Wednesday, February 28, 2007

crunchy hippie tacos

We had dinner on Friday night at our neighbors, and earlier in the day when i was talking to Mr. B on the phone, he said “We’re having crunchy hippie tacos”. I didn’t tell the boy what we were having for dinner until we got to the neighbors’ house, because i wasnt sure how down he’d be with some of the ingredients (especially something called Crunchy Hippie Tacos); but it ended up being a really pleasant surprise. The original recipe came from some friend of Mr and Mrs B who would sell food at Dead shows (and other GD-like bands), so they took this and made it their own. And we liked them so much that on Sunday we decided to make them again, and j was over so he was our guinea pig. The original consists of a soft tortilla filled with grilled chicken, field greens, crumbled feta, Craisins, and Vidalia onion salad dressing. The boy tells me that in order to call a recipe your own, you need to change at least three ingredients to the original recipe. I’m not sure how many ingredients we changed here, but hey.

Since Sunday was such a nice day, we decided to fire up the ol’ charcoal grill which we hadn’t used in a few months. The first grilling day of the year is always a happy day. And we are grill purists, meaning that we use charcoal. This particularity caused A LOT of controversy early on in the boy’s and my relationship. We argued about the pros and cons of charcoal versus gas for EVER. I have always been a charcoal user, and to me there is nothing better for grilling out. It reminds me of my childhood. Bitch and moan all you want about the advantages of a gas grill, and how you’re able to use it in the winter. You want to grill out in the winter? Be my fucking guest. You sit out there in the cold and do it! i can still grill out in the winter if i want to, but heck, i dont feel like it. the most we’ve ever done is grill a leg of lamb at Thanksgiving for a few years when some guests of ours brought one and our oven was already in use with the turkey. If you have some stance on the wonders of a gas grill, by all means, lets hear it. i like to argue about this subject.

Now, having said this, i will agree that it might be fine and dandy to have a gas grill if you’re doing a lot of cooking while grilling. For example, if you have a sauce that needs to simmer while you’re cooking out, gas is fine with this. In fact, i’ve often said to the boy that perhaps one day when we’re Filthy Rich and Have a Lot of Money to Blow Through, then he can get a hybrid (by the time we ever get Filthy Rich we’ll probably find another use for the money, like hire our own Grill Bitch who wears hot pants and brings me foofy drinks with umbrellas in them). So yeah, before we invested in a grill, the boy and i had many an argument over what kind to buy. I’d like to think that i’m pretty easy going, but this was an issue where i had to put my foot down. It was charcoal or nothing. So we own a Brinkman grill with the happy little charcoal elevators and our outdoor life is much grander because of it.

I could go on about the wonders of a charcoal chimney and how we only buy chunk charcoal if we can find it, but i think i’ve waxed enough poetic on the topic.

Earlier in the day, i put 4 chicken breasts in a ziplock baggie along with the juice of three lemons, some grated lemon rind, three big smashed cloves of garlic (just smashed with the flat side of a knife and tossed in), olive oil, salt and pepper. This is actually one of our standby marinades we have used often in the past. I think I borrowed it from Nigella Lawson’s spatchcocked chicken recipe (a whole chicken that’s been cut open right up the backbone and grilled flat. When the weather gets really good, i’ll post on that). This would be a great marinade for fish as well, but i wouldnt let it sit around swimming in that for more than a few minutes or else we’re talking ceviche here. Not that there is anything wrong with ceviche, but that wasnt the point of Sunday’s grill-out. So i did the marinade earlier in the day and let the chicken breasts sit around in that for a few hours. The boy fired up the grill and cooked these for however long one grills chicken breasts. I want to say internal temperature of around 170 F, but seeing as i don’t have a head for numbers, i never remember. It’s a shame really, because i love math, especially geometry. But i digress. After these were pulled off the grill, assembly began.

