Posts Tagged ‘recipe of the week’

Recipe of the Week: Um, Nothing?

July 19, 2010

So it’s not that I stopped trying new things in the kitchen. I am still totally having fun trying out new foods and stuff. But I’m starting to pull away from the recipe-bound version of cooking that I have always known and am starting to acquaint myself with technique, innovation, and experimentation instead. I got a membership at Rouxbe, which is an online cooking school that I can sum up in one word: fucking amazing! (Meh, so that was two.)

The videos on Rouxbe are clear, thorough, and go into all the science behind why certain techniques are more efficient at producing desired results than others. Sadly, they do not seem to provide transcripts or subtitles for any of the videos (although the recipes do have text versions); I’ve emailed them to see if they would be willing to provide accommodations for folks who need them, and I hope to hear back soon.

I’m a woman who loves sauces and gravies, and on Friday I put together a sauce for a pot roast without using a recipe – I just winged it, tasting frequently, and it turned out DELICIOUS! Here’s what I did (I think, it’s been a few days and I didn’t write it down):

  1. Saute a few minced shallots and a couple of minced garlic cloves in unsalted butter until softened
  2. Add a pinch of kosher salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, a tiny bit of basil, and plenty of fresh rosemary and sautee for another 30 seconds or so
  3. Deglaze with red wine
  4. Add a couple tablespoons of demi-glaze (I got mine from Fresh Market for a few bucks) and stir until incorporated
  5. Reduce sauce a little
  6. Add a few squirts of Worcestershire
  7. Add honey a little bit at a time, tasting frequently, until desired sweetness
  8. Reduce sauce until desired flavor concentration is reached
  9. Strain and pour over meat!

All I basically did was taste frequently and pay attention to how the flavor changed depending on what I added/reduced. I don’t have exact measurements because I really just did it by taste. I feel very good about how it turned out and look forward to more experimental saucemaking in the future!

Recipe of the Week: Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Almonds

June 28, 2010

Yesterday marked Eve’s very first (and honestly, considering my apathy towards baseball, possibly her last) visit to a ballfield. It was a company sponsored picnic, and one of my coworkers had been gracious enough to treat us to tickets, so despite the heat (which was well into the 90s), we met them at the park and spent a few hours thanking every cloud that covered the sun for even a few moments.

We slathered the baby in sunblock, strapped on her sun hat (which she tried to pull off every time she remembered it was on her head), and hosed her down with cool water every few minutes. She wore only a diaper and a t-shirt (which remained wet the whole time – her shirt, that is), and despite the fact that she’d skipped her morning and afternoon naps, she remained cheerful. She did very well in the heat, despite my worries.

The temptation of the day came in the form of an overpriced Rita’s stand as well as the enticing aroma of roasted almonds. The almonds were $4 for a small ($7 for a large!), and Marcus managed to convince me not to waste the money. I knew I could make a huge batch of my own for a fraction of the price, and so I did!

The recipe that I used and tweaked for my roasted almonds was exceedingly easy to follow, and I got to separate egg whites, which I actually take a lot of joy in doing since it was something I’d always been afraid to attempt for so many years. I didn’t measure out 4 cups of almonds, mostly out of laziness. I’d bought two 6-ounce bags of whole unsalted almonds and just used those. I added half a cup of brown sugar to the coating, and instead of a half teaspoon of cinnamon, I used a full teaspoon of pumpkin spice (I pretty much always use pumpkin spice whenever a recipe calls for cinnamon).  I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the egg whites. Rather than using a jelly roll pan, I spread the almonds out in a single layer over a baking sheet with parchment paper for the baking.

The end result was not as sweet as I’d thought they would be, but that’s actually for the best, I think. I ate way too many before bed and still had more than enough to bring to work. I actually think that these will last me a while, well over a week if I don’t gorge myself on them. Since the recipe called for stuff that I always keep in my kitchen anyway, it was a quick and convenient snack to make.

