Better Late Than Never

22 11 2008

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I actually did this on Halloween and slap my wrists, I’m only telling you about it now?! It’s true. However, my camera batteries were dead so I had a friend take the picture and had to wait just this long for her to send it to me. And you know what? In my utopia, zombie cupcakes would have no season. So yes, zombie cupcakes in November are a total GO!

Current Earmeats: Moneen, in a futile attempt to drown out the ever-persistent reverberating bass from my upstairs neighbor. There was a day not too long ago that I would have though that a blue collar, middle aged straight man couldn’t have too horrible a taste in music for his demographic but I am VERY wrong. Even Europeans hate Euro-trance, sir.

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Let It Snow, I Don’t Care…

20 11 2008

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Today, we had our first big snowfall of the season. It’s officially winter in the Not-So-Great-White-North, and I couldn’t care less. Now, I’m not one of those people that gripes with every changing season, constantly wishing that the weather was doing the opposite of what it is, counting down the days until the next season change because of course, then it will be better! No sir, not me. Well that’s a lie; I hate summer. But since it is anything BUT summer, I digress.

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I actually like winter. Not so much being outside in the winter, but watching outside from inside in the winter with a big bowl of something warm. I like watching the snow fall, making stews and soups, and wearing woolen leg-warmers, fingerless gloves and hats inside with a mug of peppermint tea. I’ve even been, on occasion, known to actually bring myself outside and careen down a mountain strapped to a thin piece of fiberglass just to be able to warm up afterwards. It’s mostly about the cooking, though.

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To celebrate the beginning of what I hope to be a white yet mild winter, I made a pot of soup. One of my classmates is partially to blame for this, actually, for if it wasn’t for her buying a bowl of potato, bacon and cheddar soup on our break today, I probably never would have gotten the idea to make my own at home. But she did, and I did, and this is me telling you about it. Onward and upward.

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I don’t make soups too often. It’s not because I dont’ like to or want to, but because I tend to disregard them as actual meals. In my mind, a meal should have a meat and a vegetable, maybe a starch, and all of these things should need to be chewed. Soup just doesn’t follow those rules(let it be known that I don’t eat broth soups with chunks of such things floating within so stop thinking you’re so clever) and that’s why I don’t think about it. However, on rare occasions, I do infact crave soup, and when I do, it’s 95% of the time a cream soup. This is perfect for the little autistic kid in me that NEEDS a meal to have a meat, vegetable and maybe a starch because lo and behold, it does! And it’s all suspended in a delicious, creamy veloute. Who could ask for more?

Potato, Bacon and Cheddar Soup
Serves 4 as a starter, 2-3 as a main

5 slices of bacon, cut into strips
2/3 cup onion, fine dice
2 cloves garlic, fine dice
4 tbsp butter
3/4 cup flour(approx.)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups 2% milk
2 cups potatoes, medium-small cubes
1 cup shredded old white cheddar
pinch each of cloves and nutmeg

Sautee bacon and onions until bacon has let off most of it’s fat into the pan and onions are translucent; add butter. Add garlic and sweat for 30 sec. Stir in flour to make a roux. Mixture should pull away from the pan. Slowly add chicken stock, stirring constantly. Once encorporated, stir in milk and add potatoes. Let simmer on medium-low for an hour, or until the potatoes are cooked through but are still pleasant to the bite. You will have to get up and stir this soup every so often as the roux DOES like to stick to the bottom of the pot, but that’s easy enough to fix by aggressive scraping with the spoon. Once the potatoes are cooked, check your seasoning and add cloves, nutmeg and pepper as needed. You probably won’t need to add any salt as the bacon will fix that for you but go nuts if you like to. I’m no one’s doctor. Add cheese and stir until melted.

Serve with crusty bread, soft snow and a warm pair of wool socks while pretending the world does not exist.

Currently listening to: City and Colour





Fun Things To Do With Leftovers and Why I Love Days Off

11 11 2008

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Breakfast. Love of my life! I haven’t had the opportunity to make an honest-to-goodness breakfast in, well, longer than since I cooked real honest-to-goodness dinner actually. Before the wedding cake, if I do recall. Well, it’s my day off and so with a clean kitchen and a fridge full of leftovers, today is brought to you by the letter “Mmmmm.”