We kept with Mr. and Mrs. B’s recipe to an extent. We kept the field greens, the crumbled feta (flavored if you like), the Craisins, and the Vidalia onion dressing (we used Ken’s Steakhouse). To that we added some sliced red onion. Earlier in the day i made pasta salad. I’m not going to post a recipe for that because i used what we had in the fridge, which frankly wasnt much. If you’ve got roasted peppers and such, throw those in. i used diced red onion, diced up half a cucumber, found a green pepper about to die in the “crisper”, a couple of leaves of basil, sliced scallions, some vinaigrette made with a packet of Good Seasons Italian dressing, a whole lot of salt and pepper, some red pepper flakes. The boy has decided that he likes to add a layer of pasta salad to his taco. So for him, that’s three ingredients which have changed, but for me it’s only two (I do not add pasta salad to my taco, I prefer it on the side thankyouverymuch). Marinating the chicken is one, adding red onion is two. Unless you want to count all the ingredients in the marinade, then we’ve definitely taken the recipe and made it ours. muhaha! thank you, Mr. and Mrs B.

much love,
French Tart

Thursday, February 22, 2007

no pics to show. we've been feasting on leftovers.

someone who's had it good is Mrs P. she's been getting a lot of rice mixed in with her kibble.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

another Ode to the Pig

i'm glad i'm not the only one who has a healthy obsession with All Things Pig.

Bacon of the Month Club!

i swear! it ain't no joke!

Monday, February 19, 2007

just your run of the mill early morning Monday rant

i apologize ahead of time if the following irritates you. welcome to my world.

so i did make general tso's chicken on friday night, after we got home late from purchasing a new washer and dryer. yes, that's where my bonus money went. and yes, we really did need the fancypants variety because the washer and dryer which came along with the house are pieces of crap. and you know you've reached a new level of wanting to kick the crap out of something when it takes 4 to 5 spins through the dryer to dry a load of clothes.

no i don't have any pictures of any of the food i made this weekend, which is a shame, because on saturday i made a cake that was amazing. chocolate bundt cake, and in the middle of the bundt hole were raspberries i'd soaked in chambord and then poured creme brulee all over. it was good. it was decadent. i ate a piece yesterday after indulging in some wings the boy made while we watched the daytona 500.

so, a lot of food was made this weekend but no pictures taken. maybe next time.

i kinda got into a bad mood yesterday, because one of our guests said someting that pissed me off. actually, i get this a lot and don't know if this is normal behavior for the rest of the world and i should just let it not irritate me anymore, and if people are just downright stupid. yesterday, one of our guests was asking me where i grew up, and i said, "Paris". and he replied, "Oh... i'm so sorry". i looked at him and thought he was kidding, and he continued, "I hate Paris. It's a horrible place. it's my least favorite city in the world. i hate it. it's too bad you had to grow up there". i didn't know what to say. it has happened to me before where guests have said curt things to me while i'm standing in my own living room, but i was still shocked. and i don't know how to react when people are that way, and i know that they're not trying to insult me as a person, but it's an insult nonetheless. later on, while i'm laying in the dark trying to fall asleep i'll think of great come-back lines i ought to have said, and kick myself for not having thought of them earlier. so i stood in my living room while someone insulted my heritage and i didn't say a word.

i understand that a lot of people have issues with france and french people and parisians being rude, and i'm going to tell you a secret. the french are rude to everyone, not just americans. people go to france with set expectations and are loud and obnoxious and expect everyone to speak english. and i'll let you in on another secret: a lot of french people DO speak english, but when they see some ornery tourist making an ass out of themselves, they'll just feed fuel to that fire. i don't blame them. perhaps i'm generalizing here. this is not the first time that someone has barked something out at me and they're ignorant about the rudimentaries of tactfulness and social graces, and frankly i'm tired of it.

anyhoo! enough about that. can you tell that i am tired and need more coffee?

normal blogging will resume later, complete with pictures.

