Nov 012016
 

Slow-cooker curried chicken breasts

I think everyone knows that I love fall. I eagerly await cooler temps, getting more and more irritated with 70-degree weather, because we all know that that is just simply too hot.

Have I mentioned that I want to spend my life in Alaska? Things are probably making more sense to you now.

This autumn has been especially fun because The Wee She-Om-Nom-Sauce is all excited about the leaves turning colors and falling off the trees. She is obsessed with the idea that fall is one day in its entirety and that all the leaves will fall on that day — despite evidence to the contrary, since I’ve raked the front yard at least half a dozen times since the equinox. She’s not too fussed with this evidence, so long as I leave a pile of leaves for her and the Wee He-Om-Nom-Sauce to play in. But I digress.

Slow-cooker curried chicken breasts

Fall means something else — I can finally be a lazy cook again! Soups! Stews! Slow-cooker meals! I will double all the recipes! I will put everything in the freezer! I’ll only have to cook like two times a week! As much as I love to cook, it can be hard while your Wee Ones are trying to set up picnic blankets right in the middle of the path from your prep space to the stovetop. Plus, we have all those leaf-piles to play in. Priorities!

So here’s my first slow-cooker meal of the fall. Curries are great in the slow-cooker because while the appliance can dull many flavors, the spices in Indian food stand up to the low/slow/steamy method. I paired it with a terrific Madhur Jaffrey recipe for green beans (which I will definitely be repeating) and everyone was happy. Back to the leaf-pile!

Slow-cooker curried chicken breasts

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 Posted by on November 1, 2016 at 11:00 am
Jul 212013
 

Roasted poblanos

I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I really did resist the whole idea of hominy for a long time. I’m not sure why, but there was some strong reaction to the word (not the concept, just the word) in my brain. Maybe it was because it sounds somewhat like homily, which is a thing I found to be exceptionally tedious in my formative years. Of course, hominy and homilies have absolutely nothing in common, unless I’m going to use this here platform to preach to you about the virtues of nixtamalized corn. Which I might just a little bit, given that this is my blog and all and I do have a tendency to go on about food that I really, really like.

Ahem.

My love affair with hominy began just shy of a year ago when I was cooking like a mad-woman to stock the freezer before The Babe was born (yes, I was totally bare-foot and pregnant in the kitchen). I had never had the stuff but decided to make a pork-hominy-tomatillo stew to squirrel away for the post-partum days. (We ate better than the average newly-minted parents. It was a priority.) I was pretty-much ensnared once I discovered than it smelled like a really really good corn tortilla tastes. And the stew? Heavenly. One of these days I’ll get around posting it here. But I digress.

Having repented of my anti-hominy ways, it wasn’t long before I was ordering more of the stuff from Rancho Gordo, which meant, of course, that I needed to find more ways to cook it.

Enter the poblano: while she was visiting one weekend, Mrs Cheeseburger in Glacial Ice and I discovered these in Tucson at a chef demo at my favorite farmers’ market. The chef had soaked strips of the pepper in tequila and simple syrup and then dehydrated them to make a candy. Delish! I had found a new favorite pepper. So when I came across a recipe on the Rancho Gordo website that used both roasted poblanos and hominy, it took me all of about two seconds to decide that I was going to have to try it. I’ve made it several times and several different ways and it never disappoints. So throw irrational food prejudices and caution (except when it comes to those serranos — whoo boy, those should be used sparingly) to the wind and whip up a pot of this. Else I’ll be forced to go on a hominy homily, and really, no one wants to hear that.

Roasted poblano pozole

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Jun 302013
 

Spring duck risotto

It was spring, and finally the stars were aligning: asparagus was coming into season, Mrs Cheeseburger in Glacial Ice was coming to visit, and I had a freezer stuffed full of duck and ducky accoutrements.

I was going to make good on my threat to make a duck risotto!

But first, a little back-story: Heather and I both seem to share a certain fascination with risotto. I think it’s a fantastic blank canvas on which you can splash any number of food flavors and in the end get this warm, gooey (in a good way) starchy comfort food that accentuates your favorite flavors. And Heather? She adores the creamy deliciousness with everything in a single bite. And as I’ve said before, whenever she and I get together, ridiculously awesome things tend to happen. And when there’s a kitchen involved, hoo boy, look out.

Heather also shares my obsession with duck, and since she had been awesome enough to be one of the two people who gave me the idea for a duck risotto in the first place (when my clueless self was all like “I have duck stock: now what do I do with it???), I decided that she had to be there when I finally made it.

What actually happened was a little different. More accurately, she made the risotto while I tended to a fussy baby. But what matters is that we got to eat it together (and as you can see below, expose The Babe to the world of duck and risotto in one fell swoop)! And thus our foodie bond was further cemented.

