State of the Chicken Address

So from the title of this, you might have some idea of how long its been since I actually made this food. But we’re going to ignore the fact that the State of the Union Address is something that happened in January, because, you know, its only been 5 months, to the day. That’s not too long, right? I’d say something about how I’m going to get better at posting, but I think I say that all the time. To myself, if not publicly on my blog. Anyways, enough shaming myself for not being a good blogger. Onward, to food!

I remember last year, for the State of the Union, I was in college, and it was the first time I really put effort forth into watching the talk (rather than not watching, or just watching it with my parents). I’d made potstickers… I don’t know why I remember that I’d made potstickers, but I had, and I sat down on the couch with my laptop on the table, eating my potstickers and watching the address, when my Chinese roommate walked in and wanted to know what we were watching. It was a fun moment, explaining it all to her, and I think she sat and watched with us for a bit, but that might be wishful thinking.

… right before I wrote about having made potstickers, I decided I was hungry for potstickers and put some rice in the rice cooker to eat with them potstickers when I’m done writing this. I swear it isn’t correlated.

Anyways, this time around, I had similar thoughts about food. I had thawed a couple of chicken breasts, and I wanted to do something with chicken. Having no idea what to do with the chicken, I headed to Fridge Food and started looking for ideas. I found some truly terrible ones, including “teriyaki sauce” made only from mayonnaise and soy sauce. Seriously, if you venture into random recipe websites, use caution. And maybe common sense.

I did find a recipe that looked good eventually. It was a basic soy
sauce, ginger and brown sugar marinade, fried and served with rice. With
about an hour before the State of the Union was about to start, I mixed
up the marinade with a tablespoon, because, well, why dirty more than one spoon?

Okay, 5 months later, I don’t know why I took this picture. Look! Chicken!

I really hate handling raw chicken, but something that’s made it way better is having kitchen scissors. It’s way easier to cut chicken into bite sized chunks with kitchen scissors than with a knife, and the added benefit that you can cut it over a ceramic plate and then pop that right in the dishwasher…

… because salmonella is scary. And raw chicken / raw chicken juice smells really bad if you leave it out. I wish I could say I don’t know this from experience.

Oh, also, I didn’t have bowls in my new kitchen at this point. So everything was getting mixed in tupperware containers. That situation has since been rectified.

Once the chicken was marinading, it was time to start the rice, since the rice cooker takes around 20 minutes. I’m not sure exactly how long it takes, actually, I just know that right now, I’m hungry, and the rice cooker is taking way too long (by which I mean, my apartment smells deliciously of rice, but the rice isn’t ready to eat yet).

As if to taunt myself further, here’s a beautiful picture of cooked rice.

Growing up, I always cooked rice on the stove. Rice cookers felt like cheating (but mostly, I just didn’t own one). Then sometime, not long before this rice cooker got purchased, a couple of Asian friends were saying that they don’t know any Asians who don’t use rice cookers.

Now… now I have a rice cooker and 2 crockpots. All the easy cooking can happen!

Once the chicken had been marinading for a while, I popped it on the stove, sauce and all. Since I haven’t said it enough yet, Salmonella is scary. Cook your chicken until there’s no pink in the middle. Cook all your meats thoroughly and make sure to wash anything that’s touched raw meat really well. K?

I know you all need to see my beautiful bamboo rice paddle. I love it. I can’t/shouldn’t wash it in the dishwasher, but the feel of bamboo in my hands is worth it. (I also prefer bamboo knitting needles, I’m sure its related.)

I’m slowly curating a bamboo and red kitchen. It wasn’t on purpose at first. It’s starting to get more purposeful.

See, wasn’t that easy? I made a food! It could use a little more color if it wants to look pretty, but I didn’t need pretty, I needed food in my belly while I watched the president tell us how the Union is doing.

Oh wait, it was missing something. Meat and carbs isn’t really a balanced meal, and all that salty needs some sweet to balance it out.

