Thursday, December 17, 2009
Recently, I received a newer model cooker from a friend who was cleaning out her house and finally, when Mom came to visit and I felt I had some level of moral support behind me, I decided to give it a shot.
In preparation for the parental visit, I picked up a number of items at the store to cook for them, and I couldn’t resist the lovely looking cross-cut beef shank. Not your usual cut of meat, but it reminded me of the cooking class Mom, my sister, and I took a few Christmases ago, so I though it would be fun.
The shanks were large, so I knew they would not all fit into the cooker, which gave me an idea. Since the pressure cooking is an experiment, let’s try this two ways. I put my pressure cooker to the test, alongside my 14 inch covered Mega Pan. (I love this pan)
This was the process:I seared two of the shanks and put them in the pressure cooker with some onion, celery, carrot and garlic (poised on a piece of foil, twisted like a pretzel to keep the meat off the bottom since I didn’t have a rack that would fit), added a cup of beef broth and a cup of red wine.I repeated the process with the remaining three shanks in my mega pan (except that I realized after sealing the cooker that I forgot to add any seasoning at all, so I tossed in some dried Italian herbs as well). Both pans got covered and the Mega Pan went into a 350 degree oven while the pressure pan stayed on a medium flame on the stove top.
The cooker’s manual said to cook it for about 35 minutes, which we did, but we had our doubts about whether the pan was properly sealed, because the safety lock never popped up, so we left it in a while longer and ended up pulling both pans out at the same time, after about 45 minutes.
When comparing the two side by side, I must say there was not a dramatic difference. The Mega Pan produced a more flavorful meat, partly from the herbs that I added, but not entirely, I don’t think. The meat was tender, but not falling apart.The pressure cooker brought forth a beef shank that was extremely tender, nearly falling apart, and quite tasty as well.I do think if we had removed it from the pan at the 35 minute mark, it would have been about equal to the other example. All in all, a good test! And I’ve decided that either method is great. I’m still a little nervous about the pressure cooker, but I will be intimidated no more! Although, to be honest, the oven method was much simpler, in my own opinion, and I can make more at a time that way, since I am accustomed to cooking large meals. So, you decide! Pressure? Or Pan?
Since I had so much time on my hands, I made my favorite Cream and Leek Risotto to go alongside it. (There is also an ulterior motive here.) I’ve posted this risotto before, but never had any decent pictures, so you’re going to get it again!
Some people are as intimidated by risotto as I am by pressure cookers, but it is really a very simple dish to prepare. The basic ingredients are a good rice (I use Arborio because it is readily available in my area), stock, and some kind of vegetable. There are as many variations as you can imagine.
The original recipe came from The Silver Spoon. For this risotto, you need a couple of nice leeks, thoroughly rinsed and very thinly sliced, using only the whites and light green parts. 2 cups of Arborio rice, a couple of tablespoons of butter, 6 cups chicken stock, ¾ cup heavy cream, and ½ cup parmesan cheese
Start by sautéing the leeks in the butter until soft, about 20 minutes.While you are doing this, warm your chicken stock in another pan. You should always add warm stock to the risotto. Adding cold stock will only slow down the cooking process. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, or in my case, the white wine that was in the glass I was drinking from, then stir in the rice so that all the grains are coated with all the lovely flavors in the pan and the butter is absorbed. A ladle or two at a time, add the stock and allow it to absorb into the rice before each addition, until you have used all six cups. Stir constantly. This will take some time, and you will think there is no way all that liquid will absorb, but trust me, it will. When all the stock is absorbed, stir in the cream. The original recipe says to garnish with the parmesan cheese, which I do, but I also add about a half cup to the risotto at this point.Now, what you have is a savory little side dish that can stand up to any hearty meal you put on the table. However, I must admit, that I sometimes make this dish, simply for the leftovers. Why, you may ask? Well, its like this. Because this recipe makes a fairly large amount, there is always leftover. When that happens (and I insure that it always does) I bring the cold risotto out the next morning, cook up a pound of pork sausage in a pan, then mix it in with the risotto and some more parmesan cheese, and form it into patties.Then I roll it in breadcrumbs and fry those little gems up in a pan.Voila! Breakfast. You just can’t beat this for a morning meal. They do tend to be somewhat fragile in the pan and you want to make sure your pan is good and hot to leave a good crust on the patties, but the effort is well worth the result. Your holiday houseguests will be raving about this one, and calling you Martha Stewart for your ingenuity in using up leftovers. Go ahead, try it....you know you wanna.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
We’ve been flipping through the book here and there (yep, that’s right, my husband was the high bidder and we now own it as well as the other two editions), and while my parents were out here visiting, I thought it would be fun to try a couple of the recipes from the book, just as a kind of throwback to days gone by. Many of the recipes have very little instruction, and even some questionable ingredients, so picking one was a challenge. One recipe jumped out at my mom as she was leafing through the pages. Amber Pie.
