Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween, working backwards

This weekend brought my birthday and a small party. While work has kept me extra-busy with midterm season, I've also been cooking up a storm and entirely failing to blog about it. So, here goes.

I made a big batch of granola since we've been feeling poor. I was a little self satisfied to discover exactly how many forms of grain I had on hand. So full of myself that it's the only photo I got of the entire process.

That's right, five, count 'em, five types of whole grains. And that doesn't even include the nuts and seeds. (Almonds, pecans, and flaxseeds, to be exact)

Here's a rough guideline for granola. The beauty of this formula is that you can freely substitute any dry or wet ingredient you may have on hand, so long as you preserve the wet-to-dry ratio. This is handy if your pantry isn't quite as over the top as mine.

Basic Granola

Mix in a large bowl
6 c. dry cereal/whole grain anything
(I used 2 c. old fashioned rolled oats, 1 c. quick steel-cut oats, 1 c. steel-cut oats (the best and most expensive of the bunch) 1 c. oat bran cereal, 1/2 c. crushed whole grain Total flakes, and 1/2 c. flaxseed)

In a different bowl
1- 1 1/2 c. liquids
(I used 1/2 c. + 2 tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 c. + 2 tbsp white sugar, 1/3 c. honey)

Add the 1 c. of the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients slowly, looking for a dryish texture. You want to be able to spread it out in a cohesive layer, but still be able to break it into chunks later. I recognize the texture right away, but that comes with experience.

Spread onto a greased 1/2 sheet pan. Bake at 250 for 15-20 minutes, but check at 10 minutes to be sure it doesn't burn.

It was tasty and I've been eating it with yogurt all week.

Next on the reverse list comes Chicken Piccata.
This is a dish that I 'discovered' independently. I made up my own version of this called, I kid you not, "Lemon Garlic Chicken"
according to the old food journal, I made this for some friends in late November of 2004. My version deviated from the classic by adding roma tomatoes and sweet sugar-snap peas. I continue to make it with the romas, but decided to try the traditional version for a change. It was delish and we'll make it for sure again, soon.

Chicken Piccata

Pound out to 1/3 in. thickness
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

dredge in
1 c. flour
seasoned with salt and pepper (Be sure to season the flour very well. I sometimes add cayenne. yum)

shake off all excess flour.
in a 3 qt. sauce pan (or any NOT non-stick pan with a wide heavy bottom)
melt olive oil and butter over med. high heat

put the chicken into the pan and do NOT move it until it's cooked halfway through, checking along the profile of the chicken. This will help you develop those tasty bits so essential to this dish. I use my fancy-schmancy All Clad copper core saucier (best wedding gift ever)

Once browned on both sides and cooked through, place the chicken on a plate with paper towels and keep warm in a low oven or microwave. To the pan, add a little more oil if needed. In this oil, soften

1 shallot, minced

You really are looking for more of a sweat than a sauté. You want the shallot to melt into the sauce eventually.

Once softened and translucent, add

2 cloves garlic, minced

cook for only 1 minute, stirring constantly.

deglaze with

1/3 c. white wine (I like pinot grigio. go with something whose sweetness will balance the lemon juice)

scrape all the bits off the bottom. add

the juice of one lemon
2 tbsp. chicken stock or water
2-3 tbsp. capers

bring to a simmer and reduce to a syrup, about 1/3-1/4 of the original volume. Once reduced, remove from heat.

Add, 1 tbsp. at a time, up to 8 tbsp. chilled butter, whisking until the butter melts.
(I only needed six)

This sauce is far from a béchamel. A thin texture is what you're looking for. It's almost like a jus of lemon wine chicken, thickened only with the chilled butter. If it isn't thickening enough for you, you may use a roux, just be sure to cook it long enough to get the raw taste out of the flour.

taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with some starch. We used egg noodles. So tasty and fast. The chicken should be well seasoned and fork tender. The sauce should be rich, flavorful, and with a sour bite. The capers should soak up the sauce and provide little bursts of brine.

Finally, we come to the Korean food, as promised. Apparently, word that I liked Korean food, EVEN kimchi, got around to some of my Korean students, who generously gave me a ticket and invited me to a food bazaar at the local Korean Baptist church. I brought the husband and we had a great dinner for around $7. Since I didn't do any cooking, no recipes here, just a few great-looking photos.

The man got the famous bulgogi, thin strips of beef marinated and grilled.

I got something I'd never heard of, bibimbap. It's a mixture of vegetables and mead served over rice topped with an egg. (Mine was fried, but apparently it's traditionally a raw yolk) I was given a cup of broth which I mixed into the bowl, stirring all the ingredients together. The shitake mushrooms were excellent. Very tasty.
wiki it

I had to order the delicious mung bean pancakes next, two for one dollar. They came warm and were fantastic. I only had room for one, but the other was eaten soon after.

It was a fantastic dinner, and I was thankful to see the vibrancy of the Korean community.

One last thing to document, *phew*

Indulgent weekend breakfasts are a serious weakness of mine.

Mom's super delicious breakfast thingies

preheat oven to 350


1 lb. bacon, pan fried, cooled, and crumbled

We like center cut bacon

1 pkg. softened cream cheese
8 oz. sour cream
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
12 hard-boiled eggs
2 sliced green onions
1 tsp. garlic salt

(The trick to perfect hard boiled eggs is not overcooking them, which causes that icky green layer surrounding the yolk. Start eggs just covered in COLD water on high heat. Bring to a full rolling boil, then remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Rinse one in cold water, peel, and slice in half. If the yolk looks cooked but still moist, you're good to go.)

Mix together. Pile atop sliced English muffins. Top with shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

As usual, the final product disappeared too quickly to be captured.

Well, I only realize now how much work I've done since the last blog. I suppose that's the point of this blog for me, to notice patterns in my cooking and develop my skills and observations. I'm reading How to Read a French Fry by Russ Parsons, a food science book. It's very interesting and makes a lot of connections between events in the kitchen. It's been enlightening, to say the least.

Even better, I got On Food and Cooking from the husband for my birthday. I can't wait to read it. This book has won awards from the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP)

We're experiencing yet another Indian summer, so I'm spending as much time outside reading as possible. Fall is good!!


Shawnda said...

Happy belated birthday :)

Homemade granola sounds like a terrific idea. I definitely want to give this a try!

Oliveslav said...

I love bibimbop... there is a particular version I'm found of called "Dolsot bibimbop", in which it is served a hot clay bowl. As the egg yolk is still runny, you are to immediately stir it after it is served, causing the yolk to mix with the rice on the bottom and cook against the clay pot. Excellent!

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