Monday, March 1, 2021

It's not too sweet


A few weeks ago, a friend I met through gaming posted an orange chicken recipe that I thought had some potential.  Since I prefer things less sweet and a little more spicy, I'm going to post what I did because there were several changes that worked for me, though you may prefer the original, which is I think resembles what you'll get from a heavily Americanized Chinese restaurant. Please feel free to kick me right in the assumptions and correct me if your experience differs.

For the sauce (add spices a bit at a time and taste as you go):
  • 1 Cup low-pulp orange juice (this is being increased to 1.25 cups next time)
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce (thinking of trying tamari next time)
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 dried chiles--the type you typically buy in a jar in the spice aisle in the US. I'm short and these were about as long as my little finger--ground to powder in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle
  • Zest from one (Navel) orange
You'll notice a couple things if you compare recipes. I eliminated the sugar and the cornstarch. I just didn't think they were needed. Orange juice is plenty sweet. I also didn't dredge and fry the chicken like in the original recipe. Instead I used the sous vide method, which has the advantage of prep and being able to ignore for an hour. If you have an InstaPot, you might have a sous vide attachment.

I put everything but the zest in a small saucepan, and then put two chicken breasts in vacuum bags and into the waterbath, setting the immersion circulator to 147 degrees F, which works out to 68.9 degrees C and set the timer for 45 minutes, keeping the sauce on simmer the whole time and stirring occasionally.

Once the timer went off, I increased the heat on the sauce to medium (look for tiny bubbles) for fifteen minutes until it was reduced. After 15 minutes, the chicken was done. From there, I turned the heat off of the sauce stirred in the zest, de-bagged the chicken, patted it dry and cut it into bite-sized piece. I put the pieces in a large plastic container with a lid, added half the sauce, stirred, and then covered it (tightly) with the lid and shook it within an inch of its life, aka until evenly coated to my eyes.

This can go over rice, though I wasn't in the mood for rice. As sides, I put some mushrooms (a nice mix of shitake, maitake, and enoki was on sale), and some snow peas in a pan with a bit of oil and a bit of soy sauce. I'm really pleased with the results. 

If you try this, please let me know your variations!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Max Comfort Food: Herbed Potato Soup

Sundays are great for comfort food and it's been cold and snowy and I had some kind of bug last week. Covid-19 test was negative happy to say.

As a cancer survivor (I still feel odd saying that, since I was caught early and didn't have it that rough) I was urged to move to a vegetarian diet, which I find hard to stick to for more than a few days. Some advice I've seen even suggested vegan, but while I can do that for a meal or two, it's not a lifestyle for me.

The potato soup recipe I found on the Dana Farber site is the basis for this--heavy on the vegetable broth, light on the cream, but my full ingredient list went like this: (you will need a blender)

  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces, no bigger than an inch
  • 3 leeks, washed, cut in half lengthwise, washed again, sliced, then rinsed one more damn time
  • 1 baseball-sized onion, chopped 
  • 1 large shallot, chopped 
  • 1 bulb of garlic, roasted (don't have time to roast? I would guess 5-7 cloves if you consider garlic  a vegetable or 3-4 if you consider garlic a condiment)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (low sodium if you wish)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (low sodium if you wish)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon of Herbs de Provence (no I didn't blend my own, but I likely will at some point)
  • 1/4 Cup cream
  • 1/4 Cup milk
Optional garnishes:
  • Chopped cooked bacon 
  • Chopped green onions
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded mild cheese. I used a Gouda.
Heat the olive oil in your stew pot on medium high heat until a drop of water spatters when you toss it in. Add your onions, leeks, and shallot (plus the garlic if you're cooking it from raw). Stir frequently until the onions are translucent. Add the salt and the Herbs de Provence, stir some more until the herbs are evenly distributed to your eyes.

Add your broth, roasted garlic if you're using, and your potatoes. Stir well, then add the pepper because you forgot it earlier (it can go in with the other spices). Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium-high so it's still bubbling, but the bubbles are small. If the bubbles are bigger than an American dime, turn the heat down. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes. In between stirring, clean the counter, and prep your garnishes. 

