Group Cook Crepes
Friday, February 17, 2006, 06:12 PM - flatbread, dessert, high falutin'
A bunch of us made group cook crepes last weekend (yeah, I've been remiss about updating lately, but these things happen). Group cooking is the bastard child of dinner parties and potlucks. Like dinner parties, you have a bunch of people and some menu of stuff selected to go together. Like a potluck, everyone chips in and cooks. It's a good fun way to get a bunch of people to have a low cost hoity toity dinner and entertainment for the evening.
Group cooks are pretty much a spontaneous, emergent phenomena that just happen with minimal effort and a bit of prodding. To have your own group cook, you should hang out on aim and accost a local friend when they show up and say, "hey, we should have a group cook." The two of you then decide what to make based on what you know other friends in your circle would enjoy. Then you contact these other friends and convince them that this is what they want to do with their evening. Although this time I somehow ended up on a telephone and aim at the same time talking with two people at once, the other party on aim was on the phone with a fourth party, and the party on my phone was in the room with a fifth party. This is what technology is for. If you can't have 5-way conversations involving 2 phones, 2 computers, a few net connections, you're missing out on one of the fine things in life.
In any case, once you've sorted out the details, everyone will show up at your house at roughly the same time(ish) with all the ingredients you don't have on hand in tow. Then labour gets distributed between people, with those who are relative experts in the chosen genre delegating tasks to other people. It's good to shake up your genre periodically so different people get the opportunity to boss people around. One of these days, we've got to do a mediteranean group cook, which I'm a complete dunce at; I think I'll learn something.
3 cups flour (fluff up with a fork before measuring to pretend it's sifted)
1/4 tsp salt
6 eggs (or 5 eggs + 3 TBS H20 if you have fewer eggs on hand than you thought)
3 cups milk
4 TBS melted butter (melted)
Put the flour and salt in a bowl. Mix it up to distribute the salt. If you do this with a fork, lumps will come ouf of the flour if there are any. You might ought to sift it before measuring, but of course I don't own a sifter and I don't even have a good mesh strainer in this part of the country, so fluffing it with a fork makes sure you get the right volume if you don't have a sifter. You always need to fluff things with a fork before measuring if they say to sift because unsifted flower is packed together and sifted flour is full of air. Don't do this, however, if your recipe doesn't require sifting or you won't have enough flour because you'll have extra air. But I digress...
Dig a little hole in the flour. Break the eggs into the hole. Whisk the eggs together, gradually widening your whisking to include more flour in the liquid part. If it seems too stiff, add a glug of your milk into the liquid to thin it back out. When the flour is entirely incorporated into the egg, gradually stir in the milk. Add melted butter and stir until it's completely smooth. People say crepes will taste better if you sit the batter aside for an hour or so before cooking, but I've never met anyone organised enough to do that. But if you're that organised (weirdo), you can do that. We just set it aside for maybe 20 minutes while we waited for the stuffing to cook up.
When you're ready to cook, hand a nonstick pan, a spatula, a 1/4 inch measuring cup, some butter, and the crepe batter to the franco-american you were clever enough to invite to the bash. Crepes will magically appear. If you weren't clever, you'll need to make the crepes yourself. Heat the stove to medium. When it's warmed up, smear butter into the pan. Dollup a 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan and rotate the pan so that the batter runs out to the edges. When the top of the crepe is opaque instead of shiny, flip it. When you feel like it's done, remove it from the pan and put it on a plate. The first crepe will be bad, so expect to snack on it.
This makes enough crepes to give 2 dinner crepes and 2 desert crepes for 5 people and have a nice box of crepes leftover that will last quite a while in the refrigerator and make you a decent number of solo meals.
Tofu Mushroom Green-bean crepe stuffing
Slice up a bunch of mushrooms. I'm not sure how many---maybe 4 cups? Who can say? Sautee them in a pan with olive oil and add a bunch of black pepper. Add a diced white onion. Slice up a block of firm tofu into striplets and throw it in the pan. Add salt to taste. Decide, after it's cooked down a bit, that it might not be enough for 5 people and raid your freezer for some frozen green beans: about 2 cups worth should do the trick, but I didn't measure, I am just guessing what was left in the bag. Put a lid on the frying pan and allow to ook.
Dinner Crepe Sauce
2 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
Melt the butter in a pan on medium-low heat. Add the flour and stir it until it's bubbly and the sauce gets translucent. That means the flour's cooked. Slowly add milk and stir it until it's smooth. I have no clue how much milk I added; I just did it um... until it looked right. Helpful, aren't I? I added about a 1/4 cup of swiss cheese that I had lying around and let that melt into the sauce. Then I added maybe 1/4 cup of parmesean, but I didn't keep track of that either. I added salt and pepper to taste. If you're hoity toity, you'd use white pepper here so the pepper wouldn't show. I'm not organised enough to be hoity toity.
