Thursday, April 28, 2011

How I Made Chicken Noodle Soup and How The Weather Won

What does a home chef do with a yummy chicken carcass? Make some soup of course! Or at least try..

Monday didn't started off well, my chicken was accepted to Foodgawker and I was going to bake some bread and cook chicken soup for dinner! I got home and checked my dough that had been rising for the last 18 hours, hoping that it would look ok. And it did. I poured it out onto my floured counter and it dripped out like wet batter. WHAT. It seems as though the flour at the bottom of my Food City brand flour were basically little rocks of flour, so that 3 cups of flour I used was basically two cups of dissolved flour and a cup of white rocks, and not the good kind (just kidding(!)).

With the bread out of the picture, I sat in the corner of my apartment with the lights off in silent, teary-eyed contemplation. Then it hit me, I have a whole chicken to boil! Sick. I stuck the chicken in a giant pot, threw in a chopped celery stalk and carrot, and filled it with water and let it boil. A couple of hours later I had chicken stock. While wasting time playing with my new camera, Olivia and I completely disregarded any signs of impending doom in the form of rain and thunder. I had my mise en place set up, chicken shredded, and herbs ready. I drained the bones and other parts and started my soup. I threw in my carrots, celery, and onion into the stock and then it happened. Rain started pouring from the sky as if God shoved his thumb up a water hose. Thunder and lightning started striking literally yards from my apartment and I'm pretty sure was right down the street. Then it really happened, the power went out. Damnit. I had a whole pot of soup on the stove with raw vegetables in it and the meat hadn't even been added yet! I was definitely not about to eat it, so I thought on my feet and made dinner with what we had left in the pantry. While not as satisfying, it hit the spot.

I had no other choice but to abandon the soup for the night and eat somewhere else. On a night where I'm cooking something, the last thing I want is to have to eat someone else's food. I want my own cooking! So the next day, after the power was on, I set out to finish it. By now it had become something else, it had been 24 hours since I started cooking it and I wanted it done, it was more than a dish, it was a task. I got everything back to a boil, added my chicken, threw everything that needed to be in there INCLUDING a box of noodles. Not the best idea I've ever had considering the pasta soaked up basically all of my stock...but whatever. I added a corn starch slurry to the soup in an effort to change it from chicken noodle soup to chicken and noodles, and it kind of worked. What I was left with was a bowl of chicken noodle soup without much of the soup part, it was still delicious though.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Poulet Roti with Thyme Mustard Vinaigrette

Every home cook enthusiast has their personal favorite chef/cook. Some prefer the people who make cooking for their children easier, like Rachel Ray, I prefer Thomas Keller. He is arguably one of the best chefs alive right now, his restaurants Per Se and the French Laundry are culinary meccas for those dining in the US and for good reason. Thomas Keller has said that he would like his last meal ever to be a roasted chicken and for good reason. My own favorite meal that I would ask my mom to make the one chance she had to cook if I came home would definitely be roasted chicken. A nice piece of oven baked chicken with mashed potatoes covered in a massive sea of gravy is heaven to me. Don't tell anyone this, but I gave this plate to Olivia and doused my plate in so much gravy it was spilling off the sides. Fancy sauces are nice now and again, but nothing beats mashed potatoes and chicken gravy. Literally nothing.

This bird was extremely easy to cook and one of the funnest meals I've made, mostly because I was able to rent an extremely nice camera from the library. Roasting a chicken is one of the most basic things you can do in a kitchen. It requires almost no work, actually the hardest part is taking the meat off of it! I followed Thomas Keller's recipe for his chicken, but added a few things. I wanted a bit more aromatic action going on so I added lemon, celery, and carrot.

