food, Uncategorized

the alchemy and the ecstasy

Can one desire too much of a good thing?

Picture 3

Shakespeare poses this question in As You Like It (Act IV, Scene I ) through Rosalind and the idea come very much into our vernacular. I couldn’t resist the google search.

Picture 2

It’s one of the those questions that has an obvious, knee jerk first answer and then a deeper second one.

Thinking I had answered–for myself, anyway–the chocolate chip cookie question, I was forced the other day, due to an absence of brown sugar, to deviate from my tried and true method and improvise.  A few days later I served the cookies, straight from the freeze, for dessert to my brother and his girlfriend.

Brother’s girlfriend:  These are possibly the best cookies I’ve ever eaten.  I love the texture of them frozen.   But, I generally like burnt cookies so, maybe that’s it… There’s something a little…

Me:  …bitter about them?

Brother: But I don’t like burnt cookies at all, and I love the deliciousy goodness of these. (Digression to the time I accidentally caramelized ghee, making the world’s most delicious butter spread.)

Brother’s girlfriend: Finally, a cookie we can agree on.

They clasp hands.

Spurred on by such enthusiastic eaters, I decided to make another variation of the cookies.

This time, I omitted brown sugar again, and added an equal amount of raw honey as white sugar.  I also used two kind of chocolate (Callebaut 60% and Scharffenberger 70%) for the “chips” part.

The molasses variation uses 1/4 cup of molasses and 1 cup of white sugar.  I used the Guittard chocolate chips for this batch.

Because:  can you really desire too much of good thing?

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food, Uncategorized

dude fude-the stir fry

dinner

You eat more stir fry, straight from the pan, standing up in the kitchen when you’re meant to be cleaning up.

Your daughter kisses your arm after getting up from the table.

She asks for more vegetables and eats two helpings of pasta.

She sucks at the little florets of oily, seasoned broccoli and picks out the onions to eat, when only last night she told you, she didn’t like onions.

You both eat in concentrated silence.

You grate just a little bit of parmesain on the pasta parts of both plates.

Your daughter claims she doesn’t want to eat dinner, but pulls up a chair anyway.

You put two plates down on the table, each filled; half with the freshest, most delicious stir fry and half with perfectly salted pasta.

You turn off the fan and leave the kitchen.

***

Boil water. Salt it more than you think you should.  Then add even more salt.  Cook pasta.

See what’s in your CSA box.  Today in mine:  onions, red peppers, zuccini, baby brocolli, garlic.  Herbs from my garden (basil, thyme, greek oregano).  Chop everything.

Put olive oil in a pan.  Add garlic and spices with a little salt and pepper.

Cook onions

Add peppers

Add zucchini and broccoli

Cook until everything is almost done.

Add more garlic and some of that extra salty reserved pasta water until your stir fry is perfect (like mine was tonight) or even if it’s just pretty good, it will still be delicious.  The pasta too. It will remind you to always salt your noodles.

food

Cake Time ’09

It’s time again to be thinking about cakes and, specifically, birthday cake number 3 for M’s birthday.

Number 1 was:

My favorite yellow cake (with white wine) from the New Basics.  It had an internal strawberry layer and cream cheese frosting.

M's birthday cake # 1

Number 2 was:

Yellow cake (from Cook’s) with a pastry cream layer (Tartine) and a chocolate cream cheese frosting.  The decorative writing is in plain cream cheese frosting.

M's birthday cake #2

I also made dark chocolate cupcakes for her school (not picutred).  Each had a raspberry cooked into the center and cream cheese frosting and turbano sugar sprinkled on top.

If you’re wondcring about the extra candle on each cake, it’s for luck.

And since you can see, I’m use the cream cheese frosting a lot! I tend to like the taste better than a straight butter cream. Here’s my favorite recipe.   Yes, it has both lemon juice and vanilla.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Mix in a kitchen aid:

8 oz. cream cheese, room temp.

5 oz. butter, room temp.

Add:

approx 1-1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, pref. sifted (I do sugar to taste)

1/2 ts. vanilla

lemon juice, fresh

1 Tb. sour cream

Addendum:

So despite the fact that M originally said she wanted cherry cake, I made these chocolate graham cracker cupcakes with a milk chocolate frosting.

dscf0436

Someone said, “These are the best cupcakes I’ve ever had in my life.”  And I was very satisfied with that.  Will post the adapted recipe shortly. (It has a graham cracker bottom, a layer of melted chocolate and then the cupcake batter.)  The interior chocolate was Callebaut which I consistently like and the frosting chocolate (mixed into the above cream cheese frosting recipe) was 33 % Valrhona–also excellent.

food, Uncategorized

Dude Fude – ChocolateChipCookies

This picture doesn't do them justice

Most recipes for CCC are basically the same, especially if you eliminate the ones that use shortening or margarine, which as you know, I always do.  If you’re not going to use butter (and the highest quality butter you can find) I need to convince you to do so.

