Friday, November 26, 2010

Really cool day

Hey all I have a couple of great things going on!

1. My friend Nisrine asked my to guest post in her how to section!  See how I made butter here
2. I am over at "From the Monkey Bars" again today with my new Thanksgiving dessert!  Not very traditional, but fun.

Check them both out

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I usually end up working on Thanksgiving, which means that my first alarm (I am a snoozer) goes off at 3:07 then I trudge off to work after my 40 minute commute into Chicago. Since I like to cook I am still making Dinner, obviously some of the traditional items are off the table... no turkey, which is fine we haven't had that in a couple of years. I have also been doing some little things throughout the week so I am not making everything at the last minute.  One of the things that I have made already is my cranberries.  They sit happily in the bottom of my fridge, untouched... well maybe a couple of bites smaller... waiting for the big meal.

I have seen a couple of recipes for Bourbon and Cranberries floating around this season (here is one) which is the way I usually make mine (this is last year's) but I ran into a problem this year. I didn't really notice it until I was getting my ingredients together, it seems that my bourbon met up with some sweet vermouth and ended up mixed with ice instead of cranberries. So with a quick change of ingredients I am making something completely new Cranberry Sauce with vodka. Maybe to be all fancy I should call them Cosmopolitan Cranberries... then again maybe not.
The process couldn't be easier...
12 oz package of fresh cranberries
Grated peel of one orange
Juice from the same orange
1 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup Vodka
Splash of Triple Sec
A sprinkle of ground cinnamon (I would guess about a 1/4 tsp)

Put all of the ingredients together in a 2 quart sauce pan and cook until the sugar is blended and the cranberries have popped. I had it on kind of low heat because I was doing other things around the kitchen and could watch my pan so this cooked for about 20-25 minutes. When it is all done pour it into your serving dish, cover and cool over night.

One additional note here, I have often heard people say that they have, "cooked all the alcohol out of a dish."  Where I don't always believe that is 100% true a lot of food that is made with wine or booze is fine for the kiddos.  This one is not! It isn't appropriate for your friend after his AA meeting or your kids.  Depending on the rest of your family's kids you might want to slip one of them a shot  bowl. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fried Chicken

Ok, I must admit that I made this recipe with one thing in mind... that thing being the leftovers that I am happily stuffed with now.  Growing up I never had cold fried chicken because, well in my house my mom cooked for me, my brother and my dad and well there just wasn't anything left in the end.  Yes, I am quite sure that we could have eaten any amount of fried chicken brought into the house. I have been working on a good fried chicken recipe for a while, almost embarrassing for me to admit by the way since I can't remember ever having a bad piece of fried chicken made by any member of my family, well except for me. but after several attempts, I got it right this this time...

The Marinade
3 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper'
1 tsp garlic powder
a couple of good shakes of hot sauce
a big pinch of oregano and basil

Put the marinade ingredients in a not-reactive dish and let it sit on the counter for about half an hour while the flavors bloom then drop in your chicken. I put in two bone in skin on breasts, a handful of wings and one boneless skinless breast, you should put in what ever your family will eat.  Make sure that it is covered in liquid then put on a lower shelf of your fridge and soak for at least overnight, mine sat for about 2 days.  The cool thing about a buttermilk marinade is that it doesn't over marinade meat.  When it is time to go put your breading together...

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
I really had to crop this one so you couldn't see my filthy stove top!

Put the ingredients in a paper grocery bag and mix together, then take your chicken out of the buttermilk and put them, a few pieces at a time into the bag, shake until well coated and set aside on a plate.  Once you have all of your chicken breaded put a plate or pan in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes while you heat up the oven and a pan of oil.  Turn your oven to 350 then put enough oil in a pan to fill it about an inch deep (maybe 3 cups in my 12 inch skillet).  Then heat the shortening to 375 degrees when it is ready. put your chicken in a few pieces at a time, don't crowd then and let them cook for 4-5 minutes on each side for breasts (legs and wings will take less time).  When they are that beautiful golden brown put them all on a pan and into the oven for another 10- 15 minutes to finish.  No you don't have to finish in the oven, but I like to because I like everything done at the same time.  

It was wonderful on the evening of it's premiere, but a couple of days later right out of the fridge with a little salt and pepper it was wonderful.  Sorry no pictures of that... when I had it cold it was on a paper towel in front of the TV, just like it should be.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Early parenting lessons

Hey all, I am over at From the Monkey Bars again, come over and play today!  I will be back here tomorrow with a down home classic!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Poached Pears

This one turned out to be an light easy dessert that had a nice elegant touch to it.  I made Dessert for three, as I have said in the past one for me one for Kris and one for my kids to stare at in distrust.  This takes a couple of days but really easy plus the house smells great when you poach the pears.