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Remember that whole pan of leftover braised vegetables you have, just lying around? Well they make for great fried pancakes, I tells ya! Just mash up a few spoonfuls until like chunky mashed potatoes, sweat off 2tbsp fine diced onions, add a pinch of salt and fry in a very buttery non-stick pan and there you have it. Vegetable hash browns. C’est magnifique! But, if you’re like me…

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…you’ll go too far and make an hour long production of it, make too many, and decide that it would be best to add some thick cut bacon, eggs over hard, and a cup of strong Sumatra to the ordeal whilst offending your neighbors with your screamy music. Life is so hard, no?

I plan on spending the day lolling around sans pantalons, drinking too much coffee and creating aaahrt, daaahling. Because, hey, what are days off for if not life, liberty, and the pursuit of breakfast?

Currently listening to: August Burns Red.





Last Night’s Dinner, And Why I Hate Supermarket Butchers

10 11 2008

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Psst… Hey guess what? It’s root vegetable season! *Glee!* Fall has officially worked it’s way inside me, folks and it’s delicious! I finally got around to cleaning my kitchen and in celebration, I decided that it was befitting of me to destroy it all over again. It had been so long since I last cooked something more complicated than an egg and cheese sandwich that I almost forgot how much I simply love to cook. Really. That long. Well fret not, for I have seen the error of my ways and am now resolving to keep the battleground clean and cook at least one honest-to-goodness meal every week. For serious.

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So let me tell you all about last night’s dinner. Remember how I’ve been spewing forth my love of all things autumn for the last, oh, four months? Well I finally got around to eating my season. With a cart full of turnips, butternut squash, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin and celeriac, so began my journey. Down dried mushroom land, forward to expensive cheese land and with a quick pit stop to cut-up dead things land we were on our way to flavor country. Not before playing my favorite supermarket game though. It’s “Stump The Poor Checkout Lady” time! WEEEEEOOOO! It may make me sound like a horrible person, but one of my favorite parts of grocery shopping is getting to the checkout and enjoying the look of confusion and “what the fuck are you making, lady?” gazes that I get every time I try to buy my vegetables. Am I the only person in this town who eats this shit? Were I a more self-conscious person, I might start to develop a complex… The poor woman only got a 2/6; apparently parsnips and celery root aren’t excessively consumed in our fair city. Such is life, I suppose. So with my cart full of knobbly root vegetables and my soul satisfied with food-snobbery, I bid farewell to the supermarket and ran right home to begin The Chopping.

I’ve always really enjoyed doing vegetable cuts. It’s strange to most people and that I understand, but maybe it’s related to my love of garde-manger. Also, butchery. I hope it doesn’t sound to macabre, but I really do love butchery. I think I can chalk that one up to the little autistic kid inside of me that loves breaking things down into their proper parts and arranging them according to size and usage. Speaking of butchery, if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s supermarket butchers. Really. If you’ve been properly trained your job really isn’t too hard. Break down the meat, follow the bones, clean the silver skin and cartilage off, package and label. Breaking down a chicken is one of the easiest things to accomplish in butchery, so why did the chicken parts I bought come with a spine? Hmmm? When I see “skin on, bone in” on a pack of chicken breasts, it damn well better come with a part of a wing bone and ZERO spine. Zero. Spine. Do your job, it’s not hard. Anyways…

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So I’ve been anxious to try this for a while. Laying awake one night in the clutches of insomnia, I came up with a stuffed chicken idea. Turns out that I do all of my best thinking while I’m only half awake. Who’d have thought, huh? So was born the notion of wild mushroom stuffed chicken with bacon and gruyere. You heard me. Paired with a braise of my beloved fall underground dwellers it was the best part of a Sunday evening. Oh, you want to know how to make this do you? Well I suppose, but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the “WFT?” looks you’ll get at the grocery store and the “OMG!” feeling you’ll get in your stomach when it’s all said and done.

