Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A few questions for my non-US readers

I have a question for my non-American readers :)

1. Do you actually have a copy of TJOC? Is it readily available in your country?

2. Do I ever mention ingredients that you are confused by or don't have in your country? I think there are a lot of foods that we take for granted in the US that aren't necissarly sold everywhere. A coworker of my dad told me once that his daughter, who lived in Europe, always wanted them to send barbecue sauce, ranch dressing, and marshmallows.

3. If I have made any ethnic food from that your country is known for, did the TJOC version bear any resemblance to what you are used to? Please answer, I'm very interested.

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Banana bread cockaigne (p. 628)

I'm by no stretch of the imagination a "banana bread person". I don't really like bananas (I'm allergic to raw bananas, although not nearly as allergic to bananas as I am to other fruits) and if I'm going to eat a quick bread, I would rather it was carrot or zucchini (both of which have a much better flavor in my opinion, are far more moist, and are vegetables to which I'm not allergic, all pluses). So, honestly, I don't think I'm a very good judge of Banana bread cockaigne (p. 628). Why did I even bother making it? 1. I had to make it eventually and 2. I had black bananas that either needed to be used or thrown away.

To start, I whisked flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl (I didn't feel like a picture of white powder was necessary). In another bowl, I beat butter, sugar, and lemon zest until creamy. I have to put in the obligatory plug for the Microplane--I used to avoid adding zest to foods because I hated the zesting process so much but it is SO easy with the Microplane. If you don't have one, consider buying one.

I mashed some ripe bananas to add to the sugar mixture:

The banana and egg mixture was added to the sugar bowl. I then added the flour mix to banana mixture in three parts, folding in chopped nuts at the very end (which meant Josh would not be eating this banana bread, since he hates nuts). The whole thing was poured into a buttered loaf pan:

Which was baked for about an hour:

The bread was pleasant enough. It had a mild banana flavor and the nuts were a good addition but I must have overcooked it because it was a little dry (it's also possible that the altitude worked against me--I didn't modify the recipe in any way). It's very difficult for me to get excited about banana bread--honestly, I would rather have a slice of regular bread most of the time.

So what do you guys think? Do you love banana bread? I still have another banana bread to go and it requires wheat germ, which does not excite me at all.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Spinach, broccoli, or cauliflower timbales (p. 206), Broiled teriyaki chicken (p. 426), and Teriyaki marinade (p. 586)

When I saw that timbales were on my randomly selected list, I sighed. There is just something about a type of savory mousse that nobody has heard of since approximately 1950 that turns me off. I asked tons of people about timbales to get an idea of what I was in for--not only had nobody I asked ever tasted one, most people had never even heard of timbales.

I decided to set myself up for success and start with the Spinach, broccoli, or cauliflower timbales (p. 206), using broccoli. I figured I had a high chance of liking the this particular type because I love broccoli and cheese.

The recipe wasn't very difficult. I whisked heavy cream, eggs, salt, paprika, nutmeg, and a couple of drops of lemon juice together:

I added cooked broccoli and some grated cheese and poured it all into a buttered dish.

It seemed to bake forever:

Unfortunately it broke when I tried to unmold it:

It was really good! It had the texture and flavor exactly like the inside of a quiche. I wonder if timbales went out of style as quiches rose in popularity. Does anyone know the answer to that? This particular version reminded me of broccoli cheese soup that has somehow solidified (but in a good way). Has anyone even had a timbale?

Every now and then the randomly selected list throws me a metaphorical bone and gives me items that actually go together, such as Broiled teriyaki chicken (p. 426) and Teriyaki marinade (p. 586).

The sauce was easy enough. I combined soy sauce, vegetable oil, brown sugar, garlic cloves, fresh ginger, and a bit of sherry in a pot:

I boiled it down:

And it was ready to be used on the chicken.

I broke down my own chicken--I'm too cheap to buy the chicken pieces and an 8-piece chicken isn't very difficult, I can even post pictures of how to do it if anyone is interested. An 8-piece chicken is two thighs, two legs, two wings, and two breasts (although I almost always split the breasts to make similar sized pieces, so I suppose I'm actually making a ten-piece chicken).

