Tag Archives: supper

Indian-ish feast

A good day's work in the kitchen!

A good day’s work in the kitchen!

It all started when Marc left town for two weeks. There I was on a Sunday night, opening and closing the fridge, asking myself, “What do I want to make?” and coming up with the inevitable answer, “Nothing.” Eventually I took myself out to dinner to a Vietnamese place around the corner and vowed that I wouldn’t let it happen again.

Monday I woke up with a plan. I had to go groceries anyway, and I’d just seen a lovely crock-pot recipe for lamb korma. I found some chicken thighs I decided to use instead of the lamb, but it seemed like the recipe would work regardless. From there, I found myself in a spiral of, “Well, if I’m doing it anyway…”

See, the chicken korma uses half a can of coconut milk. So what to do with the other half? There’s a recipe in The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss that I’ve been meaning to try for a while: coconut cauliflower curry mash. It’s sort of like the cauliflower version of mashed potatoes. It uses half a can of coconut milk. So I picked up a (rather overpriced) cauliflower at the grocery store too.

Of course, the recipe only used about half the cauliflower. So what to do with the other half? Roasting is always a safe bet, so I did that, along with a little garam masala, because I figured I had a theme going.

I also had a bunch of leftover root vegetables from a pot roast stew I made last week, and I figured I really should use them up before they started going bad on me. So I roasted up about two pounds of carrots, also with garam masala, and about a pound and a half of baby white-fleshed potatoes. (This time with thyme, because I like to be contrarian.)

I had about three cups of cut-up butternut squash that I had to use also, and I’d found a nifty recipe for that too. (Hence why I had the thyme on hand for the potatoes.) It wasn’t quite Indian, but what the heck, I felt like trying out the recipe and nothing as obvious as a themed dinner was gonna stop me.

Since I was doing all this work in the kitchen, I figured I might as well fry up the 3/4 of a package of bacon I had lying around, so I cut it into lardons and spent some time pushing it around the pan and draining it when there was too much grease at the bottom. (Probably about four times — there was a lot of grease!)

And, finally, some rice. I had one last tupperware of home made vegetable stock that I used instead of water, and I figured that since I was on an Indian kick anyway, I’d try to add some Indian spices and see how it went. Into the pot went a cinnamon stick, some ground cardamom, a few cloves, and about a half-tablespoon of cumin seeds.

The crock pot chicken korma happened on Monday night and got packaged up around midnight, and all the rest I did over about three hours on Tuesday. (Not counting the 45 minutes of making up my chart of what spices needed to go with which dish, what appliances needed to be in action at what time, and so forth. I may be a geek.) I’d also bought a pumpkin pie at my grocery store on Monday, because I’d never had pumpkin pie before and couldn’t find anywhere to buy just a single slice. So I had about 3/4 of that left.

Suffice it to say, there was a lot of food.

Tuesday morning, I put out the call to my friends, begging them to come over and eat dinner with me. I got four RSVPs, and one of them even brought wine, so we had an absolutely lovely time. The chicken korma was a big hit, and most of the vegetables were gone as well. (Mmm… roast vegetables.) The cauliflower mash was surprisingly tasty, definitely something I’d make again. My only sadness about the veggies is that the potatoes were nice and crispy out of the oven, but had gotten soggy by the time we ate them. So sad…

In any case, a good time was had by all, and I’ve got enough korma and rice leftovers to last me the rest of the week, I think. So… yay! Not sure if I’ll do a big cooking job again before Marc gets home, but you never know.

Let there be steam! (Steamed chicken and broccoli)

Steamed chicken and broccoli

Steamed chicken and broccoli

The latest in my Rouxbe lessons involved steaming. Today in particular was steamed lemon-garlic chicken with thyme and steamed broccoli with soy and sesame oil.