(I did finally get the opportunity to make this myself about a month later when Mr Om-Nom Sauce’s birthday rolled around and he got this risotto foisted upon him. But the photos on this post were food that was totally not cooked by me. Heather makes good eats.)

And speaking of good eats: we’re right on the cusp of seeing her and her husband again, which means OMG DUCK, we are so excited! What ridiculousness will we make this time around? Whatever it is, I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it here. We might even have to do a summer version of this risotto, because once you’ve had it, you completely understand the phrase OM NOM DUCK!

Babies love risotto too!

The Babe makes a grab for the risotto. Photo provided by Mrs. Cheesburger in Glacial Ice

Click for the recipe →

Apr 072013
 
Duck legs, pre-curing

Duck legs, pre-curing

Yes, it’s true: I am all about the Quack Attack. For my money, there are few animals tastier than the duck. There is something decadently succulent about the dark, flavorful meat that is found throughout this bird, and oh, the fat… the fat can just take everything about your cooking to the next level.

So it’s not surprising that some enterprising cook came up with the idea of cooking a duck in its own fat. I mean, as a society we have acknowledged that combining two products from the same animal can elevate them both to new heights (see: cheeseburger), so to the people who scoff at the idea of confit, well, I just scoff back. Or something. Or I would if I weren’t so totally absorbed in the wonder of the method. (Sorry, I’m too busy appreciating all that is awesome and wonderful in this world to be appropriately snarky back at you. That’s it: that’s my new motto. But I digress.)

Cured duck legs

Cured duck legs

Confit is a French word, which seems to imply that confit is difficult, snooty, impossible to eat without my nose held at a dizzying angle in the air, and altogether too refined for a knuckle-dragger like me to fully appreciate. Or perhaps it’s too baffling and you find yourself asking what one does with it. Fortunately for all of us, confit is exceedingly simple: make a curing paste in a food processor from a couple of pantry staples, throw it in the fridge overnight, rinse it, submerge in fat, and cook for a couple of hours.

Duck leg confit

Duck leg confit

As for what to do with the finished product? It’s a doozy of an answer: anything and everything. So far, I’ve used it in cassoulet (yet another scary-sounding French dish that is actually peasant food), risotto, and just plain eating. But one of the best parts is that it keeps in the fridge for a month (confit literally means “preserved”), so though I confit-ed up a whole duck and only needed the breasts in my risotto, the legs will wait around for me to be inspired once again. What shall I use it for? An exceedingly amazing pot-pie? A savory and decadent (cheese-less) pizza? Tossed with roasted Brussels sprouts? (Woah.) Who knows? A whole lotta inspiration can happen in a month. All I know is that those two beautifully golden legs will be challenging me to up my creativity-ante, and there’s no doubt that they’ll do that if I can resist the temptation to pull them out in the middle of the night and schmear them all over my face as I savor them by the fridge.

Duck leg confit: tender, flavorful, NOM!

Duck leg confit: tender, flavorful, NOM!

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Jan 272013
 

Quack corn

Poor popcorn: once known as a healthy, super-easy treat, it has now been hijacked by the likes of microwave-food-companies who would really like you to forget that making said treat at home is really easy and inexpensive so that they can milk you for lots of money for an inferior product. And lets not even mention what movie theaters have done to this humble grain. It’s time to take it back!

Lucky for us, it’s still really simple. Forget all of those companies out there who are trying to sell you popcorn-making gadgets. They don’t have simplicity in mind: they are only trying to separate you from your hard-earned cash. All you need is a pot with a lid and a stove.

And popcorn kernels, of course.

But do you really need me to tell you how to shake some kernels in a pan and pop? Of course not. I am here to offer some inspiration, however! So, let’s begin.

Let’s focus first on the grain. The better-quality kernels you can buy the better your popcorn will be. My personal favorite is crimson popping corn. The only drawback with this variety (and other darkly-colored types) is that since the grain is darker, the finished product can look burned when it most certainly is not.

Crimson popcorn, about to meet duck-fat

Now, let’s discuss the medium. Butter has a long and storied history with popcorn, and for good reason. But let’s get off the beaten path and look towards other fine cooking fats. Olive oil can lend a subtle taste, which is fine, but if you want something a bit more exotic, seek out our feathered friends. Duck fat reigns supreme in the land of rendered cooking fats. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but like so many of my ideas in the kitchen, this one was inspired by the owner of Rancho Gordo, my favorite new-world-foods purveyor.

I had thought about doing this for a long time and finally had the opportunity when Mr. and Mrs. Cheeseburger In Glacial Ice came to visit. Heather shares my passion for all things yummy, and though her husband can sometimes need to be cajoled into food-adventure-territory, he’s often game for it (and at any rate, he would have been over-ruled this time), so I decided that the time of the Quack Corn had come. Now, I could just tell you that it was a resounding success, but I think that this paints a better picture: Mr. and Mrs. Cheesburger moved into a new house shortly thereafter and I sent them a house-warming gift that included some popping corn. Mr. Cheeseburger, seeing another parcel in with the popcorn and unable to contain his hopes and dreams, asked “Is that duck fat???”

