Friday, May 22, 2015

One-Pot Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Sun-dried Tomato Cream

I saw this recipe at Damn Delicious and recognized right away that it sounded like "our flavors." After a few tweaks based on ingredients lying around my kitchen (and on my unwillingness to measure ingredients), this simple dish wowed us and entered the ranks of household staples... 

Extra-Meaty Ragú Napoletano

Every now and then, we get a craving for some old-school, rustic, meaty tomato sauce with pasta.  I've tried my hand at a couple different versions of bolognese, but there was always something missing. This meat sauce, on the other hand, is basically perfection, and I'm psyched to have 3 quarts more of it waiting for me in the freezer to satisfy our next craving...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Everyday Yumminess: "Holy Crap" Shrimp & Grits

Mothers' Day was this past weekend, and we thought making my mom brunch at home made a lot more sense than waiting in super-long lines at any of our favorite brunch spots in town.  Shrimp & Grits came to mind right away, which led us on a recipe search when we realized we had no idea how we'd made this dish last time.  I found a recipe at allrecipes.com (of all places) that (with a couple minor changes) turned out to be pretty darned spectacular, and when all was said and done we found ourselves sitting down to one of the most awesomely delicious meals we've cooked in recent memory, leading me to exclaim several times during brunch "Holy crap!  This is AMAZING!"

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Everyday Yumminess: Double-Cut Pork Chops with Rustic Polenta and Chanterelle Cream

One of my deep-seated (and largely irrational) kitchen fears is cooking bone-in meat for guests.  I trust myself when I'm cooking for just me, and I'm starting to get there cooking for me and Devin, but I hate over-cooked meat as much as I dread seeing a guest cut into their pork or chicken only to find it under-cooked at the bone.  I realized the other day that this is pretty much the entire reason I got in the habit of cooking pork tenderloin rather and boneless chops rather than bone-in pork chops (and it is an irrelevant fear now because sous vide allows me to cheat on final internal temperature).  After cooking this meal, I see that it's a crying shame I left this ingredient out of my repertoire for so many years.  The inspiration was a couple gorgeous double-cut Carlton Farms pork chops that found their way home with us from Laurelhurst Market.  The result was one of the best simple meals we've sat down to in a long time...

Random Pet Post: A New Member of the Household

Ever since deciding to try my hand at posting here again, I've been struggling to actually sit down and do it.  I could blame any number of things, but the most adorable excuse I have is that it's hard to type with this little sweetheart lounging on my lap...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Don't Call it a Comeback...

Hello there.  Long time no write.  I've realized lately how much I miss posting here, so I'm going to try again and see how it goes...

One of the hardest things for me to face as my chronic pain has increased is how difficult it is for me to plan.  I freaking LOVE schedules and charts and lists and spreadsheets, but the best, most detailed meal-planning in the world is useless if all this perishable shit is sitting in my fridge and I'm in too much pain to cook with it.  I've had to make a lot of changes to pretty much all areas of my life, but changes in the kitchen have been the hardest to get used to. My new approach centers on being able to make recipes in several small flurries of activities - sometimes spread over days (or, with freezing, spread over weeks) rather than in a single long slog.  I always loved those kitchen-days of the long slog, but I can't handle the resulting pain anymore, so I'm learning to adapt.

One of the most important (and most mentally challenging) changes was to stop shunning all prepared foods.  When I first met Devin, I announced "There will NEVER be store-bought tater tots in my freezer!" I make tater tots from scratch!  From scratch is better! But... yeah.  Is it worth the time in the kitchen when store-bought tots are quite good and very cheap? Probably not, (I suppose)... 

When we first made Devin's Famous Dirty Rice, I was a little freaked out about using the box of Zatarain's Dirty Rice Mix.  "Can't we make it from scratch?" I kept asking...  That was over a year ago, during which time I've bookmarked several from-scratch recipes for Dirty Rice, and during which time we have never strayed from that Zatarain's mix.  We use lots of amazing meats from our local butcher, and the seasoning in the mix is so dang delicious that I can't be bothered to grind up a bunch of chicken livers to make it from scratch.  If it ain't broke, etc...  (And those are easy from-scratch insanely buttery biscuits on the side...) 

Similarly, we saw this crazy recipe on Serious Eats for a Pizzadilla.  I like to make everything from scratch, but we went ahead with store-bought pizza sauce and store-bought tortillas, which made the difference between having to wait until my pain levels let me spend time making sauce and tortillas versus being able to throw the dish together on a whim when we had a hankering.  The latter is definitely preferable.  (And, honestly... It's a freaking Pizzadilla... Why am I trying to make something so silly, simple, and genius into something complicated and from-scratch?)   
 

I've also always avoided slow cookers, but after making slow-cooked grits on a stovetop, stirring super-frequently for what seemed like an eternity, making perfect grits in a slow cooker strikes me as being pretty brilliant.

All of us who love food  also know about how fresh is "best," but fresh is not always an option.  Even when I lived in Boston, I ordered individually quick-frozen dry-packed scallops from a great purveyor, knowing that I may not have the pain reserves to drive 20 miles to the place that sometimes has "fresh" diver scallops on the day I want to cook with them.  I've taken that concept further now.  For time-consuming recipes like the Pepperoni Lasagna from Maximum Flavor, I made the pepperoni red sauce one day (then vacuum-sealed and froze), made the homemade ricotta to blend with basil on another day a couple weeks later (then vacuum-sealed and froze).  When the day came to make the lasagna itself, it was just a matter of layering pre-existing ingredients... and it was the best lasagna I've ever had in my life.

