Jeanne Eats World

I like to cook. I like to eat.

  • Recent Posts

  • Authors

  • Post Archive

  • Categories

Archive for the ‘How-to’ Category

The scene of the crime

Posted by Jeanne on August 27, 2010

Or, what does your kitchen look like after you process a bajillion beets?

This is what a bajillion (approximate count only) beets look like right out of the ground:

But the fun part happens later.  I like to wash the beets in a couple changes of water, and then roast them with the skins on.  I put them in a deep baking pan, cover it with foil, and roast them for two hours (less if they are very small, always at least an hour) at 350F, shaking a couple of times.

They come out looking something like this – the photo is a bit dark but they really do darken up quite a bit.

Then the carnage begins.

Yes, that is me and yes, I am wearing an apron and rubber gloves…

As I hack and slice my way through the poor, defenseless beets.

Actually, what I do is rub the skins off (after that much roasting time they slip off easily) and then cut the beets into chunks for freezing or risotto-ing or salad-ing.

Mmmm, beets.

Advertisements

Posted in Garden/Seasonal, How-to | Leave a Comment »

I can. Can you?

Posted by Jeanne on August 10, 2010

The garden giveth.  It really, really giveth tomatoes.  So there is tomato sauce! Which I then canned to save the freezer space for other things that are more difficult to can, or unsafe to can.

WARNING:  I am not a scientist nor do I play one on TV.  I have never poisoned anyone, but canning should be  approached with extreme caution and everything should be clean clean clean.  Like, hospital sterile clean.

1.5 batches of tomato sauce, a la The French Laundry Cookbook (I made two batches and used half of one for an incredibly lazy version of eggplant parmigiana.)

Citric acid (powdered)

Water bath canner

Jars, bands, seals (I used 3 quart sized jars and 3 pint jars), other canning paraphernalia

Sterilize your jars and bands in the dishwasher. Wash the seals in warm soapy water and set aside.

Set the water on to boil.

Curt gets arty with canning photos at this point.

Warm the sauce.

When the jars are clean, remove from the dishwasher while still warm  – do not touch the rims with your hands.  Place, open side down, on a clean towel.

Place 0.5 tsp citric acid in each quart jar (this is USDA Standard – I used 0.25 tsp in the pint jars).

Add sauce, leaving about 0.5 inch head space in each jar.  Place seal on top and then tighten the band – only enough to keep the seal on, not super-tight.

Tiny jars reporting for duty!

Process in the water bath for 35 minutes.  Begin the timer once the water is boiling again.

Remove jars from the water and set aside, allowing to cool until they can be touched.  Check the seals – if the jars are sealed properly, the lid won’t have any give to it.  If the lids aren’t sealed, put those in the fridge and use within a week.

If they’re sealed, allow to cool completely and then store.  Every time I do this and it works and the jars seal correctly, it makes me stupidly happy.

You totally can’t tell, but they all sealed.  EEEeeeEEEeee.  Now I can have good tomato sauce that I made this weekend when it’s February again and it seems like it’ll never stop snowing.

Posted in Garden/Seasonal, How-to, Not about food | 2 Comments »

Thai-inspired Pesto

Posted by Jeanne on June 21, 2010

The cilantro is taking over!  We went from having four adorable little sprigs of cilantro to four giant plants in approximately three days.  So I made a Thai-inspired pesto.

Also, I wanted an excuse to use up a few more of the excruciatingly hot Thai chilis we got from the neighbors.

Thai-inspired cilantro pesto

2 cups (packed) cilantro, large stems removed

0.5 cup peanuts (I used unsalted peanuts – if you use salted, go easy on the other salt)

3 large scallions, chopped in 1- to 2-inch pieces

4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 Thai chilis

0.5 tsp kosher salt

0.25 cup nut or vegetable oil (I used canola oil, but might use peanut oil next time)

Place cilantro, peanuts, scallions, garlic, chilis and salt in the food processor.  Pulse until well combined and finely chopped.

Turn the food processor on and drizzle the oil in a little at a time – if the mixture starts to look too liquidy or separate, do not add any more oil.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process until mixture is uniform in texture.  Use within a day or two, or freeze until you want some of it.

