Thursday, August 1, 2013

What I’ve Been Cooking

I’m here! Sorry I haven’t posted lately. No real great adventures to report…I’ve just been spending the summer with friends and family AND doing a lot of cooking.

These days when I need quick inspiration, I’m finding that I go to FOOD52. I admit they have me hooked with their “Genius” recipes. Frankly, just calling a recipe Genius makes me want to try it. Incidentally, a good part of serving food to happy eaters is how you present it. I don’t just mean the garnish, I mean how you, the cook, speak about it.

If you put something in front of people and say, “It really didn’t come out well. I burned it and I confused sugar for the salt,” how do you think the dish will be received? Probably not all that well. I believe you should say nothing about what went wrong and certainly don’t reveal that you were two sheets to the wind while you forgot about it in the oven and before that you grabbed the wrong canister.

Obviously, if something really fails, just chuck it and say no more. No one needs to know that you PLANNED to serve tomatillo salsa with the chili, but it came out tasting like swamp water. That’s what that jar of Green Mountain Salsa in the back of the cupboard is for.

Actually, when it’s just H and me, I’m famous for NEVER admitting anything went wrong. The worse he says something is (which is rude anyway!), the better it becomes to me. I’ve probably uttered, “This is the best thing I’ve ever made,” hundreds of times. Anyway, no apologies is the best policy. People love to be cooked for and they only know what’s in front of them at that moment, not what it should have been.

Another thing – I’ve said this before, but unless allergies or health concerns are involved, I don’t have a problem dissembling a bit about what’s in a specific dish. I KNOW people (think they) hate anchovies, but NO ONE can tell they’re in my salad dressing, so what’s the point of mentioning it?  

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Here are some things I’ve cooked lately that haven’t gone wrong…not that I would admit it even if they had!

Food52’s Gong Bao Chicken (otherwise known as Kung Bao Chicken) is a quick dish to throw together after you’ve chopped and measured everything. I didn’t have any Chinese vinegar, so I used red wine vinegar and I used chili flakes instead of chilies and Szechuan peppercorns.

I paired it with Absurdly Addictive Asparagus. I made a pretty big change to the recipe by using green beans instead of asparagus, because H preferred them. It wasn’t until AFTER dinner that he said he forgot it was BROCCOLI he didn’t like, not asparagus. And he added that this would have been much better with asparagus! Arrgghh! (Naturally, I said it was the best thing EVER with green beans!)

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And then there was this Apricot-Ginger Stir-Fry from Vegetarian Times. I liked the name of the recipe, but I also changed this one. I left out the seitan, didn’t use any cornstarch or soy sauce or sesame oil OR any ginger, for that matter. Actually, the only thing I did do was to add slivers of dried apricots to stir-fried vegetables. But I appreciate them for giving me the idea. You can’t see the apricots that well, because they’re so similar in color to the carrots, but they do add a nice sweet, tart element. 

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I call this next recipe Paella, although it’s more of a pilaf than a paella. It’s the one I usually make, because it takes less futzing and I always have long grain (brown) rice on hand.

Really, paella should be made from short grain white rice that’s starchy and sticky. The grains of long grain rice remain separate after cooking and you don’t want that in a paella. And Paella is cooked in a wide, shallow pan with no lid and needs some attention. I can leave my Pilaf/Paella alone (after I’ve done the initial cooking of the different ingredients), covered on the back of the stove and not worry about it. In my dish, even though many of the additional ingredients are browned or precooked, the rice itself is basically steamed, which is a real no-no for paella. Also using brown rice complicates the timing of a traditional paella. (I did just buy some short grained brown rice, so I’m going to see how that works.)  

Use any kind of chicken you want, just brown it well. I also like to color the shrimp on one side before I add it to the almost cooked paella.

Paella Cooked In The Style Of Pilaf

1 tbl. olive oil
1 chorizo sausage, sliced
6 boneless chicken thighs (use any kind of chicken pieces, boneless or on the bone)
1 onion, chopped
½ red pepper, chopped
1½ cups brown long grain rice
½ cup white wine
2½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
Big pinch saffron threads
½ cup peas, thawed
12 jumbo raw shrimp, peeled with tails left on
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 tbl. olive oil
handful of chopped parsley

Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add chorizo and cook on both sides until brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to hot pan. Brown on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside.

Turn down heat to low and add onion with a good pinch of salt. Stir well and bring up to a sizzle. Cover pan, turn heat to low and cook onions for 5 minutes. Stir in red pepper, cover and cook for another 2 minutes. Add rice and stir over medium low heat for a minute or two.

Stir in wine and bring to the boil. Add stock and saffron and stir well. Bring to the boil. Add the chorizo back in and arrange the chicken over the rice. Cover, turn down heat to low and set the timer for 45 minutes, which is when the rice will be done.

While the rice is cooking, toss the shrimp in ½ teaspoon of salt and teaspoon of paprika. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan and quickly sauté the shrimp over high heat for a minute or so, until they’re nicely colored on one side. (You don’t need to turn them over.)  Remove from heat and set aside.

10 minutes before the end of cooking time for the rice, sprinkle in the peas and arrange the shrimp (colored side up) around the pan, pressing it into the rice. Cover quickly and continue cooking until 45 minutes is up. Remove from heat and leave the pan, covered, on the back of the stove for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with parsley just before serving.

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I made some scallops the other day. I don’t like Alton’s personality, but I liked his basic recipe for Seared Scallops. Make sure you season the scallops really well before cooking.

To make an easy sauce (which I didn't do here), remove the scallops from the pan and cover loosely with foil. Add 2/3 cup of orange juice to the pan. Bring to the boil and reduce slightly. Stir in a tablespoon of Dijon Mustard and keep boiling. Add a tablespoon or two of vegetable stock. Boil until slightly thickened, a minute or two, and spoon over scallops.


Emily said...

I will sneak vinegar or mayonnaise into recipes and my mom never knows. Even thought she "hate" vinegar and mayo.

How does H not like broccoli? That's my favorite vegetable!

I like the apricot idea. I like apricots but I rarely buy them for savory cooking.

The paella looks delicious! You are so good. I'm jealous of your husband. He gets the best food!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Emily's comment made me laugh because I do the same thing. Sir Pickypants isn't always so picky when you consider what I hide in his food, the problem is he reads my blog so he is suspicious of everything I feed him.

You have been way more active in the kitchen than I have this summer!

Sue said...

I DO the same thing with mayo!

H is weird, what can I say? Would you please write him a letter telling him how lucky he is?!!

There should be a show called "The Secret Chefs", where the person that can hide (undiscovered) the most outrageous thing in a recipe wins!

Sheila said...

You are so funny! "This is the best thing I've ever made!" LOL! I'm stealing that! I get so annoyed when people ask what is for dinner before they accept my dinner invitation. I'm making you dinner, you'll eat it, you'll like it and it'll be the best thing I ever made.


What the Futz?

Sue said...

YOU'RE funny! OR you could tell those dinner guests that they can eat what they brought with them!

What is futzing? It's...well, fussing. I guess that's the best way to put it.