Thursday, August 3, 2017

Freezer Adventures: Roasted Duck Red Curry

Confession: It's possible that I'm a bit of a food-hoarder.  I could tell you a sad story about the time in my life that I blame for this tendency, but it's really not that interesting or important.  The important thing is that I am the kind of person who winds up with a duck, 3 Magret duck breasts, and 4 duck leg quarters in my freezer for longer than is remotely necessary.  Half of that duck is going to turn into something Trinidadian soon. (Actually soon.  I promise.) The rest turned into one of my favorite foods: Roast Duck Red Curry...

How (Not) To Cook For One - Prosciutto, Cremini, and Pea Tortellini

I've been making an effort lately to make small batches of amazing food when I have a craving...  Not filling up the freezer and/or forcing myself to eat the same meal (no matter how delicious) 8 times in a row... I think of it as "cooking for one," but I'm really bad at it...  Here's how it happens.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Slow Roasted Tomatoes (And a Pasta to Use Them In)

For assorted not-particularly-interesting reasons, I've been finding myself with an excess of tomatoes these days.  Roasting (followed by freezing) has always been my go-to method for using up extra tomatoes, but recently I've discovered the beauty of super-duper-slow roasting them.  Behold:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Fantastic Read About Cooking

This article on cooking is beautiful and true.  Check it out when you can and share with others who love what we love...  (Who knew such a great story could be inspired by a dish as humble as "Shit on a Shingle"?)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Learning to Embrace the Moment

I've been having a lot of fun in the kitchen lately, but what every kitchen session had in common was that I had no interest whatsoever in picking up a camera while I was cooking.  Sometimes this is an accident: I'm just screwing around with an idea and end up making something amazing, then regret not having documented any of it for future replication.  More often than not, though, the thing that keeps me from taking pictures is the fact that I'm really enjoying just being there, in the moment, cooking.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't have the talents/technique/skill of an actual food photographer, but every time I've thought about raising my photo-taking game I've realized it would mean more time setting up and taking pictures, with less time for doing what I actually love.  (Also, more money spent on lenses means less money with which to buy steak...)  It's good for me to remember that this blog is about cooking, not pictures...

In that vein, here are three things I've been psyched about in the kitchen lately but haven't stopped to take pictures of:  

FIRE!  It had been far too long since I threw raw ingredients on my grill and cooked them to charred, beautiful deliciousness.  I so enjoy the precision of sous vide cooking that I fell into a habit of cooking most non-chicken meats that way... Then I picked up a gorgeous never-frozen local skirt steak at Providore Foods and had no intention of waiting even 24 hours for it to sous vide to tender perfection, so I tossed it on the grill with some asparagus and had this visceral moment of happiness as I turned the meat and veg over the fire.  The steak was indeed a bit more toothsome than it would have been after a long slow application of heat, but it was still tender and was absolutely delicious, and is there any better way to cook asparagus? Why had I fallen away from doing something that makes me so happy?  We've been grilling up veggies on a regular basis since that day, and never cease to be impressed by how delicious food becomes with the application of fire...

Green things! (That's a picture of kale sprouts, which I tried for the first time from Rubinette Produce a month ago and found to be super-delicious...)  My future-mother-in-law has been staying with us, and leave it to a mom to remind you to eat your veggies!  I'm (mostly) kidding, but shopping with a veggie-lover in the house has resulted in big beautiful piles of kale, broccoli rabe, kale rabe, spinach, green beans, and asparagus in my kitchen.  It's been a great reminder of how much we love fresh, simply-prepared vegetables - something I somehow forgot until recently.

Confidence! (I don't have a web pic to go with this one, so please enjoy this picture of my ridiculous dog looking confident in her skull harness...)  This is kind of a weird one.  I've been cooking and reading about food since as early as high school, and first really got into experimenting in the kitchen when I started grad school (which somehow was 15 years ago already... yeesh...).  I've cooked many, many things that I know for a fact were delicious over those years, but I've never actually thought of myself as a "good" cook until this last year or so.  As I've begun realizing that I kick ass in the kitchen (look at that confidence!), I've given myself more freedom to trust my kitchen instincts, and as a result have made even better food. My days of  13-hour days working through a recipe for Thomas Keller's food may be behind me, but spending a half hour at a time making My food has been at least as satisfying, if not more so.  