After the 30 minutes is up, check to ensure your potatoes are soft. 

Now the fun stuff. How do you like potato soup? Smooth and creamy? Chunky? I like mine mostly smooth with all the aromatics blended in, but with a few chunks of potato found here and there.

I use a stick blender, but a conventional blender works fine as long as you're blending in small doses, say a Cup (8 oz) at a time. If you like it chunky, just blend half. Ladle into bowls, garnish as you wish. I also topped mine with some additional black pepper for the picture. 

The recipe can easily be adjusted for vegetarians or vegans. All vegetable, various substitutes for sour cream and cheese. The Dana Farber site had coconut milk as an option.

I also had some rosemary crackers on the side while I ate. Decidedly comforting, very tasty, and flexible. Color me pleased.

Questions? Comments? Happy to hear them. See you soon!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Not Dead Yet or Chick pea pasta doesn't always photograph well

 Hello everyone. I hope you're doing okay. The pandemic has been calling for a lot of comfort food, though I haven't been really happy with a lot of the things I've been cooking of late until today. That is why you haven't heard from me in a while

I try to shop sales and this week, I lucked out to find some chanterelle mushrooms at a reduced price. Then an idea popped into my head to bring out that buttery flavor and mouthfeel and I came up with this:

  • 4 oz bacon chopped into 1/2 -inch pieces (pancetta could also be used here)
  • 8 oz dry pasta I recommend orchiette or something that will hold a creamy sauce. Shells could work, though when peas get caught in shells, they kind of look like eyeballs. That might not amuse everyone at your table.
  • 1/2 Cup heavy cream
  • 6-7 ounces green peas--I used canned 'very young' ones. They're nicely tender. If you're using frozen, I recommend thawing first and draining off excess water.
  • 4 oz chanterelle mushrooms, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
  • One big shallot or two small ones, diced into 1/4 inch pieces (the big one was too big to enclose in my hand)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 3 oz Grana Padano cheese, grated. Parmesan works here, but Padano is more affordable much of the time. 
  • ground black pepper to taste

Rinse the mushrooms, pat dry with paper towels. Chop them into 3/4 inch pieces or thereabouts. Throw them in a colander and rinse. Since chantarelles have that fluted fluffy top, it's easy for dirt to be missed on the first rinse. Shake the colander up and down a few times to get more water out. Put them on a plate with paper towels.

Cook your bacon to desired crunchiness. I've always found it useful to start cooking bacon on low heat and then bringing it up slowly to medium/medium high. Remove from pan onto paper towels. Drain the fat, but don't wash the pan. Turn the heat to medium-low.

Melt butter and put in your shallots, stirring constantly until they begin to turn brown. You might want to have a glass of your favorite beverage handy during this step, this takes a while, but it's worth it.

Once your shallots are brown, add the mushrooms, stirring constantly for about two minutes. Slowly add the cream, then the peas, and keep stirring for another minute, then toss in your bacon.  Gradually stir in the cheese until it's absorbed.

Put the heat down to low and cook your pasta. Stir every once in a while. You're going to get a light red/brown because the bacon will color the sauce.

Drain your pasta. Add it to the sauce, stir well. Have pepper handy so it can be added to taste. Makes 3 servings.

The pictures I tried to take really didn't show off the ingredients, so we'll have to do without this time.

Note that there isn't any flour in the sauce. You really don't need it, it will thicken up of its own accord. If you're not eating a wheat pasta, this recipe is gluten-free.

This recipe is pretty flexible too. Easy enough to double if you want to cook a pound of pasta. The chickpea pasta I like comes in 8 oz boxes. 

I had a lot of leftover peas--it was a 15oz can. I threw the bulk of them in some leftover Indian food that will be eaten tomorrow. Not sure what to do with the rest. 

Next up: Cocoa Corner

Monday, August 31, 2020

Two-for-one special or Kate makes Greek-inspired recipes

Some people go down YouTube bunny trails and suddenly find that they've lost a few hours. I'm more likely to do that with my favorite fictional universe's wiki ('favorite' here meaning 'whatever I'm consuming at the time'), and I'm also highly likely to do this when looking for recipes.

