Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sucking up to the landlord

This is the recipe that inspired me to start the blog, and this entry was originally posted at My Live Journal. I've done a few edits for grammar and readability, but the post is pretty much the same as I wrote it.

Today's recipe is Chicken Vindaloo. Partly so I can use the new blender (remind me to tell you about the salad dressing episode), partly because Austin the minimalist landlord/housemate is very fond it and because me and my sweetie almost never say no to Indian food, even if it was brought to the subcontinent by the Portugese

1/3 cup white wine vinegar  easy enough to find at Stop & Shop
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder I was told after the fact by a friend from India that most authentic Indian dishes do not contain curry powder, it's more of an Anglo-Indian thing. I found this recipe on the Epicurious website, and I must admit one of the reasons I chose it was for ease.

2 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon (generous) dried crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 10), cut into 1-to 1 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil

2 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 14 1/2- to 16-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Place first 8 ingredients in blender. Add 1 tablespoon mustard seeds and blend until smooth. Transfer spice mixture to large bowl. Add chicken and 2 tablespoons oil and toss to coat well.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add chicken mixture and stir 3 minutes to blend flavors. Add tomatoes with their juice and cinnamon stick; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until chicken is tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Season chicken mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in remaining 1 tablespoon mustard seeds. Simmer uncovered until liquid is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick. Stir in cilantro and serve.

Step one (a couple days before), go to Asian market to buy ginger and a few other things for this recipe.(next week's entry) Discover the Asian market on Google Maps no longer exists. Find another Asian market a couple blocks away, pull into metered spot with time left on it.

Wander Asian market, which smells like fish. Find ingredients, get checked out by a very nice man. Discover parking ticket. Nine dollars worth of ingredients now costs $29. Grumble.

Step two (day of). Print shopping list from Epicurious (this is a great function of theirs, it even sorts it by department). Drive in snow to grocery store. Shop. Clean off car, bitching at the snow. Get home and start making recipe.

Step three start throwing things in the new blender. Realize that you forgot the tomatoes at the market. Curse and swear until boyfriend and housemate come running. Find tomato sauce in larder; it will have to do because I don't want to drive in the snow and more because I don't want to clean off the car.

Step four after having first eight ingredients in blender, attempt to blend until smooth. No dice. Try three speeds, and several attempts of moving spice mixture on to blades of blender only to see everything thrown to the sides. Curse. Yell for help. Enter boyfriend, who determines more liquid is needed. Add more vinegar and a can of tomato sauce. Items in blender now blend into a thick pasty sauce.

Step five: complete recipe, but note sauce is very thick. Add a tomato-sauce-can full of water, cursing because there's no chicken broth in the house. Stir, let cook down. Tear cilantro into little bits, forget to stir it into the vindaloo before serving.

Step six serve to housemate the gourmand, me the gourmet and the boyfriend who is a bit of both. Boyfriend eats three servings. Housemate and self enjoy but agree it isn't perfect. Toss around various ideas--more curry, more tumeric, beer, chicken broth, but can't pinpoint. Still undecided whether to try new recipe or try to improve this one

My friend Martin pointed me to several other vindaloo recipes that are a bit more authentic (he also never makes vindaloo from scratch because good spice mixes are easily obtainable in his hemisphere. The bastard.), so I don't think I'll be trying this particular recipe again.  His suggestions:

Aayi's Recipes Chicken Vindaloo
Goan Chicken Vindaloo

Goan Chicken Curry--Chicken Vindaloo
Chicken Vindaloo

I'd love to hear your experiences with vindaloo.

Comments? Questions? Want a recipe deconstructed? Let me know!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nobody is safe: Kate deconstructs Emerils golabki

My grandmother on my father's side used to make a Polish feast for Xmas Eve. I lack her recipes for mushroom soup, borscht, pierogie and golumpki. I also lack the golumpki recipe from my Lithuanian nana on the other side of the family, so I've never made it until now.

When my sweetie and I lived in Norwalk, CT, we were very close to a Polish Deli (that is the name of the place, too). This deli has a hot buffet that's dirt cheap, so we were there at least once a week, feeding my sweetie's addition to golumpki/golabki or stuffed cabbage rolls. He asked me to try and make them and found me the following recipe:

I was taught, growing up, to follow a recipe exactly the first time, then change whatever I wish in future incarnations.  It's not bad advice, but as I've gotten older, I've learned to trust my instincts in the kitchen and made several modifications, as you'll see below:

One small white head of cabbage get a bigger cabbage, bigger cabbage, bigger leaves for wrapping. Trust me.

2 tablespoons butter this can probably be cut in half or eliminated, depending on how much fat is in your meat. It does add a nice flavor, but those of us watching our cholesterol might find this good to cut or substitute your preferred spread, or olive oil

half pound ground chuck

half pound ground pork.  The Polish Deli uses half pork and half veal for a lighter flavor, so that's what I used. I ended up having to ask the butcher at Stop & Shop to grind the veal for me. He gave me a funny look, but I'm used to that.

freshly ground black pepper you can buy peppercorn grinders any place that sells spices these days. No excuse not to have one.

1 cup chopped onions an onion about the size of a softball will yield a little more than a cup. If you prefer sizes without the sports analogies, about the size of a small grapefruit.

2 cups cooked, long-grain rice

1 tsp finely chopped parsely leaves. I took one look at this and said, "We've got to have more parsely, so I tripled it to 1 tbsp. It still wasn't enough.

