Monday, May 31, 2010
Chicken and potatoes
This is one of our favorites. The way it works is you build three layers in a Pyrex pan (or any other pan). First, you slice onions and make a layer of those. Next, you slice potatoes and make a layer of those. Lastly, you arrange chicken (dark meat works best) on top. Then you pour some kind of sauce over the whole thing, and bake it until the chicken is falling off the bone. [note: if you cook white meat this long, it will dry out. That's why we use dark meat]
Usually I make a ketchup based sauce, but this time I experimented. I mixed up a whole bunch of savory spices (see the steak post) and rubbed them all over the chicken. There were a TON of spices on the chicken. Then I put the chicken in a ziplock bag, poured red wine in and sealed it in the fridge overnight. The next day we took it out, lay the chicken on top, mixed more spices (mostly mustard seed) with the wine to make a sauce, poured it over and baked it.
The chicken itself was pretty good and flavorful, but the potatoes and onions were so loaded with mustard and other spices that they were pretty much inedible. Lesson learned - don't put too many spices in the potatoes.
Nothing special here. I made sushi rice, put it on some nori, filled it with mock shrimp and avocado, and wrapped it up. Making good sushi has nothing to do with recipe and everything to do with dexterity. I'm getting better at it, but I'm still not so good. One thing I will try to do next time is wash the rice better. I think my rice is too sticky.
I sauteed some onions and garlic, and then added green beans with some water. I wasn't paying attention and the water boiled away and the beans started to burn, but they still tasted ok. Pay attention to your beans is the lesson of this story.
We go for pretty basic salads - iceberg, tomato, cuke, maybe some carrot. Our big thing is to throw in some of those salty Israeli pickles. Give it a try.
This was the same as in this post, minus the cheese. I didn't burn it this time, so it was good.
We chopped up chicken breasts into small pieces. We dredged each piece in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs - we flavored both the flour and breadcrumbs with salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, chili powder, etc. We often then fry them, but this time we baked them.
When you make breaded things, you often find that your hands start getting caked with the breading. To avoid this, do the following: use your right hand to drop the chicken into the flour (but don't touch the flour with your right hand). With your left hand, cover the chicken with flour until coated, then shake off the excess flour. Then drop the chicken into the egg (but don't touch the egg with your left hand). Then, cover the chicken with egg using your right hand. Then, drop the eggy chicken into the breadcrumbs (but don't touch the breadcrumbs with your right hand). Roll the chicken around in the breadcrumbs with your left hand, shake off the excess, and set aside. This way, your left hand only touches dry ingredients, and your right hand only touches wet ingredients.
Then we usually make a "buffalo" sauce to go on top. If you were making buffalo wings, the classic buffalo wing sauce consists of one part hot sauce (like Frank's) to one part margarine, plus a little salt and sugar to taste. We replaced the regular hot sauce with a mixture of two Goya hot sauces - ancho and chipotle (again, see previous post). They were great, and we made a ton so we had leftovers, too.
I followed some generic recipe on the internet - mostly corn meal with a little flour, some baking powder, salt, sugar, etc. They call for buttermilk, which I tried replacing with soy milk. Not the same; buttermilk is really thick and flavorful so it's hard to replace. I added chopped jalapenos to my cornbread batter. Then, I heated up my CIS (cast iron skillet - keep an eye out for this abbreviation in future posts) in the oven with some veg oil (2 tablespoons). Then, I sliced some soft salami real thin and fried them until they were crispy. I took the CIS out of the oven, and poured the batter right in. I topped it off with the crispy salami and baked until done.
The cornbread wasn't great. It was kind of hard and crumbly. Maybe that's just how cornbread is supposed to taste. Next time I make cornbread, though, I'm going to add more wheat flour and more sugar. Truth is, though, I had to substitute soy milk for buttermilk, and you can't really expect to get the same results.
I sauteed some onion and garlic and then added a pound of fresh spinach. That stuff cooks down like nobody's business. I then poured the whole mess into a food processor, chopped it up and added 2 eggs. I took a sheet of puff pastry and, while it was still pretty hard, broke it into 3 pieces along the seam that it comes with. Then, when each of those pieces thawed, I rolled each one out so that it became much wider and thinner (Z axis) - to do this you need to have flour on hand for the dough and your rolling pin. Then I filled each long rectangle with spinach, covered it over and pinched it. I now had 3 very long bourekas. I cut them into squares to serve.