That being said, I’m going to tell you the four secrets of knock-your-socks-off CCC.  Like many other interesting things in life, raising something above the level of adequate requires altering the temp, chemistry and consistency as you move through the process, and a v. simple process it is.

Secrets revealed:

1.  Mix butter and sugar on high for 4 minutes.  It becomes the most satisfying light colored fluffy mix.

2.  Toast the pecans.  I do this in my toaster over on the small tray on a light toast–straight from the freeze.  This is huge.

3.  Really good chocolate (this goes back to my use the best ingredients credo, but I’m repeating it.  Currently, I’m using a brand of chocolate bar called Theo (made in Seattle).  It’s really, really good and I like having the thin, irregular chunks.  Chocolate chips, at this point, seem like spam.

4. Put the batter into the fridge for 36 hours before baking.  (I haven’t done this yet, but I usually wait a day).  I refer you to the NYTimes article on this subject.  They also have a thing about cookie size, which I am currently disregarding (but haven’t yet tried).  The reason to do this is that the butter gets hard before it goes into the open so it cooks before it has time to spread.  Thus, these cookies are thicker but still soft.  Eureka!

So… here’s the actual recipe.  I mix things in the following order which both expedites the process and mixes the flour the least possible amount.

Begin:

1/2 cup butter into the bowl of a Kitchen Aid, if you don’t have one, I reluctantly offer an electric mixer instead.

Add 3/4 of a cup of sugar, I do equal parts brown and white.

Mix this for 4 or 5 minutes.  It alters into the lightest butter/sugar mixture ever.  It’s v. soft.

the pre batter batter

to this add

1 egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Mix ‘er up again.  Scrape down sides, mix again.

Then add 1 1/8 cup of white flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

(it’s so beautifully simple)

Mix until all the flour is just barely absorbed (once you’ve added flour, you want to mix as little as possible

beauty shot
beauty shot

Add 1/2 cup toasted pecans (give or take) and 1 cup chopped up chocolate.  Mix just a little more.

Taste with spoon.  Feel v. happy.  Put in fridge for 24-36 hours.

I made about 12 cookies from this but you could fewer bigger ones.

Preheat oven to 375 and cook 8-10 minutes.

Notice that the cooked cookies aren’t quite as good as the raw batter.  Think this over.  Taste cookies the next day.  Realize they are now as good as the cookie dough.   Marvel at this.

food, Uncategorized

Dude Fude–Mashed Potatoes

People love to talk about how difficult it is to make mashed potatoes.  How hard it is to get them smooth, and creamy.  The techniques.  The equipment.  The agony.

And to those “people” I pose this question.  Why not make mashed potatoes that don’t have the consistency of baby food, but are recognizable to sight and taste as actual potatoes?

So I offer up this simple and wonderful versions of mashed Ps.

Wash as many potatoes as you have lying around.

Slice about 1/4 of an inch thick.

Put into sauce pan.

Pour in about 1/2 cup of cream or milk.

Throw a pat of butter in.

Turn on heat, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and put lid on for appox. 30 minutes.

At some point, check to make sure there is still liquid in there and give the Ps a little stir.  Add liquid as needed (they have to cook in something).

After about 30 minutes, they will be soft enough to mush up a bit.  Mush/stir to desired texture.  Add more butter and salt and pepper if desired and voila!

Notes:

Yes, I leave the skins on, because I like even more texture but you could peel the potatoes if you enjoy doing extranious tedious work.  You can also easily pick the skins out as you eat.

You should cut the eyes out of the Ps if you have them.  Eyes are what they call the little sprouts that grow out of old Ps.  And wash them well.

I know I don’t need to tell you to buy organic, as Ps, grown directly in the soil, retain a lot of pesticides.

Why don’t I have a picture of these deliciousiosities?  Good idea–next time.

These reheat beautifully.  Put a little butter in a pan and fry em up.

Kids like them.  M eats them directly with her hands.

 

food

Roast Chicken and Other Stories

So, I was going to post my second Dude Fude, but I just checked out a book at the library (more on that later) called, brilliantly, Roast Chicken and Other Stories.  Blurbed as, “The Most Useful Cookbook Of All Time,” it’s written by Simon Hopkinson, and I had read about it, then forgotten it and just happened upon it today.  Yea!  I love it when that happens. 