 So, obviously, the solution is to eat pinapple straight out of the can with chopsticks, right?

Right.

Seriously, try it sometime, it’s fun!

I didn’t get to explain the State of the Union to anyone this time, but I did get to enjoy chatting about our thoughts on it with some knitting friends I met on the internet.

Hey! My rice is done! What timing!

State of the Chicken

Ingredients
4 to 5 boneless skinless Chicken Breasts
1/4 c. oil
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tbsp. ground ginger
1/4 c. soy sauce.

  1. Cut chicken into ~1 inch cubes (I recommend kitchen scissors!)
  2. Combine all non-chicken ingredients, add chicken
  3. Marinate 30 min. to 1 hour
  4. Heat frying pan on high
  5. Pour marinated chicken into heated pan, cook thoroughly (5-8 minutes)
  6. Serve over rice
4 to 5 boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, diced into 1 inch cubes
1/4 c. oil
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tbsp. ground ginger
1/4 c. soy sauce.
Read more at http://myfridgefood.com/viewrecipe.aspx?recipe=20846#VkTZxieJXAcsjRFI.99

Ingredients

4 to 5 boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, diced into 1 inch cubes
1/4 c. oil
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tbsp. ground ginger
1/4 c. soy sauce.

Directions

Marinate 30 min. to 1
hour. Heat frying pan on high. Pour marinated chicken into heated pan.
(add veggies if you like) Cooks in 5 to 8 minutes. Serve over rice.

Read more at http://myfridgefood.com/viewrecipe.aspx?recipe=20846#VkTZxieJXAcsjRFI.99

Ingredients

4 to 5 boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, diced into 1 inch cubes
1/4 c. oil
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tbsp. ground ginger
1/4 c. soy sauce.

Directions

Marinate 30 min. to 1
hour. Heat frying pan on high. Pour marinated chicken into heated pan.
(add veggies if you like) Cooks in 5 to 8 minutes. Serve over rice.

Read more at http://myfridgefood.com/viewrecipe.aspx?recipe=20846#VkTZxieJXAcsjRFI.99

Ingredients

4 to 5 boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, diced into 1 inch cubes
1/4 c. oil
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tbsp. ground ginger
1/4 c. soy sauce.

Directions

Marinate 30 min. to 1
hour. Heat frying pan on high. Pour marinated chicken into heated pan.
(add veggies if you like) Cooks in 5 to 8 minutes. Serve over rice.

Read more at http://myfridgefood.com/viewrecipe.aspx?recipe=20846#VkTZxieJXAcsjRFI.99

Ingredients

4 to 5 boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, diced into 1 inch cubes
1/4 c. oil
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tbsp. ground ginger
1/4 c. soy sauce.

Directions

Marinate 30 min. to 1
hour. Heat frying pan on high. Pour marinated chicken into heated pan.
(add veggies if you like) Cooks in 5 to 8 minutes. Serve over rice.

Read more at http://myfridgefood.com/viewrecipe.aspx?recipe=20846#VkTZxieJXAcsjRFI.99

Ingredients

4 to 5 boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, diced into 1 inch cubes
1/4 c. oil
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tbsp. ground ginger
1/4 c. soy sauce.

Directions

Marinate 30 min. to 1
hour. Heat frying pan on high. Pour marinated chicken into heated pan.
(add veggies if you like) Cooks in 5 to 8 minutes. Serve over rice.

Read more at http://myfridgefood.com/viewrecipe.aspx?recipe=20846#VkTZxieJXAcsjRFI.99

Mystery Soup

Sometime last week, I realized I haven’t seen one of my best friends in 6 months. It’d be one thing if this was someone who lived far away, but it isn’t, and that’s just unacceptable. Especially considering the amount of life we’ve both been through in the past six months.

After a few texts, we decided to get together and make dinner. But we didn’t want to make plans, so the plan was to see what was in my fridge and make food with it. The final text warned me that she would bring “mystery ingredients”.

