Meals (Not Quite) Ready To Eat

No mixer? No cake pans? NO PROBLEM!

Cornbread made better

Posted by acidqueen5426 on 7 December, 2007

Well. I’ve tried twice to make cornbread, and both times it came out as dense as a lead brick and as dry as the Great Sandy Desert. I’d take one bite, and I’d have to reach for the milk or a 2-liter bottle of soda or something. I’d drown it in melted butter, and it would look at me like Oliver Twist saying “May I have more?”  I’d slather it in honey, and the honey would vanish into the great dry beyond. And it would stick to the pan, too–a well-oiled pan, I might add. It was like all that oil just got sucked up into the cornbrick, turning the bottom into some kind of bizarre sovereign glue that could only be removed by super-generous application of enough water to end North Carolina’s drought.

In short, it was 100% ass and had very little flavour to boot. But I like cornbread, and that stuff is all that I have–so, rather than just give up in despair I decided to do a little experiment this morning. The recipe I used was as follows:

1c applesauce (addition)

2c Martha White’s Self-Rising Cornmeal Mix (where I got the original recipe from)

1 1/3c milk

1/4c oil

1 egg, beaten

I whisked the mixture together and poured it into my nice Pyrex pie dish, which I had oiled with a little canola, and popped it into a 450-degree oven for 18 minutes + 5 minutes carryover time.

What resulted was a good deal more moist than the original recipe, with a slight hint of appleness. The bread was also slightly brownish from the applesauce, and the texture was–curiously enough–considerably lighter than what I had before. It was rather yummy and didn’t require that I have a gallon of milk to drink with it, which was a plus. I think I’d make it again.

Posted in Experimentation | 2 Comments »

Quick and dirty onion ring post

Posted by acidqueen5426 on 2 December, 2007

The tools:

4 small onions (we’re talking an inch and a half across–small storage onions).

1 cup self-rising cornmeal mix (since the cornbread it was giving me wasn’t the best IMO, I figured I might as well find a use for the stuff)

Beer (some gods-awful Anheuser-Busch seasonal crap that a friend of mine gave to me–it was all I had to hand)

1/4 cup canola oil

Hot pan

I peeled and sliced the onions to a moderate width I got about three or four slices per onion, and set them aside. The onions were little storage onions, so I figured that they were going to be a little on the hot side. Do I add sugar to the batter I’m about to make, or no?

I decided against the sugar.

I whisked the cornmeal mix and the beer into some rough semblance of a batter. The batter was a tad lumpy, which I decided I’d live with–if nothing else it would be an interesting experiment in tempura right? I set the bowl aside and punched the slices out into little onion ring looking things while I heated the oil in the pan over a medium-high coil, and then dumped them in the batter.

I try to stay organized and clean when I’m in the kitchen–but I’m not “fussy” and insistent on everything looking restaurant-quality, because I usually only cook for myself. Aegir only knows my husband won’t eat what I cook, because it might be something of a moderately healthy nature.

So. Into the batter went the onion rings, and thence to the pan. I didn’t use a ton of oil because the onions (and resulting rings) were so small. This worked in my favor. I fried them quickly–about a minute and a half, tops–and then pulled them out with a fork and laid them out on a treble-folded paper towel to drain while I turned the heat off and put a lid on the pan. I cracked a Leinie’s Sunset Wheat while waiting for a minute or two–mmmm, Leinie’s–and then plated up the rings (and the clump that formed from the little inner bits).

The flavour was interesting. I’d seasoned the batter with a touch of salt and pepper, and let the beer (a seasonal brew–Pumpkin Spice flavored somethingorother) provide the rest of the seasoning.

I love onions, and I love cornmeal, and I love pumpkin and spices, but I don’t know if I’d do that again.

For a dipping sauce I combined 1/4 tsp yellow mustard with 1/2 tsp mayonnaise (for the record, I use Duke’s–I prefer the texture)–and that made for a unique adventure.

Don’t know if it’s something I’ll try again…at least, not with that particular beer.

Posted in Experimentation | Leave a Comment »

Wither Food Network?

Posted by acidqueen5426 on 26 November, 2007

Ah, the Food Network. I used to watch this channel religiously, for things like Cooking Live (even though I hadn’t the werewithal or equipment to cook along with Sara Moulton), The Essence of Emeril, Molto Mario, and my favorite: Passion for Dessert with Jacques Torres (who shall be referred to henceforth in this blog as Cute French Pastry Chef).

It was the House that Emeril Built, where a foodie could watch and learn from the masters*.

So, what has it become? Instead of “Learning to Cook”, it’s become more like “Watch People Cook Entertainingly”–or, as the network’s tagline says, “Way more than cooking”. It’s food-as-entertainment now, with precious little education going on.

I only watch it now for Dinner: Impossible (because I find Robert Irvine very entertaining), Nigella Lawson, Good Eats (the last educational bastion of the Food Network), and anything else Alton Brown hosts that isn’t “The Next Food Network Star”.

Anyway.

I’m not terribly enthused with about 98% of the stuff on the network–I mean, I dig me some humour and all, but in the main? The Food Network has really gone downhill in the pursuit of the LCD. We don’t see a lot of learning going on anymore. It’s all about food porn and eye-candy, and that disappoints me. I want to learn something and occasionally be entertained. I don’t want to have to put up with umpty-ump hours of Sandra Lee’s tablescapes and Rachael Ray’s annoying “YUMM-O” nonsense just to get to the nifty bits.

