Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tastes Like Chicken...For Two Days After (Warning: Non-Vegetarian Post)

Every now and then, my local grocery store has a great sale on whole fryer chickens.  At three or four pounds each, these little guys are great for shredding for sandwiches, soups, salads, etc.

Here's how easy this is...

Lovely raw chicken photo courtesy of the folks at Prevention mag.
This is Chicken in Child Pose Position.  It's important that the dead chicken is calm and relaxed before consumption.

Into a slow-cooker or pot on stove, place the chicken, 4 cups of water, some carrot and celery sticks, a whole onion (chunked up), some salt and pepper, and a couple of bay leaves.  Let the slow-cooker go for a 8-10 hours, or simmer (very low heat, please) a few hours on the stovetop.  Cover the pot so that the water doesn't evaporate.  You'll do something amazing with it later.

Basically, when the chicken falls apart as you're trying to take it out, it's done.  Remove the carcass and all the meat bits, and let it cool.  Then, get your hands right in there and pull it apart.  It's kind of fun, actually.  You'll end up with a couple of pounds of what I call Blank Slate Chicken.  Set it aside for now.

In the crockpot, you'll have some liquid left, along with the aromatics and vegetables and chicken fatty bits.  Strain this all out, and pour into a freezer bag or container.  That, friends, is chicken stock you'll pull out later in the winter for stews, soups, etc.

Back to the shredded chicken.  Possibilities are limitless.  I divided mine in half.  That night we had...

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light.
BBQ chicken sandwiches with coleslaw.  I pretty much ate mine just like this...except without the bun.  The creamy, crunchy coleslaw right on top of the savory, tangy barbequed meat is a combination I really dig, and I don't need bread muddling it up.

There are a million and one barbecue sauce recipes out there, and I actually have one that contains red wine (perhaps for another post).  But, there was a half-bottle of KC Masterpiece in the fridge, and there was no better time than the present to get rid of it.  Into a saucepan on the stove went the sauce and half the shredded chicken...heat on medium until warm.  Eat.

The next day, I had every intention of making Chicken Noodle soup, because 'tis the season.  But, to make the soup, I'd have to make the noodles, and I dunno, I just couldn't muster the energy.  An excellent alternative?  Chicken tortilla soup.

'Preciate the folks at for this pretty photo.
Soup base first.  Because you know I'm all about that base. About that base.


One onion diced, sauteed with some olive oil in a hot pot.  A three-finger pinch of salt and pepper. Two tablespoons of chicken base. One and a half tablespoons of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and onion powder, each.  Add three tablespoons of tomato paste and stir until a thick paste forms.

Then, get out that amazing chicken stock you made earlier.  Dump in the whole thing.  Heat and taste and correct seasoning as needed (I usually need to add more cumin and salt...but that's my personal taste).  Throw in the chicken and heat soup fully.  Serve with shredded mozzarella, chopped cilantro, sour cream and crushed tortilla chips.

Om nom nom nom.

Seriously, though, I do love doing whole chickens in the crockpot.  It's so simple and I get two or three or four, sometimes, meals from it.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Best The Four Farthings Has to Offer!

First of all, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc. to you and yours!

For me, the holidays are always about the food.  Naturally.  But, I guess there are people out there (mostly of the younger set) who feel the holidays are about The Stuff.  The loot.  What Santa brings.  Etc. Etc.  PlayStations, Xboxes and televisions and iPads and iPhones were the gifts given to young people I know...which make Brent and I look like miserly Grinches because we gave Legos, painting sets, and promises to our children.

But I say to you: did any of those kids have a six-course, all-day Hobbit feast for their Christmas Day dinner?

No, they did not.

The Hobbit meal idea was borne of the recent release of the final Hobbit movie this month  Diehard Tolkien fans know that Hobbits eat several meals a day including a first and second breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and supper...not to mention a mid-morning meal called Elevenses.

This idea is a little repellent to non-Tolkien fans...after all, it does seem like a lot of food.  And, recreating a Hobbit Christmas feast meant spending most of the day with the same people.

And in this case, moderation is key.  Let us begin...

The inspiration began with an NPR article (read here) and recipes found here.  I decided on six meals instead of the traditional seven.

The morning began at 8 am with a light breakfast of saffron cream scones, homemade Devonshire cream, and lemon curd.  Also, an assortment of coffee and teas were it is the Hobbit way.

After present-opening, it was nearly time for second breakfast.  This meal was a little less Hobbitish, and consisted of pancakes, sausage, and bacon.

In between meals, we played Pin The Tail On Smaug and Riddles In The Dark.  Before we knew it, it was 11 o'clock and time for Elevenses.  And Elevenses consisted of Lembas (an Elvish waybread) and Merry's Mulled Cider.  We also played the clip from the first Lord of the Rings where Legolas explains that a small bite of lembas fills the stomach of a grown man...and then Merry and Pippin divulge they've eaten four of the wafers.

