Thursday, January 29, 2009

South Carolina skillet shrimp (p. 385) , Becker cocktail sauce (p. 568), and Grilled or broiled shrimp or scallops with chili paste (p. 387)

Mom and I stumbled on some shrimp on sale at the grocery store--and it needed to be used quickly. It seemed perfect because I hadn't made a single recipe out of the Shellfish chapter, which really needed to be rectified. I decided to make shrimp two ways (I've been watching WAY too much Top Chef. At least I'm not putting anything on spoons or in shot glasses....yet).

The first shrimp recipe I made was South Carolina skillet shrimp (p. 385). This has got to be one of the easiest recipes in the book.

Take shrimp and dump them in a skillet (no oil, butter, or anything else).

Cook them in their own juices for a few minutes. Stir and cook a bit more--and you are done!

Delicious and simple! It's got to be one of the simplest recipes in the book--one ingredient only.

And what is shrimp without cocktail sauce? I love condiments so it was a given that cocktail sauce was required. Becker cocktail sauce (p. 568) fit the bill. Like most sauces, it was simple. Catsup, chili sauce, horseradish, garlic, hot pepper sauce, lemon juice, and a little pepper and it was done. Josh bought a bottle of chili sauce on a whim but it's came in handy as a good condiment to keep on hand.

How was it? Tasty! Spicy. A perfect complement to the shrimp. I love shrimp cocktail so it was awesome. TJOC recommends dipping small sausages in the cocktail sauce--what kind of sausages? Little smokies? Hmmm...

If you are wondering why I would possibly tag a post about shrimp vegan and vegetarian, it's because of the cocktail sauce. I imagine just about anything could be dipped in it :)

I also made Grilled or broiled shrimp or scallops with chili paste (p. 387). It was another simple recipe. The chili paste is made first by mixing garlic, chili powder, red pepper, peanut oil, and salt and pepper in bowl. Spicy!

Then dip the shrimp in the paste to "coat well". I only had one pound of shrimp (probably less after peeled and deveined) and it seemed like barely enough paste to "coat well". The shrimp is cooked for a few minutes, turned, cooked for a few minutes more, and then done.

How was it? Spicy but really good! I think if you skewered them (maybe with something refreshing in the middle--pineapple, maybe?) they would be terrific at a party. They were also really easy.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Pepperoni pizza (p.191), White pizza w/ spicy shrimp & roasted red peppers (p.192), White pizza w/ caramelized onions, black olives,&rosemary (p. 192)

People often ask if I ever make a TJOC recipe twice (it's a good question!). Yep, some of the previous recipes are in heavy rotation in our household. A couple of favorites pop immediately to mind. Hash browns! Curry mayonnaise! Chicken stock! Potato, green beans, and smoked meat! Stracotto! Blue cheese dressing (absolutely amazing)! I've made all of these more than once and make some of them frequently (especially stock--I make that about once every two weeks). Curry mayo or blue cheese dressing only take about ten minutes and it's so worth it!

Even though I had surgery on the 23rd, I really wanted to knock out a couple more TJOC recipes while my mom was in town. Obviously, they had to be fast because I didn't last long on my feet. Inspiration hit earlier in the week when I stumbled upon fresh pizza dough at Whole Foods. Pizza seemed like a really good idea sincethere are 17 pizza recipes in TJOC and I hadn't made a single one. The pizzas from Whole Foods are really good so I figured that the dough (which was just in a plastic container, like a piece of cake as shown below) would be tasty.

My theory on TJOC's pizza is that the main point is the combination of flavors--not the actual making of the dough and sauce (well, making it from TJOC). In fact, the recipes mention using packaged pizza dough. Mom had made a big vat of her delicious sauce, so I used that, rather than TJOC's inferior tomato sauce.

The beginning of all the pizza recipes were the same. Dust the pizza pan with cornmeal (I used a light hand--I don't like too much cornmeal on my crust).

