Workshop Cookery


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…)

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Posting a little early today! The apple soup came out – well, Josh liked it. I didn’t so much, and these are my favorites, right? So, a Workshop – how to make applesauce.

It’s pretty simple, really. You melt about a tablespoon of butter and toss in some apple pie seasoning. To create, mix as follows:

1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice

Toss in quite a bit of this, a tablespoon or so.

Then toss in your diced apples, three or four of them. And now, a tip! I don’t core my apples so much as I cut the middles out. I slice the apple into the usual 8 sections and then I lay them flat and slice the core piece out: imag0515.jpg

(Yes, I just use my countertop. It’s quite clean, and I don’t ever do meat this way. Promise)It looks like this when I’m all done:

imag0516.jpg

Okay, so then you finish by dicing, and then you just toss in with the butter. Coat the apples in the butter and let them hang out for a minute or two, and once everything smells appley, pour over a cup of liquid. You can use apple juice, liquor (!) or just water, like me. Steam them until fork-tender, and then just mash like potatoes.

You can also skin them, but I like my skins on. I also prefer to over-cook the first set of two, until it’s quite mushy and dark brown, and then I add the rest and cook those until just fork-tender and mash. Then you get a mix of textures I really like, but some people find that I am a freak of nature. So it’s really up to you.

Enjoy!

PS. The lovely photos were Josh’s handiwork. I cannot make my camera work properly ever, but he manages somehow. Unmanicured (and slightly sticky) hands are mine. 

Window Box Gardening…so jealous. I live in a basement apartment, so my kitchen doesn’t have a window at all – and the rest of the windows are very small and don’t let in much light. However, I’ve done it before, and I can’t wait to have windows to do it again. It’s a spectacular money saver, especially with your favorite herbs. I grew Basil, Dill, and Cilantro when I was younger. The dill was a monster! It’s definitely called dill “weed” for a reason!

But obviously you can grow pretty much anything you like for your window box. Our basil turned into a miniature tree in it’s tiny pot, and it was so strong. I think my mom finally replanted it outside and it died with winter – but we got a lot of basil out of it until then. I didn’t have as much luck with cilantro, but then I have never been as fond of it, so I didn’t exactly work to cultivate the stuff. I’ve heard mint is pretty easy to grow. Thyme, tarragon, rosemary and sage all work well in the indoor garden. I’ve heard of success with oregano as well, and it’s one I’m personally interested in, due to a love affair with oregano. Sorry, Josh.

I am quite sure others would work just fine, however, these are ones I have either seen work well, or have read accounts of other’s success. Now, you should look up to see which is easiest to grow from for each plant – mint, for example, should be cultivated from a seedling, rather than a seed, and cilantro is meant to be grown from seeds (namely, coriander). Tarragon, on the other hand, you should buy an established plant of, and expect that it will spread like dill or asparagus. Basil you need seeds for, etc. So look that up.

Then, either build a box to fit the inside of your chosen windowsill – it should be well-lit, but it shouldn’t sped too much time in direct sunlight – or purchase one at your local gardening or home shop. Now is a great time, because anything they have left will be super dirt cheap, and you’re growing these things inside. Trust me, they don’t mind that there is snow on the ground! However, if you can’t find any strong seedlings, do wait. More on this later.

Anyway, so get your box and mount it according to the instructions. (This is a food blog, not a home improvement blog, I don’t know how to do these things.) Anyway, so once that’s done, be sure to line it with a plastic pot-container. These should be easy to find in garden shops – it keeps dirt from getting all over your kitchen. I’m sure the person in charge of mopping the floor appreciates it.  So fill this with potting soil, good quality. We’re talking a very small amount, so get a teeny little bag of the GOOD stuff. Save what’s left, there will always be soil erosion when you water, and I’ve never heard of dirt going bad. Oh, while you’re getting all that stuff, looking for herbs…

If you’re not going with seeds,look for seedlings that have any yellow tinges, spots, or have leaves that are oddly shaped. If there are any of these signs, LEAVE IT. While herbs are infinitely easier to grow than even the easiest of fruit-bearing plants, a diseased plant means stuff you can’t eat, and that’s not the point of this venture. If you are in the market for seeds, check for an expiration date. Yes, seeds do have them (you might need to wait until spring), just like those spices in your cupboard do that you never think about. Low-quality, expired seeds simply might not sprout at all. Waste of time and space, also not the point of this venture.