Dinner Crepe Assembly
Put a crepe on each plate. Spoon filling in a line down the middle of each crepe. Roll each crepe and push it to the side of the plate. Put another crepe on each plate and repeat. Center the two crepes. Pour the Sauce over the top and serve.
Ganache is the hoity-toity word for chocolate goo. Chocolate goo is basically just chocolate melted with some other stuff to make it liquidy and yummy so you can pour it over something.
Put 1/4 cup of butter in a pan on low heat. Melt, then add 1/4 cup of butter. When that's melted, add 6 pieces of baking chocolate and stir it until it's smooth. Slowly add milk until you feel like it's just about right. Yeah, no measuring. Just stick your finger in periodically and taste it and to see if the texture is right. Add a glug or two of cognac.
Put a crepe out on each plate. Put a heap of sliced strawberries down the center of each crepe. Roll closed and push to the side of the plate. Repeat, replacing strawberries with blackberries. Center the crepes on the plate. Spoon chocolate goo over the top of the crepes. Squirt whipped cream onto the top of the crepes. Sprinkle blueberries on top of the whipped cream. Yum.
Thursday, February 2, 2006, 12:28 AMToday I made sourdough bread. I say this as if I made it in one day, but I started the starter a few days earlier. The whole process was incredibly intimidating. The idea is that you are trying to catch microorganisms by leaving food out for a long time. That's scary. But I'm not dead yet, despite having eaten several pieces. This is sort of a bastardization of the S. John Ross's and Alton Brown's recipes, filtered through my own bad habits and complete inability to follow directions.
In that old plastic container that you lost the lid of ages ago and is otherwise useless, add a cup of flour and a cup or two of water. I think the reference I was using said 2 cups of water, but I probably used more like a cup and a half to avoid spills. You're basically making wheat paste, so you don't want spills. Stir it up and leave it lying around. You should give your room mate a heads up so she doesn't throw it out or spit in it or something. It will separate, so if you get bored and figity, you can always go over and stir it-- good times. One day, a magical foam will form on the top. That means you have yeast. Now you can make bread. I waited a day to make bread after this, which was probably a bad idea because it really smelled up the house. But real life happens.
Stir up your starter. Scoop out a cup into a mixing bowl. Add a cup of flour and a cup of water back into the starter bowl. This feeds it. It's kind of like having goldfish. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and poke some holes in it for air and throw it in the refrigerator. It will stop stinking up the house after you do this. You either need to make bread periodically and feed it when you make bread or just dump out a cup and feed it like you would if you were making bread if you aren't up to making bread.
Back to the mixing bowl... add a couple of cups of flour, a cup and a half-ish of water, and a teaspoon of sugar. I used half white flour and half whole wheat. I also added about 1/4-1/3 tsp of yeast-from-a-jar because last time I tried this I ended up with a very, very flat loaf. My yeast is pretty wimpy so I feel like this helps. You might ask why I bother with sourdough at all, in this case. I think it just helps to make a commitment. If I have starter lying around, I'll feel the need to use it and I'll make bread once a week or so, which is more fun than buying bread.
In any case, I ended up with something very sludgey. This is appropriate. Put a dishcloth over your bowl and let this sit for half an hour or so. Actually, I think I let it sit much longer. I checked some email, graded some homework assignments, made some phone calls, and read a bit. I don't think sitting too long can hurt at this point because it's pretty close to the starter consistency and that sits around for weeks. So I figured it couldn't hurt and didn't keep track of the time at all. It was probably closer to an hour and a half.
When you come back, add a teaspoon of salt. Then keep adding flour in 1/4 cup increments until the dough isn't goopy anymore. I alternated between white and whole wheat flour. I ended up using 4-5 cups (counting the 2 cups used earlier). I guess I should say that your mixer should be on while you do this, but use the lowest setting if you don't want a flour-dusted kitchen. When your dough is of appropriate consistency, knead it. You can do this in your mixer or on the counter. I wimped out and used my mixer. Knead it until you're sick of it, then knead it a little more.
Turn your oven to bake, and set it's temperature to it's absolute lowest setting. Grease a largeish mixing bowl. Dump the dough in there and cover it with a dishcloth. Turn off your oven and put the mixing bowl in the oven. The oven should be slightly warm, but comfortable to touch. You don't need to do this if it's hot, but if it's winter, your dough won't rise otherwise. Wait about an hour. See if your dough is more or less twice the size it used to be.
