Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday Night Dinner

The official post #3 is a success story!

First off, green beans:

I've been on a green bean journey this month, trying to find a fresh alternative to my most beloved canned green beans. My son Peter and I can easily eat a whole can of green beans together for lunch. We love them that much. But, c'mon, if I really want to be a respectable foodie type, I better get some fresh recipes in my repertoire. This one was very tasty, and I plan on using it next Thanksgiving for sure. A great replacement for the sludgy cream of whatever soup and green bean casserole.

Here it is, from the November 2007 edition of Everyday Food:
Green Bean, Watercress, and Crispy Shallot Salad
Coarse Salt and Ground Pepper
1 Pound Green Beans, trimmed
1 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower
3 Shallots, thinly sliced crosswise into rings
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from one lemon)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. [they say to have a big bowl of ice water ready to go to dunk the beans, but I just scoop up the green beans with my seive and rinse the beans in cold water from the faucet. Less messy and a lot less work.] Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Cook green beans in boiling water until bright green and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Rinse in cold water to stop cooking. Cool green beans completely, then transfer to lined baking sheet and pat dry.

2. In a small saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium-low. In a small bowl, toss shallots with flour. Working in three batches, fry shallots in oil until golden and crispy, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer shallots to paper towels and season generously with salt.

3. In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, mustard, and olive oil to combine; season dressing with salt and pepper. Place watercress on a serving platter and drizzle with half the dressing. Toss with green beans and remaining dressing. Serve sprinkled with shallots. [not being a huge fan of fried things, I couldn't get over how much I loved these shallots!! They seem like a sophisticated indulgence, even though they are glorified onion rings.]

On to the main entree: Beef Stew with Winter Vegetables
We've been eating a great deal of soups and stews, trying to convince ourselves that its ok that it is still sooo cold outside. Cold weather is best for any cooking enterprises, right? Right. Especially beef stew:

(I only made 1/2 of the recipe, because our family of three will never be able to eat it all. The leftovers are very tasty, though. Maybe better than the original dish. For some reason, this thought of the dish being made for the sake of the leftovers is giving me flashbacks to art history theory)

From the December 2007 issue of Everyday Food (what would I do without it?)
5 pounds beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and gritle, cut into 2-inch chunks
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
coarse salt and pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cupt tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine (I just used beef broth, as I don't partake, if you know what I mean)
1 can (28 ounces)crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 dried bay leaves
3 pounds winter vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, turnips, and parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks. [I have recently come to appreciate the elegance of the parsnip.]

1. In a large bowl, toss beef with flour; season with salt and pepper. In a large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. working in two batches, shake off excess flour, and sear beef on all sides until browned, 8 to 10 minutes (use more oil for second bath, if needed) Transfer beef to a plate and set aside (reserve pot).

2. Add onion, celery, and garlic to pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring until slightly darkened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine/broth, and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, until liquid is reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Return browned beef to pot. Stir in tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally for 2 hours [This is good to know, as I overlooked it in my stew. It turned out, but the extra time is good for tender beef] If liquid reduces too quickly, add a little more water.

4. With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer beef to a large bowl. Pass remaining contents of pot through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl; discard solids. Return beef and strained liquid to pot; stir in vegetables. Simmer over medium-low, partially covered, until beef and vegetables are fork-tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours more.

We also had Rhodes Rolls. I made 9, and I think Peter ate 5.

And for the big finale, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
I cannot lie, I wasn't sure how this would all turn out. I don't own a cast-iron skillet, so I just used my dinky teflon pan and wrapped the plastic handle in tin foil. I heard that tip a few years ago, and it has never failed me. And it worked for the cake, too! Woohoo! This cake was tasty after a hearty meal, and also very good the next day for breakfast; amazing how dessert cake can magically transform into breakfast cake.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus 3 tablespoons (cut into small pieces) for preparing the top
1 cup sugar, plus 2/3 cup for preparing the top
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
7 thin rounds cored pineapple

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2. With an electric mixer, cream 6 tablespoons butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined. Add flour mixture in three additions alternately with the milk in two beginning and ending with the flour. Mix just until combined.

3. Pour 2/3 cup sugar into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and place over medium heat. Let sugar begin to liquify, then stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is fully melted and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. The sugar may smoke, but if it browns too quickly, remove pan from heat briefly before continuing. Remove pan from heat; add 3 tablespoons butter, stirring to incorporate. The butter will help cool the caramel and stop it from darkening it; Arrange fruit, by placing one pineapple round in the center of the pan. Arrange the remaining rounds in a circle around the center slice, overlapping slightly if necessary to fit.

