Archive for the ‘Techniques’ Category

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Take that, Col. Sanders: Pistachio fried chicken

January 5, 2007

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There is some truth in advertising. Fried chicken really is finger lickin’ good.

But it is also extremely hard to prepare well at home, at least in our experience — which is why Col. Sanders is wearing that stupid grin on KFC’s ubiqutous sign. The colonel knows that when a fried chicken urge overtakes you, you’re more likely to grab a red-and-white bucket of his crispy fried breasts and thighs than attempt to make your own.

Until now.

That’s right. It was while flipping through TV channels over the holidays that my husband and I had our hopes rekindled for the possiblity of tasty home-fried chicken. A stroke of luck (or my husband’s overactive clicker finger) landed us on the Food Network just as Paula Dean, soaked in her Southern charm, was showing viewers how to make some alluring fried chicken. Not only did it look outstanding, she made it seem so simple.

This was in contrast to our past encounters with frying chicken at home. Those results had been less than appetizing: greasy bird parts, soggy coating that slipped off and failed to deliver a crunch, and a generally unappetizing fried oil smell that lingered for too long. Col. Sanders was not only grinning at us… he was taunting us.

But my husband must have gotten fried chicken on his brain anyway, because not a week after seeing this episode he declared that he was going to attempt pistachio fried chicken… a nuttier variation of Paula Dean’s recipe. Despite the TV evidence that this recipe could work, I was somewhat skeptical.

Skeptical, that is, until I saw those beautiful chicken quarters exiting our cast iron pan. Golden brown and delicious they were, with meat that was tender and moist. And when I pulled away a delightfully crispy piece of skin and was met with a satisfying and terrific crunch, I knew that we had vanquished the colonel.

Yes, folks, you can make good fried chicken at home. And if you have a taste for a nutty, crunchy skin on your fried chicken… try my husband’s pistachio fried chicken. You won’t be sorry, and — bonus — the colonel just might be!

Click here to download the recipe for Pistachio Fried Chicken


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The way to avoid those pesky shells: Pistachio crunch ice cream.

January 3, 2007

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There’s hardly a happier sound than the sweet song of an ice cream maker churning.

That song was playing in my house last night. Its delectable finish? Sweet, creamy pistachio ice cream.

Yes, folks, my husband has done it again. There must be something about homemade ice cream that makes it that much more addictive than ordinary store-bought ice cream. How do I know this? Because I am tempted by flavors whose siren song I rarely hear in the heady bright lights of an ice cream parlor. When I amble up to that counter, I almost always ask for mint chocolate chip. At home, though, I’ve learned to love ginger ice cream and now pistachio ice cream with almost equal fervor.

I think I have a problem… and it doesn’t bode well for my waist line.

It’s OK. I’m cool with elastic-waisted pants as long as they’re accompanied by steady scoops of this pistachio ice cream. The creamy custard itself is delicious — almost achingly sweet and buttery — but it’s the ice cream’s texture that seals the deal. The nutty aroma of pistachio is laced throughout, and better still, so are nibbles of the nut itself. So amid your sweet creamy experience comes a wonderful and unexpected crunch. Trust me — and my clown pants — it’s good. Oh yes, it’s good.

Click here to download the recipe for Pistachio Crunch Ice Cream

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The food pyramid commands you: Roast chicken and quince and sausage stuffing

December 1, 2006

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Stuffing is one of the more perfect side dishes. Think about it. Not only is it hot and delicious, but the best stuffings also have representatives from the major food groups: Bread, vegetable, meat, and in this case, fruit. Translation: Stuffing is totally good for you.

So when you’ve grown more than a little uncomfortably full and the zipper on your pants is starting to show its teeth — and yet you’re still contemplating that second helping of grandma’s stuffing … don’t hesitate. Remember your food pyramid, and fork up that stuffing, soldier. After all, our government says it’s good for you.

So now that I’ve convinced you that you not only like stuffing, but that you need stuffing, let me tell you about my husband’s latest grand design (featuring all four major food groups): Sausage and quince stuffing. Yessir.

Baked in that warm, fatty crevice that is the inside of a beautifully brined chicken, the stuffing’s many flavors — sweet and savory — mingle to create a stuffing piece de resistance. I’m a savory stuffing kind of gal, so I enjoyed the aroma and earthiness of the fresh herbs and sweet Italian sausage. But the nuggets of quince were wonderful players in this ouevre, and added their sweet song to its soaring medley. It was like a stuffing symphony arranged on the molars of my gaping maw.

