Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Date Cooked: April 19, 2009
Well I am back in true form. The term simplest would imply to most people a simple dish to prepare but yet again I amaze myself with my complete lack of consistency when it comes to cooking. The recipe was a rather standard one. First off as the title implies the whole chicken was brined. I won’t go into detail but brining chicken has become a must for all my chicken cooking needs. Simply cannot be skipped (unless you are using a kosher chicken).
After the allotted time immersed in it’s salty bath I rinsed it off and patted it dry. I hate drying poultry. It is messy as I try to balance the chicken and dry it off and not contaminate the entire kitchen. No sooner do I touch the chicken than I inevitably forgot to grab something and must now was hands or spread possible salmonella bacteria everywhere. I must learn to be more prepared. Anyway once dry the chicken was coated liberally with butter, salt and pepper.
It roasts in a V-Rack on one side before being flipped to the other side. Once both sides have been exposed to cook the oven is supposed to be turned up in heat for the remainder of the cooking time. I forgot to turn up the heat. So when I took the chicken out the breast meat was cooked to the proper temperature but lets just say s the thighs might have been a bit pink… okay the juices were bright red. I cooked the chicken a bit longer before taking it out and checking the temperature again. Much better but the thighs still weren’t done to my liking so once I finished carving the chicken all the pieces spent a few more minutes in the oven just to be sure.
This is why I like brining. The chicken, even with the extra oven time, came out juicy.
Rating: B+ This rating is due to my misstep with the oven temperature. The skin could have been crispier and I am certain the thighs might have cooked better if I had had the chicken at a higher temperature. Still a good, simple, weekday meal.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Date Cooked: April 8, 2009
We were throwing together a quick meal and needed a vegetable to accompany it. We have an abundance of asparagus it the fridge for some reason so I figured some steamed asparagus would be a nice and easy recipe to cook. It definitely was easy.
Other than steaming the asparagus, I needed to whisk together several ingredients. Before I started this project I would not have been able to just throw this dish together. I would not have had most of these ingredients in my fridge. But I am slowly beginning to increase my pantry and fridge staples, which is a truly nice feeling.
I whisked together soy sauce, hoisin sauce, canola oil, toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar and some minced ginger. I realized that I love the smell of fresh ginger. I always thought I disliked it. Not sure why. I honestly couldn’t tell you why I thought I had this hate-on for ginger. I just did. Then I took a big direct sniff of it and all the past hate melted away.
Once the ingredients were mixed they were drizzled over the asparagus and served.
Rating: B-. This was a very tough rating to decide on. I was leaning towards a C but my wife liked it. I wasn’t turned off by it, but the flavor was pronounced and I didn’t feel it was accentuated by the asparagus or that it improved the asparagus. It felt like a separate flavor entity wrapped around the asparagus flavor. Will I make this again… not as a dressing for steamed vegetables but maybe as part of a stir-fry or something.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Date Cooked: April, 5, 2009
Ever since I made the Buffalo Wings I was seriously in the market for a deep fryer. But I needed to have a good one that was easy to use and even easier to clean up. Well Canadian Tire had a sale on the T-Fal EZ Clean model and my wife and I broke down and bought it. So of course we had to break it in immediately and what else should you make but French fries.
Well this recipe was simple in theory but lengthy in first time execution. I started with potatoes… of which we had none, so I started with a trip to the closest grocery store. Inevitably, whenever I want to quickly grab something from the grocery store, that is when my son wants to come along. Regular trips to the grocery store are met with negotiations about the conditions under which he will come (he’s 5 and doesn’t accept that simply being his parents is reason enough.) While the run through the grocery store was quick, check out was a nightmare. We went through the self-checkout and every time I tried to pay, my son would sit on the scale, or grab a bag from the scale and the computer would freak-out that I was adding or taking away items. It literally took 7-8 attempts to get my son to remain motionless long enough for me to cash out. He was excited for French fries.
At home with potatoes in had I set to work. The potatoes got driven through the French fry cutter that came with the deep-fryer. That is the last time that gadget will ever see the light of day when it comes to making French fries. Thank god it came free. I can’t go into details about because I will end up rambling nonsensical crap as my blood pressure rises. If you took your dullest butter knife and then tried to cut potatoes with its handle, that would approximate its cutting efficiency.
