Food


For this particular workshop cookery, you will learn how to make your own mayonnaise. It is very simple, tasty, and you can alter it as you like!  We will be making “Grown-Up Grilled Cheese” to steal a line from RR. (Yesterday it was the rerun where she makes “grown up chicken fingers.”

Anyway. So instead of just mayo (’cause that’s boring and you can get it in the store!) we’ll make Roasted Garlic Mayo. However, mayo is simply the emulsion of egg yolk with oil. That kind of explains so much doesn’t it? You’re emulsifying a fatty protein thing with a fat, no more.  I promise, the results are more appetizing than that!

(Also, if you’re super duper anal about the whole egg-yolk thing, you can get pasteurized egg yolk. But don’t be!)

So, first, roast two heads of garlic. We’ve done this before. Just lop their ickle ‘eads off and stick them in the oven at 350-400 degrees until the house smells insanely good/they are quite brown. Then, squeeze out every last bit of garlicky goodness into your blender.

Now, I personally like to add the egg white to my mayonnaise as well. This means that it becomes paler, and it also is considerably more airy, and feels a bit less heavy in your mouth. In short: You don’t have to, lots of people prefer that you don’t, but I like it that way. Also it’s whiter in color, so you might be more capable of convincing picky friends that homemade mayo won’t kill you.

So I added 2 eggs. Hoorah! I also added at this juncture my other flavors, namely some salt, some pepper, and 1.5-2 tablespoons of lemon juice, for tang.

Blend this until smooth. Now, get out your vegetable oil or olive oil, whichever you prefer (I would use the most flavorless oil I have in the house, so it depends on what grade olive oil you’re talking about) and sloooowly start drizzling. Stop when it looks like mayonnaise. It will likely take a cup.

Now, slice off two slices of a nice, crusty bread. Spread each piece with butter on one side, delicious mayo on the other. Put a thick layer of medium-cheddar slices (a nice compromise between flavor and melty-ness) on one of the mayo sides. Sandwich, and fry until the cheese has melted.

Enjoy. Save the rest of the mayo in an airtight container. It’ll last a week. (A week’s worth of amazing sandwiches…)

Bah! I am having trouble, ladies and gents.

I have spent a good hour of my life trying to come up with a dinner menu for my parents, who are coming over Sunday. They are my parents, so I automatically want to impress them, however, they are also mid-renovations on their home. They’ve ripped up flooring, replaced glass, relaid tile, and done an impressive fall cleaning. Their visit to our home represents a miniature vacation to see my husband and I, whose lives are very quiet and less full of jackhammers. I want this to be very relaxing for them.

I also want to blast their palates with something truly amazing. Obviously, cooking is my hobby. I wouldn’t blog about it semi-regularly if it wasn’t. It is also true that I take a great deal of self-validation from people’s appreciation of my food, especially those people with refined palates! Also, in addition to my own selfish goals, my parents have been eating nothing but takeout due a kitchen that is out of commission. They have had fat grams coming out their ears, and I want something refreshing. It either needs to be light, or be intensely flavorful. Both preferable.

Thus, I have spent considerable time and effort planning this menu, but it’s difficult. What do I create? Most foods I would consider “normal” the average non-foodie would find “gourmet” – when you do a search for fancy food and you come up with a list of meals that are on your regular rotation (or involve raw cactus or duck liver), well, I guess you should feel proud. I mean, it means anything I make would appear “refined.” (HAH! If only I could plate…)

But that’s not good enough. I want to create something that I personally know took a little extra effort. Even if it seems just as fancy as chicken Francaise or a spinach fettuccine with veloute, (which are only fancy because the words aren’t English!) there is some self-pride in creating something for these people I love that I know was quite different from our norm.

Therefore, a set of menus. None of these recipes are by any means difficult – some are even simpler than our normal fare – however, they are less common around here and thus seem “special.” Also, their ease can assure me that I won’t mess up, but I won’t be making my standard kitchen walk, or using my most honed and mindless skills. I will have to think about what I am doing, and that cognitive process will feel more like love to me.

