Archive | July, 2009

The Great Search Term Round Up: Volume 4

31 Jul
In Which we find ourselves at the end of another month, ready to help answer your burning pastry questions.

In Which we find ourselves at the end of another month, ready to help answer your burning pastry questions.

I love the end of the month.  For 14 seconds, we have money, until it all goes out the door to pay the bills.  Also, it’s the cusp of a new month, and that’s exciting.  Last but not least, it’s time for the search term round up.  I have gotten to the point that I am positively Giddy With Anticipation over doing this post.  It’s really the only post that I plan out:  I keep a notepad handy and write down the most interesting, amusing and/or absurd search terms by which folks have found me.

The rules, for those of you who’ve not enjoyed a round up before are simple:  Where possible, I take the liberty of framing the search terms in the form of a question.  I try to give some good information in response to some of the questions, but I Really enjoy the Ridiculing of the Ludicrous, so let’s see where this takes us today, shall we?

Here’s one I just cannot Get Away From.  Is Cool Whip a Natural Ingredient? Not unless plastic tubs grow on trees and little orange men are scooping poofy cream out of the spots on large red toadstools to put in said tree-grown tubs.  Enough with the Cool Whip questions already.  But wait.  Here’s a variation I’ve not seen before:  What is a good substitute for French Vanilla Cool Whip? My head is spinning around in a Linda Blair-esque fashion.  Pea soup spews forth, making Quite the Mess.  The sow is mine.  And that’s what I have to say about that.

Can you replace lemon with lime in sour mix? This is a good question.  Most basic sour mix recipes call for equal parts of lemon and lime juice, but you can make yours with a different ratio.  We used to make ours with 3 parts lime juice and 1 part lemon juice.  You can go all lemon or all lime, too, depending on what you’ll be using it for.

What is soft food? Take some food.  Put it in your mouth.  Chew.  Does it crunch?  Does it crumble?  Does it make any sound at all?  If it does, it is Not Soft.  If it doesn’t, it is.  No, no need to thank me.  I’m here to help.

How can I use up leftover whipping cream? This seems like a Dumb Question, although our teachers (even Yours Truly, back in the day) always told us that there’s no such thing as a Dumb Question.  Believe you me, though, if you could listen to their souls, they would be silently screaming as they said it.  At any rate, this really isn’t a dumb question.  We’ve all had a few ounces of whipping cream leftover from recipes.  Here are some ideas for how to use it up:

  • Whip it and put it on berries or cake.
  • Put a little in your coffee.
  • Mix it with some milk to make homemade 1/2 and 1/2, and then put it in your coffee.
  • Use it to finish pasta–this is the way I most often use mine up.
  • Use it as part of your liquid for making a cake or waffles or pancakes.  As long as you’re only using an ounce or two, you shouldn’t need to adjust the amount of fat in the recipe.

Here’s one that goes along with the first whipping cream question.  What foods can you put whipped cream on? Friends, you can put whipped cream on Any Food.  It’s not always a good idea, mind you, but you can.  Instead of holding my head in my hands and letting out a scream of Existential Woe before moving on, I will point out that whipped cream doesn’t always have to be sweet.  Throw some salt and pepper in it along with some herbs, and you can use it as a garnish for soup or even on top of mashed potatoes.  How about a quenelle of basil whipped cream on some gazpacho or tomato soup?  Chive whipped cream on a baked potato?  Sage whipped cream as a garnish for Thanksgiving dinner?  The cream would melt down into the gravy, and that equals Gravy Nirvana.

Do you have any puff pastry tarte tatin banana recipes? This question answers itself.  Here’s the thinking:  I have puff pastry.  I have bananas.  I like tarte tatin.  They are upside down.  What flavors go well with banana?  Caramel!  Here’s the procedure.  Slice up your bananas.  Arrange them attractively (or not) in your cast iron skillet.  Make some caramel sauce and pour it over the bananas.  Top everything with puff pastry, bake it until it’s risen and deep golden brown.  Take it out of the oven, let it sit for a few minutes, and then turn it out onto a serving platter.  See?  This person didn’t need a recipe.  What they needed was a procedure to combine the ingredients they had on hand.  And, after all, isn’t that what a recipe really is?

Help! I can’t roll my pastry thin enough. This is where parchment paper comes in.  If you roll between 2 sheets of parchment, it’s much easier to get the pastry thin enough.  And, if you roll the dough before chilling it, it’s even easier.

Do you have any moving day recipes? Yes.  It’s called Take Out Menu.

What are the best techniques for going down on a girl? I’m sorry.  I can’t help you with this one.  Try calling 976-BABE.

How can I make a creamy lemon mousse tart? This is like the banana puff pastry question.  You want a tart, so you’ll need a tart shell.  Make one.  You want creamy lemon mousse, so make some lemon curd and fold it into some gelatin-stabilized whipped cream.  Pour it into your tart shell.  Chill.  Eat.

How come I can’t use a water bath for my bread? I wish I could question these questioners.  Since I can’t, I will assume that this question has to do with wanting some moisture in the oven at the beginning of the baking period.  Professional kitchens have steam injectors that, surprise, inject steam into the baking chamber during the first few minutes of baking.  Home ovens don’t so much have steam injectors, so we have to Make Do.  Many folks spray their loaves with water.  Some folks squirt some water into the oven when they put their loaves in.  Others throw 2-3 ice cubes in a pan on the oven floor.  These three techniques only use a little bit of water.  The water serves to help gelatinize the starches on the outside of the loaves, resulting in a thin, crackly crust.  Once the gelatinization Happens, which doesn’t take long, the water needs to Go Away.  If you have too much water in the oven, as with a water bath, the surface of the bread won’t set up and brown correctly.  The Maillard reactions and caramelization that brown the crust don’t start happening until the surface is at about 340F.  If the oven environment is Overly Moist, the surface of the bread isn’t going to get over the boiling point of water, so you’ll end up with steamed bread, not baked bread.

How can I draw cheesecake? Well, that depends on if you’re playing Win, Lose or Draw or if you subscribe to the School of Realism.  If the former, a triangle with circles in it can represent cheese, and a rectangle with candles on it can represent the cake.  I was on the Win, Lose or Draw championship team in college, so I know Whereof I Speak.  If the latter, I would suggest using colored pencils.

Pringles aren’t really food, are they? Not so much.

And, because I am a Glutton for Punishment: Am I allergic to something in Cool Whip? On a molecular level, we are all allergic to Cool Whip, whether or not we admit it to ourselves.

And that, my friends, is that.  The Beloved and I are going to Charlotte today so he can transfer his homebrew from the primary fermentation carboy to another one.  I am going because I will be attending the Idols Live Tour avec Ma Mère on Samedi.  We are both all Extremely Excited to see our Glittery Alien Prince up close, or at least in person.  I have purchased an Adequately Sparkly Ensemble and some lovely dark blue nail polish.  Ma mère has purchased Turquoise Eye Shadow.  I fear that we shall look like Old Hookers, but we mean well.