I painted the marinade over the chicken pieces. It slid right off. I poured marinade on the chicken. It still slid off. I think there was too much vegetable oil in the recipe and it made the sauce too slippery.

I managed not to take a picture of the finished product, so you will have to use your imagination. The chicken was really moist but took forever to cook (make sure to use your meat thermometer if you don't want to eat raw chicken). They teriyaki marinade was pretty heavy on the soy sauce and I thought it was a bit strong and oily. I would give the teriyaki marinade another chance but I would use pork rather than chicken.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Berries cockaigne (p. 219)

Occasionally the randomly selected list throws me a suggestion that I have actually selected against at some point for a multitude of reasons. Berries cockaigne (p. 219) was one of those recipes. I've read through the recipe a number of times and it always seemed so bizarre it seemed like I was misreading it.

I arranged raspberries around a mound of brown sugar and added some whipped cream.

That's it. That is the entire recipe.

It was good, I guess. It seemed particularly strange to be dipping berries in pure sugar and then whipped cream. Since it was such a short recipe, it seemed like I should write my views in haiku.

Berries, brown sugar
No other ingredients?
Very strange indeed

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Golden sauteed plantain slices (p. 294)

I really like plantains. For those of you who have never had one, they look like this:

The blackish ones are plantains, the yellow ones are bananas (and the green one is a jalapeno). The thing to keep in mind about plantains is that the more black they get, the more sweet and banana-like they are, so don't throw them out when they blacken.

I decided to make Golden sauteed plantain slices (p. 294). I used to pan-fry plantains often as an undergraduate but I haven't made them in years. I'm allergic to almost all fruit so I'm always hoping to find something I can actually eat--my allergy makes eating fruit a game of Russian Roulette. Of course, TJOC puts the plantains in the vegetable section, which may be why I've never found the recipe before (bananas are in the fruit section).

I melted butter and vegetable oil in a skillet and added sliced plantains:

I fried the plantains until they were golden on both sides:

And sprinkled them with salt and pepper.

Delicious! I can't recommend these enough. The plantains hit the perfect combination of sweet and savory (if you sprinkle salt and pepper on them). They are fast, easy, and the perfect comfort food to add to your cooking repertoire. Once you make them you will never need to look at a recipe again, which I see as a real win. Who else loves fried plantains?

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Butterscotch nut cookies (p. 771)

I've been on a real kick of making recipes from the Randomly Selected List (mostly because I like creating the lists and need to finish this one before making a new one). I decided to make Butterscotch nut cookies (p. 771).

I've never liked butterscotch. I especially don't like those hard butterscotch disks. My father has always tried to convince me that caramel and butterscotch were the same thing so if I liked one, I should like the other (and I like caramel, so I should like butterscotch). That is not accurate in any way but is what I always think of when I see butterscotch. When I told that story on Facebook while making these cookies, my father replied that my brothers never bought that explanation either.

The cookies are essentially butterscotch blondies with a tiny bit more flour, chocolate chips, and nuts. Before starting this recipe I couldn't figure out what would make them butterscotch--wouldn't they really just be vanilla brownies made in to cookies?

No, it turns out.

I melted butter in a small saucepan and cooked it until it was a light golden brown (that must be the butterscotch part!):

In a bowl I mixed together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt (I didn't take a picture of that step, it was a bunch of white powder, you can use your imagination).

I added brown sugar and white sugar to the butter:

I let it cool until barely warm and added in an egg, and extra egg yolk, a little corn syrup, and some vanilla:

I mixed in chocolate chips and flour mixture. I decided to do the whole thing in the saucepan so I could make less dishes.

I didn't add the nuts. This actually hurt me--I love nuts in sweets but Josh doesn't and I knew I would have to eat all the cookies myself if I added them. It was a mistake because Josh didn't like the cookies and I ended up eating them all myself any way.

