Friday, July 30, 2010

Baked brown rice with mushrooms (p. 355) and Brazilian black beans (p. 256)

I wasn't optimistic about Baked brown rice with mushrooms (p. 355). I don't have good luck with rice (I blame the altitude, rice just doesn't seem to cook correctly) and I particularly don't like brown rice. I don't like the flavor of brown rice and I don't like the texture. On the bright side, I do like mushrooms, so that was the small piece of hope that the recipe could succeed for me.

I melted butter in my ovenproof pot and added mushrooms, onions, and a garlic clove:

When the mushrooms were lightly browned, I added long-grain brown rice and stirred until the rice was coated with butter:

I added chicken stock, salt, and pepper, brought it to a boil, transferred it to the oven, and baked it.

For some reason I don't have an "after" picture. Mushrooms and brown rice are a really good combination and homemade chicken stock rounded out the flavors well. Even so, I didn't really like the dish. I don't like the chewiness of brown rice and the "nutty" flavor. Do you guys like brown rice? I'm always disappointed when a dish comes with brown rice instead of white--white complements the flavor of a dish better whereas brown lends too much of it's own flavor (in my opinion).

I wanted to make a dish that would produce a lot of leftovers, so I wouldn't have to cook for a few days. Brazilian black beans (p. 256) seemed like a good choice. I soaked black beans overnight and drained them. Are black beans always more of a purple? I thought they were a really pretty color:

I started browning some fresh hot sausage when I re-read the recipe--apparently I wasn't supposed to use bulk sausage but, rather, link sausage.

This recipe was pretty complex with tons of ingredients and lots of steps resulting in this:

(I can give more information about the cooking process if anyone wants it)

I recommend using link sausage instead of bulk sausage. Because I added the sausage way too early in the cooking process, it turned black, which was a bit disturbing. I didn't really like the sweet flavor components in this dish (cardamom, orange juice, sherry), I thought they mixed really strangely with the hot components (hot sausage, red pepper flakes). Has anyone made this before? What did you think?

I'm really tired tonight so this post is getting the bum's rush. Don't forget to add me on Facebook and Twitter!

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Baked goat cheese and mesclun (p. 160) and Spicy walnut vinaigrette (p. 574)

I haven't been making much progress on the entree salad section of TJOC. I'm guessing it's because we tend not to have a lot of fresh salad veggies in the fridge and lettuce seems to go bad so quickly. I thought Baked goat cheese and mesclun (p. 160) sounded tasty.

I cut a log of goat cheese into slices, coated them in olive oil and breadcrumbs, and then baked them until they were bubbling.

I mixed baby mixed greens and chopped herbs (parsley and tarragon), tossed them with a vinaigrette, and placed a round of goat cheese on the top.

The salad was good, although I'm not sold big chunks of herbs in salads. The cheese was nice and creamy and lent a nice contrast to the acidity of the vinaigrette. Goat cheese tends to be rather expensive and I thought this was a pretty good use of it.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned since starting TJOTJOC is that salad dressing is much better when it's homemade and is really, really fast and easy to make. I had the ingredients for Spicy walnut vinaigrette (p. 574) so I decided to make a batch. I whisked a shallot, balsamic vinegar, minced walnuts, Dijon mustard, a touch of salt, and a bit of hot pepper sauce together. I then added walnut oil and olive oil slowly to the mixture.

Sorry about this picture--it's probably one of the worst I've ever taken:

This dressing was a really nice, well-rounded vinaigrette. It was pretty acidic, but that's typically for a vinaigrette. I thought the walnuts added a nice crunch and the walnut oil gave the dressing a different flavor base than I'm used to (I usually just stick with olive oil or the occasional peanut oil).

I still think that blue cheese dressing is my favorite salad dressing, although my head can be turned by a nice vinaigrette. I tend to find Ranch dressing extremely boring. What is your favorite dressing? Do you make it or buy it? I used to adore this 5-Cheese salad dressing that Wishbone disconnected--it was amazing on artichoke hearts.

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Granola (p. 353).

I'm not a huge fan of Granola (p. 353). It's just not something I'm drawn too. I don't even like granola bars.

The few times I've eaten granola or oatmeal for breakfast, I've added so much cream and brown sugar that it no longer resembles a healthy food. Honestly, I'm pretty sure you could add heavy cream and brown sugar to cardboard and it would be edible. I've had the ingredients on-hand for TJOC granola for probably a year and managed not to make it because it didn't seem that interesting and I have an irrational distaste for recipes that include "wheat germ".

