Sunday, October 31, 2010

sunday night meal- yep, chicken

Hi all,

Earlier this month, I was sick for over a week, which is very much out of the ordinary. I get sick every once in a while, but don't normally feel under the weather for more than a few days at a time. I eat a lot of garlic, take vitamins, have a balanced diet, etc. etc, which makes me surprised when it happens, but every once in a while a cold just takes me out. And I got taken out. One of the side effects was a loss of appetite. Don't get me wrong. i was eating. I knew I needed to eat, but I didn't have any cravings, I didn't feel hungry. I wasn't having any "oooooh, where's my sushi at" moments. Normally I crave. I think about what I want to eat, I work to make it happen.

It was a tough couple of weeks.

Thankfully, I got my appetite back last night! And in honor of that, I wanted to make a nice sunday dinner that would help set me up for lunch for the rest of the week. I didn't have the energy to do a full Fairway shopping, and I had a fair amount of stuff in my fridge that was fair game, so I went to the market with a small basket, and picked up a few things. They were having a sale on chicken breast, $1.99/lb, so i got 5 large boneless skinless chicken breasts for less than 11 dollars. I felt flush. I picked up a few other things I needed for the week and went home.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Honey-Mustard Roast Chicken

This recipe, and with it one of my fundamental tenets of thrifty cooking, had its genesis in a memorable meal my mom made when I was young. Not having much in the fridge, she ran out to the car and grabbed some of the plastic-encased condiments that were always stashed in the glove compartment. These proved to be honey-mustard packets from Chicken McNuggets, which were then still novel and advertised by the short-lived Birdie character (so I must have been about seven or eight…I mean, a fetus. Did I say seven or eight? Because I meant a fetus).

Anyhoo. Said packets were used to glaze roast chicken drumsticks, and Honey-Mustard Roast Chicken, a future staple of my cooking repertoire, was born…as was my belief that good recipes can come from small packets—and leftovers—so you should never throw out your take-out condiments.

  • Start with a package of chicken drumsticks (about 8) or whole (thigh + drumstick) legs (about 4). You can leave the skin on or try this trick for removing the skin while retaining some of its flavor/fat in the finished dish.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°.
  • Line a shallow roasting pan or metal baking sheet (don’t use a pristine one, it’s gonna get greasy up in here) with tinfoil. (If you're a total ecorexic and feel like spending four hours of your time scrubbing the pan is worth it to avoid that foil spending eternity in a landfill, feel free to skip the foil. I reduce, reuse, and recycle six ways till Sunday, but my laziness trumps my greeniness once in a while.)
  • Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Branzini- what's that?

    Greetings all,

    Apologies for my extended absence. There has been an addition to my family (new nephew!) and then i got sick. really sick. so all the soupiness that BGC has been focusing on has been even more helpful in my time of ill.

    My mom was in town over the weekend, taking a little tour of the NY, NJ, Philly area to see some family members (who knew October was such a family-oriented month?) and in her Fairway run to pick up the additional ingredients we needed to make a soup for sick ol me, she couldn't resist the fish counter- they had fresh whole branzini (aka mediterranean sea bass).

    So they filleted them up for her, and she brought them home. By the end of the day, our soup making and general lazing about had both exhausted us and filled our tummies, and the branzini fillets remained in the fridge untouched. I promised her that I would cook them up today, while i stayed home and continued my recovery, and I figured it was worth documenting for the fantastic cause of Operation DATES (Developing A Taste for Eating Seafood).

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Roast Panko-Mustard-Crusted Lamb With Rosemary Potatoes

    My friend Jacqueline recently returned from a trip to Portland, Oregon, where she visited our Brooklyn-expat friends J.J. and NeNe and their new bay-bay. Baby is really cute, super happy for them, yadda yadda yadda…point being, Jackie brought me back some rosemary from their backyard and some nice seedy mustard from Kruger’s Farm Market, and I wanted to do justice to these lovely ingredients. And what goes with rosemary and mustard like lamb? Duh.

    For two, I got two round-bone lamb chops, about .60-.65 lb. each. This preparation would also be great with a rack of lamb for a dinner party, but I would recommend Googling the cooking time for its weight, and searing all sides of the meat in a pan before you do the mustard schmear/crumbing.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Mushroom Gravy

    The expression “It’s just gravy” suggests that gravy is something optional, a gratuitous bonus above and beyond the essentials … the proverbial icing on the cake. Gentle reader, this is not the case in our household, for The Rob regards gravy as effectively being a food group. He considers it as essential an accompaniment to a steak, a pork chop, or a piece of chicken as a green and a carb, and I can’t say I blame him. (Come to think of it, a cake without icing is pretty incomplete as well, but that’s a post for another day.)

    These proportions will serve two people with a couple of steaks or chops or a chicken, but can be easily multiplied. I served it with grilled pork chops in a soy/mustard-based marinade; green beans with shallots, bacon, and garlic; and mashed potatoes, which are also, to The Rob, incomplete without gravy.)

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Technique: Substituting Whole-Wheat Flour in Baked Goods (Without Making Them Suck)

    Tweaking recipes to make food healthier is a noble endeavor, but all too often it is achieved at the expense of taste and texture. Case in point: substituting whole-wheat flour for all-purpose in baked goods. Whole-wheat flour has more nutrients such as fiber, because in white flour, those nutrients have been refined out. But those same qualities are what can make baking with whole-wheat flour result in leaden, tasteless, dense, gluey-yet-crumbly lumps that would function better as doorstops than as treats.

    However, hot on the heels of my life-changing sandwich-packing innovation (okay, fine, let's say lukewarm on the heels—look, I've been busy), I have another technical kitchen breakthrough to share: how to use whole-wheat flour in baked goods without making them too dense or gluten-y.

    You can try this technique for less-sweet baked goods like bread and flatbread; semisweet ones like muffins, biscuits or banana bread; and even—more cautiously—on sweet baked goods like cookies, doughnuts, and cakes, which are harder to incorporate whole-wheat flour into, because their texture is intended to be lighter and crumbier.

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Pack a Non-Soggy Sandwich for Lunch At Last!

    Last night I had the very cool opportunity to attend a reception for Popular Mechanics’ annual Breakthrough Awards, which featured demonstrations of these amazing scientific innovations. And clearly, upon my return home, I was inspired by that spirit of innovation. Except, instead of thinking of ways to benefit human beings’ quality of life via genetics or engineering or green energy, I opted to do so by improving the quality of their sandwiches.

    Although I doubt this particular innovation will make next year’s awards list, I am nevertheless pretty excited to have developed a method that solves a major and persistent problem in our fast-paced modern workaday society: how to pack a sandwich for work or school the night before, without the bread ending up soggy and bloated like a body that Benson and Stabler just dragged out of the East River. In fact, my new technique ensures that—brace yourself—the bread remains completely impervious to moisture absorption the next day. Suspend your disbelief, gentle reader, for it is true! Behold, the future of sandwiches is here now!