Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nice photos, bad outcomes

My kitchen has very minimal lighting under the cabinets. It makes for odd lighting but very dramatic effects on photos. Sadly all my adventures don't end well, or as well as I would like them to so they don't get posted. Let's not take away from some of the nice photos that have come from not so great food though.

Ma's Stuffing

My Grandmothers stuffing is almost more of a bread custard. It's a lot wetter then the other stuffings I've had, and it's a lot better then the other stuffings I've had. This is what I used.
-White bread
-Whole milk (Heated, I used one of those drink jugs)
-Salt & Pepper
A special loaf of bread comes out during Thanksgiving made for stuffing. As far as I can tell it's just an unsliced loaf of white bread. I had some sandwich rolls I needed to use up, so I'm using four of these and some tiny toast crackers. I cut these rolls into little tiny cubes 1 square centimeter... you know small. I smashed the toasts tiny too.
I chopped up two small yellow onions and several shallots into small pieces also. In my dutch oven I melted a stick and a half of butter. Yes we are going for it people!! Add the onions to the melted butter and cook them on low-meduim heat. Until the onions are soft and melty.
See? This smells great. Turn off the heat
Add the bread, beat 2 eggs and add, salt, sage, parsley, pepper, half the milk. Combined with a potato masher and slowly add the rest of the milk. Mix well and taste to see if anything needs to be adjusted.

I added mine to a smaller dutch oven I have. I LOVE these pans and use them for the majority of my cooking. They cost a nice penny but they'll keep for the rest of your life. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for ten minutes, remove the lid and cook for ten more minutes uncovered. This pairs beyond well with the roasted chicken I posted about.

I roast chickens just to eat the crispy skin.

Roasted chicken is one of those memories I attach with happy childhood things. Now that I think of it, most of my sentimental memories are food related.
The best part of roasting a chicken is the crispy, fatty, salty, garlic skin. My father can roast an AMAZING chicken with THE BEST skin. Upper caps are needed for the level of good we are talking. My sister and I used to fight over the skin like hungry coyotes. Tender, juicy chicken meat and crispy skin. If you can pull them off together you win. So here's what I had...
-3.75 of a pound fresh whole chicken (This one had no liver or heart, get one with the guts for really)
-Garlic salt
-Fresh Thyme

I'm always careful with cross contamination of raw products. I had food poisoning once and it will teach you a lesson you'll never forget. Something about chicken, I'm twice as careful. I think it's all the juices that can splash everywhere, airborne meat juice. No. I open the chicken in a clean sink, with the roasting pan very near by. I'll even rinse the extra liquid out of the wrap with hot water before throwing it away.
Rip a large paper towel first, place the chicken on the wrack then begin dabbing dry the chicken. A dry chicken will get crispy skin so dry it over, under, and all around. Become friends with the chicken, because you're about to become better friends with the chicken...
Slide your fingers between the skin and the breast to create a pocket. Be gentle, you don't want to tear her up after all (Ha! Ha!). Using 2 tablespoons of soft butter, place it under the skin. Make sure it's spread out a bit, but you don't have to go crazy. It's important not to rip the skin. I'll even rub a thin layer of butter on the outside of the whole chicken.
Roasting with celery, carrots, and onions is always a great idea. They make magic together. Rough chop these.
I stuck some of the veggie trio inside the chicken cavity before tying the chicken. Tying the legs and wings close to the body help with the cooking. I spread the rest of the veggies around the pan. Season the chicken generously with the spices. Letting the chicken sit for fifteen minutes also helps the skin dry out a bit more.
To help myself clean up as I go I keep a brown bag on the ground next to me when I cook. It just helps keep my set up trash-free as I go. A dog also will help pick up dropped cut veggies.
When cooking a chicken it's 20 minutes per-pound + 20 minutes. My chicken weight 3.75 lbs.
Here's some math 3.75 x 20+ 20= 75 minutes.
I preheated the oven for 450 degrees. Roast the chicken at this heat for fifteen minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees for the remainder of cooking time. I've had the best success with this cooking time and temp process. Once the cooking time is over remove from oven. Break the skin by the leg and second joint to check to see if the juices from the chicken run clear to know if it's done. Let the chicken rest 10 minutes before carving it. I put my chicken on a cutting board that is sitting in a rimmed cookie sheet. It will run juices when you begin to carve. The cookie sheet will catch the juices and avoid a huge mess. (Don't waist this juice add it to gravy!)
This chicken was a knock out. The skin was super crispy and the meat was super moist. Another time I'll show you how I make gravy with the extra chicken parts this one didn't come with. It's just not the same without it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chicken Katsu... sort of

