Sunday, November 27, 2005, 10:09 AM - comfort food, flatbread, dessert, holidaySince there is a terrible dearth of 8 lb. turkeys (we did find one once), we made a capon for thanksgiving dinner. 'What is a capon?", you might ask. Here's an explanation of capon by analogy:
capon:chicken::kobe beef:regular beef
A capon is a rooster that has been neutered at a young age so as to not develop any of the stringy muscles that roosters tend to get. then they're babied (probably no where near as much as kobe, but they live better than most chickens), get a special diet, and even get to live longer than their regular chicken counterparts. They taste more like chicken than chicken.
green bean caserole
1. Go to the grocery store
2. buy a pumpkin pie
3. bring home & refrigerate until ready to eat
1. Leave your frozen capon in the fridge for a few days. This is supposed to defrost it, but it won't.
2. Clean your sink & fill it with cool water; add capon.
3. Check on it every 15 minutes, or so, to see if it's defrosted yet. You might help it along by working at the neck & giblet sack. Once the big chunk of frozen giblets is out, the rest of the bird will defrost faster. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly every time you touch the raw bird & go off to do something else.
4. Put the neck & giblets in a freezer bag & throw them in the freezer.
5. When the bird has finally defrosted, drain the sink & clean the bird thoroughly, especially under the wings & inside the cavity. You need to do this even though you have magic powers that make your bird have already defrosted properly in the first place. This is to make sure there are fewer potentially nasty microbes floating around. On that note, once the bird is in the oven you'll want to clean the sink (and anything you might have splattered on) with bleach.
6. Stick the bird in the pan you're going to use. You ought to make sure it's not sitting straight in the pan. If you're high falutin' and/or into planning ahead, you probably have some sort of rack for this purpose. If you're a normal human being, you can just turn over a small stoneware plate (make sure it's oven safe) in the pan & balance your bird on top of it.
7. Spices! Rub the bird all over with spices. It helps to get an innocent victim to tip spices into your hands periodically while you handle the bird so you have both hands to maneuver with. You can use whatever you like. We used a greek seasoning blend. Then, for good measure, we put some rosemary & dried onion inside the cavity & rubbed them around. We didn't use very much, though, because we were almost out of both of them.
8. Truss the bird. I'm 99% sure I did it wrong because our bird was butchered differently than usual and there were flaps of skin with orientation different than I am used to; so really, it doesn't matter if you do it properly or not. Just do something--the point is to have it tied to be more like a single block than a largish blob with smallish chunks sticking out at various angles. This makes it cook better; otherwise the sticking-out bits (legs, wings) will get overcooked & dried out by the time the rest of the body is properly cooked. You can probably find diagrams on some other website. I'm not going to draw an ascii diagram because I'm meanspirited.
9. Stick the bird in a 325 degree oven and leave it for hours. Somewhere on the web, there is a table that will tell you how much time it will take per pound. Ours didn't take as long as it was supposed to (by about an hour) but our oven thermostat is psycho and there are good odds that we were cooking it at a higher temperature than we thought. Good thermostat or not, it will probably not take the time you're told it will take, so you have to rely on a meat thermometer.
Tha Man says you should leave it until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest bit of meat without touching the bone gets to 180 degrees. I actually meant to ignore Tha Man and pull it sooner, but those last few degrees went really fast & it actually went to 185ish. But that's ok because it's a capon, which is really fatty and juicy and the meat didn't dry out at all. This might have caused problems with a drier bird like a turkey. We started preparing the rest of the meal at about 160 degrees.
10. Let the bird sit 15-20 minutes before carving.
11. After the meal, get as much meat off the bones as you are willing to and declare it leftovers. Save the carcass for stock. If you're making stock soon, refrigerate it; otherwise freeze it.
green bean caserole
Buy french's fried onions & follow the recipe on the can. It involves canned beans, mushroom soup, salt, pepper, and (surprise, surprise) crazily processed onions. Now, you might think it's a good idea to just mix green beans & mushroom soup, but don't. You need the crazily processed onions or it just tastes nasty. I know people who make it this way. I always take a teensy bit to be polite, but yuck! This, on the otherhand, tastes heavenly. I suppose you could come up with something similarly good by adding a ton of onions to green beans and mushroom soup, but I'm afraid to risk it.
1. buy a box of instant mashed potatoes
2. follow the directions on the box.
