January 2006 Archives

Sweet Faced Hobo

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curious face.JPG

really tasty medallions

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The pork medallions were so very tasty. And yes, the grill came out to play willingly. (Heck, it was 60 degrees yesterday, but right now it's snowing.)

After slicing the pork tenderloin, my favorite cut, about 3/4" thick, I pounded them to about 1/4" thickness. They got thown in to a bowl that was 1/4 filled with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, rosemary, smashed garlic. Then they sat while I prepped the veggies, started the rice, waited for the grill to heat up. The pork cooked up pretty fast, and they made delicious tidbitds for a late morning snack the next day.

The furnace man came last week and did his cleaning thing. In the mail yesterday was a suspicious-looking letter form the company. Thankfully, the amount due column showed a big fat ZERO. But I was anxuios for a moment. He said we were running at 81%. I guess that's good for a 10 year old system. Not that it's been on very much this year. We have hardly been able to enjoy the new woodstove. If it's over 25 degrees outside, the heat from the stove blasts us out of the rooms. But colder than that, it's a joy to have, and extremely efficient. The kitties like it too. I'm still waiting for the smell of singed whiskers from Hobo. I'm not sure she's all that bright when her curiosity takes over...

Here's a photo of her getting into the printer. She comes running whenever she hears it going. It really fascinates her.how does it DO that.JPG

really is the best

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The crockpot mac 'n cheese recipe really is the best. I used a 4cheese blend (Mexican style) which was onhand for Taco night. I think it's much more forgiving in terms of which cheeses you can use as compared to the classic method. And there's no worry about that grainy-floury texture you sometimes get if the white sauce won't absorb all the milkfat from the cheeses, or you mess up the butter-to-flour ratio, or turn your head away for a moment and that's the moment the roux gets too dark. This is much less scientific. Sometimes my brain needs a night off, although I still want to cook every day. Leftovers were devoured at lunchtime today.

Going for a Pierre Franey Pork Medallion recipe at dinner, I hope the weather lets me get the grill out. They should cook up in just a few minutes. Now I must find something to do with broccoli, and all the leftover sides from the tacos: chopped tomato, black olive, shredded romaine, diced red pepper, sliced scallion. I am searching the 4000+ handcreated recipe database I have. I'll start with broccoli, under veggie sides. There's about 30 I have saved there so far. None of those include the cold salads, like marinated veggie plates, or green salads either. So I'll do a search in that veggie sides folder using some of the keywords, looking in the text files, not the filename, and using my ingredient list. If there's any good ideas out there, bring em on!

mac 'n cheeze the ez way

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Ooooh, this is a keeper! I have the easiest way to make macaroni & cheese, it's a crockpot cheat! Don't get me wrong, I can do the delicate white sauce, hand-shredded cheddar (+ 2 other types: my Mother always said to use 3 cheeses) thing with the best of them. But this result is so classic, I am getting excited just thinking about it.

Put a couple cups cooked pasta in the pot, add a beaten egg, 2c cheddar, 1 can evaporated milk, s&p, a bit of butter. Stir it up, put 1 more c cheese on top, cover, cook 3+ hours on lo. That's it!

We're having it tonight, & I'm gonna try doubling the recipe.That's because I plan to eat most of it myself. Can you say "comfort food?" I sure can!

the chicken gets crocked

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Hoping to find a good recipe to use the underused crockpot my father gave me when I was pregnant, I stumbled upon a chicken dish. I looked too simple. Drop some chicken breasts, dusted with s&p, in the bottom. Add 1 cup "wild rice mix" (this was ambiguous to me), about 2 cups water mixed with the juice of a lemon, and 8 smashed cloves of garlic. Set to low for 8 hours.