The bourekas came out very tasty. Next time I would leave out the eggs, because it made the filling too runny. But I highly recommend rolling out puff pastry whenever using it to house some kind of filling, be it dessert, meat or vegetable. Just use flour.
Rachel made a light mayo and vinegar dressing for the coleslaw, which we picked up in the bag form, because we didn't feel like shredding cabbage and carrot by hand, but you could if you wanted I suppose.
Friday, May 28, 2010
We were going to make quesadillas but we were once again foiled by mold, this time on the tortillas. Instead we had scrambled eggs with cheese, and a huge pan of sauteed onions, mushrooms and green peppers. With a little toast on the side and some dashes of chipotle hot sauce (is there anything this stuff won't go on?) our hunger was put to rest.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
The salad consisted of shredded iceberg, diced tomato and cuke (de-seeded of COURSE), toasted, diced Morningstars and cheese. We bought Feta but it smelled weird, so we used shredded mozz.
For a dressing we've become partial to mixing mayo with hot sauce - the Goya ones with wooden caps and some Mexican hechsher. We had ancho and chipotle flavor, and we mixed both in.
I was ravenously hungry and didn't think this salad would fill me up, but it did. To be fair, I also ate half an apple and a some carrots, but still. Before the salad, I was threatening to dip into the ice cream, and I DIDN'T EVEN WANT TO when I was done. Because I was actually full. I speak the truth.
Although I did sneak a spoonful of whipped cream before bed... I'm only human. Sorry Rachel.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
There isn't too much to rib steak. It's a pretty delicious cut of meat. Since I don't have a grill, I used a cast iron skillet and an oven. You get the skillet real hot over high heat (takes a couple minutes, because the iron is so thick), add a little canola oil to coat the bottom, and put in your steaks (sizzle sizzle). Wait about 1 minute and flip the steaks. Wait another minute or 2 and then put the skillet into a 400 degree oven (use mitts!). Wait another 7 minutes or so, and your steak is perfect. Just take it out, let it rest and it's good to go.
This time, I did something different. I usually avoid flavoring rib steaks with anything other than salt and pepper. But this time I decided to do the opposite - and go all-out Bobby Flay. By which I mean mix together every single spice I own (seriously, look at any of Bobby Flay's rubs or bbq sauces, and you'll see that is his basic strategy).
Ok, not every spice. Spices come in categories. You have your sweet baking spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and cardamom. And you have herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, etc. And then you have the savory spices - garlic and onion, chili powders of all forms (which includes paprika, "chili powder", cayenne pepper, and many others), black pepper, cumin, coriander, and mustard powder.
(There are more, but the above is what I have in my pantry).
The Flay method generally consists of mixing together every single savory spice and throwing in a sweet baking spice, usually ginger. I left out the ginger this time, but I threw together all of the above mentioned savory spices, plus salt. And I rubbed it all over my steaks just prior to tossing them in the skillet.
I also made a "steak sauce" by tossing chopped onions and more of the aforementioned spices into the skillet after I took the steaks out. I also added some oregano, which I didn't put on the steak. Then, I added in two forms of acid - vinegar and wine. I started with some ancho chili sauce, which is vinegar based, and added in a little regular wine vinegar. Then I added in enough red wine to sort of coat the skillet, and let the whole thing cook down a bit. It was fanstastic.
I also made some spicy potatoes by dicing potatoes and onions and frying them with more of the spices above. I didn't tend the skillet well and the bottom of the hash burned terribly. But it was still pretty good. Potatoes fried with onions and savory spices tend to be.
Why? Probably because most of the times you've eaten them it's been out of some giant tub in a school or camp cafeteria. Not a lot of thought was put into it, and it came out dull and unexciting.
The truth is, though, tuna and egg salad get a bad rap. They should be eaten more often, for the following two reasons:
1. They are cheap
2. They are good meat alternatives for those who don't want to eat that much meat (after all meat is expensive and not that good for you).
I found that, when you take a few simple steps to make these two dishes a little more sophisticated and exciting, you find yourself eating them - and looking forward to them - more and more often.