Empty the dough onto the counter and punch it. Yes, beat the crap out of it. You can pretend it was that dumb kid who shoved you violently out of the way in order to get a better seat in programming class. If you're like me, you're wondering why someone was SO excited to get to programming class that he had to resort to violence, but back to bread. Punching your bread is supposed to help disperse the bubbles. Knead the dough into a loaf shape. What shape is loaf shape? You decide. I go for long and skinny. Sure, round loaves look cool, but when you first cut into them they make itty bitty pieces of bread, then later they make gaihugeous pieces of bread. I like a little predictability in my sandwich-making life. I don't want to starve on thursday because I made the bread yesterday and it's small, then have to wolf down a giant sandwich on saturday because I've gotten to the widest part, then starve again on monday because it's back to being tiny.
Put your loaf onto whatever you're going to cook it on, or a baking peel if you're cool like that. Flour that surface first. Put the loaf with the pan on top of the stove, which should hopefully be warm enough. Or someplace that's naturally warm, if you have such a place handy. Come back 45 minutes to an hour later; the dough should have doubled in size again. Poke it someplace unobtrusive. If the hole stays hole-like instead of filling back out with dough, it's done rising. If it's not done, keep checking back every 10 minutes or so. I actually put it in a little before it passed the finger test because I was worried about over-rising, which, rumor has it, is worse than under-rising.
A little before you think the dough will be done, preheat your oven to 400. Slash the top of your dough. I always make multiple slashes or a cross shape, but I bet you could do anything; maybe next time I should try a metal skull. The point of the slashes is to give the dough space to rise into further while it's baking. My loaf doubled in size again in the oven.
Stick the loaf in the oven. Put some water in a bread pan and stick it in the oven also. This will make it nice and crusty. If you don't like crusty bread, don't do it. Check back in 40 minutes; it should be done. Voila.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006, 03:40 AM - flatbreadA bunch of friends and I had a group-cook the other day. Everyone should do this. This is cheaper, messier, and more fun than going out to eat... and you know what you're eating. We made corn chips, guacamole, and pizza.
2.5 avacados (the 0.5th one soaking in lemon juice to avoid badness)
1 bunch of chives
salt and pepper
Free the avacado meat from its pits and skins. Mash it up. Add lime juice. Finely chop some chives. Stir them in. Add salt and pepper. Taste. Adjust salt/pepper/lime juice as needed.
a big stack of organic corn tortillas that someone has lying around that will go bad if not used soon.
several cups of oil (preferably peanut, but canola will do)
Heat the oil in a wok or a dutch oven or something like that. The temperature should be in the low-mid 300s. Cut tortillas into wedges. Add several wedges to the oil at a time---not all at once, add them one at a time actually, but add about 6 for each batch or you'll over-cool the oil too quickly. Let them go a few minutes then fish out with a spider. Put them on a cookie cooling rack with paper with something to catch the drips underneath it. Salt to taste. If they come out too chewy, cook the next set longer. You can do this and snack on chips and guacamole while you wait for the pizza to cook.
premade pizza crust from trader joes. yeah, it's a little wimpy, but we didn't plan far enough in advance to make our own pizza dough and we wanted the kind we could throw in the air instead of the kind you pat out.
tofurky italian sausages, sliced
1 can tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
Heat a saucepan. Add oil, garlic, onion, and spices. Cook for a bit. Add tomato sauce. Cook for a bit then remove from heat.
Take your ball of pizza dough. Pinch it flat and make a little ridge around the edge so the center is thinner. Toss it back and forth in your hands to start stretching it. Then throw it up in the air and spin it. Be responsible here, accidents can happen. Just don't throw it very high. When you feel like it's big enough, put it on a bread peel. Add sauce, then toppings, with the cheese going on last. Transfer to a baking stone in the oven. Cook the way the pizza dough directions tell you to. We made 2 pizzas; the whole wheat crust was 10 minutes, the garlic herb crust was 20 minutes. Go figure. It worked, though. Fun was had by all.
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.
Saturday, January 14, 2006, 09:08 PM - flatbread, breakfastThis morning we had buckwheat pancakes for breakfast... or whatever you like to call the meal you eat at 1pm on saturday. They turned out a little texturally wacky. Next time I will use half wheat flour/half buckwheat flour instead of all buckwheat. Somehow I got into the habit of doing all buckwheat when I was trying to figure out if I was allergic to gluten or not. And I'm not so I can use all the wheat I like.
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs baking powder
a shake or two of salt
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 of water
Put a pan on the stove at medium heat. Beat an egg. Add everything else. Stir well. Don't stir well if you're using flour + buckwheat because you might overstir things and make the gluten tough. But you don't have to worry about that with buckwheat, you just have to worry about weird texture.
The pan is heated when water drops bounce on the surface instead of sticking and slowly evaporating. Spray it with de-stickifying stuff. Spoon 1/4 cup dollups of batter onto the pan. Let them cook until bubbles form on the surface. After the bubbles have formed, flip them. Continue until you've used up the batter. Butter them if you like. Serve with syrup. This makes enough for two people to have 4 1/2 pancakes.