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-2 slices of beer bread
-Carnation instant breakfast
-beef jerky (teriyaki flavour)
-a handful of almonds
Not necessarily in that order. NaBloPoMo combined with lack of time and inspiration makes for exciting blogging.
Today I have a series of photos for you in the style of Betty Crocker, circa 1965 (at least I think that’s what they look like. Sunsets at 4:30 kind of interfere with natural light). The recipe isn’t circa 1965, though. With its chipotle barbecue sauce, it’s more of a 2003 kind of thing.
I decided today that Carlo should come home from work to a nice meal today, the kind of meal that he loves. Luckily its a new job and he’s on good behavior and won’t be online, so I can tell you without ruining the treat for him.This is a recipe we’ve had before, an introduction from our best food friends who made it for us back when we lived in Montreal (hi B + G!).
While I love pork and I love ribs, this is definitely a Carlo recipe. The ribs, first marinated in a dry rub, cook slowly at low heat until they’re tender, glistening in fat, and then they’re wrapped in a tomato-chipotle dress and put back into the oven until the sauce has sunk in. I like fat as much as anyone, but not as much as Carlo. It’s impossible to love it as much as Carlo does.
I’m roasting a couple sweet potatoes and some brussels sprouts to go on the side, and I think those two will help me feel that this meal is virtuous.
Carlo’s going to sit down to this meal and when he takes a bite, his forehead will furrow at a small point between his eyebrows, and his eyes will almost-but-not-quite close, and he’ll be very quiet for a second, and then his face will clear and he’ll look up from his ribs and say “wow.” And that will be the sign that I look for, that combination of actions meaning that he’s happy and completely content. And that’s why I’m making ribs.
Baked Pork Ribs with Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from Bonnie Stern
4 strips of back ribs (I used about 2 lbs, but more would be better), shiny membrane on backside removed
2 Tbsp. smoked paprika (regular is fine too, but smoked adds some heat and interest)
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dry mustard
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
2-3 chipotle peppers
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Combine spice rub ingredients in a small bowl and rub them into ribs. Put the ribs into a shallow dish, cover, and set aside to marinate at room temperature for an hour.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet/pan with foil. Place marinated ribs in a single layer on pan, cover with more foil, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
While ribs are cooking, assemble your barbecue sauce by placing all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pureeing.
When 1 1/2 hours is up, remove ribs from oven, pour off the fat that has collected at the bottom of the pan, and then pour barbecue sauce over them, turning them over in the baking pan to ensure that they’re well-coated. Be generous with your sauce! Turn up the heat to 400 F and put ribs back in oven, uncovered, cooking for another 1/2 hour.
Oh, the puns, the puns. I was telling Carlo yesterday, I don’t know if my pun-brain is a blessing or a curse. Probably both– a blessing for me, because it always makes me feel clever, and a curse for everyone who is subjected to it, because, really, they have to hear the pun and then smile politely through gritted teeth.
As if monthly Daring Bakers creations weren’t enough, I’ve recently set myself a new personal challenge. For the last few months, the DB challenges have focused on one of my most-beloved and most-neglected cookbooks– Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Bakers Apprentice. It was a reminder and a great jump-start for an idea I’ve been kneading around for a while (see what I did there? Kneading develops the dough, I’m developing an idea. I’m clearly a brilliant wordsmith).
See, I love baking. There’s something about being wrist-deep in dough, and the careful steps along the way that’s so satisfying. There’s very little in the world that I enjoy more than sawing into a loaf of bread that I. Made. Myself. I love the patience it requires, and the skill, and I love the way that every time I bake a loaf of bread I learn something new. I love kneading dough until it comes together into a silky mass, I love the smooth belly of risen dough before I punch it down for shaping. I love bread.
I’m a decent, but not superb, bread baker, and I know that I’ve got a lot to learn about the chemistry and formulas and proportions of bread if I want to improve. I’ve long been fascinated and intimidated by Reinhart’s book. What I love is how informational the text is, how much I’ve learned already just by paging through the book. But now I’ve decided it’s time to get a little more serious. So I’ve decided to bake my way through the book. This is not a side-project, I’m not starting a new blog, it’ll just be a bit of reporting now and again on my attempts and (I hope) successes. Obviously since I’m cooking through the whole book I won’t be posting recipes (feel free to search for them elsewhere online. I know some are out there. The book is a great investment though), but I hope to talk about what worked for me, what didn’t work, and what I learned about bread-baking technique.