U-PMAT Class EF102-A&B, Offering Certification in Egg White Foams by way of Discussions of Macarons and Soufflés.

29 Jul
Egg + Whisk = Magic

Egg + Whisk = Magic

Welcome to U-PMAT Certification Class EF102-A&B in which you will be Conversant with–nay, Eminently Qualified* for–making Items based on Egg Foam.  Qualification:  We shan’t be covering sponge cakes, genoise, et al, in EF102-A&B as that was covered in EF101, here.  Right then.  Pencils at the ready?  Let’s begin, shall we.

Ahem.  I got a great question over at my sparsely populated forum. Dr. Fagshah asked if I could show him/her (?) how to make lovely French macarons.  The original question asked about macaroons, but the description was of a macaron.  That extra o makes quite a bit of difference.  The second part of the question–did I mention it was a two-part question?–asks if I can demystify the whole chocolate soufflé deal–how to make the base, how to prepare the soufflé dish (to butter or not to butter; to collar or not to collar, etc) and just generally Break It Down to make it Easier to Understand.

I thought to myself, “Hey–this would make a good corollary to EF101,” so here we are.

Eggs are magic.  I’m sure I’ve said that before, but it Bears Repeating.  Eggs.  Are.  Magic.  They are one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen–pastry or otherwise.  Perfect little packages of proteins, water, fat and emulsifiers.  Plus lots of nutritional value.  You know, for the wee chick who would be living off of the yolk until it peck, peck, pecks its way out of the eggshell.   For now, let’s just focus on the whites, though.  Yolks, you are excused.  You’re needed in crème brûlée class.  Go make yourselves Useful.

Egg whites are made up of a bunch of different proteins and water.  The whites act as protection for the embryo, a little avian amniotic sac, if you will.  The proteins are all coily until you a)heat them up and/or b)beat the heck out of them.**  Both of these actions denature, or uncoil the protein strands.  See, the long chains of amino acids (protein building blocks) are all coiled up and held together in a specific ways by Chemical Bonds.  When you heat them or beat them (ha!) you break the bonds holding the coil together.  Then, the no-longer-coiled chains end up bonding with other no-longer-coiled chains in a sort of a mesh or matrix.  Very exciting stuff.

The very Keen Thing that egg whites can do is whip up into pretty stable foam.  Plain whipped egg whites can be folded into souffle batters or cakes.  Add some sugar, and you have a meringue with which you can make a Pavlova, pie toppings, oeufs à la neige.  Fold in some almond flour, and you’ve got macarons.  Fold in some regular flour and you’ve got angel food cake.  See what I mean about eggs being Magic and Versatile?

macaronsNow, back to Dr. Fagshah’s questions.  Item The First:  how to make lovely macarons a la Pierre Hermé. There are a Bajillion recipes for macarons on the Hinternet, so I shan’t bore you with another one. I will say that macaron shells are made of almond meal (shoved through a fine sieve to get out the Larger Bits) and confectioner’s sugar whisked together and folded into a simple meringue of egg white, granulated sugar and a bit of salt. Seriously, that’s all there is to them. Ha! Remember my Myriad Traumas with stupid four-ingredient pâte brisée? Often, it’s the Simple Things that are Decidedly Difficult to correctly execute.

And here’s the thing about macaron batter.  It is very wet.  If you have visions of peaks of meringue, just get them out of your head now.  The texture of the final batter should be kind of like a thick syrup.  Or a bit-too-thin pâte à choux. Yes, you’ll need to whip your whites to stiff peaks, but by the time you get the almond/sugar mixture folded into the meringue,your batter will be flowy.  How come?  Well, that extra sugar in the whites will draw some more moisture to it–from the whites, initially, because it’s the most convenient water source.  When this happens, some of your bubbles are going to pop.  That’s okay–prolly the biggest bubbles will pop first, and we don’t want them anyway.  We want wee bubbles.  Your final batter will look like a pile of bubbles surrounded by proteiny-nutty sugar syrup.  Not to your Naked Eye, mind you, but just take my word for it.

Once you have your flowy batter, you need to pipe it in even circles of roughly the same size.  Pipe it onto parchment paper.  You’ll thank me later.  Once they’re all piped, let them hang out in a Quiet Place for an hour or so.  The outsides will dry out a bit and form a skin over the macaron which will help them to bake/rise evenly and minimize the dreaded Cracking.  You’ll then want to bake them at 325F until dry and set on their smooth, shiny tops.  This takes 10-ish minutes, depending on your oven, how big you piped them, etc.  Bake with the door slightly ajar so that the heat will always be coming from the bottom.  Since heat is escaping out the door, the oven will always be in heating mode.  Since you’re baking almost exclusively with Bottom Heat, the entire cookie will lift up and will form a little bubbly foot around the base of the smooth, shiny skin.  At any rate, take them out of the oven and let them cool on the sheets.  Use a small offset spatula to remove the cookies from the paper.  A perfectly baked macaron shell will be crisp on the outside and chewy-but-not-wet on the inside.

To make the traditional sandwich cookie, simply sandwich two cookies together with a bit of filling.  Refrigerate them for at least a few hours before returning them to room temperature and serving them.

A lovely chocolate souffle, or Will Smith in the his Fresh Prince Days, depending on how you look at it.

A lovely chocolate soufflé, or Will Smith in the his Fresh Prince Days, depending on how you look at it.

And now, onto the soufflé.  At its heart, a soufflé is a starch-thickened custard–sweet or savory–with egg whites folded in.  If you didn’t fold in the whites and baked them at 275F in a water bath, you’d pretty much have crème brûlée, or at least a baked custard.  Baking at a relatively high temperature–375F–using dry heat allows all sorts of steam to form within the soufflé itself (not to mention a bunch of expanding hot air in the bubbles of your egg foam), pushing it up, up, up to Crazy Heights.  Yup, a soufflé is a mechanically leavened (some would say overleavened) egg rich, flourless (or low flour) cake.

There really are a Ton of different base recipes.  Some contain flour and some don’t.  When it comes to soufflés, as with macarons, it’s really more about the technique than it is about the recipe.  You want your base to be warmish.  Then, you’ll gently but thoroughly fold your beaten egg whites in.  You can refrigerate them for a day or two before baking, but they won’t poof quite as Impressively if you do.  At any rate, bake them, and they’ll rise, rise, rise.  Easy and Spectacular.  An excellent combination.

Now, about the collars.  Egg whites want to go Up.  They don’t really need a collar.  Fill the soufflé dish (individual or large) to the top, swipe any excess off cleanly, and run your thumb around the inside edge of the dish, making a sort of Soufflé Trench about 1/4″ deep all around the outside of the batter.  This helps promote Upward as opposed to Sideways.  And up is what we want.  Most of the soufflé recipes which employ a collar are of the frozen variety, or are made by Timid Bakers who don’t trust egg white foams to Do What They Do.  Collar a ramekin; then pour in some mousse or semifreddo mixture until it rises above the rim of the ramekin by a 1/2″ or so.  Freeze, and then remove the collar.  Voila:  your frozen soufflé has “risen.”  Sneaky.