I toasted rolled oats in the oven, stirring them occasionally so they didn't burn. I then mixed wheat germ, almonds, coconut, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds in a bowl:

In a pan I heated vegetable oil and honey:

I mixed all three together and spread them out on a cookie sheet:

I watched them like a hawk, stirring every five minutes, for 45 minutes. They went from perfect to burnt in about a minute:

They don't look burnt in this picture but the granola was definitely overcooked. It was very frustrating because it took so long to make! The mild burnt taste was eliminated by copious amounts of heavy cream and brown sugar but I imagine most people don't eat granola that way. It's hard for me to judge this recipe--it seems like a pretty typical granola.

I threw the burnt sections outside for the squirrel that lives in our tree, who seemed to really enjoy it. Random fact for the day--did you know that squirrals live at least five or six years and their number one cause of death is being hit by cars? I love squirrals. They are the cutest vermin.

Yes, I have a squirrel on my lap in this picture, with another sneaking up behind :)

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Bellini (p. 53) , Mimosa (p. 53), and Black velvet (p. 53)

I have no taste when it comes to wine. Josh and I very, very rarely buy wine and when we do, we tend make our selection based on which label we find the most attractive (usually tending towards funny names or labels with animals). I really like sparkling wine, although I am perfectly happy with the cheap stuff. I knew TJOC had a handful of wine and beer cocktails. I decided to pick up a bottle of cheap champagne and whipped up a few.

First, I made a Bellini (p. 53). I took a peach, processed it in my food processor, and pushed it through a sieve:

I mixed it with sparkling wine:

Delicious but too much trouble. I don't like working with peaches because I don't like peeling them, so I moved on to a simpler recipe--the Mimosa (p. 53). I mixed orange juice and sparkling wine:

I love mimosas. I think they are particularly perfect for breakfast, brunch, and/or sitting out by the pool. The sparkling wine is enhanced by the orange juice but not overwhelmed and the sweetness of the wine is cut by the acidity of the orange juice.

I've eyed the recipe for the Black velvet (p. 53) many times. You take three ounces stout (I used Guinness) and fill the glass with sparkling wine. Guinness and champagne?? It seemed incredibly bizarre.

I have to say, it was pretty good! Stout mixed with fruit lambic is amazing and this mixture was pretty similar. The sparkling wine lent a welcome sweetness to the stout and the Guinness stopped the sparkling wine from being too sweet. But the most obvious benefit to the black velvet is being able to say that you are drinking Guinness mixed with champagne.

Do you know of any other champagne cocktails? Have you had the "black velvet"? What were your thoughts?

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Black pepper vodka (p. 58)

I'm not a huge drinker.

(Waits for the laughter to die down)

No, honestly, I certainly drank my weight in alcohol in college but nowadays tend only to drink when I get together with friends and almost never at home. The unintended consequence of this has been steady increase in types of alcohol in the house--I might need rum for a recipe, I buy it, and the rum sits around until it evaporates in about twenty years.

That being said, I do like a nice Bloody Mary. And I like peppered vodka in my Bloody Mary.

There are three infused vodka recipes in TJOC and they all look good (citrus vodka, tea vodka, and black pepper vodka). I decided to use the last quarter bottle of Absolut that was in the fridge to make Black pepper vodka (p. 58). It's an incredibly easy recipe.

I poured whole black peppercorns into the bottle:

Let it steep for a couple days and strained the peppercorns back out:

Yum! Extremely peppery and perfect for a Bloody Mary, if you like a nice kick. I'm definitely going to infuse more vodka because it's so simple. Any ideas of what else to mix with pepper vodka?

In other news, I've been reading Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking" and I can't recommend it enough, especially if you enjoy food science and food chemistry. I've learned all sorts of interesting random information.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

High-altitude fudge cake (p. 749) and High-altitude spice cake (p. 750)

When I get stressed, I bake. It's like an equation: Jessica+stress=baked goods. And I've been REALLY stressed lately, so I decided it was cupcake time. I really like cupcakes.

I thought I would make High-altitude fudge cake (p. 749) in cupcake form.

I started by separating my eggs:

I whipped the egg whites with a little cream of tartar and added sugar:

Does anyone else think whipped egg whites are beautiful?