This is a Katsu recipe I got from a Japanese cookbook I bought in Hawaii two years ago. I've changed up a couple things for the better. If you're not sure about Katsu, don't worry it's the most white- people friendly Japanese food there is. So, you need...
-Pork cutlets or chicken cutlets (I had chicken for this, pork is GREAT for this though. Trust me I wish I had pork)
- Eggs, beaten
-Panko bread crumbs
-Italian Bread Crumbs (GASP!!!)
-Unrefined peanut oil (GOOD LORD!)
So I had chicken tenders in the frig. Place one or two tenderloins on a plastic cutting board. Something about meat on a wooden board I just don't like. Before you pound them with your meat hammer cover them with a piece of wrap, to prevent meat juice from spraying while you hit it. Don't forget even, not so hard hits. It's not a strong man challenge.
So 60% panko, 40% Italian bread crumbs. I like the flavor of the Italian and they are a much finer crumb that help fill the little voids that panko can't reach without crushing them past the point of being panko.
So set up a little assembly line of your pounded chicken, flour, beaten eggs, bread crumb mix, and plastic cutting board. In that order.
Coat the chicken in flour, shake off the extra
Then coat in egg wash
Then the bread crumb mix. Take the time to pat the crumbs in and make sure the cutlet is coated. You're the one eating it so why rob yourself of taking the time to make a nice piece of chicken?
Ok so, after we breaded all the chicken pieces while we wait for the oil to heat up we're going to make a quick sauce. Whatever you want to dip it in, great. This is one sauce I like to eat it with.
-Worcestershire sauce
-Thai sweat chille sauce

Ketchup,Worcestershire and hot sauce is great too
Ketchup is the base so most of it will be Ketchup, next the sweat chili then Worcestershire . Mix together.
Most of the time I'll fill up my cast iron to a deep fryer depth (for that much oil I'll use 50/50 peanut and vegetable oil) but I don't have that much oil on hand so a large heavy pan will do just fine. Turn the heat on to medium, if you try to rush the heat it won't get you anywhere. When the oil shimmers test it with a piece of bread crumb picked off a piece of chicken. If it promptly rises to the surface after you dropped it and begins to bubble and fry your oil is ready. There is a correct temp for all of this and you can use a thermometer... but why? The bread crumb will not fail.

Don't crowd your pan with chicken, mine works great with three pieces tops. I like to bump my heat up for 30 seconds from medium heat to high heat after I put the meat in. After about 30 seconds I turn the heat back down to medium. Pay attention while you fry and never leave the pan's side. When the temp. of the oil with meat in it is correct, the frying should sound like a bubbling brook, not some crazy frying- freak- out fest. Frying is something you need to get used to and expect to mess it up now and then.
Flip to the other sides once golden brown
Transfere meat onto a brown bag with a paper towel on it. Sprinkle with salt once hot out of the frying oil. Make sure you pat dry both sides on the bag. Repeat until all of your chicken is ready to be eaten.
This chicken is crispy and just darn good.