I rest my case.

Duck-fat popcorn!

Click for the recipe →

Jan 062013
 

Chicken tortilla soup

Names are funny things.

Take this soup, for instance: tortilla soup. I think that ostensibly, this type of soup is usually served with strips of fried corn tortillas or (in a pinch) bits of tortilla chips… or something. I’m not really sure. To me, this is tortilla soup, though nary a flat-bread has ever graced it, as far as I know.

And really, that’s fine with me. I’m normally kind of stickler for those sorts of things: I like to know what things are called and how to use names and terms properly, because they mean something. In this case, though? Whatevs. See, this is my grandmother’s recipe, and far be it from me to go changing the title. She was a wise old bird, so I figure that she knew what she was talking about.

And really, once you throw on a goodly hand-full of cilantro, squeeze on plenty of lime, stir in half a bit of an avocado, and take a bite of this, who cares what it’s called? You may find that after all, the only truly appropriate name is get-in-my-face soup, and isn’t that the only name that matters?

Chicken tortilla soup

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Jan 042013
 

I have been bursting-at-the-seams excited about something happening in my kitchen this week.

Something so scintillating, it has propelled my kitchen into a place of magic.

It is a magic elixir.

It is duck-stock. (What, you want a recipe? Couldn’t be simpler. Take everything from the duck that you didn’t eat — backbone, neck, all other bones, gizzards, skin, rendered fat, everything — put it in a pot, cover with water, simmer 4-24 hours, cool slightly, strain it, skim off fat and save it, reduce the stock if desired, and store it.)

Made from the remnants of Christmas dinner, this precious liquid also gave me something else: duck-fat.

Shiver of excitement (Yes, I stole that line from Alton Brown. He summed it up perfectly.)

These two substances have led me to the question: what to do with them?

The duck-fat query is the easier question to answer: anything. It’s one of the finest cooking fats in the world and can beat up bacon-fat and take its lunch-money any day of the week. Its flavor is unsurpassed and the smell… oh my, the smell. If you’ve never had the pleasure, please, let me know, and I’ll invite you over next time I’m cooking with it. I’m always looking for an excuse to pop up some pop-corn in duck-fat. Yes, you read that right.

Shiver of excitement

But what to do with the stock? Being totally flummoxed, I asked Facebook and immediately got nothing-short-of-inspiring answers from my friends Heather and Adri: risotto.

I’m just gonna let that sink in for a minute.

Ok, are you better now? Because I certainly felt as though I had been taken by a case of the vapors when I first heard their suggestion. However, I think I’m going to wait until the spring to make it because I can think of nothing better than fresh in-season asparagus to go into the risotto with my favorite fowl.

So what to do in the meantime?

I thought about putting it in a soup: something simple that would really let the stock shine. Perhaps a cream-less potato-leek soup? That certainly sounds amazing! But what could I do if I wanted to expand beyond soup?

Duck pot-pies! Poach up some duck in the duck stock and then use it to make the gravy that goes in the pie — glorious, yes? And we all know that the crust is easy to make (if you have the right recipe that calls for some vodka), but really good fat makes for really good pastry…

You see where I’m going with this, right? It’s only logical:

Duck-fat pie-crust! YESSSSS!

I did a bit of research, and of course, I’m not the first one to think of this (Exhibit A | Exhibit B). It turns out that duck fat is excellent in pastry, producing a wonderfully flaky and flavorful crust. Which means…

It’s on like Donkey Kong.

I simply can’t wait to do this. You know you’ll be hearing from me when I get an opportunity to get into the kitchen and go bananas!

Dec 232012
 

Turkey pot-pie, fresh out of the oven!

The day after Thanksgiving is such a culinary conundrum. You, having just spent three days prepping and cooking food for your Thursday table, are exhausted come Friday. The last thing you want to do is slave over a stove some more. You’re covered for lunch, since you can nosh on turkey sandwiches or, perhaps, a salad composed of your favorite leftovers (which I did again this year), but what do you do when it comes time for dinner? You could indulge your inner child and just have pumpkin pie (topped with your very own bourbon whipped cream, natch), but if you’re sick of sweet stuff, may I suggest a more savory pie?

