Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Banana Bread

Alright, this another kind of cheating post. I didn't get to take any pictures of the finished product. Oh, I had lots of opportunities. I just forgot. It was during finals and I was enjoying them with coffee and textbooks. Mostly, there was a small bunch of bananas glaring at me to use them before I had to throw them out. Like I was forced to with the bunch before that I promised- so sincerely- that I'd put in the same recipe. I'm a horrible person!

It's also cheating because, yeah, it's a link. But it's still great! Very easy to pull off even when you're zombified and tastes really banana-y when you didn't quite have as much as the recipe called for. I made mine in mini-loaf pans so I could eat them easier. You know, when slicing bread has become too much of a brain-buster. There is one other banana bread recipe I really want to try and another bunch-o-bananas eyeing me suspiciously. However, it's much fussier and this one might be my go-to for a while.

But you don't care about any of that. Have a glass of champagne for me and have a happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chicken Flautas

I'm feeling a bit better today, so I'm actually going to post a recipe instead of just giving you the link. Every once in a while I do actually cook things not stolen from other blogs. This is one of those things. I grew up eating these with gusto. Both me and my sister are still hounding my mom for the recipe since we tend to lose these things. The ingredients are simple, but we like to use flour tortillas instead of corn and I use less onion since... yeah, it's me. My mom used to make them specially for me since I just wanted chicken without all the other "stuff". Yet another use for good roast chicken

Texas Chicken Flautas With Salsa

1 med size onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T shortening (I used butter)
1 T cornstarch
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 1/2 chopped or shredded cooked chicken
1 can (4oz) chopped green chilies- mexican section of store
Vegetable oil for frying
12 corn tortillas (or flour)

Saute onion and garlic in shortening in a large saucepan until tender, about 3 min. Stir in cornstarch, salt and pepper; mix well. Stir in broth, chicken and chilies. Cook, stirring constantly, until very thick and bubbly.

Heat about 1/4" depth of oil in a large skillet. Dip tortillas in hot oil for a few seconds to soften; drain on paper towels. (Or just shove in the microwave for about 20 seconds. You only want them soft enough to fill and then roll.) Spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of each tortilla; roll up. I use a toothpick to keep them together.

Saute flautas, a few at a time, in hot oil in the skillet, turning often, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Keep flautas warm until all are cooked. I eat mine with sour cream and a little salsa.

Extra credit: Salsa

Chop 2 med size ripe tomatoes, 1 med. size onion and 1 med size halved and seeded green pepper. Combine with 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1 minced clove garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and 1/8 tsp. ground cumin in a small bowl; mix well. Refrigerate 1 hour or until cold and flavors have blended.

About 6 servings

Monday, December 29, 2008

Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel

Oh, guys. I am so sick today. It started last night with the ache that covers your whole body and makes you feel like you can't stop moving or it will hurt too much. It's a bone deep pain that makes you feel restless when you're dying to sleep and sleepwalking when you're awake. Add a seriously sore throat and you had one seriously weepy authoress. Luckily, I had Texas Ranger here on holiday to go out at 4 o'clock in the morning to get me drugs. As long as I stay heavily medicated, everything's alright.

Onto the food. Remember my little onion fest? Well, I wasn't done telling you about all that. I'm hoping everyone will forgive me for schizo storytelling right now due to feeling crappy. Anyways, I had my eyes on an onion tart that I saw over at Smitten Kitchen. Everything Deb makes looks fantastic. Plus, I had already seen a glimmer of what caramelized onions could be. The recipe? Pretty damn good. I didn't even scrape off the onions or anything- ate them up as is. I feel that's a good advancement towards normalcy, don't you?

A few tips though. The dough was easy to make, but if you've had little experience with it, you might want to shop around her site a bit more. I had trouble getting it into a decent shape that didn't have too many tears. Once torn, it was a bitch to stick back together. Also, the rolling pin didn't like this one. Most of the doughmanship was done by hand, however shoddy it may be. But hey! I got my dough to rise! It's alive!

Also, it was a bit salty. I'm not sure what was up with that. Truthfully, it could have been the Kraft Parmesan I used instead of the real thing, because that's pretty salty as well (though I only used half the required amount because of that fact). I was also freaking out about not quite done onions, so I caramelized the hell out of them before ever laying them on the tart. If you visit her site for the recipe, you'll notice her onions are way less cooked than mine. It depends on what taste you favor. My onions were really sweet with a salty crust. I bet hers was more robust and savory. Either way, it's definitely worth a try.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chicken and Dumplings

Roasting whole chickens is my new thing. I love the smell. I love the mulitude of options after I make one. Homemade stock, crispy skin, old-fashioned fun. It doesn't get better. I roasted another chicken last night too. This time I used salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I ended up basting it with olive oil a bit later because I had to put it back in the oven after it wasn't done. Expect even more chicken recipes from this.

That last chicken I roasted went to both the chicken salad and this. Plus, all that lovely homemade stock made up the base. Since I had both the chicken cooked and stock made, all I really needed was to make dumplings. I found this recipe here and used it for the dough. However, I'm lazy and didn't roll it, which I think I should have. The dropped biscuits were just a little too hard and didn't taste very good. There are always more fish in the sea, so I'm sure next time will be better. Either way, the end product was still very tasty.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chicken Salad

How time flies! You guys have missed a ton of food! I was cooking up a storm during finals, then furiously preparing for Christmas, then actually having Christmas in Pennsylvania meeting my future father in law. So yeah. I've got a lot to catch up on and hoping that I don't forget too much. I'll try my damnedest. Starting off easy...

