Saturday, December 31, 2016

Adventures in Slow Cooking Part IV: Pot Roast

I feel like pot roast is the ultimate slow-cooker meal, even though the method of cooking means it is technically not a roast, and arguably not in a pot. On Wednesday, I decided to go super-old-school and combine in my slow cooker (as seen above) ...

Friday, December 30, 2016

Adventures in Slow Cooking, Part III: Red Cabbage with Onions

So upon returning from a lovely Chrismakkuah holiday in Massachusetts (during which I had the requisite bowl of clam chowdah at the Union Oyster House and the requisite healthy salad at the Ninety-Nine), I had very little viable food in my fridge, but felt the need to immediately get back on the slow-cooker horse. So on Tuesday I fished out of the fridge:

  • Half a head of red cabbage
  • A pat of compound butter (leftover from my holiday party—as was the cabbage—you could also use regular butter and some fresh herbs, I kind of wish I’d had some)
  • One quarter wedge of a huge yellow onion
  • A half-full (or, if you’re pessimistic, half-empty) bottle of Corona

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Quick Dill-Horseradish Pickles (100% Artisan-Free!)

Gentle reader, in today’s gentrified hipster Brooklyn it is impossible to swing a dead cat without hitting a jar of “artisanal” pickles with some precious hand-designed-label and obscure seasonings. (Also, most of the gentrified hipsters are big on animal rights, so you should probably just avoid swinging dead cats in general.) But I recently found myself with a couple of English cucumbers and a bunch of fresh dill, all of which were about to turn brown and mushy—so, at the risk of perpetuating a stereotype, I made my own little batch of pickles. Let the record show, though, that they were by no means artisanal, whatever that even means.

I sliced the cucumbers into coins, although you could also do spears, or lengthwise halves if you use a Kirby cucumber, which is shorter. (I don’t really recommend pickling with whatever those regular ’Merickan cucumbers are called, because the peel is very waxy and the flesh is watery/porous, so it will break down in the brine and get mushy.) You could also use a different veg altogether, like cauliflower florets, zucchini spears, carrot sticks, mushrooms, radishes—the possibilities are pretty much endless.

I used my mom’s very easy and quick recipe/method for the brine…

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Adventures in Slow Cooking, Part II: Cream-of-Mushroom Chicken With Broccoli

Gentle reader, for my second-ever foray into slow-cooker cooking, I had the urge to go old-school-Americana with that classic creamy combo of chicken and Campbell’s canned cream of mushroom soup. (I have a perverse taste for this, as evidenced by the Company Chicken recipe.) I checked out a few recipes online, and they were all pretty similar—as Andy Warhol could’ve told you, Campbell’s soup cans do not really lend themselves to variation. I settled on a pretty simple take on it. You just dump all of the following into the cooker:

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Adventures in Slow Cooking, Part I: Pork Loin

Gentle reader, I have never had a slow cooker before—the amount of counter space it would take up seemed prohibitive in my matchbox-sized NYC kitchen, and I feared that with my innate propensity for injuring myself and damaging things, it would be a bad move to leave something cooking in absentia for hours. I had visions of languishing in prison for years after my slow cooker started a fire that took down my building and killed my neighbors. Seriously.

But. I decided to start a new and less melodramatic chapter in my life—expanding my horizons if not my countertop space—and asked for a slow cooker for Christmas.

Soon, my aunt Sue shipped me a large box—after having already texted me that she was getting me one—so it seemed obvious that that was what was in the box, and thus I felt justified in opening and starting to use it before Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Spinach Triangles and the Circle of Life

Gentle readers, I know I’m not the first person to remark that 2016 sucked. We could list a million reasons, one of which I refuse to discuss because I’m still in denial. But let me just say to all of you who lamented Prince’s passing: That HAPPENED ON MY BIRTHDAY okay, so yeah THAT KIND OF SUCKED.

But wait, this year got way sadder. (Cue your Morrissey album of choice right now, seriously.) In November, I lost my beloved grandmother, Rose, a lifelong source of support, love, and spinach-feta triangles (as if there’s a difference).

