Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New recipe - about time!

A few months ago, I had cassoulet at a local bistro. I don't know how authentic it was, but, given the various opinions on what cassoulet is in France, I'm not sure it matters. What I do know is that it was GOOD!

This month we've been having cooler and wetter than normal weather. After a spending a cold weekend at a Boy Scout camp for a cooking symposium, and watching snow and graupel come down during work, I wanted something warm and comforting for dinner. I remembered the cassoulet I had and decided to make something like it. It's not cassoulet, but it's inspired by it.

Cassoulet-inspired Bean Stew
1 15oz can of white beans
1 15oz can of cannelini beans
1 15oz can of great northern beans
1 15oz can of pinto beans
1 15oz can of red beans
1 duck leg
2 links Andouille sausage
1 smoked ham hock
6-8 oz pearl onions
4-6 oz sliced mushrooms
3-5 tablespoons fresh garlice
1/2-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Roast the duck leg for 30 to 45 minutes. Simmer the ham hock in a couple cups of water. Slice the sausage into coins and carmelize in a hot skillet.

Remove all meat from bones and add all meat (and bones) to water. Add all remaining ingredients (including fluid from beans) to soup pot and simmer for at least 45 minutes. The longer you can let this simmer the more the flavors will marry.
I was ecstatic to discover I can get duck parts at my local grocery. I was afraid I would have to wait until this weekend to make the stew so I could thaw the whole duck in my freezer.

The stew was everything I wanted: savory and hearty with just a hint of heat. I wish I had fresh bread to eat with it, but I don't usually have time to make it after work.

In case you hadn't noticed, the recipe makes a lot of bean stew. Fortunately, this is the type of stew that gets better as it sits, so today's dinner tasted even better than it did yesterday!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings

I had some frozen chicken breasts that needed to be used up as they were starting to freezer burn. This called for some seriously moist cooking. I also have a sore throat, so soup seemed like the best idea to me.

Chicken and Dumplings
3 large half chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
Several chicken necks
1/2 pound carrots
1/2 pound or so mushrooms
1/2 large onion
1 sprig rosemary
several sprigs thyme
2-3 tablespoons chopped garlic
2-3 bay leaves
20 oz. chicken stock
1 cup Bisquick(tm) baking mix
2.5 oz 2% milk
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt to taste

Boil the chicken necks in a gallon of water for about an hour, scumming the fat and flotsam from the surface. I put mine in cheesecloth so I didn't have to retrieve bones and skin.

Once the necks have boiled, remove them from the pan and discard (you could retrieve the meat if you so desire - I was lazy).

Chop carrots, onions, and mushrooms into bite-size pieces and add to pan. Add chopped garlic. Let simmer for an hour or so.

Add chicken breasts (still frozen) and simmer until done. Remove each breast and cut into bite-size pieces and return to pan.

About half an hour before you want to eat, add the salt, rosemary, bay leaves, and thyme.

Fifteen minutes before dinner, mix the baking mix, milk, garlic powder and a pinch or two of salt together. Add to boiling soup in teaspoon (or tablespoon) sized dollops, depending on how large you want your dumplings to be. Simmer for 10-12 minutes, turning over halfway through the cooking.

Of course, this won't be enough dumplings for the entire pot; I knew we'd have leftovers and I will make fresh dumplings for them. Double baking mix and milk quantities for a single sit-down dinner. If you don't like the baking mix I used, or can't get it, substitute your favorite. Adjust the fluid amount accordingly.

I'd forgotten how rich and creamy the dumplings make the soup; noodles never quite achieve the same effect. The dumplings just melted in my mouth. The soup was just velvety as we ate. Just what I wanted when I have a sore throat.

Feel free to add celery or mess with the proportions of vegetables in the soup. I just like a very carroty and mushroomy soup, particularly when I don't feel great. If you have a chicken (or turkey) carcass and time to make your own stock, feel free to omit the chicken breasts, chicken necks, and broth -- I only used them because I didn't have the time to start fully from scratch today.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Irregular posts

I'm sorry about the irregular posting these last few months. Life's been quite hectic and, while I've been cooking, I haven't had as much time to play as I would like. And I've had even less time to record what I've been playing with.