You can pour everything out and stick the liquid ingredients on the stove and start it when the bird comes out. The bird needs to sit for 15-20 minutes before carving to let the juices properly distribute.
1. Transfer the bird to the carving plate and let it do it's sitting there
2. Since we did the bird in a really large dutch oven, it seemed an impractical place to make gravy. So we transfered the drippings to a smaller saucepan.
3. There was still some bits sticking to the dutch oven, so we deglazed that with something. It might have been whiskey; if it wasn't whiskey, it was vermouth. Then we added the results of the deglazing to the saucepan.
4. Scrape the fat off the top. You don't need to get all of it, but you should get most of it.
4. Put about a tablespoon of corn starch into a separate little bowl.
5. Spoon some drippings into the corn starch & stir it up until it's smooth. If it's too viscous, add more drippings.
6. Add mixture back into the saucepan & stir it in. If you don't do it this way, the corn starch won't disolve properly and you'll get unpleasant lumps.
7. Heat the drippings and stir them up until the corn starch cooks. You can tell it's cooked because the gravy is opaque when you start (because you've just added a tbs of white powder) and the corn starch will become translucent and the gravy will turn to the original dripping color when it's done. There's probably no need to season it because lots of the seasoning you put on the bird will have transferred itself to the drippings.
We used this cranberry chutney recipe. Make it in advance and chill it in the refrigerator or it won't have the right texture.
In a bowl, mix 1 1/2 cup flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, and spices. I'm going to just make up some values; they probably are completely different from what I actually used, but they'd probably work: 1 tbs (3 tsp) cinnimon, 1 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp corriander, 1 tsp all spice. Add maybe 1 tsp of baking soda. I eyeballed that too---at least one tsp; maybe two. Stir it up really well so that the brown sugar isn't lumpy. You ought to have something that looks beige. If it's not a pretty rich beige color, maybe you should add more cinnamon? Or just run with it.
Add a glug of lemon juice, 3 tbs of butter (melted), and half a cup of hot water. The butter is melted because I didn't think ahead to let it sit out and had to soften it. If you're the planning ahead type, you don't need to melt it. If you actually own baking powder, you can use that instead of soda/lemon juice. I have no idea if soda works without the lemon juice, but I thought some acid would help; powder comes with it's own acid.
Stir well and spread out on a floured baking sheet. Cook for 12ish minutes. It's done when gently pushing down the top in the middle results in dough springing back up instead of making a finger-shaped dent. Unfortunately, if it's not done yet, you can't try this test too many times without having a rather pock-marked gingerbread. Fortunately, we didn't have that problem.
Cut into pieces and serve with cranberry chutney. Yum.
I did think it was a little chewy. I think I'm going to use more butter next time; 3 tbs was arbitrarily decided upon based on what was left on the stick after the mashed potatoes & whatever else it was used for. I might also be more generous with the baking soda and lemon juice, but I don't know what that means since I didn't measure anything in the first place.
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Monday, November 21, 2005, 10:26 AM - flatbread, breakfastIt looks like I'm only going to update this when I make something cool. Then again, maybe that will change. I've traveled a lot lately, and there's only so many times that you want to hear about subsisting on nuts, pretzels, and airplane-shaped goldfish crackers. But I made something cool for breakfast a couple of days ago. It was my first attempt at making blintzes. Not really, I've made stuffed crepes of various sorts before, but never the typical blintz that's stuffed with cheese.
1. pancake mix
3. goat cheese
5. flavored liqueur
I made the crepes with pancake mix. It's a product of being in albany. We have the world's smallest kitchen... I'm exagerating; we had an even smaller kitchen in maine, but we still have a small kitchen. No storage space -> baking is impractical because you can't possibly have all the ingredients you want on hand. So I use pancake mix instead of making crepes the normal way, which I'd do in san diego. The pancake mix I use calls for 1 1/3 cup water with 2 cups of mix. I use about 2 cups water to 2 cups mix. This gives me a much runnier dough so I can make a thin crepe instead of a thick pancake. It's also good to let the dough sit a bit after you've mixed it. Pancake batter has much more levening in it than crepe batter. If you let it sit, a lot of air will escape and you'll end up with something more crepe-like. Otherwise the first several will be really fluffy and they won't roll properly.