Let's start with tuna. Plain tuna with mayo is filling, but bland. I start by adding mustard; this alone will take your tuna into a whole new dimension. Throw in some pickle relish (or chopped sour pickles if you don't like sweet), or pickled peppers and you've got a sandwich that's rich, satisfying, sweet, tangy and spicy all at once. Really, anything you find in the pickle isle of the supermarket is a good candidate for tuna (jarred peppers, olives, capers, etc.)
With egg salad, I usually go with savory/spicy. Besides salt and pepper, garlic is a must. In fact I often just stop there - salt, pepper and garlic (and, of course, some mayo). The garlicy version puts regular egg salad to shame. But don't stop there, throw in chili powder, or cayenne for heat. Throw in hot sauce, or bbq sauce. Try using garam masala. Try sun dried tomatoes and basil. The possibilities are endless.
Monday, May 24, 2010
This one's pretty simple. I used potato-cheese pierogies, which you can pan fry straight out of the freezer until they are done.
For the sauce, I sautéed onions in butter and olive oil. I didn't go all the way to carmelization because I was feeling impatient. (To caramelize onions, cook them medium low for like 45 minutes). I added some Dijon mustard and beer (Sam Adams honey porter). I cooked out a bunch of the beer, and then tossed in the pierogies and served.
To make crispy broccoli, chop up broccoli into bite size pieces (I cut the stem part extra thin). Mix it in a bowl with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, some cayenne if you like that, and a little bit of lemon juice. Bake on a cookie sheet until they are shrunken and crisp. Oh yeah.
- It's hard to mess up store bought pierogies and they taste great
- Crispy broccoli was delicious. Rachel thought there was too much cayenne. I agreed, but only sort of because it is girly to say that something is too spicy.
- Pretty cheap dinner. The whole thing was for sure under $10, closer to $5
- Potato-cheese pierogies are not healthy. Broccoli is healthy, but this broccoli had a lot of olive oil in it. Better than vegetable oil I guess.
- Whenever I cook with beer, I realize that I like the idea of cooking with beer more than the actual result. The hops in the beer made the sauce very bitter. Alton Brown did a show about cooking with wine and talked about how certain wines are good for cooking because they won't leave bitter flavors (in wine, they come from the tannins). Maybe he said something about beer too, but I forget. I guess if you cook with beer, try an ale rather than a lager. That is pure speculation; I haven't actually tried it.
Since it was Yom Yerushalayim, we decided to make falafel.
I've never made falafel before, and since Alton Brown has never done a show on falafel, I didn't know how to do it right. All I knew was that you used chickpeas and fried them. I consulted the Internet, which told me that falafel boils down to the following:
- You can't use canned chickpeas, you have to soak them (some people put baking soda in the water)
- You can either use just chickpeas, or a combo of chickpeas and fava beans
- Your falafel dough can either have flour, or have no flour
All the rest is seasoning.
I soaked a bag of chickpeas overnight, and ground them up in the food processor with onions, garlic, salt, parsley, cumin, and maybe some other stuff. Doesn't really matter. Some people put in cilantro but I don't like it.
The "batter" was way too loose; no way was it going to stick together in the fryer, so I chose to add a couple tablespoons of flour. This got the batter to stick together, but it was way too doughy.
I also made the pita from scratch. I followed a recipe I found on Youtube with some woman making it in her kitchen (that's all I remember). It was 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of water, yeast and sugar. Let rise for 1 hour, roll into circles, let rise for another 20 minutes, bake.
My pitas did not form pockets. I blame this on not kneading the dough. The woman on the video didn't either, but I should have known better. You always knead dough. My pitas ended up kind of hard and not chewy. They weren't terrible, but they were not great.
In conclusion, I will do a few things differently next time. First of all, I didn't put enough water over the chickpeas when I set them up to soak overnight. In the morning, they had soaked it all up and I had to add more. So have plenty of water for them to soak in. Second of all, I'm going to try putting in 1 tsp of baking soda into the soaking water. Hopefully these two things will make the dough sticky enough to fry without adding flour.
And as for the pitas – I'm going to knead the dough! And bake them on a cookie sheet set on top of a baking stone, not directly on the baking stone like I did this time. That way, I can let them rise those last 20 minutes on the cookie sheet itself, and I won't have to transfer them.