Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day!

After two predicted snow storms that never materialized, we finally got hit with some snow. School is canceled and I have all day to cook whatever I can think up. I really hit all of the bases since I have an extra day now that I wasn't expecting.

First, I mixed some bread dough and am letting it rise. I've been tricked before with dough that is slow to rise, so I'm planning on letting this one go crazy until Friday when I'll bake it during the day and enjoy it shortly thereafter. It should be light and fluffy, not dark and dense like the last time.

Next, I started up a new batch of beer. I used a few different kinds of malts from the ones that I used the first time. I used some "Munich" style malt from an Oktober Fest kit that I had, and I used an entire English Brown Ale kit worth of Amber malt extracts, spray malt, and chocolate crushed malt. There are a lot of sugars in this batch, but not as much of the weird stuff. My last batch had a lot of molasses, brown sugar, and maple syrup. I added the brown sugar, but I didn't have any molasses. I might add the maple syrup at a later point in the fermenting process, but honestly I haven't decided yet. The maple syrup really raises the cost of the brew. As it is I'm putting about $50 worth of materials into 5 gallons of beer. That's almost $1 per bottle of beer. Not cheap considering its homemade. Then again, the sort of beer that costs you a dollar is not the sort of beer that you're likely get from a home-brewer. My stuff is of much higher quality than your average Coors Light.

My batch should be ready to go for St. Patrick's Day. It's a good thing too, because we just might end up going through 5 gallons of beer on that day. I made a gallon of Mead as well. This is my first attempt at Mead making but it seems pretty straight forward. I added a giant bottle of honey to about a gallon of water, added a splash of orange juice and a few sticks of cinnamon. The yeast I used for the Mead was a little on the old side, but I proofed it in some sugar water and lo and beyond it foamed right up. Before putting the Mead wort into my 1 gallon mini-keg and sealing it up (with an airlock on top), I checked the gravity of the wort. It is pretty high gravity and should end up at about 10% alcohol. It is fermenting very slowly though. I figure it'll also be done right in time for St. Paddy's. It doesn't have to be bottled and carbonated, so that buys me some time, but since its fermenting so slowly, it might be a while in that little mini-keg.

For my next trick, I made some chopped salted chilies. This is a staple in Hunanese cooking, and is really easy to make. You basically chop up some fresh chili peppers, mix them with a few tablespoons of Kosher salt, put 'em in a jar, and then cover the chilies completely with salt. You seal up the jar and wait a few weeks. What comes out of that jar is, if you like things that are spicy and salty, absolutely amazing. Sure, you can use them just for making Chinese food, but there is a lot more available to you than that. My favorite: Throw a few in your salad. While fresh chilies are really really hot, once they've been cured by the salt for a few weeks, they are significantly less hot. And they get a really great crunch to them that makes them fantastic for salad, or eggs, or pizza, or really anything that you would put hot sauce on. If they are too salty for your taste (and if you are like me and want to just eat them straight, they might be), you can always rinse them off with water before serving. Plus, they are just pretty to have a jar of the stuff sitting in your kitchen. You're supposed to refrigerate it once you've opened the jar, but I just keep it on a shelf over my sink and it is as much decoration as it is condiment.

So now my beer is brewing, my bread is rising, my chilies are salting. What's left? Oh yeah, what are we going to eat for dinner? Chicken and Pasta Rags. I saw a recipe for something similar to this on the Essence of Emeril show a few months ago. The "Pasta Rags" concept sounded really great and right up my alley. Of course, I made the pasta from scratch and got another chance to break in my pasta maker. Tasty Trix had a post recently where she made homemade fettuccine, and that was a pretty good guide for where to start with the pasta making. I think I still need a bit of practice. My "rags" looked pretty ragged.

Before I made the pasta dough, I put a chicken confit in the oven. Now, I know in some circles I'm supposed to cook the thing for 10 hours. I didn't have 10 hours. I had about 2. So the thing cooked for 2 hours. It was still great. I put some garlic cloves in there too late in the game with the hopes that the oil would absorb some of the flavor and also that my garlic would be pretty mellow when I put it in the pasta dish. The whole process is fairing straight forward. I took some chicken, I added some salt, pepper, and fresh thyme and then put the chicken (I had chicken thighs, but you could use any cut) in a saute pan and covered the chicken with fat or oil. I used mostly bacon fat, but I had to also use some chicken fat that I scraped off of my frozen broth and a little bit of olive oil in order to fully cover the chicken. Then cook on low heat until you can't stand it anymore. I used some of the oil/fat as the oil in the pasta, adding scallions (for crunch), crushed red pepper (for color), and Parmesan cheese (for obvious reasons). Magnifique!


  1. this sounds like a perfect use of a snow day...too bad you can't drink the beer right away! but i suppose all good things are worth the wait.

  2. Agreed Blair. Serves me right for not getting a batch brewed sooner.