Wednesday, June 27, 2007, 05:59 PM - comfort food, dessert, breakfastRice Pudding
Today I made rice pudding for dinner. I know nothing about rice pudding. I have never had rice pudding. But we had leftover rice from Chinese food the other night, and I had a sudden hankering for rice pudding. So I perused multiple recipes online, and discovered that most people think you're actually going to make rice from scratch in milk instead of using leftover rice. This seems dumb. In my ignorance, I thought the whole point of rice or bread pudding was to use up leftover rice or bread before it went south. And to presumably use them in a different format, because if people wanted them in their previous format, they would have just gone ahead and eaten them and not left them hanging out in their fridge as leftovers.
I also discovered that most people think you're going to make rice pudding in your oven. Since it's unbearably hot, this also seems foolish. Sure, it'd be great in the winter, but it's not a June activity (unless you're down under). Fortunately I found one great recipe for quick and light rice pudding that said you could make it with leftovers and you could make it on the stovetop, which will heat your kitchen a bit, but not to the degree of running your entire oven for over an hour. However, this recipe didn't fit my preconceived notions of pudding, which involve more creamy, eggy goodness. So after eyeing a bunch of other recipes, I thought I'd just make something up and use the stovetop cooking method and hope it turned out ok. Here goes:
1 small takeout Chinese food container almost full (but not packed) of rice --- this is probably somewhere between 1 and 2 cups, but I didn't measure because the measure was in the dishwasher. I don't think the quantity matters if it's in the ballpark.
1 can of evaporated milk
1/4ish tsp of salt
3 rounded TBS of brown sugar (not packed or messed with in any way that might involve effort, just scooped out of the container and dumped in)
1 glug vanilla extract
nutmeg and cinnamon to taste (I use more cinnamon than nutmeg, since nutmeg is very potent)
Dump the rice in a saucepan. Add everything else. Stir it up really well so the egg is beaten and everything is pretty homogenous. Turn on the saucepan to high. Stir frequently until it boils, then turn it all the way down, put a lid on it, and go off and play video games and make a few phone calls. Come back periodically and give it a stir. This process should take half an hour to 45 minutes... shorter if you don't care about letting it oook---you do need video games you'll be able to pause once every 15 minutes or so. When it looks good and rice puddingey, either eat it or stick it in the refrigerator to have it cold for breakfast. It makes enough that 2 people could have a big serving now, and a little serving cold for breakfast. Or 4 people could have moderately sized servings whenever.
Serve with fake breakfast sausage and salad... because salad is easy to throw together really fast and you've got to have a vegetable. If you're clever with your dressing, a salad can go with this. I convinced someone else to make the salad and they dressed it with oil, malt vinegar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and coriander, which tied nicely with both the spice of the sausage and the spices in the rice pudding.
It might also be nice with one of those froofy apple sausages.
If I were the planning ahead sort, I might pick a different vegetable, but I don't know what that would be.
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.
Beans and Rice
Monday, October 2, 2006, 12:38 PM - comfort foodI haven't felt much like cooking lately. No... I don't mind cooking. I haven't felt much like eating lately. I think I have some sort of dietary imbalance such that I crave beans. I went to the store the other day and bought a bunch of yummy food. I thought really long and hard about buying the spicy black bean dip. I almost bought it. But I didn't, because I didn't want junk food. I bought a bunch of non-junk-food. But none of it was beans. I was forced to go back to the store the next day because I couldn't handle the thought of eating anything besides black bean dip. The thought of eating anything else, yes, even chocolate goo, made me nauseous.
So I bought black bean dip and ate black bean dip. After that, I could stand the thought of eating all the nice yummy healthy stuff I bought at the store for a while. But then every once in a while, I just get the bean craving. I have to go to la posta and eat bean burritos pretty often or the bean craving will get me. I wonder just what is in beans that makes me crave them so.
I'm pretty sure it's the beans. So I have made beans and rice the last several times I've cooked. I used to make high falutin' rice, which took effort. But lately I've been averse to effort.