The last time I did this, I found a recipe for avgolemono, a soup I've seen on many a Greek menu, but never tried. For some reason, this weekend seemed to be the perfect time to try it, and this recipe worked like a charm. It was easy, and tasty, and felt nourishing even as it felt light.

  • 7 cups chicken stock (I used store-bought, 4 cups low-sodium, 3 cups regular. I am considering switching out a small amount for some vegetable broth for a bit more depth, not more than a Cup, more likely half of one. Alternately, I could make my own stock again. As soon as I have room to store it. Ha! #studioliving)
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 3 eggs
  • Juice of 1 large lemon (this worked out to about 1/4 Cup)
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • Lemon slices, to garnish

  • In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for five minutes. Turn off the heat. (if you have an electric stove, also move it to another burner).
  • In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until frothy, then add the lemon juice and one tablespoon of cold water. 
  • Very slowly stir in a ladleful of the hot chicken stock, then add one or two more. With the heat still off, add the egg mixture to the pot and stir well. 
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately, garnished with lemon slices and fresh herbs
I was nervous that the stock was still going to be so hot it cooked the eggs when I added the first ladleful, so I gently shook the ladle over the egg mixture with one hand and kept stirring with the other. This seems to have done the trick. I hadn't grabbed fresh herbs when I went out to get lemons, so I kept it simple and added some dried parsley.

It was delicious and I managed to keep myself from eating it all. I did have a couple accompaniments. Half a pita and some hummus and a red pepper/feta dip.  (note: I used a food processor)

I'd made the dip before following a recipe that I didn't bookmark, but I wanted to play around a little. I'm only going to be able to give you approximations for starting. This is a taste you want to customize. 

  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • approx 8 ounces roasted red peppers from a jar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Calabrian chiles  in oil (also from a jar). I didn't drain, de-seed, or de-rib them.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano (which totally got lost)

Put everything into the mixer's bowl. Mix/blend until the color is consistent. Add peppers in small amounts until you achieve the balance of flavors you like. Service with pita or pita chips, and sliced cucumbers. A few olives on the side aren't bad either.

A couple notes:

If you don't have the chilis in oil, add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. If you're using a stand blender, I recommend putting the peppers in first so the cheese doesn't all clump around the bottom and clog the blades. I'd also advise using the pulse function and scraping the sides often. I didn't get a picture of the dip, but I'll be making it again soon, I'm sure. Maybe I'll make hummus again too, it's been a while.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Duck Breasts Were on Sale

I love duck and the time I cooked them previously was an unmitigated disaster. They came out like mush. Like an idiot, I did not write down what the mistake was, but mush in a sous vide incident tends to mean it was cooked too long. 

This time, I did more research. I didn't follow everything in this Serious Eats guide, but it was enough to give me a very juicy  meaty duck breast. 

For a sauce, I took a mental inventory of what I had in the pantry/fridge. Duck often goes well with fruit, especially orange, but I don't keep marmalade around as a rule. One of my favorite sweet condiments, on the other hand, is black currant jam. I also usually have red wine on the rack and thought this would work pretty well . I did a quick search and found several recipes, so obviously I wasn't the only one with this idea.

This was one of those cases where I looked at a bunch of recipes and winged it from there. Let me tell you about the duck first.

The duck was simply seasoned with salt  & pepper and cooked at 132F  for about 55 minutes. I timed myself using an episode of Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me. Like noted the article, at least 45 minutes. I was a bit paranoid about overcooking after my last venture (don't ask)  Afterwards, I put it in a cold pan, and then put the pan on high to crisp the fatty side. Serious Eats said 5 minutes, it really took 10 to get the fat golden brown and I'm not sure I don't want more next time. I need to experiment with this a bit. I also need to let the duck rest a bit longer. Duck jus went all over my kitchen when I was slicing.

