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Archive for the ‘Cooking techniques’ Category

(By the way, I went back and added some photos to my last post, including a teensy tiny baby hand, aw!)

If you read Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn, you may have seen a complete rave review of a Jamie Oliver recipe for chicken braised in milk, with lemon, sage and cinnamon. I have been burned several times by classic italian pork-in-milk recipes, but for some reason I had to go out and make the chicken version immediately. The writer, Faith, accidentally misread the recipe and covered the chicken for 2/3 of the cooking time, then tested it uncovered and preferred the covered version, so I followed her lead.

Here’s the recipe, from Jamie.

I think the ingredients look like a still-life–maybe I should paint them!

Though things aren’t as scenic if you zoom out:

The recipe is seriously easy. I hate hate hate cooking chicken, especially whole chickens, but the braising aspect made me more comfortable. The most annoying part is browning the chicken in the butter and oil, since it’s awkward to flip it around in the pan.

In an hour and a half of unsupervised (mostly) cooking, this unappetizing sight:

Turned into this:

I have never had crispier skin on a roast chicken; not sure why. The fat rendered out of it completely. And I’ll add my voice to those of Faith and Jamie in saying not to freak out at that curdled sauce. It tastes amazing. The first night we had shredded meat on rolls, as little sandwiches:

And the next night we had more of it (with that delicious, nasty-looking sauce) with israeli cous cous and sauteed greens:

We ate the meat for about a week, and it was scrumptious hot or cold. I’ll definitely make it again, maybe omitting the cinnamon if I want slightly more versatile leftovers, though it gave a really nice musky flavor. It hurts to use a whole stick of butter to brown the chicken and then toss it out, but I saved mine in a pyrex in the fridge, so maybe I could re-use it? It’s lovely browned butter now; I wonder if it would burn on a second use. Anyway, compared to dry-roasting a chicken, this method was way less stressful and gave really juicy, tender meat. As I said, I followed Faith’s lucky “mistake” and kept the pot covered for the first hour, opening it for the last 30 minutes to crisp up.

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Ok, so. I have spoken before about my unending love for Jamie at Home, and back in February I watched the pizza episode and promptly felt the urge to make dough from scratch. Hurray! It’s so easy! (Note: I had a tremendously bad day leading up to this attempt.)

Pizza Dough
adapted from Jamie Oliver‘s Jamie at Home
7 cups strong white bread flour or 5 cups strong white bread flour plus 2 cups finely ground semolina flour (next time I want to try it w/ semolina)
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dried yeast
1 tablespoon raw sugar
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water

pizza ingredients

Ok. So you’re supposed to sift the flour and salt together into a mountain on the counter. No sweat! I am a brave person who will go ahead and work straight on the butcher block. No fear! Mountain, ahoy!

flour

Now, that photo does not accurately depict the towering majesty of the 7-cup flour mountain. It was tall and steep. Back to the recipe:

“In a large measuring cup, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.”

Sounds easy enough, and Jamie made it look like a cakewalk on the show. Proceed: Liquids mixed with sugar and yeast:

liquids

Commence whisking, while feeling extremely smug and craftsmanlike:

whisking flour

Here’s the important part: Get cocky and pour in too much liquid at once, collapsing the walls of the too-tall mountain and flooding yeasty-oil-water down the dishwasher and your pants. And socks. And under the baseboards. Stand stock still while it gushes over, before fitfully trying to shove flour into the liquid to stop the onslaught. Grab paper towels to make a moat, then take a photo that doesn’t come close to portraying the chaos:

mess

(Aren’t I brave, giving you the warts-and-all view into my kitchen?)

Take stock, recognizing that you have used nearly all of the flour in the house, all the yeast, and you don’t have an alternate plan for dinner. Decide to soldier on, mixing what liquid is left on the counter into the flour and then adding additional water and kneading until, miracle beyond miracles, the dough pulls together into a gorgeous, silky smooth ball.

Set it to rise while you pry off the baseboards and scrub yeasty flour paste off the inside of the cabinet doors.

Now, back to the original plan!

“Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called punching down the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straightaway, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas. “

Fine! The dough rose, though maybe not quite as much as normal:

I froze half and made the other half into four pizzas:

dough balls

It rolled out like a dream, not sticky like store-bought dough:

I made half with flat edges and half with pinched crusts like my mom does, to see which I preferred. (Note: The Food Network version of the recipe doesn’t specify baking time or temp. I cranked my oven to around 450 and just watched the pizzas carefully; I think they took about 10 minutes but I could be wrong.)