Recipe for one roasted chicken aka Poulet Roti:
  • One roaster chicken - I think mine was around 6 lbs?
  • Two carrots
  • One large stalk of celery
  • Half of a lemon
  • Pinch of thyme, salt, and pepper
Instead of this being a recipe with lots of steps, it is a recipe with lots of precautions and steps you must take before cooking it. First, remove all the gross stuff from the cavity, save it for stock if you want. Stick in your carrots, celery, and lemon. Now you must truss the chicken, that is how people get their birds' legs to stay up. Most people use butcher's twine, but I used a method adapted from Anthony Bourdain. Take the flap of skin on the edge of the cavity and cut a hole where you could stick the legs through. Work the legs of the chicken through it until they're in the hole chillin nice and comfortably. (You can see how I did it in the pictures, it's not hard at all. It looks kind of like some moustache) Next you must let your chicken rest until it is ROOM TEMPERATURE or as close to ROOM TEMPERATURE as you can get it. This is how you get that nice crust on the chicken. Before you roast it, pat it completely dry until there is no moisture on the outside. This also helps the crust form. Ok, now you're ready to roast! Set your oven to 450 degrees. Pour kosher or sea salt and thyme, if you want to, on your bird. Then stick your chicken in for around an hour (that's how long mine took). Your chicken cooking time will vary based on the weight, but usually when the top looks how it did in the picture you're good. As long as it's not raw, a slightly slightly undercooked chicken is better than a dry, overcooked chicken (at least in my book).

Thyme Mustard Vinaigrette (adapted from The Pioneer Woman)
  • ¼ cups Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar (or White Wine Vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme
  • 2-½ Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice (about 1/2 Lemon)
  • 5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Combine all these together and whisk until fully incorporated.

I'm definitely making this again soon, and the best part is yet to come! Check back soon to see what I do with this delicious chicken carcass.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Burger - Kept Simple

Burgers are definitely one of the ultimate comfort foods. Each bite gives you warm bread, cold greens, cold tomato, gooey cheese, sweet and vinegary hints from ketchup and mustard, and sinful beefy bliss. One of the things I really dislike about the direction food is going is that nearly every semi-high end restaurant has decided to give their take on a burger. Usually this involves some kind of blue cheese, caramelized onion, garlic aioli covered mess. Burgers are comfort food and should be kept simple. You don't see many restaurants making a fancy meatloaf...

Although it may not seem like it, I'm all for gourmet burgers as long as they're at a reasonable price. If I'm going out to a restaurant, I'd rather not spend $12 or $15 dollars on a "gourmet" burger that cost them two dollars to make. The only time I would dish out money for a burger is if it incorporated two very important things: high quality beef (with a specific ratio of cuts i.e., 40% short rib, 20% sirloin, 40% chuck) to ensure maximum fatty and tenderness, and a baked on-site bun. A burger that consisted of a really good freshly baked bun and a nice cut of beef would be completely fine with me. For example, The Spotting Pig's burger. Bread, Blue cheese, and meat.

Until then, I'm fine with cooking simple American burgers. Cooked in a skillet with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chicken Lo Mein

Chinese food - the best food ever. Going to be honest, y'all. Chinese food is better than French, Italian, Indian, and anything else. Going to an authentic Chinese restaurant and being bombarded with such a variety of delicious tastes is insane. I also love Chinese food because they always give huge portions and I love to eat more than anything else. While Lo Mein isn't really an authentic dish by very many means, it's still a delicious one. All the ingredients I use are from various Chinese markets and imported, so as long as it's made with all authentic ingredients it's authentic to me!

The biggest secret of Chinese cooking that everyone will tell you is that you need a high BTU burner, or a significantly hot source of heat. And while you may hope I say, "this isn't true!", it kind of is. You can make perfectly good Chinese food at home, but it won't be anything like the food you get at any restaurant. This "secret" is called wok hay, it's the flavor that the intense heat of a seasoned wok gives the food. In my kitchen, I use a stainless steel, deep pan with a thick bottom. While I do have a wok, it doesn't hold heat nearly as well as my pan. When you add ingredients to a pan, it brings down the temperature of everything in the pan ruining any kind of "wok hay" you could wish to achieve. It also turns the food in the pan from frying to braising, because it's basically just boiling in a sauce. I will now impart onto thee a recipe for, if you make it exactly like I did, lo mein that is better than a Chinese take-out. (and this quote came from an actual Chinese person! (just kidding she's half but that doesnt make it half true, it's still completely true...))