So, you have herbs, you have good potting soil, you have a box. Separate the box into 3 sections, more if it’s huge, and label it. Even if you do remember (or simply know by looking), you’ll get fewer questions from everyone else that way.

Seeds need to be germinated, or soaked for a few hours. Get two paper towels nice and wet and stick your seeds in between. Let ’em sit for 2-4 hours like that, and then sprinkle them in your box, covered with 1/4″ of soil (unless otherwise marked on the seed packet, of course). For seedlings and plants, there should be a dirt “chunk” where they came out of the little plastic thingie. First massage this dirt ball – those little baby roots have been crammed and jammed in there. You want to send the message that they have room to grow. Then, put that earth into the soil, covering it completely. It should require a 2-3″ hole or so. Now, let these sit in a dark-ish, warm place until all the seeds have sprouted. Just take the plastic thing out and set it on a plate or something on top of the fridge. Water whenever it feels kind of dry. When there are lots of little green heads, move to the mounted herb-box.

Now, wait. Watering with a spray bottle is a good idea, it’ll keep from beating up on your very delicate baby plants. Again – whenever the dirt feels dry.

Wait. If ever the box feels overcrowded, snip unwanted extras out with a pair of kitchen shears. Don’t rip out all the roots, let them rot in there. Free fertilizer. Once your herbs are much more established, go ahead and rip out excessive plants – you can transplant these outside, to your neighbor’s garden as a gift (make sure it’s wanted?),  to eat, etc.

Also! Don’t be shy about yanking the leaves off of your plants. Okay, don’t yank, gently snip or lightly tug. But so long as you always leave a sprig and a couple of leaves, it’ll keep coming back – and the more leaves you take off, the more the plant will replace for you. And besides, isn’t eating the leaves what you planted them for?

I want to start this post out by saying this bread — you don’t want to give this to the neighbors with butter and jam in a pretty basket. This bread has been engineered differently. If you’re looking for great artisan breads that you want to eat for the sake of eating, check out thefreshloaf.com. He’s a great teacher.

This bread isn’t looking to be soft and to have those big, glorious holes so utterly indicative of delicious artisan bread. It is in fact designed with the opposite idea in mind: to be kind of tough, to soak liquid, and to have NO HOLES. The holes will be very small, very even, very non-randomly distributed. Why would anyone want such a thing?

When the bread isn’t bread, it’s a piece of flatware. This bread, when you’re confident in it, can be held in one hand and can be trusted to hold, without dripping, the warmest, thinnest, and most delicious of soups.

Therefore:

1 c H20
1/2 Tbsp sugar
3 or so cups flour
1 pack yeast

You may want to get a little pot of yeast, too – when you’re first starting, you want to be able to make a lot in small batches until you get the idea. This allows you to shrink the recipe as needed when you’re still unsure of quite how the bread should feel for maximum quality.

Heat the water in your favorite glass bowl until it is comfortably warm, but not hot. Cooler than you’d like a bath, but just a hint warmer than lukewarm. Dissolve the sugar in this water and then drop the yeast in. Stir, let sit for 5 minutes. If it smells like delicious bread and is foaming a bit, your yeast is fine. If it’s not, throw out, get fresh yeast, and start over.

So your yeast is fine. Put 2 cups of flour into your water, and stir. This’ll be kinda liquidy, but starting to hit a dough-like consistency. Add 1/2 a cup of flour at a time until it’s a pretty dry dough. Start kneading. Squish, sqoosh, slam, have a grand ol’ time! It’ll get sticky again as you do this. If it takes less than 4-5 minutes to do so, add a bit more flour and keep going. You want it to be not-sticky at the end of your 4-5 minute kneading period.

When this is done, let raise until double, but no more! Do not let this bread raise for as long as it likes, or you’ll get those big holes. We’ve already done so much to fight them! (putting in too much flour, not enough sugar, no oil, no preferment)

So at the one hour mark, punch down and cut into pieces. You want pieces that are about 3/4 as big as the bowl you’d like to make. However much your dough yields, it yields — freeze what you don’t need now in bowl-sized portions! it thaws great in the freezer and bakes up spectacularly. I like to make lots and freeze so that I can have bread bowls on a busy night.