Pinched won:

And dinner did eventually get served. Without the 45 minutes of cleaning up the kitchen, it would have been a really easy process.

(BTW I think I’m over white pies, at least with the slightly-dry cheese blend I have been using. The other half of the dough got slathered with various sauces, to be explained in a future post.)

(Also, I’m totally uninspired and haven’t been cooking much. Is it just the late-winter doldrums? Anyone else feeling it, too?)

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Ben has moved on from breakfast pancakes or oatmeal on weekend mornings, and has discovered the connection between organized personalities and the joys of baking. In addition to churning out no-knead bread for his lunch sandwiches, he has recently started baking biscuits.

Our downstairs neighbor, Jean, is a lovely lady who hails from North Carolina. At her annual pre-Christmas tree-trimming party, she serves about as much food as a table can hold, but the highlight is the delicious ham accompanied by basket after basket of tender buttermilk biscuits. This year we asked for the recipe, and not only did she e-mail it to me, she brought us back a bag of biscuit flour from her holiday trip down South! Now that is neighborly.

Ben and I made the biscuits together the first time, but since then he’s been making them before I wake up on the weekend, including Valentine’s morning. I strongly equate love with baked goods (don’t we all?), so it was a wonderful start to the day!

BEST BISCUITS
(From Jean)

Cut together 2 cups self rising flour with 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter (I use unsalted) until well blended. Add a pinch of salt if you want. I do this step in the food processor, then dump it into a bowl to add the buttermilk.

Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and gently mix until moistened. Do not overmix

Turn out on a floured surface and knead very gently a few times (pat it, really) until the dough forms a coherent ball. Do not knead vigorously like you would knead bread.

Pat out to about 3/4 inch think, cut with a round cutter, and bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

The biscuits will be better if you use Southern Biscuit or White Lily flour –something about soft wheat, I think. But they will be good anyhow.

This was the first batch, a bit raggedy because we were so careful not to overwork the dough. It does need (ha!) a few kneads to pull together.

One of Ben’s finished batches, complete with lovely presentation!

Topped with my mom’s raspberry jam, they are unspeakably good. Sadly, we used up the last of the jam in the biscuit mania.

Not bad, right?

Now, as if waking up to fresh biscuits weren’t the way to a girl’s heart, Ben made me dinner for Valentine’s day. But not just any dinner. I ordered him to take photos, but I had no idea what he was making, and he recreated the meal I always always order at my favorite restaurant in NYC, Inoteca. At least, what I always ordered: On my last visit it came to light that they have changed the fantastic romaine-raddichio-ricotta salata salad that I’ve loved for years. Good thing we started making it at home a while ago.

Ben’s perfect salad (he added a couple drops of truffle oil for good measure):

TRUFFLED EGG TOAST!!

I have meant to make that at home for years but never did. There was a slight mis-reading of the recipe (you’re not supposed to use whole eggs, just egg yolks), but on the whole it was a swoonily romantic and delicious gesture. Best Valentine’s ever! (He even got cupcakes for dessert.)

Here’s what he made Sunday morning:
french toast

He’s making meatballs again as I type. I think Ben has spent much more time in the kitchen than I have lately, and I’m not complaining.


Stay tuned for brussels sprouts (and creative use of leftovers) and an epic mess.

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I am unnaturally obsessed with vegetables, but even I know that most people don’t get too wound up about the root vegetables that locavores in northern climes are working their way through this time of year. I also think we should all give up on the word Rutabaga altogether, and follow the Euro lead in calling it Swede. No wonder no one cooks the poor thing; what an awful name. But my Bubble and Squeak didn’t use a fraction of the vegetables I’ve got in cold storage, so prepare yourselves for a few more entries on how to use The Other Root Vegetables.
(Alternative slogans:
We’re not sexy but we sure store well!
Lumpy but delicious!
Off your feed? Try some Swede!
)

(Oh my god, someone help me.)

ANYWAY. Look, turnips!

I tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for….a while. A long while. I kept tasting every so often once they looked cooked, and by the time Ben had grilled [more] steaks they were wrinkled-looking but tasted awesome.

Now for the really photogenic stuff. Go get some swede. Seriously, go. It’s a huge wax-covered lump in most grocery stores, though mine were much smaller than normal since they came from the CSA. I used two small and one medium; a normal-sized large one would do all by itself.

