Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin has to be as well-known as Boeuf Bourguigon. My daughter gave me a little French history lesson tonight. Most of us think of Coq au Vin as chicken with wine. However, did you know that the word coq is actually French for rooster? Technically, it translates to rooster with wine.

Roosters were once used because they were larger and meatier, and the dish was used to feed soldiers. Over time (and with loads of hormones) chickens became larger and could provide as much meat as a rooster. I wonder what rooster tastes like. Is it more wild? Does it taste just like chicken? Haha.

I went to D & W this morning to get coffee and creamer, and I found an organic cut-up chicken on its last sale date, saving me 50%. Score! This was great because it meant that I did not have to go to the meat market on the other side of town.

I followed the recipe pretty much to Julia's directions, except for lighting it on fire. After the chicken is browned, 1/4 cup of cognac (cone-yay) is added, and then the mixture is lit on fire until the flame dies down. However, I didn't see cognac on the list before I went to the grocery store, so I missed out on playing pyromaniac for a day. Next time I WILL buy the cognac just so I can light a fire in the kitchen.

My family loved this dinner, and I know I will make it again. Oh, and I must add that I did NOT use cooking wine! I had Cassandra pick out the perfect red wine for this dish. It was a red wine from a Michigan winery in Lelanau.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Weekend Cooking

Weekends are usually a time when I don't cook elaborately. We're usually working around the house and running errands, so I don't like to cook. Sounds funny, especially since I will cook more elaborately during the week when I have less time.

Jake loves hamburgers cooked on the grill, but Cass does not like beef much. In order to appease her, he thought about chicken burgers. I called our favorite meat market, and they do not sell ground chicken, nor will they grind chicken. Since I don't like buying non-organic meat, I decided to buy the chicken at the meat market, and then I bought a food grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. It worked great, but it sure grossed me out to grind that chicken! Overall, it was well-worth the effort, and I will do it again...someday. Below is my own original recipe for the chicken burgers.

2 1/2 pounds ground chicken breast
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 egg
1/3-1/2 C plain bread crumbs

Mix the ingredients all together (will be very soft). Cut enough burger sized squares from waxed paper to have one patty on each and one to use on top of the chicken mixture when forming the patties. Take a square and place a 1/4-1/3 cup of chicken mixture in the middle. Put another square on top and smash down to make a patty. Cook on a grill until done.

Today I made fresh peach cobbler. I went out to a farm in Mattawan and bought a bushel of peaches, a peck of pears and a peck of apples. YES, apples! They already have gala apples available. Since Collin has oral allergy syndrome, he cannot eat fresh fruits or vegetables. I buy quite a bit of canned fruit for him, and he mentioned that he would like canned apples. So, I will attempt to can apples. I'm quite experienced with canning peaches, so those won't be any trouble. I've just never canned pears or apples. How hard can it be, right?

Back to the peach cobbler. Collin helped me find a recipe online for one, and we chose the Southern Peach Cobbler over Paula Deen's recipe. I'm so glad I did. It was easy and wonderful. Here is a link to the recipe: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/southern-peach-cobbler-2/detail.aspx

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Perfect Poultry

During the day today, I had the pleasure of IM-ing with my friend and co-worker. We were talking about food and how we will be cooking the same dinner tomorrow night...on purpose (a portobello mushroom parmesan). Part of our conversation was discussing tonight's dinner. I was taking a break at the time, so I began to thumb through Julia's cookbook. I knew I wanted to try my first roasted chicken according to Julia's method, and I was going to just do a basic recipe until my friend asked me if I was going to stuff it. Hey, that was a good idea! Although I did not settle on a stuffed roasted chicken recipe, the one I did make was amazing.

I chose Poulet Poele a L'Estragon (it drives me crazy that I can not put in the accents). This translates to Casserole-Roasted Chicken with Tarragon. However, according to Google translate, it means Tarragon Chicken Burning Stove. I laughed out loud when that came up! As you gathered from the title, there was tarragon involved....and lots of it. Nothing beats fresh tarragon in a chicken dish, and it definitely lived up to its potential tonight. A fairly easy dish to prepare, it is also quick to cook, considering some of the other casseroles I've made.

