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.
Saturday, October 29, 2005, 11:18 PM - soups, comfort food
breakfast: um... breakfast?
dinner: mashed potatoes with gravy and meatballs
1. Search your house from top to bottom in hopes that you have some foodstuffs besides the ones you just bought at the store, because you just aren't in the mood to eat any of that stuff today. I didn't buy much because my car is 3000 miles away so I just bought some staples I was out of due to poor planning in July. Plus I'm going back to Albany in a week so I didn't want to buy anything that could go bad. Just some canned and frozen stuff.
2. Discover a stash of ramen in (surprise, surprise) the little hidden ramen cupboard. Score!
3. Boil water. I boil water in one of those counter-top boiling water pitchers. You could use a stove top, but it's much slower and quite possibly less efficient (more waste heat). I couldn't swear by the heat efficiency, but I can swear by the time efficiency.
4. Scrounge through your freezer for veggies. I found green beans.
5. Microwave the green beans in the bowl you plan on eventually having your ramen in.
6. put the ramen in the bowl. use the block of ramen to put the beans aside so that the beans end up on top of the ramen; this way it's easier to make sure the noodles are properly submerged.
7. add flavor packets. If you know what you're doing and buy the good ramen, there will be several flavor packets. I had 3 flavor packets. Do not decide that fat is bad for you and you're going to skip the fat flavor packet. I've never tried this myself, but I've been warned by several reliable sources that it tastes yucky without the fat packet. And really, it's not that big and your body needs some fat.
8. Pour boiling water over the ramen.
9. Let it sit a while.
Mashed Potatoes with Gravy and Meatballs
1. decide, upon reflection, that you still don't feel like eating anything you bought at the store the other day.
2. poke around looking for cream of mushroom soup.
3. open the can and put it in a saucepan. stir up the soup. You need to add a can of water, but if you stir it first it won't get lump. Once it's smooth, you can add the can of water and it will stay smooth.
4. Remember to turn the stove on at some point. It doesn't really matter when. I turn it to hi because i'm impatient. If it bothers you to risk boiling a cream soup, you might be more patient and use a lower setting. But I've always been too impatient so I use high and turn it down when I remember.
5. Add 6 fake meatballs. Why 6? because the package says 6 is a serving. If you're using different fake meatballs, you might need a different number. My fake meatballs tell me they should be cooked for 8 minutes. It really doesn't matter if you overcook them, but I set a timer just in case, because nothing is worse than having an unexpected frozen chunk in your food from undercooking.
6. Poke around in your freezer for vegies. Ideally, you want brocolli, but no such luck. Add a bunch of green beans. Somehow brocolli is much more comforting than green beans. When I was a little kid, I always wanted brocolli on my birthday. Yeah, maybe I was a freak. It might have been because when my mom made mashed potatoes she let us build landscapes with gravy volcanoes and tree-covered slopes and all that... Let that be a lesson to any parents that might be reading this: if you want your kids to eat their veggies, let them play with their food. It's all about presentation.
7. You might want to stir periodically.
8. Oh yeah, I added a couple of cloves of garlic. I didn't have any real garlic, I had this frozen stuff in cubes that are each supposed to be a clove. I dunno... it seems mighty suspicious, but the store I went to didn't have any other garlic. It's better than that powdered stuff, anyway. Not having a car really cramps my style. If I ever have to do this again, I might risk eviction and sneak out the back of the apartment complex, cutting 2 miles off of the round trip walk to the grocery store.
9. Boil some water in the water-boiling-pitcher.
10. Stick a chunk of butter in a bowl.
11. Pour some instant mashed potato flakes into the bowl. Just eyeball it... make about as much as you think you'd want to eat once they were expanded. And add some salt.
12. Pour some water into the bowl... just enough to make the flakes turn potato-like when you stir them with a fork. I always eyeball these things because following the directions never works. It's always too runny if you follow the directions, so you go back and add more flakes, then you have way more food than you intended. The directions also call for milk, which I don't have on me at the moment. But it tasted fine just using water---good to know for future reference.
13. Spoon the mushroom soup/green bean/fake meatball mixture over the potatoes. The gravy-type stuff made enough for 2 meals (I ate all the meatballs, I'll probably cook up some more and add them to it for another meal some other time).
hectic, hectic, hectic
Saturday, October 29, 2005, 12:15 AM
Thursday, October 27
breakfast: polenta---that was the only breakfasty item in the house. I need to buy more groceries in January.
lunch: Brie and Pesto sandwich from the mandeville coffee cart.
dinner: spaghetti and fake meatballs
Friday, October 28
breakfast: trail mix and melon ice---at least I think it was melon; some variety of fruity ice in a fake plastic martini glass. There was a purple flower in it, but I didn't feel like eating flower so I threw it away.
lunch: leftover spaghetti
dinner: I must have missed that part. too much going on. I thought there'd be food at the concert/event/thing and there wasn't. I had some fizzy water, 2 lame cookies, and some trail mix. I haven't had the trail mix yet, but there's no way in hell I'm cooking anything now, and it's within arms reach and I know I ought to eat something. Hooray for trader joes, even if getting there without a car is a nightmare.
It's all so confusing
Friday, October 28, 2005, 11:32 PMI don't know what I've eaten the last few days. I don't even know what day it is. But I'll try to figure it out and record it for posterity.
Sunday--Tuesday, October 23--25
Nope... it was all so long ago; so far away... lost in the mists of time... there was probably some soup involved, maybe some pizza... If there was pizza, there would have been some cold pizza. There was cold pizza if and only if there was pizza for dinner one night. there could've been some grape nuts with fruit and coffee... There might have been a burritto... I know there were some false pies, but I couldn't tell you which days. There may have been a stir fry that might have involved brocolli, but there might not have.
Wednesday, October 26
breakfast: scrambled eggs on matzos---the moonstrip matzos, not the plain matzos.
lunch: 2 packs of airplane pretzels, 1 pack of mixed airplane snacky things that weren't pretzels, and some chocolate covered almonds.
dinner: an airplane chineese chicken salad with a little fruit salad thing on the side. Not bad. What's even better was that we (you know, me and that complete stranger in the aisle seat) had the only empty seat on the plane in between us, so I could stick my dinner on the middle tray and have more legroom.