Peel and cut it up into smallish pieces so it will cook quickly and evenly. Be careful while cutting it and keep in mind that before pumpkins were common in the British Isles, the original jack o’ lanterns were made from swede. These things are tough. Cover the pieces with water, add some salt, bring to a boil and cook until soft.

Drain, add butter and get out your trusty masher (I found an Oxo one
that resembles Jamie Oliver’s, and I like the design a lot.)

Mash. Add salt and pepper to taste. Do a little dance to celebrate how tasty this nutritious vegetable is (wiki tells me it’s a cross between a turnip and a cabbage! I love cabbage!). Serve with something good: in this case, crispy pork cutlets and corn from the farm that I froze in August.

Oh, and by the way. While this is what winter looks like in these parts (snowier, actually; it’s snowing as I type)…


(The beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA in mid-January)

…I have to celebrate our wonderful annual visit to our friends Josh and Keren and The Amazing Adley in Florida. This is their reality:

Here I am, baffled by this “sunshine” and “warm weather” of which I’ve heard so much:

It was hard to come back to this:

But I have pretty tulips this week and I know spring will come eventually.

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You know, if I were to write a parody of Real Simple and other magazines aimed at over-scheduled upper-middle-class suburban moms (and those of us who will no doubt be OSUMCSMs (catchy) in a few more years, heh) I would probably focus the food section on how rotisserie chickens are The Answer! To Everything!

And I’ve never bought one.

But last month I was down in CT visiting Greta and Jack, along w/ our friend Ann, while all the husbands went skiing for the weekend, and Greta turned out a series of awesome meals while also chasing after a toddler, and one night she pulled out a rotisserie chicken and we pretty much just ate it while standing around the kitchen counter and pulling pieces off with our hands, and I thought “Genius! Ready-to-eat meat, plus leftovers!” as if I hadn’t read that exact tip 9000 times.

So I had Ben pick up a rotisserie chicken, and when he got it home I looked at the weight and thought “good lord, a pound and a half? It’s minsky!” but then I got three meals out of it and still had leftover shredded meat, which I never did use because I’m a mess.

Anyway. Night one: Chicken w/ fried polenta cakes and cavalo nero slow-cooked with garlic. Oily and delicious, just the way I like it.

Night two: Shredded chicken quesadillas. (I shredded the chicken and heated it up in a bit of broth with taco spice from Christina’s spice shop in it, but I don’t think I used enough spice mix.)

BTW, I use greek yogurt instead of sour cream. My mom always used plain yogurt and you don’t really notice the difference, especially w/ greek yogurt, since it’s so thick.

Night three: Nachos! It was Friday.

Once again Trader Joe’s impressed me: I used their “longboard” corn chips, which were delicious, and the mild salsa that isn’t chunky, from the refrigerated section. That was *awesome*.

—-
I’m in a funk, guys. I miss NYC and I’m kind of lonely in Cambridge. I don’t leave the house enough, especially when the weather is bad. I feel like there are art projects or something exploding inside me, but I can’t seem to actually do anything. I am excited to work on updating my downstairs neighbor’s apartment: He has loads of great antiques and things, but needs a hand picking paint colors, rearranging the rooms, and paring down. I already found him a leather chesterfield sofa on craig’s list for a song, which was satisfying. And yesterday I amused myself drawing a floorplan and playing with furniture placement. But what am I to do with all the inspiration pictures I just put in Domino Deco File books last week? Sigh.

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Bubble and Squeak

I’m obsessed with Jamie Oliver‘s show Jamie at Home, and have saved nearly every episode on my DVR (messy!). This might sound ridiculous, but this is the only modern cooking show I’ve seen that captures a bit of Julia Child’s spirit: Jamie is having so much *fun* and is so relaxed and human on camera (not to mention so free with “tablespoons” of salt or butter that look more like quarter pounds!). Anyway, I usually just watch it for technique ideas of how to use my CSA vegetables, since the whole show is based around seasonal cooking using what’s in Jamie’s garden. I haven’t looked up many of the recipes, though I did give my mom the show cookbook for her birthday.

But considering that my fridge is fairly packed with rutabaga (or “Swede,” in the UK), turnips, carrots and cabbage, I couldn’t resist giving the Bubble and Squeak recipe from the “Winter Veg” episode a try. And it ACTUALLY SQUEAKS. I stood in the kitchen giggling, no joke.