So whatever you’re using now, raise again until it’s the appropriate size, and put on a very well oiled pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until loaves sounds hollow when tapped. Hack the top out to make it bowl shaped (save that peice for dipping!) and fill with your favorite soup.

This will take practice! Practice is good. Bread is something you can do. Bread is easy, bread is cheap, it just has a learning curve. if you had tons of fun doing this, then you should definitely head over to thefreshloaf and learn to make great bread. Because trust me, those recipes come up with a darn good loaf!

Also I want to point out that this recipe, bread bowls? This is everything you should normally never do with bread! You should do a poolish or preferment, and you should knead for a long time and it should be soft and not stiff, and….etc. Take this to heart, when you come across cooking mistakes. Sometimes, you come across things that really do just deserve to be thrown out. Other times, your mistake has incredible application somewhere you never would have believed. Try to be on the lookout for things you can do with your mistakes!

I cook, in theory at least, like a quirky cross between Robin Miller and Rachel Ray. I pre-plan everything I’m going to make in the week ahead, but I don’t usually use leftovers like Robin, and I cook fast and easy, akin to Rachel Ray – but above all, I am cheap. I don’t cook necessarily for speed. I work in the evenings, so having all day to prepare dinner isn’t necessarily an issue, though I usually start an hour or less ahead. I almost always favor doing more legwork to spending more money – obviously, your mileage will vary. I use the Trent method to figure out how much my time is worth, estimate how much I’d save and how long it’d take me to do. If it’s worth it, it’s worth it, but if it’s not, pay the extra with no regrets.

Anyway, this is a Workshop! So, how you would do this, yourself.

Step One: Pull up your favorite in-season resource. Foods that are in season will always taste best, and will usually be cheapest, and even if they aren’t, they can often be found at farmer’s markets and U-Picks in the area.

Step Two: Grab the sale ad. I try hard to do my shopping on the first day of grocery sales (usually Saturday or Monday in my area) so that the goods aren’t hugely picked over.

Step Three: Grab my recipe box. Mine doesn’t actually have any recipes on it – as I’m really lazy and never use the recipe anyway – but it’s full of ideas.

Step Four: Ask people-to-be-subject what they’ve been craving. Any specific fruits/veggies? Any particular types of cuisine? Think about this for yourself, too – and take into good consideration what specific ingredients your family has been craving. Often, non-junk-food cravings are a sign of nutritional deficiency in their regular diet. If your husband is craving bananas, you might have an iron deficiency in your diet you weren’t even aware of (kind of like being thirsty – if you’re already thirsty, you’re already dehydrated).

Step Five: Stand in front of your pantry and absorb what’s in there.

So now you are armed with all the information needed. I never (or only very rarely!) get more than two meats per week, and obviously I try to choose the two most on-sale, always defaulting to beef (my favorite) and chicken (Josh’s). Surprisingly, the price comes out evenly, because while I like the more expensive meat, I like less of it in my dishes. I try and have no more than 2 meals that rely completely on pre-processed foods, but while we are foodies, I know how to whip a block of velveta…velvetta?…you know what I mean. It’s good in con queso, but not much else? yeah, that stuff. I know how to use it!

And other things, like soup mixes and preformed and preseasoned french fries. I am just a home cook, after all. I do try to minimize the number of times per week I do that to our digestive tracts, but it pops up here and there.

So back to those meats. We’re meatatarians, so I buy in bulk, and have all the meals that week be based on that particular meat. Last week was chicken – the “girl-food” as well as Asian chicken salad and chicken Alfredo, etc. This week will likely be beef, and I’ll purchase a very large roast, hack it down into manageable pieces, and stew, slice, and dice from there. I’ll also pick up, of course, hamburger. Always! (It doesn’t hurt that I got a coupon for a free hamburger chub from my favorite grocer’s. Woo!)

Next, I think about what’s in my pantry again and think if there are any automatic thoughts. Beef – I have egg noodles. Stroganoff, it could be a good idea. There is taco seasoning, we could have tacos. Tacos could be good.