Sauce: Warning..I eyeball all of my measurements when I cook Chinese food. I believe Chinese food isn't about exact measurements, like French cooking would be more of, but about knowing what sauces give off what taste and knowing how much of a sauce will affect the overall flavor. This only comes with time, but it's not hard or anything.
  • Half cup of soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup of chicken broth (bouillon cube works fine)
  • tablespoon of dark soy sauce (this is really dark, I added a bit more when cooking to give it a darker look)
  • Drop of sesame oil
  • Dollop of Chili garlic sauce. Rooster brand aka sriracha 
  • 1 tsp of white pepper
  • about a tsp of corn starch, keep adding if thicker sauce is wanted
  • Tablespoon of xiao xing cooking wine
  • Tablespoon of Oyster sauce
Also you will need
  • Two chicken breasts, sliced thinly
  • Half lb of lo mein noodles
  • Half an onion cut up
  • Two small or one large green onion
  • Three cloves of garlic
Chicken Marinade
  • Tsp of cornstarch dissolved in water
  • tablespoon of dark, tablespoon of light soy sauce
First of all, I do cook this in two different batches so I can have more heat. That means just have everything together and add only half each time.

This isn't a hard dish to make, but it cooks really fast and you have to be on your toes.
  1. Marinade the chicken up to 30 minutes, 15 minutes is fine really.
  2. Boil the noodles and strain, toss with oil to keep them not sticking together.
  3. Fry all the chicken in a good amount of oil on very high heat (all heat is very high in this recipe)
  4. When almost done cooking, set aside in a bowl.
  5. Fry the half of the garlic in a good amount of oil, before it burns add in half of the onion.
  6. Fry this stuff around for a while and then add half of the noodles.
  7. Keep stir frying everything so nothing sticks, add half of the chicken and then half the sauce.
  8. Keep cooking and let the sauce reduce and then plate when it tastes right.
Repeat the process for the next batch and there you go!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Brioche au Chocolat

Food blogging has definitely gotten me a lot more interested in baking. I considered baking a lost cause before, but for no real reason. It's now something that I've been doing every week, nearly daily. What got me wanting to make a Viennoiserie was the fact that I don't eat breakfast. I've been complaining to Olivia that all this campus needs is a bakery, and a deli, and I would never leave. I'd be completely fine with this god forsaken city if I could just get a nice pastry or bread, without having to drive in a car (which I don't have). Thankfully I now have a full service bakery in my apartment thanks to these babies (aka my hands).

I decided to create a breakfast pastry bread called a Brioche. While it's not exactly a breakfast bread, it is eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, but it's not a kind of bread you eat with a meal. A couple slices of brioche and coffee in the morning and you might as well puke because you're already going to have a great day. I chose a chocolate brioche because A. I love chocolate and B. Chocolate and bread is the greatest. Pain au chocolat is a popular French bread and this is basically pain au chocolat because pain means bread in French, although that particular bread is a bit more flaky. A brioche is characterized by its eggs, milk, and lots of butter. Three things that guarantee deliciousness in a bread. If you can't think of something that would taste like this, imagine a sweeter Challah with a softer texture, and a swirl of chocolate throughout. Oh and I made sure to add instructions for all of y'all out there who miss them :)!

Here is the ingredients list:

  • 2 cups of flour (more for dusting)
  • 7 tablespoons of softened  unsalted butter (if you do use salted butter, omit the salt)
  • 2 eggs, 1 egg for egg wash
  • 1 tbsp of instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup warm milk (I had to use water because I am poor and don't have any milk, it still tasted fine)
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • Large handful of chocolate chips
1. Mix the flour and yeast in a large bowl.
2. Pour in the warm milk and combine slowly until everything is dissolved.
3. Add the sugar and the salt next and combine.
4. Start adding the butter a bit at a time while mixing the whole time.
5. Next add the two eggs one at a time. Again, make sure you're mixing the whole time.

If your mixture is too runny, keep adding flour a bit at a time until it looks like this. By the way, if you're adding more flour, make sure that you actually let it be combined each time. This is what it should look like.

Let this dough rise in a warm place for about two hours. It should look like this.

Knead the dough for a couple of minutes and here comes the special part. The adding of the chocolate. Yum.

What you're going to want to do here is roll out the dough so it's a long flat rectangle. Place your chocolate chips on the dough and then roll it up so it will fit in a bread pan.

This is what your bread should look like in a bread pan. Let it sit in this pan and proof (rise again) for about 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350. 