Asian

  • Garlic Wontons (An (uncommon) favorite)
  • Sesame Chicken
  • Pear, Walnut, and Ginger Salad
  • Chocolate Wontons

American Classic

  • Roast Spiced Potatoes
  • Steak
  • Caesar Salad
  • Creme Brulee

American Modern (Thanksgiving updated)

  • Acorn Squash with Walnuts and Brown Sugar
  • Cranberry Chicken Salad (possibly just cranberry chicken)
  • Fresh Bread with Rosemary
  • Ginger Snap Sticks with Dip

Tapas

  • Chorizo and Spanish Cheeses
  • Shrimp Sauteed in Garlic Butter
  • Crusty Bread and Garlic Aioli
  • Truffles
  • Honeyed Pear Bites

I’ll keep you updated on our choice, and also will provide recipes! I’m leaning away from the American Classic, as it seems heavy, if indulgent. Modern American is fun, but I don’t know. Asian and Tapas are my two favorites.

This particular recipe is something I stole from my dad, mashed up until you can’t recognize it even a little (the only familiar ingredient is bone-in skin-on chicken breasts) and replated.

Turned out great!

The original recipe is sour cream stuffed chicken, and while it was good, it left a distinct “I am fat” feeling in its wake. I mean, you just ate a chicken breast that you ruined all nutritional value of with a 1/2 cup of sour cream. Per person. Eek!

These use less stuffing and more flavor, so you feel less fat and more full. First, buy some bone-in-skin-on chicken breasts. No cheating. Yes, the skin is on. You can take it off, if you’re that virtuous, but really, the amount of skin per breast isn’t very high, so it’s not that bad. Only eat half, save the rest for later, no big deal. Either way, you’ll be stuffing stuff under that skin, so you need it.

You’ll also need a small amount of ricotta cheese, garlic, your personal favorite blend of Italian seasonings, sea salt, and parmigianno reggiano. I like grating my own. I like grating cheese. I just do, okay?

Whoo. Personal oddities aside, clean out your chicken. Rinse it off, get rid of major fat deposits, but leave as much skin intact as possible. Also, if you can, select breasts where the skin is unbroken and still cleanly attached on one side. It makes stuffing much easier. Pat the chicken dry (hah! I just wipe and go. But if you’re looking for extra crispy skin, it does help). Mix sea salt and Italian seasonings in a bowl and pat the mixture all over the chicken. Or, you can do what I do and sprinkle both generously all over and pat down. Go you, you washed one less dish.

So, pull out a bowl (you really do have to this time) and put in 1 tablespoon of ricotta cheese per breast. Grate a healthy amount of cheese over the top (I would guess it was 1/2 tablespoon per?) and mix in 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic. If your guests aren’t garlic nuts, either puree the crap out of it and put in less, or leave it out altogether (boo!).

Stir all of that together and put 1-2 tablespoons in each breast. Roast at 450 for 15 minutes, and then drop the temperature down to 350 or so. Then, cook until the meat is 170 and the juices run clear.

Let the meat stand. LET THE MEAT STAND. I know it smells like heaven has come down upon your home to personally bless your chicken, but unless you like scalding hot ricotta spilling everywhere leave it be. It won’t explode, but it sure won’t be in your chicken either. 10 minutes should finish up the cooking.

Eat. Focaccia makes a great side, if you can eat carbs, and don’t forget your favorite Mediterranean veggie of choice.

So a while ago, my mother purchased this cranberry jalepeno salsa/jelly out of curiosity. The vendor at the kitchen store told her to try it with cream cheese and crackers. She did so, while Josh and I were there, and ohmiword people, this stuff is amazing. Knock your socks off, out of the water amazing.

Of course, I had to try to recreate it. All recipes searched proved utterly incorrect (I knew there was no cilantro whatever from the ingredients tin, also a lack of cilantro taste. It wasn’t gelatinous at all, and quite sweet) so I had to engineer my own. A couple in particular (here and those found here) helped more than others, but largely this is a memory recall.

It didn’t taste quite the same, and mine is considerably chunkier than the original, but it is equally spectacular. I also couldn’t find plain cranberries, so I had to hydrate dried ones. It was still a smashing success.

Cover a double handful of dried cranberries with water and let them hydrate. Microwaving will expedite this process. My double handful came out to about a cup of basically rehydrated berries. They were still shriveled, but they weren’t taking any more water. I left in 1 tablespoon of “water” but if you are using regular berries, you should use cranberry juice. Just squish some out of the berries.

Now, chop one large jalapeño. Did I say chop? I meant mince. Finely. Like water. Be a human food processor! Or, better, actually chop them in a mini food processor. You don’t want pieces of this, kay? Also, take out the seeds and membrane.