Recipe of the Week Recap

June 25, 2010

I know I haven’t been keeping up with the recipes of the week, but not because we’ve been eating poorly. To the contrary, I’ve had difficulty remembering all of the new and fun things we’ve been trying, and forgetting exactly how I tweaked the recipes. Here’s a short list of the stuff we’ve tried within the past month:

  • Roast leg of lamb
  • Fresh garlic and rosemary butter (I learned how to blanch!)
  • Slow cooker pork chops
  • Pot roast with roasted shallot and red wine sauce
  • Meatballs and marinara sauce (each from scratch)
  • Baked garlic and rosemary french fries
  • Goulash

I’m probably forgetting a couple of random things, but the point is that Marcus and I are on a ROLL. Trying out one new recipe every week has not only forced me to learn new cooking techniques (as well as important Dos and Don’ts), but has introduced a LOT of variety into our meal plans. We used to eat just a lot of white rice, frozen spinach, and either steak or chicken – and that was mostly it. Now I’m starting to get familiar with previously spooky and unknown spices, vegetables, meats (although to be fair, I rarely handle raw meat myself; the credit goes to Marcus for that due to my salmonella paranoia*), whatever. I’m learning more about my food and exactly how various components blend together to make the flavors and textures that I enjoy. And I’m becoming a lot more confident in the kitchen, leading to more experimentation.

So what’s new in your kitchens, friends?

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*It’s not completely unfounded. I already had an aversion to handling raw meat, and that was before I found out that one of Marcus’ cousins, a healthy twenty-something year old woman, died within 24 hours due to salmonella poisoning and poor meat handling practices. Whenever I handle meat I end up washing my hands no less than six or seven times (after handling the meat, after handling the packaging that wrapped the meat, after handling the tongs I used on the raw meat, etc) and that is no exaggeration. I don’t fuck around.

Recipe of the Week: Liver & Onions

June 5, 2010

I don’t really know what made me decide to look up this recipe, but someone must have mentioned it to me. I remember having it a couple of times and liking it well enough as a child, although I remember liver being pretty tough and having a very distinct taste, one that I wasn’t sure I would still care for much as an adult. But as a chronic iron-deficient anemic, I decided that the nutritional benefits of adding a little liver to my diet might be well worth the experiment.

I found this recipe, boldly titled the Absolute Best Liver and Onions. I try to avoid handling raw meat, not because I’m squeamish but because I’m paranoid (and this was before I found out that my husband’s cousin – a healthy twenty-something – died suddenly from Salmonella poisoning after eating a burger years ago), so I wasn’t looking forward to slicing up the liver as the recipe calls for. Fortunately, it came from the market already sliced (whew!), so the only time I had to physically touch it was while rinsing it under the sink; the rest of the time I used tongs.

I followed the recipe almost to the letter, except for the salt and pepper. I seasoned it with Creole seasoning blend instead. Unlike the tough as leather liver of my youth, the end result was very very tender, almost to the point of literally melting in my mouth, and this was pretty much the recipe’s downfall. I don’t like food that is too buttery and tender: smoked and raw salmon gross me out for that very reason. It still had that very distinctive liver taste, which I don’t mind that much – but Marcus was disgusted. I ate at least enough to get my daily value of iron and then gave the rest to my mother.

Conclusion: if you like liver and if you like buttery food that melts in your mouth, then you’ll like this. If not, steer clear.

Recipe of the Week: Smothered Turkey Wings

May 27, 2010

This week I combined my unholy love for turkey with my unholy love for gravy and searched the web for a suitable itis-inducing recipe. I found one for smothered turkey wings on recipezaar.com that seemed promising and while the sauce required quite a bit of extra work, it was well worth the trouble.

I made a few changes, as usual. I don’t have a high tolerance for too much salt, so I minimized it by: sprinkling only 1/2 of a teaspoon of salt on the wings rather than one tablespoon; using unsalted butter; and rather than dissolving six bouillon cubes in six cups of water (to make the broth that the recipe calls for), I only dissolved four cubes in six cups of water. 

I also only added 1/4 teaspon of garlic powder rather than the full teaspoon, and instead of chopped celery I coarsely chopped up about 5 large cloves of fresh garlic. And we were low on cow’s milk so I used two cups of breastmilk instead.

While I was apprehensive about how it would turn out (there just seemed to be waaaay too much sauce and it was very thin), it turned out pretty yummy! I pulled the meat off of the bones, tossed the bones in the freezer for making stock later, and added rice and some of the sauce to the meat. It was warm, filling, and pretty much the epitome of comfort food.