Once your bread is done proofing score it three times. Crack that last egg into a cup and mix it up. This is your egg wash. Get a brush and brush the egg wash on top of the bread and stick it in the oven. It should cook for about 20-30 minutes. There you go! Brioche really is delicious and guess what, I have a secret....(I'm making some more right now)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Braised Beef Shank served with Linguine

So lately I've been cooking lots of pasta, but I wanted to stray away from the typical sauce + noodles combination after cooking everything I've made recently. I also cooked a rigatoni all'amatriciana which was pretty good that I'll probably end up making a blog post about next time I make it.

So, last week I was at Fresh Market and any time they have meat on sale I try to get it. Paying full price for their meat is kind of ridiculous. They actually have skirt steak for 12 dollars a pound. Kill me now. So imagine my face when I saw they had beautiful looking beef shank for 5 dollars a pound! With a giant bone filled with delicious bone marrow just waiting to be scooped out! So maybe it's not that amazing of a deal because the bone probably weighs half a pound on its own, but that's flavor man. FLAVOR.

I approached this dish with no recipe, so my measurements might be kinda wonky, but who needs a recipe for cookin a big piece of meat. (that's the fun!!) I decided to serve this dish on pasta because when cream is added to the cooking liquid at the end, it becomes a pretty sick sauce. It makes it nice and thick, so at the end you have a tomato-ey, beef-y, cream-y, delicious-ly easy dinner. Although, mashed potatoes are equally as good, but I just didn't have any potatoes. Heh.

  • one beef shank, preferably one and a half pound or something like that
  • two carrots
  • two stalks of celery
  • an onion
  • three cloves of garlic
  • beef stock
  • red wine
  • tomato sauce
  • splash of cream
Ok this is going to be a really fast recipe, you can time me if you wish.

  1. Preheat your oven to 375
  2. Sear the beef on both sides in a well coated pan of olive oil on a higher setting.
  3. Turn down the temperature a bit and pour all the vegetables in the pan and cook until they're slightly soft.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the pan and place your beef back in there. Add a combination of 1:1:.5 of liquids, so thats about a cup of beef stock, a cup of red wine, and a half cup of tomato sauce.
  5. Cook in the oven, covered, until it's fork cuttingly tender. About two hours.
This is a really simple dish and something that's okay to just walk away from for a while. Make a dish like this when you have homework to do or an awesome dog to play with. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bucatini - Two ways! Bucatini Carbonara and Bucatini All'Aglio, Olio, e Peperoncino

Bonjour mes amis! So I've decided to dub this week "Pasta Week" to excite my girlfriend because of her love for pasta. My last post was linguine, although it wasn't pasta week then, but I'll still count it!!!!

On my weekly trip to Fresh Market on my bike, I saw some cool looking pasta. It's called Bucatini and is a really thick pasta, but this is where it gets different. It has a hole in the middle! I decided to get a bag of this because I love trying new things. I figured this was a kind of pasta that could be used with nearly all sauces. The holes would soak up cream sauces and the large surface area of the noodle would carry oil nicely, too!

After watching an episode of No Reservations in Rome, I was inspired to make one of my favorite dishes: Spaghetti Carbonara. Contrary to popular belief, carbonara contains nooooooooo cream. Nearly all carbonaras you eat at a restaurant will make it some sort of belt busting creamy nightmare. Carbonara shouldn't be that, it should be a light dish with an exciting taste.

Ingredient list for Authentic Bucatini Carbonara:

  • 1/2 lb of Bucatini
  • Olive Oil
  • Two ounces of Pancetta
  • Two eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley
  • Half a cup of Pecorino Romano cheese, or parmesan.
Ok this is a really easy recipe. First, boil the noodles in liberally salted water. Once they're cooking, put some olive oil in a pan and start frying the pancetta at a med temperature. You don't want these frying up into little crisps. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn, it should be like bacon. In a separate bowl, combine the two eggs and cheese until they're melded into one. Once your noodles are done cooking, strain them, and pour them into the pan with the pancetta and a tablespoon or two of the pasta water. Then take it off the heat and pour your egg/cheese mixture. Yes the eggs shouldn't exactly be cooked and yes the yolks might be slightly raw, but what's the difference between a sunny side up egg yolk and this? Don't worry, it's not gross. It's delicious. After combined, plate the pasta before the eggs get a chance to solidify. Sprinkle parsley and salt and pepper on top.