I mounded the cookies:

And cooked them:

These cookies started out with the deck stacked against them--I don't like crispy cookies, I like cakey cookies, and these were flat and very crispy. I have to say, they were actually good. They were very butterscotch-y in a pleasing, butter-y sort of way. I actually recommend adding the chocolate chips, coconut, and nuts (all the optional ingredients) because I think they would really round out the flavor.

I'm not a huge cookie person but I would make these again.

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Ground meat patties (p. 511) and Pea puree (p. 290)

I have been making such great progress on the Randomly Selected List that I didn't want slow down. Page 511 only had one recipe I hadn't already made--Ground meat patties (p. 511)--so that was a simple choice. It's pretty exciting to have pages that are either entirely finished or only have one recipe left!

The recipe calls for either chicken, veal, or lamb. I'm not going to waste expensive lamb or veal on burgers and I don't like ground chicken. I decided that if ground chicken was okay, than ground turkey should be fine (right?).

I mixed together the bread crumbs, an egg, a little lemon zest, salt, coriander, nutmeg, curry powder, and black pepper:

You can tell from the picture how strongly spiced these patty recipe was.

I added the meat and worked it with my hands until it was mixed (I always find this strangely enjoyable, smashing the meat with my hands--just make sure to wash your hands thoroughly). I formed the mixture into patties. I only got about half the quantity the recipe mentioned, so my patties must have been too big.

I cooked the patties about ten minutes per side:

And done! These had a very strong and very specific flavor, which, unfortunately, I couldn't put my finger on. I can even recall it--one day I will be eating whatever food these patties are reminiscent of, jump up, and yell "Eureka!".

Josh expected not to like the ground meat patties (he insists he doesn't like ground turkey) at all but was won over--these aren't your average hamburgers but they were very good. I honestly think these would be good with any of the meats suggested, although each one would give you a unique flavor. This is a REALLY good choice for people who don't eat beef for religious reasons.

As many of you know, I love Top Chef. On the current season, it seems like every week somebody is making (or stealing!) pea puree. 'What is so special about pea puree', I wondered. So I decided to make Pea puree (p. 290).

This is an incredibly simple recipe. I thawed a package of frozen peas, drained it, and pureed it with heavy cream.

I seasoned it with a little salt and pepper:

And it was finished. First of all, it was beautiful. An incredibly vibrant Spring green, absolutely perfect for Spring (I realize it isn't Spring but it would be perfect for Spring). I can see why chefs like to use it on a plate, it's very eye-catching. And it was tasty! I always thought I didn't like peas but I think I just don't like canned peas. These peas were very fresh tasting and smooth. Plus they heated up very well the next day. If you do any of that fancy plating, I think this would make a great base.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Curried chicken or turkey salad (p. 164)

I have a number of reasons for putting a recipe off instead of making it.  Sometimes a recipe is expensive, sometimes they are complex or challenging, sometimes they have an ingredient nobody in the house likes.  But sometimes I already make a great version of a dish, so there is no real incentive to make the TJOC version.  Curried chicken or turkey salad (p. 164) is one of these.  I make a GREAT curry chicken salad that is essentially my recreation of the curry chicken salad at Paradise.  

This version, too, tastes exactly like the version at Paradise, which makes me question where they got their recipe.

It was one of only two recipes left on one of my randomly selected pages though and I knew it would be easy.  It was easy.

I mixed cooked chicken (I used poached chicken the stock I made), pecans, golden raisins, a few scallions, a chopped apple, and some celery:

I whipped up some curry mayonnaise and poured it over the top:

How was it?  Good but my version is just as good (I use sunflower seeds rather than nuts, for example).  The curry lends a nice spiciness to the empty canvas of the chicken, the apple and celery give a juicy crunch, and the raisins add a nice sweetness.  This chicken salad is something different than the normal chicken salad, so if you are getting stuck in a sandwich or salad rut I recommend it.  Make sure you use a good curry or it would be awful--I always make my own but I'm sure you can buy good mixes too.  