Since the steamer basket I have is actually kind of dangerous to use — it’s the kind that opens up like a flower, but there’s no easy way of removing it from the steaming pot without risk of burn — I decided to buy myself a present of a new steamer insert for my pots. This involved a bit of running around and a mishap at the store where they’d set aside the wrong thing for me (steamer basket =/= double boiler), but it all worked out in the end. Conveniently, the “universal” steamer basket from Lagostina actually fits two of my pots. This means that I could, say, make rice in my big saucepan and steam the meal in a smaller saucepan. Except that I need the same lid for both jobs. So… pasta it is! Pasta doesn’t need a lid! Yay!

Surprisingly, this was a remarkably simple meal. Prep everything in the steamer basket, put over the water, cover, wait for a while, eat. I put the chicken breasts on top of sliced pieces of lemon (a trick I learned from the Rouxbe lesson on steaming) and then did the shorter broccoli after the chicken was done. I lost quite a bit of steam as it was going, but the steamer basket sits very high above the water, so I could put a lot in and not worry about it all boiling off.

I was worried about the timing for this, but in the end it all worked out. I turned on the burner for the pasta water the same time the chicken started steaming. It boiled around the time the chicken was done (remember how I needed the lid for the steamer?) and the pasta was done right around the same time as the broccoli. I was able to do the broccoli prep while the chicken was steaming and the plating while the broccoli was steaming. Yay for timing!

In this end this was a very tasty meal. Marc and I both enjoyed it very much. Definitely a keeper.

Jean Talon Market feast

Mmm... farmers' markets...

Mmm… farmers’ markets…

The spoils of a successful trip to the Jean Talon Market. Supper tonight will be beer-battered cod with a side of spinach pasta in a butter-tomato-bell pepper sauce. Appetizer of baguette and awesome boar-grape pâté. Throughout: nibbling on the most delicious maple pecans I’ve ever tasted. Yup… we done good.

Taco time

Taco station, ready to go!

Taco station, ready to go!

A veritable feast tonight! Some friends came over and decided they were in the mood for tacos, we we put together a taco night with all the fixin’s: taco meat (obviously), home-made salsa, bell peppers, home-made guacamole, some left-over rice, yogurt (to use instead of sour cream). Colorful and delicious! What more can a girl ask for?

Lemon chicken with pine nuts

Lemon chicken with pine nuts

Lemon chicken with pine nuts

This was my latest Rouxbe recipe, as I’ve started a unit on chicken. The recipe is here. For those who don’t feel like clicking through, the short version is that you marinate chicken legs in olive oil, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Then you make a short stock with the backbones from the chicken legs and a bunch of vegetables. When you’re ready to cook, you caramelize the skin side of the chicken in a hot pan, then finish it up in the oven, and then use the sucs (caramelized bits), onion, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, stock, toasted pine nuts, honey, and cilantro to make a pan sauce. (In the original recipe, there’s supposed to be olives, but I don’t really like olives, so I left them out.)

The end result is extremely tasty, but also takes quite a lot of time, especially making the stock.

I did this recipe over two days, making the marinade and stock yesterday and cooking the chicken today. It took about an hour and a half each day, though admittedly about 5-10 minutes of today was spent dealing with an unrelated spill in the refrigerator that got into and under my vegetable drawer. (Sigh.)

There were a lot of firsts in this recipe for me:

Continue reading

Pan-fried steak, roast vegetables, and tomato sauce

Another long day of cooking, courtesy of my Rouxbe course. I was going to do a long write-up of the stuff I did today (sweating practice using garlic cloves, tomato sauce, roasted brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower, and pan-fried steak), but I’m tired and don’t really think I have anything deep and meaningful to contribute. It’s all techniques I’ve done before, for the most part, and just a matter of refining and practicing. I only have a few notes:

– As an exercise to demonstrate why sweating ingredients is important and distinct from browning, the course has us sweat a single minced garlic clove on low heat until softened, add a half-cup of water, simmer for 30 seconds, and then pour into a container. Repeat, but instead of sweating, brown the garlic. I will say this: pushing around a single minced clove of garlic on low heat for 15-20 minutes is probably someone’s textbook definition of hell. It might even be mine. So… boring…

– I have a very hard time figuring out when the beef is done properly. I aimed at 6-7 minutes a side, which seems to have lead to about medium-well, but I honestly have no idea how I’d know the done-ness before I cut into it and eat. Any suggestions?