Friday, February 16, 2007

on general tso's chicken

this is a video of that englishwoman i raved about making general tso's chicken.

i'm feeling the need to make this right now. i'm going to have to squash that feeling until about 9 hours from now. sigh.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

this one's for you, patty: COQ AU VIN

the boy and i don't make a big deal about valentine's day. we are fortunate if we actually see each other on that day, seeing as he's in the restaurant industry and all. when we first met and were working at the same Big Ass Corporation where i still work, we got paid on the 15th and 30th of the month. this kind of put a damper on our first valentine's day together, so we said, Fuck It and had a nice lobster dinner at home on the 15th. since then, the tradition of Fuck It has stuck, and we don't feel compelled to get each other cards or flowers or dorky stuffed animals unless we want to. make your Significant Other some fancypants dinner, served in the nude if possible, and be done with it.

the boy works the day shift at his current job, but had anticipated a long day yesterday and would be coming home right around dinnertime. earlier in the week, i asked him what he wanted to eat On That Day, and he said "Anything out of the Les Halles cookbook ", so i made him coq au vin.

which, seriously, is like the best shit ever.

like any good old school french recipe, this is a two-day process. day one: buy wine and chicken. you probably have the rest of the supplies rotting in your so-called "crisper" drawer in the fridge. one onion, one celery rib, one carrot hacked up and into a large bowl. bouquet garni, which i got supremelly lazy about and didnt tie up, thrown in. handful of peppercorns, a few cloves, toss that in. open wine and empty the whole bottle, add chicken. cover, put in fridge overnight.

yesterday afternoon, i fished the chicken out of the marinade and man, what a fugly friggin piece of meat it was. it has got to be the only foodstuff that is dusty rose in color, kind of like your grandmother's living room wallpaper. blech! i also noticed that i didn't cut off the wing tips like good ol' bourdain tells you to (woops), so they were all dangly and pinkefied. salt and pepper the bitch, and into the dutch oven with some butter and oil to brown on all sides (tee hee, i said Dutch Oven. yeah, fifth grade humor never ceases to amuse me. anyway...)

it's kind of hard to tell when it's becoming browned, as the dusty rose tends to interfere colorwise, but you can tell by looking at the texture. yank that out and add the veggies from the marinade (sans bouquet garni, and since i didn't tie it together, i had to fish each bit out manually) and sauté those for a bit.

it was about this time that i decided to pour myself a glass or two of wine. after all, i needed more wine for later on in the recipe, so open wine i did. after a few copious gulps on my empty stomach i got giddy and thought it would be a fine time to toast the chicken. cìn cìn!

it was also about this time that i realized my dutch oven (hee) was far too large for what i was trying to accomplish, so out came our smaller le creuset. the reason i'm writing this is because i dont want people to think i'm just showing off my plethera of Le Creuset cookware because i'm a snob; that's not what i'm all about. but hey, how bout that? check out my fire red le creuset! isn't it nifty? after the transition to the smaller cooking vessel, i added some flour to coat the veggies, poured the marinade wine back in, tossed in the original bouquet garni, and added the chicken. simmer for an hour + 15 minutes. since the chicken's butt was sticking out, after a half hour of cooking or so, i flipped it over (and got wine splatters all over the place) to cook right side up for a bit before flipping it back over.

coq au vin calls for mushrooms, pearl onions, and bacon (lardons). i dont use mushrooms because the boy isn't into them. i couldnt find slab bacon, so i used thick cut and hacked that up into lardons shapes. this picture shows off the new global knife that the boy got me off of eBay for next to nothing. i like it. i do like knives. the bacon gets fried up and set aside to drain. then you have to cook the pearl onions, and bourdain tells you to put them in a saucepan barely covered with water, pinch of sugar, pinch of salt, and butter. cover with a bit of parchement and cook until the water is gone, then keep cooking until the onions are delicously browned. i almost dove in and ate those up but i restrained myself. after removing the onions, i added about a cup of the wine i opened earlier and let that reduce and bubble away nicely.

when the chicken was cooked through, i hauled it out, strained out the veggies from the now-cooked marinade, and added the marinade to the reduced wine along with the yummarific looking onions and bacon bits.