I ask you – what exactly makes a pie “amber”? Well, the ingredient list wasn’t much help. It called for 1 ½ cups jam (what kind, you may ask? I chose Strawberry, simply because I didn’t want to waste my jar of fig if the recipe went badly.), 1 ½ cups sour cream, 1 cup sugar, 2 TB flour and 2 eggs.
The directions go something like this.
Mix all together. Take one crock of cream and whip. Pour on top of pie in unbaked shell. Makes enough for two pies.
I. Kid. You. Not.
Do you bake it? If so, how long? At what temperature? You don’t really put the whipped cream on before baking, right?
So, using our common sense (we hoped), we mixed the four pie ingredients together (I halved the recipe to make one pie), poured it into an unbaked crust (yes, I cheated and used a frozen one from the store), and baked it in a moderate oven (350), hopefully until the filling “set”, and, we waited.
At about 30 minutes, the filling was still liquid.
At forty minutes, it was boiling. Spewing fat little bubbles up from the middle of the pie. But the crust was definitely not done. Hmmm....
Ten minutes later, it was a puffing and heaving mass of phlegmy looking curdles that reminded me of a festering cesspool. I was mildly disgusted and somewhat horrified.
Finally, at an hour and ten minutes, there was a distinct change that had taken place, the puffing had subsided and it appeared to be a consistently gelled mass, apart from a bit around the edges that was caramelizing aggressively.
We removed the pie from the oven and allowed it to cool. After lunch, we decided to brave the beast. Cutting small slices from the pie, we passed them around the table, daring each other to take a bite.
As it turns out, it was....not bad. It tasted only vaguely of strawberry, but held a strong resemblance to a curd, in texture. It was intensely sweet, and the whipped cream helped cut the sugar a bit. All in all, not a bad result, if a bit disturbing in the process. I hope to try a few more obscure choices over the next month or so, and bring a taste of historic Illinois to my blog!
Oh, and just to salvage our sense of the present, we also made the Snowball Cake featured on the cover of the last Kraft Foods magazine. It was easy to make and turned out great! A creamy, coconut-y confection that my co-workers were happy to help me get rid of yesterday.
1 pkg. (2-layer size) devil's food cake mix
1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cold milk
1 tub (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed
1 cup BAKER'S ANGEL FLAKE Coconut
HEAT oven to 350ºF.
PREPARE cake batter, in 2-1/2-qt. ovenproof bowl, as directed on package; scrape side of bowl. Beat cream cheese, egg and granulated sugar until well blended; spoon into center of batter in bowl.
BAKE 1 hour 5 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in bowl 10 min. Loosen cake from bowl with knife; invert onto wire rack. Remove bowl. Cool cake completely.
MEANWHILE, beat dry pudding mix, powdered sugar and milk in medium bowl with whisk 2 min. Stir in COOL WHIP. Refrigerate until ready to use.
PLACE cake on plate; frost with pudding mixture. Cover with coconut. Keep refrigerated.
Its been awhile since I’ve had a “Dad visit” post, but if you have been reading a while, you may remember that my dad can’t come visit without having a ‘to-do’ list to accomplish while he’s here. And that, as you may also know, is just fine with me. This trip, we had a fairly lengthy list, but mainly small items that involve items like repairing a leaky sink, moving some curtain rods, burying the line to our well pump, etc. SO, unlike previous posts, I don’t actually have a lot to show you from the visit, project-wise. There are a couple of things, of course, of which I am particularly enamored.
Number one....bathroom cabinet.
My upstairs bathroom is smaller than my closet. And, being in such a hurry to pick out fixtures when we were remodeling the entire house in one fell swoop, I picked out a lovely, but impractical pedestal sink. Which, of course, left me with ZERO storage in that room. Since his last visit, Dad made me a wonderful cabinet to mount above my toilet to hold all the essentials. It is just perfect. See?
On to the new light of my life, the main event.....Gigi.
Gotta love it...Whirlpool gas range.....5 cubic foot oven....self cleaning.....waist high broiler (hell, ANY broiler would be nice! I've never had one that worked!)....5 burners with continuous friggin' grates!!! What more could a foodie like me ask for?
Anyway, I just had to share...I am officially in appliance heaven, and I can’t wait to go home and cook tonight. Its going to be a Chicken Parm night at my house tonight!
Monday, November 30, 2009
Start by chopping about three boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite sized pieces. Season them with salt and pepper if you want and saute them in a little oil until golden and cooked through.While you are cooking the chicken, prepare two packages of Knorr Chicken Rice, according to the directions. While the rice is still pretty liquid, but starting to soften, add in about 3 ounces or so of Velveeta, chopped up, until it melts into the mix.