Those mystery ingredients turned out to be a pepper, some tomatoes, and a box of pasta. After some panicked running around, we finally got to cooking. Protip: don’t leave your debit card in the ATM. Thankfully, ATMs tend to eat forgotten debit cards these days. So its just an inconvenience and not actually a problem.

First, we removed a bunch of things from my fridge. Apologies for the mess. Not really, I’m human.

With a lot of food and a hungry sourdough starter sitting out on the counter, we set about figuring out what to make.

No worries, we weren’t going to put sourdough starter in anything. It just needed feeding – that thick dark layer on top of it is alcohol because the yeast has started fermenting instead of … feeding, I guess. More on that some other time, or in this older post.

We threw out the idea of pasta sauce right away. It just seemed too obvious. The next thought was to find something to do with soba noodles – that package in the back left of the photo? Its about 3 pounds of soba noodles. I’m set for a while.

I’m also not that familiar with things to do with soba noodles, except putting them in soup. So we decided to make a soba noodle soup.

After a consideration of the ingredients at hand, we decided to start it like a chowder or bisque – with a roux. And what’s the best way to start a roux?

Bacon!

I started cooking bacon while my friend prepared the peppers and tomatoes for roasting on my lovely cast iron pan.

Once the bacon was done, I pulled out the bacon, left the grease, and added some flour to start the roux. Added the rest of a carton of milk and the rest of a carton of heavy cream, and started selecting things at random to add to the soup. Well, not entirely at random, we went based on things we thought would taste good with the soup.

Around this point, I also forgot to take any more pictures, apparently. This may or may not have had something to do with the fact that soup turned out so good, for such a random soup. In fact, I believe the exact words when we first tasted the soup was “shut the fun bus!” or maybe it was “shut the full cup!”

I know, that wasn’t very descriptive, but I should really just let the recipe speak for itself. All measurements are approximate.

Mystery Soup

Ingredients:
1 bell pepper
2 tomatoes
Olive oil
Coarse sea salt
1/2 pound of bacon
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup Trader Joes boxed tomato soup
1/2 cup Kirkland Signature (Costco) lobster bisque
1 sprig of thyme
2 anchovies
1 scoop dijon mustard
Dash of garlic powder
  1. Turn oven on to 400 degrees. It doesn’t need to preheat, persay, but may as well get it started.
  2. Slice tomato and pepper into long thin strips. Arrange in a single layer on an oven-safe pan – cast iron preferred. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt.
  3. Put pan in oven, allow to roast through the rest of the cooking process. The peppers and tomatoes should be soft and browned in spots when they are removed.
  4. Put a large pot on the stove on medium heat. Slice bacon into bite-sized pieces or smaller, and fry on the bottom of the pot until cooked to your preference.
  5. Remove bacon, leave grease in pot. Feel free to nibble on the bacon while cooking. Yes, you probably should have cooked more bacon.
  6. Add flour to the pot and stir until combined. Add milk and heavy cream, keep stirring, until thickened. (It doesn’t make sense, I know, but suddenly it will be a lot thicker than it was.)
  7. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, including the bacon. Stir until well heated, well combined, anchovies have disappeared, etc.
  8. Remove the now roasted tomatoes and peppers from the oven and add to soup.
  9. Serve with bread. Yum!
Feel free to add or subtract ingredients as you see fit. The point of this for us was experimentation, a stone soup sort of thing. No reason you can’t try that too!
And congratulations to those of you who noticed that the soba noodles didn’t make it in to the final recipe.

Homemade pizza!

Let me just start by saying that, for about a year now, I have been participating intermittently in reddit gifts exchanges.  It’s a branch of reddit, if you will, that organizes secret santa type exchanges between internet strangers.

Definitely people have their qualms about it, and definitely some people sign up and then don’t give a gift, but in general, I think the system is pretty awesome.  The first time I participated, I received Killer Bunnies drinking glasses from someone who does glass etching as a hobby.  A more recent time, I sent someone some awesome stationary and was rewarded with pictures of their cat playing in the box.