I just wanted you to know how he does his Roast Chicken and what he says about the importance of a good bird.

There is chicken, and there is chicken.  The French chicken, from Bresse, is the finest in the world.  It is nurtured and cosseted like no other living creature (save, perhaps, the Japanese Kobe cattle, which are bred better and given a daily massage).  The poulet de Bresse is a “controlled” breed in France and carries its own special criteria…as wine does…It has a superb flavor, due to its diet and upbringing…”

You can start to understand why French food is so damn good.  So Simon puts a little more effort into his RC than you might have, but if you’re going to try something a little bit, this is the one to make.

1/2 cup butter, room temp.

4 lb. chicken

salt and pepper

1 lemon

thyme or tarragon, or a mixture

1 garlic clove, peeler and crushed.

 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

Smear butter with your hands all over the bird.

Put the chicken in a roasting pan that will accommodate it with room to spare.

Season liberally, with the herbs and garlic inside the cavity, together with the squeezed-out lemon halves.

Roast the chicken in the oven for 10-15 minutes.  

Baste (scoop up juices and pour over the chicken), then turn the oven down to 375 degrees and roast a further 30-45 minutes with occasional basting.

Turn off oven, leaving door ajar, and leave the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.  

You can use the juice in the pan as “gravy.”  If you want to add extra flavor, you can scoop the garlic and herbs out of the chicken cavity, stir them into the gravy, and heat through, then strain before serving.

This is a fabulous cookbook, even though I don’t plan to cook from the Brains chapter, I can’t wait to get to Custard.

Next up:  Mashed potatoes (and why I love and revere libraries).

food, Uncategorized

Roast Chicken

Okay.  Recipe numero uno.

Roast Chicken.  It’s easy, it’s quick, it will be much better than the one that’s been sitting around at the store in a plastic container, and you can use the leftovers to make chicken salad.
How easy?  Really, really, super duper easy.

I’m going to add another law of Dude Fude, and it’s the most important one.

Buy the highest quality ingredients you can.

It will be more expensive, but this is something you are going to eat, not put in the garage and use once a year. That means, it should be organic, stamped with something that says so, cage-free, free range, grass fed, and if possible, some marking by the humane society. Trust me, this is the foundation of the whole shebang and for why your food will taste so good. You wouldn’t use cardboard as a foundation for your house, right? Don’t skimp here unless you must.

Ingredients:

A whole chicken (around 4 lbs)

one bunch of carrots

two big handfuls of red potatoes

Take anything that may be in your oven out and turn it on to 400 degrees (here after called preheating).

1.  Find a baking pan that shallow and has edges (the shallower the pan, the crisper the skin). The best thing is a cookie sheet with edges, but a lasagne pan will do, or even a pie pan. You are going to roast the chicken in this pan sitting on top of carrots and pototoes. Chicken fat will make the vegetables very delicious, but will drip all over the place, hence the the sides.  Do not let chicken parts be spilling over the sides or you will soon have a roaring chicken fire in your oven.

2.  Wash carrots and potatoes.  It’s good to give them a little scrub with a clean scrubby.  Cut potatoes in quarters unless they are the tiny ones, then cut only in half.  Slice carrots in half, long wise so they have one long flat side.  (If you’re going to make chicken salad with the leftovers, chop one carrot now and put aside).

3. Lay carrots and potatoes in a single layer along the bottom of your pan. I usually put the carrots in the center and the potatoes around the outside. (The bigger your veggie layer, the more yummy veggies you will end up with).  If you cut up too much stuff, don’t cram it in.  Wrap it up and put in your fridge.

IDEA You can eat the carrots raw or dipped them in humus or peanut butter.

4.  Wad up several paper towels and put them near the sink.  Have the filled pan nearby.  Unwrap chicken. Take yucky inards out of the cavity and throw away.  Rinse chicken off with cold water, pat dry with paper towels, and lay on top of carrots. Breast side up.  Sal the whole thing all over.

Put in oven and cook for about an hour.  When you prick the thigh with a fork, the juices should run clear.  If you cook a bigger chicken, cook 8 extra minutes for each extra pound.

Let rest outside of the oven for 15 minutes before eating.

IDEA After dinner, pull all the chicken off the carcass, and shred (rip in pieces with fingers) and put in a bowl.  Add mayo, chopped carrot, salt, pepper.

If you want to get a little fancy, you can add nuts, or celery.  They’re are many variations.  You can skip the carrot and put in pickles or capers, or grapes and nuts.  It’s nice to have one crunchy thing and one sweet thing.

Finally, roast chicken has about a million variations.  But, let’s not talk about those now.

Enjoy!  Let me know how it goes.