Then I (or rather mom) stretched the pizza dough onto the pans and brushed it with olive oil (I did that part!).

I made myself the most simple pizza, Pepperoni pizza (p. 191). The pizza was simple--a layer of sauce, a layer of pepperoni, and mozzerella cheese.

I wasn't that excited--it looked pretty boring. And I don't typically put cheese on homemade pizza. When it came out of the oven, however, it was beautiful!

And delicious! Nice, stretchy cheese, great flavor. Way better than ordering a pizza in--and Josh and I have a terrific local pizza place we like to order from (so it's a real compliment). I will definitely make this recipe again!

Josh chose a more exotic choice--White pizza with spicy shrimp and roasted red peppers (p. 192). Although it sounds complex it was really easy.

First step--roast the red peppers. I've shown TJOC's pepper roasting technique before. Easy enough, roast them up, and slice them into thin strips.

The recipe calls for coarsely chopped cooked shrimp. I only had raw shrimp but no problem, I just quickly pan-fried them.

Assembling the pizza--(no sauce or cheese, because it's a white pizza) shrimp, roasted red pepper, and red pepper flakes, as well as a little thyme.

Josh wasn't sure about the pizza's lack of sauce or cheese but was immediately won over. He pointed out that the pizza was VERY spicy but very flavorful and he liked it a lot. I figure that it would be a terrific pizza for someone on a diet.

Mom's choice was White pizza with caramelized onions, black olives, and rosemary (p. 192). The first step was to make the caramelized onions (p. 287)

Caramelized onions are easy and impressive. I think it would be particularly cool to have them as an hamburger or steak topping option at a BBQ or party. I don't like onions, so they didn't excite me, but mom was interested.

The recipe is simple. Slice several pounds of onions and saute them in butter and olive oil with some salt.

They need to be stirred, constantly, for the first fifteen minutes. The onions need to be watched closely at this point, otherwise they will burn. TJOC's not kidding around about the burning--the go from perfect to burned quickly.

And then they are cooked for about an hour (less if you aren't at high altitude). A little bit of water is added. At this point the onions are soft and browned.

Back to the pizza. This was another white pizza, so no sauce or cheese. The caramelized onions, pitted kalamata olives, and rosemary were layered on the top, and the pizza was cooked.

Mom loved it! She said it was a great flavor combination and she particularly loved the onions. They were soft and sweet and delicious (I'm taking her word for it).

I'm much more excited about the rest of the TJOC pizza recipes now that I've had a good experience. Anyone else have any exotic pizza toppings that they like?

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chicken or turkey fricassee (p. 432)

I am (no exaggeration) about fifteen entries behind right now so expect many blogs to be popping up in the next couple days!

I decided to make a special meal for mom and Josh to eat when they got home from the airport. While browsing TJOC, I spotted Chicken or turkey fricassee (p. 432), which looked very promising. I was intrigued by the following recipe, chicken and dumplings, which is apparently chicken fricassee with dumplings (I like chicken and dumplings but very rarely eat it). I suspect chicken and dumplings to be an American thing--is that true? It just seems like it would be :)

I needed about four pounds of chicken so I broke down a whole chicken into it's parts--which is considerably cheaper than buying the bird already cut up. I recommend using your kitchen shears to do this--it seems way easier than a knife (except maybe a cleaver). I'm not near as good at this as I should be but the results were passable. The chicken was then supposed to be browned in a skillet in batches to reduce crowding.

No problem, I thought.

As I continued to read the recipe I noticed that I would eventually need to have the entire chicken, plus all the vegetables and sauce, in the skillet.

Uh oh--the skillet I was using was not even close to big enough. I had to haul out another pan. A considerably bigger pan.

The next step was to saute onions in the rendered chicken fat. After the onions are browned, a quarter cup of flour was added in and the mixture was cooked for a minute--WATCH THE PAN! Otherwise, you can look forward to burning the flour and starting this part over (not that I have any experience with that or anything...).

Chicken stock was whisked in.