Mix this in. Also mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey and a 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir (it helps if the berries are slightly warm from the rehydration, but I’m sure it works fine otherwise).

Let stand in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Pour out over 1 package of softened cream cheese (it’s fine if you don’t soften, just put out spreading utensils for your guests). Put crackers around the cream cheese and eat!

So yesterday I trussed up a chicken thusly:

Purchase whole chicken. Rip everything out of cavities, throw away. I don’t eat neck, nor am I fond of chicken gravy. Bleeech.

Wash. Pat dry.

Peel 2 heads of garlic. If the cloves are large, cut them up into smaller bits. Stab a small hole into the chicken and slip a piece in. Repeat, until out of garlic.

Cut fresh rosemary into 1″ long branches. Repeat as with garlic.

Pat sea salt all over the skin of the bird. Also, when doing the garlic and stuff, remember that you will want to eat more than the breasts. Stick garlic and rosemary in the other parts, too.

Roast in crock on low for 8 hours. If you’re leaving it alone, put in 1.5 cups of water. Otherwise, put in 1/2 a cup at the beginning, 1/2 c at 2.5 hours, 1/2 c at 5 hours. You’ll get a drier skin that way.

Pull out the garlic pieces and rosemary branches before consuming. What’s leftover….well, recipes all week will include those! We had it with asparagus, even though the asparagus came from Guatemala or wherever.  Josh has been craving asparagus, so asparagus he gets!

It was really easy, tasted like I spent hours in the kitchen. Spent all of five minutes. Awesome.

I’m going to make it a new tag. Hopefully it won’t be used too often (I like not weighing 17 tons, after all) but sometimes, it’s just necessary.

And tonight is definitely a bad-for-us night. Josh has been begging – begging, people, it’s cuter than kittens and cannot be resisted! – for breakfast. Sometimes when he says breakfast he means “Wakey wakey eggs and bac-y!” but I made steak and eggs this past Sunday morning to no dice.

That means that when he says breakfast, he wants biscuits and gravy. It’s the easiest darn food in the world, ever, and simultaneously the least healthy. Between the lard and butter and the…..oh, be still, my heart. No, not that still. Please keep beating!

Recipe: Saute 1 lb of pork sausage (hot or plain, none of that maple nonsense. It’ll make it taste odd) in a pan. Leave ALL of the excess grease – and if it’s less than a tablespoon or so, you bought the lean sausage. Bad you, add shortening. Anyway, so to your 1-3 tablespoons of grease (keep beating, oh heart!) add 1 tablespoon of flour. Stir until everything is all coated in your flour. If you need more, that’s okay, this isn’t exact.  Just coat everything pretty well.
Then let that sit for a bit and get out your milk. The walk to the fridge and back should be long enough.  Add some milk, bit by bit, stirring all the while. If you need more flour or milk, add whichever you need until you have quite a bit of gravy – enough so that it’s a gravy, and not Saucy Sausage. You want it to be about as thick as an alfredo sauce – coat the back of a spoon and drip off the end. It’ll thicken when it cools, so take that into consideration.

Season very well with salt and pepper. Pour over cheap-o biscuits. You’re wasting if you make your own for this, because no one will taste them. Save those for dinner with butter and jam. Yum!

Yesterday I cleaned the whole house from top to bottom. (Sometimes you just have the superwoman days, right?) Well, once I got done, I was exhausted. So I decided to have a dinner date night – because steak is that easy. I pulled a loaf of bread dough from the freezer, sprinkled rosemary and fresh parmesan all over the top. Yanked the steaks, rubbed them with olive oil and rosemary.

For a veggie, I made green bean salad again – this time I had a bit more experience making a dressing, so it came out much, much better, and I used more of the freshly grated parmesan on the top. Stuck that all back in the fridge.

10 minutes before Josh was due home, tossed the steaks on. Take that, Rachel Ray! probably 20 minutes of effort, even if 10 minutes of it was 3 hours before the rest of it. And I also managed to pull that off only getting 1 bowl, 1 saute pan, and then some plates dirty. Because I’m convinced – the meals may be 30 minutes, but clean up is at least 3 hours.

Tonight is mac and cheese, and Josh wants it completely and perfectly plain. No fancy cheese, no crazy spices. Just homemade mac and cheese. Thankfully, there’s Ace of Cakes tonight, so I won’t be completely bored – and it will taste good.

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