You guys remember that I'm on the hunt for the perfect chicken salad recipe, right? Well, this ain't it. However, it was tasty. Now, I'm one of those horrible people who will find a recipe, only use half the ingredients listed, and say it wasn't great. Warning: didn't use the celery or sour cream because I forgot them.

Now this has all the elements I'm looking for: good chicken to mayo ratio, fresh fruit, walnuts... but it's missing something. I say this knowing I didn't add all the ingredients, but those weren't it. Let's dissect. I was screaming that I should be buying purple instead of green grapes while I was still in the store but didn't. I think they're just a little sweeter and it helps perk up the flavor. I really liked the green onions instead of normal ones because it added that bite without me picking through it or overwhelming it. The chopped walnuts are also a must. I think the sour cream might be a nice addition too, so I'll have to remember next time. But what else? Does anyone else have a recipe with my "musts" that I have to try? Let me know.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Roast Chicken: Lesson in Dissection

Every once in a while, I cook something that makes me feel classic. You know? Like I'm cooking in slow-mo, bathed in yellow sepia colors and maybe wearing a hand-sewn apron in my farm kitchen. Alright, maybe you're not Farmer Betty when you cook, but sometimes it's there and sometimes it feels awesome.

Since I discovered roast chicken so many moons ago, it's been a staple in my life. There is nothing better than a perfectly roasted chicken leg. However, I don't actually remember roasting a whole chicken before. It could have happened, but it's not ringing any bells. So with sepia-washed thoughts of rich chicken stock and fresh chicken salad, I picked me up a hen.

There's something comforting about holding a raw chicken in my bare hands. It's got a solid weight that makes me a feel a bit earthy. It's almost like holding a baby. Just a baby that I'm super excited about rubbing with spices and cooking under high heat, which is possibly one reason why I'm never having children. However, I didn't have twine on hand, so I decided to roast it on a cookie sheet, breast-side down with the wings and thighs tucked under. This might have been a mistake. I took the chicken out when it was "done", then realized that it had a meat... popper thingy in the breast that of course didn't pop. But was it because it was held down or is it not done? Dilema... Then I noticed that the thigh area was like a balloon with liquid bulging the skin out and looking like a very funky blister. So in it goes again, breast-side up. After a while, it's browned and I'm sick of the smoke-haze* that's settled over my kitchen and living room, so I take it out. Still not popped. To which I said, screw you popper of doom! It's done! Notice unpopped popper.

*Tip: I normally put olive oil over my thighs before roasting. It's awesomeness incarnate. However, on a whole chicken it slides down to the roasting juices, pops, and makes your oven smell funny and sometimes smoke. Don't think I'll do that next time.

Moving on, I let it rest for a while then whipped out my knife. Now, I know how to carve a bird (even though I'm more a fan of the rip and pull method). I'm cool that way. But I'm not interested in just the obvious parts. I want to know all those Southern cook secrets about the best hidden parts and what to do with intestines. So I now present to you: Chicken Butt.

And Oysters: Before


Um... they don't have a whole lot of chicken intestine pictures out there that say, "Hey! This is the heart, delicious when cooked in butter." So I had to do some searching. Still, I couldn't find anything that said I needed to start with cooked or uncooked chicken, so I gave it a miss this time. I'm also afraid of seperating the parts I want from the parts I'm too afraid to want. Next time.

Anyways, the oysters are dark meat and have a firmer texture than the rest of the dark meat. It's said that they taste more chickeny too. Well, the texture was nice, but I don't think it tasted more like chicken. I actually think they were a little blander, so they got torn up with the rest of the white meat for chicken salad and dumplings. The tail... the tail! I might break a few ankles for that piece. It's two tiny bites worth of crispy skin, fat, and a smidgen of meat. So I think this roast and exploration was a success. I'll be updating soon on what I've done with my bird, except for the legs and wings which I like plain. Happy hunting!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

French Onion Soup

There's something in me that keeps pushing me to try things I might not like. Which is why I have a habit of accepting large quantities of vegetables I don't really eat. Like onions. Like lots and lots of onions. So I push on and try new things. I've made french onion soup once before and wasn't crazy about it. This time, however, I had no one to pawn it off on. So I ate my obligatory bowl. Then I realized that I couldn't just dump it out, so I ate another. And another. Then I finally tore down the mental block and realized that I liked it. Of course, I ate is less as a soup than as a heavy sauce for my hunk of cheesy toast, but still.

It got eaten- all of it. And I liked it, damn it. It was so good. I'm a believer. Well, as long as I can strain out the chunks of onion because I'm still a goof. I'm almost so converted that I want to use the rest of my onion stash to make another batch, but I've got another recipe waiting in line.

Caramelizing onions still kind of freaks me out. I'm always afraid that they're burning, then afraid if I take them off too soon I'll just be making partially cooked onion soup. I usually pull through with something resembling caramelized, but I can never be sure. So I took tons of pictures.

All of these...

Filled my big stock pot to here...

Then reduced to this.

Here's my nice dark brown stock.

And the finished product. Yeah, the onions here are for show.

Make sure to check out the recipe over at Baking Bites. As a side note, I used Rachel Ray's beef stock for mine and it turned out pretty well. I haven't tried enough other brands to give a good comparison though.