I'm making great progress on this randomized list!  I'm a third finished already!
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Sugar syrup (p. 43), The Highball (p. 59), Gin & Tonic (p. 56),Scarlett O'Hara (p. 63),Pink lady (p. 57),Grasshopper (p. 63),Whiskey sour (p. 59),

If you have a problem with alcohol, this might be a good post to skip!

You know, people have very different vacation styles. Some like to not plan and just let stuff happen. Others obsessively plan and almost keep a clipboard and whistle. I like to think I'm in the middle. I have found that if you don't plan, you don't do anything! Everyone sits around for at least half the day. I like to make a plan, if we don't stick to it, that's okay, but at least we have any idea.

As I mentioned in the last couple posts, my cousin Erica and her boyfriend Pat were coming to visit us for a day. I wanted to make the day especially fun so that they would come back. I thought about what is special about Fort Collins and came up with breweries! Fort Collins has a ton of breweries. There are at least 4 major breweries and another several brewery/restaurants in town.

Josh had to work a half day, so once Erica and Pat got up, we went to a local brewery/restaurant for lunch. CB&Potts. I really like CB&Potts-the hamburgers are delicious and the beer is excellent. Pat got a sampler and I got a delicious apricot ale along with our lunch. We then went to Budweiser and did a factory tour (plus we got to drink an AMAZING blueberry beer called Wild Blue-it was amazing, I will definitely be looking for that again). We went back to the house, picked up Josh, and headed to the tap room at New Belgium. The New Belgium tap room is always a hit with guests--you get three free drinks, there are always lots of fun people around, and they serve small-batch brews in the tap room that you can't find anywhere else. Finally, we had heard that Odell's brewery charges for their samples, so Josh and I had crossed it off the must-do list, but I talked to customers at New Belgium who really recommended it. We headed over there--I'm really glad we did! They don't charge very much (like $4 to $12 for a bunch of samplers) and had an amazing rhubarb beer and curry beer among great others!

We ended the night at this amazing speakeasy-style hidden bar that served great tapas. Unfortunately this is my only picture of the night (sorry that your eyes are closed, Erica!):

Believe it or not, we thought the perfect end to the night would be drinking TJOC cocktails. In fact, during the planning stages, Erica brought up drinking TJOC cocktails as a fun activity which was music to my ears. If you want to butter me up, say that we should get together and do some sort of TJOC activity. Let me tell you, mixing drinks for four people and taking photos, while progressively getting more drunk, meant that I don't have good notes or pictures of the drinks that were made. I am only counting the ones that I'm absolutely sure about.

A lot of cocktails require Sugar syrup (p. 43). Sugar syrup is really simple--I combined two parts sugar with one part water and cooked it over low heat. Extremely simple and I now have a container of it in the fridge:

The Highball (p. 59). I poured whiskey in a glass and added club soda. Either Josh or Pat drank it and said it was very tasty--the club soda cut the whiskey a little (if you don't want a straight whiskey on the rocks).

Gin & Tonic (p. 56). It's hard for me to believe that anybody likes gin, especially since when a anybody tells a story about how they can't even smell (insert alcohol) it seems to be either gin or tequila. I've never had a gin incident, I just don't like it. In fact, I think the only time I ordered gin was when I was lucky enough to take a business-class flight to Italy and found out they give you tiny free alcohols at that level (little Bombay gin bottles are particularly cute). And tonic water is one of those most vile things on earth. So I fed the gin and tonic to Josh. He wasn't sure about it but I think it was less the recipe and more the revolting taste of tonic water.

Scarlett O'Hara (p. 63). I shook Southern Comfort, cranberry juice, and lime juice over ice. I liked it--I like SoCo--but it wasn't my favorite because I'm not a huge fan of lime juice.

A Pink lady (p. 57) is gin, grenadine, and cream, shook over ice.

Erica drank this one. She said it was good, I liked that it matched her outfit, and we both felt like we were in the 1950's with our pink ladies and grasshoppers. I like pastel drinks (but don't tell anyone!).

I thought that a Grasshopper (p. 63) would be perfect to drink while Erica was drinking a pink lady. I shook creme de menthe (green, I was amazed they made it in more than one color!), creme de cacao (white because brown looks gross), and half-and-half with ice. It was really good, like a creamy Thin Mint (that is a delicious Girl Scout Cookie for those of you outside the US).

