Sunday, August 21, 2011
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:
Friday, August 19, 2011
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.
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.
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
Thursday, August 11, 2011
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.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
My pie started the same way most pies do; with a recipe. However, I'm not huge on measurements, or recipes, so I decided to take it one step further and looked through about a half dozen different recipes to understand what the ratios and possible modifications were. It took me about 30 minutes and a lot of googling but I finally found a bunch of recipes and concluded that a key lime pie pretty much just requires some combination of key lime juice, egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and pie crust. With my new found understanding in tow I set out to begin the prep on my pie.
The first step was the crust. I made a simple graham cracker crust consisting of butter and about 8-9 graham cracker cookies that spent too much time in my food processor. The butter got melted, mixed into the crumbs and then the mixture went into a pie pan. With the crust fairly evenly pressed into the corners the pan went into a 375 degree oven for about twenty minutes while I got to work on the rest of the pie.
It turns out that the hardest part of this pie was the simplest step; generate 3/4 cup of freshly squeezed key lime juice. For those of you unfamiliar with them, key limes are much smaller than normal limes, they are firmer than basic limes, and have a much stronger flavor. Coming up with 3/4 cup of juice required juicing 25-30 of these bad boys (I lost track...) and nearly an hour of work squeezing away at the acidic little buggers. Even after squeezing them all out I wasn't quite done, as these limes have a large number of seeds that have to be strained out before the juice is usable. Nothing about this process was complex, but man was it draining.
Thankfully I managed to get the juice out of the limes and into my mixing bowl, along with 6 egg yolks, one can of sweetened condensed milk and a little bit of extra sugar (because why not?). With everything together in the mixing bowl I set the paddle in motion and brought everything together. The mixture went into the now cooled pie crust and then hit the oven on 325 for about 30 minutes. I had to play this by eye, so just watch for when the custard starts to solidify completely and then pull it out to let it cool.
With the pie in the fridge I sliced up the berries and added what was left of my raspberry sauce (remember that?) over the top and put them back into the fridge to macerate while we ate dinner and the pie cooled completely. A few hours later my family and I got tired of waiting and declared it pie time.
The slices came out reasonably well, although not perfectly. It turns out that a glass pie pan is actually a royal pain when it comes time to remove and consume said pie, but in the end, we made it work. The pie itself was almost perfect. Nicely sweet, incredibly rich and a wonderfully tart finish. The berries added another layer and some necessary sweetness that balanced the tart key lime flavor wonderfully. If I were to make it again (and I almost certainly will) I think I'd use a bit less lime juice actually. It was just what I wanted, a really tart, sweet, and intense pie, but it might have been a bit too much for some people, and almost too much even for me.
I have to admit, baking is not my thing, but thus far I've been quite pleased with my baking experiments and it has been the source for plenty of inspiration. Hopefully my future pies and custards will work out as well as this one did.
3/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
6 egg yolks
~1/2 cup of sugar
1.5 cups of graham cracker crumbs
~3/4 cups of melted butter
a bit of salt, either in the butter or added to the pie filling.
Monday, August 8, 2011
I also made the decision that if I'm going to do a really nice cut of fish, I should pair it with something a bit more involved as well. Thus risoto and roasted asparagus, zucchini and squash. Risoto is something that sounds a lot fancier than it actually is. It isn't actually difficult to make, just takes a bit of time, attention and knowledge. Toast the rice, keep it moving and add liquid slowly. I'll probably talk about it in more detail at some point, but for tonight I want to focus on swordfish.
The roasted veggies were an equally simple process. I sliced up a zucchini, summer squash and prepped some asparagus. I made a quick balsamic vinaigrette, let them sit in it for about 45 minutes and then tossed it in the oven on 325 for about 10 minutes. They came out nicely softened with a bit of caramelization and fit perfectly with the rest of the meal.
Finally, tonight's star: the fish. For seasoning I went with a slight variation of my standard seasoning mix. A sprinkle of Emeril's essence, a dash of key lime seasoning, my standard italian herb blend, a bit of garlic powder and of course, salt and pepper. This went liberally over the top of the steaks while I set a cast iron pan down to heat up as completely as possible. They wound up looking a bit like this:
Inside was a pretty impressive layout of every sweet and delicious baked good you could want. Cupcakes, cookies, pies, and my personal selection, cannolies as big as your forearm (they were actually larger around than my forearm, but about the right length) along with an impressive selection of gratinas (ices) and gelato. Personally, I went the mini cannoli (also known as a cream puff). They looked incredible, and I took my friend's word that the filling was one of the best things in the shop. Turns out, he was right.