Am I waxing poetic (and silly) about stuffing? Sue me. If you’d had it, you’d be spouting verse, too. And if stuffing can be a muse, I think you’ll agree, it must be damn good stuffing. (Not to mention the chicken. Oh, the chicken…. But that’s enough swooning for one post, don’t you think?)

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Cookies soft like a cloud… crème fraîche clouds

November 19, 2006

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Mmmm….. Cookies.

I’m all about a cookie’s taste. I don’t care for those fussy, frosting-laden creations, even if the resultant cookie is beautiful enough to merit hanging on our bathroom’s walls. Give me a humble, tasty cookie any day.

Well, these cookies fill the bill. They’re humble… little dollops of drop cookie that take abstract shape depending on the shape of your spoon and the tilt of your oven rack. Their only attempt to fit in at a fancy-dress party is an optional sprinkling of colored sugar over their uneven, pillowy tops. And they’re tasty; they have a wonderful, springy, cake-like texture and subdued sweetness that is complemented by a breath of nutmeg. They’re beautiful, moist and slightly spicy cookies that can be devoured by the fistful.

My mom always made these sour cream sugar cookies around Christmas time (they were then sprinkled with the obligatory red and green colored sugar), using a recipe drawn from a much dog-earred and crumbling, hand-written local cookbook. Once my husband tasted these cookies, he became a huge fan and would demand that I make them whenever we had sour cream, sugar, eggs, flour and nutmeg on hand. Which is not an infrequent occurrence.

Now my husband has found a way to expand that ingredient list to include crème fraîche, meaning that cookies can be in his future on an even more frequent basis. Bonus: He’s learned to make them himself. Not that I’m complaining… I may like these cookies even more than he does. You will, too, if you try them! Read the rest of this entry ?

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Look away, Daffy: Asian-Inspired Roasted Duck

November 17, 2006

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My husband and I have pretty similar taste buds, and we usually agree on what is good food. But there are exceptions, of course — and duck is one of them.

Duck is… not my favorite. Badly prepared duck is — let’s face it — gross. Well-prepared duck is pretty good (I will down my share of Peking-style duck at fine Chinese establishments), but not something I’d drive out of my way to get.

My husband, on the other hand, is duck happy. He’d probably drive to the ends of the earth if he thought there was a superior roasted duck at his destination. If we’re feeding bread crumbs to innocent Donalds and Daffys on an area pond, I’m exclaiming over their coloring, and he’s picking out the one he’d eat for dinner. He loves ‘em.

Hence, when my dear hubby decided to prepare duck at home, I had mixed feelings. As he mentions in his backgrounder, my similarly duck-obsessed father had tried to make roast Peking duck at home with diastrous results. Despite using tools as diverse as a hair dryer and coat hanger and devoting hours to the project, the end result was an incredibly smelly house and a greasy, inedible (in my view) duck. So I greeted my husband’s efforts skeptically, to say the least.

And yet, he found success. I firmly believed that no home cook — no matter their skill level — could produce a duck that I might deign to eat. They’re too fatty, finicky and fishy, I thought. But my husband — to his delight, no doubt — has proved me wrong. His duck was not too fatty. The house didn’t smell. And the bird itself was succulent and flavorful.

He wins. But has he converted me to duck with his culinary coup d’etat? Not quite.

Donald, you’re still safe from me. But watch out for that maniac husband of mine. He’s got that glint in his eye again.

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MHC Goes Molecular: Olive Oil Bonbons

November 6, 2006

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I don’t think it’s shocking to anyone that I’m a bit of an experimenter. And last week, while making brittle and talking about molecular gastronomy in relation to Top Chef, I decided to adventure out on my own and try to replicate a molecular gastronomy dish—the olive oil bonbon. This experiment was cause for great debate between my wife and I, but being the intrepid and confident one I proceeded. And her being the loving wife, she assisted and was vital in my mad lab.

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Risotto. Sweet Potato Leek Risotto.

October 18, 2006

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Risotto. It’a a genius dish. Sometimes it’s a mere sideshow, sometimes it’s a solo act with its name in lights. Sometimes it features glamorous ingredients, such as exotic mushrooms and truffles (yes, please!); sometimes it’s a more humble mix of rice and cheese. Whether side dish or main dish, whether with white truffles or white cheese, risotto is always delicious.

