White and Brown Stock

Mon, Dec 24 • 0

When making chicken stock, using raw chicken will give you “white” chicken stock, while using a roasted bird will give you “brown” chicken stock.

According to Escoffier, white stock is used for the base of white sauces. Brown stock should be the color of “fine burnt amber” and used for the base of soups and thickened gravies, and for meat glazes after it’s been reduced. He also suggests using it to moisten meat for braising.

In both cases, he suggests breaking the bones, and that if you want the stock to be gelatinous, you need to simmer the stock for at least 8 hours.

His recipes (below the break) aren’t limited to just chicken meat, either, and they’re naturally more involved than almost any other recipe for chicken stock that I’ve ever come across.

Keep reading…

Smoke in the Night

Sun, Dec 23 • 2

ovenThe other night, I had a bit of a harrowing experience.

I woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke in my apartment. When I got out to the living room, I could tell that I wasn’t dreaming and the whole place really was filled with acrid, chemically smoke. I quickly tracked it down to the new Black & Decker InfraWave Speed Cooking Countertop Oven I bought less than a month ago. It had somehow turned itself on in the middle of the night and was efficiently cooking the aluminum foil covered sheet pan that I’d left in there from several days before, as well as scorching the plate I’d left sitting on top of the oven. The front door to the oven was scorched black, and though I didn’t wait and observe if the infrared light was cycling on and off like it does in normal operation, I can only guess that it wasn’t. It was easy enough to unplug the unit, though it took a couple hours for my heart to stop racing and for the acrid smoke that had filled the living room and kitchen to dissipate. Even now, I still get the whiff of the burnt aluminum foil, especially when we come back into the apartment.

When I first got the oven, a month or so ago, I was pretty impressed with it. It cooks with a combination of conventional heated coils and with intense white light. As a result, it doesn’t need to be pre-heated, and offers cooking times comparable to a microwave oven, but with the browning of a regular oven/broiler. I’d even given the oven a 4 star review on Amazon.

But the other night, I have no idea what happened. I’m certain that the oven wasn’t accidentally turned on by someone brushing up against it or anything. (The way the control panel is configured, it requires you to press several buttons to actually turn the thing on.) It had been several days since I’d used the oven. I do recall that when I did last use it, I had been broiling a couple pieces of bacon, and since I still hadn’t used the oven enough to get the cook times down, I turned the oven off by simply opening the door. Even still, I had set the oven to cook for merely 10 minutes, and it had gone through most of that on the bacon. So what it was doing, all by itself, in the middle of the night the other night, I’m not sure.

It looks like there was a recall on the ovens in the beginning of December due to the circuit board overheating and fire hazard. (It should also come as no surprise that according to that linked article, these ovens are made in China.) Also, according to their website, despite the name “Black & Decker” on the appliance, it’s actually a product of a company called Applica Consumer Products Incorporated. Black & Decker sold their household product line in June, 1998, along with the right to continue to use their name.

So, lessons learned — unplug appliances that can burn down your house when you’re not using them; keep the smoke alarm installed, even if it does go off every freaking time you grill a steak; and don’t buy the Black and Decker Infrawave Speed Cooking Countertop Oven, at least not until they’ve worked the bugs out.

Update: It looks like the recall I mentioned above was not for the model of oven I have. It was for the 2-slice bread toaster. At this time, B&D / Applica is offering no remedy for the problem I experienced.

Creamed Shallots

Sun, Dec 23 • 0

A nice side dish for steaks or roasted chicken.

10-12 shallots
1 tsp. salt
1 T sugar
2 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 oz cream
salt & pepper
¼ t thyme

Clean the shallots by slicing each end, and peeling it down to the first clean layer without the papery skin. Place shallots in a small saucepan, cover with water, and add the sugar and the salt, and bring the water to a gentle boil, parboiling the shallots for about 10-15 minutes.

Grease a gratin dish with a little butter or canola oil. Add the shallots, the cream, top with cheese, and seasoning. Bake for 10 minutes in a hot oven or toaster oven until hot and bubbly. Optionally, broil for a few more minutes to brown the top.

Grilled Beer Brats

Sun, Dec 23 • 0

Here’s a recipe my brother makes for cookouts. It’s pretty simple, but surprisingly flavorful and a nice change from hamburgers and hot dogs. These go better with a crustier roll than a regular hot dog bun, but those would do in a pinch.

2-3 lbs. bratwurst
2 large onions sliced
1 big bottle of cheap beer
2 bay leaves (optional)

Pierce the wursts with several times with a fork and marinate the wurst in the beer and onions for a couple hours or overnight. Then grill them until done. You can also save the onions from the marinade and fry them up in a pan while you’re cooking the wursts and then serve them on top.

101 Simple Appetizers in 20 Minutes or Less

Sun, Dec 23 • 0

Mark Bittman at the New York Times suggests dozens of ways to make fast hors d’oeuvres. Link

(See also his list of 101 Quick Meals, published in July, 2007, as well as 10 more he added to the list a month later.)