I suppose that technically I’ve already started this project with my Daring Bakers pizza, so I won’t call this an inaugural post. Over the weekend, I made ciabatta. I suppose I should have chosen cinnamon rolls, or remade lavash crackers (which I MADE but then didn’t post for the DB challenge date… oops), but I recently had some incredible ciabatta from a great local bakery, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Plus, we were having a dinner party and I wanted to make something so impressive, so beautiful and tasty, that Carlo’s family (our guests) would tell Carlo he should marry me all over again. So, ciabatta.
This bread required a pre-ferment, and I had the choice between a biga and a poolish. I chose the poolish, for no really good reason, except that it came first in the book. It’s a really easy-to-make sponge of just flour, yeast, and water, that I left out on the countertop for 4 hours to develop (it got all bubbly–see the photo below) before I popped it into the fridge overnight.
The next day I combined my poolish with flour, water and more yeast before the kneading process, which is one I’ve never used before. Because the dough was so wet, I couldn’t turn it out onto the counter to work with it. Instead, I left it in the bowl and used my hand like a dough hook, rotating the bowl with my other hand.
Yes, I could have used my stand mixer, and maybe it would even have turned out better. Hands-off work requires less flour addition, after all. And from what I understand, the reason I didn’t have nice big holes in my finished bread is because the dough wasn’t wet enough. But, like I said above, I love being wrist-deep in dough, so I went the hands-on route. I will try the stand mixer next time*.
The ciabatta baked into lovely loaves, helped along a bit by a super-preheated oven (baking stone in, oven preheated at 500 F for 45 minutes), and a little bit of spritzing in the early stages: put bread in, close oven door. Open oven door and spray walls of oven (I followed Reinhart’s suggestion and covered the glass of the door with a towel, just in case of errant sprays). Close oven door for 30 seconds, then spray again. Repeat once more.
As you can see by the picture at the top of the page, the bread baked up beautiful and golden. It had fantastic flavour, and while Carlo’s family didn’t start planning our second wedding, they all loved it, and two and a half loaves (they were small, granted) disappeared into 6 peoples mouths.
*ahem… I’ve got loaves in the oven as I write, made with the stand mixer. I’ll post an update if they work out differently from the ones I’ve already made.
|From Apple Jellies|
It’s 7:30 and I’m watching the sunrise. I do this every morning, and (lucky me?), I get the full effect, since I’m up at 5:00. Nowadays, it’s still completely black at five, so I wait for the sun with great anticipation. My desk faces the window, so I get to watch all the phases of light in the morning while I sit on the phone discussing the present perfect tense or the differences between “say” and “tell” with my students. My favourite phase of sunrise comes just after the sun is up, when a beautiful apricot light illuminates the apartment and everything in it lights up with gold.
One of the lovely idiosyncrasies of our apartment is that, although our windows are completely east-facing, we get a beautiful sunset to go along with the sunrise I witness every morning. Impossible, you say? Never! You see, directly east of us is the downtown core, a place full of mirrored glass buildings. We get a pre-sunset reflection off those glass buildings that fills our evening with the same apricot gold that I see every morning. An urban sunset!
The reason I’m telling you this is that when I was looking through pictures of the apple jellies I made over the weekend, they reminded me of my lucky sunrise-sunset. While they’re not exactly the same colour, they have a sunny peachy tone that makes me think of the sky at sunrise.
Anyway, I discovered this apple jelly recipe in Alice Waters’ “The Art of Simple Food,” which I’ve raved about before. It’s a simple but not a quick recipe. If you’ve got good apples, it’s well worth your time. Mine came from a tree in my parents’ backyard.
Sugared, these jellies are great little treats. Alice Waters also recommends keeping them unsugared as a cheese-platter addition. They’d be fantastic with a hard, full-flavoured cheese. I meant to try it out, but my jellies have all disappeared! They’re almost as fleeting as the sunset.
3 pounds of apples, quartered and seeded
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Line a lightly greased 8×8 square baking dish (or a 9″ round cake pan, if you’re like me and don’t have a square) with waxed paper. Set the baking dish aside.
Cook apples with water in a covered heavy-bottomed pot until very soft. This should take about 20 minutes.
When the apples are soft, remove them from the heat and send them through a food mill, or if you must do it the hard way (I had to. There was a bit of swearing.), press them through a sieve.
When the fruit is pureed, put it back into the pot and stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Simmer this mixture on low heat until it is very thick. This took me about 1 1/2 hours. You will need to stir it often to make sure it’s not sticking. The jelly is ready when it stays in place where you’ve scraped it instead of flowing back to cover the bottom of the pot. Waters says to use an oven mitt to protect yourself from splatters, but I had no problems with this.