Potatoes and Shallots

I always want to call this side dish Potatoes and Onions, When really it's Potatoes and Shallots. I love making potatoes this way.
- Mini potatoes (I'm using Yukon Gold in these photos, I like red bliss too)
-Olive Oil
-Salt& Peper
- herbs de provence (French Spice blend, Italian will work great too)
Pre heat your oven to 400 degrees. Quarter the potatoes and shallots. Make sure to select similar size potatoes so when you quarter them they cook at the same time.
Season generously with the herbs, salt and pepper on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil
Toss everything together well and roast until they are golden brown (40 minutes maybe a bit more) Half way through the cooking time don't forget to turn and mix them up
Give them the time they need to cook until the outside is crispy, the inside is fluffy and the shallots are and sweet.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gravlax, part two

So after serval days of hanging out in the frig it's time to unwrap the Gravlax and slice it. Open the package over the sink. You'll notice the skill has become stiff and the meat of the fish is firm. Wash off the salt mix under cool water. I have a garbage disposal so I'm not worried about my drain clogging.

You can see from the side shot about the fish has shrunken down in thickness.
Get the sharpest knife you have and sharpen it before you slice the fish. Don't forget to wash the knife after you sharpen it. I like to remove the fish skin for easier slicing. I also remove the darker meat because I find it affects the flavor of the fish in a way I don't like.
Slice a bit less then a quarter of an inch at a diagonal to get it started. Toss that little piece out, it's thick and saltier then we want the fish to be.
Take your time and run your knife from tip to hilt to aid in getting a thin slice. We're still cutting on a diagonal. They don't have to look perfect they just have to be as thin as possible
Have a piece of wrap laid out to lay the slices on and wrap them up. I once made the mistake of using aluminum foil, trust me don't do it. The next day your fish will taste like metal.
Here's a close up of what you're fish should look like sliced. Notice the fish is now darker in color and no fatty lines are running through it. The piece of salmon I bought was maybe ticker then I would have liked, try to find a piece with an average thickness.
As for ways to eat it, I like to eat it straight. On a bagel with some sliced red onion and cream cheese is good. It's great with eggs Benedict as a substitute for the Canadian bacon. Enjoy!

Baking Bacon

Once you bake bacon, cooking it in a frying pan will seem like the poor-man's version of bacon. It cooks perfectly uniform and the pick up is easier.
Preheat the oven to 385. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and lay out the bacon strips. Cook them until you can smell the bacon and the bacon is a uniform golden brown
Look at it. No. LOOK AT IT. Maybe the only down side to making it like this is that it's so easy.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Face the Facts, English Muffin Pizzas are great

If you are too fancy for the American- Italian classic, the English Muffin Pizza then I don't think we have anything else to discus. Because we are no longer friends. What information about something that seems pretty basic could I pass onto you? Plenty. We've all had crapy mini pizzas. Soggy muffin, not that melted cheese, somehow the center is still cold. Follow along and you'll have an English Muffin Pizza that tastes like pizza
-English Muffins
-Shredded Mozzarella cheese
-Jar of pizza sauce
-grated parmesan cheese
-Peperoni slices
-Italian seasoning

Slice the English muffins. You get a flat surface and a uniform cut so they all cook evenly. If you don't have a good bread knife invest in one.
Set your oven to broil and move the rack to the top shelf. My oven has a low and hi setting for broil. Lo is the best choice. Toast the muffins bare first, this prevents cold centers and crappy textured crusts.
Take them out once they are golden brown. I thought this photo came out nice
Wait for the muffins to cool so you can handle them easy. Enjoy this time to yourself, have a chocolate milk while you wait.
This is the Italian seasoning I have, any kind you have is fine.
Once they are cool, sauce them
Add the cheese, enough to cover but not too much that it prevents the cheese from browning
Looks good, at this point I put the Italian seasoning on them and the grated Parmesan cheese. It's the little things that make a cheap meal a classy meal I say
add the pepperoni, I just did every other one. Arrange them back on the cookie sheet and return them to the oven set on Lo broil
Don't go too far from the oven, these puppies will burn very quick if you are not paying attention. Here they are once they turned golden, look at them. They're lovely. They even look like a mini pizzas, instead of some sauce and cheese bomb on a muffin
The end result, they pair great with beer and zombie movies