Cornish Game Hen
Friday, November 24, 2006, 09:14 PM - soups, comfort food, holidayYeah, it's turkey day, but for 2 people, turkey is a bit silly. We lucked out and found an 8 pound turkey a few years ago, but since then we've decided to make a culinary tour of fowl. This year it's cornish game hen. We made 3 of them; two were rock game hens, and one was a normal game hen. The normal one was better, but smaller. But it came in packs of one and the others came in packs of two, and we wanted three so there would be leftovers. Leftovers are a crucial part of thanksgiving, so you can't just do two itty bitty birds and call it a day. The hens didn't all fit in the roasting pan together, so we seasoned two one way and the third another way. For the sake of controlled experiment, the two rock cornish game hens were seasoned differently. In addition, we made mashed potatoes, acorn squash, broccoli, and gravy. We also served cranberry chutney , which we'd made the night before. Then we made stock from the carcasses in the evening.
Preparing the hens
Remove the hen from its packaging. Remove the giblets and set them aside, if there are any. They should be in the chest cavity if they're there. Sometimes in bigger birds I've seen them stuck in by the neck, but there's just no space in a small bird. Set the giblets aside to make stock later. Put them in a bag in the fridge or something. Wash the hen thoroughly. Only one of our birds had giblets. So sad.
Get a partner with clean hands. Have him shake seasoning onto your fingertips. Rub the inside of the bird (yes, the chest cavity) with salt. Get more salt and rub it on the outside of the bird. Repeat the process with pepper. We stuck a pat of butter between the breast of each bird and the skin that goes over the breast. It was a whim. I read about doing that when I was researching capons, and lots of things I'd read cautioned about roasting things that weren't fatty, and I was worried that a small bird might not have enough fat. I have no idea if it made any difference, but they were juicy and tasty in the end, so it couldn't have hurt. We did two hens with garlic and rosemary in addition to salt and pepper. Just use the same process with diced garlic and rosemary. We had extra garlic and rosemary prepped so we put it over the top of the birds after we'd trussed them up for roasting. We did another bird with orange. After salting and peppering it, we put two very thin slices of orange between the skin and the breast and some more in the cavity. We saved aside three more slices, trussed up the bird, squeezed the remaining juice from the orange over the bird, and put the three slices on top.
Put the bird chest side up on a plate. Fold the wings back so the tips are under the back. Tie them into place with some string. There's special kitchen string you can do that with. There should be some flaps of skin at the bottom of the bird by the drumsticks. You can wrap those around the outside of the drumsticks, bringing the drumsticks together, then stick a toothpick through the flaps of skin and use another length of string to secure that end. Stick the bird in the roasting pan. You're supposed to put them on roasting racks, but we don't have one. We use an upside down oven-safe plate. They didn't all fit in the same pan, so we did the garlic/rosemary ones in the roasting pan and the orange one in another pan.
I don't know how long we actually cooked ours. Maybe an hourish at 375 degrees? It's hard to say, since our stove doesn't maintain temperature properly. We tried to use a thermometer to make sure they were the appropriate temperature for cooked fowl, but that was a bad idea. They're really too small to use a meat thermometer in. We pulled them when we realized they were probably done and the thermometer must be lying. I think it was just too easy with such small birds to stick the thermometer through and take the temperature of the air in the cavity (too low) instead of managing to get it in the meat. But the juices were clear, the bones wiggled, and it was basically perfect.
Cut an acorn squash in half. Scrape out the seeds. Rinse the seeds, put them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Coat them then lay them out flat on a cookie sheet. Stick them in the oven with the roasting birds for about 10 minutes. Pull them out and snack on them while things cook, because it will take a while and you'll be hungry.
Meanwhile, prep the squash. You should have two halves of squash, each with a hollowed out bit in the middle. Put them on their backs on a cookie sheet or oven safe plate. Pour a puddle of Unicum Next (which is pretty undrinkable, but turns out to be interesting to cook with) into each half. Season each half with cinnamon, coriander, and allspice. Stick in the oven with the birds. It will probably not be done until the birds are done, but you can stick it with a fork periodically and declare it done when the fork goes in easily.