To butter and sugar the dish?  Most sweet soufflé recipes call for this step.  My thought is that the reason is a bit of sugary crunch on the outside of the soufflé.  As I said before, egg foams Do What They Do, which is to climb when heated, so I’m not sure you’re gaining any mechanical advantage by buttering and sugaring.  If anyone knows for sure, please let me know in the comments section.

Now, about the egg foam itself.  It’s not hard to make an egg foam, but there are a few Rules to Follow to ensure success.

  1. Make sure your bowl and beaters/whisks are Free of Fat.  Wash everything in hot water and then wipe off everything with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar.  Even a bit of fat can inhibit Maximum Foamage, so be diligent.  I saw crazy Emeril try to whip up some egg whites with the same beaters he used to whip cream.  It was Awesome.  He said something along the lines of “What the hell?  How bad could it be?” and just dunked those fatty beaters right down in those whites and Commenced to Whipping.  The audience eventually left, and he was still whipping.  Well, okay, he had to call someone from The Back to bring him new whites and new beaters.  Live and learn, Emeril.  Live and learn.
  2. Use a metal or glass bowl.  Don’t use a plastic bowl.  Plastic holds onto fat.  And Emeril can tell you what that means.
  3. Older whites whip faster than fresher whites, but fresher whites make a more stable foam.  Stick with fresh whites for soufflés.  You can use older whites for your macarons since you’ll be folding in almond flour and knocking the foam back some anyway.
  4. Room temperature whites whip more quickly than cold whites. Separate the eggs when they’re still cold, and then let the whites sit for 45 minutes to an hour before whipping.
  5. While not strictly necessary, you can start whipping your whites and sugar over simmering water to heat up the whites and help the sugar dissolve more quickly.  If you do this, you’re making a Swiss Meringue.  Congratulations.
  6. As with whipped cream, you don’t have to let the whites whip on Eleven.  Whipping on medium to medium-high will get you where you want to go soon enough, and your foam will be more stable because you Took Your Time.

Okay, 1700 words and two of three cats on the keyboard later, I think this class is finally winding down.  If you have any questions or need clarification on anything, or if you just want to leave a Witty Comment, please do so.  Don’t forget your Egg White Foam Certification.

*A guy I worked with gave me a letter to proofread when he was angling for a promotion at work.  The letter said he was “imminently qualified.”  This struck me as hilarious.  I said, “So, Ron, you’re going to be qualified any minute now?!”  If you find this funny, too, we might be soul mates.

**There is a third way, the Acid way.  If you lower the pH of the protein enough by adding vinegar or citrus juice, the proteins denature and “cook” chemically.  Hence, citrus cures for sashimi.

PS When we made macarons in culinary school, nobody told us it would be hard, so we just forged ahead.  They turned out great.  So fear not, just go for it.

Sunday Sippers: Pitcher Mojitos

26 Jul
I, of course, forgot to take a picture of my mojitos.  This is someone else's picture.  Mine weren't so sour-mixy looking.  They were definitely less green than these.  Still, it's a pretty picture, and I didn't want to leave you photo-less, so there you go.

I, of course, forgot to take a picture of my mojitos. This is someone else's picture. Mine weren't so sour-mixy looking. They were definitely less green than these. Still, it's a pretty picture, and I didn't want to leave you photo-less, so there you go.

So, I’m back from the beach.  I got home Friday, and The Beloved had already left to go brew beer with his brewing buddy in Charlotte, so I had the place to myself until earlier today.  Guess what I did?  Nothing.  It was Awesome.  I have pulled myself away from my Intense Pursuit of Slothfulness to bring you this post.  You’re welcome.

I suppose you could say that I’m in a bit of an Alcohol Rut, but when you have as much mint growing in your yard as I have in mine, then Ye May Cast the First Stone.  We had our housewarming party last weekend, and big fun was had by all.  I wasn’t going to make mojitos, but then word got around that I Could, and I was forced to go to the store to purchase rum and limes, lest the natives become restless.

There is no great secret to making a mojito.  I’m sorry to any mixologist out there who would beg to differ with me, but as long as you get everything well mashed, you should be good to go.

Pitcher Mojitos

  • a large pitcher
  • some coarse-grained sugar–I used demerara
  • a handful of mint (I used a mixture of bergamot and spearmint)
  • 2-3 limes, cut into sections (skin on)
  • bottle(s) o’ rum, depending on how big your pitcher is and how thirsty your guests are
  • ice
  • club soda

Throw the limes, mint and coarse sugar into the pitcher.  Muddle everything thoroughly until the limes are all juiced, the mint is well bruised and the sugar crystals have dissolved. Let me just say that I don’t own a muddler.  I do, however, own a wooden spatula, and I used the business end of that to muddle the Hell out of the green stuff.  Lime juice squirted Perilously Close to my eye.  The things I do for my friends…

Anyway, pour in the rum.  Pour it all in.  Taste for sweetness, liminess and mintiness.  Adjust as necessary.

To serve, fill individual glasses with ice, pour in the rum mixture and then top off with as much (or as little) club soda as you want.  Everyone gets a drink that is strong enough (or weak enough), so Everybody Wins!

I polled my friends who attended, and they all seemed to dig it.  If any of you guys are reading, please leave your review in the comments section.

PS Bonus  Sunday Sides:  Marinated Cucumbers
I also made some marinated cukes for the party.  People inhaled them, and some even said they were the Best Ever.  Here’s what was in them:

  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • rice wine vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • squirt of honey and a little sugar
  • celery seed
  • mild curry powder
  • sliced cukes
  • chopped onion

In case you’re wondering, I probably used 4 parts vinegar to 1 part oil.  I also peeled the cukes in strips, so they were stripy around the outside.  Instead of halving and seeding them, I just sliced them in thin rounds.  The ones I wrote about the other day were good, but these were better.  The curry powder put them Over The Top.

Okay, that’s it for now.

A Short Hiatus. Very Short. You Probably Won’t Even Realize I’ve Gone Anywhere. But Just In Case You Do…

21 Jul
This will be my first time staying on Oak Island as a North Carolinian in eight years.  Yay.  Oh, and that's the lighthouse.  Maybe we'll climb it.  If we do, we get a Free Shirt.

This will be my first time staying on Oak Island as a North Carolinian in eight years. Yay. Oh, and that's the lighthouse. Maybe we'll climb it. If we do, we get a Free Shirt.