Of course, I say this as I’m re-watching Iron Chef America’s dessert tag-team throwdown and laughing my ass off at Paula Deen and Robert Irvine talking some serious smack to each other. So take this post as you will.

*:Inasmuch as a mass-appeal guy like Emeril can be considered a master. Dudeman is good, but not a “master”.

Posted in Fud Net'ork | 1 Comment »

The Persistence of Wish

Posted by acidqueen5426 on 21 November, 2007

Most children fight over the money and the house when their parents die.

My sister and I, however, are fighting over our mother’s KitchenAid stand mixer. The sad part of this is that Mom isn’t even dead yet. I have fond memories of that mixer–it was where I first made a bomb-ass Lady Baltimore Cake with a lovely orange-flavoured seven-minute frosting (which is possibly the best thing I have ever made). It was where I mixed batters and doughs and meringues and even made butter (it was an accident, but it was still some of the best butter I’ve ever had). My sister also has fond memories of the mixer, for it was her weapon of choice when perfecting her cooking skills–skills that far outstrip mine, I might add.

I want the damn thing. I want it almost as much as I want the Hurricanes to win another Stanley Cup. I want it more than I want a Bugatti Veyron. My sister can have everything else in Mom’s house–the antiques, the tchotchkes that we both keep badgering Mom to finally sell on eBay, the collected works of Rogers and Hammerstein on pristine vinyl, everything. I just want the mixer.

Of course, my sister feels the same way.

Posted in The Mixer Quest | Leave a Comment »

Mustard-Scented Citrus Cranberry Dressing

Posted by acidqueen5426 on 20 November, 2007

Every year at this time, I do the same thing:

I go to the store and buy a box of sugar, three bags of cranberries, a bottle of Dijon mustard, and a few oranges so that I can make this dressing (which is the only way that I’ll eat cranberries–well, aside from craisins).

I went to make it this evening, and decided that some extra prep-work had to be done when I saw this:

What a mess!

The cooktop just needed a touchup, but the rest? Oh HELL NO. I’m tired of looking at that mess. My husband’s out on the West Coast for the next three days, so I decided to take advantage of the situation and clean up.

After cleaning up, throwing stuff out, putting stuff up and so forth, I got ready to cook.

The ingredients are:

Ingredients

3 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups water

3 12-ounce packages of cranberries (you can use fresh or frozen–I much prefer fresh. I also prefer the Ocean Spray brand, because they’re larger and easier to work with. But when you’re broke like I am, you kinda have to take what you can afford and make the best of it.)

salt and pepper to taste

The recipe I use originally called for two split vanilla beans, but I don’t have easy access to (or the money for) those, so I use 1/8 tsp vanilla extract instead.

The juice and zest of 1 orange (the oranges I have are rather small and have thick rinds–so I had to use two).

3 tbsp Dijon mustard–the brand I usually use was a bit out of the budget this year, so I went with a less-expensive brand whose name starts with E and ends with l’s and has “meri” in the middle.

I had a load of dishes running (which included my cooking implements), so I had a small snack and watched Top Gear (one of my favorite shows) while waiting:

Behold, the power of cheese

Mmmm….cheese. I had three small slices off that little block.

When the dishes were done, I threw a saucepan on the stove, fired up the burner, and put the water, vanilla extract, and sugar in the pan to simmer:

water, sugar, vanilla

While the simple syrup was coming up to the simmer, I got ready to juice those oranges:

One of two oranges

The juicing rig

I love that little strainer. Top Gear Top Tip: A small balloon whisk makes a great citrus reamer.

When the simple syrup had a nice rolling simmer going, I added the berries (which I picked over to get rid of leaves, stray stems, and other debris:

The berries!

Yes, that’s a lot of berries.

I switched to a tablespoon at this point, so I could stir the berries in the syrup without worrying about spilling half of them over the side and making a huge mess. After a couple minutes, I heard the berries starting to pop and release their juice, which started to turn the syrup a nice rosy shade:


I kept gently stirring and watching the heat for another fiveish minutes or so, serenaded all the while by the pop-pop-pop of the cranberries. When the syrup-and-berry mixture started to bubble up, I immediately took the pan off the heat and stirred in the mustard.

One

One

Two

Three

I was a little worried about this mustard, because it didn’t taste as pungent as the stuff I normally use. I then stirred in some zest that I pared off the oranges (You see the grater up there?  I tried to use that to zest, and failed miserably–all it did was make a huge mess. You see the orangish stain on my left index finger?  That’s from my attempt to use a cheese grater to zest an orange).

There’s the zest–I added the salt and pepper right after, and gave it a taste. Usually I taste a strong hint of the Dijon, but this time it was very understated; a most pleasant surprise that allowed the cranberries to take center stage with a nice citrus accent. I let the dressing cool, and then poured it into the bowl that I’ll be using for service:

Covered the bowl with some foil, and put it in the fridge to set up. The berries have their own natural pectin, so the dressing will gel slightly and gain a really nice viscosity. And it is absolutely yummy on its own, if you’re into that sort of thing. A small bit of whipped cream, and you are good to go.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Holiday | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.