– I still have not achieved “flow.” I’m calmer in the kitchen now, which is good, but things still take a very long time. All the food I mentioned above — which really isn’t all that much, in the end — took about four and a half hours. I don’t mind the long time, as I was home and not doing anything else anyway, but I’m really hoping it starts getting shorter as I gain more experience and know what I can multitask on and what requires singular focus. I’m still looking at my cooking practice the way I would a university class in which I get to eat my homework. And a 4-hour class a week is quite reasonable.

– I’m finding more and more that cooking is very holistic. Whereas I used to be very focused on timing (“It says cook for 5 minutes and it’s been 7! Oh, no!”), the Rouxbe course is helping me identify cues in the cooking process so that I don’t need to focus on the precise time. I’m now focusing more on the look of the food, how it sounds in the pan, what it smells like (admittedly difficult for me with my hyposmia, but I’m trying), etc. It’s very multi-sensory and immersive, and I now understand how people with more experience can get into a zen-like state while cooking.

– Dishes. Oh, my god, the dishes. I’m so glad I clean as I go, because I used a lot of dishes today.

– I was quite tired from my four-and-a-half-hour sojourn into the world of cooking. So what did I do? Made cream biscuits. Yes, in Julie’s brain, the way you relax after a long day of cooking is to do some baking. Sigh.

Pan-fried chicken breast

Friends, I think tonight may have been the first time in my entire life where I walked into the kitchen and felt confident at every single step of the way when I was cooking. This is a major milestone for me.

As I mentioned before, my next Rouxbe lesson was on pan frying. And with my brand-new All-Clad 12″ stainless steel frying pan, I was up for the challenge.

First up: the water test to tell when the pan is ready for the oil. This is probably the coolest thing ever. The idea is that you add a small amount of water (maybe 1/8 tsp) every 15 seconds or so, and it’ll behave differently as the pan heats up. In a cold pan, it’ll just sit there. Eventually, it starts bubbling and evaporating. Sooner or later, it’ll bubble but spawn off tiny beads. And when it’s the perfect temperature, the water will form one mercury-like bead and bounce around the edge of the pan. Fun fact: my new pan takes about 7-8 minutes to heat up on medium heat, using my large burner. Which is much longer than I would have guessed, had I not known about the water test.

I got to feel knowledgeable when Marc was standing next to me and I was doing the water test on the heating-up pan. He saw the water evaporating and said, “I guess that means it’s too hot?” And I was able to say, “Nope! Much too cold!”

I was also able to inform him that, assuming the pan is hot enough, a sticking ingredient will eventually un-stick itself once it’s cooked for a few minutes, which he did not know and which I had not known before I took this module.

I had a few moments where I was worried my chicken breast medallions weren’t cooked through enough, but it all worked out very well in the end. If I do anything differently, it might be to leave them just a little bit longer so they brown more. They were nicely caramelized, but they could have been even more nicely caramelized. Also, one of these days I’ll have to learn how to make a pan sauce.

Supper was simple but delicious: the last of the couscous-with-vegetables I made for my knife skills practice, the roast carrots I made this afternoon (yes, this means that between the two of us, we’ve eaten almost an entire 2-lb bag of carrots just today), and the pan-fried chicken breast with a little lemon juice squeezed over top. Look, I made MEAT ™ for my man! Now he won’t need to die from eating only vegetables! Next lesson: pan-fried BEEF ™, which is even more meat-like than MEAT ™. Because I care.