…I will be at The Beach!  I’m leaving very shortly.  Not with The Beloved.  With my best friend.  I have a trashy romance novel, plus another not-so-trashy novel.  I have my camera.  I have my phone and our GPS, Bambi, so I won’t get lost.  What I won’t have is a Connection to the Hinternet.  I will be back home on Friday, but you might not hear from me until Sunday Suppers.  We shall see.

Since I hate to just leave you without any Useful Information, here is some Food Safety Information for you.  Thrilling, I know.  Try to contain yourselves.

  1. If you don’ t have a thermometer in your refrigerator, go get one.  You want to make sure that the temp in there is below 40F, even in the door, to keep your food out of the dreaded Temperature Danger Zone.  This is the zone where bacterial growth is Rampant, so store your food at below 40F.
  2. Food safety regulations say no more than 4 hours total in the Danger Zone.  That means cumulatively.  If you take your roast chicken out of the fridge and it gets above 40F for about an hour for four days in a row, you’re done.
  3. Whenever you make a Hot Thing and then need to refrigerate it, it’s going to be hanging out in the Temperature Danger Zone (between 40F-141F) for awhile.  Minimize that time as much as possible by cooling things off rapidly in an ice bath.  Don’t put your Hot Thing in the fridge while it’s still hot.  Refrigerators are meant to keep stuff cold, not make stuff cold.  What’ll happen is that everything in the fridge will end up in the Danger Zone for awhile.
  4. Reheat foods to at least 160F for 15 seconds.  That should be enough to kill off any Baddies.
  5. If you need to store raw foods in the fridge, make sure to store the meats on the bottom.  It’s coldest there, and if it leaks, it won’t drip all over your lettuce.  Ew.

And there you have it.

I have a couple of Items in the Queue, including how to substitute oil for solid fat in baking.  Ask away, and I will get to them.  If you don’t ask, I will just blather on about Whatever I Want.  I need some structure, people!

I hope everyone has a great week.

PS If you haven’t already seen my Glorious Spatchcocked Chicken, go check it out.  You will not be sorry.  Prolly.

Sunday Suppers, Monday Edition: Chicken, Three Ways

20 Jul
Hello, lovely roasted, spatchcocked chicken.  Look at all your lovely pan juices--gravy waiting to happen.

Hello, lovely roasted, spatchcocked chicken. Look at all your lovely pan juices--gravy waiting to happen.

I know I was supposed to post this yesterday, but there was Revelry at our house on Saturday night.  Revelry that lasted into Sunday morning.  Revelry that kept me from my appointed blogging duties.  I apologize.

So, I teased you guys with the spatchcocking deal the other day, right?  Like many culinary terms, spatchcocking means different things to different people, and the origin of the term in Shrouded by the Mists of Time.  Spatchcock means to cut the backbone out of a bird so you can open him up and lay him out flat.  Some folks tell you to cut the whole backbone out, cutting first down one side and then down the other.  I say just make one cut.  Some folks say you have to cut out the backbone and the breastbone.  I still say just make one cut, unless there is some reason for your bird to be Very Very Flat.

Just make the cut right against one side of the backbone--regular kitchen shears work fine for this.

Just make the cut right against one side of the backbone--regular kitchen shears work fine for this.

It takes half as long, plus the backbone remains attached to be used in roasted chicken stock later.

Keep in mind that spatchcocking is a technique, not a recipe.  Hopefully, this will free you up to season the bird however you’d like.

See, just open it like a book.  You might need to press down a little on the breast. Don't worry; it won't feel a thing.

See, just open it like a book. You might need to press down a little on the breast. Don't worry; it won't feel a thing.

What are those Mysterious Items under the chicken skin?!

What are those Mysterious Items under the chicken skin?!

Ta da!  Just some lemon slices under the breast skin and some onion slices under the thigh skin.  Very Sneaky.

Ta da! Just some lemon slices under the breast skin and some onion slices under the thigh skin. Very Sneaky.

Once it’s seasoned, just chuck it in the oven and roast it at about 375F until the breast meat reads around 160-162F.  Take the chicken out of the oven, loosely cover with foil and let rest for about fifteen minutes or so.  The carryover heat will take the breast meat to a very nice 165F.  Since the bird is flat, the whole thing roasts more quickly than it would if you roasted it whole.  Since the ratio of bone to meat is higher in the dark meat, it cooks a bit more quickly than the breast meat. This means the dark and white meats get done at the same time, even though the dark meat needs to be cooked to a higher temperature.  Magic.

We got three meals out of this one chicken, plus a lovely roasted carcass to turn into stock for soup or Whatever.  Here’s the whole procedure:

Roasting The Bird

  • 1 happy formerly happy organic chicken, ruthlessly cut down one side of the spine and then flattened
  • vegetable oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Old Bay seasoning (shocking, I know)
  • Tasty Items to put under the skin

Rinse and pat the chicken dry.  Apologize to it for your treatment of it.

Rub a little oil all over both sides of the chicken.  Season both sides with salt, pepper and whatever else makes you happy.

Place the bird in a baking dish, skin side up.

Shove tasty items under the skin.  I used lemon slices under the breast skin and slices of Vidalia onion under the thigh skin.

Roast in a 375F oven until breast meat registers 160F-ish and thigh meat registers 175F-ish.  I believe it took about 45-50 minutes for me.  Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes.

Meal, The First: Lemon Chicken with Marinated Cucumbers:

Look how moist and juicy the breast meat is--that's because it was basted in lemon juice and lemon oil the whole time it was roasting.  You can see some of the lemon slice peeking out from under the skin.

Look how moist and juicy the breast meat is--that's because it was basted in lemon juice and lemon oil the whole time it was roasting. You can see some of the lemon slice peeking out from under the skin.

Simple and pretty elegant.  Quite tasty.

Simple and pretty elegant. Quite tasty.

I served the breast meat (lemon-roasted), skin on, cut across the grain.  The cucumbers were from the garden, very thinly sliced and dressed simply with white wine vinegar and Murray River Salt.

Meal, The Second:  Onion Roasted Chicken with Roasted Potato Medley:

Hearty and really, really tasty.  The dark meat had onion under the skin, and the resulting meat was very sweet and moist and oniony.

Hearty and really, really tasty. The dark meat had onion under the skin, and the resulting meat was very sweet and moist and oniony.

I served the dark meat (onion-roasted) the next evening with a simple gravy made from the leftover pan drippings.

This is about 1 cup of oniony/lemony/Old Bay-y pan dripping with all but about 2 tsp fat removed.

This is about 1 cup of oniony/lemony/Old Bay-y pan dripping with all but about 2 tsp fat removed.

Look--it stays in one container-shaped blob until it gets heated.  Lots of gelatin in this stuff.

Look--it stays in one container-shaped blob until it gets heated. Lots of gelatin in this stuff.

The drippings were so well seasoned that all I did was pour in some flour slurry (flour and cold water whisked together) once it came to a boil to thicken it up.  Simple and very tasty.