When your jelly is sufficiently thickened, spread it into your prepared dish and allow it to cool. When it’s completely cooled, invert it onto another piece of wax paper, remove the top layer of paper, and allow it to dry out overnight.
If your paste isn’t dry enough (again, not a problem I had), you can put it in a barely-warm oven (150 F) for an hour until it firms up, allowing it to recool before cutting.
When your jelly is ready, you can toss the pieces in coarse sugar if you like, or stash it, wrapped in plastic, for whenever you’d like a little taste of sun. Waters says it will last a year!
|From Apple Jellies|
Hanne and I having built up our reputations as cooks sometimes pays off! Or we’ve at least convinced some people that we know enough about food that they humour us by asking us to make stuff for them. And sometimes they pay for the expensive ingredients, which is, in case you were wondering, the payoff.
My brother purchased himself a tin of matcha for 30 bucks. 30 bucks! His request was green tea ice cream. We used David Lebovitz‘s recipe, word for word. It worked perfectly and you can find it HERE. If you are one of the people out there that we’ve convinced to buy an ice cream machine and it’s since been relegated to your never-used single-use appliance cupboard, then buy this book and get your freezer bowl back in the freezer.
This turned out to be the best green tea ice cream I’ve ever had. Or made. Or Hanne made. Or whatever. My brother, when my Mom asked him if it was the best green tea ice cream he’s had said, “yeah, it’s good.” Maybe it was the victim of extortion talking (30 bucks!!?!). Let it be known that when he tried making green tea ice cream himself, he used brewed green tea. Brewed tea! So the lesson here is not to damn cooks with blogs with faint praise or their small world of readers will find out that you suck and that when you worked in a kitchen and dropped a knife you tried catching it by the blade. Anyway, thanks for the photos, little brother!
A good lunch gives a bored desk jobber something to look forward to. And nuking the office with a spice packed chicken curry? It warms my cantankerous heart. This one raised such a stink that it cleared the dead aired office, making the rest of the staff hungry and heading for the basement cafeteria.
Here’s Vij Family’s Chicken Curry from Vij’s Indian Cuisine. This one got so much attention coming out of the work microwave that I messaged Hanne at home and told her to quick take a picture before she finished her leftovers. Like most Indian recipes, it’s ingredient and step intensive. But it’s well worth the effort. Serves 4-6 or 2 dinners + 2 next day lunches.
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups chopped onions
3-inch stick of cinnamon
3 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced ginger
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp garam masala (def. worth making your own from scratch)
1/2 tsp cayenne
3 lbs chicken thighs, bone-in
1 cup sour cream, stirred
2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Have all the above set up, ready to go (your mise-en-place). If you’re a quick knife, it may not be necessary, but at least get your spices measured out in a cup (same cup, they all go in at the same time). If you have a large deep-bottomed pan, use it–the surface area will help cook your chicken faster. If not, a small pot will also work.
First you’ll prepare the masala:
- Heat the oil on medium.
- Add the onions and the cinnamon stick and sauté until the onions turn golden (5-8 minutes).
- Add garlic and cook for another 4 minutes.
- Add ginger, tomatoes and your spice mix (salt, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala and cayenne). Cook for 5 minutes or until the oil separates.
Now in with the chicken:
- Skin the chicken thighs and rinse them (you can do this while the masala cooks).
- Add chicken to the masala, turning and coating the pieces well.
- Cook for 10 minutes, until the chicken starts to brown.
- Stir in the sour cream and water and increase the heat to medium-high.
- Wait for a boil, reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked, being sure to stir the pot a few times.
And now the hard part. When your chicken is cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Fish out the cinnamon and let your food cool for 30 minutes or more. Yes, you’re hungry, but be patient. While we waited, Hanne made some jasmine rice to go with the dish.
Next, the annoying part. You need to remove the chicken from the pot and its meat from its bones before adding the meat back into the masala. I nearly skipped this step, but I stuck with the recipe. It’s either going to get messy now or messy while eating. Your call.
Before serving, heat it all up again on medium heat until it starts to simmer. Cut the heat, stir in cilantro, serve, pack leftovers for lunch, tease your coworkers.
It’s another slow day at SiS, but we’ve made a commitment, and I’m sticking to my guns. We’re going to make it through NaBloPoMo, even if it bores our readers to death. I’m here knocking out this post while Carlo makes dumplings for our soup.
The above is a photo of our newest food books. The great thing about having a blog is that it makes it easy to justify buying more books. Of course, I’ve always managed to justify buying food-related anything. I have this conversation a lot with one of our favorite food friends. She always says she’s worn the same sweaters for years because she just can’t bring herself to buy new ones, but there’s always room in the budget for another cooking tool. I know the feeling. And I wish I had her mandoline.
