Thursday, April 29, 2010

Double Take: Stir Fried Broccoli

The present double take bounced around a lot. At first I chose, garlic smashed potatoes...Yummy sounding but red potatoes aren't in season yet and garlic is on its last legs for a couple more months before the new harvest. I'd been contemplating making Chinese Bao Tze (a form of puffy dumpling) for a while and in flipping through the side dishes, stir fried broccoli seemed like a good pairing. Plus, it was on the list of things Jason, Mel and I would try. Off we go.

The recipe did not include what I would've expected. For starters, I thought, broccoli and soy saue with something else, right? Wrong. How about broccoli, vegetable oil, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, chicken broth, and ginger? Different and quick.

How to: If your sesame seeds aren't toasted, toss them in a pan with a little oil for a minute or two, while stirring. Remove the sesame seeds for later use. Then, cook the ginger in the vegetable oil until lightly browned. Toss in the broccoli and cook another minutes. Pour in the chicken broth, turn down the heat to medium/low and let cook slowly. Toss in the toasted sesame seeds and sesame oil. Voila.

Assessment: Bland. Doesn't need salt but it seems like it needs something. The mild flavor went well with the spicy Bao Tze but I would probably prefer to find an alternate broccoli recipe. Kyndra liked it. Ruthann and I thought it was missing something.

Check out Mel's thoughts at Fabulously Fun Food!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge: Traditional English Pudding

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

April’s Daring Baker’s challenge did not strike me as something I would eat, much less prepare. Pudding? My immediate response was thoughts of being unable to swallow pudding as a kid. I imagined gluey pudding. Ugh. I have texture issues with slimy substances. Errantly, I concluded traditional pudding to be similar to the American JELLO instant pudding. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

After being quite convinced I’d never like or make pudding, I decided to at least look at some recipes to see if there was something I’d be willing to try. What’s more? Could I find something even my family would eat if I made it as an Easter dessert? After bouncing between rhubarb pudding (since I received rhubarb from my co-op) or something sweeter like toffee pudding (my Uncle Ricky LOVES toffee and Heath bars). Contemplating my family and what I thought they’d try and enjoy, I went with Toffee Pudding. It called for butter rather than suet. Suet was not a required ingredient and was likely to be met with appall from my family. Additionally, there was concern about availability in my small hometown. I figured if I'd checked with our local butcher ahead there was a chance but I wanted to make it for Easter and the notice went out only a couple days before that. Since it was optional, I decided maybe I'd try suet it another time. I wasn't sure I'd like the pudding in the first place so at least that eliminated one variable. With the help of a recipe from the Food Network, I was off!

Step 1: Find the ingredients. Most of these were pretty common. I was concerned about finding dates in my hometown. Food City had it covered! I didn’t find them myself, though. Fortunately, the young guy stocking the shelves didn’t take it the wrong way when I asked him if he knew where I could find dates! Instead, he smiled, reached forward to the shelf in front of him and said, “Here are the dates, ma’am.” Ma’am?!? Oh well. I really didn’t know I was quite ma’amable. However, considering I was in my small hometown and I was older than his apparent high school age, the ma’am was a conventional respectful reply. I could handle that. My sister, Tiffany, laughed out loud at me.

Step 2: This dish was prepared the same day as the mildly catastrophic recipe of caramel sticky buns. After that experience, I determined not to prepared both the toffee sauce and cake at once, thank you very much. I started with the pudding. I chopped the dried dates finely and placed them in boiling water. Then mixed up the dry ingredients and combined the moistened dates and their water with the dry ingredients. At this point, I panic. Water? Most cakes I’ve made call for milk. What on earth would this be like? The recipe had a good rating so I decided to go with it. I stirred the mixture together. It looked runnier than pancake mix! I poured it in the oven/heat safe bowl and hoped it came out correctly, which as I understood would be a spongy cake.

Step 3: While the pudding cooked, I put together the toffee sauce.

Toffee Sauce

Step 4: The cake came out, right on time. The toffee sauce finished a couple minutes later and I went ahead and dumped half the sauce on top to soak into the pudding. I stored the rest of the toffee in a container for topping off the pudding.