a little dismemberment of the chicken took place. bourdain says to hack it up into four, but i kind of cut it up similarly to the way i cut up a simple roast chicken. we each got a bowl of wide egg noodles topped with chicken pieces and some of that now-fantastic sauce, and the boy was happy. he was so tired from the long ass day at work, that he went to bed pretty soon after eating, but not before thanking me profusely for the tasty dinner. we have a boatload of leftovers, so we'll probably be eating that again tonight. woe is me...

a sea of brownies

hi, my name is French Tart and i am not a chocoholic.

repeat, not.

even though the right side cupboard of my kitchen island is filled with chocolate, that doesn't mean that i am one. i just appreciate good chocolate, and the older i get, the better quality chocolate i use in my baking. i hit the lindt store in lenox mall every time i'm there (and used to hit the lindt store in the annapolis mall every time i was there). they always seem to be having a sale, which is just fine with me. buy 3 get one free; i'm game!

i don't crave chocolate the way that a lot of people do. i don't have the need for chocolate every day. i almost feel blasphemous by admitting this. i feel pretty terrible about it, really, as though i've just told a room full of premenstral women, "Sorry! I can live without it every day!", and now i feel like i ought to run for the hills with my stash in tow. BUT, when i do get that craving, which is probably once every few months or so, i absolutely have to have it, and i have to have it right now. which is how i came about making these brownies night before last, and they just so coincided with valentine's day.

i'd been talking about chocolate all day with patty, and i had just finished telling her what i just admitted right here, that i'm not a chocoholic. and then i went and sat in front of my computer, and the next thing i know i'm on the cooks illustrated website cruising around for chocolate recipes. for me, chocolate is like a tuna fish sandwich; once i crave it i have to have it as soon as possible. i know, kind of weird, right? don't think of chocolate and tuna together, though, because that's just plain gross. think of them separately. yeah.

the point to all this rambling is that i got a super hankering for turtle brownies, so i made them. three different chocolates go into this, which i approve. i like using all different kinds of chocolate. these actually took a while to make from start to finish because of all the steps involved, e.g. making caramel (which i'm getting pretty good at and can practically do in my sleep now), making brownie mix, cooking them, letting cool, pouring more caramel over, letting cool, cutting, and topping each delectable bite with half of a pristine pecan.

i had one brownie, and it was great. then i didn't want anymore (it was also very rich), and i most certainly didn't want them in the house, tempting me to eat them. i could just see them now in a big tupperware on the counter, each bite with their wee voices penetrating my inner ear asking, BEGGING me to eat them all. no! i will not have that.

so i brought some in to work, and sent the rest with the boy to his work. they were well received all around, although most of the people on my cube row are on a diet of some sort so they declined. i put the rest of the brownies in the breakroom and they were gone in an hour. you could put anything in our breakroom and it would be gone in an hour. these people are like wolves.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

nothing to do with food; everything to do with fun

Tomorrow is "That's what SHE said!" day. now go out and do some early practicing.

"hon, i need a little help with the pie"

i am a huge fan of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen; however, baking is what i love the most. i don't think i'm great at baking, but i'm good, and i'm better than the average bear. considering the average bear consists of people whose jaws drop open when they see something i've baked and exclaim, "you mean you made that from scratch? you didn't use a box mix?", then yeah i'm better than that. but i'm not excellent. and i'd so like to be.

okay okay, so you'd think being half french and half nut (or maybe those two together make up the same half) that i'd be really good at pies. i'll let you in on a leettle secret: i'm not. and do you know why? because i'm afraid of pie crust, the same way i was mortally afraid of yeast until not so long ago and now i just love making bread. yep yep. pie crust just seems so daunting, dammit. the few times i've tried my hand at it (years ago), i failed miserably. the crust would shrink, or i'd have pre-baked it too long, or i didnt have beans/rice/pie weights so the thing would turn out puffy AND burned. i'm slowly working myself up to start making pie crust again, because what good French Tart doesnt know how to make crust?

i think it was martha stewart (insert snarly face here) who said that you just have to keep practicing, practicing, practicing. so maybe i should add this to my culinary goals list and just start practicing on a regular basis. after all, it's cheap to make.