This time around, my especially generous gifter gave me a cast iron pizza pan, which is incredibly useful for things like making pizza.  And bread.  Oooooh joy the bread baking I will be doing.

And seriously, look at that beautiful pizza.  Doesn’t it make you just want to immediately pop that baby in the oven and replicate that beautiful pizza?

Not so fast.  First you have to make the dough, and that takes time.  You have to mix up some yeast and some water and some other things and let them sit so the yeasty babies can get ready to start nomming on some gluten.  Or however that works.

Then you have to add enough flour to make the dough easy to handle so when you knead it, it doesn’t stick to your hands.

Note: two easy indicators of “easy to handle”.  The shinyness of it (this dough is shiny and therefore damp enough to be sticky).  Also, the amount it sticks to your stirrer.  You can see here that it was still sticking to my stirrer a lot.

Once my dough was “easy to handle” (note: mine wasn’t, quite), I spread some flour over the counter to prepare for kneading.  I usually recommend putting a cookie sheet down or something to contain the flour, for easier cleanup, but… I felt like making a mess this time around.

Plop that baby down and knead it!

Probably my favorite part of the baking process, it’s hard to do wrong and it’s so meditative.

Eventually the gluten gets super strong and your dough becomes… bread-dough like.  Nice and smooth and, in this case, a little too sticky and shiny.

But that’s okay, I just left it out to rise, and then put it in the fridge.

Two days later, it was time to make pizza.

I sprayed the pan with cooking spray, since this is new cast iron and not quite non-stick yet.  Spread out the dough, added my favorite toppings (cheese and sauce) and my dad’s favorite topping (anchovies).

Then it went in the oven.

As an out of order aside – this is a “pizza docker”.  I got it in a previous redditgifts exchange, and hadn’t used it yet.  You roll it over your pizza dough after spreading it out over the pan but before adding toppings to poke out any air bubbles in the dough.  I think.  I’m not 100% sure yet, but I did it, and the pizza turned out nicely, so I guess it did its job.

See?  Pizza!  It was a little bit doughy on the top of the crust in the center, but still delicious.  Our ideas for improvement of the slight doughyness:
1) Less watery sauce
2) Cook the crust for ~5 minutes before adding toppings
3) A little more flour in the dough (as I mentioned, it was still a bit sticky)
4) Pre-heating the pan and sliding the pizza onto it like they do in fancy pizza shops with stone ovens.

Overall?  Would definitely make again.  Actually, I have been informed that I will be making it again in 2 days.  Hopefully it goes as well or better this time.

Pizza
Recipe from my dear friend Kathrine
Makes one 12 inch pizza (I doubled the recipe to make a 14 inch pizza with a thick crust, and it was perfect)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup water (around room temperature)
2 and 1/4 teaspoons or one package of yeast
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Some salt (between 1/4 to 1 teaspoon)
Cooking spray
Toppings of choice

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. With a spoon, stir in half of the flour and all of the oil, salt and sugar. Stir in enough of the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough is easy to handle.
  2. Sprinkle flour lightly on a countertop or large cutting board. Place the dough on floured surface. Knead by folding the dough toward you, then with the heels of your hands, pushing the dough away from you with a short rocking motion. Move the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, sprinkling surface with more flour if the dough starts to stick, until the dough is smooth and springy. 
  3. Spray a large bowl with the cooking spray. Place the dough in bowl, turning it to grease all sides. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place 20 minutes.
  4. Gently push your fist into the dough to deflate it. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 2 hours but no longer than 48 hours. (If dough should double in size during refrigeration, gently push your fist into the dough to deflate it.)
  5. Heat the oven to 425°F.
  6. Spread out the dough on a pizza pan or pizza stone, sauce and cheese and top your pizza how you want it, and then cook for 15-20 minutes.