Wild Mushroom Chicken and Braise of Fall Vegetables

For the chicken

2 bone in, skin on breasts of chicken
1 clove garlic, fine dice
2 shallots, fine dice
2 tbsp cooked bacon, diced*
1/4 cup dried mixed wild mushrooms**
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp butter, divided
1 tbsp herbs de provence
salt and pepper to taste

*do not use pre-packaged cooked bacon please. Just cook one strip and cut it up, mkay?
**you can buy mixed dried mushrooms. If your store doesn’t carry them, an even combination of porcini, portabello, oyster and shitake mushrooms will work.

For the vegetables

2 cups each of:
celeriac
parsnips
butternut squash
pumpkin
waxy white potatoes
turnips, all cut into one inch cubes
5 cloves garlic, smashed
6 tbsp olive oil
1.5 cups chicken stock
pinch of cloves
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Start with your vegetables. Skin and chop your ingredients for the braise. Over medium heat, sautee vegetables until they begin to color. You will have to do this in sections and remember to not overcrowd your frying pan; use 1.5 tbsp oil per each batch or thereabouts. Transfer vegetables to your roasting pan. Deglaze frying pan with the chicken stock and simmer about 5 minutes. Stir in your spices and pour brazing liquid over vegetables. Put in a 300 degree oven and cook for approximately 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Use a wooden spoon to stir, or a rubber spatula so you don’t turn your lovely cubes of vegetables into lovely baby food. Eat with your eyes.
You will know when your vegetables are done when there’s no more liquid in the pan and they are firm but tender when pierced with a knife, or pleasant to the bite.

While your vegetables cook, start the stuffing for your chicken. Over medium heat in a small saucepan, sweat shallots and garlic in 1 tbsp each butter and olive oil until soft. Deglaze with stock and bring to a slight boil. Add your mushrooms and herbs and simmer for about 20 minutes or until mushrooms have re hydrated. Strain the liquid and reserve. Mix bacon in with mushroom mixture, set aside.
To clean your chicken: hopefully your butcher isn’t an idiot, or maybe you bought a whole chicken to carve yourself, but clean the breast off of the bone, leaving the skin intact and up to the first joint of the wing bone if you were so lucky as to get one. I wasn’t and for this I am sad. Remove the tender from the back of the breast and set aside. Make a cut down the middle of the back of the breast that goes about half way in. From this cut, cut into each side to make a pocket in which to stuff your stuffing. If you’ve made chicken kiev or cordon bleu before then it’s exactly like that. Stuff the breasts with your mushroom and bacon mixture and grated cheese. Place your reserved tender over the pocket and using any loose skin or meat, close the pocket so that you can not see the filling. It’s tricky but can be done, I promise. Heat remaining oil and butter in a pan over medium high heat and brown chicken breasts, starting with the skin side. It helps to hold them closed with tongs sometimes so that you don’t lose your cheese when the meat starts to expand and shrink the skin. Once all sides are browned, place in a 350 oven and cook until done.
Deglaze your chicken fry pan with the reserved mushroom liquid and reduce until thick. Add more stock if you need to, or white wine if you have any. I didn’t have any but wish I had. No bigs.

Serve chicken on a bed of your lovely vegetable braise and a drizzling of reduction sauce. Eat this in your pajamas while watching Sunday night cartoons with a big mug of chai tea. Or whatever else makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Current earmeats: Parkway Drive, and I Killed The Prom Queen. It’s been a week of hardcore for me.

Happy Monday!





Why Yes, I Am Alive.

3 11 2008

We appreciate your concern. I’ve pretty much been out of town for the last two weeks so it goes without saying that I’m a little lacking in the food-making department. In lieu of actually making anything at home, I’m going to throw out some pictures of what I’ve been doing in class over the last two weeks because it’s pretty much all I’ve done.

So there. I’ve baked. I came, I saw, I decorated.

I’ll be finally getting around to cleaning my kitchen this week (rejoice!) so I’ll soon have fun and exciting things to report on. I’m planning a few things that I can’t wait to try out and when I do, you will all be the firsts to hear about it. Promise.

Currently listening to: 36 Crazy Fists. Research this pronto; your hardcore soul depends upon it.

Also: planning new apartment decor but need funds for said. Going to scour antique stores in Toronto for more medical antiques and militaria. If anyone knows where I can find an early 1900s leather and metal prosthetic arm, hook a sista up. WANT.