Skin a bunch of potatoes (we did about six) and cube them. Throw them in a pot and fill it with enough water to submerge them by at least half an inch. Bring the pot to a boil, turn it down to a strong simmer, and let it go for 15 minutes or until the potatoes seem softish when stuck with a fork.
Pour off the water. Mash with a potato masher. Add a bunch of butter and milk and some salt. We used a few tablespoons of butter and several glugs of evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is richer, and you should always keep some around in case you have a milk emergency. Like you forgot to buy milk before making mashed potatoes.
It didn't look like there was going to be real gravy because the birds weren't giving off much by way of drippings. So we put a cup or so of water in a pan with a teaspoon or so of corn starch and added chicken bullion (a little more than was required for the volume of water). We thought there should be a spot of fat because you never actually manage to de-fat drippings completely when making gravy, so we replaced it with a dribble of olive oil. Heat the concoction until it thickens. We later added chicken drippings from the orange chicken; we didn't actually get drippings from the other two. The drippings improved the flavor immensely; before drippings it tasted sort of like salty butter (wacky), but afterwards it tasted very yummy and went well with the birds.
I just heckled for the broccoli; it's not my area of expertise. Someone added olive oil, whiskey, salt, and pepper to an oven-safe, lidded dish with florets of broccoli and half an onion (chopped into fairly large pieces. We stuck it in the oven with everything else and baked it for about 30 minutes. It was a little on the soft side, but very yummy.
Throw the carcasses into a stock pot with four large carrots, fiveish celery stalks, and a white onion. Fill until everything has water over it. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer for a few hours. Skim the fat off the top into a can or something so you can put it in the trash. Don't put animal fat down the sink or bad things will happen when it comes back down to room temperature and solidifies. Strain the defatted broth into containers for refrigerating and freezing. Any fat you don't manage to get off will congeal on the top of the container and can be more easily removed when you use the stock.
Egg Drop Soup
Thursday, November 2, 2006, 09:46 PM - soupsI'm really horribly sick. Eating makes me feel nauseous, but I'm very hungry all the time. Go figure. I tried bullion at first, just to have something vaguely like food to eat that wouldn't make me sick. Actually, it wasn't called bullion, it was called "chicken granules," which sounds absolutely frightening. That wasn't filling enough, so I made egg drop soup.
chicken stock, bullion, or granules (if you must)---about 4 cups
fistful of chives, cut into very short pieces.
Boil the liquid, add a few shakes of parsley, chopped up chives, a few drops of sesame oil, and a shake of cajun seasoning. I always put a bit of cajun seasoning in bullion because it gives it a bit of a kick. Plain bullion is incredibly bland. Take out a bit of liquid and put it in a seperate bowl with some corn starch. Maybe a teaspoon or so? of corn starch... maybe a tablespoon of liquid? Mix it up and add back to the liquid. This will thicken it without it being stringy. The corn starch won't disolve if you just throw it in.
Beat a few eggs thoroughly. Turn the stove down a hair so it's not at a rolling boil. Stir the liquid in a circle so that it has plenty of momentum, then pour in the egg slowly. If the liquid slows down too much before I run out of egg, I just start pouring in a circle to make up for it.
Sundry Fusion Dinners
Saturday, September 9, 2006, 12:21 PM - soupsLately we've been experimenting quite a bit, but I haven't felt like actually writing down what we did. I ought to before I forget it all. So here are the last 3 dinners. The common thread is I think they can all be called fusion cuisine... although that might be a bit of a stretch. We have italian meets chinese, indian meets Mediterranean, and greek meets other Mediterranean. This probably suggests that we ought to buy more spices here. That's the problem of living in two locations... you think you have turmeric, but nope.
Summer Squash Won-ton Tortelini Soup
This was going to be just tortelini in squash sauce, but it didn't come out that way. First of all, we made tortelini out of won-ton wrappers, then there was a sufficient quantity of sauce that it was really more soup like. Since the tortelini was made from won-ton wrappers, it was really texturally more like won-ton soup.