(For some reason, my pictures are not particularly comprehensive, so you will have to use your imagination)

I melted baker's chocolate (making sure to lock the dog out of the kitchen with a baby-gate--I'm always nervous using unsweetened chocolate with Duchess wandering around). In a third bowl, I mixed butter, sugar, and vanilla, eventually incorporating the egg yolks and the melted chocolate. The flour mixture, along with milk, were added alternately to the butter mixture:

I folded in the egg white mixture until there were no streaks and poured it into the cupcake cups:

They looked pretty good:

Although they sort of collapsed:

These cupcakes were amazing. They were incredibly moist. They were definitely fudge cupcakes rather than chocolate cupcakes--dense and really chocolaty. It's a good thing the cupcakes were so good because they were quite a bit of trouble and made a TON of dishes.

Since almost every dish in my kitchen was dirty, I figured I might as well make a second variety of cupcake. I settled on High-altitude spice cake (p. 750). The recipe is a spin-off of the High altitude two-egg cake.

The main difference between the two recipes is that I added cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cocoa powder, and a little red pepper to the dry mixture of the spice cake:

They were attractive cupcakes:

I made SO MANY! I don't know what I was thinking.

I love cupcakes, though. They are the perfect size for me.

This spice cake is a serious spice cake--if you don't normally like spice cakes, you would hate this version. It is extremely spicy. Between the red pepper and the ginger, there is a real kick. I used (store bought) cream cheese frosting and it was the perfect complement.

Spice cake always presents a problem for me. Josh doesn't like spice cakes, gingerbread, carrot cake and I really do. Without Josh helping to eat the cupcakes, I end up throwing half of them out because they stale so fast at high altitude. I need to find people who I can gift with my baking/cooking!

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Aioli (garlic mayonnaise) (p. 581)

I absolutely adore artichokes. I love the flavor, I love the ritual of scraping the meat with my teeth, and I love that they remind me of summers with my grandmother, because she always made me stuffed artichokes. Artichokes are definitely in my top three favorite vegetables and I would estimate that I make them more frequently than 99.9% of the general population.

I had a couple artichokes on hand and decided to think outside the box--instead of stuffing the artichokes, I would make Aioli (garlic mayonnaise) (p. 581) as a dip. I've never made homemade mayonnaise or any other truly emulsified foodstuff (I've made hot dogs, for example, but they aren't true emulsions) and I was nervous because they have a repuation for being difficult to work with (the starlets of the culinary world?).

I combined a lot of garlic with two egg yolks and a little salt in my gorgeous Vita-Mix blender (one of the best gifts a cook can get!). It wasn't enough to get mixed well by the blades.

I then slowly added a cup of olive oil and whisked in lemon juice and cold water:

It was too thin, so I thinkened it up with sour cream as TJOC recommended. I am proud to say that the emulsion held! And the aioli was garlicky and delicious. If you like garlic, make aioli, you will love it. I think I sweated garlic for the entire next day, doing my part to protect our household from vampire attack.

I don't think the blender is the optimal way to make aioli but I don't have a great whisking arm. Any other ideas? Have you ever tried making homemade aioli or mayonnaise?

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New food meme!

I am behind in blogs (what's new, right?). So keep checking old blogs or add me on Facebook and I'll update when I go through an updating binge.

Some questions for you! Please answer :) I'm begging! How many of you read this blog from a blog reader? That's one thing I always wonder. And how did you find my blog? How long have you been reading?

A reader was recently pointing out that I never write about myself. That's true for a couple reasons: I don't have a very interesting personal life and I hear too many horror stories about people getting fired for their blogs. Do you want to hear anything about my life outside the kitchen? Or are you here entirely for the cooking?

Here is a meme (actually, several memes, formed into one):

1. Can you cook? If yes, do you like to cook?
Sure! I'm beginning to be a pretty good cook. And I do like cooking. Which is a good thing when you are cooking through a cookbook with a bazillion recipes in it.

2. When do you eat with your whole family?
On holidays. Unless you are talking about just Josh and I, we eat together about half the time.

3. What do you eat for breakfast?
Nothing. I haven't consistently eaten breakfast since I had a say in the matter. I don't like eating in the morning.

4. When, where and how do you eat on weekdays?
I love eating lunch out, just my book and me. But now that we are having monatary issues, I limit eating out to once a week. Most of the time I just eat dinner (I have a really slow metabolism and I'm not hungry most of the time) but sometimes I eat lunch too.

5. How often do you eat out (in a restaurant)?
As often as possible. A few times a week for dinner, more for lunch, when we aren't having money issues :)

6. How often do you order delivery/take-out?
We live a block out of the delivery range for most restaurants, so we rarely get it. There is an AMAZING pizza place in town, so we get pizza take-out at least once every two weeks.