For the sauce, I went with this combination:
  • 2 T minced shallot
  • 1 T butter, divided in half
  • 1 Cup red wine
  • 1 Cup mushroom broth (some of the recipes I saw said chicken, some said beef. The chicken broth I had in the fridge had expired, and I didn't have beef, but I always have mushroom bouillon in the house)
  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 heaping Tablespoons of black currant jam

Melt the 1/2 the butter in a small pan on medium heat, then add the shallot, cooking until translucent, about 4 minutes. Slowly pour in the wine, and let reduce for about 15 minutes, then add the broth. Continue to reduce, until the volume is down by about half. Stir in the jam, and cook on low for another ten minutes. Keep warm until the duck is ready. Stir in the rest of the butter right before serving.

I served the duck with baby potatoes, that I cut in half. When I had cooked the duck's fatty side for a few minutes , I threw the potatoes in the same pan and kept them there for another 5 minutes while the fat cooked and then another five when the duck rested. 

I also cooked some snow peas--real easy. Boil water, thrown in peas for about 5 minutes until they are bright green  and they will be tender and crispy.

The final result:

Thursday, July 16, 2020

I should have done this ages ago: easy cheddar-chive biscuits

I lived in Tennessee for eleven years, so I got used to good biscuits. I also became very fond of biscuits and gravy, which I originally thought looked gross, but once I tried it, damn! I was hooked. My uncle up in Massachusetts just discovered them so we were able to share that in a recent conversation.

I made chili recently, and I'd had it on some rice, and I had it over spaghetti, and it occurred to me that cheddar biscuits might go well. Everyone's stress baking, but these wouldn't need yeast, just baking powder and baking soda, which were available. 

So I found a recipe with two delightful shortcuts. First, instead of buying buttermilk, you can make your own--the info is on the recipe link, but I thought I'd copy it here.

Place 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or vinegar in a measuring cup. Fill with milk to measure 1 cup and stir well. Allow mixture to sit for 5-10 minutes or until slightly thickened. The mixture may curdle a bit, that’s okay!

The other shortcut is to stick the buttermilk in the freezer for a bit, and melt the butter in the microwave. When you add melted butter to the very cold buttermilk, you instantly get little globs of butter that will be evenly distributed.

The rest is easy:

  • 1 cup cold buttermilk
  • 8 tablespoons butter plus one more for brushing
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour more for counter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ cups finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup finely sliced fresh chives extra for garnish, if desired

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F. Line a  sheet pan with parchment paper or spray a sheet pan with cooking spray.
  2. Measure 1 cup of buttermilk and place the cup in the freezer while prepping other ingredients (you want it to be in the freezer about 10 minutes).

  3. Place butter in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with a paper towel over the top and heat on high for 30 seconds. If not completely melted, return to microwave for 10-second intervals till melted. Set aside to cool a bit while prepping other ingredients.

  4. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in large bowl. Add cheese and chives. Stir to combine.
  5. After buttermilk has been chilled in the freezer for 10 minutes, combine it with the melted butter. Stir with a fork until butter forms small clumps or globules.
  6. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with a sturdy spatula just until all flour is incorporated and batter pulls away from sides of the bowl. The dough should be stiff and not super wet. If the dough is wet, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring to combine, until dough is fairly stiff.

  7. Generously spread flour over your work surface. Dump biscuit dough from bowl onto prepared work surface and turn to coat all surfaces with flour. Knead on counter 5-6 times (about 20-30 seconds). Flip over on work surface to coat with flour then pat into a 6-inch square. It should be 1 1/2-2-inches in height.

  8. Cut as many biscuits as you can with a biscuit cutter (this will depend on what size cutter you use). Place biscuits on the prepared sheet pan. Knead scraps a few times till they hold together, then pat into a small circle and cut more biscuits. Transfer last biscuits to the sheet pan, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. (See Café Tips in post for an even easier cutting technique). I used a jar that I happened to have in the cupboard. The dough made a nice satisfying pop as it rose.

  9. Place in oven and bake until tops are a medium golden brown and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Start checking after about 8 minutes, as every oven is different.

  10. Melt remaining tablespoon of butter and brush tops of hot biscuits with melted butter. Sprinkle with more finely sliced fresh chives. Serve and enjoy!