The drippings were so well seasoned that all I did was pour in some flour slurry (flour and cold water whisked together) once it came to a boil to thicken it up. Simple and very tasty.

I cut up some sweet potatoes and russet potatoes, tossed them with some oil, salt, pepper and Old Bay (again, shocking) and roasted them at 425F for about 25-30 minutes.

Crisoy on the outside, creamy on the inside.  Excellent side o' potatoes.

Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. Excellent side o' potatoes.

Meal, The Third:  Chicken and Rice in Gravy:
I don’t even have a picture to go with this one.  All I did was heat the leftover chicken, cut up in small pieces, in the leftover gravy. Then, I served that over brown rice.  It was a very beige meal, and not very photogenic, but it was tasty, and with a salad or a veggie side or two, it makes a nice, simple meal.

And I think that about does it.  If you’ve never spatchcocked a chicken, you really should try it.  And just because I used lemon and onion doesn’t mean that you have to.  What about a compound herb butter?  Fresh herbs? Apple slices? Raisins?  Celery?  Garlic?

Okay.  Now I’m done.

ReddiWip? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ ReddiWip. Around These Parts, We Whip Our Own Cream.

17 Jul

Fun Whipped Cream music for your listening pleasure.

When a company substitutes fake words, such as “Reddi” for “Ready” and “Wip” for “Whip,” rest assured that they are Toying with You.  Case in Point:  Krispy Kreme.  Don’t get me wrong; I am a Huge Fan of the Krispy Kreme Donut.  If I had to choose between Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme, I would go with KK every time.  If I had to choose between Dunkin’ Donuts and No Donuts, well, I would live a piously donut-free existence.  At any rate, it’s not so much the K-R-I-S-P-Y to which I take exception, even if I don’t think of donuts as all that crispy.  Nope, it’s the K-R-E-M-E part that I find so disturbing.  Have you ever had a K-R-E-M-E filled donut?  It’s basically whipped vegetable shortening with some sugar in it.  It bears no resemblance to cream.  None. Whatsoever.

But, I’m not here to talk about K-R-E-M-E.  I’m here to talk about ReddiWip.  Why?  Well, reader Kyra asked a question a few days ago.  Here:

For the past 2 months I have been on a crusade trying to find a good natural substitute to vegetable whipping cream. I tried whipping heavy cream following the packaging instructions. It turned into a heavier cream, extremely soft peaks, would not hold, not fluffy at all whipped cream. I even made creme fraiche and tried to whip that. Same results… I tried whipping longer… I got homemade butter… I remember the times when natural whipped cream was cheap and available to buy in all European pastry shops. Nowadays it seems impossible to find it… At least where I live… It was fluffy and looked just like its vegetable fat based counterpart. Can you post step by step instructions on how to get that light and fluffy whipped cream out of natural, widely available products such as heavy cream or sour cream? I’ve wrecked dozen of batches with not one acceptable result. Please help!

I sent her a link to Joe Pastry’s marvelous Whipping Cream Tutorial and told her that I would address the question at Greater Length later.  Well, later is now.

By “vegetable whipping cream,” I assume that means Cool Whip-esque stuff.  At any rate, my first thought is temperature.  Whipping cream is full of fat, and if it’s not kept very cold, the fat in it gets melty and greasy, and then it won’t hold the little bubbles you’re trying to whip into it.  You want the fat to be plastic and stretchy, and for that, you need it to be cold.

I know that lots of folks say that whipping ultra-pasteurized cream is harder than whipping plain old pasteurized cream.  This is true to a certain extent, and folks with very sensitive palates might pick up a bit of a “cooked milk” flavor in ultrapasteurized cream due to the high temperature required for the process.  For myself, I guess my palate isn’t that sensitive, and I’ve never had an issue with UP cream not whipping, so I just go with it.  Having said that, I can only speak about dairy in the US.  I believe friend Kyra is in Eastern Europe, so if anyone could enlighten me as to the State of All Things Dairy in Eastern Europe, maybe I could better identify the issue.

Look at this part of Kyra’s question again:  “Nowadays it seems impossible to find [natural whipped cream]… At least where I live… It was fluffy and looked just like its vegetable fat based counterpart.”  Again, since I suffer from a lack of European Dairy Exposure, I’m not quite sure how to address this.  So, I’m going to recommend a)keeping the cream very, very cold–even whipping it over an ice bath would be a good idea and b)possibly stabilizing the cream with some bloomed gelatin–about 1/2-1 tsp gelatin bloomed in 1 TBSP cream (let gelatin sit in cream for a couple of minuts, and then heat just until the gelatin is no longer grainy) per 1 cup of whipping cream.  Whip to soft peaks and pour in the gelatin while whisking madly (so you don’t get clumps of rubbery gelatin in your whipped cream).  Whip to desired peakiness.

Oh, to whip sour cream, you’ll want to start with cold whipping cream first.  Whip to medium peaks and then add sour cream, a bit at a time.  Keep whipping until you get to desired sour creaminess and peakiness.  If you try to start whipping the cream and the sour cream together, it won’t work.  I don’t think that the sour cream has enough fat in it to support Bubble Production.  You have to make a “bubble matrix” with the heavy cream first before allowing sour cream to come on in.  I hope that helps, Kyra.

If any readers out there can help shed some light on European Dairy Behavior, both Kyra and I would appreciate it.

Okay now, back to the title.  So what’s my beef with ReddiWip?  Well, to tell the truth, I don’t really have a huge issue with the ReddiWip people, although I don’t know why it needs to contain “Natural and Artificial Flavors.”  Cream is Plenty Tasty without them.  My concern with ReddiWip is that folks kind of expect to be able to substitute homemade whipped cream for ReddiWip and vice versa.  Not so much, though.  Here’s the thing about whipping cream.  As I said a minute ago, whipped cream is all about the bubble matrix.  The more stable your bubbles, the more stable your cream.  And the more stable your cream, the longer it stays whipped and beautiful.  The best way to ensure a killer Bubble Matrix is to start slowly.  Just like when you a blow a bubble with bubble gum, you have to start slowly.  Once you’ve got that initial bubble blown off the tip of your tongue (ew), then you can speed up some.

In order to replicate Ye Olde Tip-of-the-Tongue Bubbles (ew, again), start whipping slowly–either by hand or with a stand mixer set to medium.  Once things start to get a bit foamy, increase the speed a bit.  Then, when the whisk just starts leaving tracks in the cream, crank the speed a little more and keep whisking (or watching, in the case of stand mixers) until the cream is close to where you want it, peakiness-wise.  Stop whisking/turn off mixer, and check for Optimal Peakiness.  If you’re not quite there, whisk/whip in very short bursts like a crazy person/on high speed.  And by very short, I mean 1-2 seconds.

