Thursday, October 29, 2009

My foodie life and my law student life collide.

This story on Above the Law, a blog that (often brilliantly) covers the legal profession, had my obsession with jerk chicken and my obsession with keeping abreast of legal news collide in fantastic and delicious ways.

I wonder if by serving less than excellent chicken, the community service would not be counted.

Meat Hand

This is incredible! I wonder what other creepy halloween recipes there are out there?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Chicken is Better than your Chicken. Here's Why.

Most of us who are grown-ups have made chicken before. We are familiar with the basic concept of putting raw meat on a hot object (or in a hot object) for a certain amount of time and then eating it. But, of course, there is way more to it than that. Making dinner isn't just about making raw meat safe to eat, although we all know a few people who seem to swear by this mantra. It's about making your food safe to eat AND undeniably delicious.

Here is one suggestion for a chicken dinner that is easy to make, doesn't take too much time, and pays dividends in the taste department, far above and beyond your usual dried chicken meat disaster that you call dinner on Wednesday.

Here it is:

You will need:

Chicken Thighs
Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Butter
1/2 cup white wine
2-6 cloves of fresh chopped garlic
Optional Spices (oregano, basil, tarragon, chinese five spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, corriander, curry, etc.)

Step 1 is to make some rice. If I have to tell you how to make rice, this recipe is already too complicated for you and you should just order a pizza.

Next, heat a pan on a medium-hot stove (I prefer an iron skillet and will explain why some other day). DO NOT PUT ANYTHING IN OR ON THE PAN UNTIL IT IS HOT!!!! Give it about 2 minutes before you even add oil. This is important and is the difference between chicken thighs perfectly browned and chicken thighs perfectly glued to your pan.

Add some olive oil. The idea is that you want enough oil to coat the entire pan, but not enough to deep-fry the chicken. Use your judgment.

Give it 30 seconds to get hot.

Take some bone-in chicken thighs. (I won't tell you how many because I don't know how hungry you are, but bear in mind that you probably won't need more than 4 thighs for 2 people. The rice is pretty filling.)

Before putting your thighs in your hot skillet, pat them dry with a dry paper towel. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and whatever else you feel like adding. You could try tarragon, oregano, basil, or get buck-wild and throw on some cinnamon, nutmet, allspice, chinese five-spice, whatever. Let's just say now is the time to season your thighs.

Put the thighs in the skillet, skin down. Let simmer for a bit. It's important when you first put the chicken down in the pan not to mess with it. It sticks to the pan at first, but will let go when its ready. So, don't move it quite yet! You should be listening to the sounds of the pan and looking to see if the pan seems like it might be too hot. You can only really figure this out with experience, but my point is that if you use this time to check your fantasy football scores, you might just end up realizing that your pan was too hot, or not hot enough. Pay attention to your thighs!

When the skins on the thighs have released from the pan, flip 'em and cook the other side. While the other side is cooking, chop up some garlic, really fine. Or use one of those garlic presses. I love those.

Throw in the garlic while its still just oil and chicken in there, but after the other side of the chicken has had some time to cook and spew some juices. Seeing some chicken juices drop out of the meat is always a good sign to check out whether you're cooking it sufficiently.

Now, by this time your chicken should be looking good, and your garlic should be sauteing but not getting too crispy or too brown. Now add about 1/2 cup of white wine. I keep crappy white wine in the fridge at all times for just such an occasion as this. I used to use "cooking wine" from the supermarket, but if you ever read the ingredients in that, you quickly realize that you shouldn't eat things that you would be disgusted to drink. Instead of spending $3-4 on "cooking wine" in a little bottle. I spend $5-7 on real wine, in a 750ml bottle. It's way better, trust me.

You've added your wine, now add about 2tbsps of butter and turn down the heat on your skillet. You're no longer browning the chicken, you are now braising it. Congrats.

Now, depending on how saucy you want your chicken and rice, you could add any of these things: water, more wine (but don't overdo it, especially if its "cooking wine"), more butter, more oil, broth, etc. You could probably add light beer, but since you've already committed to wine, I wouldn't mix the two. They compete too much for flavor when you're cooking with them. I would recommend broth above all others, but you can get away with just about anything you have. If you weigh 84lbs, you might as well just use butter. I'm hoping to give you a recipe for something that is less than 10,000 calories though.