For the next dish, I decided to tackle one of Italy's most basic dishes: Aglio e Olio. This is italian for garlic and oil. I also decided to knock this mother up a notch by roasting both my garlic and jalapeno pepper. It's really easy, actually. Take your garlic and cut the top off of the bulb so nearly all of the cloves are exposed. Put it in aluminum foil and then pour olive oil on top and close. For the jalapeno: just put it in aluminum foil with olive oil too, then close up. Roast these in the oven at 375 for about 35 minutes. When the garlic is done, it should be soft and spreadable and delicious.

Ingredient list for Aglio e Olio:
  • 1/2 lb of Bucatini
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Four cloves of roasted garlic
  • Handful of Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes/salt/pepper
Boil your noodles in liberally salted water. Then put about three or four tablespoons of olive oil in a pan with four cloves of roasted garlic and half the jalapeno. Cook this at a low temperature so everything remains tender. When the noodles are done, strain them, and put them in the pan. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and then toss. Plate with parmesan cheese and the other half the jalapeno. 

These recipes are extremely easy and extremely tasty. Good food doesn't have to be hard, it just has to be respected.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Linguine Fine with San Marzano Marinara

Pasta. One of god's innumerable gifts to mankind. A delicacy served far and wide. An ingredient so simple a caveman could make it, or a Geico gecko for that matter. What sets apart a plate of pasta from a plate of pasta is the ingredients.

Now I don't consider myself an Italian or anything like that, nor have I ever even met an Italian, but I do modestly consider myself knowledgeable on the subject after tasting the difference. One thing that I will be honest about is the fact that I HATE eating at Italian restaurants. I'm a cheap person, most people who know me know that, but I'm cheap because I have standards! Going to an "Italian" restaurant and paying 10 dollars for a plate of pasta that cost them 10 cents to make and tastes as good as a jar of Prego isn't exactly my cup of tea. There are hardly any real Italian restaurants that exist. It's disappointing that you can find ten wrongly made spaghetti carbonaras and no Osso Bucco, simple cocio e pepe, even the most basic risotto is hard to find.

That's why I've decided to make this post, it's ridiculous how freaking delicious a simple marinara sauce can be with good tomatoes. Next time you go and buy that premade sauce, do yourself a favor. Look for a can like this.

These, my friends, are San Marzano tomatoes. Straight from the source. No tomatoes you buy in the grocery store, nor no Food City/Kroger/anything else brand will taste anything like it. And the best part is a giant can is only 3 dollars! These tomatoes are perfect for anything that requires a tomato sauce and the best part is that you don't have to add ANYTHING (well maybe a little bit, but you'll see). These tomatoes are perfectly sweet and taste like heaven straight out of the can.

Now for this recipe I am not lying, it's this easy and simple. The key to Italian cooking is using fewer amount of ingredients for a much higher quality meal.
Here are the ingredients:
  • One 28 oz can of San Marzano Tomatoes. (pureed, whole, anything is fine)
  • Two cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt n pepper
  • 1lb Package of Linguine Fine (any pasta is fine, but these looked kinda cool)
  • Fresh Basil (dry is fine if you can't find fresh, but fresh is literally sinful in deliciousness)
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan/parmigiano reggiano/pecorino romano
Open your can of tomatoes and if they're whole, mash them up. If they're pureed then leave em in the can. Mince two cloves of garlic and cook them in the oil until they release their aromas. Pour in the tomatoes and let cook at a light simmer, med low heat. Start cooking your pasta with a liberal amount of salt and then walk away. Ok don't really walk away, stir your sauce a bit and taste it, but all you need to add to it is basil to taste and salt and pepper to taste. That's it. Let it cook down until it's slightly thick, at least until it's not too watery anymore. Once your noodles are done, drain them except for a couple tblsp of pasta water and throw them in the pan with the sauce. Coat the noodles and let a little bit of the pasta water stay in the pan. This is because there is starch in the water and it helps thicken the sauce to coat the noodles better. Toss them around and serve with cheese on top. A 28oz can should be enough for a 1 lb package of noodles.

C'est magnifique. C'est glorieux. C'est delicieux. C'EST LE CIEL!!