Or feed it to yourself on a spoon, which is what I believe happened to this lovely spoonful that Curt kindly offered to hold for a picture.

This is a double batch – we ended up freezing it into ice cube trays (and sharing some with the other neighbor).  This summer, I think I’ll use it on grilled chicken or melt a cube of it to use as a dressing for cucumber salad.

This coming winter, I want to use it in soup or stir-fry so that I remember that summer will eventually come again.  And the cilantro will grow like a weed and drive me crazy, just like it always does.

It’s like the circle of life, right?  The circle of cilantro… Perhaps nothing that dramatic.  But it is tasty.

Posted in Garden/Seasonal, How-to | 2 Comments »

De plan, de plan

Posted by Jeanne on May 1, 2010

Michael Ruhlman caused quite a kerfluffle last week at the IACP event when he publicly “called bullshit” on people not having time to cook.  He elaborated in this Huffington Post piece.  People are pissed off – for one of the more logical and well-worded responses out there, please see Debbie of Words To Eat By‘s post here.

I don’t want to get involved in the original debate – anything I could say has already been said by others anyway.  I do want to talk about what it takes to get us fed every night, and how we do it.  Mostly:  planning.

The myth of the 30-minute meal is an apt title for Ruhlman’s article, I think.  Part of the problem with the 30-minute meal is that any meal that requires 30 minutes of active cooking time probably involves mental work beforehand – which makes it not a 30-minute meal any more.

In order to get most meals on the table – from start to finish – in anything resembling half an hour I have to have some things in place first.

  1. I need to know what I’m making.
  2. I need to have my ingredients on hand and those ingredients need to be ready to rock – carrots peeled, chicken cut, etc.
  3. I need to be able to not do anything BUT cook for the next 30 minutes (usually).
  4. It must be possible to make the dish in question in less than 30 minutes.

As to the first item – I sit down every week and make a menu.  I try to use up things we have hanging out in the house or lingering in the freezer.  I started doing this when I was in law school – we had far too many nights of looking in the fridge while already hungry, declaring there to be no food, and ordering pizza or Chinese.  It was wasteful and straining our already tight finances.  I admit we still order pizza occasionally, but having a menu means we don’t have to try and get creative with food every single night.  I love to cook and I love to eat but even I can’t manage that one every evening.

The other thing I plan for is to not cook some evenings.  Planned leftovers are really helpful.  This is explained better with specific dishes, so here is our menu for this week:

  • Baked Louisiana red beans & rice (this dish cooks for an hour and a half, about.  It’s really impractical for a weeknight – but it reheats well.  So I’ll make it tomorrow and we’ll reheat it later in the week.);
  • Pasta with beans and greens (so long as all the ingredients are in the house, this one comes together quickly – no advance cooking needed.);
  • Chicken tortilla soup (Super easy and basically cooks itself while you’re at work.);
  • Carmelised onion, Canadian bacon & Swiss cheese strata (we’ll both make and eat this tomorrow – easy assembly but long cooking time.);
  • Sriracha chicken + broccoli + rice (recipe here);
  • Greek lamb chops + roasted potatoes + some kind of veg (I can’t wait to try this lamb – they are the most adorable little chops from the co-0p.).

The second item on the above list is mostly a matter of shopping carefully – if you don’t know what you’re going to make, you can’t buy the stuff to make it.  Rachael Ray is full of tips on how to get things ready before, like washing and prepping your herbs and veg.  I don’t go that far, but I do try to make sure everything is actually in the house before we start.

The rest of it – the time, the possibility of completing a dish in 30 minutes – isn’t anything I can help with.  It either is or isn’t. Some dishes can easily be made in 30 minutes (like the pasta above) – and some just cannot be made in 30 minutes ever.  Unless you really like a medium rare roast chicken.

I think that the planning is the part that usually gets brushed aside.  And for us that is really the most important part of not eating crap all week.

Here is a picture of my dogs.

I’m going to quit blabbering about food and go hang out with them now.  Happy Saturday, happy May Day, and happy first farmer’s market day to Omaha!