One of the reasons is I've gotten sucked into a big research project. I'm exploring how spices were used in the late medieval kitchen. One of my inspirations for this project was Tom Colicchio making a statement in his Top Chef blog about how medieval chefs would use spices to cover rancid/spoiled meat. That's like putting $30 gold braid on $2 cotton broadcloth -- doesn't make sense. Anyone with enough money to buy the spices would have enough money/resources to get fresh meat on a regular basis. So I'm looking at data from medieval household about how much spice they buy, how much is sent to the kitchen, how much is sent to the still room for perfumes and the like, how much is used medicinally, how much is sent to the creamery, and how much is given to visitors as gifts (lots and lots). I'm also looking at how many people are in the household so I can get an average of how much spice per person was purchased and used in the kitchen.

My preliminary results suggest that they weren't using that much more spice than the average American household and less than modern Indian households. When I say spice, I'm not talking about the herbaceous basil, oregano, etc. I'm looking at clove, cinnamon, pepper, etc. Salt and sugar are also excluded because they are used in a multitude of ways that are really outside the scope of what I'm interested in.

When I have more data and conclusions to post, you'll find them here. I'll also be posting recipes, but I don't know how often. Things are quieting down activity-wise, but winter is approaching with the waning energy that the cold brings.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dyed Pie Crust

The dyed pie crust didn't happen this weekend. But I learned a couple of very important things:
  • If you are going to dye a dough, don't add the to the dough after the dough is mixed. No matter how much you work it (and with pie dough this is bad), the dye does not get distributed evenly. In some situations, marbled pie dough might be the way to go, but this was not one of those situations. Next time: try mixing dye with the water the dough will be made from.
  • Wear gloves. Blue might have been the shade I wanted for the dough, but it was not the color I wanted for my fingernails. Fortunately food dyes are reasonably water soluble, so with many repeated handwashings, the worst of it came out. But I do still have traces of the dye around the cuticles and edges of the nails from last Wednesday's experiment.

That said, the experimental painting with the dyes worked okay. I need to get some food-safe brushes for applying the dye, a spoon just doesn't give light enough coverage. And I don't know what I want to do with the yellow dye; as a paint it looks more orange than yellow. Hmm, just had a thought: cake decorators thin their dyes with vodka so they can airbrush with them. Perhaps that will work for these dyes too!

I'm also going to look into a local cake-decorating store. Perhaps I'll find something a bit more appropriate.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Life has just been kicking my can this summer. If I could work 80 a week at my office, I'd still be behind. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel so things should get better soon.

I am planning to do some pie shell decorating for this weekend. I promise I will post my results!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Still here!!

I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I've been dealing with a lot of life right now - including the death of my mother-in-law. So, it's been kind of tough to write and tough to cook. Next week, things should be easier, so look for a post mid to end of the week.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Radishes, Not Just for Salads!

When my mother rejoined the workforce in my teens, my dad and I picked up a lot of her cooking tasks. Over time, my dad took over making all weekend breakfasts and was usually pretty good. My mother never needed to worry about leftovers as my dad kept finding new and inventive ways to use them. Some of them didn't work out too well, but most of them worked incredibly. I think it helps that my dad never had a home ec teacher to tell him it wouldn't work.

One of his great discoveries was that radish roots sauté wonderfully. They didn't work too well in the omelet, but on their own they were exquisite.

This week I was able to get wild-caught, fresh salmon on a wonderful sale. I've been grilling it until tonight, when a wind/dust storm made grilling inadvisable. Each night, I've been trying to come up with a new vegetable combination to accompany it. Tonight, I decided on radishes.

Sauteed Radishes, Zucchini, and Onion
1/2 cup zucchini, sliced
1/2 cup radishes, sliced
1/2 cup onion, (sliced lengthwise in strips)
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon olive oil

Heat oil in skillet. Sprinkle salt over veggies as the oil heats. Sauté onions until they start to become translucent. Add radishes and zucchini and sauté until they are to their desired doneness.

This is a very easy and flavorful vegetable dish. A lot of people find zucchini to be bland, but I don't. I do find that it plays well off a stronger flavor, so it's creaminess can come to the fore.

When choosing radishes to sauté, make sure the radishes aren't too big or too strong. If they are, the radishes will be bitter.