Once your sauce is starting to bubble and boil a bit, make sure you want watching your heat. If it looks like it is really vigorously boiling, turn it down! You just want a gentle simmer. Now is a good time to think about seasoning the sauce. I love salt and pepper and you can usually get away with just that. If you like heat (which I do), now is a good time to add some cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper. If you have a fresh hot pepper, you could put it through a cheese grater and that will make a nice addition to the sauce. Anyway, do as you see fit on that front. Just remember that the more you cook something spicy, the less spicy it tends to get. If you're using fresh hot pepper, add them earlier. If you are using lame frank's red hot, just add it at the end.

Once you're done fiddling with all of this, cover your chicken in its sauce and tend to your rice. Get a nice big plate, and lay out the rice in a volcano shape, as if it were mashed potatoes and you were 10 years old. When the chicken thighs are done, you are going to put 1 or 2 of them in the volcano part of the rice mountain. This makes it look more appealing than just slapping the chicken onto a paper plate and diving in with a plastic fork.

Give it 20 minutes or so, covered and simmered, and check on your thighs. Cut one open and make sure that it is cooked 100 % through. I usually give myself the one that I cut in half, so everyone has the benefit of a nice presentation. Some people like it cut in half for them, though, so whatever you think is best probably is.

Don't forget to eat some vegetables too!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Big Man Brewmaster

Last night I started my 5 gallon batch of beer, and was greeted this morning to the joyful bubbling of an airlock, releasing yeasty CO2 from the "Ale Pail".

I've made a couple of batches of beer before, but never more than 1 gallon. I think making 1 gallon of beer should theoretically be harder than making 5, since there is less room for error in such a small batch. Right? We'll see. As of right now, everything seems to be in place.

I bought a beer-making kit over the weekend. It was a little more expensive than I had hoped, and I was thankful that my wife didn't freak out after seeing me dish out $130 worth of beer making equipment and ingredients.

I have a book called "Extreme Brewing: An Enthusiast's Guide to Brewing Craft Beer at Home", which I think is worth getting if you're interested in brewing beer. It is by the guy who makes Dogfish Head Beer. His beers can tend to be a little, um, well, extreme, but it's nice to read something about beer making that sounds like it comes from someone who you'd actually like to drink a beer with, rather than it reading like VCR instructions. He apparently reverse engineered a beer that was found in a tomb over 2,700 years old. I dig that sort of stuff.

Anyway, so I (for the most part) followed his recipe for A-Z Brown Ale. It's called A-Z because there are 26 steps to making the beer. I did change a few things because I am limited in time and ingredients (my time limitation mostly just prevented me from having time to get different ingredients). I used different Malt Extracts than the ones that he specified, and the hops that I had were different than the ones that he called for. I don't think these are major problems, unless I was trying to make a beer that tastes just like the recipe he provided. But since I've never tasted that recipe, I didn't feel particularly attached to it.

Into the brew pot, I put in a lb. of crushed crystal malt, two 3.3 cans of malt extract, a 12 oz. jar of molasses, two ounces of hop pellets, and I sprinkled some cinnamon in there at the end, just to see what would happen. I will probably throw some orange rind in there at some point, and the recipe calls for adding maple syrup to the mix, once its gotten a chance to ferment for a while.

One of the big differences between a beer like this and the beer that we all grew up on is that this beer should boast some serious ABV (alcohol-by-volume). I'm guessing that when this is all said and done, we're talking 7-9% ABV.

I'm going to give a mead recipe a try as well, but since I only have one airlock, I'm going to have to wait until the beer is ready to be bottled. This will hopefully take place on November 13th, which is a Friday. What good fortune! I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rock Hard Loaf

After our party last weekend, I've been inundated with leftovers. Aside from finding endless ways to prepare leftover roast pork, I've got an entire loaf of french bread that went untouched.

With all of this talk about food miles, and carbon footprints, and law firm layoffs, the idea of wasting food really does not appeal to me. But what am I supposed to do with this bread?