Cook the dough by pouring a little bit into a pan and swirling the pan around so you get a thin layer over the bottom. Normally I use an 8 inch pan but for some reason the 8 inch pan decided to stick to everything so I used a much larger non-stick 12+ inch pan. It made bigger crepes, but the method was the same. With the 8-inch pan I use ~1/4 when making crepes; the 12 inch pan took about a third of a cup. But usually I just eyeball it.
Anyhoo... once the dough is in the pan, cook it until it shrinks and peels up off the edges a bit and the top looks dry. then flip it and cook the other side. With pancake dough, the shrinking is obvious, there will still be bubbles on the top and they'll pop & dry out when it's done. With crepe batter, you won't get bubbles.
When the crepes are cooked, add about a couple of tablespoons of goat cheese to each crepe. I used cranberry cinnamon goat cheese that came in a pack of different flavored goat cheeses. We'd used all the others up the normal way but the cranberry one scared us. It worked well in the blintz, though. If you don't have goat cheese, you could use qvark. I'm going to try this again with qvark when I get back to san diego; I don't know how to get qvark in Albany.
Roll the crepe like a burritto. If you were clever and got the cheese out of the 'fridge in advance, you probably don't need to do anything else to it. If, like me, you weren't clever, you'll have cold cheese. I put the blintzes back in the frying pan to warm them back up.
Make sauce by putting wild maine blueberries (any berry will do; frozen is fine) in the frying pan with some liqueur. We used irish creme liqueur, but usually when I do this I use some nut liqueur, like amaretto or frangelico, or coffee liqueur. Some people think that cooking with alcohol makes you a lush; the alcohol cooks off, but if you think that cooking with vanilla or almond extract makes you less of a lush, you're welcome to use that instead (mind you, it still has alcohol, but if you have the weird guilt thing going on, you don't have to feel bad about it). Cook it up until the alcohol is cooked away and you have a syrupy sauce with berries in it. With larger berries, I usually crush them up. Blueberries are small enough that we just left them whole.
Top the blintzes with the berry mixture & serve.
Thursday, October 6, 2005, 07:23 PM - soups, flatbread, high falutin'Menu
For breakfast I had cottage cheese; for lunch, apple-onion blintz; and for dinner, carrot soup.
Um... about like you'd expect. Open container, spoon some into a bowl, salt and pepper to taste.
This looks impressive, but it was just a leftover fest. For leftover pancakes, see yesterday. I also happened to have apple-onion something-something sitting in the fridge from a few days ago.
To make apple-onion whatever, you'll need a granny smith apple and either one normal-sized onion or two small onions. This recipe made enough for 2 people to have with dinner and one person to have lunch.
Cube a granny smith apple. You can use a different kind of apple if you like, but it will be way too sweet. The cubes should be about a centimeter on each side. I didn't bother to peel it, but you might if you have way too much time on your hands and are particularly anal retentive (even I wouldn't peel it). Cut the onion into slivers. Throw everything in a frying pan with a bit of salt and olive oil and cook it until you feel like it's done. I didn't use a very high heat; the onions didn't carmelize or anything. Things just sort of heated up and sweated a little. Don't let the apples get too mushy, but you want them to be tender.
To construct your blintz, wrap some apple-onion mixture in a pancake. Put a slice of swiss cheese on top. Microwave until it's a good eating temperature. If the cheese doesn't get mostly-melty, zap it a little longer, or cut thinner slices next time. Any semi-hard to semi-soft cheese would work here; you want some flavor but anything really sharp would probably be too overpowering.
We're both still sick, so today was scrounge-around-and-eat-whatever's-left day. We'll probably have to break down and go to the store tomorrow. There were 2 carrots, 3 parsnips, and ginger in the vegetable drawer.
Put some water in a pot. I dunno how much water... maybe 4 cups? I don't know, 2+ servings worth of water. Make something up. Put the pot on the stove and turn it to high. Once everything is in and it's boiling, you'll want to put a lid on the pot and turn it to low.
While the water is thinking about boiling, prepare the carrots and parsnips. You can treat them the same way. Clean them then cut them into wheels and dump them in the pot. I try to make them roughly the same size. This is easy if it's just carrots (which it could be) but parsnips sometimes get much wider on top and much narrower on the bottom, so you'll want to do something about that when you chop them to make the pieces consistent. You could just leave the pieces wildly different sizes, but they won't cook as evenly. I'd care less if i was going to let it ooook a really long time, but carrot takes a long time to cook anyway and I don't want hard chunks in my soup.