7. Regarding no. 5 and 6: Say there weren’t financial reasons would you do this more often?

8. Are there any “standard dishes” you serve regularly?
Sure. I make tortilla soup all the time. My blue cheese dressing is requested by everyone I know. I make pasta a lot (like a good Italian-American). I, like my mother and grandmother, make a great pork roast and roasted potatoes.

9. Have you ever cooked for more than 6 persons?
Yes! I've done Thanksgiving for the last three years and my graduation dinner was for nine.

10. Do you cook every day?
No, although I do cook a lot of days.

11. Have you ever tried recipes from blogs?
Yes, although not often. I tend to cook from cookbooks or magazines a lot more frequently.

12. Who cooks more frequently at your home?


13. And who cooks better?
Probably me :)

14. Do you cook totally different compared to your mother/parents?
No, not really.

15. If yes, do you nevertheless eat at your parents?
Absolutely! They are absolutely terrific cooks.

16. Are you a vegetarian or could you imagine being one?

No and no. It would be challenging to be a vegetarian meat scientist. I eat a lot of vegetarian meals but I feel sorry for people who don't eat meat every time I have a delicious BLT.

17. What would you like to cook which you haven’t dared to make yet?
A souffle. I'm just too scared to make one at high altitude. Are they difficult?

18. Do you prefer cooking or baking?
Baking, hands down, but not in Colorado. I like to measure and I like precision, so baking is my thing. In fact, I like the sort of baking that requires absolute precision and measurement--candy-making.

19. What is your greatest misery in the kitchen?
Washing those damn dishes. And we don't have nearly enough counter space.

20. What do you dislike?
Foodwise? I hate bell peppers. I also can't stand canned tuna--it actually makes my stomach roll to think about tuna.
And another :)

21. What’s your #1 comfort food? Right now it's tortilla soup with homemade tortilla chips. I gorge myself. I also love stuffed artichokes. Esp. stuffed baby artichokes.

22. If you were on a deserted island, what one food would you want to have with you? Fresh, potable water, so I didn't die of dehydration. Is that too practical of an answer?

23. What is/are your signature dishes? (What dishes are you ‘known’ for?) Blue cheese dressing, as boring as that is. Honestly, this dressing can make dyed-in-the-wool blue cheese haters believe.

24. It’s Friday night, you don’t know what to cook. You opt for…Ordering in a pizza.

25. What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to food? Soda. I love Coke.

26. What food can you absolutely not eat? I posted above what I don't like. What I can not eat is most fruit, since I'm allergic to it. I want to eat pineapple and mango but I can't. My allergist thinks I'm heading right towards deadly fruit allergies and I have to carry an epi-pen around.

27. You need a drink. You grab a….Coke. Or an iced tea. I love iced tea (no sugar, no lemon).

28. What’s the most decadent dish you’ve had? High grade Kobe beef teppanyaki in Tokyo. It was amazing. And ladies in kimono served us.

29. What’s your favorite type of food? Italian, if my family is making it. French, if we are at a restaurant.

30. Favorite dish? Depends on my mood!

31. If your partner could take you to any restaurant you wanted, which one would it be? Depends on the city! Here in Fort Collins, I would choose The Melting Pot. In Des Moines I would choose Django (terrific French food!). In Chicago, The Russian Tea Room (my favorite restaurant of all time). I could name off my favorite place in almost every city I've spent a significant chunk of time in.

32. Are you a soup or salad person? Soup, soup, soup. I love soup.

33. Buffet, take-out or sit-down restaurant? I've taken a lot of food microbiology classes and they've frightened me away from buffets. Plus, I'm not a binge eater, so I don't really require the amount of variety that buffets offer. I don't like eating at fast food restaurants or any place that reminds me of a fast food restaurant, so I always take those away. I like sit-down restaurants the best.

34. What’s the most impressive dinner you’ve ever made? I don't know. I think my graduation dinner was pretty impressive. So was this New Year's Eve. (Look them up!)

35. Do you consider yourself a good cook? I do. And I'm getting better all the time.

36. Do you know what vichyssoise is? I sure do! A French potato-leek soup, usually served cold. I like it but I like it hot (I'm not that into cold soups). My Uncle Denny makes a great version of it.

37. Who’s your favorite TV cook? I don't watch cooking shows (the how-to type).

38. Can you name at least three TV cooking personalities? Sure. But could I name three I like? Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay. I love Top Chef and Top Chef Masters. I have a strange addiction to The Next Food Network Star, even though I'm very unlikely to ever watch the winner's show. On the Food Network I like Chopped.

39. Homemade or homemade from a box? Homemade for most things. I will admit to relying on canned frosting most of the time and boxed Kraft macaroni and cheese hits a very special comfort food spot for me. I think I eat far less boxed foods than most people--I could easily live without a microwave. I pretty much only use ours to melt butter for recipes.

