Monday, July 20, 2009

86. Thai-Style Beef Salad

Date Cooked: July 17, 2009
Page: 117
Rating: B+

I had been eyeing this recipe for quite some time and finally got around to cooking it. Thanks in large part to my neighbor for delivering a rather large bunch of fresh lettuce from his garden. Salads are one of those things I keep telling myself to eat more of but I always consider them a lot of work. This one showed me that I have nothing to be afraid of, but that I need to invest in a good salad spinner.

I started off washing the lettuce. The one thing about fresh from the garden produce are little crawly things. I thoroughly, bordering on obsessively, washed the lettuce in my sink. After freeing a few mini slugs, ants and some other unidentifiable critters, the lettuce was fit for consumption. Drying the lettuce would have been easier with a salad spinner. I had several feet of my counter cover with kitchen towels and lettuce.

With the lettuce done it was time to cook the flank steak. I pan-seared it in a small amount of oil and while that was happening I prepped the cucumber and onions and the marinade/dressing. The marinade was equal parts fish sauce and lime juice with some red pepper flakes and sugar. Half of this was reserved as the dressing while the remainder was used to marinate the sliced flank steak.

When the flank steak was finished cooking it was sliced and marinated for 10 minutes. Once done marinating the steak, cucumber and onions were tossed in the dressing and then served on a bed of lettuce and finally topped with peanuts.

Rating: B+. I liked this salad but I had one complaint. Between seasoning the flank steak prior to searing in, and then marinating it in a dressing based on fish sauce, it was a bit salty. The dressing alone was fantastic but the flank steak probably could have skipped the short marinating session. Overall I was happy with this dish and I look forward to making more salads.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

85. Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Date Cooked: July 13, 2009
Page: 835
Rating: A

I feel lately that my stress level has been abating and I am getting excited about cooking from the book again. I haven’t done a lot of baking from the book mostly because it intimidates me so I figured why not try to bake a cake. Carrot cake seemed as good a choice as any since I had some carrots that needed to be used. When I first started gathering the ingredients for this I was expecting it to be difficult but after reading through the recipe this seemed like it would be relatively pain free… I wasn’t really paying attention though.

Starting off I measured out most of the dry ingredients and whisked them together. I then took the bag of carrots I had and ran them through my food processor’s shredding disk. For those that have read my blog from before, I don’t care much for my food processor. It did a poor job of shredding the carrots and I ended up having to pulse them a few times extra to cut up the larger chunks. Once the carrots were processed I tossed them with the dry ingredients. This is where I began to realize what I was getting into. I needed to wash the food processor so I could combine the sugar, eggs and oil. The food processor is a pain in the ass to clean so I tend to avoid it, this was the first of several washings it would need to complete the recipe.

Once the food processor was cleaned I combined the sugar and eggs and then slowly added the oil with the processor on. A nice emulsion formed and once done I folded it into the dry ingredients. Within a few minutes I had a nice batter ready to pour into my prepped baking pan. Into the oven for 40 minutes until a toothpick came out clean. Then it had to cool for 2 hours.

While the cake cooled I set to work cleaning the food processor again to make the icing. The cream cheese icing was as simple as processing all the ingredients in the food processor for less than a minute. I transferred the icing to a bowl and let it chill a little in the fridge until the cake was cool enough for frosting. While waiting I had the opportunity to once again clean the food processor. Really is time for a newer, easier to clean model.

When the cake had finally cooled I spread the icing on (something I am not very talented at). Apparently the cake was not cool enough though and the icing began to get a touch runny so I put it all back in the fridge to chill a little longer before cutting into it to eat!

Rating: A. The cake was very moist and the carrots were very subtle but still noticeable. The cake was lightly spiced and not overly sweet which made the icing all that much better. I definitely enjoyed my piece and had to resist the temptation to help myself to a second, much larger slice.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

84. Gas-Grilled Bone-In Chicken Thighs

Dated Cooked: July 7, 2009
Page: 608
Rating: A-

Its summer grilling season and I intend to make good use of the grill this year. I figured chicken should be easy enough and something can only be stored in the freezer for so long. Once the chicken thighs had thawed I brined them.

** Please hold for this important culinary announcement. The night before I had cooked some chicken without brining it and I must say it just shouldn’t be done. I know, you are probably tired of me praising the virtues of brined poultry so I promise to make this my last tirade. Brine your chicken! DO IT! No excuses! Your chicken will be better for it. Okay done. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program. **

When the grill was hot enough I removed the chicken from the brine, patted it dry and then seasoned it with salt and pepper. The chicken was grilled on high heat to give a nice crust before cooking it over lower heat to cook through. I am one of those people always scared to undercook chicken but I am beginning to trust myself a little more and rely on the meat thermometer to tell me when it’s done. Although I need that less and less all the time. When the chicken was done it was plated to eat.