Meat and Eggs and Bread (Oh my!)

A couple weeks ago, my boyfriend won a gift certificate to an Irish pub in my hometown.

This may be entirely the only reason why I came to be eating at an Irish pub that I’d never been to before, even though it’s been in my hometown for… a while.

Regardless, the food was fantastic.  He had meat and potatoes something.  I had Shepard’s Pie, which came with a slice of Irish soda bread.  And that is where this entire cooking fiasco started.

I’d heard about Irish soda bread before.  Something about a bread that’s really easy to make because it doesn’t require yeast.  Actually, I don’t think I really got it until I ate it.  I knew it had baking soda in it, but it didn’t occur to me until I was eating it that its… bread that uses baking soda as leavening.

(Don’t laugh at me.  It’s not like I really had any reason to ponder the reality of soda bread before.  I’m sure I would have figured it out if I’d tried.)

Anyways, the bread was delicious, and I immediately decided I wanted to make some.

Fast forward a couple of weeks.  Dinner had been late and lazy for a while, and I’ve been feeling like I want to cook more.  I get the impression that nobody has plans, so I ask my parents if they have anything they’re interested in and intend to cook it.  No suggestions, except the one from my own stomach – the realization that, every time I smell dinner cooking, I start hoping it’s meatballs.  I’m already planning on making soda bread that day, so I figure I can throw together some pasta and meatballs as well.

“If we don’t have any frozen meatballs,” I tell myself, “I’ll make my own!”

So I stop by the store for some buttermilk for the bread, and head home.  By the time I get home, I’ve found I’m salivating at the idea of making my own meatballs enough that I don’t want store bought ones regardless… so, once the bread is in the oven, I find a recipe and…

Getting ahead of myself here.  Bread first!

Soda bread is really easy.  Sorta.

Apparently, American Irish soda bread is more of a dessert bread – with sugar and fruit and things to make it sweet and more palatable.  That’s not what I wanted.  I wanted bread.

So I found a recipe in from the New York Times that offered just that.

Basically, flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk.  Mix the dry ingredients, add buttermilk.

I didn’t feel like making butter or anything this time, so I went ahead and just purchased buttermilk.  Reading the ingredients on my buttermilk, however… I think I’ll stick to making it in the future.

Carrangeenan is a fun word to say, though.

The standard technique for mixing dry and wet ingredients is to make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and then add the wet to the well, and slowly mix.  Naturally, my well is never big enough and the wet ingredients always overflow.  Which is fine in a bowl, but once, I was making bread on the counter, and my dad just kept pouring the wet ingredients even after the overflowing happened… then we got to clean egg off the floor.

The bread mixed okay, but it was a little wet which made it hard to form nicely.  Lots of sticky-outty parts where my hands stuck to the dough while forming.

Also, it’s usually a good idea to move the oven racks before pre-heating the oven.  Which I never do.  If you don’t do that, at least move the oven racks before trying to bake something…

Now I’m going to pause my discussion of bread making.  Once I put the bread in the oven, I went and found a meatball recipe.  It was even Irish meatballs, because… well actually, it was the best one I found.  Looked tasty, and I had all the ingredients on hand already (yes, even the Panko breading.  Probably got 1.5 boxes of that stuff in the cupboard for some reason).

So I went to gather the ingredients, only to discover, to my horror, that I was wrong.  I didn’t have all the ingredients.  Usually, I would respond to this by just omitting the missing ingredient, or finding a substitution… but when you’re making meatballs, it’s pretty hard to omit or substitute out… the meat.

The store is close, though, so I just checked how much longer the bread needed to be in the oven for… and, as it turned out, I hadn’t set a timer either.  But it definitely hadn’t been in for the full time, so I figured I was safe if I just took it out when I got home.

If the house three doors down had caught fire before, rather than after, this cooking incident, I probably would have just said “screw meatballs” and we’d have a happy blog post about bread.  Instead, I went to the store, bought some meat, and got back to…

Slightly overcooked but still mostly delicious Irish soda bread.

