your own stock, you will never again find yourself eating that awful stuff in a can that claims it is chicken soup again.

Just defrost and bring to a boil, add a little salt, and whatever accoutrements you prefer…

Veggies and little noodles (here, chard and carrots):

february-2009-018

Matzah balls and carrots (the recipe for matzah balls is printed on the package of matzah meal):

february-2009-045

Or egg noodles, or wontons, or lemon and rice (I will be making avgolemono soon, and will post the recipe I use), or you can use it for the base for any soup, and it will be a trillion times better than anything from a box or a can or a powder. “Musgovian” (using things that must go) soup is one of my favorites. Last time it was a Thai-inspired coconut green curry thing with chard and potatoes:

Soup is the easiest thing to be creative with, and it’s hard to screw it up- at least to where it is inedible.

Stock will keep well frozen; I usually use mine within a few months, but I have found some that was more than six months old, buried in the back of the freezer before, and it tasted fine.

Take *that*, Campbell’s.

Advertisements

I have been on a Tori Amos kick lately, and while listening to Boys for Pele at work yesterday,  I was reminded of a pie I made last year.

“And I know she’s not that
foxy
boys
I said I know she’s not that
foxy but
you gotta owe something sometimes
you gotta owe
when you’re your momma’s sunshine
you’ve got to give something sometimes
when you’re the sweetest cherry
in an apple pie
I need some voodoo on these prunes
in the springtime of his voodoo
he was going to show me spring”

from ‘In the Springtime of His Voodoo’.

I had wanted to make a pie, but something a little different than I had made before. I had apples and frozen cherries, and I immediately thought of the above lyrics.

Sweetest cherry in an apple pie

Prepare a crust for a two crust pie. Preheat the oven to 425°

After the dough has been chilling in the fridge (ha!) for about a half hour, make the filling.

Peel, core, and slice into ¼” slices:

1 pound of apples (about 3 medium-to large ones)

I like granny smiths best for pie, but anything that is not the tasteless, woody things masquerading as apples known as red and golden delicious should be fine.

Add to the apples:

3 cups of frozen tart cherries (about a pound)

1 cup of sugar

1 Tb lemon juice

¼ tsp almond extract

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

3 Tb cornstarch

Let the fruit mixture sit for about 15 minutes while you roll out the crust.

Line a 9″ pie pan with half of the crust, and fill with the fruit mixture. dot with:

2 Tb cold butter, cut into small pieces

Add the top crust, crimp the edges well, and cut vents into it with a kinfe, or make a lattice top.

If you want a lattice top for your pie, there are good step-by-step instructions with photos  here.

Bake the pie for a half hour, then place a baking sheet underneath it, lower the temperature to 350°, and bake for another 30-40 minutes. When the juices are thick and bubble up through the vents, the pie is done. Let cool completely before serving. If you want to serve it warm, reheat after it has cooled (it needs to cool to thicken properly) at 350° for about 10-15 minutes.

Chicken Saltimbocca

This is traditionally made with veal, but veal is expensive as hell (worth the cost to have once in a while, though!)

Saltimbocca means “jump in your mouth” in Italian, and that is what my daughter calls this.

This is one of my favorite things to eat. I’ve made this a few times in the last couple of months, and typing out the recipe is making me think about putting prosciutto and sage on my shopping list for this weekend :>

This method (no toothpicks, chopped sage) is from Cook’s Illustrated, but it’s not as if they invented the idea of sage and prosciutto with a pounded cutlet of some kind of beast…

This is also good with a slice of sharp provolone between the prosciutto and the meat, but it cooks better if you roll it up when you add the cheese instead of cooking it flat.

november-313
Chicken Saltimbocca
serves 2

1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 half chicken breasts, pounded out as thin as possible (alternatively, you can slice each breast in half down the side to make very thin cutlets, but this is hard unless the chicken is half frozen. this will make 4 very thin cutlets, and you’ll need 4 slices of prosciutto and twice the sage called for below.)
1 TB minced fresh sage
2 large whole sage leaves
2 thin slices prosciutto
2 Tb regular olive oil (or vegetable oil- whatever you have that is good for sauteeing)
3/4 cup vermouth or white wine
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 TB butter, cut into pieces and chilled
1/2 Tb minced parsley

Mix pepper with flour in a shallow dish. Dredge pounded chicken breasts in flour, lay them flat, and sprinkle one side evenly with chopped sage. Lay a slice of prosciutto on each breast, and press down so it sticks to the chicken.

Heat half of the oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the whole sage, and fry until the leaves have changed color and look kind of crispy. Remove the leaves from the oil, and set aside to drain on a paper towel or a napkin.

Add the chicken to the pan, prosciutto side down, and cook for about 5 minutes, then turn over and finish cooking until both sides are nicely golden-brown. When they are done cooking (I try to always check temps with a thermometer. Raw chicken is not tasty), remove them to somewhere warm while you prepare the sauce.

Pour off the fat from the skillet, and add the vermouth to deglaze the pan (i.e. scrape up brown stuff from the bottom of the pan to incorporate it into the sauce), and simmer until reduced by about half – about 5 minutes or so. Stir in the lemon juice, turn the heat down to low, and whisk in the butter piece by piece. Remove the pan from the heat and add the parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over the chicken, and place a fried sage leaf on each breast .