When you use a CO2 gun (or ReddiWip) to whip cream, you get instantly whipped cream because a whole bunch of big old bubbles have been forced into the cream all at once, like the Greeks flooding out of the Trojan Horse.  They put on a good show, I must admit, and the speed is nice, but ultimately the show is over way too soon–mass popping begins.  And, has anyone ever told you that larger bubbles pop more quickly than smaller bubbles?  Well, they do.   That’s why ReddiWip “melts” so much more quickly than hand whipped cream–those big-ass bubbles are popping.  If you’re still not convinced, consider that slow stretching is more effective than rapid stretching.  Think of pizza dough.  Think of bubble gum.  Think of strudel dough.  Heck, think of your own muscles.  If you stretch too quickly, you get tears.  If you stretch your plastic butterfat too quickly, you get tears, and tears don’t hold air.  Tears let air out.

Finally, we’re back to my original point about being Toyed With by the ReddiWip folks.  While it might say “Reddi” on the can, it won’t stay ready for long.  And while it might say “Wip,” what it really means is Bubbles Injected by Brute Force with complete Disregard for the Bubble Matrix.”  Granted, that would take up a lot of room on the can, but still.  So, lose the ReddiWip and get Ready to Whip.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

‘Cept you gotta watch this!

These Ice Cream Treats Are Only “Guilt-Free” if You Are Medea.

15 Jul
Have you ever noticed that the back leg of that bunny looks like the head of a rat?  Well, you do now.  You're welcome.

Have you ever noticed that the back leg of that bunny looks like the head of a rat? Well, you do now. You're welcome.

First, the good news:  Big Congratulations go to Anna from Very Small Anna for knowing that Cool Whip should never be considered an appropriate topping for anything.  Yay, Anna!  By the way, friends, Anna is off to culinary school at the French Culinary Institute this fall.  She’s gonna be a star–she has both skill and creativity to spare!  If you’ve never checked out her corner of the Hinternet, you are missing a Very Good Time.

And now it’s time for some Unpleasantness.  It saddens me to say this.  Truly it does.  But I never promised you a rose garden.  Along with the sunshine, there’s got to be a little rain, sometimes.

Friends, Hungry Girl has struck again.  ‘Member when I was all appalled about the Cap’n Crunch Debacle?  Well, this time, she would have us believe that we should be Happy to feed Blue Bunny Birthday Party Ice Cream Sandwiches to our children (or in my case, kittens) because they only contain 160 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 27 grams of carbs and >1 gram of fiber.  Oh, Dear, sweet, well-meaning Hungry Girl, I beg to differ with thee.  What’s this Incredibly Long list of unpronounceable words?  Why, I do believe it’s an Ingredient List.  Let’s take a little look-see, shall we?

Light Ice Cream: Milk Fat and Nonfat Milk, Corn Syrup, Buttermilk, Whey, Sugar, Blue Frosting {Corn Syrup, Sugar, Water, Stabilizers (Food Starch-Modified, Cellulose Gum, Dextrose, Carrageenan, Gum Arabic, Potassium Sorbate as Preservative, Citric Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Titanium Dioxide for Color, Artificial Flavor, Blue 1}, Maltodextrin, Sequin Candy {Sugar, Corn Starch, Rice Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Soybean, Cottonseed), Gum Arabic, Xanthan Gum, Confectioner’s Glaze, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Mono & Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Titanium Dioxide for Color, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Red 3, Blue 1 Lake}, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Contains less than ½% of Natural and Artificial Flavors, Propylene Glycol Monoesters, Mono & Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Carob Bean Gum, Cellulose Gel, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Palmitate. Wafer: Bleached Wheat Flour, Sugar, Soybean and Palm Oil, Corn Syrup, Food Starch-Modified, Salt, Vanilla Flavor, Baking Soda. (straight from The Horse’s Mouth)

About those stabilizers in the Blue Frosting?  Do you see how many there are?  Look at all the ingredients in the Blue Frosting Bracket:  Corn Syrup, Sugar, Water, Stabilizers, Titanium Dioxide, Aftificial Flavor and Blue 1.  Without the stabilizers, you wouldn’t have icing.  You’d have some crazy kind of simple-esque opaque blue syrup.  The stabilizers are there to ensure an Icing-like Consistency.  Thanks, Team Stabilizer.

I highlighted the Sequin Candy component because all of the ingredients in the brackets are a bit disturbing.  Honestly, I think I’d rather eat real sequins.

Let’s just take a peek at the non-bracketed ingredients for the ice cream:

  • Milk fat and non fat milk–apparently, these two ingredients cannot coexist in the Blue Bunny factory, even though they happily coexist in the carton of milk in my fridge.  I guess the Blue Bunny folks are just playing it safe.  Because they are Concerned for us.
  • Corn Syrup
  • Buttermilk
  • Whey (also separated from its milky friends.  The Blue Bunny folks are being careful and Makin’ Sure)
  • Sugar
  • The aforementioned Blue Frosting
  • Maltodextrin
  • Sequins
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Natural and Artificial Flavors (but only less than 1/2 of 1%.  I thought that natural flavors and artificial flavors together comprised 100% of all possible flavors.  I guess the Blue Bunny folks found some Third Category of Flavor–maybe the mother ship beamed it down or something).
  • Propylene Glycol Monsters (oh, okay, it’s really Monoesters.  Whatever).
  • Mono & Diglycerides
  • Team Stabilizer, comprised of The Gum Brothers (Guar, Carob Bean, and Cellulose), their cousin Cellulose Gel and the Bad Kid from the beach, Carageenan
  • Vitamin A Palmitate

And that doesn’t even count the “wafer” ingredients.  Friends, I am at a Loss for Words.  I mean, are they serious?  They expect moms to feed this to their kids?  And the Brunette Cartoon Hungry Girl has bought into this for some reason.  I am going to believe that Hungry Girl doesn’t want us to slowly poison our children/kittens.  I’m just going to believe that she’s basing her assessment on the calorie/fat/sugar/fiber information.  Look deeper, Hungry Girl.  They put the ingredient list below the little box because the bottom of that black box is a cue to Stop Reading.  And if we take that cue, we will never really know what we are eating.

These ice cream sammiches are relatively low in calories because the Blue Bunny people have performed Industrial Food Sleight of Hand and replaced most of the fat (except for bad fats, like partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) with sugars and stabilizers.

Ask yourself, do you really want to give your kids this stuff?  Do I really want the kittens to eat this stuff?  Should anyone eat this stuff?  I’d rather have some full-fat premium ice cream in moderation than fool myself into believing that these guys are Guilt-Free!  In the words of Ricky Bobby, “Dear, sweet baby Jesus in the Manger.”  Deep breaths.  Deeeeeep brehhhhhths.

If you’re not feeling all Homemade, get some ice cream with a short ingredient list, let it soften, and then stick some between two cookies.  If you insist on letting Hungry Girl lead you down the Primrose Path of Doom, at least go with your eyes wide open, knowing that what you’re eating isn’t so much food as it is a Mass Produced Product.  Don’t go down that path secure in the knowledge that you are eating Healthy.  Cuz you’re just not.