And then I move to the produce aisle. What’s on sale here, and what’s good? Oh, look, green beans at 99c a pound, I could make another green bean salad, only with a less freakish dressing. Strawberries on their end of season sale? Cheap, but they’ll be spotty – ignore those. Corn still 33c an ear….$2 for veggies for the three of us! And so on, and so on. Here is where you should remember what your family has been craving. Try and massage those sales into spewing out things of Asian style, if that’s currently their deal, or give your guy bananas if he wants them, even if they are ridiculous. By the time I’m done with produce, I usually have my meals planned out(usually in an excel file), and then I just whip through my list of recipes, writing down their every ingredient, checking for overlap. I check my pantry again, hoping that I’ve managed to pull even more items out of it.

Like I said, I usually do this in excel. Then I use the “worksheet 2” for my grocery list, and here is where real shopping genius comes in. I write everything I need, in recipe order, in column a, and categorize it, produce, meat, dry good, whatever, in column b. Then, I go over list a, make sure absolutely nothing is missing, and then! I sort the two lists alphabetically by list B. Do this by highlighting everything in both columns, go to Data -> Sort, Sort by Column B. Voila! All the meats are together and all the produce together, and now my grocery list is streamlined, so I can make one pass through the store.

And that, in a rather large nutshell, is how I make an otherwise-painful activity relatively easy, cheap, and even kinda, sorta (I tell myself these things!) fun.

Roasted spaghetti, oh, roasted spaghetti. How utterly delicious though art. How sophisticated, and yet so comforting…

Oh. Ahem. Yes. How, and why, to roast garlic (and tomatoes and chicken).

Garlic is probably the most widespread spice besides salt and pepper. Bad restaurants try to use it to mask their poor food, bad TV chefs use it to mask their lack of personality, and normal, decent, good people — well, they just like the stuff. Self included. I love it, and while I’d say it’s not the singular most common spice in my home (cumin? Hot chili powder? ITALIAN SEASONING BLEND?!) it is definitely up there. It’s an iconic flavor, really. That almost spicy, perfectly garlic flavor that can be described as nothing other than garlicky. When did our love affair with this beautiful bulb begin? I don’t know.

But roasted? Roasted is an entirely different love affair. There still remains in the bulb the barest hints of garlicky flavor, but this stuff you can eat straight. It makes a great vegetarian dip for crackers, to just roast a bulb and smash with olive oil. It’s round on the palatte, sweet without being overbearing, and tastes like heaven.

So now that you’re salivating (or maybe that’s just me), to roast it. Take a whole bulb, LARGE. The largest you can find in the store around this time of year. Later in the fall, when the garlic is delightfully in full season, it’ll be closer to average size that you’re wanting. You’ll want at least 2 for the recipe, and if you like this like I like this, add another for snacking on later.

Now, chop ‘is ickle head off! From the top end (Point side, not fuzzy side), hack off at least a quarter of an inch. enough to bare the tops of all the little cloves of garlic. And no, you didn’t hear me say peel, or smash, or any of those barbaric things. How are your little garlics supposed to become delicious naked and beaten??? You can only lop their heads off. Uncover the tops of as many cloves as you can, as the uncovered cloves will taste best, and will also be easier to work with. This might mean going back and slicing some cloves in half separately from the bulb, this is fine. Put these in a large pan (we’ll be putting other stuff in here later).

Now take some nice extra-virgin olive oil and drizzle it all over the tops, getting its preciousness down into all the little cracks and crevices. Mmm. Now stick in the oven you set to 400 a minute ago. You didn’t? Well, stick it in the cold oven, and set oven to 400. An hour from now (1/2 hour to 45 minutes otherwise) it will be quite delicious.

Okay. So now to prepare thine chickens! Plain old boring BSCB (Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, in Liz-Grocery-List speak), should be thawed and whole. If you can find Boneless, skin on, you are a lucky human being, dance for joy, and use those for maximum benefit. Normally I’d use plain chicken and debone myself, but if you’ve ever smelled roasting garlic, you know you’ll be too hungry to think of boning chicken when that comes out of the oven.

Drizzle some more of that olive oil on top of these chicken breasts, and smother with salt and cracked pepper. Do NOT bother if it’s not cracked pepper, it will get too hot and taste bitter. You can add pepper later to the sauce. When there is a half-hour left on your timer, and the garlic is starting to smell of something, put the chicken in the pan to roast. (I don’t cover the pan, so it’s actually braising, but it’s still quite delicious.)

