Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A few new treats.

OK OK.... it's been a while since I've written. You've missed several good meals. This one was Chicken Kiev, which turns out easier than you think to make if you have a little know how and a smart girl friend. We made a compound butter mix with parsley and tarragon. That got formed into a log and placed in the freezer to set up a little while we worked over the chicken. Putting a chicken breast on a piece of plastic that had been sprinkled with water and folded over the top of the chicken, we whacked the hell out of it with a skillet until it was either about 1/8th inch thick or until it told us the secret entrance to the hiding lair. Turns out there wasn't a hiding lair. After that, we took out the butter and sliced it and placed in the middle of the hell ridden chicken and folded/rolled the chicken around the butter. That got to chill out in the fridge for a while (Alton is sooooo fond of doing things over night). The next day it all got dunked in beaten eggs (not a good week for chickens I guess) and rolled in panko crumbs then fried in a little hot veggie oil. While that was cooking we had also made some noodles. That's right kids, fresh home made noodles. We'd taken a class and were itching to try it. The class was well worth the price and aggravation of the couple sitting next to us... gotta love know-it-alls. I know it's another of Mr. Brown's recipes, but it works and turned out very tasty.

The next one we tried was Drunken Risotto. This one took a little more time, work, and patience. It started with browning 3/4 pound of Italian sausage, add in finely chopped onion (a whole small onion) and a few cloves of finely chopped garlic. The hard part came with stemming 3/4 pound of spinach leaves, but that comes later. The Rachel Ray recipe (I know, not a different chef!!) called for fresh ground nutmeg, we used already ground stuff and it worked out ok. While the sausage was browning I was bringing 3 cups of red wine and 2 cups of chicken stock to a low simmer, this is important. When the browning was done, I stirred in the risotto, giving it time to soak up any oils. Then a few ladle fulls of the wine/stock mixture at a time went in, giving it time to absorb and cook off before adding more until it was all in, very time consuming and lots of constant stirring. In the last 5 min's of cooking I stirred in the spinach until it barely softened. Just before serving I stirred in 1/2 cup of grated romano cheese. Patience pays off for this one. The rice was just barely softened, and the flavor was amazing. I'm not a big fan of red wine but I really liked this one. As you can see we threw in some broccoli for color and taste. Quite nice if I do say so myself.

By the way, if anyone is actually out there reading this, it would be nice to hear a comment. At least say "Hi". More to come.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chicken Wazoo

Wellllll... really it's called Beer Can Chicken.

Since it's been a hot day, I decided to use the outside grill, so, Chicken Wazoo it was. You take a 4 to 5 pound chicken, crack open a beer, pour/drink off 1/4th of it, then stick the beer can up the chicken's wazoo. Now, the grill has been turned on med high on one side only. Place a temperature probe either in the thigh or middle of one breast... the chicken, not the significant other... and rub the skin with either oregano or Montreal seasoning (whatever flips your lid). Now, place the chicken on the grill on the side that's not burning. Spread out the legs to act like a tripod with the can. You're looking for the probe to hit 165 degrees.

That's what we started with. While that was working we tossed some purple cauliflower with olive oil and sprinkled on some Parmesan (that's the dish on the left), put in to bake 375 degrees while the chicken cooks... which hopefully won't be more than 45 minutes. We also took some zucchini and summer squash and sliced long thin planks. We started using a peeler but that was a little thin so we had to resort to a V-Slicer/ Mandolin. Then some onions and garlic got browned and the planked veggies got thrown in a little at a time and cooked until tender. It took a few batches but worth the work (that's the dish on the right).

By the time the chicken was up to temp the skin had turned golden brown and crispy. To keep the exposed bone ends from drying out too much I covered them with a little foil (and cut off the wing tips because lets face it who really eats those anyway). Once the whole thing has cooked, it's easier to take it off the grill using foil on hot pads or use hot pads that aren't going to soak up anything. This is the point where it's helpful to have some help because once you get it in the house and it's rested, it's a little tricky to get the beer can out of the chicken's wazoo. Having one person hold the chicken a few inches above the bottom of the sink and the other push the can out with a butter knife through the neck opening. The can will still be mostly full of scalding hot beer/ sprite/ water/ whatever liquid you like, so be careful with this part. Hey, cooking makes stuff hot so either have some common sense or have someone around who does to warn you when you're about to do something stupid.

Once the bird's free, we used kitchen sheers to quarter it and plate it with the cauliflower and sliced veggies. Our experience on this was very enjoyable, but then this wasn't our first go around with Chicken Wazoo. The veggies were a little bit of an experiment but those worked nicely with the chicken. Try it and let me know what you think.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Curtains For You

The source of a huge debate was the curtains. K will tell you that the print on the curtains was of a semi Asian version of "Luigi". He's some sort of Asian-Italian mix trying to bake and drink wine. Since Luigi is one of the few things I actually picked out for the kitchen before it follows that I liked it.

For the new kitchen, however, K tells me that it's a little cheesy and dated. So, we went on a quest. It would have been an easier quest to find the holy grail or something. Apparently nobody makes/ stocks Cafe curtains anymore. I guess I shouldn't say nobody, some make them but the selection is very limited. We've been to several major chains, craft stores, even fabric stores. We eventually found something that will do for now so that the neighbors don't point and laugh if I walk through the kitchen naked just before bed. It's not perfect. We were looking for perfect. Maybe perfect is a fantasy that can't be achieved.

In the mean time K has come up with a few wonderful taste treats. We had a friend over and BBQ'd some steaks and K sliced some baby yams, sprinkled them with brown sugar and cinnamon, and baked them on a piece of foil on the grill. In the time it took to cook the steaks the baby yams turned lightly browned, soft, tender, and very delicious. Really a great side dish to a meat heavy dinner.