Recipe of the Week: Marshmallow

May 21, 2010

Last night I finally took the time to make marshmallow, which I have been planning for about two months. I put it off over and over because of all the new cooking techniques that it required; I was nervous that any attempt would just result in one giant mess and that my marshmallow would turn out like ugly rock-hard tiny white bricks.       

But! I succeeded! For the very first time I had to separate egg whites from their yolks (so easy to do by hand, no need to waste my money and kitchen space with a dedicated tool!), use gelatin, and boil sugar syrup to an exact temperature using a candy thermometer. I wasn’t nervous about the gelatin (hey, you just sprinkle it over cold water, it’s not exactly rocket surgery) but I wasn’t sure about the other two, especially since my candy thermometer was one that I snagged for cheap from my local Shoppers and not one of the fancy ones.       

I also used my wonderful Sunbeam stand mixer for the first time. I paid $30 for that mixer (have I mentioned that I love Goodwill?) and it’s probably older than I am. It’s loud and ugly, but it certainly did the job, especially since it took about ten minutes for the sugar syrup to fluff up.       

Mixing the sugar syrup and gelatin with my trusty Sunbeam

 

Looks like it's time to add the egg whites!

 

Pouring the marshmallow into the powdered pan

 

The finished product! Light, springy, and yummy!

 

[The images above show various stages of marshmallow creation, starting with mixing the sugar syrup using a stand mixer, to pouring the mixture into a pan, and ending with a container full of light blue marshmallow squares.]       

Check out the recipe and much prettier marshmallow pictures! I mostly followed it exactly as written, but instead of coating them in powdered sugar by hand, I found it much more efficient to just stick a dozen or so squares in a container with some powdered sugar, put a lid on it, and shake to coat. I don’t know what brand of gelatin the author of the recipe used (I used Knox), but I used far less than 3 and a half envelopes, so I suggest actually measuring out the 2 tablespoons and 2.5 teaspoons. Also, these turned out really sweet, so in the future I’m probably going to coat them with a combination of cornstarch and confectioner’s sugar to keep from overdoing it.       

Oh, and they don’t turn blue on their own. That’s food coloring.      

Recipe of the Week: Chocolate-Covered Bacon

May 18, 2010

This week’s recipe was going to be chocolate-covered marshmallows, but I scrapped it when a coworker mentioned chocolate-covered bacon, which is something that I have actually eaten and enjoyed once before. I’m not usually a fan of either bacon or sweet/salty combinations, but this one actually works for me. The downside (besides the obvious health concerns – Cookie Monster says that chocolate-covered bacon is a “sometimes food“) of buying this treat is that is it unreasonably expensive; a single bar can cost anywhere from $5-10. For less than that I can make 6-8 of my own bacon bars at home!

I followed this recipe, which suggested baking the bacon rather than frying it. I was actually super dissatisfied with how chewy the bacon was and, let me tell you, it was no treat to bite into chocolate that had nothing but a gob of fat within it. In the future (yes, I plan on making it again sometime) I’ll be frying the bacon to crispy awesome yummyness.

The best part about the whole adventure was that I learned how to melt chocolate by constructing my own double boiler. The purpose of doing a weekly recipe is as much about forcing myself to learn new techniques as it is about trying new foods, and this recipe definitely served the former rather well.

Recipe of the Week: Beets ‘n’ Sweets

May 12, 2010

For Mother’s Day weekend I decided to try a recipe that I had been eyeing for the past month. I found Roasted Beets ‘n’ Sweets on allrecipes.com (Have I mentioned how much I loooove that site? Because I do! I want to marry it!) and couldn’t wait to try it, as there were no ingredients that I don’t already harbor an unholy love for (my grammar sucks today, meh).

I love beets, but so far I’ve only had them one way: boiled plain, no extra spices of any kind. Sweet potatoes were something that I disliked for about 95% of my life but have grown to appreciate more recently, as in merely six months ago when my mom made caramelized sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. Garlic and onions are of course old favorites; I put either of them in pretty much anything.

For my incarnation of this recipe (I don’t have any good pics, unfortunately, but there are pics on allrecipes), I replaced the garlic powder with half a head of minced fresh garlic and replaced the white sugar with brown sugar.