Posted in How-to, Not about food, Planning | 1 Comment »

How To: Butterfly a whole chicken

Posted by Jeanne on April 3, 2010

I love a whole roasted or grilled chicken – it’s easy to do, and the results are delicious.  The whole chicken also becomes much more quick-cooking when you butterfly it – take out the backbone so that it lays flat.  That way instead of a round ball of chicken, you can lay it on the grill (or in your roasting pan) so that more of the surface of the chicken is in contact with the heat at once.  Cooks faster, but you still get that whole bird presentation.

Also, I took as many pictures as I could manage – I did most of this one-handed so I could take quite a few photos.  However, there are some steps that require two hands and that’s why there aren’t action photos of some of the cuts, etc.

To begin – this is a 3.5 lb. whole chicken.  It and chickens of similar size will probably be labeled as a fryer – much bigger and they will be labeled as a roaster.

Chicken guts!  These are the things that come in the little bag inside the chicken – from left to right, liver, neck bone, gizzard, and heart.  Save all but the liver for stock. I’m not sure if it is an old-wives’ tale or not, but I’ve always been told that putting liver in your stock will do terrible things to it so I’ve never added the liver.

Alton Brown makes a pate-type spread out of chicken livers, but I don’t love them and usually I only have one liver anyway so I will just toss it.

Top of the chicken – also known as “breast side up.”

Chicken back (baby got back…).  The weird triangular nubbin… thing at the end near the legs is the tail, also called the pope’s nose for some reason.  I feel bad for whichever pope had a nose that looked like that thing…

Anyway, so you want to start with your chicken back side up.  With a pair of heavy-duty scissors or kitchen shears (we don’t have fancy poultry shears – these are just office scissors that we only use in the kitchen), snip along the side of the backbone from tail to tip.

Your chicken will now look like this:

Post-first-cut – I am holding onto the tail.

The spine is here, along where my finger is laying.

Make the same cut along the other side of the spine, from tail to tip.

This is what it will look like once you have both cuts complete.  Poor spineless creature… the spine is on the plate in the background of the photo.

Things to do with a stray chicken spine:

  1. Save for your next batch of stock; or
  2. Wave it around (carefully so as not to cover your kitchen in raw chicken goo) like that scene from the movie “Predator.”  Then use it for chicken stock.

I can think of no other uses for a lone chicken spine.  Option #2 will make your spouse and any other onlookers think you are crazy.

We usually either grill or roast the butterflied chicken – you can flatten it out quite a bit more than is shown here.  I couldn’t do it with just my left hand, but it’s much easier to do when you’re also not trying to keep one hand chicken-free to work the camera.

To keep the tips of the wings from going up in flames in your oven or on your grill, you will want to tuck them in.  In the picture just above, the one on the right is already tucked.

Pull the wing like so…

And tuck it under the breast.  This will keep the wing tips close to the rest of the bird and not flopping around.  Or again, bursting into flames – they get overdone quickly when they’re sticking out.

Now your chicken is ready to flatten, season, and grill or roast to perfection.  I prefer salt & pepper and lemons in the oven, served with some roasted veggies.  For the grill, I really like to rub it with jerk paste and serve with mashed sweet potatoes.  Just in time for grilling season and everything!

Posted in Birdies, Cooking, How-to | 2 Comments »

How to: Quick soak dried beans

Posted by Jeanne on March 22, 2010

We eat a lot of beans.  Beans are good for you – full of fiber, high in nutrients, low in fat, blah blah blah.  They are also delicious and versatile.

However, dried beans also can take a bit of planning.  We buy a lot of beans from Rancho Gordo, and they are awesome and amazing – truly a world of difference between these and canned beans.  (Also, I swear I’m not on their payroll.)  But even if you don’t want to mail order beans, a bag of dried beans from the supermarket is a small and not very costly experiment.

If you are good at planning ahead, soak your beans for 4 to 8 hours, then cook gently another hour or two in lightly simmering water.

If you’re not good at planning ahead, read on.

Things you need:

A large pot with a lid

A working stove

Water

Beans

A strainer

That’s it.  Seriously.

Add the beans to the pot and cover with water – there should be about two to three inches of water above the beans.  This works with any quantity of beans – just don’t crowd them, they need room to hang out.