After this time, most of the Hobbit guests left to go take naps or reconvene at one for luncheon.

Lunch was simple...cold cuts, cheeses, and crackers.  It was gone within minutes.  Then, we began the first Hobbit movie.  Fitting, yes?

Afternoon tea was at three.  Lemon-lavender muffins with fruit...and I will be making these muffins again.  They were light and floral and delicious.  And of course, a selection of teas and coffees were available.

And shortly before this meal, I began working on this...

The centerpiece of the supper meal.  The prime rib...certainly a favorite of Dwarves across Middle-Earth.  Supper was at six...

The finished, crusted prime rib...

On a plate with a good drop of the Old Winyard, laid down by Balbo Baggins, along with Mushrooms ala Gandalf, and Farmer Maggot's carrots...

Topped off by a blackberry tart from Bree...

As good as the Shire could afford!  Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Thing About Sushi...

1. Yes, there is some capital outlay involved.  You certainly *can* make sushi without a bamboo mat or the right kind of rice, but I have a hard time seeing it without the nori/seaweed paper.

2. While I enjoying rolling it, cutting it, etc...sushi is one of those things most people want someone else to make for them.  There is a fair amount of effort involved, especially with the cutting and the preparing of the rice.  But, see, I dig that kind of thing, so it's doesn't bother me, but it might be a deal breaker for someone else.

3. Most people either love it or hate it, and it's not always a favorite at something like a church potluck.

And it is for those three reasons that we will not be bringing sushi to the Nelson Family Christmas this year.  While one of my husband's brothers and wife would love it, the MIL, FIL, and other two brothers probably would not.

Alas.  More sushi for me.

At a Asian food store about an hour from here, I picked up all the accoutrements for making the sing-ding total of about $24.  Not bad for two rolling mats, a 50-sheet package of seaweed, a five pound bag of rice, and sushi rice vinegar.

And because I was inspired and in the mood, I had this for lunch...

...because one does not simply drive an hour to the state capital and NOT have a decent lunch.  The above cuisine is Vietnamese, and honestly, some days, there is nothing a better than a big bowl of pho.

Back home, though...after julienning some crabmeat, cucumber, carrots and mincing some shrimp, here was the end result:

I like sushi a lot, but I've discovered that the sauces are necessary.  There's four on my plate: sriracha, wasabi, hot mustard, and soy.

And because it made me laugh (and still does), here's a video of Bean trying the hot mustard for the first time.  You'll notice five distinct phases of his process: Trying/Thinking, Unexpected Reaction, Growing Dislike, Peak of Discomfort, and Milk Euphoria.  This 28-second video is very much like a short story (Expository, Initial Conflict, Continuing Action/Conflict, Climax, Resolution).

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bavarian Cream Is Like Riding Your Bike

In which you have not ridden your Bavarian Cream bike in a long time, but once you get going, you think, Hey! I remember this!  This is fun!  This is easy! Wheeeee!  And then you make a teeny little mistake, miss that teeny little rock in the road, and suddenly you've wiped out, big time.

I don't think I've mentioned it here, but a friend of mine asked me to do the food-providing for her small-group business holiday party next week, and of course, I've been testing and pairing recipes like madcap.

I'm in the shower this morning, and I realize I have the ingredients on hand for Bavarian creams.  And even better, I'm going to divide the creams out, so I can play with flavors.

But, first...a creme anglaise.  So far, so good.

This right here is what is referred to by pastry chefs as "nappĂ©" (nap-pay).  I wanted my egg-sugar-cream mixture to cook at a low temp long enough to get thick enough to coat a spoon...and then hold the line I drew through it.

And everything else was going swimmingly...I'd divided out my warm anglaise out and one was chocolate-and-coffee flavored and the other was porter-and-chocolate flavored.

And here, things go a bit south.  I set both mixtures in the freezer to chill slightly before adding the whipped cream.

The bowl on the left is the porter and chocolate, which set up EXACTLY like I wanted it.  The mocha, though, overchilled and I did not get my smoothness when I folded in the cream.  Meh.  I can't pour that into cups!

Then.  I finished folding the cream into the porter mixture, and I soon realized I'd overbeat my cream.  The extra agitation during the folding rendered my porter not very pourable either, and in the end, the porter mix was so stuff that I had to pipe it into serving cups.  Not a horrible thing, honestly, but not what I wanted.  Fortunately, it tastes great, so it wasn't a total loss.

While I did not end up with a final product I would be comfortable serving to my friend, I feel pretty good about the fact that a.) the FP tasted pretty damn good and b.) I know exactly what to do differently for next time!

Edited to add the picture of the final product.  That's a chocolate-porter ganache on top.  I've got beer on the brain, as you can probably tell!