Next, mushrooms, carrots, celery, thyme, salt, and pepper were added. The chicken was returned to the pan. At this point, I thought the results looked bizarre.

Does that picture look right? Of course not. In fact, it looks like chicken mixed in glue. I went back to the recipe--I hadn't used NEAR enough chicken stock. I had read the recipe wrong, by about one cup of liquid. I decided that I might as well keep going and just poured the missing chicken stock into the pan.

The pan was covered and the concoction was cooked until done (be sure to use your meat thermometer! Nothing is worse than undercooked chicken).

It smelled great! And even looked okay on my hideous plates (the wedding can't get here soon enough--I can't wait to have new plates!).

So how was it? Delicious! The chicken was tender and the sauce was flavorful--delicious to dip bread in. In fact, I ate about a half loaf of bread by sopping up the juices from this meal. It heated up amazingly. Next time I make this (and I probably will make it again) I will pay more attention to the recipe, although it didn't seem to make much of a difference.

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Sour cream dip (p. 72) and Roasted red pepper soup (p. 132)

I decided to whip out an easy recipe and the perfect choice was Sour Cream Dip (p. 72). The recipe is spectacularly easy. Mix sour cream, mayonnaise, chives, onion, dill, salt, and pepper, and there you go! Finished.

So how was it? Extremely tasty--if you like dill (which I do). Much better than store-bought dip and a great use of sour cream (which we never completely use before it goes bad). The one problem--watch out, before you know it, you've eaten all the dip and an entire bag of chips.

I have surgery on the 23rd (relatively minor, don't worry!) and my mom was coming out to help me while I recovered. Because she was being so helpful, I made a recipe that I knew she would really like--Roasted red pepper soup (p. 132).

As you can imagine, the first step of the recipe is to roast six red peppers. I explained roasting in a previous blog entry and I did it the exact same way--easy!

The red peppers were then peeled, seeded, and cut into strips. This produced a LOT of roasted pepper!

Next step--saute onions, carrots, and celery in some olive oil. Then add the red pepper, along with poultry stock, basil, rosemary, fennel seeds, and red peppers flakes, as well as 3 tablespoons of white rice. Does that seem like a strange amount of rice to anyone else? And look at all that fennel!

The soup was cooked for a while (quite a while) and pureed (using the wonderful immersion blender). Pretty!

The last step was too stir in some heavy cream, a few drops of balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.

So what was the point of the rice? To thicken the soup? And the vinegar really rounded the flavor out.

Much like the Cream of spinach soup I made earlier in January the red pepper soup was beautiful. I think these colorful soups would be amazing in a dinner party. Mom loved the soup and said it was great both hot and cold. It had a STRONG pepper flavor, so if you love peppers (like mom) you will love the soup, but if you hate peppers (like me) it might not be a huge hit. Am I the only person who despises peppers?

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Cheese quiche (p. 109) and Pat-in-the pan butter dough (p. 666)

Regular readers will remember that I decided to randomly generate a list of TJOC pages so that I could force myself to make recipes that I may be avoiding. I made the first dishes off of the list! I decided to start with a Cheese quiche (p. 109).

The recipe requires a half-recipe of Pat-in-the pan butter dough (p. 666), which was also on the randomly generated list. The first part of the recipe is to process flour and salt in the food processor, which I attempted. For some mysterious reason, the tiny food processor wouldn't work! I really hope it's not broken because I don't want to buy a new food processor at this point (I hope to get one for a wedding present). I poured the flour/salt back OUT of the food processor and into a bowl (what a pain, I hate making extra dishes).

Next step--mashing butter in with a fork until it resembles "course crumbs". What exactly is a "course crumb"?

A little (or quite a bit--this step took a lot more cream than the recipe called for) heavy cream is added and the dough is stirred until the crumbs look "damp". Nice and vague.

I patted the dough into the quiche pan and quickly ran into a problem.

See the problem?

