Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
For us it was the building process which was the most fun so why bother with the laborious task of measuring out perfectly shaped gingerbread in order to make a solid foundation for the house.
The only issue we had this year was the chimney. It began when I attached it facing the back of the house. The chimney and the house's condition only got worst as it would not stand up straight and kept ruining our other designs.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Yes, this looks unsanitary to me too. But after hours online researching how to roast the perfect duck Jordan was also able to find out that duck liver and duck fat are indispensable. The obvious use of liver would be to make Foie gras. Duck fat itself is used to make some of the most delicious tasting French fries around. I was aware of this and even know of a few restaurants that actually make their fries in this manner even though I have never tasted them. I never thought however that I would be the one making them for my first tasting adventure.
Needless to say after the whole fat draining duck roasting experience I was not ready for another adventure into fry making. However, Jordan could not bare to see the beloved liver be tossed in the trash. Simply sauteing the liver in garlic and butter made a very tasty appetizer.
Scrumptious looking right? Well I will never look at duck in the same way after I now know what goes into roasting a duck. This all came about because Jordan has been begging to make game meat dishes he finds on his "manly" websites. I have no problem with game meat but its not a staple in the local grocery store. Thus, unless he goes out and brings me said game meat, I cannot make his "manly" meals.
Well in comes a trip to Union Square farmer's market in New York City and low and behold there sit Quattro's game farm stand. They had tubs of duck, venison and all sorts of other exotic meat. At the moment I disappointingly realized I obviously could not purchase the meat on the spot and truck it back with me on the train. Such a splendid opportunity gone to waste until I realized Quattro's was in Pleasant Valley, not very far from where I actually live. I am convinced it was fate.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and off I was up to Pleasant Valley to seek out the prized game meat. They had a great variety of all sorts of game meat and cuts. They also make their own various sausages. I ended up with a 6 lbs duck. Apparently 6 lbs is about the right size for two servings. Sounds crazy right? That is what I thought too but sadly most of the 6 lbs is fat. I always knew duck was a fatty meat but really? My sad thoughts turn into grossness as the roast process begin.
At this point, right before it enters the oven it still looks cute. Notice how you have to cook it on a rack so it does sit in the odd some 1-2 cups of fat that will eventually comes out of the duck.
Although there was multiple ideas floating around the Internet about how exactly you should roast a whole duck, we ended up going with Mark Bittman's method from "How to cook everything". The thought process is to cook the duck slowly at a low temperature to get more fat off without over cooking the meat. We set the temperature at 300 degrees and got ready to wait for 3 hours. You set the timer for 60 minutes and at every hour you flip the whole duck over to drain the fat from each side. With each turn you add additional pokes into the fat to again help the fat drain off. I really believe this is what liposuction would look like in real life. At this point I was done with the process besides making sure Jordan didn't completely burn his hands off with the flipping method.
In the end it came out beautifully, and delicious no less. No wonder duck is expensive though. The 6 lb bird was just enough for 2 servings and it was a pain in the butt to cook.
Monday, November 30, 2009
One store bought pie crust
2 C canned pumpkin (1 can)
1 C dark brown sugar
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/3 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C Heavy cream
2/3 C milk
4 large eggs
1. Put pie crust in pie dish. Some recipes call for you to pre-bake the crust. I normally don't for this recipe, the crust will cook all the way through by the time the filling is set. If you prefer to pre-bake do so at a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Then cool.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Adjust rack to the lowest position in the oven.
3. Process pumpkin, sugar, salt, and all spices together. Put in saucepan and simmer over medium high heat. Cook until thick and shiny, stirring constantly. It will take about 5 minutes. The mixture is pretty thick to begin with so I normally leave going till it just starts to bubble, the smell will intensify as well. That is when it is all done.
4. Whisk heavy cream and milk into pumpkin mixture and simmer again.
5. In separate container beat eggs together until well combined. When pumpkin mixture is simmering again add a small amount to egg mixture and stir. Then add eggs to pumpkin mixture in two turns, one half at a time. Make sure the pumpkin mixture is not too hot and boiling - it will turn the eggs into scramble egg chunks in the pumpkin.