Also, totally formless and I think this gets a score of “not yet perfect, try again”.

Hm, I should implement a scoring system on my blog, on a scale from “never again” to “never change”.

Now that I was much further behind schedule than I’d wanted, I started making meatballs.

Basil, garlic, onions, things that taste good with meat and pasta sauce, basically.

Then, meat.  I halved the recipe because who really wants to be serving 40 meatballs to 3 people.  Even a pound of meat seemed excessive, but I figured I’d go for it, and besides, the recipe called for 2 eggs and I like to avoid halving eggs.

As per the recipe, I mixed the meat and everything else but the eggs together, then added 2 eggs and mixed that.

When I started forming the meatballs, they ended up large, so I only made 13 instead of the expected 20… they also ended up really soggy.  Like… really soggy.  The last few I pulled out of the bowl were so saturated with egg that it was more like an egg ball with meat added than a meat ball with egg.

No matter though.  I carried on through the strangeness.

They all got plopped on a pan and popped in the oven.

I realized my mistake when I went to “shake the pan so meat browns on all sides”, as per the recipe.

They didn’t shake, that’s for sure.  When I prodded with the spatula, they mostly just fell apart (as you can see from the final, cooked picture).

Wondering what I did?  Go back and reread the paragraph next to the picture of meat.  I halved the recipe, which called for 2 eggs.  Then added 2 eggs.

I got extra eggy meatballs.  I suppose this kind of thing is the cause of most of my kitchen disasters (doubling only the butter and sugar in cookies, etc).  And the meatballs were still delicious, especially on a pile of pasta and red sauce with a side of soda bread.

An unconventional dinner, but it worked, and I loved it.  I’d definitely make these meatballs again… perhaps with the right amount of egg next time.

The Almost Curry

Sounds like it could be a band name, eh?

Anyways, I’ve never been a huge fan of curry, but when I found a thread on reddit “How do you make an authentic curry?” I thought… hey… all my friends like curry… so why not try it?

Naturally, being a reddit thread, there were plenty of recipes for curry.  So I listed a bunch of ingredients and we took a trip to the Asian market and found them.  And started cooking.

Admittedly this happened so long ago that I don’t actually remember much of the process or the recipe.  But inevitably we had to chop things up.

Onions, potatoes…

Chicken…

Two notes here – one, I was glad for how many cutting boards I had in my college kitchen.  It meant I could chop a bunch of things up at once.  Two, it’s way easier to cut chicken with kitchen scissors than with a knife.  It is also way harder to wash the scissors than a knife, but probably worth it.

Here is probably where things started to be weird.  The recipes we had called for the same ingredients in different proportions.  So… I think we guessed.

Or something.

Anyways, we probably should have used the entire packet of curry paste.

Also those cinnamon sticks were cool.

Everything gets dumped in a pot and cooked for a while.  Which admittedly seems strange to me because chicken, but the chicken in this picture is clearly not cooked yet.

At this point, we realized that we didn’t have a can opener (I’d loaned it to my clinic team and it was on the other end of campus).  The old school poke a hole in the top of the can type opener worked fine for the coconut milk, but not so much for coconut cream…

This looks curry enough.  Doesn’t it?

I actually ended up loving the curry – the spices were more diluted, and it was overwhelmingly coconutty.

Unfortunately, those people who actually like curry (or at least one of them) were far less impressed.  And I didn’t like it quite enough to want the leftovers…

So I think next time we find a better recipe.

On the bright side, the bottle of wine we’d decided to drink with the occasion just happened to claim to go well with Indian food.

Total coincidence, I swear.  I don’t have the slightest idea how to do wine pairings, but at least that part of the meal worked.  (And, well, the part where I liked it).

But otherwise, I think next time I make curry (if there is a next time), I’ll be sticking to a single recipe.  Maybe if Alton Brown has one…