Well, the bad news is that it appears that it is too late for me, but it might not be too late for you. Here is some stuff you can do with bread that is a day or two old.

In case you're wondering what I'm doing with my leftover pork, here is what I've been eating all week:
1) Leftover brown rice, tsp of olive oil, tsp of water, leftover pork. Microwave with lid on. It somehow tastes like you are eating healthy, but don't be fooled.

2) Pork sandwiches: Take a kaiser roll cut in half, and cut/scrape/scoop out some of the bread on the inside of the roll. (You could probably make some croutons with that scooped out bread, btw). Reheat pork in medium heat pan. Add abt 1/4 cup broth if you got it, just to more fully re-moisten. If you have to open a can of broth, then don't bother, we're trying to get rid of leftovers, remember? Add swiss when its all hot and get that nice and melted.

I like mayo on my pork sandwich, but that's just me. Hot sauce is also a must. (Eventually I'll write a post just about hot sauce.)

3) Pork Vindaloo: Rice, Pork, 1/4 cup broth, 1/4 water, 1-2 Tbsps of Vindaloo paste or powder. Stir-it-up!

Of course, you could also try pork fajitas, tacos, burritos, empanadas, etc. Since the pork was properly slow-roasted, you could shred it and make pulled pork. But, for pete's sake, if you're going to make pulled pork sandwiches, make some coleslaw. It's just not pulled pork without it.

Last, but certainly not least, I plan on using the remainder of the crispy skin to make a concoction of rice noodles, pork skins (the skins only, no meat), and chili peppers. This might be a total disaster, but I suspect that the simplicity of the ingredients, along with the richness of the pork skin will make it a really memorable experiment. My fellow foodie friend (we're ffffs) also suggested taking the leftover pork skin and dipping it in melted white chocolate and then letting the chocolate reharden. Not my style, but I thought it was pretty brilliant.

P.S. - Don't worry, I didn't forget about the beer. I will try to go to the wine & beer making store tomorrow. That place is amazing. I'll explain later.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'll be the best urban farmer ever!

This guy is my hero! Ok, I don't really want a new old tractor (or any tractor for that matter), but he made his own honey! and then made it into Mead! Why aren't I making Mead?!? And he cured his own fresh ham into something of a Prosciutto di Parma!

This is getting me thinking that I would like to make something that I can bring to my in-laws for Thanksgiving. If I was at my family's house this year, I would probably smoke some turkey. But it really took years to get my family to get enthusiastic about my BBQ smoke ways. I don't know that my in-laws would fully appreciate the sort of sounds, smells, and mess that comes with me setting stuff on fire all day long. Plus Thanksgiving is hard enough without a major project to partake in throughout the day.

So... Why not Mead? Or at least a decent quality beer? The die is cast.

First Post, Coast-to-Coast

Hi Everybody,

So... I started a blog today. I guess I'll tell you a little about myself and what I intend to do with this thing:

I love to cook. And I LOVE to eat. Whenever possible, I really like making things that are either extremely time-consuming (think BBQ pork, smoked 14 hours) or somewhat unusual (I've been making a lot of Hunanese food for the past year). So, my primary objective with this blog is to document some of my culinary projects, with pictures and comments. I'll try to talk a little bit about where I think it could have been improved or what about it went particularly right. I like to do a lot of experimentation, and I generally think of recipes as suggestions, not something to be strictly adhered to.

I make a lot of pork. I recently slow roasted a fresh ham, which I am especially proud of. The way I made it is typically referred to as Pernil around here (the NY/NJ Metropolitan Area), and when I say slow roasted, I don't mean I put it in for a few hours. I roasted this meat for 18 hours, actually putting it in the oven right before I went to bed and taking it out the next evening for a dinner party.

So, there it is. I want to cook awesome shit that requires the sort of care and attention that my generation is not known for (suffice to say, I sit on the cusp of Gen X and Gen Y). Then, I want to share the love that I poured into that meal with my friends and family. And now you too.

I can't promise a ton of posts, but let's just see where this thing takes us. Perhaps I'll link to other sites that seem along these lines and are pretty cool as a way to bridge the gap between foodie projects.