Channeling famed Italian chef Roberto Donna (more on that below), my husband has concocted his own fabulous and unique Sweet Potato and Leek Risotto. While it has not yet surpassed the place in my heart held by his delicious mushroom risotto, it is still a deadly quiver in his culinary arsenal.

It might sound strange to combine sweet potatoes and leeks in a creamy rice brew — I admit that I thought so. But as usual, I was wrong. The sweet potatoes don’t war with the leeks, as I thought they would. Instead, they both contribute their mild, sweet flavors to the starch party and mingle generously with the rice and other spices. The result is a colorful, delicious and sweetly flavored risotto that was a perfect side dish to the salty, savory sirloin-steak star that night. Ah, risotto. You’ve done it again. Read on for hubby’s recipe and more on Roberto Donna.

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Bread + pudding = Dessert bliss

October 11, 2006

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It’s puddin’ time.

Yes, it was only a matter of time until my husband concocted the perfect homemade recipe for bread pudding. He loves bread pudding. Even if he’s filled to the brim with food at a restaurant and groaning in his chair, if bread pudding is on the dessert menu he manages to find still more room in his hollow leg. Yes, I’ve no doubt that the extra consumption of puddin’ is probably equally parts pleasure and discomfort. “Ah, bread pudding, eating you is such exquisite torture.”

Me? I like bread pudding very much. But I’m an equal opportunity dessert eater. The fabulous thing about making bread pudding at home, though, is:

1) You use up all that stale bread in a manner other than french toast. (Yet another breakfast favorite of hubby’s.)

2) It takes about an hour to cook, giving you time to loosen your belt after dinner and actually enjoy dessert.

Plus, as I always do, I must praise my husband’s excellent and tasty bread pudding. Delicious creamy custard baked into every nook and cranny of now cake-like bread. And let’s not forget the all-important golden brown texture of the top, perfect for ramming your spoon through. This, of course, will send out a puff of steam — that signature of all truly magnificent desserts: It’s hot and fresh, and just for you. Read on for the recipe, puddin’ lovers.

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Pass me dat jicama and pork stir fry

October 8, 2006

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Stir fry over noodles. Is there anything better? Sure, some contrarians might say “yes.” (Argh. Stupid contrarians.)

But there’s certainly nothing faster. And as I’ve mentioned before, my agenda is to eat good food NOW. Stir fry fits that bill to a T. This particular stir fry has the happy quality of being fast, delicious and exotic to boot.

Indeed, that sauce covered stick-like vegetable above is actually jicama. It qualifies as exotic because it’s new and mysterious to me. Not, however, because it’s super sexy or super flavorful. In fact, it looks a little like a misshapen potato and tastes like crunchy, slightly sweet … water. But that’s just me. And that’s just a first tasting.

In this stir fry, however, jicama contributes its wonderful crunch to a spicy, complex and deliciously savory meal. I loved it. Pork stir fry over noodles? With jicama, too? Sign me up. Read on for my husband’s recipe…

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My knives need an edge…

October 6, 2006

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IMG_1928.JPGIMG_1926.JPGBesides gun owners and golfers, there are perhaps no group of people who talk more about their gear than cooks. We love our tools. We love to discuss our pots and pans. I’ve had an hour-long conversation about the pros and cons of my Kitchen Aid mixer. Heck, my wife loves to tell the story of when we registered for gifts when we were getting married. I told her to stop obsessing over the price of everything, only to find out when we got home that we registered for a $120 pepper mill — and it was already purchased before I could make amends for my hubris. (But it’s a really, really nice pepper mill.)

So two weeks ago, I bought my wife a new knife. She had decided to join me in the kitchen, and the Wustof Grand Prix I’s we’ve had since we moved in together years ago were never quite right for her smaller hands. Her beautiful, razor-sharp Shun knife made it even clearer that my own knives need serious sharpening.

I’ve been looking for a solution for sometime. I have considered buying a sharpener, but I hear bad things. I have considered taking a national retailer up on their offer to sharpen them. And I know that I could always do it myself — but I must admit that I’m not inclined to learn on my own good knives.

So, I am looking for assistance from my readers. How do you sharpen your knives? Professionally? Personally? Do you trust those chain stores to whack away at your blades? And which ones? Any and all advice is welcome.

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