Being sous vide people definitely makes using the freezer easier, too.  I'll do a quick 20 minutes getting chicken breasts and thighs into assorted marinades, then I vacuum-seal and marinate overnight before throwing them on the grill the next day. From there the meat is broken down and vacuum-sealed into 2-serving packs to go into the freezer.  When we have a brilliant idea like making scallion waffles to go with our Korean-marinated chicken (instead of the usual scallion pancakes), the chicken is ready to just toss in a water bath and re-therm, so the only work is a quick batch of waffles and a bit of herb-chopping. 
 

Finally, I am trying to embrace the simple.  It's hard to argue with pan-roasted chicken thighs on a bed of roasted veg...  
 

And why have I always avoided ground beef as a protein to use in anything other than burgers? It marinates up amazingly and is a quick, easy topping for a bowl of rice or noodles (like I Am A Food Blog's Loco MocoMazemen, below)... 

So, that's what I've been working on while I've been away:  Small flurries of activity rather than full days in the kitchen.  Making components ahead when you can.  Learning not to fear the freezer or the slow cooker.  Embracing (some) prepared foods.  Remembering how amazing simple dishes can taste.  It all seems pretty obvious... but somehow it took me over a year to get my brain into the right place to accept it. 

I've realized that this kind of cooking is handy not just for people in pain, but for anyone with a busy life who doesn't have long stretches of time to spend in the kitchen. (I've always found the concept of a 30-Minute Meal kind of obnoxious, but I love the idea of spending 10 minutes in the kitchen prepping a skirt steak, throwing it in to sous vide for 48 hours, then spending 10 minutes finishing it off into an amazing "fancy" meal. That's more my style of "quick" cooking.) Most things I post will be some variation of the above, with a heavy dose of sous vide (which remains a time-pressed cook's best friend) and my smoker... plus whatever else finds its way into my recipe queue.  Hopefully it will be fun and delicious...  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Long-term Hiatus

This probably won't come as a shock, given how seldom I have been posting lately, but I'm "officially" going to take a hiatus from this blog for a somewhere between a few months and forever.  

I still get excited about cooking new foods, and I develop these grand plans... and then reality come crashing back in, reminding me that it's completely unrealistic to try to carry out those plans with my current pain levels (and with how much my time in the kitchen increases my pain).  And then, of course, I get frustrated with my limitations and this thing I love to do (cooking, experimenting in the kitchen) becomes more of a burden than a joy...

As I sign off for a while, here my all-time favorite post about the Pain Scale from Hyperbole and a Half...  If you have pain issues, you'll understand.  =)


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Big Box of Produce

Now that I'm not the sole member of my household, I decided to give the Big Box of Produce a try again.  I always love the inspiration these boxes provide - so much beautiful, local, farm-direct goodness - but even the "Bin for One" is more than I can go through on my own in 2 weeks... Turns out the "Bin for One" is the perfect size for two... The first delivery was full of fun veggies I hadn't cooked with in a long time:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Everyday Yumminess: Perfect Sous Vide Mayo

Hello, there.  It's been a while since I've posted here.  I've still been having fun in the kitchen, but things have changed such that I now have a partner-in-crime who distracts me from taking pictures and noting changes I make to recipes...  I've been more about enjoying the cooking than documenting the cooking, which anyone who loves cooking knows isn't a bad thing... Anyway, this is something I came across a few months back in Modernist Cuisine at Home that totally rocked my world: Modernist Mayo.  It's rich, decadent, bullet-proof (emulsion-wise), and actually easy...  Things start with 75g of egg yolks (5 or so...).
Those are vacuum-sealed and cooked sous vide for 35 minutes at 67°C.  (Reading the recipe now, I was apparently supposed to blend them first, but in 5 times making this I've never done that and it's always turned out perfectly, so...) The yolks get all smushified, anyway, when you vacuum seal them, and come out pretty well mixed anyway...
Meanwhile, you'll stir together some (45g) water and Dijon (25g) in a mixing container.  When the yolks are ready, you immersion-blend them to smoothness, then start drizzling in about 300g of neutral oil in (while running your immersion blender.
I made this little immersion-blending-lid after one too many experiences making traditional mayo, when it ended up sprayed halfway across my kitchen...  It turns out this lid is completely superfluous with Modernist Mayo, given the thick texture... When the oil has been emulsified, you can season to taste (I like a little lemon juice and salt), and you have on your hands a batch of perfect mayo...
(This also happens to be the perfect base for Fry Sauce and Sriracha Mayo... but we'll talk abou that later...)  Back soon with more yumminess...  

Friday, June 28, 2013

Everyday Yumminess: Carnitas Hash with Eggs

This is one of those meals where I started with a recipe... but then failed to follow any part of that recipe and still ended up with something super-yummy.  In the end, I suppose the recipe just stuck an idea in my head: "Carnitas Hash is probably delicious."  A few weeks later, when I had some carnitas vacuum-sealed in the freezer and found myself with extra Yukon Gold potatoes, it seemed like the best possible way to remedy those two situations...