Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cincinnati chili cockaigne (p. 514) 2-way, 3-way, 4-way, and 5-way

I'm not sure what motivated me to make Cincinnati chili cockaigne (p. 514) except I've always been interested in the 2- through 5-way styles (which I've totally seen in Ohio and Indiana). I don't love chili as much as some people do but it's such an excellent cold weather food...and it's getting colder! I still have at least four or five more TJOC chilis to go!

The chili recipe started in a way that was completely novel to me--cooking two pounds of ground meat in boiling water. Bizarre! I essentially poached ground beef.

I added onions, garlic, tomato sauce, cider vinegar, and Worcestershire far, pretty normal.

I then got to the spices--ground peppercorn, ground allspice berries, ground whole cloves--a perfect use for my brand new spice grinder!! I love my new spice grinder, although I'm having trouble cleaning it. Does anyone else have one of these? How do you clean it? Or do you clean a coffee grinder?

I stirred in a bay leaf, salt, cinnamon, red pepper, cumin....

...and an ounce of unsweetened chocolate?

I've heard of people adding chocolate (as well as other bizarre ingredients like peanut butter) to their chili but I've certainly never tried it.

Even so, I added all of that to the pot:

I brought the whole thing to a boil and then simmered it for a few hours, then skimmed off the fat and put it away. TJOC said to refrigerate it overnight.

A couple of days later, I took the chili back out and heated it back up.

The chili was really good! It wasn't near as sweet as it seemed like it would be with all of the sweet spices (the chocolate, cloves, and cinnamon) but it was very full flavored. The broth was extremely flavorful and I suspect that is partially because of the poaching method.

To make this chili 2-ways, I poured it over spaghetti.

This was extremely painful for me and I imagine that my Italian mother felt a little chill as I poured chili on spaghetti. I will admit it was pretty good though--like a really Americanized sauce.

To make a 3-way (teehee!), I added cheddar:

Another big improvement! I like cheddar on chili and I really like cheese if I'm eating pasta (although, granted, it's usually not cheddar).

To make chili 4-ways, I added diced onions:

I don't really like diced onions, especially not raw. I don't think the onions added anything special.

To elevate the dish to a 5-way, I added pinto beans to the top:

Yum! Another tasty addition if you like beans in your chili (which I do). I think that I would remove the onions and add some crackers but it was really tasty. Has anyone else poured chili over pasta or does that seem strange to everyone else?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Gingersnaps (p. 766) and Peanut butter cookies (p. 767)

I noticed recently that I had managed to make very little headway on the Cookies and Bars chapter and I was really hungry for cookies. While leafing through the chapter, I noticed Gingersnaps (p. 766). I absolutely love gingersnaps and had all the ingredients on hand. Plus, Josh doesn't like them, so I knew I'd have free reign.

I mixed flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in one bowl, butter and sugar in another bowl. An egg, some dark molasses, lemon zest, and lemon juice were added to the butter mixture. I used the Kitchenaid mixer I got for the wedding--sometimes I just don't want to get the stand mixer dirty, so I'm pretty excited about the hand mixer.

It looked like peanut butter!

I mixed the flour into the butter mixture:

Then spooned the batter onto a greased cookie sheet:

I slightly undercooked them because I like my cookies chewy:

They were really good! Nice and chewy with a solid molasses flavor (but not overwhelming). I loved them! I know gingersnaps aren't that popular but I've always really liked them.

I knew that Josh would like some Peanut butter cookies (p. 767) and I like PB cookies too.

It was a typical recipe. I mixed flour and baking soda in one bowl and butter, sugar, and brown sugar in another bowl. I beat an egg, the peanut butter, and vanilla into the butter mixture.

I will let you in on one of my secrets--I really recommend oiling the measuring cup in some way (butter, cooking spray, whatever) so that the PB just slides out. Otherwise, it's sticky and hard to remove.

I beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture and spooned out teaspoons of batter. I then criss-crossed the cookies with a fork:

And I slightly undercooked them so they would be crumbly:

Peanut butter cookies on the right, molasses cookies on the left. The PB cookies were really delicious, although they were really crumbly (I like them like that). I love PB cookies--I don't know why I don't make them more often.