These went great with the chili, and beside some scrambled eggs for a different meal. They froze well, and also made good snacks. I'm thinking of seeing if I can add chorizo and green onions for the next experiment. 


Monday, July 13, 2020

Sweet indulgence: Swedish Cardamom Cinnamon Rolls

Back in January, I started a new day job and a few doors down is a Swedish espresso shop. When there was commuting to the office every day, the line to get something first thing in the morning was always a bit long so I didn't always get there.

On the other hand, when the morning rush is over, I would sneak over for a break and there I discovered Swedish Cardamom Bread. It was love at first bite and I started hunting for recipes almost immediately. Then the pandemic became official and supply chains got borked, so it took a while to get all the ingredients together. Today was the day.

I found the recipe here, though it's by Leila Lindholm who is a popular chef in Sweden. Ingredients go as follows:

  • For the dough:
  1. 1 tablespoon cardamom pods
  2. 300 milliliters (1/2 pint) milk
  3. 135 grams superfine sugar
  4. 7 grams (1 packet) fast-action dried yeast
  5. 150 grams unsalted butter, softened
  6. 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  7. 1 egg
  8. 660 to 720 grams bread flour
For the cinnamon filling:
  1. 200 grams unsalted butter, softed
  2. 90 grams superfine sugar
  3. 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  4. Beaten egg, for brushing
  5. Golden syrup and water, for brushing
  6. Ground cardadmom, for sprinkling
  7. Superfine sugar, for sprinkling
Yes, this is a LOT of butter

If you have'nt made golden syrup before, it's pretty easy. I used this recipe and while it was simmering, I got started:

Open the cardamom pods and crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle or electric spice grinder until fine. I wasn't sure how to open the pods, so I put them all in a small plastic bag and hit them a few times with a kitchen mallet. It took a while, but damn, my kitchen smells great.
  1. Pour the milk into a pan. Add the cardamom and gently heat until around 115° F (45° C).
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, briefly mix sugar, yeast, salt, butter, and egg. Don't worry if the butter is still a bit lumpy. I did this by hand in a mixing bowl. I don't own a stand mixer and generally get by without it.
  3. Add the milk and cardamom, mix briefly, and add most of the flour. Mix briefly. 
  4. In a stand mixer, use the dough hook and knead for a few minutes, until the dough is glossy, smooth, and soft. (Alternatively, knead by hand for 5 minutes.) The dough should be a little sticky: Don’t add too much flour at once, as you don’t want to end up with a dry or hard dough.  Italics mine. This is great advice
  5. Cover the bowl with the tea-towel and leave the dough to proof until doubled in size.
  6. In the meantime, make the filling: Mix all three ingredients until well combined and smooth. Your kitchen is going to smell even more fabulous.
  7. Once the dough is well risen, tip it onto a floured work surface and divide it in two.
  8. Roll half the dough into a large rectangle and spread half the filling on top, covering the whole rectangle. I would have appreciated a thickness measurement here. I tried for .25 inches.
  9. Fold the dough into three like a business letter (fold the top long side down to the middle, then fold the bottom long side over the top). The filling will ooze.
  10. Cut the dough into 3/4-inch (2-centimeter) strips, then cut every strip down the middle, leaving one end intact (so they look like a pair of trousers). Twist the two “legs” into a knot (this does not have to be very precise, you can go a bit freeform). Oh boy was this freeform. My counter got quite messy. 
  11. Place the buns on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with a tea towel (I needed two pans and apparently need another tea towel) and leave to rise until almost doubled in size, about 40 minutes. Repeat with the other half of the dough and filling.
  12. Preheat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Brush the buns with lightly beaten egg and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden.
  13. Brush the still-warm buns with golden syrup mixed with water and sprinkle with ground cardamom mixed with superfine sugar. There wasn't a ratio here, so I did 1:1 for the syrup and about 3:1 for the sugar to cardamom.

    Delicious. I probably should have given them another few minutes in the oven because they were a touch underdone on the inside, but the cardamom flavor was deliciously everywhere. I need a bit of practice with the cutting and shaping, but overall, I'm happy. Here's one of the prettier ones.