The other wonderful thing she came up with was watermelon drink that we tried two ways. First was blenderized, then strained to remove the pulp leaving only watermelon juice, add in a little simple syrup (or just some sugar), if you so desire add an adult beverage of choice (like Tequila), and pour over ice... simple and refreshing. The second way we tried was to blenderize the juice with the ice and make a smoothie. Granted, the ice and blender didn't want to play well together and took some coaxing to work but in the end worked out for a nice summer treat to cool down with. K got fancy and rimmed the glasses with some orange colored sugar. We sat in the shade of a hot July day, sipped our drinks, played cards and just relaxed. It felt almost like we were southern or something.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


The first real meal on the new equipment went both better and worse than expected. I know that is a less than exciting way to start this post... but allow me to explain. First of all, the migration of all the utensils back to the kitchen has yet to happen, so not everything was in easy reach. That posed small problems. However, the new stove and microwave more than made up for it. This had some unexpected effects. For one, the broiler works much better than the old one did, but being able to switch to convection was nice. Having things finish up at different times than expected presented a challenge. Having a warming feature on the microwave presented a solution.

So, here's the recipe that I followed:

Alton Brown's butterflied chicken

And here's what it looks like:

Arguably I'd say well worth the effort. The collective taste buds of two people are saying it's pure bliss. There's a lot to be said for starting with good ingredients and having a good recipe.

In the end, I'll say try it, your taste buds will love you for it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Unceremonious firsts

We've had a number of "firsts" with this remodel. Most of them have been without any sort of ceremony or fanfare. First steps on new tile. First wipe down of the new granite counter. First dish washed in the new sink. First things put in the new fridge. First thing microwaved.

There is a first we are planning carefully and going to celebrate. Our first full meal together in the new kitchen. It's one of my favorite recipes. Butterflied chicken. Granted, I'm fighting a learning curve with new appliances but I expect to pull it off. The recipe actually comes from Alton Brown and his "Good Eats" program. Take a chicken, cut out the backbone with heavy kitchen scissors, separate the meat from the keel bone and remove bone, lay out flat, tuck a concoction of herbs and spices under the skin, and broil to GB&D (golden brown and delicious). This will be accompanied by corn on the cob and salad. Wish me luck.

I'm anxious to see how the convection oven effects the cook time and outcome. This all will be tomorrow when we will both have time to do our dance in the kitchen without worry about work schedules. Unfortunately, it'll be our last free Saturday together as next week I'll be resuming my regular work schedule.

When we cook together it really is like a dance. Sometimes there's actual music involved but we move together, matching our steps. The big difference is that normal dancing doesn't involve knives or hot pans. Our rhythm tends to build as the ingredients are readied. The excitement of the meal comes to fruition and reaches a peak where plates are prepared, drinks are poured, and we ease into our seats to savor what we have just prepared. There's a shared reverie as the first bite is tasted. Some people don't get to share this cook dance which is unfortunate, but when you do it's fun, exciting, and satisfying. I guess in that respect it's more like another more horizontal activity... but I'll let your imagination run with that.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Clean up?


Why is it that you have to clean up one mess just so you can make another? That has been my daily routine since starting this. Seriously, it's been more cleaning up than installing. I had to bring out 8 or 10 tools to install each item and somehow they brought along one or two of their friends. In terms of time spent actually putting something in, it's probably only half an hour or so. Finding the right tools, organizing, arranging, lining up, measuring, and putting everything back where it came from - so I can find it for the next project - is a good 3 hours. If you add to that time spent dealing with the packaging, mess you have to vacuum, wipe, and scrape up.... AND time spent having to run to the store to get what the dumbass sales clerk forgot to tell you that you'd need, you're a good 8 hrs into a half hour project.

Given the above info, I'm left wondering how in the hell we pulled off getting new appliances delivered, installing them myself (ok ok, my brother helped a lot, but still), got my old fridge picked up by relatives, took old stove and dishwasher to one donation place only to be turned away and take them to another.... all in one day? The nerd/geek among us (I'm raising my hand too) will tell you that it's a warping in space time that allows for such things. The same way that women can say "I'll be ready to go in just a second" and 45 mins. later your jingling your keys as she walks down the stairs...to go to Walmart. Most men will argue with me, but the same theory holds true for football time. There's 0:01:32 left on the clock with a 8 point spread but somehow that game will go on for another 45 mins. without a single shot of the cheerleaders ..... but I digress.

There's also the whole deception of what seems to be "simple and easy" but isn't. Part of this is because every 5 years or so all the appliance manufacturers get together and change the "standard" size. Really??? The standard size of a dishwasher is suddenly 3/4 inch larger than the one I just pulled out??? The standard depth of a stove is suddenly half an inch more??? Don't even get me started on the "36 inch" fridge. It's a conspiracy I tell ya. In any case, if you're considering buying a new appliance, and the sales person says "it's a standard size", be afraid... be very afraid. Also, never trust the specs that a really young or really old sales person gives you, especially if either one has a schmucky name like Cody or Greg. Too young and they're guessing because they haven't had experience/time to RTFM, too old and they're past that 5 year re-standardization. Look for someone in their mid 30's to late 40's with a bland name like Mike or Bill. Oh, and remember your old shop teacher... the one that was missing a finger? Yea, him. The most important thing he told you was to measure twice and cut once, but what he should have told you (and didn't) is that when it comes to color, ASK A WOMAN!!!

Before/after pictures are soon to come.... just to keep you interested.