Rating: A-. Simple and delicious chicken that was juicy and full of flavor with a nice crispy skin. Couldn’t ask for more… well actually I could ask for more since chicken thighs aren’t that big.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

83. Grilled Asparagus with Grilled Lemon Vinaigrette

Date Cooked: July 7, 2009
Page: 134
Rating: B

My parents were down visiting for a week and now that we are into summer I am feeling the need to use the grill. And since I have done very few grilled recipes I figured this was a good time to start. We had several bunches of asparagus left over from a party we held on the weekend and tossing them on the grill would be a simple way to prepare them.

I started by tossing the trimmed asparagus in oil, salt and pepper. Once the grill was hot enough I placed them on to cook. I also added a halved lemon to the grill. While they were cooking I finely chopped some shallots and added them to a bowl with thyme, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and the juice from the grilled lemon. I whisked up the vinaigrette and drizzled it over the asparagus. Well drizzled is such a fine technique. I actually dropped clumps of shallots on the dish.

Rating: B. I enjoyed this preparation of asparagus but I had two complaints. The vinaigrette was very lemony, not bad just strong lemon flavor. In addition, the asparagus spears were thin and cooked rapidly on the grill. This would probably be better with thicker spears.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

82. Turkey Tetrazzini

Date Cooked: June 8, 2009
Page: 292
Rating: A

I didn’t plan to make this dish but the circumstances surrounding a thawed turkey left me with a whole roast turkey and no dinner for it. My mother-in-law picked up a frozen turkey because it was on sale and it was left to thaw in my fridge with the intention of having it roasted for a family dinner. Life is hectic and dinner plans were cancelled but I still had thawed 15lb turkey that needed to be cooked. So I roasted it.

Now the last time I roasted a turkey it tasted great and the picture was horrible… The picture actually scares me to look at. This time around the turkey looked golden brown and just delicious. Of course I never thought to take a picture of it because it wasn’t for the book. Anyway I carved it up, we ate some and I figured I didn’t mind having turkey sandwiches for the next week or two (I love turkey sandwiches!). The next day though I was lamenting the fact I had not really cooked anything from the book in a long time when I realized that there was a recipe that required cooked turkey meat! I couldn’t think of a better way to utilize the turkey, not to mention when else was I going to have 4 cups of cooked turkey meat available.

This recipe was a vicious reminder of all my poor cooking habits that I had been trying to change. What a month of cooking familiar recipes can do to a sense of organization. Let’s just say that prepping the onions and mushrooms and turkey was easy. Everything after that was a near disaster. Basically three things needed to be on the go at once since I was trying to get dinner ready quickly. This was the first indicator of impending disaster. I was boiling water for the pasta, cooking down onions and mushrooms and trying to prepare the sauce which starts with a roux. Since I had decided that getting everything together first was somehow a waste of time I came very close to destroying the roux (but didn’t)… Let me stop for a second. This post is becoming as chaotic as my cooking techniques.

Okay, so cooking down the onions and mushrooms in butter was easy and once they had sufficiently released themselves of moisture I set them aside. The pasta I stopped cooking at al dente but since nothing else was ready it sat in the pot with a small amount of reserved pasta water. The sauce eventually came together with the only deviation from the recipe coming at the sacrifice of dried thyme instead of fresh thyme, I thought I had some (and I did), but it was a touch… aged, and not it the fine wine sense but more the backyard compost way. This is a common trend for me and fresh herbs. I always think I have them only to realize it wasn’t last week I bought them but several weeks ago. My sense of timing these days is a touch off.

So once everything was done the pasta and reserved water was mixed with the sauce, onions and mushrooms and turkey, oh yeah and some frozen peas. This entire mixture was placed into a baking dish and baked for about 30 minutes. I also forgot that I sprinkled the top with fresh breadcrumbs and parmesan.

When this dish was done and I pulled it from the oven, the whole ordeal was worth it.

Rating: A. This dish reminded me of the chicken pot pie. It was a stick to your ribs comforting meal. My wife loved it and both the kids ate it (although one decided that since I put the peas in it that I should take them out so he could eat it!). Next time I’m faced with four cups of chopped poultry I will try this again.

LinkWithin Related Stories Widget for Blogs