The chocolate icing on top was rich, thick and delicious. The pastry itself was tender, and an awesome vehicle for the cream contained within. Unfortunately it wasn't the perfect vehicle as I discovered. This pastry was so fully filled with delicious cream that it kinda exploded on my chin as I bit into it the first time. Thankfully all was not lost. The cream was so thick, creamy and rich that I didn't lose any, just took a bit on the face. The rest of the pastry was something of a challenge to devour without losing any of the cream or icing, but I managed (I was pretty dedicated to eating the entirety of this delicious dessert). My other meals in the inner harbor were much less satisfying, but this was delicious and absolutely worth a quick walk off the tourist path.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
I started with two pieces of bacon sliced into very thin strips. They went into a non-stick pan to render down while I pulled out the hashbrown mix (I've tried making my own, but it never quite works out right). With the bacon rendered down I tossed the hashbrown mix in with the bacon strips and grabbed my seasonings. Salt, Emeril's Essence, some garlic powder and pepper all went in and got mixed together. With the potatoes seasoned and starting to cook, I tossed in the onions and peppers. They didn't take long to heat through, and were already cooked, so it was time for the final touch. Cheese! I shredded some cheddar cheese and sprinkled it on the top as I turned off the heat. It added just the right touch on top as I plated up.
That wraps up the breakfast entry, and day 32. Hopefully I'll be able to throw down two more tomorrow and catch up completely. A bit over one month down and I'm really enjoying myself, and keep having new things I want to try and a justification to do it.
The steak strips were simply seasoned with some salt, pepper, a bit of chipotle pepper powder and some ground cumin. It went into a frying pan with some plain canola oil (mexican is one of the few styles where I default to canola instead of olive oil). The beef went in for about 3-4 minutes which is all it took for it to cook through. The onions and peppers were equally simple, some salt, some cumin a low heat until it turned translucent. At this point I tossed in a bit of lime juice and booze (tequila to be precise). The result was precisely what I wanted and I was quite pleased.
It made for a simple, easy, tasty dish that everyone could enjoy, especially with a bit of cheese and the leftover mango mix. The onions and peppers were probably the most complex component, and only because they required slicing and temperature control, they also had the most left over and featured in the next day's breakfast, which turned out quite well (and is coming up shortly).
The poaching liquid was pretty straight forward, about a cup of white wine (chardonnay to be precise), some ground all-spice, some lime juice, bay leaves, some salt and italian herbs. I filled out a small pot with water to get it to the level required to cover the shrimp. I set that up to start heating fully while I made the chutney.
The chutney was really simple but delicious by the time I finished with it. I took apart a mango (which is a whole lot harder than Alton Brown makes it look...) and set the cubes into a bowl awaiting other ingredients. I chopped up some red onions, cubed a tomato, and chopped up a poblano pepper shortly afterward, and tossed everything in with the mango. The juice of a one lime (freshly squeezed) went over the mixture along with some garlic powder, cumin and a little bit of salt. The bowl of chutney got set aside looking a little like this while I got the shrimp ready to go.
You'll notice I haven't said much about the rice, mostly because it was leftover rice from Chinese takeout the night before. Nothing special, but it worked great as a base for my meal. We've moved on to Iron Chef America on the "tube" so we'll see if I can get fully caught up before the battle ends.
Every chip based cookie has the same baseline, whether its a soft, thick chocolate chip, a thin crisp macadamia nut, or a butterscotch cookie that's in between. The famous Tollhouse recipe based on sugar, butter, milk, flour and eggs is the starting point, but you can adjust it in order to get the texture you want for your cookie. In my case I went for more brown sugar, less milk and one whole egg, with one egg yolk. The result was a softer thinner cookie that ran all over the cookie sheet, but was a perfect texture.
On the other hand, as I'm sure you noticed in the photo at the top, there is a downside to gooie deliciousness running everywhere on the cookie sheet. Namely they all spread out together into one giant super cookie. I'm fairly sure the main reason was that I scooped out portions that were too large, and needed to do two batches instead of trying to cram them all onto one sheet. Oh well they still tasted great and it let me choose my own cookie size each time I tore part of the giant uber cookie off to munch on it. Next we head back to dinner.