I won't remember the details, since we made a bunch of these ages ago then froze them. Here's what I remember:
fake meat--- we used the kind that comes in a tube. The unflavored "beef" variety, as opposed to the breakfast sausage flavored kind.
Spices are all to taste, since at this point I haven't the faintest idea how much I used, or if this is all I used, or if I thought I used something that I didn't. I know I used fennel, because we were going for an italian sausage flavor, and you have to have fennel. I'd bet salt and pepper were involved, because salt and pepper are always involved. Then I'd guess some combination of oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Probably some diced garlic, maybe some onion flakes, but who knows? I'm thinking we might have put in some diced calamata olives as well.
Fake meat can go horribly wrong texturally if not prepared properly. Fake met from a tube needs to be cooked up and browned or it's gooey. Cook up the spices for a few seconds in some olive oil, then add bits of fake meat and chop it up with the stirring device. You should end up with little nuggets of fake meat goodness. Set it aside in a bowl.
Get a little dish of water. Lay out a bunch of won-ton wrappers. Put about
1 tsp of the fake meat filling onto each wrapper. Moisten your fingers, then wet two adjacent edges. Fold it diagonally so the two dry edges meet the two wet edges. Seal the edges together, being careful to press out as much are as possible because otherwise they could explode. You'll have an something like an iscocoles triangle. Put your finger so that it lies along the triangle, perpendicular to the base. Pick up one base corner and fold it so it's on top of your finger. Moisten its top. Pick up the other base corner and bring it down on top of the other (you'll have the entire triangle wrapped around your finger) and pinch it closed. If you want, you can fold down the other angle somehow, but we didn't bother. You can cook these a number of ways, or just freeze them for later use, which is what we did.
Coarsely chop a summer squash. It can be zucchini, but we used a yellow squash. Throw it in the blender. Add a can of diced tomatoes. We used the kind that comes with garlic and onion in it. We also added a few cloves of diced garlic. And probably salt, pepper, and tobasco sauce. Blend everything together.
We boiled the frozen tortellini in water for about 4 minutes then drained them and added them back into the soup on the stove just long enough to heat the soup. If I were doing it again, I'd probably just heat the soup up and cook the tortellini in it. Serve in bowls.
We did this as a main dish because we had a bunch of carrots to use up. It was amazingly yummy, but it was really too intense. It would be much better served as a little side thing with something else as the main dish.
Tons of carrots, peeled and grated. I have no idea how much carrot we actually used. We used a full bag or carrots, which is whatever quantity grocery stores sell bagged carrots in, but they were ridiculously narrow. I think we had more peel than grated carrot at the end, although halfway through we started just grating the wide end of the carrot and leaving the narrow end as snack food.
Half a cup of chopped olives---we used some crazy gourmet olive blend from the coop, but calamata olives would do.
Fake breakfast sausage patties
Cook up mustard seed and fennel in oil until the mustard seeds pop. Add everything else. Cook until cooked. Serve into bowls. Cook up a few fake sausage patties, add to bowls and serve. The sausage patties aren't actually part of the recipe, but they go well with it and we needed some protein in our meal. As I said before, this would go better as a side dish. But this is what happens when you put off going to the grocery store until you have nothing left but a bag of carrots and some fake sausage.
Falafel with spinach and yogurt
I've never actually cooked greek before. At least, not when I knew what I was doing, so I don't actually feel like I know what I'm doing. We made Falafel out of a box in the freezer section of the grocery store. It was another case of inadequate and inappropriate ingredients. We served it with spinach cooked with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. But we wanted a yogurt topping to go with it. But we had no cucumber, and no tahini, and no greek yogurt.
We used a full fat plain yogurt. There was probably a little more than a cup left in the container. As always, I didn't measure it. I wanted some chunkiness, so I added some dried onion flakes and a generous helping of sesame seeds. We had no parsley or celery, which is what I seem to recall putting in this sort of thing back in my vegan restaurant days. So I used basil, salt, pepper, and about a small glug of toasted sesame oil. It tasted shockingly like yogurt that should be served with greek food.