1/2 cup rice
1 can beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
several garlic cloves, minced
cumin, cayenne pepper, dried chili flakes, paprika, oregano, basil, salt, and black pepper to taste--
I probably used something on the order of a teaspoon. I tried to list these in the order of how much I might have put in, but I don't know the proportions. I got sick of grinding the black pepper because we have this dumb black pepper that was really cheap because it had huge peppercorns and they're really too big to play well with grinders
a glug of lemon and/or lime juice
a glug of rum (or other booze)
enough water to cover the concoction
Throw everything in a saucepan. Stir it up. The level of the water should be a few millimeters above the level of the other stuff. Heat on high with the lid off until it boils. It doesn't have to be a rolling boil, but it should be a ways past simmering. Put a lid on the pan, turn it to low, and set a timer for 20 minutes. Serve alone, or with cheese, or with veggies, or with cheese and veggies. I had some of it on top of a cup or so of broccoli last night, with some shredded mexican cheese mixture on top. I should be able to get 3 or 4 meals out of this.
I think if I'd had another can of beans in my cupboard, I would have used two cans of beans. The rice to bean ratio was a little high. But I'm not sure if this fixes my bean craving. I could do with a bean burrito right about now. I thought about buying some lunch on campus, but there aren't any good bean burritos on campus and I can't stomach the thought of anything else. I don't guess it's just the beans I'm craving. There's probably some important trace mineral in something commonly used to season beans. Because there's a Rubio's on campus and the thought of eating one of their bean burritos makes me queasy, which could be related to their failure to season their food.
Drop Biscuit Pancake Type Things
Sunday, July 16, 2006, 12:30 PM - comfort food, flatbread, breakfastThis morning we made drop biscuit pancake type things. Why drop biscuits? Um... too long since I'd gone to the grocery store and there were no other viable breakfast options. Why pancake type things? Because it's wicked hot and using the oven is unthinkable.
3/4 cup ground nuts--I used hazlenut meal. You can substitute flour if you don't want nuts for some reason.
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup milk
4 blocks very dark chocolate, shaved
3/4 cup diced cherries--I used frozen, but you could probably use dried. Or you could pit some fresh ones if you're particularly masochistic.
Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them up. The dry ingredients would be nutmeal, flour, salt, baking powder.
Next, do whatever it is you do with butter to get it into the dry ingredients. If you have one of those sproingy pastry mixer things, you could probably use that to cut in the butter. If you own a food processor, you could probably throw the lot into there and pulse it until you have itty bitty bits of butter coated in the flour mixture. If you're me, you'll just have to use a fork to cut/squoosh/whatever the butter into the flour. Just to be experimental, I tried freezing the butter and dicing it with a knife, then throwing it into the dry ingredients. It worked pretty well but I don't know if it saved time over the fork method. Once you've done that, use your hands to work the butter into the flour a little better. If you're using white flour, be very careful here because they will be tough if you activate the gluten. It's a little safer with wheat flour, and the hazlenut is even safer. I bet if you're on a gluten-free diet, you can make pretty amazingly fluffy biscuits with your special flour.
Then throw in the cherries and get them well coated with flour. This keeps them from sticking together later. Then add the chocolate. Then add the milk and stir it up. You probably want to use a spoon for this instead of your hands, as it gets pretty messy otherwise. I use a soup spoon.
Take your lefse griddle and heat it to 450. If you don't have a lefse griddle, you'll have to use a frying pan and turn your stove to highish. If you're going to want coffee with this, which you will, you should heat the water before turning on your lefse griddle. Probably turn it on when you start prepping the other stuff. If you try to make hot water and run the lefse griddle at the same time, it will throw the circuit breaker. But you won't notice you've thrown it for a while because the griddle will still feel hot, but you'll wonder why nothing's cooking right.
Grease your lefse griddle with something. I use some variety of canned, sprayable, vegetable oil. With the soup spoon you mixed with, scoop up a mound of biscuit dough. Use another soup spoon to push it off onto the griddle. Pat the top down a bit with the back of the spoon. Repeat until the griddle is covered, leaving about an inch between biscuits. Let them cook for 5 minutes or so, then come back and flip them. Let them cook another 3 minutes or so, them remove to a cooling rack (or plate). Repeat the process until you're out of dough. It took me 2 griddles full to cook all the biscuits.
Eat with coffee.
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.