Waiting while the caramel soaked into the Pudding

Step 5: Whipped cream. Easy breezy. No problem.

Step 6: Taste and see. Others were done with their Easter dinner well before me but the disappearance rate of the pudding suggested it was a hit. My mom scooped a portion for me before it was gone. There were no leftovers and a lot of fans! Yay for British pudding! Maybe I’ll try making the rhubarb version next!

Scooping the Pudding after the toffee sauce soaked into it

English Sticky Toffee Pudding with Whipped Cream and a Drizzle of Toffee Sauce!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chicken Saltimbocca

If I were looking for a random chicken recipe to try, my criteria would include: simple, relatively easy to find ingredients, minimal prep time, around a half hour cooking time (its chicken and I’m a realist mostly), and good flavor. This recipe fits these criteria to a tee. Seriously.

Quick How To

#1 - Pick up chicken with bones and skins. I know all the boneless, skinless touts regarding less work and healthy benefits – however, for this recipe, skin was essential. Since they don’t sell boneless skin on chicken (at least nowhere I’ve heard of) you deal with it. Trust me, it’s worth dealing with the skin and bones. The recipe called for breasts. However, Mel and I both prefer dark meat. When I suggested using chicken leg and thigh quarters, she countered with using a whole, cut up chicken. This way we could still comply with the recipe (since we’d use two breasts) and still have dark meat as our experimental group. FABULOUS! (In case you don’t know already – it’s hard for me to comply with a recipe. In fact, recipe compliance might be the hardest part of cooking through this cookbook….but I digress. Back to chicken!)

#2 – Slide a knife between chicken meat and skin to separate them but don’t detach the skin completely. This was quite easy as the skin practically separated from the flesh with my fingertips.

#3 – Layer fresh sage (dried sage can be overpowering, the fresh was great!) and thinly sliced prosciutto or bacon between the skin and flesh of the chicken.

#4 – Heat butter or olive oil in a heavy frying pan. Place each piece of chicken in the oil and cook until each side is lightly browned. Add chicken broth and either dry white wine or white grape juice to the pan with a little salt and pepper. Cover and cook on medium low for about 25 minutes.

Chicken Cooking

#5 – Enjoy the wonderful aromas! Remove chicken and eat. Ruthann and I had ours with baked asparagus. I enjoyed leftovers with thin spaghetti and green beans and poured the broth over the pasta. Ruthann suggested it would’ve been great with rice.

Chicken Saltimbocca with Baked Asparagus

Response: Two emphatic “This is great, easy, quick, and tasty”. It is a definite repeat.

Thoughts: Of course, we’d change it. I thought it would be great if onions and garlic were cooked in the oil prior to adding the chicken or even added between the skin and flesh. Also, the sauce for the chicken was great over the pasta. It would be excellent modified into a cream sauce and made into a chicken and pasta dish. It is simple and flexible so there are many variations. I didn’t even get tired of eating it different ways with leftovers!

Check out Mel’s thoughts on Chicken Saltimbocca at Fabulously Fun Food!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Double Take: Caramel Sticky Buns

The latest selection for Double Takes was breakfast themed: Caramel Sticky Buns. Due to plans to head home for Easter, I planned to make the sticky buns as a treat for my sister and brother-in-law who recently moved into their first house!

The recipe was straightforward. Prepare hot roll mix. What? What’s hot roll mix? Apparently rather than just writing a recipe there is a mix available at the store. The mix I used contained 2 1/3 c. of flour mixture and a yeast packet. It called for one cup of warm water. The yeast was less active than my normal experience. There are a few recipes for the mix online but the quantity to use was typically unclear. One recipe stated 3-4 cups while another used 3 1/3. I was not impressed with the way the bread turned out so I’d recommend going with an alternate yeast bread recipe. Anyway, enough of that rabbit trail. The dough was rolled to a 15 x 11” rectangle. Covered with cinnamon and sugar and rolled up from one end.

Rolled Dough coated with Cinnamon and Sugar

For small buns, it should be rolled from the long side facing you. For large buns, it should be rolled from the short side facing you. Dental floss was recommended to slice the dough.