One of my biggest frustrations with Colorado (other than the high altitude) is the dry air. Among other problems, it stales baked goods wwwaaayyy faster than they ever staled in the midwest, which is very frustrating--although it encourages us to eat more cookies faster!

Slow-cooker stock (p. 118), Chicken-fried steak (p. 475), Fried eggplant III (p. 273), and Jamaican rice and peas (p. 356)

I hate wrestling my ancient slow-cooker out of the cabinet and I hate wrestling it back in just as much. So when the slow-cooker comes out, I like to make more than one recipe with it. And, of course, since I have a phobia of leaving it on when I'm not at home, Sunday was the perfect day to use it.

I decided to use the chicken backs that I picked up at the grocery store (only a dollar!) for Slow-cooker stock (p. 118). I couldn't imagine a stock recipe that would replace my beloved household poultry stock recipe but it was worth a try.

The recipe was easy--dump the chicken, celery, onions, carrots, peppercorn, and bouquet garni into a slow cooker, cover it with water, and cook it for about ten hours.

I then strained the stock and there it was!

Poultry stock. Delicious and probably really easy and a very worthwhile recipe if you regularly use a crockpot. If you are like me, it's much more efficient and considerably faster to make the stock on the stovetop.

I really like to make a big Sunday dinner meal to eat while watching The Amazing Race, especially if it leaves tasty leftovers for Monday's lunch. I found round steak in the clearance bin at the grocery store and thought that Chicken-fried steak (p. 475) would be a great main course.

I cut the steak into three pieces before pounding it, even though TJOC recommends cutting it after--I've found that the meat cuts easier that way, although I would probably get more similar sizes if I waited until after the pounding.

I actually enjoy pounding the steak--it's very cathartic and gets a lot of frustration out.

I combined milk and egg in one shallow container and flour, black pepper, salt, and red pepper in another container. A lot of pepper...delicious!

I coated each steak with the flour mixture, dredged it in the egg mixture, and then it went through the flour mixture again.

I shook off the excess and let the steaks dry on a cookie rack for a half hour. I popped a steak at a time in some vegetable oil (I would have used lard but I didn't feel like dealing with the mess). TJOC mentions that the steak would only take a few minutes but I was worried it wouldn't cook all the way through...

But no, it really only took a few minutes!

All three pieces were done within about ten minutes.

***PSA--The oil got very very very hot though--I wouldn't do this without an apron and be really careful about the bubbling oil***

I removed the steak and started to pour off most of the oil. This was harder than it seemed and I managed to pour hot bubbling oil all over the stove and down the burners, causing me to have to stop, disassemble the burners (it's an electric stove), and wash everything.

When I could finally move on, I added an onion to the hot oil.

The browned bits were more like black bits but I could figure out how to get the burned pieces out and leave the good, savory brown pieces in...

I added a little flour and whisked in some milk:

TJOC says that it should take 3-5 minutes to become thick--mine was thick within a minute, I think by 5 minutes it would have been like concrete.

Absolutely spectacularly delicious! When I told my friend Rachel that I made chicken fried steak, she said "well, you do really like it"--actually, I thought I only liked it when I was hungove. Apparently, I always like it--even sober! It was delicious and homey and I would recommend it to anyone--it was easy, too. I would definitely make it again!

I am so sick of the randomly selected list that I decided that I didn't care how it went with the meal, I was going to make something off of it. I thought Jamaican rice and peas (p. 356) would be as good as anything else.

I'd actually meant to make JRaP for about the last year and had all the ingredients and I just never did it.

I added my black-eyed peas (Fergie-free!), garlic, and water to a boil:

I then added unsweetened coconut milk, scallions, a habanero, some salt, and pepper, and brought it to a boil, and then added two cups of white rice.

It was cooked for about twenty minutes and became this:

I removed the pepper and the scallions and it was done! This recipe makes a TON of rice. And it's really really filling. It has a very light coconut flavor and was really tasty (and not spicy at all). Josh ate it for a couple weeks mixing in various proteins (tuna, spam, etc.).

The grocery store was having a sale on eggplants so I picked a few up and decided to make Fried eggplant II (p. 273). I wasn't very optimistic about this recipe since the baked eggplant slices weren't very impressive. It seemed perfect though, since I was already fully immersed in breading the chicken fried steak.