We were outside while everybody but me enjoyed a fine cigar (Josh has a humidor and an increasingly impressive collection--he is ecstatic when someone wants to smoke a cigar with him). My drink matched my outfit too!

Whiskey sour (p. 59). I shook blended whiskey (I'm sorry Erin and Heather! I used Scoresby rather than Jameson--it was cheaper and I was buying a LOT of alcohol), lemon juice, and sugar syrup with ice. Josh enjoyed it and said it was a perfect whiskey sour (I think he was exaggerating but I was glad to hear it).

I actually didn't make any notes to go with this picture--thankfully, I took a picture of the drink sitting on TJOC and could figure out that it was a Screwdriver (p. 57). I shook vodka and orange juice with ice and, apparently, decided not to serve it on ice. It was good--there isn't a whole lot to say about something as simple as orange juice and vodka mixed together. It's the tailgating breakfast of champions.

Tequila sunrise (p. 62). I stirred tequila and orange juice then poured a little grenadine over the top. It was so beautiful and looked like a perfect tequila sunrise! I have no idea who drank this. Hopefully they will comment.

I was amazed by the recipe for the Singapore sling (p. 57). It has so many things in it! I was happy to see that it gave me another use for cherry brandy, since I bought some to marinate cherries in for chocolate covered cherries, which I never ended up making. I shook gin, cherry brandy, pineapple juice, lime juice, triple sec, grenadine, and bit of bitters (I did not use benedictine--I'm not exactly sure what it is). I don't know who drank this or what it tasted like--I will report back or, hopefully, Pat or Erica will comment.

It was an amazingly fun day. I can't wait for them to come back to visit. I know I made a number of drinks that weren't photographed--for example, I'm positive I made a Sazerac because I think they are strange to drink when you aren't in New Orleans and I'm used to them being made with absinthe (not required in the TJOC recipe).

Friends, you can look forward to a night of this sort of TJOC drinking when you visit, now that I have a well-stocked liquor cabinet.

Anyone regularly drink any of these? How would you describe them? Have you gone on any of these tours? Do you want to go on them when you visit me? :)

Liptauer cheese spread (p.76) and Eggplant caviar (p. 75)

As I mentioned in the last post, my cousin and her boyfriend were going to be visiting and I tend to forget to have much in the way of snack food in the house. I knew we were likely to have a night of TJOC cocktails and it seemed like a good idea to have some carb-heavy appetizers. Of course, I totally forget to serve them and Josh and I ended up eating them all the next week.

I actually have made a significant portion of the "Appetizers and Hors D'oeuvres" so it is getting increasingly difficult to find items that both are not particularly difficult and look appetizing.

Liptauer cheese spread (p.76) seemed like it could go either way to me. I mixed cream cheese and paprika by hand (I made sure the cream cheese was really soft and it wasn't difficult to mix by hand). I then stirred in minced onions and capers:

It actually was really good on dark rye break. The sweetness of the cream cheese was broken up by the tang of the capers and the paprika. TJOC recommends spreading it on radishes and I bet that would be good.

I also made Eggplant caviar (p. 75). I forgot to take any pictures of the process or the finished product until the next day. I roasted two eggplants and then peeled and chopped them (as they oozed water everywhere). I sauteed onion and garlic in olive oil until soft, then added in the eggplants, a can of tomatoes, and salt. I cooked it for an over an hour, until the liquid evaporated.

IT WAS SO GOOD! If you like eggplants and garlic, this is the recipe for you. I suppose if you don't like eggplants or garlic, stay far, far away from this recipe--it is strong. I ate it on crackers. Warning--it makes a LOT of eggplant caviar. A LOT. It says 8-10 servings, I would say it makes more than that. I will make this again--it would be a bit hit in my garlic loving family. It's a great summer garden recipe--a lot of people grow tomatoes and eggplant and I think the recipe would be even better with garden-fresh veggies.

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