The ingredients:
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I would have used a cinnamon stick but didn't have any
1 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
2 strips orange peel (from my preserved citrus)
3  Bosc pears, peeled, stems left intact

These are Bosc pears right... yes if you follow this blog this picture is from the archives, but the ones that I took this time didn't turn out as well.  The one above is from a couple of days ago.

For later I whipped Mascarpone Cheese with a little brown Sugar and Vanilla to garnish

Combine white wine (I used Pinot Grigio) water, sugar, cinnamon, a split vanilla bean, and preserved orange rind in 2 quart sauce pan. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peeled pears. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot and simmer until pears are tender, turning pears occasionally, all this takes about 40 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to platter. Boil liquid in pot until reduced by half.  strain syrup then pour over poached pears. Chill until cold, turning pears occasionally, I made these the day before I wanted them cold.

When it is time to serve cut the pears in half and take out the seeds them stuff with Mascarpone cheese mixture and drizzle with the thickened sauce.  I heated mine sauce up a little. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010


A few day ago I received it in the mail... My new pasta Maker! YES!  I have made a couple of attempts to make scratch pasta before using rolling pins and white flour mostly, I have ended up with either a starchy mess stuck to the bottom of a pot or something with the look of chewing gum and the texture of leather.  There is a lot of recipe here so I won't mess around with prose too much...  This was actually a three day venture, it didn't have to be, but I have one of those pesky food service jobs and didn't have the days off spend time on this.  The sauce could as easily been one from a jar or your favorite marinara.  The filling I wanted to make ahead so I could work with cold ingredients.

Sunday, The Sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1  onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat Olive oil in a saute pan then sweat the onion and garlic until tender.  Add the thyme and tomatoes and cook together for a few minutes then add oregano and basil.  Cook for about half an hour then put sauce into a blender and puree until smooth (we like it smooth here, I also strained it you don't have to) .  Put it back into your pan and taste, add oregano, basil, salt and pepper and if it is a little tart some sugar.  Cook until you get the consistency that you like (about another half an hour for me) then put into a non-reactive container and refrigerate

Monday, The filling
1 TBS Olive oil
1/2 medium onion diced
3 coves garlic minced
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 cup fresh spinach leaf chopped fine
2 TBS fresh basil chopped fine
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup ricotta cheese

Heat the olive oil then add the onions and garlic, cook until tender then add the meat and brown.  Add the spinach basil, salt and Parmesan cheese and cook until blended, turn off the heat and add the ricotta cheese and mix well.  When it is all mixed let cool for a few minutes then put the whole mess into a food processor and chop until you get the consistency that you like, mine was well mixed but still crumbly, not completely smooth.  Cover and refrigerate.

Tuesday, the Pasta:
2 cups semolina flour
2 eggs
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS water (you may need a little more later)
Mix the ingredients together, if you need a little more water add it a few drops at a time.  When it forms into a ball put it on a lightly floured surface and kneed for about 5 minutes then wrap tightly and let it rest for about an hour.

When it is time to go cut the ball of dough into 5 pieces and start rolling... I had help.

Obviously I don't have the process completely down but I did manage to make about 12 disk shaped ravioli.  Heat up the sauce that you choose, while that is going put your ravioli in boiling water.  These took about 5 minutes to heat through.

Ok it looks like a lot went on here but over all it was pretty easy to make ravioli considering it was my first go at it. As for a verdict... we all pretty much agreed that the filling rocked it out!  The pasta was a little thick at the edges.  No problem though, next time I will roll it out a little thinner.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hey check this out

I'm not here today... please take a moment to check out my post at From the Monkey Bars.  I am so excited to be a part of such a cool blog site in my first Guest Post ever!  One of my friends, TKW, invited me to join in and... well just tell me what you think.  As for Armcharichef, I will be here tomorrow with my first ravioli adventure.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Brined Chicken and Pasta

Ok, I tried it again, after reading a friend of mine TKW guest posting on another blog I tried to plan a meal ahead.  The advise she gave was to plan at least three meals a week... doesn't sound too hard, a lot of people I know suggest that you plan every stinkin' meal, breakfast lunch and dinner at least a month at a time then using some series of post-its they somehow follow through on this twisted plan.  Me I am not up to planning a month at a time, in fact the last few meals that I have tried to plan were less than wonderful... but 3 meals a week should be doable.  So Sunday as I was making Cider Braised Pork Chops (Blog to follow on this winner by the way) I put together a Brine for some chicken that I had in the freezer.  not to make the same mistakes as I did before I thawed the chicken breasts under cool running water for a while until they were mostly thawed before I started.