I did all this, and as it got going, the house filled with quite a garlicy fragarance. I thought it a bit scary. I gave it a taste about 6 hours in. Yes, very garlicky, but the chicken was meltingly tender. The rice, on the other hand, was mush. Not to worry! I used the chicken in two other recipes calling for cooked chicken breasts and found it to be the best garlic-infused poached chicken I have ever had. Maybe I should start calling myself the accidental cook?

tasty treats

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Went to one of Hudson's new places last night: Swoon Kitchen Bar. Best part? I went away satisfied, yet wanting more. Not too full. That's nice. The service was fine, if stiff, saw three families from town, and prices are as moderate as they say. It was a nice meal. I was told by my dining mate that the salmon from The Berry Farm prepared at home (which is usually weekly) is much better than what was on the plate last night, and that's too bad. My pappardelle with shiitake & goat cheese was nice. More on that later. I had a wonderful French "chablis" that I am trying to track down to have at home. It was the special. We really got a kick out of the wine shop directly across the steet. Will have to go there again. Picked up something red from Portugal. yum.


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A friend stopped by to chat about some website-related things going on where she works. Got alot of tips while she was here for things she thinks her email program can do (it can) and how to do it right (she can). She even took notes. But when she was looking at the new kitchen, she commented that she has the same oven. I told her how much I dislke that fact that it never looks clean, and that the cleanser they tell you to use is no better than warn soapy water and lots of elbow grease. She says "razorblades." "Really?" I replied. Who knew? Is it in the usermanual? look here to see.

Personally, I feel that if I have to get out a lethal weapon to clean up my stovetop every time I use it (which is daily) I have got a problem. Does anybody have a better idea? I know they are selling a ton of these glass cooktops. They cook really well, but look lousy afterward. Help.

Speaking of salmon...

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Entry 4
Salmon bought for last night being prepared & served tonight (nobody was here to eat it but me, I don’t cook for me).
Roast fillet (lemon juice, s&p only) with a stir fry (no big saucing efforts go with it, I am curious to see how this comes together). Oh yes, winter is back, what were we thinking? And rain, and wind, and...hail?
Salmon was very tender, Berry Farm organic has not let us down yet, but I found the stir fry to be strong. I reheated the last couple nights’ veggies (fresh green beans, froz pea/carrot mix) for the crowd, fearing they would balk at the stir fry. Everybody ate the green salad this time with fresh balsamic herb vinaigrette. Go figure. I put out a fresh green salad 4x week & it sits untouched 3 of those nights.
I think the problem with the stir fry was my adding to the written recipe with ½ a sliced watermelon radish that’s been around for a while. It lent a funky flavor, albeit GORGEOUS color, to the whole. I’m beginning to prefer the salmon roasted in the oven, when I can’t get through the snow to the grill, rather than cooked in the skillet. And that’s because the grease on the cooktop plus the fumes that linger all through the house are not that appealing the next morning. Don't get me wrong, I adore all kinds of fish & seafood. But even with the new exhaust fan over the new cooktop, there’s still an odor. And I am really aggravated by the difficulty getting the tempered glass cooktop clean and keeping it that way. I love how it cooks, hate how it looks.

Ps. guy coming to “service the furnace” today. Yeah, right.

Next: glass cleaner & razorblades?

The cream puff pot pie experience

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Entry 3:
Let’s hear about the pot pie.
The final results…yummy

The actual recipe is a simple concept. Use leftover diced turkey, mix it up with some sautéed veggies, make a cream sauce, and put it in the middle of a pastry-lined pie plate. But what differed here was that the pastry was not your usual pate brisee or choux or even the stuff you get in the freezer or refrigerated section of the grocery store. It is a cream puff pastry. And there is no top.
I had not tried this in years, but, as I said before, my Mother made it often for company & I devoured it, whether it had custard or crab inside, sweet or savory. So it was a little challenge, or test, for me to see if I could do it. You make it while the filling sits waiting, so you could actually make the filling at any time and bring it out when you are ready to put the final product together. I also see that you could use anything, really, in place of the turkey, other meats, seafood (shrimp or LOBSTER!), or even pump up the veggies and omit meat altogether.
Water & butter, basically, are melted in a heavy saucepan. Then you add flour, stir tons, off the heat, with a wooden spoon, then add eggs, 1 at a time, stirring madly in between, and by the time your arm aches alot, it's done. You press it into the piepan, but push it out to the sides, making a blank space in the middle. This is where your warm filling goes. Shove it in the oven, and watch the puffing! You have to make slits in the sides at the end of baking for the steam to escape, keep it in the oven a bit longer, or it will fall at the table.
I found it yummy, child was entertained by its appearance, and "I don't like puffy egg things" guy was slicing off bits and eating them when I wasn’t looking. So it was a hit and I'll make it again. I will try all veggie in the spring - fresh peas, spring onion & baby carrots- and most definitely something with seafood. Salmon perhaps if not shellfish.
BTW the kitten was all over my feet & crying for this when I was at the counter making the cream sauce. I suppose she smelled the turkey, the other fat cats have taught her all about poultry. I'll try to post my first photo of her "reviewing" a recipe on the computer.