From the time I was little, Mama inspired and encouraged me to express myself creatively via both writing and cooking, and breathed life into my imagination and appetite in all its forms. When I would stay overnight at her house, I got to watch the “Thriller” video every hour on MTV, drink Hawaiian Punch from a crystal goblet, eat Clams Casino off a TV tray, and bake cookies with her. Sometimes we also baked wee cakes in my Easy-Bake Oven. Had the phrase “like a boss” existed when I was a 7-year-old girl, I would have used it whenever I stayed with my grandmother.

To this day, my mother remains resentful of the fact that when she came to pick me up after my visits with Mama, I would run and hide so she couldn’t get me to leave and return to our non-cable-subscribing, high-fructose-corn-syrup-based-beverage-shunning home. In retrospect, I get why Mom felt dissed, seeing as how she was raising me and all. Can you blame me, though, gentle readers?

After passing peacefully at 89, surrounded by loved ones and loved by countless others, Mama lives on through years of memories and life lessons—and through her recipes.

I recently made these spinach triangles from her handwritten recipe, interpreted below. They freeze great; just under-bake them a little if you plan to reheat, as per the above picture.

Here is the recipe, as interpreted by me:

Short Ribs With Kielbasa and Polenta: A Dish to Die For

I love short ribs over polenta. As previously noted, I like to slow-and-low-cook short ribs in the oven the night before and then reheat, for 3 reasons: (1) You can prep them while you make a quicker meal for that night; (2) You can skim off a congealed layer of grease when you take them out of the fridge so you don’t hate yourself as much; and (3) My kitchen does not have space for a slow cooker, are you kidding me. Barbie’s Dream House seriously has more kitchen square footage than mine, and I am not adjusting for scale here, people.

Anyway, the other week, I preheated the oven to 250° or so; dredged my short ribs in garlic powder, kosher salt, and paprika; and browned them in olive oil in my Creuset saucepot before adding an 8-oz. can of tomato sauce, some chicken stock prepared from the carcasses of recently documented roast chickens, and the remains of a bottle of red wine I had in the fridge. Then I put the covered pan in the oven for a few hours.

It was only later that it occurred to me that the fact that the wine bottle’s cork had a festive Santa hat topper meant that it had been sitting in the fridge for almost exactly one year, since my holiday party was scheduled for that coming Sunday. This concerned me. Actually, my immediate thought was OH MY GOD I’M NOT READY TO DIE OF FOOD POISONING, I HAVE SO MANY THINGS LEFT TO EAT, BUT IF MY DEMISE IS AT THE HANDS OF SHORT RIBS AT LEAST MY LOVED ONES CAN CONSOLE THEMSELVES BY REMINDING THEMSELVES THAT I DIED DOING WHAT I LOVED.

So anyway, the polenta recipe...

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Stop Trying to Make Sauteed Cucumbers Happen. They’re Not Going to Happen.

Gentle reader, I have this super weird favorite taste combination. I like to sautee slices of English cucumber in butter and curry powder. I further like to put them between two flour tortillas with some cream cheese and smoked turkey, and cook that like a quesadilla. And I swear to God, contrary to what you might think, turkey is the only thing smoked in the making of this pseudodilla.

Okay, fine. I know you’re never going to try this, because it sounds totally gross. But.

Sometimes I do a raw version where I just dust the cucumber slices with curry powder and roll them up in one tortilla with the turkey (you could also use ham instead of/in addition to the turkey) and then slice it into four pieces that look like sushi when you turn them upside on the plate. This is a pretty decent appetizer for a party, if you ask me.

Cherry-Persimmon Pie (+ Bonus Holiday Party Food Porn)

Now. Normally I pride myself on making absolutely everything from scratch when I entertain. But there are exceptions.