Cobbler Redux: An Example of The Biscuit Method (plus another method and a few techniques)

14 Jul
Meet the Scientific Marvel that is Cobbler

Meet the Scientific Marvel that is Cobbler

There were some lovely, lovely plums at the store on Sunday, perfectly ripe and fragrant.  While some might choose to use the plums in a salad, not a bad idea, I always lean towards dessert.  So, I bought ten of them and prepared to make Cobbler Happen.  Again.  In my book, you just can’t have too much cobbler.  And, in honor of The Biscuit Method, about which I Went On at Great Length a couple of days ago, I decided to do a drop biscuit topped cobbler as opposed to the batter-based cobbler I made here.  Also because my mom makes a Very Nice biscuit-topped plum cobbler.

Before I begin, may I just state for the record that this was Damn Fine Cobbler.  I didn’t use a recipe for the fruit part, but I looked up a basic sweet biscuit cobbler topping, just to look at proportions.  The original recipe is here.  I tweaked it a bit, because I wanted to use my Atkinson’s Mill Cornmeal again, and because I am not very good at leaving Well Enough alone.

What follows is a “recipe,” as near as I can guesstimate amounts.

Ahem:

Biscuit Topped Plum Cobbler
For the fruit portion of the activity:

  • 10 lovely ripe plums, each about the size of a racket ball (ish)
  • healthy pinch of salt
  • several serious squeezes of honey, maybe 3 tablespoons.  Do this more or less to taste depending on your sweet tooth and the sweetness of the fruit.
  • about 3 tablespoons fruit juice–I used cranberry-pomegranate because that’s what I had.
  • maybe 2 tablespoons corn starch

For the biscuit portion of the activity:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • some brown sugar–the original recipe called for 6 TBSP white sugar; I just dumped in a little–prolly about 1/4 cup (not packed) or a bit more
  • heavy pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder–the original called for 1 1/2, but I didn’t want my guys to be really light and fluffy.  I was going for more of a scone-type deal.
  • 3 oz cold butter, cut in pieces
  • a heavy pinch of cinnamon–maybe about 1/4-1/2 tsp
  • 2/3-ish cup milk

The Gilding of the Lily

  • demerara sugar, for sprinkling on the top of the cobbler, because I never met a lily that didn’t need some gilding

So this is how this works.

Here are my hands cutting up the plums.  I washed them well, first.  The hands and the plums.  Plum skins are very thin, so just leave them on.  If you have an Aversion to plum skins, you can peel them, I guess.

Here are my hands cutting up the plums. I washed them well, first. The hands and the plums. Plum skins are very thin, so just leave them on. If you have an Aversion to plum skins, you can peel them, I guess.

First, I cut up my plums and threw them in a pot with the rest of the fruity ingredients.

Everybody in the pool:  plums, honey, salt, fruit juice and corn starch.  Add the cornstarch while everything is still cold and stir it in, or you'll have lumps.  I guess you could mix the cornstarch into the fruit juice first; yes, that would've been a Good Idea.  Note to self...

Everybody in the pool: plums, honey, salt, fruit juice and corn starch. Add the cornstarch while everything is still cold and stir it in, or you'll have lumps. I guess you could mix the cornstarch into the fruit juice first; yes, that would've been a Good Idea. Note to self...

Note that milky looking juice.  This is before heating to a boil.

Note that milky looking juice. This is before heating to a boil.

Then, I brought the whole deal to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Then, I threw all the dry biscuit ingredients together in a bowl.  Before adding the fat, I was very careful to crush all the lumps of brown sugar so that my dry mix was nice and homogeneous.

Whisking the dry ingredients together.  I had to use my hot little hands to crush the lumps out of the brown sugar.

Whisking the dry ingredients together. I had to use my hot little hands to crush the lumps out of the brown sugar.

Hello, cold butter.

Hello, cold butter.

I tossed in the butter and proceeded to rub it in by hand.  Now, remember I said that often you want to leave little pieces of cold butter whole so you have some delightful buttery pockets?  Well, this time, I really wanted a pretty short (not a lot of gluten) biscuit.  I wasn’t worried too much about structural integrity.  It wasn’t like I was going to pick them up, split them and spread some butter on them or anything.  So, I kept rubbing until everything was pretty mealy.

See, most of the butter is in very wee, mealy pieces, but the whole mix looks pretty floury.  Magical.

See, most of the butter is in very wee, mealy pieces, but the whole mix looks pretty floury. Magical.

Notice that the mix is still somewhat floury–not all sticky like a cookie dough.  This means that I was able to get some gluten formation.

Once my dry ingredients were mealy and very little fat was visible, I stirred in the milk.  This actually makes a fairly wet dough–it’s decidedly sticky, but not so much that you need to keep wiping your hands.

Here's my pretty wet biscuit dough.  It's not shiny or runny, but it is Decidedly Sticky.

Here's my pretty wet biscuit dough. It's not shiny or runny, but it is Decidedly Sticky.

I sort of tossed the milk about with a fork as I poured it in, and I chose not to do any kneading, again because I didn’t want to get too much gluten forming.

See how clear the juices are now?  Plus it's nicely thickened.  Thank you, corn starch, for thickening my fruit.

See how clear the juices are now? Plus it's nicely thickened. Thank you, corn starch, for thickening my fruit.

Once the fruit was nice and soft and the juices were thickened and clear, I poured it into my trusty 9″ cast iron skillet.  I let the skillet heat up in the 350F oven while I was doing all my prep, so when the fruit hit the pan, it made a satisfying sizzle and began to boil a bit around the edges.  This meant some yummy caramelization, so I was pleased with that.  Hooray.

You could pat this dough out and cut circles, but I'd cut back on the milk some.  I wanted Rustic Cobbler, so I just dropped it from my fingers.  I didn't even use an Implement.  How's that for rustic?!

You could pat this dough out and cut circles, but I'd cut back on the milk some. I wanted Rustic Cobbler, so I just dropped it from my fingers. I didn't even use an Implement. How's that for rustic?!

Then, just drop little blobs of the biscuit topping all over the surface of the fruit.  Sprinkle liberally with demerara sugar, and bake at 350 until the biscuit is nice and golden.  Comme ça:

From cutting the plums all the way to taking it out of the oven took about an hour.  Not bad.  You could cut down on that time by using berries--no need to cut them up.

From cutting the plums all the way to taking it out of the oven took about an hour. Not bad. You could cut down on that time by using berries--no need to cut them up.

I guess the baking part took about 30 minutes or so.

I served this with vanilla ice cream, but you could certainly use whatever type of topping you’d like.  For bonus points and a shout-out, answer this question in the  comments section:  What is the only dessert-type topping that Miss Jenni does not want you to use?