I combined eggs and olive oil in one bowl, flour in a second, and breadcrumbs in a third. I sliced the eggplant into approximately half inch slices.

The eggplant went from the egg mixture, to the flour mixture, to the breadcrumbs (my hands got extremely messy but it was kind of fun) and then they dried on a cookie rack for a half hour. I then heated some olive oil up in my skillet:

They cooked for a few minutes and then were flipped:

Absolutely delicious! Crisp and buttery on the outside, creamy on the inside--and they reminded me how much I like eggplant. And they were really fast! A great side dish and a really great idea if you have an eggplant (and eggplant plant?) in your garden (I'm talking to you, Rachel!).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tapenade (p. 75) and Cook's Illustrated baba ghanoush

A blog I really enjoy is Warm Olives and Cool Cocktails, which is a blog I picked up from The Foodie Blogroll. Kate is giving away a sizeable chunk of her cookbook collection and all you have to do if you win is pick a recipe and blog about it! I totally understand why she wants to pare down her collection--I have tons and tons of cookbooks, which is incredibly stupid because I barely cook any recipes that aren't in TJOC at this stage of life.

I won the Cook's Illustrated bound copy of all the 2001 magazines. I LOVE Cook's Illustrated, so I was very excited. I decided to make The Best Baba Ghanoush from the July/August issue. I was particularly drawn to this recipe because I've made the TJOC version and, so far, in my direct CI to TJOC battle, CI is up one (The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook has a WAY better mashed potato recipe).

It was pretty easy. I roasted two eggplants at very high heat for about an hour, turned with tongs every 15 minutes.

I took the eggplants and skinned them, then let them drain for a few minutes.

The eggplant was then pureed with lemon juice, tahini paste, a garlic clove, and some olive oil.

Pretty simple! It was good, although too lemony for my taste. CI recommends eating it all in one day because they say it doesn't keep well--I had no problem holding TJOC's version (as much as I love baba ghanoush, even I can't eat it all in one day). So I would give the contest to TJOC--the cookbooks are now 1:1.

I also made Tapenade (p. 75) because I thought it would make a good lunch during the week with some pita bread.

This was one of those recipes where you combine all the ingredients (black olives, olive oil, capers, lemon juice, garlic, and thyme) in the food processor and that's that. It's probably really easy if you have a normal sized food processor but with our tiny tiny food processor, it was not an easy task. As you can see, the olives were never totally broken down--but I think it was actually better with bigger chunks of olives!

It was delicious--really garlicky and full of flavor. If you don't adore garlic, this is not the recipe for you. I LOVE garlic though so it was perfect. It kept really well too--I ate it for two weeks past when I made it and it was absolutely fine. I ate the tapenade on pitas but it would be even better on some good crusty Italian bread.

Becker tuna salad (p. 164), Spicy watermelon salad (p. 170), and Baked hominy (p. 350)

I knew I was going to be extremely busy during the week so I decided to cook as much as possible during the weekend. That being said, most of the stuff I was making wasn't immediately available to eat (ie the chili that I will write about in a future post) so I whipped up some Becker tuna salad (p. 164).

I combined tuna, chopped cabbage, carrots, celery, a bit of parsley, some Tabasco, a little lemon zest, some Balsamic vinegar, and a small amount of mayo.

And that was that! As you all know, tuna is one of the very few foods that I absolutely will not eat. Josh loves it though, so it was all his. Josh said that the tuna salad was very untraditional but very good--particularly good if you like crunchy food. I thought it looked much more healthy than your average tuna salad--a lot more veggies and a lot less mayo.

Dad gave me some of the cutest tiny watermelons so I decided to whip up some Spicy watermelon salad (p. 170). This was a truly strange recipe. I mixed up some chili powder, salt, and ground red pepper in a little prep bowl. In another bowl I tossed some watermelon, half an onion, a diced jalapeno pepper, some lime juice, and some cilantro in a bowl (TJOC says serving bowl, I used Tupperware).

This was an extremely strange dish. It was rather pleasing though--the heat of the chili powder, red pepper, and jalapeno, the bite of the raw onion, and the coolness of the watermelon. I ate quite a bit of it, all the while thinking it was kind of good and kind of gross. I don't think I'll ever make it again, although that is partially because I really hate dicing and seeding watermelon (does anyone have a good way to do this? It takes me forever).