Then I made the brine, in a saucepan I put:
2 quarts of water
1/2 cup of salt
1/2 an onion coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup brown sugar
3-4 sticks of thyme (use whatever aromatic you like)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
I heated it all up then put it in a large bowl and added 2 trays of ice cubes (I know not very scientific... you just want it cooler than room temperature when you add the chicken)  then put your bone in skin on chicken breasts (or whatever parts you prefer) into the brine to soak, at least overnight, I hear that this can soak for a couple of days in the refrigerator with no ill effects.  I don't completely understand the chemical process that takes place here but the chicken naturally pulls the salty flavored water in and you get a piece of chicken that is MOIST and flavored to the bone.

When it is time to cook heat up about 1/4 cup of olive oil in an oven safe pan and brown the chicken for about 10 minutes (turning a couple of times) when the outside is done to your liking add about two cups of chicken broth, two cloves of Garlic and a couple of sticks of Thyme.  Cover and put into a 350 degree oven while you cook for another 20 minutes. While that is roasting cook your pasta.  This is served with Orzo (one of my favorites) follow the package instructions, when the orzo is ready drain the pasta like you always do then pour it right into the pan with your chicken and let it set for about 5 minutes.

That 5 minutes is a good time to get the kiddo's plates ready once they are set you are ready to go, I pull the chicken out and bone it real fast then slice it up before I serve.  You see how it looks, you can serve this comforting dish however you like it best.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pulling one from the Archives

Ok, my friends I have to admit that I am exhausted...  Work has been crazy of late, on top of being unnaturally busy... one of my co-workers left us and we are waiting for an "appropriate time to replace him", another has gone completely off his chum.  Add to that personal financial things that ebb and flow in all of our lives are at an ebb spot right now.  I just haven't had the wherewithal to put words together in a way that all of you deserve... so I am pulling one out of the archives.  The writing is a little ham handed but this recipe really is good.   So grab some leftover donuts and a handful of eggs and give this a try!  Me... I have some great (for me) pictures and some good ideas coming up so stay tuned.  Until then, enjoy this. 
When it comes to writing recipes for this blog I can classify them three ways, recipes that are classics that I may or may not have written down, but have been in my repertoire for years Roast Corn and Black Beans are two examples of those. I also make up new concoctions of things that I think would taste good for example Caprese Mole and Sugar Cane Skewered Shrimp were both made up on the fly. The Third Category are the recipes that I have to study before I prepare them things that I have never made fall into that category, like preserved Lemons and most baked goods do too, the complexities of leavening agents and the ratios of liquids that make a custard still scare me.

Bread pudding has always been a favorite of mine, but it falls into that third category I really like it, but don't make it often, because I need measuring cups and a recipe. Bread Pudding can go well with a cup of coffee in the afternoon or add a little caramel sauce and it is a great dessert. The thing I always liked about it is that at the places that I used to get bread pudding it was never the same thing twice; the baker would take the bread, muffins, scones and donuts that didn't sell one day and throw them into a mixer and sell them as bread pudding the next. As I started to look for recipes most of the ones I found started with fresh bread. Something seems wrong in going out and buying a fresh loaf of Brioche or French Bread then cutting it into cubes and leaving it on the counter over night to use. So I started looking at the ratios of bread to eggs to milk figuring that if I got that part down the rest would come together just fine. What I found was that in most cases the recipes called for 1 pound of bread, 4 cups of dairy (some cream some milk, some a combination of them) and 8 eggs. After those basic ingredients the recipes were all over the place some with chocolate chips, nuts, currants, cranberries pretty much anything seems to work after the base is together, which makes this fun.

The Bread pudding that I made was:
1 pound of bread (I had donuts, bagels and French bread in this)
2 cups half and half (it is all I had)
2 cups milk
8 eggs
1tsp vanilla
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of diced dried figs

Yes I am that guy, the one that doesn't have raisins in the house but does have a big bag of dried figs in the refrigerator. Dice up the assorted bread and set in a large bowl then mix the rest of the ingredients except for the Figs (nuts, currents, whatever you decide to use) and poor over the bread mixture. This needs to sit for a while until to soften the bread if you used heavy bread (like baguettes) you may want to wait as long as 1-2 hours. Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 325 and grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. Mix any additional items into the mess that you have and poor it into the pan.

This Bakes for about an hour and 15 minutes until a knife or toothpick comes out clean when inserted. When it first comes out of the oven it looks like a giant Souffle but it pretty quickly "falls" to what you expected. I am getting a little ahead of myself here... the sauce for this is so good!

1/2 Stick of Butter
1/2 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cup milk
1/2 Cup Baileys Irish Cream
a little Cornstarch slurry

Melt the butter and sugar together then add the milk and Irish Cream once that is simmering add the cornstarch slurry to thicken. Let it cook for a few minutes until it is the thickness that you want. When you are ready to serve just poor a little bit of the sauce on top of a piece of bread pudding and serve.