Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 41: Risoto with Italian Sausage and Chicken

I was in the mood for risotto again for some reason and decided to make up a batch along with some Italian sausage and leftover chicken.  Risotto is one of those things that are incredibly simple, but fairly labor intensive.  Thankfully, sausage and leftovers are pretty easy to prepare so I was able to focus on just the risotto.  The sausage I started on by simply tossing it into a pan with a bit of oil in order to crisp up the exterior.  After the exterior was nice and crisp I poured in some beef stock and covered it while it finished cooking through completely.  The chicken I heated up in the microwave like a dirty cheater.

The risotto itself was a bit more complicated, although not by much.  I started with some olive oil, and roughly chopped carrots, celery and onions.  That mixture got a touch of salt and pepper before I let it sweat down and soften in preparation for the rice.  Risotto pretty much requires arborio rice, and who am I to buck tradition and science?  The rice went in with the sweated veggies to toast for a minute or two before I started ladling in chicken stock.

This is the part where risotto gets "complicated," although it isn't very difficult.  Risotto requires constant stirring, and the slow addition of stock.  I spent roughly the next 30 minutes adding stock to the bubbling mixture one ladle at a time, as the liquid was absorbed I would add the next dose of liquids.  As I said, not complicated, but very labor intensive because the whole thing has to be stirred pretty constantly.  Part way through it looked a bit like this in the pan:

After about 30 minutes I was starting to run low on my pre-measured supply of stock, so it was time to start tasting.  I was quite pleased with the flavor I had, but added in some basil, a bay leaf, and a bit of cayenne chili powder just for a bit more depth.  Once the texture and flavor were right, I scooped it up and onto the plate, sliced the sausage and chicken over top, and devoured.  I was quite pleased with the result overall.  The rice was wonderfully creamy with a tiny touch of toothsome bite for the texture, and had a fantastic flavor throughout.  The sausage combined nicely with the slightly spicy flavor of the rice, and added another texture.  Bringing up the rear was the leftover chicken.  Being leftovers, the texture was a bit rough, but the flavor was still good, and while I probably wouldn't add it next time, it was a nice contrast to the rest of the dish.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 40: Eggs in the Basket

I've heard it called a few different things, but this dish is something my dad used to make fairly regularly when we were on vacation at the beach.  We have always called it eggs in a basket, a simple fried egg inside a piece of toast.  Its simple, buttery and a pretty good breakfast.  This particular version came complete with some additional hashbrowns (I was in a hashbrown mood that weekend for some reason).  Unfortunately, while its a simple tasty comfort breakfast, it was nothing to write home about.

I've been to the Pigeon Hole where this dish originated several times, and despite raving reviews from many of my friends, I've never been impressed.  The eggs were decent, but unseasoned, the toast was nice and crisp, but made of fairly bland white bread and soaked through in butter, and the hashbrowns were just bland and uninteresting.  Its possible I have simply made poor choices, but when comparing the meal I had here and the meal from day 38, I'll pay the premium for better food every time.  It was nice, it suited my mood and brought back some memories of family vacations, but honestly, just not worth going out for when I can do better at home.

Day 39: Corned Beef and Hash

Corned beef and hash, the british (I think) staple breakfast.  This past weekend I found myself once again in the wonderous land of Charlottesville, and it was breakfast time.  I went with several friends to the Horse and Hound for our breakfast\brunch fix.  I've been here once or twice before and found the food to be quite good if somewhat simple (it is fairly british afterall...)  I will say, I had forgotten the price, and it is a bit high for what you get at breakfast, but all in all I found the experience to be worth it.