Damn, it’s good.

Moving on…

I am sickened at what I felt I had to do to get a handle on the craziness.

At the same time, it was the only thing I would have ever been able to do to move on. Now I know the things I needed to know. I wish there had been some other way, but I would have continued to contact him, regardless of how clear it was that I needed to stop. The only other option I felt I had was just as fucked up. My daughter does not need a mother who is in jail any more than she needs a mother who’s under the ground.

Knowing that I’ve been made a fool of for years is much more comforting that not knowing anything. For the first time in months, I didn’t start crying at my desk. And that was damned embarrassing, so I am glad that is over with.

I’m done.

So now, bring on the recipes and amateur food photography (if I ever manage to get everything edited.)!

It’s been a long time…

… as I think it may continue to be.  While this blog still gets occasional visitors (hi to my amiga at the Chicago public library!), I always wonder who they are (besides the aforementioned Chicagoan).

I still cook a lot, and take pictures, and try and make nifty food on a budget, but the person who said they would give me some advice with regards to this blog pushed me away a while back, and I’ve been too depressed to try and fix stuff on my own.

And, of course, the only thing I am good at makes me an embarrassment to be seen with. figures.

Chocolate never blames you for being sick.  Or tells you that they love you but “aren’t ready for a relationship”.

Argh.

I am going to attempt individual beef wellingtons this week, and chocolate mousse napoleons flavored with chambord. I might even get around to posting about it. In the meantime, my profoundly amateur food photography is here

Pie crust

Pie crust is pretty simple to make, but takes some practice to get right consistently

This makes enough pie dough for a 2 crust 9″ pie. If you only need one crust, you can divide the amounts called for by half..

Mix together:

2½ cups unbleached flour (you can substitute a cup of whole wheat flour  for some of the white flour, but the dough will be harder to work with)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

Add:

One stick (8 Tb; a ½ cup) of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

½ cup chilled vegetable shortening

You can use all shortening, or all butter, or, if you are particularly adventurous and want a really flaky crust, lard, but I prefer the taste of butter with the ease of handling that shortening provides. You could also use margarine, I guess, but I think margarine is fundamentally wrong, unless you need to use it because of dietary restrictions.

Cut the fat into the flour with a pastry cutter, two knives, or, my preferred method, by hand (gently rubbing the flour into the fat), until the mixture resembles very coarse cornmeal, with some larger, pea-sized pieces of fat. work quickly, so the fat does not melt and form a paste with the flour. It is the pieces of fat coated in flour that make the crust flaky.

Once the fat is incorporated into the flour, gradually add:

6 Tb ice water

You might need more or less water, depending on the humidity. Add only enough water to form the dough into a ball.

Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic, and refrigerate for about an hour. You can prepare this a few days ahead of time, or freeze (If freezing, make sure the dough is wrapped very tightly and thoroughly in plastic).

There are good instructions, with photos, for rolling out pie crust here.

If you need to blind bake the crust for a quiche or other custard pie, roll the bottom crust out, place it in the pan and trim the edges. Line the crust with foil, and fill the crust, banking the edges, with dry beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake at 400 °for about 20 minutes, then remove the weights and foil (I use dry beans to do this; I save them in a mason jar and use them over and over), prick the crust with a fork all over, and bake for another 5 minutes to brown the crust.

Anytime

Is this “climbing up to the moon?”
Or is it bailing out too soon?
I hope we didn’t wait too long…
All that I wanted to say, words only got in the way,
But then I found another way to communicate
Is this “climbing up to the moon?”
Or is it fadin out too soon?
I know we didn’t, I know we didn’t wait too long,
cause anytime’s a good time to move on…
Things I could say to myself, I could never say to anyone else,
But what Madonna said really helped;
she said: “boy, you better learn to express yourself!”
I know we didn’t, I know we didn’t wait too long.
Cause anytime’s a good time to move on.

© Jim James, but used without permission.

I might suck at trying to make relationships work, but I have to admit I make a damned fine hollandaise. And concentrating on cooking interesting things is more productive than calling the person who says they no longer want anything to do with you.

For about 1 cup of hollandaise sauce you’ll need:

1 Tb chopped shallot or onion

1/4 tsp cracked peppercorns

2 Tb white wine vinegar

two egg yolks

a stick and a half of butter, melted and kept warm

1 tsp lemon juice

salt/ground white pepper as needed

Combine the shallot, vinegar, and peppercorns in a small pan over medium heat and reduce until most of the liquid has been evaporated.

Strain into a double boiler or a stainless bowl that can serve as one, and add 2 Tb water.

Add the egg yolks and cook over simmering water, whisking constantly until they have thickened and have tripled in volume. Remove the egg yolks from the heat and ladle the melted butter into them, whisking constantly while you add the butter in a thin stream. Season as needed with the lemon, salt, and pepper.

I made eggs florentine with this (english muffin, spinach, poached egg, with hollandaise on top), but I think there are very few things hollandaise sauce is not good on..

.