Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Yeah, That's Right, I Said Cauliflower!

No really, cauliflower can be mind-blowingly (how's that for an adverb?) delicious. The key is to be patient. Well, that and butter. Lots of butter. To start, cut up a whole head of cauliflower- I just cut the core out and then make half inch "steaks" out of it- you'll get some big pieces that stay together and quite a bit of little florets that will become your favorite part later when they get all caramelized and crispy and oh so slightly sweet. You need a pan that's large enough to get plenty of browning going on, and that pan needs a lid for a little bit of steaming. Place the aforementioned pan on the stove top and get it medium hot. Now add about three tablespoons of butter and let it melt until it stops foaming. Add the cauliflower. Throw a pinch of salt (kosher, please) on top. And then hurry up and wait. It'll look like this at first:
Leave it alone for awhile- it takes time for the florets on the bottom to start browning at first. Toward the end you'll have to be more vigilant. After about ten long minutes, give it a stir. Then wait some more. Repeat. Once you've got a fairly browned bunch of cauliflower put the lid on top and let it steam for about five more minutes. The following is the progression you're looking for:
The best part: the only calories to be found here are in the butter. Well, almost. The cauliflower is so low-calorie it almost takes your body more calories to digest it than what it actually gets from it. Taste for salt, probably add some pepper, and dig in. And you should click on the above picture, because it's just so pretty in that bowl, all golden brown and all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tastes Like Chicken, but Better

This tastes like chicken because it is. But I figure everyone needs an extra way to cook up some yard bird, and this is one of my favorites. Cara's brother learned this recipe in culinary school, and I now pass it along to you. You'll need some butter, a shallot, some shrooms, a couple of tablespoons of flour, a cup of Chardonnay (which is a dry white wine for the uninitiated), a cup of heavy cream, and two cups of chicken stock. The stuff that comes from a box is fine.

Funny story: we used to attend a church in Houston where everyone brought a pot luck dish of some sort for after the service. It was really cool- everyone brought their A-game, and there were quite a few really good cooks. I usually brought something totally out of the ordinary (for them) like curries or some other Indian fare.

One day I brought this, and I thought a fight was gonna break out over who got to lick the pan. I became a far bigger rock star that day at church than I ever had been when I was actually playing in a rock band.

The next Sunday a lady asked me for the recipe, and when I told her there was, gasp, white wine in it she really had no idea how to react. She said something along the lines of, "I couldn't buy wine- I wouldn't feel right about going down that aisle at the store." To which I replied something incredibly witty, but can no longer remember. But I'm here to tell all you fellow Calvinist Credo-Baptists that read this site (all three of you. Or less)- there's flavor in those there bottles. And you don't have to drink them. Although I do recommend it. But that's just me. I used the following for this post, but use whatever you like. You know, if you like wine. Or even if you don't, cause it just ain't French without both butter and wine.And while I'm showing you pictures of stuff, this is a shallot, which you absolutely must use:Those are mushrooms in behind it. And that's our sweet new cutting board from Kohl's underneath it. Again, in case you care.

Anyway, throw some butter in a pan and get it medium hot. After seasoning with salt and pepper, dredge your boneless, skinless, usually flavorless chicken breasts though the flour. You just want a light coat so they'll get the right color. The flour also becomes fond in the pan which adds to the flavor of the sauce, and this sauce makes church ladies fight if you do it right. And that's a sight to behold. They'll look like this:
After tossing them in the butter you must leave them alone. You want them to be golden brown and delicious. You are not allowed to touch them for a long time. You can probably cook up to six chicken breasts this way and still have enough sauce, but you can always add more of the sauce ingredients to make more if you've got a lot of starving people camped out at your house, sucking the life's blood out of you. After the chicken has firmed up nicely you have my permission to flip them. The first side should look like this:
When the second side looks like the first, take them out and start making the sauce. The sauce, my friends, is what writes the songs that makes the whole world sing.

Add your diced up shallots and mushrooms to the pan and cook them down for 3-5 minutes. Then add one cup of the wine. Scrape the brown bits out of the pan while the wine is reducing (and thus concentrating the flavor). It'll take a few minutes, but it's where you want it when it looks like a thin coat of liquid in the pan. Like this:Now add the chicken stock, and reduce it down to about a quarter of what you started with. Then add the cream (turn the heat down a touch) and simmer it for about five minutes- it'll start to thicken up nicely. Add the chicken back to the pan to warm though. Then spoon some sauce on a serving plate and put the chicken on top of the puddle. Take a picture:Add something green to the occasion and open something to drink. Your choice!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cuttin' up a Chicken

Have you ever paid attention to exactly how cheap whole chickens are when they go on sale? They're, like, practically free. Or at least four bucks. And honestly, once you get good at cutting them up, you'll be blown away at how much cheaper it is to do it yourself, and how much better the pieces turn out. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts from the store look like hacked-up roadkill compared to what you can do. Plus, at home you get to keep the skin if you want, and I often do if I'm grilling them.

Instead of taking a thousand pictures and the usual witty remarks in how-to format, I made a video. The camera turned itself off right as I was about to tell you to start making homemade chicken stock with the carcass. It's funny saying "carcass" on a food post. Carcass!