While the chicken cooked, I roasted organic baby potatoes and mini onions with some olive oil and adobo seasoning. If you've never tried adobo seasoning, I highly recommend that you find some and begin using it to season potatoes, eggs, chicken, beef, rice, and ice cream. Just kidding about the ice cream. I was just checking to make sure you are reading carefully. Adobo is a mix of onion, garlic and other spices, and it is savory and salty, so you only need a little to make a big impact.

To finish off the chicken, I made the brown tarragon sauce from the cookbook. This was simple because I used the juice from the chicken, cornstarch blended with red wine, and fresh, minced tarragon. It was slightly tangy and went perfectly with the potatoes and chicken. Oh, I almost forgot. I picked a couple handfuls of wax beans and green beans from the garden tonight, and I cooked those to go along with dinner, too. They were yummy-licious!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Eggs for Dinner

Tonight's dinner was very easy and amazingly yummy. Souffle au Fromage was tonight's dinner.....Cheese Souffle. I've never had souffle, and all day long I looked forward to making it.

Before I could cook tonight, I had to go to Target after work to buy a souffle mold. I couldn't find exactly what I wanted, so I settled for a Giada 2 1/2 qt casserole dish. Now that I've used it, I'm very glad I settled. The off-white color goes perfectly with my new dishes, and since I will soon be giving away my old dishes and serving bowls to my brother and his wife, I need new serving bowls.

The recipe is not all that involved. Four egg yolks, five egg whites, some butter, a little flour, some cheese, a pinch of salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper and NO wine! Ahhh...the first recipe without wine. I did manage to slightly screw up this recipe when I added my dash of nutmeg. I didn't realize that the shaker top was stuck inside the cap, so my dash turned into a down-pour. I did manage to spoon out as much as I could, but there was still a little more than a dash left. Ah, bien. Of course there was a, "Zut alors!" Which is French, and my saying for whenever something has gone wrong. Zut alors means something like darn it all. Zut on its own is kind of naughty. I must admit that I do often use zut by itself.

The rest of the recipe went off without a hitch, and the souffle was put in the oven in a timely manner. After 20 minutes, the souffle had risen a bit, but it was not near the top like it should have been. I gave it 5 more minutes, and it still had not risen to the top of the mold, but the top of the souffle was starting to brown. Five more minutes, and it was done. For some reason, it didn't rise over the top like it was supposed to, and I wonder if the egg whites weren't beat as stiffly as they could have been. I guess that means that I need to make this savory, full-bodied flavored, delectable dish again.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Dinner Special

So far I've cooked two beef dishes, crepes and a dessert. Although I was hoping my next dinner would be Coq au vin, I came across the Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence. With a name that glorious, how could I just pass it up? After all, I did have time to really cook today.

Of course, this recipe did call for wine, either white or a vermouth. Being that I'm fully disgusted with buying wine, I had already decided that I would use cooking wine from now on. It was off to Meijer to find white cooking wine. Lucky for me, Meijer has all of their cooking wine on sale this week. I bought four: white, red, vermouth, and marsala. After all, I knew I was going to need all of them at one point.

Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence is Chicken sauteed with herbs and garlic, egg yolk and butter sauce. Why is it that the French term always sounds so much better?

The recipe called for a cut-up frying chicken, but I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead. I was supposed to use a stick of butter, but I used just a half a stick and some olive oil. Actually, I was planning on using just olive oil, but the pan was too dry, and Julia told me that I needed to baste the chicken with the butter and herbs as it cooked in the skillet. Julia is one smart woman...basting chicken with butter and herbs makes for tender chicken! Once the chicken was done, I added 1/4 cup of vermouth wine and cooked it on high until the liquid was reduced by 1/2. This liquid was added a little at a time to the 2 egg yolks, lemon juice and (more) wine and cooked for a few minutes until the egg mixture was hot. At the last minute (literally), I added 2 tsp of fresh-from-my-garden basil. This sauce was poured over the chicken. It was a perfect lemony-creamy-herb sauce for chicken. Delish! This will be a repeat dinner, as everyone enjoyed it.