Other Stuff I Want To Say About This Dessert

  1. These biscuits were seriously good.  I’m not sure if there is such a thing as a “drop scone” in the UK, but there are certainly drop biscuits on my side of the Atlantic.  Regardless, I would surely make these little guys again and just bake them on their own, maybe giving them a wee knead (but maybe not).  They were Wonderful.
  2. Store this guy at room temperature for up to 3 days so your topping doesn’t get soggy and sad.
  3. You could easily turn this biscuit into a pastry/pie-type crust by cutting way back on the milk, letting the dough hydrate for a half hour or so in the fridge, then rolling.  In that case, leave some pieces of fat a bit larger, for flaky goodness.
  4. Use whatever fruit and whatever spices you like in either the fruit part, the biscuit part, or both.
  5. Oh, the other method I mentioned up in the title?  Stewing fruit.  If you don’t want the juices to be thick, leave out the cornstarch.  Otherwise, there you have it:  stewed fruit.  Add some vinegar and some onion to the mix and make a chutney, but that’s another story.
  6. Oh, did I also mention “a few techniques?”  Okay:  some sort of fruit with some sort of dough=cobbler.  There’s one.  Here’s another:  using starch to thicken liquid.  Usually your liquid needs to come to a full boil to completely gelatinize the starch and cook out that raw starch taste.  You want to stew fruit, this is how you do it.  And a third:  sweetening  Especially with the fruit, you just want it sweet enough, and nobody can tell you what that means.  You have to add sweetener (or not) until it’s sweet enough for your taste.  I used honey, because I thought that it would go well with the plums.  Of course, there are tons of other choices, too:  sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, stevia, etc.  Then, there’s baking itself.  If I had clamped a lid on top of the skillet and simmered it over low heat on the stove top, my biscuits would’ve steamed (moist method) instead of baked (dry method).  Then, I wouldn’t really have a cobbler; I’d have a grunt.  Don’t get caught up in all the fruit dessert lingo, though:  cobbler, betty, crisp, crumble, grunt, slump, etc–they’re all very similar.
  7. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, don’t worry about it.  Any heavy Baking Vessel will do.

And that pretty much takes care of things, I think.

It’s Hard Being a Chicken

13 Jul
This rubber chicken is Standing In for the real guy, who will be making an appearance on Sunday.

This rubber chicken is Standing In for the real guy, who will be making an appearance on Sunday.

I have just taken a pair of heavy duty scissors and cut open a chicken.  Right down its little back.  I am horrified and pleased in equal measure, so I thought I’d present this as a teaser for next Sunday’s Sunday Suppers.  I was sitting here getting my Glittery Alien Prince fix, when The Beloved called.  Out loud, I was all, “Sweetie!  How was your day?  Drive safe.”  In my head, I was all, “Well, hell, I have wasted a perfectly good day panting over Adam.”  Pathetic, no?  And now, I get the Bad Wife Award for not doing something with The Chicken after I said that I would. But I wasn’t going to let a little thing like Extreme Idolatry get in the way of putting my Best Face Forward to The Beloved.  In an effort to maintain my status as Best Wife Ever, I whipped that chicken out and decided to Saw It In Twain in order that it might Fully Roast in Under an Hour.  To add insult to injury, from the chicken’s point of view, anyway, I also shoved some different Tasty Items up under his skin.  You know how, when you do a lamb roast, all the books say to cut wee slits in him and shove in a shard o’ garlic?  Well, that’s so the flavors can get all down In The Meat, but it’s also because we don’t cook lamb with the skin on.  Too woolly (with apologies to Mary).  If we did, we could just tuck that garlic up under the skin and let tasty happen.  Chickens come with their skin on, so we can use that to hold any sorts of flavorings–herbs, spices, butter, what have you–against the meat.

So, there you have it.  It is hard to be a chicken, especially This Chicken.  Too bad for the chicken, but yay for us.  Stay tuned for The Rest of the Story, with full Photodocumentation (!) on Sunday.

Sunday Sides: Marinated vegetables

12 Jul
Stupid Wildlife.  'Cause of you, we are up to our eyeballs in pickles.

Stupid Wildlife. 'Cause of you, we are up to our eyeballs in pickles.

Well, we harvested the produce that the deer, rabbits and birds didn’t harvest first:  cucumbers.  They are lovely, but they stand alone.  We had visions of gazpacho made with our own tomatoes and sweet peppers as well as the cucumbers, but alas, the Local Fauna have crushed our dreams.  So then, the question became, “What the Hell do we do with a bunch o’ cucumbers?”  The answer was “pickles.”  Now, I’m not talking about using pickling salt and canning and all.  I’m just talking about a very light, fresh pickle, kind of like our friends in India and Turkey make, a pickle where the flavor of the vegetable, pre-pickle, shines through the sharp brine.

No recipe, here.  I didn’t consult a cookbook or go forth into the Hinternet to find inspiration.  This was all about what was already in the house, and using flavors that we like.  You could use this technique with any non-guishy vegetable (I don’t think tomatoes would do very well, for instance) such as summer squashes and zucchini, tender carrots and even beans.  You could also slice potatoes into discs, blanch and shock them*, and pickle them.  Nice!

The Fauna Deprived Us Of Gazpacho Pickled Cucumbers

  • fresh vegetables cut into bite-sized pieces, harder veggies blanched (or steamed, even) and shocked first.  I am sure you have noted that our cucumbers aren’t peeled.  That’s because The Beloved likes the skin part.  Feel free to peel yours
  • diced onion
  • minced garlic, to taste
  • sugar (more or less, depending upon how sweet you like your veggies.  I used maybe 2 tsp)
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • celery seed
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • light vinegar (not balsamic, just for aesthetics–I used rice wine vinegar with red pepper flake in it)

In a bowl, toss the garlic, sugar, salt and pepper (to taste) and celery seed (or any other flavoring you like–mustard seed would be good) together.  Whisk in just a bit of olive oil–I probably used about 1/4 cup.  Whisk and pour in enough vinegar to mostly cover your veggies.  Just eyeball it.

Pour the dressing over the veggies and onion.  Stir and let marinate for at least a couple of hours.

These guys have only been marinating for a few minutes.  After a few hours, they start to shrink up as the water and flavors are pulled out of them by the salt.  The marinade takes on a more "vegetal" taste, and it is all Quite Yummy.

These guys have only been marinating for a few minutes. After a few hours, they start to shrink up as the water and flavors are pulled out of them by the salt. The marinade takes on a more "vegetal" taste, and it is all Quite Yummy.

These guys will keep just fine in the fridge for a week.  They are very, very tasty.

*Plunge veggies into vigorously boiling salted water until just tender–anywhere from a minute to several, depending upon how firm they are.  Remove from boiling water and immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process and set the colors.

PS The Very Easy Way of making these pickles is just to pour a good quality store-bought vinaigrette over the veggies and let marinate.  You can do this, just promise me you will read the label first and buy a dressing that doesn’t contain HFCS or any other scary ingredients.

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