Rolling out crust for pot pie

Now, you may be rolling your eyes at me since I just acknowledged that the last thing you want to do is slave over a stove, but stick with me because I promise it’s worth it. This dish is in the classic tradition of re-inventing your leftovers into something completely different, and if you’ve already taken certain steps during your Thanksgiving prep, you’ll have shockingly little to do. For example: make two pie crusts instead of just the one that’s required for your pumpkin confection and save it in your fridge and you have a ready-made crust for your pot-pie. Use leftover turkey instead of poaching something anew. Make a couple of extra cups of stock during your Thanksgiving prep, or borrow a couple cups from the turkey stock that’s simmering away on the stove (because you are going to make soup, right?). Cheat and reach for a couple of freezer-veggies, saving you some prep. Yes, there’s a roux. Don’t let that scare you off though, as it’s the easiest roux ever. Banish from your mind the memory of stirring that roux for étouffée for a half-hour straight.

Crust cut-out

So this recipe is an example of a post-Thanksgiving success. In fact, it was so successful, that we’ve decided that it’s a new tradition for us. After all, it’s a home-made gravy chock full of deliciousness nestled under a home-made blanket of pastry goodness, and it’s a way to use your turkey without having to resort to sandwiches. What’s not to love?

And for good measure, here’s the cell-phone-photo I took of the original pot pies (as the other photos were taken from pies made later from left-over components). My Mom cut a “p”-shaped vent-hole for my Dad’s initial and was quite put out that I did boring traditional slits instead of using letters for the rest of them!

Turkey pot-pies!!!

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Dec 092012
 

Turkey soup!

If you’re like me, when you’re cleaning up after Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey carcass (with plenty of bits of meat still clinging to the bones) starts to look a lot like opportunity. I am loathe to ever throw away any animal bones: you can make too many delectable things with them (well, really, I’ve only ever made stock with the bones, but you can make so many things with the stock that it totally counts).

I’m also well-known for not thinking that turkey sandwiches are the bee’s knees. Given left-over turkey, there are several other things that I’d rather make with it, and one of them is soup! I have such a proclivity to it and The Hubs has such a proclivity for the sandwiches that we have always ended up in turkey-turf-wars about how the leftovers are going to be used. Not being possessed of two ovens but still needing to make several sides while the sacrificial bird is cooking, we grill our turkey so the birds we buy have to be relatively small so that it can fit on our Weber — hence, there’s not enough turkey to go around for both of our needs and strife ensues. This year, I avoided marital turkey-drama by buying two birds. I was so proud of myself for coming up with a solution to the problem, but then I went and shot myself in the foot by discovering turkey pot-pies, creating yet another need for large amounts of turkey. What’s a cook to do? And don’t you dare suggest I buy yet another bird: it’s not that it’s madness, it that there isn’t enough room in our cooler to brine three of them!

So, without any further adieu, I present a recipe for turkey soup, which is something my family has been making ever since I was a wee one. Like most soups, the ingredient list is more of a suggestion than a rule. It’s also slow-cooker friendly, which we found to be very welcome this year, since, well, y’know how on Thanksgiving Friday you don’t want to cook at all? Well, I kinda screwed that one up big-time by experimenting with the pot-pies, so come Saturday we really super-mega didn’t want to cook, but luckily I had slow-cookered up a big batch of this the night before. Victory, “turkey soup” is thy name.

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Nov 282009
 

Ok, seriously – does anyone actually cook the day after Thanksgiving??? Who isn’t sick of the inside of their kitchen by then? And aren’t the contents of your refrigerator quick to take away any reason for one to turn on the stove (except to reheat leftovers, of course)?
Well, I’ll admit it: I wasn’t as kitchen-adverse this Friday as I have been in the past.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t about to actually cook anything for lunch. The last thing I wanted was a plain turkey sandwich – I was craving something healthy (no surprise there, given the gluttony that took place the day before) and even though my Thanksgiving table is laden with far more veg than most (without having to resort to green bean casserole! Boo-yah!), I didn’t want to just nosh on leftovers. I’m all about re-inventing last night’s food whenever I get a chance, and when I spied the unused greens in my fridge that didn’t quite get turned into a salad with poached pears, candied nuts, gorgonzola, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette, I had my inspiration.

I scooped the spinach into a bowl, tore off chunks of turkey breast, added some leftover roasted butternut squash, topped it off with some juicy pomegranate seeds and toasted pecans, and finished it with a drizzle of shallot-cacao nib vinaigrette that had graced the roasted squash the night before.

Chances are you don’t have those exact ingredients on hand the day after Thanksgiving unless you stole my menu, but no worry, there are plenty of ways to make your own. Try using homemade cranberry sauce instead of pomegranate seeds or perhaps some roasted Brussels sprouts or cauliflower instead of the squash. The point is that you’re only limited by your imagination. Unless you’re like me and you’ve already transformed your turkey leftovers into a steaming pot of delicious soup, chances are you still have plenty of food on hand with which to make your own creation. So go nuts and go fix yourself a salad while you’re waiting for me to get to the really good stuff: the Thanksgiving menu, plenty of food porn, and bread that flowed continually from the oven!

Who would eat a turkey sandwich when this beautiful and delicious gem was an option?
Nikon D50
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