*The picture of the little pitcher is actually a creamer, and I used it for the sauce.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Birthday Boy's Dinner

Happy Birthday to my husband! I've been blessed to share another year with someone who supports my every whim and cheers me on with my career. In true fashion, he chose a French recipe from Julia's cookbook....Carbonnades a la flamande. Sounds exotic, doesn't it? It translates to beef and onions braised in beer. I like the French name better, don't you?

I'm not a beer drinker, so I had no idea how to find the beer I needed. All I knew was that I needed a light pilsner. Oh, and let's not forget the orange liqueur that I needed for the dessert...that in a minute. As I was perusing the aisle in Meijer looking for the liqueur, I thought about how often the French use alcohol in their recipes. Noting how expensive the alcohol is, I decided that I will not be choosing many more dishes that require it. Meijer proved to be too overwhelming for trying to find the liqueur, so I went to a local liquor store to ask for help. The man was very helpful. He helped me find the light beer....Bud Light (haha) and the orange liqueur that I needed. He even helped me keep the costs low. Claps for him!

The Carbonnades a la Flamande proved to be as easy to make as Boeuf Bourguignon, and it took just as long to cook. Both turned out extremely tender, probably the combination of searing the beef and the addition of alcohol. Although these recipes do most of their cooking in a covered casserole dish in the oven, I've decided that the next time a recipe asks for it to cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, I will just put it in the crockpot and see if I get the same results.

What did tonight's dinner taste like? TOTAL amazingness! It was slightly sweet, so I did have to sprinkle a little salt on it, but the combination of the beef, onions, fresh herbs (fresh from my herb garden), and beer created a heavenly chorus of tastes for my mouth! Still, it did not even compare to the dessert.

Dessert: Mousseline au Chocolat/Mayonnaise au Chocolat/Fondant au Chocolat. Do you know what it is? Chocolate Mousse. I remember my high school French teacher having us make chocolate mousse in class and then trying it, and as I made it today, I realized that the chocolate mousse I made in French class was nowhere near authentic. Although it is fairly easy to make, there are steps that must be followed carefully. For instance, it was interesting to cook the egg yolks with the sugar and orange liqueur on a pan over simmering water for 3 minutes, then whisking it with the pan over cold water. Next, the chocolate and coffee were cooked in a double-boiler, with the softened butter added a little at a time. Once those ingredients were fully incorporated, they needed to be whisked into the egg yolk mixture. The egg whites that were separated from the yolks went into the Kitchenaid mixer (couldn't imagine whisking them by hand) until they formed stiff peaks, and then 1/4 was fully mixed into the chocolate mixture and the rest folded in just before going into dessert cups. The mousse then chilled for 2 hours. That was the longest 2 hours of the day.

So far the Mousseline au Chocolat is my favorite recipe I've made. It's the right combination of ingredients, and I was able to pick out individual flavors as I savored it bite by bite. Too rich to eat at one sitting, I decided to save the rest for tomorrow when I need a pick me up (right after I withdraw a few kids for non-compliance).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Crepes for Dinner

And don't call them CREEPS! Hahaha...how many of you know how to pronounce this word? It's not creeps, but creps. French people would hit you over the head with a baguette if they heard you call them creeps.

Tonight for dinner I made crepes. I have never had a crepe, so I didn't know what to expect. I had heard they were wonderful because they were usually filled with fruit. As I read about them in Julia's book, I realized that they can be filled with ham, veggies, spinach, cheese, and fish. What a culinary treasure they are!

I thought that I could just whip them up and cook them. As I began putting the ingredients in the blender (yes, blender), I scanned down the page to the last sentence. Refrigerate for 2 hours before cooking. UGH. It was 6:00pm, and Julia told me that I needed to refrigerate the batter for 2 hours. I thought I would outsmart the old cook by putting the blender pitcher into the freezer for 20 minutes. I got really lucky because the consistency was a light cream that hung onto the spatula nicely, just as Julia described.

I heated up my electric griddle and began pulling toppings out of the refrigerator. It was then that I realized just how unprepared I was for these crepes. I had a bit of lemon juice, a couple cups of powdered sugar, some strawberry jam, and Nutella. Oh, and I also found some apple butter that I canned in 2007, which was still good. Did you know that some food can still be good after 100 years if preserved correctly?