Preserved Lemons

Sun, Dec 23 • 0

This is a north african condiment, sometimes served chopped as a relish, or added to a braise or roast. A strong citrusy flavor that’s very different from fresh lemons. You’ll want 8 or 9 of the lemons to be large good sized and unblemished. The rest are just for their juice, so they can be smaller and cheaper. (If you want to economize, you can use fewer juice lemons and cutting the juice with filtered bottled water.) These will last 6 or 8 months in your fridge, maybe longer, considering the amount of acid and salt you are using.

This whole procedure basically makes the pithy white part, as well as the rest of the peel, edible. It packs a lot of flavor, too. It’s a surprisingly good addition to pot roast or other braised beef recipes, and it adds a lot of flavor to roasted poultry. (You can put a whole preserved lemon in the bird’s cavity, or you can slice/chop it up and put it under the skin on the breast and legs.)

Make one jar for yourself, and give the other to a friend.

2 dozen lemons
½ c kosher salt
1 or 2 pickle jars

Run the pickle jars and lids through the dishwasher. You’ll want them piping hot (sterilized) to work with them.

Squeeze half of the lemons, straining out the seeds.

Clean 8 or 9 of the lemons, scrubbing the skin and removing the label and the stem. Deeply score the lemons, end to end, without going all the way through to the center, several times. Work some salt into the cuts you’ve made. Squeeze the lemons into the jars, generously spreading salt between the layers. When full, pour the lemon juice in to the top.

Lid, and put in the refrigerator. Let macerate for 3 or 4 weeks, turning the bottle and redistributing the salt, every couple of days. Inspect for any signs of mold or creepy crawlers.

Tuscan Bean Soup

Sun, Dec 23 • 0

This recipe is really enhanced by the garlic. The more, the better if you ask me. And I don’t personally care for the quality of the meat from the ham hocks, but if you want to economize or be frugal, use it instead of the additional country ham. You can substitute smoked turkey wings for the ham hocks if you’d rather.

1 lb dried northern white beans
bunch fresh rosemary
smoked ham hocks
8 c water
2-3 large leeks, diced
¼-½ lb country ham, diced (optional)
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
32 oz. low sodium chicken broth

Inspect and rinse the beans. In a largish pan with a tight fitting lid, add the beans, the rosemary (tied to minimize the number of needles that work loose), the ham hocks and the water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2-3 hours, covered. The beans should be soft but still whole.

Once that’s done, drain the beans, remove the rosemary and if you’re economizing and not using the country ham, let the ham hocks cool until you can handle them to pick out the bits of edible meat, otherwise, discard.

Using the same pan, thoroughly clean and dice the leeks, and sweat in olive oil for a few minutes. (If you’re using the country ham, add it to the pan and cook for a few minutes. Don’t add any additional salt.) Add the crushed garlic and a teaspoon of salt. Meanwhile, blend the beans in a food processor, probably in multiple batches, until smooth. (You can optionally blend one of the batches a little less to add some chunks and a little bite. Also, if you like rosemary, you can add a little of the rosemary from the earlier step.) Add to the pan along with the chicken broth stirring until smooth and heated.

Pie Crust Recipes

Sun, Dec 23 • 0

Haven’t had a chance to try this recipe. It’s in a cookbook that I’m giving away, so I thought I’d save it here. According to the book, “This dough rolls easily and will take a lot of handling and still make a flaky crust.” I’ve never seen a recipe for pie dough that calls for an egg or vinegar.

3 c flour
1 t salt
1 c (8oz) lard
1 T vinegar
5 T water (or milk for a more golden crust)
1 egg

Mix flour, salt, and lard together in a bowl, cutting in the lard with a pastry blender until you produce a crumbly texture like that of uncooked oatmeal.

In another bowl, mix vinegar, water (or milk) and egg with a rotary beater. Then blend into the flour-lard mixture a little at a time. Blend well.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, enough for two double-crusted 9-inch pies. Refrigerate or freeze until needed.


Here’s another — it doesn’t use lard. And you can make it savory by omitting the sugar, and adding thyme. (Actually, there’s so little sugar, that I usually toss it in even for a savory crust.) I’ve also added grated lemon peel — it makes a great addition to a blackberry pie.

2 c flour (10 ounces by weight)
¼ t salt
¼ t sugar
1½ sticks of frozen butter, chopped into 1″ cubes
1 T crisco
1/3rd cup ice water

Put the flour, the sugar and the salt in your food processor bowl, and pulse a couple times. Add the butter and the crisco, and pulse 10 times. Add the water and pulse 10 times more. The dough should be crumbly but will stick together if you squeeze a small handful.

Put it all in a ziplock, and form into a round patty. Put in the fridge for at least half an hour, or longer if you can afford to. (You can use it right away if you must.)

Rolled out, it makes more than enough for a large pie.

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