Look, gentle readers, the holiday party I had on Sunday turned out to be quite the freaking production, let me tell you. I made like 6 trips to the Key Foods, formed and froze dozens of meatballs and phyllo triangles, shoehorned some compound butter into a star-shaped cookie cutter … and on and on and on. No rest for the wicked—you might say I was trying to stave off the prospect of getting coal in my stocking.

The menu, which yielded shockingly few leftovers, was as follows:

An 8-pound ham glazed with molasses and studded with pineapples, with sriracha mayo and horseradish sour cream accoutrements.

Two roast chickens, stuffed with orange wedges and leeks for flavor and (dubious) presentation.

An embarrassment of quiches (mushroom-leek, tomato-arugula, and bacon-arugula, all with Swiss cheese).

A tricolor penne salad with goat cheese, roasted tomatoes, and olives.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Roast Chicken Is the Ultimate Cold-Weather Meal (or Three) and This Is How to Perfect It

Wait, how is it that I have never posted about the easy and wonderful and classic dish that is a simple proper full-on roast chicken? (Spoiler alert: It involves beer. You're welcome, America.) It might take

Here's what you do, gentle readers: After removing the gross little packet of entrails (save the contents to use for gravy, if you care to), pour a Budweiser tall-boy (we would also accept Tecate, Modelo, or two Corona bottles) into a gallon freezer bag, and put the raw chicken (like 2 to 3 pounds) into it, along with a few garlic cloves and a sprinkle of coarse salt. Wrap it in another plastic bag or put into a bowl to avoid any leakage, and store in the fridge overnight. (You could do it on the kitchen counter for an hour or two instead, but it really infuses the chicken with flavor and moisture if you do it overnight. Leaving it there a couple more days is fine as well.) The finished product doesn't taste of beer at all, swear—it just has an ineffable richness.

Yeah. I said "ineffable." What? Don't judge me. Do you want to eat delicious chicken or not?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Compound Butter Is Fancy and Easy

Compound butter—a.k.a. butter with stuff mixed into it—is stupid easy to make but impresses people greatly. And you can up the impressive quotient by molding it in a cookie cutter, as I am doing for my upcoming holiday party (see photo). This breakout butter star will be accompanied by homemade French bread. (My go-to recipe is from a fantastic 1960s-era cookbook called “The Cook Book [sic] of Breads.”)

The only things you really need to take into account when making fancy-shaped compound butter are time + temperature. Leave the butter out of the fridge long enough so it softens and hence is malleable enough to mash into the herbs/flavors of your choice (for the star pictured, I mixed in sea salt and herbs de Provence, which is a versatile blend of things like thyme and lavender and a bunch of other herbs that are ... um, from Provence ... I don’t know, Google it for God’s sake!), and then be patted and smoothed into a mold and left to set in the fridge.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Achieving Organizationgasm in the Kitchen

Gentle readers,

Yesterday a pre-Christmas miracle occurred. I reorganized each and every one of my kitchen cabinets so that now supplies and equipment are properly grouped together (spices, baking, plates, gadgets, etc.); the most frequently used of said supplies and equipment are within easy reach; and the risk of things crashing down and hitting me in the head/slicing my face off is significantly reduced. It was difficult to part with much of my hoard of  reused plastic take-out/sour-cream containers, but the fact that the mandoline I had been stashing near them came within inches of decapitating me was the inspiration for this entire project, so I stayed strong. (Incidentally, this incident also triggered a past-life flashback of being beheaded by guillotine, leading me to believe that I may have been Marie Antoinette in a previous life, which sounds about right given my penchants for frilly dresses, cake, and not giving a crap about other people.)

Anyhoo, here's just one of the satisfyingly transformative results, for the cabinet over the sink (note the purple box of Disney Princess Band-Aids at center shelf, far right, ready at hand for any future guillotinish incidents:

Achieving organizationgasm was a life-changing experience--as evidenced by the fact that after a long absence, I have resumed posting to this blog. Stay tuned for future updates with more delicious recipes, and tell your friends: BGC is back in action! Like I said, a pre-Christmas miracle.

Happy Holidays, and God bless you one and all!