When the chicken and rice are both done, mix the rice into the pan with the chicken and scrape up any brown bits into the rice. And serve!Ok, so this is absolutely nothing like paella, other than the rice and chicken, but hey, "Poor Man's Paella" is a lot more fun to say than "Cheesy Chicken Rice". Got your attention, didn't it?
In any case, its a cheap, fast, easy, and very satisfying dish for a cold night when you don't much feel like cooking.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
1 graham crust (I just used the recipe on the side of the box of graham cracker crumbs)
1 1/2 C. hazelnuts – toasted
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 T. pumpkin pie spice blend
1 t. salt
1 T. arrowroot or cornstarch
1 1/2 C. roasted pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin (if you use canned pumpkin, its one 15 ounce can)
1 t. vanilla extract
3 extra large eggs – lightly beaten (really? Who uses extra large eggs? I converted to 4 large eggs)
1 C. coconut milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the middle.
Puree 1 1/2 cups of the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor until they turn into a hazelnut paste, past the ‘crumble’ stage. Set aside. Chop the remaining 1/2 cup of hazelnuts and set aside separately, these will be sprinkled on top after the pie is baked.
To make the pumpkin pie filling, whisk together the brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice blend, salt, and cornstarch. Stir in the pumpkin puree, and vanilla. Now stir in the eggs and coconut milk until just combined. Set aside.
Before filling the pie crust, crumble the hazelnut paste on top of the pie dough into the pie plate, quickly and gently press it into a thin layer across the bottom creating a layer of hazlenuts that will sit between the dough and the filling. Using the last egg gently brush the decorative edges of the pie dough. (Ok, I missed the part in the ingredient list where it said to save an egg for the crust. Because it didn’t say that….I was confused. All of mine went into the batter, and I used a graham crust anyway, so I didn’t need the extra egg. It turned out fine.) Use a fork to prick the pie dough a few times to prevent air bubbles. Fill the pie crust with the filling and bake for about 50 minutes – the center of the pie should just barely jiggle when you move the pie – the edges should be set. (I ended up cooking mine quite a bit longer, maybe by 20 extra minutes or more.)
Let the pie cool a bit, this makes slicing less messy. Serve straight or with a dollop of sweetenend whipped cream or ice cream.
Makes one 9 or 10-inch pie.
This quilt is only the second quilt I have ever made...for myself. The first was only recently, as well, and was a t-shirt quilt made of all my beloved Alpha Phi Omega shirts from college. The Log Cabin is the quilt I have always wanted to see on my rustic bed in my little country school house and I went to great pains to make sure it was exactly what I wanted it to be. I can't wait to get it home and put the blue binding on it this weekend so it can be on display for the holidays.(a view of the borders from the reverse)(two of the three borders from the front)(detail on the blocks)(center shot, showing the "Barn Raising" pattern)
Monday, November 16, 2009
Back when I was just someone's ambitious girlfriend, and still learning to cook, I often experimented with ingredients I wasn't familiar with. When I first met Matt, I decided to try butterbeans. I had never had them before, but they looked kind of like lima beans, which I was familiar with and enjoyed growing up. Being the naiive little aspiring cook that I was, I thought they could just be warmed and eaten as a side dish. Matt was a trooper (should have written THAT date on the calendar!), but clearly I was on the wrong track and I did not try them again.
Down the road, we moved back to Matt's small-town home and his mother couldn't wait to take me to their local chili parlor. I can honestly say I was less than impressed with the "famous" chili (if you have to spoon a layer of grease off the top of the bowl before you eat it, I'm really not interested), but I was intrigued by another menu item. Butter Bean Soup. Now, I am a soup girl, no doubt about it, but I had never heard of butter bean soup. Over the years, I have come across a number of recipes for it, and this one is the closest to the real deal that I have found. Although I still don't eat the chili there, on the occasional rainy day (like today) I will run over there and pick up a large bowl of Butter Bean "With" (meaning I want a dollop of their seasoned chili meat plopped in the center of the dish for extra flavor) and it really hits the spot. Hearty, with just a little bit of a kick, its a great cold weather treat.
Butter Bean Soup
5 cans of large butter beans
1 can tomato sauce
2 sticks of butter
3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Mix all the ingredients together and let simmer for a couple of hours. Although it is just fine right out of the pot, it will thicken up in the fridge and is much better the next day. Since it started raining around 7:00 Sunday morning and is predicted to keep it up for the next few days, I made a pot of this on Sunday afternoon for us to eat on all this week.
I topped this with a spoonful of chili dog topping. The same chili parlor markets their own brand, but you can find many other varieties readily available on the market as well.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I was mistaken. This dish is entirely too easy to make, and amazingly delicious. I’ll give you a brief rundown of how I made mine.