Next: speaking of salmon...

this recipe smells goodtiny.JPG

Mise En Place

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Here’s my primer on mise en place:
Early in the day I get out my ingredients while consulting the recipe (let's say I'm making a dinner). If it's something that needs to remain chilled, I check to be sure it's on hand, fresh, in the correct quantities, move it to the front of the refrigerator, separate out 2 eggs from the rest, etc. Next, I take out the pots, pans, measuring devices I’ll need, sort of stack them by the stove, then I go about my business for the next few hours. Knowing that some advance work has been done makes the act of actually COOKING the meal (and the rest of day) more pleasurable.
Let's take this concept further: before lunch chop, mince and measure things like: onion, garlic, flour, s&p, herbs, spices, and set them out in little dishes near your food prep area. You might be able to combine the garlic & onion in the same small bowl because the recipe calls for them to added to the skillet at the same time. (I have been to garage sales for sets of 1/2 cup glass ramekins; 2 cup steel bowls - the kind used by a bartender for drink garnishes. I now have stacks of them that are for mise en place.)
The goal is to have your ingredients on hand right where you need them, already measured out. This method requires less time in the kitchen when you are actually cooking the meal. If you are entertaining, or it's a really big or complicated dinner, you'll have more time for your guests during the "coctail hour", and you have taken huge steps at organizing your overall meal prep process.
You might recognize this as what you see on TV cooking shows. Even though the famous chefs have somebody to do all of their prep work for them, pretend you are the sous chef doing your own morning kitchen work. When you return to the kitchen in your fresh apron in the evening, you are now the Chef de Cuisine and everything is in it’s place, ready for you to work your magic!
Whether it's a stir fry prepared in a matter of minutes (you really do need those ingredients on hand and ready to throw in the wok) or a baking project, mise in place is the way to go.
Translation: everything in it’s place. Lots of French words have been gobbled up into the common English language, and the food/cooking arena is no exception.

next: so what about that pot pie?

Cream Puff Pot Pie

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Ok. First Entry. Welcome to the blog, right? For someone like me who gets so much pleasure out of cooking (and eating) this is a natural. And since I usually can't keep my excitement to myself about things in my little world, here I am. If you are willing to try making a recipe you read about, including it’s trials and tribulations, this is a match made in heaven.

Yesterday I got to prepare a(nother) new dinner. I like to try things that are completely new. I can usually tell what a dish will taste like once I've read the recipe. I have seen this ability explained by the pros. I guess have it, so I am not taking a big risk serving something to others that I have never tried myself. In fact, doing just that makes the end result all the more interesting for me, as well as the guests!
So back to yesterday. I found a recipe to use up some cooked turkey. I had roasted a 7.5lb breast a few days back and the carcass was ripe for the picking. (Another day or two and ripe would progress to rank…) The recipe was for a pot-pie style dish, only using classic cream puff batter instead of pastry. I don’t do pastry very well, I admit it. But my mother often made cream puffs for company and I could never get enough of them. Sweet or savory. So this recipe really got my interest. The final result was superb. But what tickled me the most while putting it together was the fact that I used just about every food prep and cooking technique I know. All in one dish. Although none of it was difficult, mise en place really made a difference in the outcome.

Next: mise en WHAT?