We fried up the falafel as per the directions on the box, and served the whole thing with matzos. At this point you should have guessed that we had no other bread products around that would have made sense to use.
Saturday, January 14, 2006, 09:00 PM - soupsWe made carrot soup yesterday. Or maybe it was the day before. Recently, we made carrot soup.
2 smallish bags of carrots
2 brown or yellow onions
Clean and chop the carrots and onions. Try to make them more or less uniform in size (for even cooking purposes) and throw them in a pan. Add a tablespoon or two of butter, maybe 3 TBS of tumeric, about a tsp each of fennel and corriander, several shakes of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and 4 smooshed up thai chillis. For added pathos, rub your eyes after you smoosh up the chillis. Stir everything for a while on medium heat and sweat them a bit.
If you're incredibly organized (which I'm not) you probably should put the butter in the pan first and cook up the spices in the butter then add the vegetables to that a little later. Then again, if you are extremely organized, you probably went to the grocery store when you ran out of olive oil and didn't have to scrounge around for other forms of fat. The spices will ook into things better if you cook them in the fat for a while first because fat is good at activating flavour.
Add water until it just covers up the veggies. If you have a water boiling pot, you can boil it first and you'll be able to set things to ooking sooner. Add a couple of glugs each of whiskey and lime juice. Let everything simmer for half an hour or so. Then blend everything well with an immersion blender.
This looks like it makes about 5 servings. Serve each serving that wants to get eaten into bowls (let the rest cool enough to refrigerate or freeze). Crack an egg into each bowl and stir it in. Put some cheese on top--we used some obscure medium hard cheese whose name I can't remember. Microwave to melt the cheese/cook the egg. Eat.
Other Carrot Soups:
October 6, 2005
December 19, 2005
Split Pea Soup
Friday, December 23, 2005, 10:13 PM - soups, sandwichesWe made split pea soup yesterday. Yum. Split pea soup is the reason for the existance of ham. We made stock from the ham bone on christmas* evening and used it as a base for the soup.
We cooked the ham in a large dutch oven that we use as both a stock pot and a roasting pan. After carving the ham, we simply stuck the bone back in the pot. There were lots of good drippings caked onto the bottom of the pot. By making the stock immediately after, we guarantee that we get their yummy goodness. Equally important, we guarantee that those caked on drippings that would be a pain in the ass to clean off on their own will spend several hours ooking away. Add a couple of coarsley chopped onions, 3-4 carrots (also coarsley chopped) and several sticks of celery (you guessed it---coarsley chop that too). I also threw in some exceptionally gristley pieces of ham that I wouldn't want to encounter in a sandwich.
Pour enough water into your pot to cover everything up. Let it ook for several hours on low heat. I always heat it up until it boils then turn it down until it just barely stops and leave it at that temperature. Look in on it periodically, but you don't need to obsess. If it gets foam on top, skim it off and throw it into a can that is destined for the trash. When it's ooked for several hours, strain out the veggies and ham bone and throw them into the trash. Then skim the fat off the top and put it in the can you're skimming things into. You don't want ham fat down your garbage disposal. Now you can refrigerate or freeze the stock for later use.
Split Pea Soup
Pour 6 cups of ham stock into a pot. Add 1 bag (~2 cups) of split peas. Let it ook until the split peas are hydrated to the point where it looks like a thick green sludge instead of split peas in water. If you get impatient, I've been told that you can hit it with an immersion blender, but I'm a big believer in ooking. After it's done ooking, add some diced ham and let it go a few more minutes to warm the ham up. Serve and eat.
Leftover Split Pea & Carrot Soup with Ham Sandwiches
Today we had leftover split pea and carrot soup. We took 1 leftover bit of carrot soup and some leftover split pea soup and stirred them together and microwaved them. It worked. The carrot soup was definitely more potent, but the flavors didn't conflict or anything. There wasn't quite enough for a meal, so we served it with ham and cheese sandwiches. We made one ham/cheddar sandwich and one ham/jack sandwich, put a bit of oregano on both of them, and split both of them.