so without any warning at all, i got kickstarted into pie mode earlier this week when the boy decided to make me a lemon meringue pie. he's good, my boy. so he's all in the kitchen pottering around and suddenly i hear, "hon, i need a little help with the pie". so i go in there and he's busy rolling out pie dough, and it looks fantastic (he didn't really need my help after all). it looks smashing. it looks great. even though i don't have much hands-on experience with pie dough, i have read up a lot on the matter in the past year in preparation for whenever it was i was going to launch myself into it, so i now know a thing or two about the stuff. for instance, the best way to transport rolled-out dough to your pan is to loosely roll it around the pin and bring it over. it's also in your best interest to not pull on the dough, but just lightly goad it into place between all the flutes in the pan sides. and no stretching! if you stretch your dough, it will only cause shrinkage while cooking, and shrinkage is not a good thing. so together, the boy and i got the dough into the tart pan and crimped the edges (not very professionally, but by then we were having a good time, or at least i was). in preparation for said D-Day Of Pie Making (whenever that was going to be), i bought pie weights last summer, so those went into the the tart shell once the boy lined it with parchment. this step is important, as you'll need to haul the pie weights out somehow once the shell is done baking. so into the oven that went, and after a certain amount of time, out of the oven it came. and then we had a few hilarious moments where mishaps nearly occurred as we attempted to haul the pie weights out of the now-baked shell.

anyway, the finished product is amazing. i just love the browned peaks and valleys of baked meringue; i find that very beautiful.

i think my next endeavour will be quiche. i've actually kind of mastered quiche (the filling), not that it's rocket science or anything, but you know. i just need to master the shell. and then we'll talk.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

on deep fried tofu, part one of many

so i'm on this quest to figure out how to deep fry tofu properly (see this entry). i have a feeling this endeavor will have many parts, as my first attempt this past weekend was fun/exciting/messy as hell, but probably and most certainly not anatomically correct.

i picked up some silken tofu at the store. actually i picked up some silken tofu and the next one up, i think it was labeled "light firm", whatever that means. i bought it as backup, just in case the whole thing failed on me. it's still in the fridge.

i tried to be extremelly careful while taking the tofu out of the package, which i attempted to do so by inverting a plate on top of the open package then flipping the whole thing over. the tofu stuck in the package and wouldnt come out without a bit of goading. about 3/4 of it did come out eventually. this kind of put a damper on attempting to cut the block (if you could call it that) into cubes, so i just kind of cut it into shapes. i had trapezoids and bumpy rectangles and round-edged triangles of tofu. while this operation was going on, i had already heated up the wok and thrown in some peanut oil (i want to say about a cup-ish - i didn't measure - i put in what was left in the bottle), so that was ready waiting for me and not me for it.

my next phase was to roll the geometric blobs of tofu in flour. i discovered that i could only do one or two at a time, then put those in the wok and let them fry up while i did the next one or two. if you try to roll them all at once, the first bits of tofublob soak up all the flour that you painstakingly coated them with and you have to start over. a really small batch is key! i also experimented with both regular all-purpose flour and potato flour. the tofublobs coated in potato flour browned almost immediately on contact with the oil, so i had to haul them out quickly before they burned up on me. however, the texture of these was totally off; the inside tofu was completely undercooked, and i was unable to hold a piece between chopsticks without it falling to pieces. so, nix on the potato flour. the regular floured tofublobs took a while to brown, and in fact i probably should have left them in longer. i hauled each one out at around 4 minutes of cooking and drained on paper towels.

while the fried tofu were draining, i whiped up a quick cold soba side dish as an accompaniement. i adapted the dressing for the soba from rainwater. i didn't really measure anything, just kind of doused the following into a big bowl: soy, mirin, tamari, fish sauce, apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, minced ginger, minced garlic, green onions, sesame oil, s & p. mix together before adding cooked cold soba noodles (enough for one). added some of this to a plate with some fried tofu which i'd doused with a bit of soy and a drizzle of some of the soba dressing, parked my butt in front of the tv and The Living Daylights, and i couldnt have asked for a better saturday lunch. the tofu was exactly how it was supposed to be, crispy on the outside and totally melted on the inside.

what i'll do differently next time:

1) fry tofublobs a bit longer.
2) try spiking the dredging flour with something. powdered wasabi? red pepper flakes? panko? something to think about.
3) coat tofu with some kind of batter. what kind? who knows?

at any rate, Food + Bad James Bond movie = Clean Plate Club.