6. Ladle mixture into pie crust and bake until filling is just puffed - about 25 minutes. The top will look a bit dry. I like to do the jello test. Gently shake the rack the pie is sitting on. If it looks liquidy its not done but if it looks solid but jiggles like jello its done.
The best cooked pumpkin pie is one with no cracks on top. If cracks begin to form its done.
As I said before, this pie is good. Even though I don't like pumpkin pie I still sample a bit of this every year. It may require a few extra steps and dirty dishes to make but it is well worth the effort.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Once again I was hit with the dreaded brunch timing for this meal but the menu offered several non-breakfast items to pick from. I had a Prix-Fixe meal with caramelized pear crepes, a English grilled cheddar sandwich with apples and bacon (I know funny to eat English in a French bistro) and a mixture of homemade ice cream. The Prix-Fixe menu gives a three course meal with a few choices for each course and is a great deal. I will warn you that it serves quite a bit of food and I was very stuffed by the end of the meal. I also ordered a French hot chocolate, the French part making it serves in a bowl-sized mug (gigantic) and real dark chocolate (very rich). Essentially I could have sipped away on this all afternoon and been satisfied. They also offer a full range of cheeses and sausage platters. You can purchase all of the cheeses at a little shop fromagerie in the restaurant. The atmosphere was a bit noisy and the tables are tightly packed so you can easily overhear conversations of the neighboring tables. However, it is a good kind of liveliness and an enjoyable time. You can plan on spending about $20 for a meal give or take a few dollars. The food was good and well portioned. They have a great website for reservations, menus, and cheese shop information.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
About a year ago, I dined for the first time at Mesa Grill, Bobby Flay's NYC restaurant. This dinning experience though was tainted with the dreaded brunch hour. It was a delicious meal but I made the mistake of first looking at the dinner menu. This menu had many more options and appealing choices to pick from than the brunch menu I was given to pick from on this particular day. Of course I felt somewhat unsatisfied when the brunch meal ended.
Never fret for too long though as I recently had another opportunity to sample Flay's southwestern selection. For an appetizer we had what I believe they refer to as a fondito, a take on the French fondue I assume. I think the term more people are familiar with though is queso. This beautiful smooth white cheese is serve with a variety of chopped peppers on top and homemade blue corn chips lightly salted. I could eat buckets of this and be completely satisfied. But why limit yourself when there is a full menu to enjoy.
My entree was the roasted duck with somewhat sweetened rub and served with a churizo sausage tamale. Both were delicious and worked well together with the flavorings. Again all of the dishes I have sampled here have a southwest flare but are not hot/spicy. The portion was perfectly sized for meal on its own and not too big if you want to pair it with a dessert.My mom enjoyed the Cornmeal encrusted chili rellano. It was filled with cheese and roasted eggplant. It is slow cooked so although there were a few hot bits the overall feel was sweeter. This a lighter meal and obviously a good vegetarian options. My way of looking at it is that it is good way to save room for dessert.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The name City Bakery can be deceiving. Although it is a bakery, City Bakery offers so much more. There are three sections to the restaurant if you can call it that. The front one offers all sorts the normal bakery treats of bread, cookies, and pastries as well as coffee and cafe selections. If you are in for a real indulgence try the Hot Chocolate. They give samples and trust me when I say the little shot they give out will fill you up. It is rich and thick and oh so good; its reminiscent of European style hot chocolate.
Second smaller section was serving hot more hearty breakfast eats of eggs and French toast. The larger back section was housing yogurt and fresh fruit for parfaits. Again I was there at the change over and these were being taken down to make room for all sorts of salads.
The layout is designed for you to order, grab and go or sit and enjoy your food selections. I had a small snack of the one of the most well-known treats at the City Bakery, the Pretzel croissant. I don't like croissants usually. I find them too buttery in flavor and the flakiness does not fill me up. However, the salty pretzel flavor muted the butteriness. It was delicious and quite different than anything else I have had. I really enjoyed it and at around $4 it is the perfect snack. I highly recommend a visit and I plan to go back again soon for more of a meal. Don't bother with the website, it is quite disappointing and good only for an exact address.