[I didn’t make the onion gravy, and we just grilled some sausages. I want to try again and make the gravy; this was delicious but could have used an extra boost of moisture and flavor.]

Basically you peel and trim and cut up a one-to-one mix of potatoes and assorted winter vegetables; a bit more than a pound each. I used white potatoes, white and red turnips, rutabaga and a bit of cabbage:

Cover with water and boil until fully cooked. My vegetables cooked at really different rates, and I’ll play around with cutting the denser ones into smaller pieces next time. Jamie says 15-20 minutes to cook, but I think I needed about half an hour since some things wouldn’t soften!

Drain the vegetables and heat olive oil and butter in a large nonstick pan; add the vegetables and mash them together (add salt and pepper now) to make a giant pancake/hashbrown sort of thing:

Then all you do is cook it on medium heat for about 30 minutes. Every few minutes, when the bottom gets golden, you flip the pancake piece by piece and mush it together again. Eventually you get the delicious crispy bits all through the pan, not just on the top and bottom. And meanwhile, listen for the squeaking! I think it’s air escaping from within the smushed-together pancake.

This was a great side dish with sausage, but would also be good with pork chops (and apples, for some juice), or with a stew.

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Since my cooking was pretty patchy and my posting even patchier as the end of the year drew nigh, I’m just going to post the last three mondo Winter CSA Share allotments all at once. Most of this stuff stores well; I have loads of potatoes, onions, garlic and squash in the pantry, and the veggie drawers in the fridge are stuffed with turnips, rutabaga, beets, carrots, etc.

#2 arrived right before Thanksgiving:

-Salad greens
-Kale
-Butternut squash
-Celeriac
-Red and yellow potatoes
-Turnips
-Rutabaga
-Cabbage
-Parsnips
-Carrots
-Garlic

#3, from early December:

-Bok Choi
-Leeks (used on the pizzas for the Christmas party)
-Carrots
-Onions
-Potatoes
-Kohlrabi
-Butternut squash
-Chili peppers
-Garlic

And the fourth and final share, from the week of Christmas:

-Salad greens
-Spinach
-Potatoes
-Celeriac
-Daikon radishes
-Onions
-Popcorn
-Garlic
-Rutabaga
-Carrots
-Beets!!

I’m saving those beets for next week, but I can taste them already!

By the way, last night I thawed out a frozen portion of the beef, leek and barley soup I made a couple months ago. I thought that recipe was really bland, and recommended searing the meat next time, at the very least. Well, it was just as bland upon reheating (shocking, I know), so in addition to salt and pepper I added a ton of grated parmesan cheese. It made the difference; the soup was delicious. Just a nice reminder of the power of umami… If you’re cooking something and it tastes bland, add soy sauce or parmesan, depending on which one seems logical, to get a nice flavor boost.

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Ok, so it’s happened again. I am weeks behind and I blame technology, even though I settled the root problem weeks ago. Ahem. Basically I hadn’t uploaded photos since I left my job at the end of October. …Happy December! Right. I am remedying that.

Meanwhile, um… There was a lot of eating last week. Mom and Dad were here the whole week, and my uncle was here for a couple days, and Thanksgiving was awesome. I recommend it, Thanksgiving. In case any of you forgot last week. Here, I will post some hastily-uploaded photos, because I feel really guilty, and because Thanksgiving is already sort of boring, food-blogging-wise (because who really wants to do anything different from what they have always had, deep down?), so if I post these any later it will be a joke.

I am always so entertained by brussels sprouts. I love them. We made them with pancetta in a recipe that I won’t recommend because they were more bitter than usual, though still quite beloved at the table.

I believe in dressing, not stuffing. And I don’t believe it should contain anything like nuts or dried fruit. I make it with bread cubes, celery, onion, parsley, and chicken stock. It was awesome. (In this picture it is also uncooked.)

Figuring out what I have:

Ben set the table, including the maple candies that my family always has at our places:

Brussels:

Clockwise from top left: Brussels, mashed potatoes, dressing, beans with shallots, turkey. Not shown: Carrot salad, cranberry sauce. My family eats what can only be described as a damn good, sophisticated diet year round. For Thanksgiving we tend to go simpler and keep things really classic.

Dude. So good.

Also not shown: Ben’s annual pies–chocolate cream and pumpkin.