Once the potatoes had been transformed into fry shapes I rinsed them in water to remove the excess starch and then let them soak in ice water for 30 minutes. Once bath time was over they were thoroughly dried. As they were being dried I was heating up the oil for round one. I had a lot of fries so I split them into two batches. This actually worked out well because I could cook the second batch while the first batch was resting between oil immersions.
The fries were cooked at 320°F for about 10 minutes. They were limp and yellow. The oil was heated to 375°F and the fries were cooked a second time for about 5 minutes until golden brown and crispy. The fries were laid out on paper towel and then liberally coated in salt and pepper and then served to a hungry family.
Rating: A- Everyone loved them. They turned out really nice for a first attempt at fries and I look forward to cooking them more often. The best recipe book is particular about resting times and such but with experience I think I could whip these out fairly quick. Especially since after round one you can actually freeze them.
** The vinegar in the background is from Mr. Vinegar. We picked up several bottles of flavored vinegars from them in the fall when we attended the One of a Kind show in Toronto. The spring show just finished up last weekend. I highly recommend them. I never knew how good vinegar could taste.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Date Cooked: March 24, 2009
I have more eggs than we can reasonably eat so I am looking for recipes in the book that use large quantities of eggs. I figured this was a good go… and it definitely used more eggs than required.
The first part of this recipe is to make hard-boiled eggs. Now most of us probably have our own timing conventions for creating the best hard-boiled egg. Well the book has its own recipe for Foolproof Hard-Boiled eggs. For the record I am now lower in status than a fool. Seems a fool could make these eggs but not I, The Mediocre Cook! You place the eggs in water and then bring to a boil. Once boiling you remove from the heat and let sit in the water for 10 minutes. After that they get 5 minutes in an ice bath before being ready to peel.
Ok, so I am supposed to peel the shells off these eggs. The book gives a nice little illustration that shows how easy it is. The shell will slip away from the egg in a nice strip attached to the thin membrane surrounding the egg. SO I gently crack the egg all over and from the air pocket in the egg I begin peeling. A huge chunk of egg breaks away still attached to the shell. Mmmm.., maybe I was too rough, let’s proceed carefully. More egg comes away with the shell before the entire thing splits with a slightly undercooked egg white spilling out from around the creamy golden yolk. I’m frustrated at this point. I have not elevated to cursing yet because my kids are within earshot but this isn’t going well. Maybe this is just one bad egg. I move on to the next one. Well before I did that I popped the yolk in my mouth. It was perfectly cooked and delicious.
Egg number two. With the care of a surgeon I gently crack the shell all over and begin to peel. The shell carefully slips away from the egg. I pause so I don’t get too excited before proceeding. A little more… then the whole egg splits and a huge chunk comes off with the shell. The same undercooked egg white interior with a creamy golden center. That yolk saw the inside of my stomach before I tossed the rest in the compost. I figured these little buggers needed some more time in the boiling water. So I placed two eggs into boiling water (to replace the two I broke). I figured that I was going to try the original method of boiling eggs. Boil them until done. As these neared completion I added the other four back into the water. Once all were done I started the process of peeling again.
The first one peeled cleaned and I was thinking happy thoughts, like I had pulled myself back from the edge of despair. The second showed similar results and I was confident that these eggs were going to work. Until I tried to peel number 3, 4, 5 and 6, These must have been the originals. They didn’t improve one bit. They were cooked on the inside better but the shell, inner membrane and egg white formed a single inseparable bond. Into the compost they went. So I have ruined 6 eggs and need to boil 4 more. This is becoming a full-time job and the only reason I was doing all this was to make sandwiches for work the next day.
Anyway the four eggs came out nicely and I was ready to move on the supposedly hard part, mixing them together. The book says to chop the eggs and then mix them with the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, parsley, salt, pepper, minced celery and red onion. I chopped only the egg whites since the yolks kept sticking to the knife. I then mashed the yolks into the mixture. I liked this much better.
Rating: B+. The egg salad was good. Maybe a little runny but the flavor was really good. I remember hating egg salad sandwiches growing up as I always associated them with the food trashy people would eat. I don’t mean to offend but there was this one kid in my elementary school that brought one every day and he was filthy and always wore clothes that were dirty and absolutely didn’t match. I am not one to talk fashion but even I didn’t wear dress shirts tucked into sweat pants. Anyway, kids can be mean and I always thought of him when I saw egg salad sandwiches.