Ok, onto the food itself.  Corned beef and hash is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.  Delicious, salty corned beef mixed in with wonderfully crispy sauteed hashbrowns.  This particular rendition came complete with a pair of fried eggs (probably best when over easy, although I prefer my eggs a bit more cooked) and a wonderfully creamy rich hollandaise sauce over the top.  Everything mixes together to form a really enjoyable filling breakfast that definitely sticks to your ribs.  Honestly, it was a bit too much for my tiny ribs and stomach and I had trouble finished the entire platter, but I enjoyed every bite for as long as I could.  The others in my breakfast group grabbed a couple other simple and hearty meals, all of which I had a taste of, and all of which were filling, and warming, although certain things, especially the sauteed mushrooms, were under seasoned.  The trip was probably a bit overpriced, but still a good way to start the day, and certainly something you won't regret waking up to.

Day 38: Sausage Calzone

Day 38 found me in a rare position.  I had an urge to experiment and try something I have never even thought about before, and we had some fresh pizza dough purchased at Harris Teeter that needed to be eaten.  Amazingly, this lined up perfectly and lead to a Calzone for myself. 

The process was actually incredibly simple, and pleasantly tasty.  I set out the dough and let it rise for about 45 minutes, it probably would have been better to let it go for longer, but I was in a bit of a hurry so I decided to just go for it.  The dough was incredibly sticky and glutenous (perfect!) as I worked with it, but after a bit of effort I was able to get it stretched out into a fairly thin rectangle of potential deliciousness.  I spread out some thin tomato\pizza sauce (also purchased at Harris Teeter) over the crust, tossed down some cheese, and spread the sliced sausage out over the top of it, in the end it looked something like you see below, note that it is only covered on half the dough.

With the dough prepped I slowly folded it over to form my calzone.  It was something of a pain as the dough stuck to the mat I used (in spite of the flour I had thrown down over top) but I made it work.  The giant doughy mess went into the oven on top of a pre-heated pizza stone for about 10 minutes.  When it came out it was incredibly dough heavy, but that's ok because I prefer a thicker doughier pizza.  It was also really pretty tastey for something that was this simple and direct.  I was quite pleased with the overall outcome.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 37: Chicken Stir-fry with Noodles

An equally simple stir fry for day 37.  I mixed up a collection of chicken tenders (lightly seasoned with ginger, garlic and some cumin),broccoli, green peppers, bean sprouts, and some onions.  The chicken was sauteed in a separate pan while the veggies were sweated\cooked.  With both of them done they went into the sautee pan together, along with some soy sauce, teryaki sauce, a bit more ginger, sesame oil and some hot sauce.  That was about it.  Once the food was fully cooked I made some ramen, tossed it around in the sauce and ate, nothing complex but plenty tasty for a quick fill me up that evening.

Day 36: Swordfish Salad Sandwich

This was a very simple lunch sandwich, and I have a bunch of these to do so I'll keep is short.  I made a slightly different version of tuna salad sandwich.  Instead of tuna, the leftover swordfish from my earlier meal, and instead of the standard mayo I went for an avacado mixture very similar to guacamole.  I mashed up an avacoado with some lime juice, cumin, and a little bit of cubed tomato.  The swordfish was sliced fairly thin and then mixed into the "salad" and the whole thing went onto the now slightly stale chiabatta roll.  The flavor was great, a hint of spice, some nice citrus and the great avocado flavor, but the roll was just too stale and too hard to go with the rest of it, next time I'm going for something a little softer for the bread.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 36: Chicken Club Sandwich

Well, the past few days have been a great deal busier for me, so I've been going with simple and direct lunch sandwiches.  This one was a really simple chicken club made mostly of leftovers.  Dinner the night before was my brother's 40 clove chicken, which resulted in some delicious leftovers.  I shredded up that leftover chicken, tossed it on top of a leaf of lettuce, and then piled on some freshly cooked bacon and a tomato slice.  A shredded cheese mixture went on top and the whole thing went into my stomach.

The sandwich was pretty good, the bacon was nicely smokey and salty, the flavor of the chicken was just as great the second time through, and the tomato added a nice touch of sweetness.  Unfortunately I ran into one small problem.  The bread I used came from a ciabatta roll from a day or two ago.  That roll had already gone slightly stale, and in-spite of the toasting, it was just a little too tough for the sandwich.  Still, simple, quick and tasty.