1 egg for binding

1/4 cup water for steaming the cabbage while in the oven

1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes  I used canned; call me a slacker.

1 teaspoon chopped garlic  I think I added about four cloves. I belong to the club that believes there's no such thing as too much garlic and I felt a teaspoon was far too little.

Pinch of sugar this makes for a nice sweet/sour contrast in the sauce. I don't know that sucralose or stevia would make an appropriate substitute, if you try it let me know!

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

I followed Emeril's instructions for cabbage-wrangling and wish I hadn't. First, he wants you to cut the leaves of a small cabbage in half, then expects you to get eight usable leaves after cooking for twenty minutes. This is not a New England boiled dinner, cabbage does not have to be cooked that long. Instead of nice uniform cabbage rolls, I ended up with some vague balls, which I wrapped in scraps of utterly floppy cabbage. It was worse than dealing with filo dough--like wet tissue paper. The Polish Deli has nice tight rolls. Nana's golumbki looked like little cabbages. Ah well, at least I have something to aspire to.

Next time I try to make golumpki, I will:
a)peel the cabbage leaves off
b)blanch them in boiling water for about five minutes
c)make coleslaw with the leftovers.

I'm also not going to brown the meat, even with the added fat of the butter my meat/egg/rice mixture was very crumbly. This will allow me to cut down on the butter used as well.  I figure to just brown the onions and some garlic (I had to add the garlic), then combine with the rice and raw meat.

Because of the meat going into the oven raw, I figure to cook the golumpki about fifteen minutes longer at a slightly lower heat to ensure the meat is cooked through, adding more water to steam the cabbage leaves further

drain a 22 oz the can of tomatoes thoroughly and use the whole thing for the sauce.

6)double the thyme in the sauce to keep up with the tomatoes. I love thyme and it works really well with the other flavors in the recipe.

Despite the problems, this went over well with the housemate, who pointed out to me that presentation didn't count for much in this house. My sweetie and I both enjoyed it, but I spent most of the evening figuring out how to make it better.

Have a cabbage-wrangling story? Want a recipe deconstructed? Let me know!

Next week: chicken vindaloo!

Monday, January 18, 2010

with thanks to Ike and Tina Turner. . .

in one of their shows, Ike and Tina introduced the tune Proud Mary as starting soft and then getting a little bit rough. I thought I'd do that with recipes. For one thing, it will show you something great, and for another, it shows that I am not just critical, I can be pleased.

This week's recipe comes from the Food Network Alton Brown. On his Good Eats show, one episode was dedicated to Steak au poivre.

This recipe is rated as Intermediate, though I found it pretty easy to follow. Let's talk about the ingredients first:

Tenderloin steaks. I actually used filet mignon, which is part of the tenderloin. I can't afford steak very often, so when I make it, I go all out and get the good stuff.

Kosher salt we have a salt grinder and that works just fine. When it runs out, we're buying Kosher salt (which by rights should be called Koshering salt)

Whole Peppercorns easy to find in the spice aisle of your grocery

Olive oil no kitchen should be without it

Unsalted butter generally speaking, I don't cook with butter. This is so I don't have to go visit my friendly neighborhood cardiologist and send his kids to college. I don't recommend switching it out for something less fatty, because the sauce will lose that quintessence that makes this a fabulous recipe.

Cognac I leave the booze shopping to my sweetie, because he has even more expensive taste than I do. For this occasion, we used Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal. I am not the first to say this (Alton Brown has said it and so have several others): Don't cook with booze you wouldn't drink.

heavy cream. No, this is not a low-fat recipe. It's also not something I make all the time. A little indulgence probably won't kill you. Having this for a meal five nights a week for a year might, but you'll die happy.

I like this ingredient list. Everything but the booze is found in your average grocery store (here in Connecticut for me that is Stop & Shop). If you know a good butcher, more power to you, but running around to specialty shops is not required.

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour before cooking, sprinkle all sides with salt. Big thumbs up to Alton here, this is a bit of cooking lore some cookbooks assume you know and therefore don't tell you.

coarsely crush peppercorns . . . I like that he presents several suggestions for accomplishing this. For the highest fun factor, go for the mallet.

in a medium skillet. . . this paragraph not only tells you what tool to use (some recipes don't) but exactly what to look for when it says As soon as the butter and oil begin to turn golden and smoke. Here we have a great example of instructions. Go Alton!

Off of the heat if I were to make any change to the recipe, I might bold those four words. I think there would be fewer singed eyebrows in the world. Still, the instructions for setting the cognac on fire (yes, I had to set something on fire in the first real post!) are easy to follow.

I would recommend this recipe for Valentines day, or other intimate occasion, like Thursday. It has the advantage of tasting like you slaved in the kitchen all day, but it really doesn't take very long to make.

Comments, questions? Have a recipe you'd like deconstructed? Let's hear it!


"I love cooking. It's a socially acceptable excuse to play with knives and fire."

A lot of things inspired me to start this blog. Mostly, because I have a lot of fun deconstructing recipes (my first one will be next entry). Also, for my own amusement, I will do product comparisons. I've also been known to quest for perfection (those who follow me on Facebook may remember the Great Eggnog Quest of 2008).

I solicited names from various sources of friends, and considered several. Some were used in other places, some didn't have the fun tone I wanted. Then I remember the quote above. And so did someone else on blogspot. Ah, well.

But, besides the socially acceptable characteristic, I have always found cooking a lot of fun, though it was my sweetie, the incomparable Ken H. who won the title contest and will be doing my first guest blog in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, bring on the culinary mayhem!