Friday, January 8, 2016

Favorite Kitchen Tools: Batter Dispenser

My house smells like chicken stock right now.  Scratch that...  My house smells like ridiculously awesome chicken stock right now.  Perhaps my very favorite miracle of cooking is homemade stock.  I am a woman who buys more than her fair share of bulk-store rotisserie chicken. (It's juicy, perfectly cooked, and $5/bird every time.  I can't justify the time or money to buy a chicken and then do what it takes to make it that delicious when having it done for me is $5...)  This means that, at least a couple times each month, I have some lovely chicken carcasses with which to make stock.  I pull the meat off a couple carcasses, vacuum-seal breasts in one bag and dark meat in another (either to freeze or to re-therm later via sous vide).  Everything else goes in the pot.  A bundle of carrots. A bundle of celery. A red and a white onion. Bay leaves and parsley. Large handful of black peppercorns.  Fill a 20-quart stockpot with all of that and then cold water to reach 1" below the rim, simmer for 24-36 hours, and everything you make that calls for chicken stock suddenly has depth of flavor.  (It's kind of like the difference between sautéing in schmaltz vs. in oil.  If you know what I'm talking about, then... yeah.)

It was Michael Ruhlman who first made me realize how important this is (and I've mentioned it here before).  To quote, "I cannot say this strongly or loudly enough: DO NOT use canned stock/broth.  Use WATER instead.  I repeat.  You DO NOT NEED to buy that crappy can of Swanson’s low sodium chicken broth!  It will HURT your food.  Use water instead.  When that recipe says 1 cup of fresh chicken stock (or good quality canned broth), please know that your food, 90 percent of the time, will taste better if you use tap water instead of that "good quality" canned broth.  Water is a miracle."   

I suppose the secret hero of this post is actually the Pressure Canner (and, by non-trivial extension, my mother, who operates the pressure canner for me 99 times out of 100), which allows me to store my crazy-awesome homemade stock without a sacrifice of freezer space... But the hero I would like to acknowledge is the lowly Batter Dispenser. I originally owned one so that my boyfriend could make me pancakes, but it turns out it's actually the world's greatest fat separator...  The clean stock pours out the bottom, and you release the handle before the fat flows through.  Add more stock, the fat moves back to the top...  

What I've come to really love about homemade stock is all the ways it enriches things.  Buying the chickens gives me time off in the kitchen (since delicious protein ready to be flavored as you wish and used in any number of dishes makes for lots of easy meals).  It gives me 5-10 quarts (depending on how concentrated I make it) of kick-ass chicken stock to cook with.  It also, amazingly, makes dog food.  (It turns out the meat left on the carcasses (once picked) combines with the overcooked veggies from the stock, fresh rice, and some homemade chicken stock to give my toothless dog the greatest mealtime experience ever...)

This is the type of thing I like to think about these days.  I try (successfully or not) to minimize talk of my physical limitations when I write things here, but those limitations are typically the most screamingly relevant factor in every moment of my life.  It's been great to think about things I can do for (essentially) free and in less than 10 minutes of hands-on time that can also make every meal I cook taste just a little more nuanced and give my food that je ne sais quoi feeling that the person who cooked it for you loves you.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Feeling inspired on this snowy day.  Planning to post again soon...

Friday, May 22, 2015

One-Pot Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Sun-dried Tomato Cream

I saw this recipe at Damn Delicious and recognized right away that it sounded like "our flavors." After a few tweaks based on ingredients lying around my kitchen (and on my unwillingness to measure ingredients), this simple dish wowed us and entered the ranks of household staples... 

Extra-Meaty Ragú Napoletano

Every now and then, we get a craving for some old-school, rustic, meaty tomato sauce with pasta.  I've tried my hand at a couple different versions of bolognese, but there was always something missing. This meat sauce, on the other hand, is basically perfection, and I'm psyched to have 3 quarts more of it waiting for me in the freezer to satisfy our next craving...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Everyday Yumminess: "Holy Crap" Shrimp & Grits

Mothers' Day was this past weekend, and we thought making my mom brunch at home made a lot more sense than waiting in super-long lines at any of our favorite brunch spots in town.  Shrimp & Grits came to mind right away, which led us on a recipe search when we realized we had no idea how we'd made this dish last time.  I found a recipe at (of all places) that (with a couple minor changes) turned out to be pretty darned spectacular, and when all was said and done we found ourselves sitting down to one of the most awesomely delicious meals we've cooked in recent memory, leading me to exclaim several times during brunch "Holy crap!  This is AMAZING!"