Salt and pepper four skin-on chicken breasts and four thighs.Melt an entire stick of butter in a large skillet.
Brown the chicken, skin side down first, being careful not to burn the butter.Turn the chicken, and add one large onion, roughly chopped, four cloves of garlic, smashed, some mushrooms (if you’re not allergic, like I am) and a bouquet garni (mine had chives, sage, and oregano, because that’s what is still alive in my garden).Brown the chicken on the second side, then remove to a pan while you make the sauce. If there is too much butter left in the pan, spoon it out. Deglaze the pan with a glass of white wine, scraping up all the brown bits.Let the wine cook down for a moment, then return the chicken to the pan and pour in the entire quart of heavy cream.Cover and let simmer at least 30 minutes, or until your chicken is cooked through (mine took closer to an hour).
Remove the chicken and add the juice of a small lemon to the pan. Let the sauce simmer and reduce until it thickens slightly (and I mean, slightly. I couldn’t get much reduction at all. And, really, at this point, you don’t care, it smells so good you’ll be tempted to just stick your face in the pan and lap it up).
Serve the chicken up with rice (if you have it, if not, just tear the bone out of it, as my husband would say). Drizzle the chicken with the sauce, or do like I did and serve a dish of the sauce on the side and dunk your chicken bits as you pull them off the bone.All I can say is “wow”. This was crazy good, although I don’t think I can make it often or I may start to look like Peter Mayle. If you’re not on a diet, give this a try, and feel just a little bit French while you’re wandering around the kitchen finishing the rest of the bottle of wine...oh wait, maybe that’s just me....
Jo will be hosting the roundup for French Lessons. Check back after November 8th to see the roundup!
Anyway, just a small note, I would recommend eating this straight out of the pan. It is pretty decent reheated, but you know how cream sauces can get kind of nasty and separated. It was definitely better the first night. Bon Appetit!
What I do:
Take two packages of Johnsonville or other "italian" sausage links. I usually get one Sweet and one Hot, so there is some variety in the pot.
Cut each raw link into four chunks and put in a crock pot.
Slice one medium onion, and put it in the pot.
If I have them, I slice two bell peppers in various colors (red and green are very festive) and throw them in, too.
Top with an entire jar of your favorite pasta sauce.
Fill the same jar halfway with water (at the same time, rinsing the jar for the recycle bin!) and pour the water in the pot.Cook on low while you're at work.
Come home to a house that smells like a great little corner deli and serve your sausage up on hoagie rolls with parmesan cheese. Yum!
Its a perfect meal for a cold weeknight. Makre sure you check the pot as soon as you get home, and don't go shopping after work or anything, because if you leave these in too long, they will scorch and be less appetizing.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Tolan's Pregnancy Pasta
This was my first entry to TFF, and it was so good, you could really say it got the ball rolling!
Arborio Rice PuddingRice pudding has long been a favorite dessert of mine, and this one did not disappoint.Braised Beef Brisket I had never made a brisket before and I admit it was a little intimidating, especially when I always thought of brisket as a cut that you smoke not roast. It turned out better than I could have imagined.Garlic and Herb Roast Lobster This was by far the most interesting entry I made. I do love some lobster, and for this one I was willing to butcher it myself! You can tell by the awful shadows that this was still before I built myself a light box.Penne with Spicy Italian Sausage One of the easiest recipes ever, and a big hit with the hubs!Baked Lime Pudding Cakes A fun twist on Tyler's recipe.Perfect Roast Chicken A classic menu item that in all my years of cooking and experimenting, I had never attempted. It was fantastic!Salt Crusted Porterhouse This one was for my husband. A special treat after a rough week.Thai Grilled Beef These little babies packed a punch! What a great treat for a summer evening.Roasted Tomatillo Salsa This salsa was the post that got me on Tyler's own blog! Just look at that gorgeous green!Greek Yogurt with Fig and Honey, Date and Honey Swirl Ginny and I made this one during one of her visits and it is still a favorite. What a rich little indulgence.Grilled Cheese (Smoked Mozzarella and Basil Pesto)and Roasted Tomato Soup with Fresh Basil These recipes were both good, although neither one blew me away.Grilled Honey Teriyaki Chicken Another success on the grill! For this one, I took over control of the "man zone" and wielded the tongs myself!French Onion Soup Possibly my all time favorite soup. What a great cool weather dish.Asian Egg Drop Soup Another recipe that definitely didn't rock my world, but we jazzed it up and turned it into something fabulous.Pasta Carbonara And finally, we're back to the beginning again with Pasta Carbonara revisited. We put a different twist on it and enjoyed it all over again. We came full circle!I had a great time making all of these great recipes, and I can't wait to move on as a part of I Heart Cooking Clubs, and Cook the Books. I am looking forward to trying lots of great new dishes and sharing them with you! I hope you'll join me in the fun!