UPDATE: a quick google search shows me that most folks fry firm tofu, and not silken. something else to think about over my tea.

Monday, February 12, 2007

this post is for caprice

so maybe i'm late jumping on this bandwagon. but i must preach about the wonderfulness of these wasabi and soy almonds. they rule. they rule so much that i'm willing to forgive caprice (maybe) for introducing me to them. maybe.

the only drawback to these is that my local publix only carries the teeny tiny tins of it. so i had to buy two this past weekend. i tried very hard to forget that they were there, sitting there all nonchalantly in the pantry. i ate through almost a whole tin (which isnt very much, but probably about 4 of the recommended serving sizes). they are just that damn good.

my first thought is that they weren't as hot as i thought they'd be; i had the preconceived notion that they'd be as hot at wasabi peas. but after a few more bites, i realized that they didn't need to be that hot. they taste as though i've dropped some almonds into my soy and wasabi mixture while eating sushi (from what my friend nathan tells me, it's considered impolite in japan to mix wasabi into your soy sauce dish, but hey, i'm backwards and gauche just like the rest of us. and i'm not apologizing for that at this present time). one could say, "Hey! why don't you save yourself the + 3 bucksish money spent on the small tin and plop some almonds around in your soy/wasabi mixture while eating sushi?" the thing is that i'm not going to do that because can't you just see that mess? and who's going to clean that up? uh huh, i'm not in the mood for that.

to say these things are addictive is right darn correct. i had to restrain myself from eating them all. it took a great willpower, certainly it did. i want to see if i can make it the week with just those both tins. an exercise in will!


moral of the story: caprice, you suck a bunch of ass for introducing me to these.
ps i miss you and how's your mom?


Friday, February 9, 2007

on tofu

so last night i had this culinary epiphany of sorts; or more accurately, my dim bulb got screwed in correctly and i sat there slack-jawed and said "Ooooooooooh!". i finally figured out how to cook soft tofu correctly without it falling apart. because soft tofu disintegrates the minute you even look at it, really, so i've avoided working with it for ever now in favor of hard tofu - which has its limitations.

rewind back to one time when caprice and i went to PFFFF Changs (pronounce that PFFF as you would a raspberry, at least that's how we say it even though the PF stands for Phil Frederick or something like that; I did ask once and they told me but in true dim bulb fashion i forgot it immediately). anyway. the couple of times we ended up at PFFF Changs, we always got the same thing. the ground chicken with iceberg lettuce roll up thing and some crispy silken tofu with brown rice. i don't remember the names of the dishes and i'm sure a quick jaunt through their website would tell me but i'm not really that interested. so for the longest time, i couldnt figure out how their tofu was soft AND crispy. i kinda figured they fried it; so i would try my hand at that, putting a bit of oil in the wok and ending up with a big burnt crumbley mess. after a while i gave up.

it never occured to me that it had to be deep fried instead of pan fried. and you dont just throw it in the wok willy nilly, you have to coat it in flour first.

this all came about because i was watching Kylie Kwong's show (whose recipes, as well as Ming Tsai's, never work without huge amounts of tweaking). i DVR her shows and watch them because she intrigues me and i just want to jump through the TV screen into her kitchen and hang out sitting there. it looks so warm and inviting. so yeah, i'm watching her and she took big chunks of tofu and rolled them around in flour, deep fried them in a boatload of oil till golden, and fucking voila, that was it.


so i most definitely have to try that this weekend. and i hope she doesn't disappoint me.

on the joys of good soup

so i came home from work the other day and while i stood in the foyer taking off my coat and chucking my keys onto the side table, this nice warm spicy smell wafted out of the kitchen. i yelled out, "so what's for dinner?".