Stolen part and parcel from allrecipes.com
Thursday, August 4, 2011
I started with the sauce that I created a couple days ago (at the time) and a pot of boiling water. The sauce came out of the fridge to start warming up a bit (not required, but whatever) along with a little bit of ground beef. Normally I'd go with a single Italian sausage with the skin removed, but I just went with what I had this time. I dropped about a bowl's worth of elbow macaroni into the salted water and while it cooked I browned the meat. After the meat finished browning I poured the sauce I had remaining (about a cup, maybe a cup and a half) over the top of the meat and mixed it into a very simple chunky meat sauce.
With the sauce ready and the pasta pulled out it was construction time. I grabbed my handy mini-casserole dishes (they actually aren't hard to find, and are well worth it for anyone who will be cooking for 1 regularly) and put down a small layer of olive oil, just to help limit sticking on the bottom. The pasta goes in on top of that, and the sauce goes over the whole thing. My sauce was thick enough that it needed a fair bit of mixing in order to get an even coat, so I did. Finally, no casserole is complete without cheese. Honestly, anything you have will work fine, I prefer an Italian blend (mozzarella, provolone, and some parm) but this time I went with a Mexican blend that we had on hand. Mostly its cheddar with a few others (like Monterrey Jack) mixed in, and I sprinkled a bit of Parmesan on top for good measure.
With everything assembled, it was time for the toaster oven. Yup, because these are so small I just turn the toaster oven on to 350-400 and wait for the cheese to fully melt, and the mix to start to bubble and steam a little bit. After it does that, its ready, just pull it out, give it a few minutes to cool off and dig in for a very simple, tasty, dinner for one.
Elbow Macaroni, about 1.5 cups
Tomato sauce from day 24
ground meat, any mixture you prefer
Cheese to taste.
First up, Crepes. I've never actually tried making them before so I decided it was time to give them a proper shot. First and foremost, it turns out that crepes need at least an hour or two to set after you mix them up, otherwise you get a giant mess of bubbles instead of an actual batter that you can pour out. Second, if you wait longer than 3-4 hours (say 8) you have to briefly re-mix with a spoon or something similar as the batter separates a bit.
What goes into the batter is exceedingly simple, flour, butter, salt, sugar (for sweet crepes), milk, eggs, and a bit of booze if you want (I went with rum, but any sweet liquor will work). Basically you pour the whole mess in a blender (yes a blender, trust me) and give it a whirl. The only complicated part is that you have to make sure you melt the butter before putting it in, otherwise it doesn't mix right.
Once the batter is mixed, it goes in the fridge for a while to settle out and reduce the bubblage and you go do something else. After it has settled, you grab a non-stick frying pan, lube it up with some butter, wait for it to be heated and then pour in your first crepe. Give it about a minute to brown around the edge, then flip it, wait another minute or so before taking it out and giving it to the dog (or cat, or kid who doesn't care). Yes, that is what I meant to say, I will bet good money that your first crepe will break, not be browned, curl on you or some other disfigurement. Well, that's what I discovered anyway. With your first one done, adjust the heat as needed to either speed up or slow down the browning process and try again, odds are it'll be better, but if you screw up again, no worries the dog\cat\kid is probably still hungry. Just work your way through the batch and enjoy. Personally, I went for some fresh strawberries on top, but you can go with pretty much whatever you want (and in fact, I probably will in the future).
And with that, Crepes down, only 4 more entries to go in order to catch up. See you shortly.
I used Alton Brown's Crepe recipe with the "sweet" modification as seen here.
Monday, August 1, 2011
The last component is some toasted bread. I did this by putting a bunch of slices in the oven on 350 for about 4 minutes. Just as they started to crisp up I took them out, tossed on the tomato slice, the pesto and the slice of mozzarella. After that, you eat them. Simple as that. Anyway, hopefully the next few days will be a good deal more regular and I'll have fewer things that come up and keep me from doing anything.
This was incredibly straightforward, so I'm just going to set it out for you. I started by cooking up two pieces of bacon in a small non-stick saute pan. I cut each piece in half so it would fit more easily and easier control (I'll get to that in a second). While it cooked I toasted a sandwhich roll that I had dug out some of the extra bread (to reduce the bread to stuff ratio). Once the toasting was complete I toss on some spinach and a slice of tomato while waiting for the all important bacon to be ready.
One note on the bacon, and this applies to pretty much any application where you cook bacon in a pan. You have to hold it down as it starts to cook in order to keep it flat. A lot of people do this by buying a big chunk of metal and putting it on the bacon, I'm lazy and follow the Alton Brown school of thought with regard to kitchen tools. Instead I just use a pair of tongs to hold the bacon down in place for a couple of seconds, after which it will keep itself in place. Once the bacon is done, it goes on top and the sandwich goes in your belly.