The end result was yummy, although some of the chunks of beets weren’t quite tender enough and I thought it could use a bit more onion and a tiny bit more salt. But it was definitely a nice meal to have on a cool, rainy day and I’ll certainly be making it again.

Recipe of the Week: Roasted Garlic

May 5, 2010

Even though we knew we’d be spending the past weekend out of town, I was adamant about trying a new recipe for the week. We were staying with my sister-in-law after all, and I knew that she had a kitchen (a particularly roomy one at that, compared to our tiny space), so the show must go on!

Well…yeah. My SIL has a kitchen all right, and it’s got a fridge, stove/oven, toaster oven, and a microwave. She even had flatware and silverware. But that was about it. No roasting pans, cookie sheets, rolling pin, cutting board, ANYTHING. In other words, her kitchen was severely anemic, and while I’m sure I could have figured SOMETHING out that didn’t require us to buy new kitchen ware that would make what we had at home redundant, I didn’t want to get started on anything and have to pause mid-recipe because it called for something that I took for granted that she had.

So we decided to wait until we got back home, when we had little time and no energy to do it after all the driving and unpacking, and so I decided on something ridiculously simple just for the sake of saying that I had done anything at all.

And so, yeah. Roasted garlic. I cut the top off of a head of garlic, poured a little bit of olive oil on top, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, wrapped it in foil, and then stuck the packet in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes.

The finished product was soft and tasted like, well, garlic. The book (Betty Crocker cookbook) had said that garlic develops a sweet flavor when roasted, but I didn’t notice anything like that. It just tasted like garlic. By itself it was unimpressive and kind of gross (I mean, it’s garlic! Not chocolate! Who just eats a clove of garlic? I’d much prefer a clove of chocolate!), but I bet it would be really yummy smooshed into something else, like butter for garlic butter (I don’t know if that’s how you make garlic butter, that’s just what came to mind).

I’ve got to think of something not quite so “meh” for this coming weekend’s recipe, preferably something that could be gifted to my mom. I’m open to suggestions!

Recipe of the Week: Soft Pretzels

April 27, 2010

On Saturday we spent some time at my parents’ house with my ten-year-old niece and nephew (they’re step-siblings, not twins). About a month ago I started trying at least one new cooking recipe every weekend, and with the kids over we decided to choose a group recipe and make soft pretzels from scratch.  

I made the dough, but the kids got to shape their pretzels and pick whatever seasonings/dip they wanted (Noodle chose cinnamon and sugar for his, while D decided on salt and peanut butter for hers). My brother also came over to join in the fun and he learned a little bit more about baking (which, trust me, he sorely needs). The pics aren’t very good, but I’ll share anyway.  

D puts the finishing touches on her pretzel sticks

 

My brother shapes his dough

 

This poor pretzel stick didn't make it

 

Noodle decided to make one giant ugly meta pretzel. It fell apart when it was time for the baking soda bath so I had to reassemble it somewhat while still maintaining its former hideous glory.

 

The finished goods, while not the prettiest pretzels (although the twists that my husband made came out very well), were pretty yummy!

 

[A series of five images. The first is of a kitchen counter with several sticks of dough in the foreground and one pretzel shape in the background. A child’s hand fingers one of the sticks. The second image is of a pair of hands rolling a long bit of dough between them. The third image is of the kitchen floor, a piece of dough lying between a bare right foot (my niece) and a booted left foot (my brother). The fourth image shows dough formed into a large misshapen pretzel on the counter. The fifth image is of cooked golden brown pretzels of various shapes and sizes spread out on three cookie sheets.]  

It was my first time ever working with yeast, and my first successful baking job using dough (the buttermilk biscuits I attempted a couple of weeks ago were pretty much failures due to adding too much flour), so I feel pretty good about the job that we did.  

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Edited to add a link to the recipe for soft pretzels. Note that I didn’t use nearly as much flour as the original called for; I started with the wet ingredients and just added flour until the dough was ready. I also substituted the veggie oil with melted butter. And don’t skip the baking soda bath; that’s what gives the pretzels their deep brown color and gives them that “pretzel” flavor instead of just tasting like bread. This recipe was quick, easy, and yummy!