Am I a reflection of the beans - or are they a reflection of me? Probably neither. Taking photos over water is cool though!

Bring to a gentle boil, cover, and cook for two minutes.

Turn off your burner and walk away for an hour.  Your quick soak is now complete.

Drain your beans, and cook as you normally would – I like to put them in a slow cooker (you had to know that was coming) with a couple bay leaves.  Cover with lots of water and cook for 8 to 10 hours on low.

I would have posted a picture of this part, but the photos have all the visual interest of a pot full of black coffee.

Once the beans are tender, you can use however you’d like – we’ll turn these black beans into a side to have with the last of the tamales.

Posted in Cooking, How-to, Vegetarian | 2 Comments »

Tamales, again

Posted by Jeanne on February 2, 2010

I have heard of people that wake up on Saturday morning and do things like savor their coffee and read newspapers, and who do not force their spouses into cooking projects before 9 AM.  Orangette has apparently also heard of these people.

I am not one of these people.  I am the kind of person who forces their spouse to help assemble a million tamales before heading to a birthday party for my awesome grandmother (who is apparently reading.  Hi Rosie!) on a Saturday morning.

Roasted butternut squash and chicken mole tamales

Filling:

1 large or two very small butternut squash, cut into 0.5″ squares

Meat from one chicken breast, one chicken leg, and one chicken thigh, cooked and shredded

Half a container of mole sauce (premade), thinned out with about a cup of very hot water

Two chipotle peppers in adobo, finely diced (optional)

6 to 8 oz. queso fresco or other mild cheese (optional)

The dough recipe can be found in this post, along with assembly instructions.  I will repeat most of it here because I actually took some pictures this time!

Dough:

4 cups masa mix (if you get the kind labeled “for tamales” follow the instructions on the package – it’ll already have leavening and likely salt)

2 tsp salt

1 TB baking powder

4 cups stock or water, warmed (I just used water this time)

1 cup vegetable shortening

Equipment:

3 or 4 dozen corn husks

One large slow cooker, or an extremely large pot with a steamer basket

Filling instructions:

Roast your cut-up squash on a large baking sheet with olive oil and salt & pepper about 40 minutes, until tender but not mushy.  Stir once during the cooking process.  I did this on Friday night while I was making dinner, and then let the squash hang out in the fridge until Saturday morning.

I made a whole chicken in the slow cooker overnight on Friday – this is the easiest thing ever.

1.  Place a whole chicken (giblets and neck removed) in a slow cooker.

2.  Add half a cup of chicken stock or water.

3.  Turn on low and go to bed.

On Saturday morning I shredded the meat and used half for this and the other half for this soup.

Chicken & squash, no sauce yet

Mix the squash, shredded chicken, mole sauce, and chipotles/cheese if you are using them until well combined.  Set aside until ready to assemble.

Dough Instructions:

Soak your corn husks in warm water until pliable – about 15 to 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix masa, salt and baking powder.  Add liquid and stir to combine (mixture will foam a bit and is quite thick).  Add vegetable shortening and mix until completely blended – I used a fork for this step.  Dough will be light and almost spongy in texture.

To assemble, gather dough, chicken, mole, soaked corn husks, and your cooking vessel – I used the slow cooker.

Lay a corn husk flat on the counter.  Take a handful of dough – about the size of a tennis ball, maybe a bit smaller – and spread on just one end of the corn husk.  The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick.

Add about one to two tablespoons of filling.

Fold the edges of the corn husk over so the dough wraps all the way around the filling, and fold up the end (the one without the filling in it!).

It’ll be open on the one end – stand up in the bottom of your cooking vessel on the folded end.

Repeat approximately one billion times (or 32 times for this batch) until all your filling is gone.

For the slow cooker, cook on high for 4 to 6 hours until done.  If you’re using a steamer, cook for about 2 hours.  You can tell they’re done when the corn begins to pull away from the husk.

Some of this batch got a little over-done around the edges – I think next time I would try and sneak about a cup of water into the bottom of the crock pot to keep this from happening. They still taste good, and now I have five bags (each with six tamales in it – we had to try some of them!) in the freezer for a later date.

It is a good thing we like tamales.