I made Baked hominy (p. 350). Josh really likes hominy--I had never tried it until recently. I think hominy tastes a lot like popcorn, which makes sense, because it's essentially corn that's been treated with lye.

I knew this was going to be a strange recipe right from the get-go--it says to cook some onion and either baked ham or peeled apples in some vegetable oil. Ham or apples? Doesn't that seem strange? I don't really see those as interchangeable. I chose ham.

I added drained canned hominy (although you can used cooked dry hominy or thawed frozen hominy), diced tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

I removed the pan from the heat and added bread crumbs and grated cheddar to the top of the hominy mixture:

I dotted the top with butter and popped it into the oven for about fifteen minutes.

The main problem with this hominy is that it made a LOT. That would be terrific if you were cooking for a family of six, it was waaayyy too much for the two of us. We liked the flavor and Josh really liked the crunchy top, but we were tired of eating the hominy long before it was gone. And it's extremely filling. So if you need a cheap dish that you can really stretch, this is a really good choice.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Facebook! Join me!

I am an obsessive Facebook fan, I'll admit it. And now you can fan TJOTJOC!

Just click on the little FB icon on the right.

Why fan TJOTJOC?

1. I like to backdate blogs to the date I actually made the meal. This is a big problem when (like now) I'm two months behind and leads to lots of missed blogs. I will post to the blog when I have newly posted.

2. We can discuss things!

3. It's FB. Do you need more of a reason?

4. It would make me feel good. Right now I have 3 fans and two are related to me and the other is one of TJOTJOC's best fans (thanks Erin!).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dashi (p. 119) and Miso soup (p. 125)

I love love love love miso soup, something that is well documented in my posts about spending the summer in Japan. I would actually say eating (or rather drinking, since you never have spoons) miso soup is one of my favorite things about being in Japan--it's included in almost every meal from breakfast through dinner. I've made the freeze-dried stuff that I found at the Asian market but I've never attempted to make miso soup from scratch.

Between the dashi and miso recipes I needed three types of seaweed/flaked fish products. I got my kombu/bonito/wakame at Whole Foods but you could also find it at an Asian market.

Before I could make miso soup, I had to make the base--Dashi (p. 119). I'm going to end up writing a couple hundred words about something that took five minutes to make and only has three ingredients. Dashi is finicky--you can't let it boil and it doesn't freeze. But it is fast!

I soaked a piece of kombu (kelp) in water until it was brought almost to a boil--one of the strangest directions I've ever seen. Almost to a boil? I'm supposed to read the mind of the water?

The kombu did get slimy.

Bonito flakes were added to the pot.

When they started to sink (in about three minutes) I strained everything out and had dashi!

Dashi has a nice lightly flavored taste. Bonito, on the other hand, smells exactly like flakes that you feed fish. In fact, until I sealed it away, I wondered why the kitchen smelled so strongly of fish food. It's not a smell I enjoy.

Miso soup (p. 125) is definitely a recipe I will make again.

I was really excited to use my miso soup bowl that I dragged back from Tokyo (isn't it cute??).

The first step was to soak some wakame (a type of seaweed). TJOC acts like this is optional--I think it would be really strange to have miso soup with no wakame.

It goes from this:

To this:

in about ten minutes. Just like those little tablets that expanded into sponges (usually shaped like dinosaurs) when you dumped them in water (usually the bathtub). I loved those sponges.

I cooked a few shiitake mushroom caps with a small leek in a little vegetable oil:

I added the dashi and a little soy sauce and heated it up.

In a small bowl I whisked some red miso with a bit of the dashi:

I added the miso to the pot and poured some into my bowl. I added some wakame and some chopped tofu and voila!

Miso soup! It was absolutely delicious and tasted exactly like all the miso soup I ate in Japan. I loved it. I ate almost all of it by myself, saving one serving for lunch the next day (and it heated up quite nicely). Miso soup is healthy too--the wikipedia page insinuates that the reason you don't let it boil is to retain the nutritional value of the miso, which is interesting.

I don't understand why some people hate tofu so much. I guess I get if you don't like the texture but it really doesn't have much of a taste, it just soaks up whatever it's in. I like it in hot and sour soup and miso soup.