As I said earlier, the City Bakery is right around the corner from Union Square which happens to hold a lovely farmers market most days of the week. Obviously in the summer months the market takes up most of the park with all of the vendors. I was pleasantly surprised though by the amount of vendors still in attendance mid-November. Walking through this market is one of my favorite things to do in the city. I am a bit weird. Anyway, they have so much variety to look at from heirloom veggies, pear cider, homemade cheeses, baked goods, canned goods, and game meats. There are several yarn and floral vendors as well.
This vegetable stand had purple carrots all piled high. I normally leave feeling somewhat disappointed as not being able to purchase the perishable to cook with. This is however another great place if you are look for a put together lunch of bread, cheese and fruit or a treat of natural fruit juices or homemade yogurt.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Over the two years of life after college I managed to accumulate a fair amount of random Tupperware pieces. Some were good durable pieces, other cheap throw away ones meant for children to bring in their lunch boxes at school - the thought being if lost they were so cheap it doesn't matter. This eclectic mix made for a messy cabinet despite my best OCD cleaning and organizational efforts. The mess caused much distress for my mental health and piece of mind. I know this sounds a little crazy but I like things neat. And you cannot find me a person that would not get annoyed by opening a cabinet in the kitchen only to be attached by an army of falling Tupperware lids and containers.
Now I am embarrassed to admit that I lived like this for many months and probably most of the two years debating whether I should invest in a nice neat set that would greatly improve on the ability to keep that area orderly. Jordan can vouch for me when I say almost every trip to Target gave me the opportunity to browse the storage/Tupperware aisle debating the pros and cons of getting a set. My thoughts were that I had perfectly good containers in the apartment already no matter how annoying it was to store them; I really didn't NEED new ones. It was the ultimate NEED vs. WANT argument in my head.
Finally when shopping with a friend I got the kick in the butt I needed. I swallowed my thrifty ways for the afternoon and bought the 20piece set from Rubbermaid. I must say I was very happy and still (months later) with this purchase. Who knew that little plastic pieces could make someone so happy. As you can see from the picture above I can be proud of my little storage area. And the person who invented the stackable lids is a genius!
Saturday, November 7, 2009
The batch is suppose to make some 40 cookies if you make the balls approximately tablespoon size. As you can see by my picture above I would say mine are about double that size. I cooked off 12 and probably have enough dough left for 10 more of a similar size. I say if you are going to make cookies you might as well make them big enough to enjoy. Plus the smaller you make them the more you have to make. I tend to loose patience after the second tray goes into the oven; I have a great tendency to burn the third batch.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
One of my favorite magazines is Real Simple. I call it my housewife guidebook. It kept me sane during my Bryn Mawr days and certainly it keeps me entertained now planning for holiday fests occurring in the near future. In the age of the Internet I also get weekly emails with yummy, and more importantly simple recipes to make. Last week I received this one and Sunday night dinner was planned.
Spiced braised beef with sweet potatoes
1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into chunks
2 sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
1/2 cup dried apricots
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 10-ounce box couscous (1 1/2 cups)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
2 cups baby spinach (1 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup roasted almonds, chopped
In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the beef, potatoes, tomatoes (and their juices), onion, apricots, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water.
Cook, covered, until the meat is tender, on high for 4 to 5 hours, or on low for 7 to 8 hours.
Ten minutes before serving, prepare the couscous according to the package directions.
Add the chickpeas to the slow cooker and cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the spinach. Serve with the couscous and sprinkle with the almonds.
I got a little heavy handed with the spices and the meal had a bite. Although the Real Simple recipe says it is easy to reheat, I found the first time around was the best. It was like a Mediterranean beef stew and I really think that you could mix and match some of the ingredients with your own tastes.
Giada has a similar beef stew recipe with sweet potatoes. I have also tried another recipe with lamb that had many of the same flavors and ingredients. Hopefully with a winter full of weekend crock pot meals I will find some real winners.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I think you can use just about any recipe for apple pie. Really if you think about it there are only 5 or so ingredients: pie crust, apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice and flour. I do however have two tricks I like to use when making pie.
Second, I assemble the pie first with a bit of the dry sugar concoction, add apples firmly stacking them into the crust, and then add the rest of the dry ingredients before adding the second crust. (To me, fruit pies have a bottom crust and a top crust, none of this crumb topping here.) This allows for the sugar to bubble at the bottom with apple juices but also seep through from the top.