The griddle was ready, and the batter was waiting patiently in the pitcher. I dipped my 1/4 cup measuring cup into the batter and poured it onto my heated griddle. I was not prepared for the batter running all over the place! I had to lift up the front end of the griddle to keep the batter from running into the overflow tray at the front of the griddle. By doing this, I created some really interesting shapes. In fact, one came out looking like Africa!

Crepes cook surprisingly quick, and it took me 1/2 the time to cook them as it does pancakes. They bring new meaning to "flat as a pancake," too. They are flatter than pancakes!

I think I ate about 9 crepes tonight. Granted, they were small. I tried them with Nutella, apple butter, and lemon juice and powdered sugar. The lemon juice with powdered sugar proved to be a party for my mouth! Yeah...I'll make them again. Now, you go get some!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beginning Safely

After last night's reading rendezvous, I decided that my first recipe needed to be a safe one. Ok, so I decided a couple of days ago, and last night's reading of sweetbreads reinforced my original plan.

Tonight's dinner was one of the most popular beef dishes: Boeuf Bourguignon. Remember in Julie and Julia, that was the one dish that she burned because she fell asleep waiting for it to cook? Well, lucky for me (and my family) mine did not burn. Come to think of it, that is a pretty major feat. After all, I've been on a real burn streak lately. I can't even make popcorn properly it seems!

Boeuf bourguignon is a pretty easy dish to make. It just takes a little time to prepare to go into the oven. Knowing that it would take me about 30-45 minutes to prepare, I took this time as my lunch today. I can't even begin to explain what a great detox from work this was for me. It was much more enjoyable to cook early in the day than when everyone is hungry and I'm reeling from the stress of work.

Ok, back to the beouf. So, what does Boeuf Bourguignon mean? It translates to beef stew in red wine, with bacon, onions, and mushrooms. We're not talking regular cooking wine, either. Nope. The good stuff. The stuff I never drink. The stuff about which I know nothing. The stuff that, surprisingly, about which my daughter has great knowledge. I chose a cabernet sauvignon....3 cups went into this recipe. I got a decent brand. The best quality ingredients were the beef (from a local farm) and bacon (from the local meat market).

What I loved about making this dish was the actual process. Julia breaks down the steps along with the ingredients. The ingredients list runs along the left side of the page, and directly across from a particular set of ingredients are the directions of what to do with those ingredients. I think the most fun was braising the meat. Once I cooked the bacon, I needed to braise the meat in the bacon fat. Mind you, the bacon was such high quality that there was almost no fat in the pan. I had to keep adding olive oil! Did you know that in order for meat to brown well, you have to DRY it? Yep. And how beautifully it browns, too!

The stew only took 2 1/2 hours to cook. My fork slid easily into the tender, mouthwatering beef. I couldn't wait to try it, so I kept the fork in that piece and pulled it out of the pan....mmmmm.....so good!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hmmmm.....Sweetbreads, anyone?

I've been enjoying reading through Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and I'm finding MANY recipes that I will not be trying. For instance, I'm very much against lamb and veal. There's just something about those cute little animals that gets me every time. Oh, and lobster. Although the thought of lobster does entice me...you know those commercials for Red Lobster...oooh, that lobster looks succulent! Anyway, I feel that the way they are boiled alive is rather inhumane. I can't bear to boil something while it's still alive and hear it scream.

As I dug deeper into the book tonight, I came across sweetbreads. Mmmmm...sweetbreads. I love sweetbreads, or at least I thought I did. Then I stopped reading in my tracks. Do you know what sweetbreads are? No, they are not the yumminess that you bake and eat for Sunday brunch. Nope. They are actually quite disgusting. In fact, I can't even ever imagine Julie from Julie and Julia actually cooking them and then EATING them. Sweetbreads are the thymus gland of a cow. This is what Julia has to say, "a whole sweetbread, which is the thymus gland of a calf and usually weighs about 1 pound, consists of 2 lobes connected by a soft, white tube, the cornet." EXCUSE ME?! Why in the world is that called a sweetbread? YUCK!

In an effort to get the sweetbreads out of my mind, I skipped right over the brains (yep, you read that right) recipes and landed in the kidney section. I think I'm just going to move over to the veggie section.....