I’m really enjoying browsing through Michael Ruhlman’s (very authoritatively written– I’ll never bring my stock to a boil again!) The Elements of Cooking, but it’s more a glossary of kitchen terms, with a few essays on essentials like salt, stock, and kitchen equipment at the beginning of the book. Anthony Bourdain’s introduction is entertaining as well. My favorite line: “… if you do somehow manage to properly roast a chicken and serve it with a little sauce, it’s nice to be able to discuss how, exactly, you did it. Your chicken did not turn brown in the pan by magic.” Now, I’m writing about the introduction and not the book itself, but I think that really sums it up for me. Cooking is a craft, with techniques and methods that can be learned and honed. And once you have those basics under your belt, they allow you to be creative.
This is also why I finally caved and bought Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. Honestly, I’ve just thumbed through it so far, and the diagrams are freaking me out a bit. I just opened the book at random to find an example, and I found an explanation of “linear amylose and bushy amylopectin.” Um, yes. Sounds a little bit dirty, and a little bit over my head. I’m going to take this one slow, but I do think it will be useful. I’m always curious about why food turns out the way it does (especially in baking, which contrary Bourdain’s quote up above, I still think of as pretty much magic).
Finally, I couldn’t resist Alice Waters’ new book, The Art of Simple Food. Out of the three, this is the one that I want to curl up with in an armchair and read through cover-to-cover. Of course, that’s also because hers is the only one that is not an encyclopedic reference. Now, that’s not to say that it’s not authoritative. The book is structured as a series of lessons, on topics like sauces, bread, simmering, and rice. The idea is that you can practice and master the recipes in the first half of the book (the lesson half), and then be prepared to improvise, or to use your newfound skills with the recipes in the second half of the book. I love Alice Waters’ philosophy, even when I’m not following it (I usually buy my eggs from the drugstore. They’re cheapest there out of anywhere. I try not to think about the hens these eggs come from.), and her book is great, full of simple, honest recipes with an emphasis on buying local, fresh, and delicious food. I’m thinking maybe I’ll take her advice and start buying farmer’s market eggs.
So that’s my haul. I’m pretty pleased with all three of these books, which of course totally justifies buying them.
This post is a gift for my brothers and sister, who just moved into a new house. Today is their housewarming party, and I’m all the way across the country. Since I can’t attend, guys, I’m offering you this housewarming gift. Without Mom in your kitchen, I figure you might be eating more chips and soda, starburst candies, and um… raw potatoes (do you still eat raw potatoes?) than before, at least for a little while.
Here’s a recipe that will give you a break from the junk food. Carlo and I make this all the time and we still can’t believe so few ingredients can taste so good. The secret is in the long simmer, where the tomatoes slowly absorb the butter and the flavour of the onions, cooking down into a thick and rich sauce that’s just perfect on pasta with a generous sprinkling of parmesan on top. It’s amazing that just three things can make a sauce that tastes so good and feels so warm and filling. But there you are.
This simplicity is a good thing to remember, I think. You’re all taking care of yourselves now, and that’s a lot. I still sometimes have these panics where I think “my goodness, for the rest of my life I’m going to have to do this myself.” And there’s no way to take a break from life, it’s just going to keep coming at you. That’s why it’s nice to know that it doesn’t always have to be hard to take care of yourself. Pop this in a pot, boil some pasta, and in 45 minutes, sit down together and eat. You can do it! Happy housewarming! I guess maybe I’m going to have to stop calling you “the kids.”
I’m sorry about the not-so-beautiful photo. Trust me, even though it’s not beautiful, it’s delicious.
We got this recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. We’ve adapted it so that its proportions match a large can of tomatoes (796 mL), but that’s about it. You can reduce the amount of butter in the sauce, which I always do. However, it always tastes best when Carlo makes it (he’s not careful with the butter).
TOMATO SAUCE WITH ONION AND BUTTER
1 can plum tomatoes (28 oz/796 mL, either diced or whole)
1/3 cup butter (you can be a little more generous or a little more sparing with this)
2 medium onions, peeled and cut in half
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. pasta (or whatever amount you happen to throw in the pot)
Parmesan cheese for serving
Put the tomatoes, the butter, the onions, and a generous pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Stir it occasionally, and mash the tomatoes up with your spoon. Cook the sauce for about 45 minutes (it should be at a light simmer this whole time) or until you start to see the butter and tomatoes separating from each other. When it’s done, taste it and add more salt if you need to. Take the pan off the heat and remove the onions. Serve it over pasta, with parmesan cheese on top.