There wasn't near enough dough. Rereading the recipe, I noticed that I was supposed to be making the crust in a 9-inch quiche, tart, or pie pan. My quiche pan? 11.5 inches. Uh oh...

So back to the drawing board. I decided just to make another half-recipe of the crust and see if that was enough.

Yep! Terrific. So the moral of the story--check the size of your pan before you start making a quiche.

The crust was then baked until "golden brown".

Unfortunately, although it was a beautiful color (the picture makes it look darker than it was), it started to tear apart. I figured it didn't really matter since it was going to be filled.

Egg yolk was smeared (yes, smeared) on the crust. It started cooking immediately after hitting the hot crust--it was actually a little gross.

The cheese was sprinkled on. I figured that making 1.5x the recipe would fix the problem of the pan being too large. It was a LOT of cheese.

The rest of the quiche was easy. I mixed heavy cream, eggs, a little grated onion (and grating onions is horrible, my eyes were streaming tears), nutmeg, and salt and pepper. That mixture is then poured over the cheese.

The finished product:

How was it? Tasty! The crust was the perfect thickness (and flaky), the quiche was flavorful and good both hot and cold. It heated up well. All that being said, I think it would have been helped by some meat, either ham or bacon. I don't think I would make this EXACT recipe again without doctoring it up a little. It was enough of a hit that Josh immediately packed some up for lunch.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Blueberry muffins (p. 635) and Cinnamon sugar (p. 1019)

Muffins! Sometimes, I'm just in the mood for muffins. I'll admit that I tend to use mixes (they sure are cheap) when I make muffins but I decided to try TJOC's recipe.

A component of this recipe is Cinnamon sugar (p. 1019). Cinnamon sugar is one of those recipes that you read and think "Really? Does anyone REALLY need a recipe for this??" You combine sugar and cinnamon and that's it. The entire recipe.

I think I'm the only person in American that doesn't particularly like cinnamon. I never liked that cinnamon/sugar toast that everyone goes so crazy for. I only made a half-recipe of this and still have a big pile of it in a plastic bag, left-over. Any ideas for what to do with it?

On to the muffins--Blueberry muffins (p. 635).

The first step is to mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Easy enough start!

Then mix the wet ingredients. TJOC recommends that the muffins are made with the full amount of butter and milk if you aren't going to eat them all in one sitting (I sure hoped they were going to last more than one meal). Apparently the extra fat helps keep them from staling.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix--but not too much. Apparently, overmixing can run muffins and make them tough.

I thought the batter (could this even be called batter?) looked very dry and strange but what do I know? I ladled it out into the muffin pans. At this point I looked around the kitchen...

And saw a cup of milk sitting on the counter. I totally forgot the milk. No wonder the batter looked so bizarre.

At this point I had no idea what to do. Are they ruined? Should I throw them out? I didn't have any more blueberries or milk (I had used half milk and half cream--so I guess I used half and half!) so I couldn't start over. I figured that it would be interesting to see if they still turned out, so I dumped all of the muffins out of their liners back into the bowl and added the milk. I figured that the overmixing/toughness problem is due to gluten formation because of th milk and flour, so without the milk, it shouldn't have been a problem (that may or may not be accurate but that was my thought process).

It seemed to mix all right.

I ladled the batter into the muffin liners (for the second time). The batter seemed much more like I expect it to look.

The cinnamon sugar was sprinkled on the top.

(I know there is nothing attractive about my pre-cooked muffins--I will never have a gorgeous Flikr stream that some bloggers seem to have)

They only took about 17 minutes to cook and they were beautiful! They were big and puffy and looked like bakery muffins!

I was so happy with the muffins! They are sweet but not too sweet (and I made them with all white sugar rather than brown) and the blueberry' were juicy and tasty. They even heated up well (and stayed moist!). I loved them. These are definitely going to be made again. I can't recommend them enough and my mistake didn't matter! I don't think they were much harder than the mix so maybe I'll make them from scratch for now on....

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