Now onto the tomatoes! Cut these in half, a paring knife or kitchen shears will do the job nicely, and place them, skins down, in a small pan (or, if you work fast and hate dishes, you can put them in the pan with the chicken and garlic 10 minutes before countdown). Once they are all laid out, pull out some fresh romano cheese and your favorite cheese grater, and shred some romano cheese on the top. If this is too extravagant, plain parmesan will do.

Roast for 10 minutes.

Pull everything out of the oven, smelling like heaven. To get the roasted garlic out of the bulb, grab it by it’s root end and squish down the plant. Do this directly into your favorite blender. Get as much heavenly brown goo out as you can.

Here, the recipe departs into comfort food (dump all or most of the tomatoes in with the garlic, holding out a few for those that LOVE ROASTED TOMATOES LIKE ME) or Lady Sophisticate food (hold back all of the tomatoes).

Blend, adding olive oil in as you go. If you used the tomatoes, you’re looking for spaghetti sauce consistency. If you didn’t, you’re looking for something very, very thin.

Chop up your chicken and boil some penne (yeah, I know, misadvertised. You could use spaghetti, if you wanted). Mix everything together, top with some more cheese, and toss the reserved tomatoes on top.

Heaven.

So you can buy stock pretty easily nowadays. Canned, boxed….it’s everywhere. But making your own is cheaper – and from the personal finance point of view, soup is one of the best ways to stretch a dollar, ever.

Also, this way you get to control what goes in.

We’ll assume chicken stock. This means you want BONE-IN CHEAP chicken. Dark meat is preferred, and lookit that. Bone-in mixed thighs and legs are something like 49c at my grocery store. Exactly what we’re looking for. 2 pounds. (If this is beef stock, find the cheapest beef you can, and if you can get bones from your butcher, the better. Pork? This is WHY they sell ham hocks!)

Now, while you’re at the grocery store, pick up some vegetables, namely: Carrots, Onions, Celery (enough of each to make a cup, chopped). The French call this a mirepoix(there the french go again), and it’s hugely popular in tons and TONS of food. Especially soup! Obviously, if you don’t like any of these things, leave them out. My husband promises, chicken noodle is just as tasty sans the onion.

Okay, so now head to the spices aisle and add anything you might not have (or have run out of): garlic, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, basil (in order of optional-ness. Garlic is not, but *I* barely ever put the basil in.)

So, back to the home-place! If you’re a purist and you got fresh herbs, put them in a little piece of cheesecloth (2 fresh bay leaves, a BIG handful of parsley, a few springs of thyme, 2 leaves basil) and tie the whole thing with a string. Leave enough string to dangle off the side of your stock pot, for easy retrieval. If you’re like me, and just go with dried (easier to store that way), you’ll put in 1 tablespoon of parsley, 1 bay leaf, a tsp of thyme and a tsp of basil.

Rinse the chicken off, thoroughly salt and pepper it, and toss in the stock pot with 1 cup of the diced carrots, one cup diced onion, and one cup diced celery. Cover with 2-3 quarts of water, and toss in your herb packet and 4 whole, peeled cloves of garlic.

Cover and boil for 4 hours. If you need it to be an hour, it won’t taste as good, but it can be ready as soon as the chicken is done.

So four hours later, your whole house smells like joy and the neighbors are drooling at your window. Strain out everything, saving both the water (now transformed into chicken stock, woo!!!) and the…well, mess.

Stick your chicken stock in the fridge. When it’s cold, there will be a fatty goop at the top, discard this. Dance, because you have made your VERY OWN chicken stock, including all the things you like, and leaving out all the things you don’t.

Now, back to the mess. Rinse this with cold water until everything is cool enough to touch, but not cold. It’s easier to do this while everything is still warm. Pick out the chicken, pull it off the bones, tossing the bones and skin in the garbage. Spoon out as much mirepoix as is not covered in crud, and put all of this stuff back into the stock once you’ve gotten the fat off the top.

Whew! It really isn’t this work intensive! Promise! And this is the HOME STRETCH! Also, at this point, you can put the whole lot in those big freezer baggies, and stick it in the freezer for homemade soup, whenever you happen to need it.

However, we’ll assume that you want to make chicken noodle and eat the fruits of your labor NOW. Add as many noodles as you like from a bag of cheap egg noodle and put back in the pot and boil until noodles are done. Salt and pepper to taste.

Yeah, the last step is a bit anticlimactic. I know.

Enjoy your soup!

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