Friday, January 20, 2006, 10:04 PM - comfort foodMy brother got me a cookbook for Christmas, which I've finally cracked open. It was sufficiently enthraling that I um... didn't cook dinner for a while, despite grandiose visions of making something amazingly cool. So when I realized it was 9pm and that dinner really needed to happen if it was going to happen, I settled on the old standby of spaghetti. Most people go to to much effort when they make spaghetti. This is the lazy way.
3 cloves of garlic, chopped. By the way, you can get it pre-chopped in a can. Usually this is hidden in the vegetable section of the grocery store. It's one of those things that's always in cans underneath the vegetable display that you never look at because it's below eye level and you don't believe there will be anything besides vegetables in the vegetable section.
A bunch of shakes of dried oregano. Probably about a teaspoon, but who knows.
A bunch of shakes of dried basil. About as much as oregano.
Some fennel. Maybe 1/3 of a teaspoon
3 crushed thai chillis. Why thai? Because they're amazingly easy to grow so I have a lifetime supply dried and hanging in my kitchen. I'll probably grow more because they're fun to grow, but I keep toying with the idea of growing something else. But it really doesn't matter what you use, just something to give it a bit of a kick.
3/4 onion, slivered
a bunch of grinds of black pepper
maybe half a teaspoon of salt?
1 can of chopped tomatoes
one serving of spaghetti. That's not 1 bag, but some portion. I think it's an eighth, but who knows
2 glugs of vermouth
Some olive oil. Lets guess 1 tablespoon.
Heat a saucepan. Add olive oil plus all of the spices. Cook it up a bit. I cooked it until some pepper/onion fumes wafted up in my face. You're trying to free up all the fat soluable flavors in the spices and get them into the olive oil. And you're trying to sweat the onions while you're at it.
Add 2 glugs of vermouth to the pan. I do this first because it's going to splatter. You would rather have vermouth splattering than tomato sauce. Trust me. Add the can of chopped tomatoes after it's done splattering. Now put a lid on and let it simmer for a while. This is to disolve all the alcohol soluble flavors as well and let things blend.
Break the noodles in half (or not; usually I don't but I got impatient) and drop them into the sauce. Most people go to the bother of boiling them in seperate pots. This is silly because your pasta just tastes like pasta, as opposed to pasta infused with flavourful sauce. And it means you have to wash another pot. The 2 pot method is for people with lots of time and dishwashers.
Let the noodles ook until they're done. Stir them periodically so they don't stick together. They're done when they're pliable instead of stiff when you pick them out of the pan with a fork. Or, at least, they're done enough. Let them go a while with the lid off to let most of the residual moisture evaporate. I left it a bit saucy, but not too saucy.
Add 2 eggs. Yes, you can add them directly to the pot. Beating eggs seperately is for people with dishwashers. Beat the eggs on top of the noodles then mix them in well. As the eggs cook, they'll give the sauce a frothy texture and a salmoney colour.
This made 1 dinner-sized serving plus one lunch-sized serving. It was really yummy.
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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.
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).
breakfast for dinner
Wednesday, October 19, 2005, 06:43 PM - comfort food, dessert, breakfast
We had ochazuke for breakfast. We both have this cough... we've actually been sick since I started blogging. Maybe if I delete it we'll get better, but that might anger the laser monkey. Anyhoo... what with trying to convalesce and all, we got going pretty late. This is by way of saying we started lunch at 5ish and then decided maybe it was dinner. Originally it was just going to be a light lunch because it was close to dinner time, but I guess it was a light dinner. It's too early to tell, maybe it was lunch and we'll eat dinner even later. But we had fake breakfast sausage, egg, and tomato.
edit: no dinner, but we had false pie for desert.
1. cook rice
2. put rice in bowl
3. add furikake---if you don't have any, substitute chopped nori, sesame seeds, salt, and maybe a drizzle of sesame oil.
4. add a couple of sour plums
5. pour tea on top. Today I used genmai cha.
Egg, sausage, and tomato
This is prepared about like you'd expect.
1. cut the fake sausage into patties.
2. fry fake sausage patties in olive oil until they're nicely browned on both sides
3. transfer the patties onto plates
4. break some eggs into the same pan and scramble. Some people think you have to scramble eggs in a seperate container and then pour them into the pan. That's just silly. You can whip them up just fine in the frying pan while they're cooking using the cooking implement of your choice. Then you don't have an extra dish floating around that has had raw egg in it. Since you're doing it in the same pan as the sausage, all the little sticky sausage bits that stuck to the pan will get mixed into the eggs. yum.
5. add the eggs to the plate.
6. cut tomatoes into wedges and put those on the plate
1. break 1 graham cracker into a coffee cup
2. add about 2 tbs of dark chocolate. This can be in the form of a handful of chocolate chips. I used two squares of a trader joes 80% cocomass pound plus bar. So they'd melt better, I cut them up.
3. top with another crumbled graham cracker.
4. pour amaretto over the top. probably a tablespoon or two. Enough for it to soak into the graham crackers.
5. microwave for 15 seconds or so. The cup should feel hot; the chocolate should be melted.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005, 05:37 PM - comfort food, breakfastmenu
For breakfast we had frozen berries with grapenuts, lunch was more cold pizza; and dinner was ochazuke.
frozen berries with grapenuts
Put frozen mixed berries in a bowl. Top with a roughly equal amount of grapenuts. Pour coffee over the top... this sounds like it might be a little weird but trust me; I'm a recent convert myself. Don't drench it in coffee, just put enough coffee on that the grapenuts soak up coffee. There shouldn't be any actual liquid in the bowl. Microwave it a bit so the berries thaw, but this is inessential. Maybe throw on some chocolate chips for good measure.
We are still both under the weather so we thought ochazuke was in order. We also had a bunch of fresh broccolli that we wanted to use up, so this was slightly experimental. We have this pot that is a decent sized pot, and then there are steamer attachments that can fit onto the top without decreasing the capacity of the bottom. We cooked 1 1/2 cups of brown rice with 3 cups of water in the bottom section. To do this, put the stuff in the pot, heat it to boiling, put the lid on, then turn down to simmer. Brown rice (at least this brown rice) takes about 40 minutes to cook. I don't know why; white rice takes 20 minutes. While the rice was cooking, we prepared the broccolli and sliced a bunch of ginger into one of the steamer attachments. We didn't think the broccolli would take 40 minutes, so we waited until the rice had gone 20 minutes then put the steamer attachment on the pot and let it go 20 more minutes.
Then we put rice in a bowl, put broccolli on top, and added a couple of sour plums, furikake, and green tea. It worked out well, but the broccolli was still quite cruncy---we might try starting the broccolli at the same time as the rice if we do it again. The ginger ended up flavoring the rice because the steam hit it and dribbled back down into the rice pan, which was a nice touch. It was yummy, though. It made me feel less sick.