as it turns out, the boy was making roasted tomato and pepper soup for my lunches this week. and i can't even begin to describe how good it is. even though it's not been as cold here this week as it was last week, i'm always game for soup. especially soup that has a good dollop of heavy cream added to it :)

so from what i gather, he roasted a couple of pounds of halved tomatoes (skin on) along with a couple of halved red peppers (skin on) and a couple of quartered onions. usually when i roast veggies, i toss them with salt, pepper, and olive oil, so i'm assuming he did the same here. he added the roasted veg and some chicken stock to a pot, let boil, adjusted seasoning and added fresh herbs, blitzed with the boat motor stick blender, and added heavy cream. the blitzing of the veg smithereened up the veg skins, so there are no big pieces hanging around.

this picture shows what i had for lunch yesterday and today, tupperwares full of soup with a green salad. i wouldnt mind a grilled cheese, but we arent allowed to have stoves at my work due to some ridiculous fire hazard thing. a lot people at my work probably don't know how to use a stove anyway.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

cia students video blog

inside the cia

i heard about this last week, and i haven't watched the videos yet. i'm posting this here so that i'll remember to watch it with the boy tonight. might bring back some culinary school memories for him.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

on the beauty of a seasoned wok

the nice folks at the wok shop sent me my hand-hammered wok in speedy time. they also sent along some free stuff - two wooden utensils and a happy little stir-fry book of recipes. wahoo! i'm all about free stuff.

i heeded their advice on seasoning, and opted for the oven-seasoning version instead of the stove top one (i didnt want to risk smoking the house up with stinky burnt salt smell). this picture shows our new wok in all its copper-colored glory.

not bad for a $15 purchase. now i just need to use it.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Superbowl Food Part 3 (or, Ode to the Chicken Wing)

what would a party be without wings? fortunately, i'll never know the answer to this, because the boy makes wings pretty much like clockwork every sunday. and i'm not just saying this because he's my husband, but my boy makes the best chicken wings i've ever had. evah.

i'm not going to post pictures of wings in the fryer, because we've all seen that. and besides, it will appear that all we did was eat fried food on sunday. which we didn't. there were other things there too, i swear! i am big on writing up and posting recipes, but for this, i'm not at liberty to share. the boy adapted his recipe from the Hooters recipe which we got from the Top Secret Restaurant Recipes cookbook (up to you to play around with it and make it your own). i will say that there is a certain amount of dredging involved in many a spice mixture. and after the fry session, there is a certain amount of sitting around in a saucepan with hot sauce. but not just plain hot sauce, but a mix of Things Plus Butter. we usually have Texas Pete's on hand, but since we now live in the South, we have access to all kinds of odd and nifty brands of hot sauce at the store. i'm not sure which one the boy used this last time, but it was nevertheless tasty as hell. served with the usual accoutrements of celery sticks and blue cheese dressing (and/or ranch dressing if you prefer, although i'm partial to blue cheese myself). you could make your own dressing, but i find that Ken's Steakhouse stuff to be pretty decent.

Superbowl Food Part 2 (or, Ode to the Corndog)

when it comes to white trash food, i do love me some corndogs. the only time i've ever had them was once at the marin county fair during 4th of july weekend sometime way back in the 80s. other than that, i will admit that i ran through the drive-thru at Krystal Burgers on victory drive in savannah at 2 am a couple of times to get some corn pups. but that's about it. but even though i'd only eaten them a handful of times, i always remembered with a certain fondness that most wonderful of all stick meats (for it does fall into the stick meat category. i'll post some other time about the boy and i's love for the almighty meat on stick).

the boy and i watch tv while eating dinner. side note: while growing up, we weren't allowed to watch tv during dinner, but i currently don't find anything wrong with this. ask me again when i have kids; i might have a different answer then. anyhoo, usually we eat fairly early, and sometimes while eating we'll catch an episode of Good Eats. sometime last week, we managed to watch the episode about corn dogs, and the boy and i decided that i'd definitely have to make them on sunday. so i did.