The very best part of Thanksgiving, though, is on Friday night, when we make hot turkey sandwiches. Heat the turkey in gravy. Serve over bread you’ve toasted until hard. Agh!@!!
(I feel stupid explaining it, but Ben had never had one until a couple years ago. Because he’s a heathen.)

Oh, and to get in the holiday spirit, here I am trying to arrange lights at the top of our lovely tree. What you can’t see is the string of muttered profanity uttering from my lips as I toss the lights and get them stuck, over, and over, and over… (Also that is my t-shirt, not my tummy. I’m not quite *that* pale.)

BTW, I’m psyched that WordPress is once again cropping all my photos on the right side. Technology again!

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So many carrots. But first, the week’s haul:

-1 butternut squash
-1 head of cabbage
-3 leeks
-3 hot peppers
-4 white potatoes
-3 daikon radishes
-1 bunch arugula
-Carrots.

At this point the carrots were starting to panic me. I had received them most weeks since august, and while we’d tried to eat carrot sticks whenever we remembered, and they were keeping very nicely in the produce drawer, I was up to about 4 pounds. There aren’t many things I dislike, but cooked carrots are high on the list. And I don’t really love many of those sweet soups (squash, carrot, etc.). I’ve since received several more pounds of carrots, but it’s no longer a problem, because: Grated carrot salad.

Obviously I’d eaten carrot salads in France, but for some reason it hadn’t occurred to me to dispose of bulk quantities of carrots this way. Maybe because I always forget that the cuisinart makes tasks like this easy? I started small. Five carrots are pictured but I only used four.

Peeling them was the most time-consuming part. After about 60 seconds of grater-plate cuisinart action (sounds dirty!) I had this:

I made a 1-to-1 dressing of peanut oil and cider vinegar, with a bit of dijon mustard and very, very finely minced garlic. (For four smallish carrots I used 1 tablespoon each of oil/vinegar; about a teaspoon of vinegar and 1 clove of garlic. The carrots give off a lot of juice once they’re salted, so that was just enough, though I’d go a little heavier next time.)

Mix dressing. Dress carrots. Add lots of salt and pepper and let it sit at least half an hour or so, to get nice and juicy and well-combined. I had trouble staying away from the bowl, as you can see from how much carrot I had to begin with:

And how much was left by the time Ben got home (that is a large bowl):

It was one of those nights when you’re too tired to eat anything complicated, much less cook, so I made a green salad and toasted cheese on bread, plus the carrot salad, and we ate our veggie plates in front of the fire. And then the next day I wolfed the rest of the carrots, and made another batch within a week. And I’m craving it again.

This is so easy, people. Go try it.

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Once again, unrelated produce and recipe contents.

The goods:
-Popcorn!! Currently curing on the wall. Apparently you can put an ear in a paper bag in the microwave and it will all. pop. off. This is unspeakably exciting to me.)
-2 white, 1 purple turnip
-Assorted peppers
-1 small bunch kale
-1 sad, sad little japanese eggplant
-4 white potatoes
-3 carrots

I can’t even remember, now, why I had a sudden need for soup, but I remembered Deb’s post about Beef, leek and barley soup at Smitten Kitchen on a day when I had to work from home anyway, so I wandered over to Whole Foods, grabbed what I needed, followed the instructions to a T, and had soup simmering within about 20 minutes of getting started.

It makes me happy to take pictures with natural light. I really do need to solve the lighting problem for night-time photography…

I can hear my mom now. Looking at those photos, she is saying “KATE! You didn’t brown your meat first!” To which I say “I know, I know, but the recipe said to just chuck everything in the pot, and let it cook a while. I should have followed my instincts.”

While the soup is perfectly tasty as written, I do think that next time I will brown the meat before starting. I blame my store-bought stock, in part, but this was just a bit bland. Very comforting and all, but not quick savory enough for my taste.

Still, I’d never thought of using short ribs (they only had boneless at whole foods, sigh) as the meat for soup, and MAN, does that texture and fattiness play well here! The self-shredding talents of short ribs are perfect for adding back into soup.

Ben didn’t mind the bland soup–he was just excited to have soup with bread and butter for dinner, just like at his grandmother’s house when he was a kid.

By the way, after typing “soup” about 50 times in this entry it’s starting to look very strange. Soup. soup soup soup soup. I am reminded of my favorite Calvin & Hobbes strip ever.

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