Slicing the Dough

The dough was placed on top of caramel sauce (for which there was a recipe), allowed to rise until double, and baked about 15 minutes.

Rising Dough

Done! (Left is the inverted roll, Right is the Caramel side)

The caramel sauce was the third caramelized sauce (out of four) that I made last week. However, its preparation was slightly catastrophic. I decided to try preparing the bread and caramel sauce at the same time. I started the caramel sauce, got it to a point at which I just needed to glance at it periodically, and turned to the bread. This was going well but I had noted when I started that the pot might be a little small. I should’ve changed pots then but I didn’t. As I turned to check on the sauce, I noticed the caramel sauce was boiling over the top of the pot forming molten lava on top of my sister’s brand new oven. I rushed to the pot to remove it from the eye and turn off the heat. However, my sister heard my surprise and ran into the kitchen. The response was not good. However, together we scrubbed the oven an hour and 5 minutes until it was spotless. Then I finished the caramel sauce. Ugh. It wasn’t the recipe’s fault. However, it was the longest cooking caramel sauce I’ve ever made and I don’t feel convinced that the extended cooking time yielded a better flavor or texture than stopping after cooking 8 minutes.

Notes: In the future, I suggest making the caramel sauce prior to the pastry, rather than simultaneously. I strongly suggest using a large pot for the caramel sauce. Not a stock pot, mind you, but not the smallest pot in the cupboard. Further, if you plan to make this the night ahead, undercook the caramel sauce. If the caramel is made by the recipe, it restricts the bread rising in the refrigerator.

Taste test: Too sweet to eat. Seriously. My sister, brother-in-law, and I could hardly eat them. I wanted to trash them. I followed their measurements for filling the rolls and it could’ve had ¼ the cinnamon and half the sugar. The pastry flavor was unimpressive. The caramel sauce was good but it couldn’t save the pastry. In the future, I plan to return to a recipe I’ve used previously for cinnamon rolls.

Sticky Bun Recipe: 2/10; Caramel Recipe: 7/10; Overall Taste: 3/10

Check out Mel's take over at Fabulously Fun Food.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Double Take: Stuffed Pork Loin

After seeing an episode of America's Test Kitchen, in which they prepared grilled stuffed pork loin, I have been eager to stuff a pork loin in some form. On the show, they prepared a cranberry apple mixture, citing that many fillings were bland. On their weblink, an option for an apple and cherry mixture was also presented with both having options for gas or charcoal grills. The complexity and time involved served as a deterrent to their recipe. I was excited to find a shorter version (supposedly) in the New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook entitled Stuffed Pork Loin.

In this recipe, the goal was to cut halfway through the thickness of a 1 1/2" (roughly 4 cm) thick slice of pork loin, stopping just short of slicing the meat in half. I sliced to the border to the fatty layer. This created a pocket for the filling. The loin pocket was filled with a mixture of cooked apples, fontina cheese, sage, and crumbled bacon. The outside of the slice was lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and the pocket was closed using toothpicks. After pan cooking each side for about 1 minute, the slices were transferred to a 9 x 13 pan and baked for 30 minutes. TaDa!

Assessment: The meat smelled wonderful. Ruthann emphatically liked the recipe and declared it a definite repeat. She thought the pork needed no salt due to the rest of the flavors and I agreed with that. I thought it was fun (although a little time taxing) to put together but I found the flavor underwhelming. It just tasted like pork and sage. While I wouldn't hesitate to make something similar in the future, I'd definitely opt for a different filling. One note that America's Test Kitchen mentioned was that the pork could overpower the filling when sliced in half. They preferred to cut near the edge but sliced the section into thirds rather than half. They followed by rolling the filled meat back together and tying it up with cooking twine. I've looked for cooking/butcher's twine around here but have yet to find it. I think the option of cranberries could improve the flavor and that the sage should be significantly reduced, if included. Consistent with the previous recipe, "prep time" does not include preparation of the ingredients as listed above the recipe. If using the recipe be prepared to have two people prepping, an extended preparation time, or a magical fairy which preps your ingredients! :)

Be sure to check out Fabulously Fun Food for Mel's view on this recipe!