i pretty much followed the recipe, although i used bamboo skewers instead of chopsticks. and i had to cut the bamboo down so that i could fit the corndogs into the deep fryer. as alton points out on his show, the easiest way to coat your hot dog in batter is to put the batter in a glass. i could only fry one at a time, though, because my deep fryer is shallow. but that was okay, because i ended up having to keep an eye on them as they had a tendency to flip over, exposing their underside (if there is such a thing with corndogs). i continuously had to hold them down in order to brown the other side. i think it did this because once i dropped a dog in the fryer, the batter would kind of sink towards the bottom, making the dog top heavy, for lack of better words. so this would only be a problem if i was multitasking and had something else to do in the other room, then i would have had to leave the fryer unattended. which, honestly, is not a really smart thing to do now, is it? so it's a good thing i hung around and flipped dogs for a while.

alton's recipe calls for 8 dogs, but i had a package of 10 and with the amount of batter left over, i could have done at least 4 more dogs. i cooked them for exactly 4 minutes (5 and they would have been far too browned).

these were received with all the happiness they deserved; everyone seemed pleased with them. next time i think i'll use the little smokies that i normally use for pigs in blankets (or more appropriately, cows in blankets, but that sounds stupid; pigs are much better suited for blankets) and make a boatload of little cornpuppies slathered in mustard. yum.

stick meat at its best.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Superbowl Food Part 1 (or, Ode to the Pig)

in preparation for tonight's superbowl festivities, we here at Chez French Tart got up early, as some of the food we're making needs to be cooked long and slow. out came the slow cooker.

the boy had a hankerin' for pork ribs.
he combined a couple of recipes found on the web for the sauce, then doctored up as he went along. in the sauce: one large can of diced tomatoes, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, a couple squirts of some barbecue sauce we had in the fridge, soy sauce, smoked paprika, chili powder. there are other things in there, but i wasnt taking notes.

he used a dry rub on the ribs, a concoction he already had on hand. we have a lot of jars of homemade mixtures in the spice cabinet, and i think the one he used is similar to emeril's southwestern seasoning.

as the sauce was bubbling away on the stove to a nice reduction, the boy seared the ribs on the electric griddle. i tell ya, we've had that griddle for a while now, and as i've said before i've only used it for pancakes. it's gotten a lot of use lately, which i'm happy about.

seared ribs ended up in slow cooker topped with sauce and set to "low" for 6 hours.

i hope they turn out well. the sauce wasnt too barbecuey tasting, which i like. i prefer a north carolina style sauce myself.

to be honest, i'm not really into football. i know enough about it to remain interested in a game, but it's not my thing really. however, i am interested in the food, and any excuse to spend quality time in the kitchen concocting things for groups of people is good enough for me.

steak fritz night

i present to you the steak from Steak Fritz night (a waitress at One Midtown Kitchen pronounced frites that way, and even after i corrected her nicely, she said, "that's what i said, Steak Fritz"). these were cuts from the tenderloin we got last weekend at the Super H asian market. i'd never had them wrapped in bacon before, so the boy decided to make us some and cooked them on the electric griddle. served with a bag of frozen waffle fries. laugh all you want but those come in handy when you're not in the mood to whip out the mandoline!

on spices

my latest purchase from the spice house. almond oil (which i use a lot of and i'm sure the stuff at the store is crap, so i'm very excited about this new bottle); some vietnamese cinnamon; thai red curry powder; spanish paprika; and grains of paradise. not too sure what that last one is, but i saw alton brown use some and thought, why not?

Thursday, February 1, 2007

on bread

i'm going to make a beaujolais bread. all liquid (water) in the recipe is replaced with red wine. how fantastic does that sound? and even better - it's studded with cubed saucisson.

i can't even begin to think how great this will be.

it's not part of my Master Plan to Prime Health. i think the caloric intake of this would go through the roof. but one has to live, you know. one can't deny themselves of everything. rules can be bent on occasion. my rules are made to be broken, by me.