Then I added a finger of ginger; this particular finger was about 3 inches long. Be sure to peel it well, because the peel get's really bitter and you won't be able to fish it out. I suppose you could use powdered ginger here, but I wouldn't have any idea what amount. We also added some frozen onion. I don't know how much, maybe a cup? Half cup? An eyeball's worth? It's soup; it really doesn't matter as long as it's yummy. Just make something up!
For what it's worth, if I were making non-scrounging carrot soup, I'd use about twice as much carrot and a decent sized onion. To get more bulk, we added a bit less than a cup of pea/carrot frozen mixture and about a cup of frozen carrot. Yep, we definately have to think about buying groceries at some point.
Season with a bit of salt, nutmeg, and cinnimon. Then let it ooook for about half an hour. The carrots should be ready to fall apart. I blended it with my happy new immersion blender that I got for my birthday. If you don't have an immersion blender, you could transfer it to a normal blender to blend it, or you could probably even moosh it with a potato masher. Or you could even have it un-mooshed. At this point you're going to want to taste it. Just dip in a spoon and see if it's seasoned properly. I had to add more nutmeg and cinnimon to get what I wanted.
At this point, if we weren't sick i would have added about a cup of cream or milk. However, milk products usually disagree with head colds, so I left it out and it was still pretty good. Since we otherwise didn't have any protein, i served it with hardboiled egg. I don't know that it went together as well as it would have in a different soup, but the egg was yummy and the soup was yummy.
Wednesday, October 5, 2005, 07:24 PM - comfort food, flatbread, breakfast, sandwichesMenu
I don't guess i'm getting off to a very good start here, what with having the same thing two nights in a row just as I start the blog. Then again, I am sick, so I have a good excuse. Today, for breakfast, I had leftover pancakes with peanut butter and jelly. For lunch, I had egg sludge sandwiches. I had some goldfish crackers for an afternoon snack. You can't beat goldfish crackers when you're sick. They have extremely high placebo value. For dinner we had ochazuke, but with broccolli added.
1. Have already made pancakes and leave them lying around in the fridge. Since I made the pancakes before I started the blog, I should elaborate.
Since the kitchen here in Albany is about the size of a walk-in closet, there isn't much storage space. That means making things out of boxes instead of making things from scratch. Yummy varieties of flour take up way more space than a little box of mix. Plus the mix means you don't have to have egg on hand, or flour, or baking soda, or milk. These things take space, not to mention the ability to foil the clever plots of egg-booby-trappers.
I wanted these pancakes to be versatile, so I made them more like crepes so that the leftovers could be stuffed with savory filling and covered with sauce some night. That hasn't happened yet, but it might if I get over this cold before the pancakes go away. For nice faux crepes, just add half again as much liquid to your pancake mix.
Preheat a frying pan to medium heat. coat the pan with butter or spray it or oil it or whatever you like. I use an 8-inch frying pan. It holds maybe a 1/4 cup of dough, poured in circles so that it thinly covers the bottom of the pan. I'm not 100% sure if it's a 1/4 cup, because i don't have a 1/4 measure. The 1/4 measure is in a flour canister in San Diego because it seemed convenient at a time... So I use a 1/3 cup measure and don't fill it all the way. I might use less than a 1/4 cup. Who knows? After the dough dries out (you can tell because the surface isn't shiny anymore) I flip it to cook the other side. Because it's thin the other side doesn't take very long. Then put the pancake on a plate and repeat the process until you're out of dough. Voila!
2. We used peanut butter and jelly because we had it on hand. I don't like syrup because it's too sweet. Sometimes I make a berry topping, but that's for another time.
Egg Sludge Sandwich
Egg Sludge is basically just egg salad, but with a cooler name. I don't make egg sludge. It scares me. It's yummy, but it scares me. Deep down, I know it involves mayonaise. Yuck! I can eat it as long as I don't see the mayonaise go in.
Your best bet is to woo someone who is willing to make egg sludge for you. I found mine wandering around in the rain several years ago and offered him a ride home. See how it payed off? He made me an egg sludge sandwich today and I didn't have to look at any mayonaise.
We made extra rice yesterday because we felt like crap and thought we'd be in need of more comfort food. We made Ochazuke the same way as yesterday, but today we used broccolli instead of peas and carrots. We used up the furikake this time. Next time we're trying a different variety, which is almost identical except the ingredients come in different proportions.