***If you decide to do this meme on your own blog, please let me know in the comments and link back***

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cornmeal pancakes I (p. 645) and Mixed shellfish in tomato sauce (p. 369)

Pancakes tend to be quick to make so I thought that Cornmeal pancakes I (p. 645) would make a tasty, quick meal, especially since I really liked Cornmeal pancakes II. The recipes were fairly similar.

In one bowl I mixed cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. In the other bowl I combined melted butter, milk, honey, and two eggs:

The wet ingredients were added to the dry ingredients and they were briefly mixed (DON'T OVERMIX! LUMPS ARE OKAY!).

I had Josh cook the pancakes, so I forgot to take any pictures of the finished product. These pancakes were good but they weren't nearly as good as the other cornbread pancake recipe. I don't really like foods that are sweetened with honey or maple syrup--these pancakes were just way too sweet for me. Only a few more pancake varieties left!

I haven't been making great progress on the shellfish chapter. Shellfish in Colorado is expensive and usually of questionable freshness. That being said, Josh is a huge fan of shrimp and I adore scallops. I stumbled upon a few packages of shrimp and scallops on sale at the grocery store and thought Mixed shellfish in tomato sauce (p. 369) looked tasty.

I sauteed red pepper flakes, garlic, and olive oil.

TJOC says to discard the pepper and the garlic, so you are left with the infused olive oil. I thought that sounded silly--I love garlic and red pepper, why would I discard it? I skipped that step. I added tomatoes, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Once the tomatoes started to break down, I added a mixture of peeled shrimp and scallops.

After a bit more simmering to cook the shellfish, it was done! I poured it over pasta (although it doesn't have to be a sauce--you can just eat it straight).

Delicious! I really liked this recipe and it was extremely simple. It tasted even better the next day after the flavors had time to meld. Every Christmas Eve we have a no-meat all-shellfish dinner and I honestly think that this sauce could stand up against most of our holiday fish sauces (it would be even better with some squid in it). It was nicely spiced, too, so I recommend ignoring the line about discarding the spices.

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Chicken Marengo (p. 433)

Chicken Marengo (p. 433) has an interesting history. It was the meal that Napoleon's chef created after the Battle of Marengo. Napoleon liked the dish and considered it lucky, refusing to let the chef change the recipe in the future. Wikipedia mentions that the original recipe included chicken, eggs, tomatoes, onions, and crawfish. Do you like food ancedotes? I should include more of them--I have entire books full of various food trivia. Useless knowledge--amaze your friends and neighbors!

The TJOC version doesn't include eggs or crawfish, fortunately. I don't know where I would find crawfish in Colorado.

I sauteed an onion in olive oil and removed it from the pan. I took six pounds of chicken (that is a LOT of chicken) and browned it in batches. And this point, I realized there was no way I was going to be able to fit all the chicken in the pan I was using and transferred the chicken to a large stockpot.

I added wine, garlic, thyme, a bay leaf, parsley, chicken stock, and tomatoes, and simmered it for about an hour:

I added some butter and lemon juice to the mixture. At this point, I got really confused. The next line says to "arrange chicken quarters, mushrooms, onions, and black olives in a large earthenware container". There were several problems to this. 1. What chicken quarters? My chicken is in pieces, not quarters. 2. What mushrooms? There were no mushrooms in the recipe. 3. Who has an earthenware container that big? Certainly not me.

So I looked up the corrections and there, of course, was Chicken Marengo.

I was in a jam at this point. I had to separate the chicken into two dishes because I didn't have an ovenproof dish big enough. I didn't have mushrooms or pearl onions (my nemesis, troublemaking yet again). I ladled the chicken mixture into two glass containers, stuck them in the fridge, and decided to finish the recipe the next day. They really weren't two dramatically different colors like this picture shows (it must be the lighting):

The next day I added the black olives, a jigger of brandy, and popped it in the oven:

This recipe is a good example of why I should really stay up on my postings. I can barely remember the flavor of this recipe.

On the other hand:

1. In my opinion, six to eight pounds of chicken results in way too much food.
2. The brandy was rather strong for a chicken dish.
3. I don't like eating chicken off the bone in this sort of recipe. Next time I make one of these recipes I will debone the thighs before I start. This is an annoyance both Josh and I share.
4. All that being said, it was a really cheap dish that made a LOT of food.
5. Even so I hate pearl onions.

Has anyone else ever had Chicken Marengo? Is this generally what it looks like?

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