4. Carefully spoon batter over pineapples in skillet. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

5. Let cake cool in pan 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of cake, then carefully invert onto a platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*note* the flipping of the cake requires good aim and a quick wrist, as there is an inevitable vertical drop that the cake experiences from pan to platter. My aim? uh, not so good. Half the cake actually made it to the platter, but, hey...

And may I just make a note here about prepping pineapples. I feel I can talk about this with some authority; during BYU's education week in the summer of 2004, I worked at the Morris Center cafeteria and spent 8 hours a day cutting up pineapples with a lovely Polynesian woman. I learned from one who really knows. To properly prepare a pineapple, you break off the stem and cut the top and bottom. Next, skim your knife along the skin, cutting as deep as you need to to get the little pointy things removed, in narrow strips. Continue around the pineapple. For rings, use an apple corer to rid the pineapple of its tough core and slice horizontally. For pieces, slice the pineapple in half, vertically, and cut each half into four vertical segments. Trim each segment of the tough core and cut up. Aloha, baby!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

so right and yet sooo wrong....

Ok, because this is my little space to journal my goings-on in the kitchen, it is only natural that my first real post will exhibit a culinary disaster. Ey curumba is the phrase of the day. However, at the end of the day, we had something edible, and I guess I can consider that a victory after all.

Today, I will tell the tale of the homemade noodles for good ol' fashioned chicken noodle soup. Thanks to Deanna Ebbert for her family's legendary recipe!
It all started simply enough:

4 beaten eggs
3/4 tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups flour

Put all ingredients in food processor and pulse until a hard ball forms (stiff, not sticky). If dough is too dry you can add 1 Tbsp. water at a time until right consistency. Roll out very thin on a floured surface and lightly dust with flour. Cut into strips and slice thin. Or if you have a pasta bike, you can use that (I love mine!!). Add slowly to soup.

But, things got a little hairy once I attempted to use my brand new pasta roller.

I'll spare you the gory details, but imagine the dough going in, then coming out in gooey globs...then imagine the roller itself starting to rotate in circles, flinging the gooey globs to various destinations throughout the kitchen. Then imagine my little toddler starting to wail and demand to be picked up, sensing the terrible kharma in the room. Yeah, um, the instructions didn't specify what to do in this scenario...hmm...

However, I did march onward in my soup quest. I would not let the pasta roller defeat my can-do attitude!
Here's the rest of Deanna's recipe:


1 large chicken (or 2-3 chicken breasts - that's what I use)
8 cups water (I usually do about 12 cups because some evaporates during the simmering and the noodles absorb quite a lot)
chicken bouillon-lots (since I don't use a whole chicken, I have to use lots of bouillon to get a good chicken flavor)
2 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped or sliced (I think I generally tend to add more than this of all the veggies because I like to have lots of veggies)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
parsley, to taste
homemade egg noodles

Simmer chicken, vegetables, and seasonings in water until meat is tender, about 1 hour. Let meat cool slightly in broth. Remove meat from bones (or cut/pull apart breasts) and return to broth. Make noodles. Bring soup to boil again and add homemade noodles. Let cook on high heat unti lnoodles are tender. Serve over mashed potatoes and enjoy!

You can use canned chicken broth instead of the water and bouillon if that is what you normally use. I just don't usually buy the cans of broth and I always have a huge thing of the bouillon paste stuff from Sam's Club, so I use that and water. I like mine to have a very strong chicken flavor. You can also add any other seasonings that you like - I sometimes add in random things that hit me at the moment.
[I threw in a bay leaf and a few sprigs of thyme, then took them out later]

I rolled out the noodles, cut them with a pizza slicer, and threw them in. At this point, I had an all-out grumpster of a son who burst into hysterics everytime I attempted to put him down. Subsequently, I boiled the living daylights out of the noodles, which, in turn, formed into homemade rubber. Ahem. I ditched the noodles, but really enjoyed a comforting bowl of chicken soup. It was a good thing. I kind of needed something comforting right then.

Monday, January 28, 2008

l'ecole gastronomique

Well, this really is for me, and I doubt anyone other than myself will read it. I really have been busy, experimenting in the kitchen, and I wanted a place to record different food experiments, modifications, lessons learned, etc. I always forget what I've done in the past, so this little food diary may be a great place to remember the good and bad from the kitchen.