Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Science of Cooking

I am a bit of a nerd. Yes, I am. Science fascinates me and it always has. Lots of scientific fun can be found in the kitchen. Every time you cook or bake it’s one big chemical reaction. So, I was pretty excited when I found the book, On Food and Cooking:The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee. It’s quite a large book and I haven’t gotten very far, but it’s quite fascinating. I am really hoping that I can find even better ways to cook without dairy by knowing more about how different ingredients react to various methods of cooking and how they react and interact with other. Most of the time it’s a straightforward substitution, but occasionally it takes some creative experimentation. As I read through this tome, I will share with you all some of the tips and bits of information that I think could be helpful and/or interesting.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lemon Ginger Chicken Soup

 It's that time of year, when sniffling, sneezing, and sore throats are not uncommon. The weather has been wacky here in the southeast. We keep going from wearing our winter coats to being able to wear short sleeve shirts and back again. There is nothing like a hot, steaming bowl of chicken soup when you're not feeling well. I got the inspiration for the following soup from Cooking Light's recent recipe for Lemony, Fragrant Chicken Broth

1 whole fryer chicken (organic if possible)
3 stalks of lemongrass, outer layer removed and then smashed
1 4-6 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
5 green onions, both green and white
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
6 pieces of lemon peel (1 lemon)
1 tbsp salt (plus extra to taste)
½-1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ cup cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, very thinly sliced (optional)
Jasmine rice

·      Place the chicken in a large stockpot. If you have one that has a full size pot strainer in it, that’s even better.
·      Add 1 stalk of lemongrass cut in half, 4 cloves of garlic, 3 green onions cut into thirds, 6 pieces of lemon peel, ginger, 2-3 slices of jalapeno pepper, salt, and pepper.
·      Cover with water.
·      Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
·      Reduce heat medium and simmer for 50-60 minutes
·      Remove the chicken, lemon grass, garlic cloves, ginger, green onions, jalapeno, and lemon peel.
·      Remove all the meat from the bones.
·      Return all the meat to the chicken broth.
·      Return the pot and broth to the stove and bring to a boil.
·      Reduce heat.
·      Thinly slice the green onions and add to the pot.
·      Add the cilantro to the pot.
·      If needed, further season with salt and pepper.
·      Pour the desired amount into a bowl.
·      Add 1/3 cup of rice.*

Jasmine Rice

·      Place 1¾ cup water, pinch of salt, 1 cup of rice in a pot.
·      Stir.
·      Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover for 20 minutes.

*Note: I highly recommend NOT putting all the rice into the soup. It has a tendency to turn mushy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Happy Birthday!

I recently took on a project of great importance. Well, it was of great importance for me. My daughter's birthday is several days after Christmas and a couple of days before New Year’s Eve and Day, so we have her big party in January. This year it was a Cat in the Hat birthday party. Once we decided on what the theme of the party was going to be, I began planning the cake. I knew that I wanted the cake to have a picture of the Cat on it, but deciding how to get him there was the difficult part.  I sketched a couple of drawings of the Cat from one of my daughter’s books and from a DVD case. That wasn’t too bad since I was using a pencil and could erase my mistakes, but doing that on a cake is not so simple (at lease not for me). I could use wafer paper and piping gel, but I didn’t think I could get the detail that I wanted, plus it’s shiny. I briefly thought about edible markers, but I worried about pressing to too hard and breaking through the frosting.  A friend, who is also a baker, suggested doing a frozen buttercream transfer. From her description and watching a video on line, there are many videos on YouTube, this sounded like it was my best option. I decided to do a practice run. I was very pleased with the results.  The next morning, my daughter, Maddie, was so excited to see that cake. The first thing she said was, “You made that? WOW!” So, I was feeling pretty confident Friday when I started on her real cake. I ran into a little difficulty while piping the outline.  I think that the change in weather had a hand in that. It was colder and much less humid. Regardless of the weather, fatigue, and running out of frosting, I did it.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!!! We are over two weeks into the New Year and I still can’t believe that it’s 2013. At the end of an old year and the beginning of the new one we tend to do a lot of reflecting on the events of the past and our goals for the future. I have wanted to do something with my culinary escapades for a very long time and last year I finally took the leap by starting this blog. I have to say that this endeavor has taken a lot more planning and coordination than I initially thought, but it has been very much worth it.

I’ve never been one for writing New Year Resolutions. The few times I’ve done it, I never even came close to following through. Heck, I don’t even think that I ever started any of my resolutions. I do have goals for my future, but I come up with those throughout the year. I do, however, plan to post more recipes and be more creative in the kitchen and to take more risks. I will post not only the good, but the not so good attempts as well. I want to show those that are new to cooking and who may be hesitant in the kitchen that not every time you attempt a recipe will it be successful.

I hope you have a fabulous 2013!

P.S. I love taking pictures as much as I love playing in the kitchen, so look out for my photography blog in the near future.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

More than 40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken

This is my absolute favorite chicken dish. It is simplistic in the ingredients, but full of flavor. Yes, there is a lot of garlic, but in reality, the garlic flavor is subtle and not overpowering at all. I have tried this recipe with boneless, skinless chicken, but it does not come out the same. It is important to this recipe to use bone in and skin on chicken. You do not need to eat the skin. I never do. It’s great served with mashed potatoes and French cut green beans with toasted slivered almonds. The garlic should spread easily on a slice of the baguette. This recipe does take a bit more work, but it is so worth it in the end. It is just as good the next day, if you have left overs.

1 whole chicken fryer cut into 8 (bones and skin attached)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (divided)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
4-5 heads of garlic, cloves blanched and peeled
2 cups organic less-sodium chicken broth
2 1/2 cups dry white wine (pinot grigio/gris is works nicely)
2 tbsp cornstarch
1-2 tbsp ice cold water
24 (1/4-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut dairy free French bread baguette
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

·      Place a pot of water on the stove to boil.
·      While waiting for the water to boil, separate the cloves of garlic and cut the bottom ends off.
·      Add the garlic cloves to the pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes.
·      Remove the garlic and place into a bowl of ice water.
·      Remove the skins from the cloves and but the skinless cloves in a small bowl. (The garlic cloves will be soft, but that is okay)

·      Preheat oven to 400F.
·      Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces with paper towels.
·      Drizzle 1 tbsp of the olive oil on the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Rub some underneath the skin as well.
·      Place a large Dutch oven (or a similar type pot) over medium-high heat.
·      Add the remaining olive oil to the Dutch oven. When hot, brown the ½ chicken pieces at a time on both sides (approximately 2 minutes per side). Try to avoid repeatedly turning the chicken. Usually when the side is sufficiently browned, it will release from the pan.
·      Remove the chicken from the pan when it’s a nice golden brown and place on a large plate.
·      Add the garlic to the pan and stir to brown all sides. It will seem like nothing is happening, but all of a sudden the garlic will turn brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic. I don’t suggest leaving the pan during this step.
·      Place the chicken pieces on top of the garlic.
·      Add the chicken broth and white wine.
·      Bring to a boil, cover, and place in the oven.
·      Bake for 30 minutes.
·      Remove from the oven.
·      Take the chicken out of the pot and place on a plate.
·      On the stove, bring the sauce to a boil.
·      Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes
·      In a small boil stir together 2 tbsp of cornstarch in 1-2 tbsp of ice cold water.
·      Slowly pour the cornstarch/water mixture to the sauce until it reaches the desired thickness.
·      Put the chicken back into the pot and remove from the heat.
·      Sprinkle with chopped parsley, if desired.
·      Serve chicken with sauce, garlic, and French bread.