Posted in Birdies, Cooking, Entrees, How-to | 5 Comments »

How To: Make tamales!

Posted by Jeanne on January 12, 2010

I made tamales on new year’s day.  It was fun and not all that difficult – mostly just a lot of assembly.  Also, they are DELICIOUS and now we have 35 tamales in the freezer.

Unfortunately, what we do not have are pictures because I forgot to take any.

Tamales, with huge props to the crock pot lady for figuring out a way to do it without a giant steamer.

Dough:

4 cups masa mix (if you get the kind labeled “for tamales” follow the instructions on the package – it’ll already have leavening and likely salt)

2 tsp salt

1 TB baking powder

4 cups stock or water, warmed (I used 1 TB beef base plus 4 cups of water – I don’t feel like it added much and will experiment with just using water in the future)

1 cup vegetable shortening

Filling:

3 to 4 lbs chicken, cooked and shredded (I cooked some leg quarters in the slow cooker in tomatoes and chilies.)

Mole sauce (I used half a jar of prepared mole sauce from the grocery store, thinned out with about 0.75 cup of water.)

Equipment:

3 or 4 dozen corn husks

One large slow cooker, or an extremely large pot with a steamer basket

Instructions:

Soak your corn husks in warm water until pliable – about 15 to 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix masa, salt and baking powder.  Add liquid and stir to combine (mixture will foam a bit and is quite thick).  Add vegetable shortening and mix until completely blended – I used a fork for this step.  Dough will be light and almost spongy in texture.

To assemble, gather dough, chicken, mole, soaked corn husks, and your cooking vessel – I used the slow cooker.

Lay a corn husk flat on the counter.  Take a handful of dough – about the size of a tennis ball, maybe a bit smaller – and spread on just one end of the corn husk.  The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick.  Add about one tablespoon each of chicken and mole sauce.

Fold the edges of the corn husk over so the dough wraps all the way around the filling, and fold up the end (the one without the filling in it!).  It’ll be open on the one end – stand up in the bottom of your cooking vessel on the folded end.

Repeat approximately one billion times (more like 3 or 4 dozen) until all your filling is gone.  For the slow cooker, cook on high for 4 to 6 hours until done.  If you’re using a steamer, cook for about 2 hours.  You can tell they’re done when the corn begins to pull away from the husk.

We served ours with some black beans and rice on the side.  Sooooo good – and there is so.  much.  left.

It made seven servings about this size, plus I have a bag in the freezer with 8 tamales (no rice & beans) left.  We will be eating these for ages.  Thankfully, they are tasty.

Next time I promise to take pictures of the process.

Posted in Birdies, Cooking, Entrees, How-to | 3 Comments »

How to: Dismantle a Pomegranate

Posted by Jeanne on December 3, 2009

I have a problem buying produce.  Pomegranates are no exception. I love them – the flavor is both sweet and tart, and tastes like nothing else on earth.  Also the seeds look like jewels.

But god, they are a pain to deal with.  Why must so many delicious things be encased in ridiculousness, like the artichoke?

You will need:

A pomegranate

A cutting board

A big, sharp knife

A bowl of water

So.  Off we go!  Our opponent:

Behold the pomegranate.  The skin is almost leathery and the fruit should feel heavy for its size.  If you shake it and you can hear things knocking around, step away – this is food, not a maraca.

Cut the pomegranate in half, straight through the bloom (the knobby looking thing at the top in the photo above is the bloom).

I win!  Warning – pomegranate juice is bright red and will stain.  Don’t wear your fancy clothes.

Pick a side, and pull away the skin and one of the lobes of the pomegranate.

Over the bowl of water, push the little red seed things (they are actually called arils) gently off the white pulpy stuff.  The seeds will sink, but any leftover white stuff will float to the top of the water.

Hats off to Alton Brown for the tip – hopefully despite the crappy photo you can see the white pulp floating away from the seeds.

Once you’re done, push the white pulp out of the water and into the sink or a waiting bowl.  Drain the pomegranate seeds, and this is what you have left:

See?  Pretty little jewels of pomegranate.

De-Seeding A Pomegranate on Foodista

Posted in How-to | 3 Comments »