Monday, May 25, 2015

Notes: Tender and Juicy Slow Cooker Meatballs

25 May 2015

  • Recipe from Serious Eats; preparation time about 80 minutes.
  • Several changes were made to the recipe:
    • I used milk instead of buttermilk for the panade, so I wouldn't have a lot of leftover buttermilk.
    • By coincidence I used buttermilk sandwich bread, though I doubt that makes any difference.
    • The recipe calls for 1 pound ground beef (25% fat) and 1¼ pound ground pork (25% fat). Because of what was available at the supermarket I used 1¼ pound ground beef (20% fat) and 1 pound ground pork (5 % fat)
    • I used vegetable oil in place of olive oil.
    • The tomatoes were whole peeled plum tomatoes. The recipe said these should be crushed by hand. I imagined using my hands to squeeze the tomatoes one by one but instead I added them to the Dutch oven and crushed them with a potato masher.
    • The recipe did not specify what to do with the juice from the tomatoes. I was leaning towards discarding it. Finding a comment on the recipe web page saying the sauce was thin clinched it for me and I drained the tomatoes before using them.
    • The ingredient list included a sprig of basil. Not only do I not know how much is in a "sprig" but the instructions didn't say what to do with the basil. I skipped the basil.
  • I used a #24 disher (almost 3 tablespoons) to make 20 meatballs. There was still meat left over which I cooked in some oil and added to the sauce in the crock pot.
  • I made a sourdough version of almost no-knead bread. I replaced ¼-cup of water with ¼-cup of sourdough starter. I made no other changes to the recipe, including the yeast, beer, and vinegar.
  • Served with salad (made with Earthbound Farms Spring Mix, tomato, peanuts, and dressing) and Chianti.

  • The bread was very good: good texture, good crust, good flavor. 
  • The sauce was runny and didn't adhere to the pasta. Since the juice that I drained was thick, perhaps it should have been included?
  • I would omit the red pepper flakes, not because they made the sauce too spicy but because the flavor is so strong it obscures the other flavors.
  • The meat balls were tender and flavorful. I am glad I took the time to brown them under the broiler as I am not sure they would have cooked through with 30 minutes in the sauce.
  • We had two meatballs each so the recipe should make 10 servings. We'll see how the sauce holds up.

Eat leftovers
  • I liked this much more as leftovers. The heat from the red pepper flakes had dissipated so the other flavors shone through. The sauce, however, still does not coat the pasta even after further cooking to thicken it up.
  • We have had this food for dinner three times and there are two more meals stored in the freezer.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Notes: Hawaiian French Toast

17 May 2015

  • A simple dinner after a long hike.
  • This recipe popped up on Facebook recently so I thought I would try it.
  • I am still looking for the best recipe/method for making french toast. I don't expect this is it, but I may learn some things. 
  • The recipe uses King's Hawaiian bread. While the recipe calls for a round loaf we used a sandwich loaf. The slices were ¾-inches thick instead of 1-inch as in the recipe, but more uniform than I could cut them by hand.
  • Rather than leave the bread out to get dry as in the recipe, I dried it out in the oven. I wasn't sure how many slices of toast the recipe would make, so I filled a rimmed baking sheet which was 8 slices. They were baked at 225° for 30 minutes, turning them over half way.
  • Many years ago we used to eat King's Hawaiian Bread and we liked it, but we haven't had it for some time. I don't know exactly what it is but it would seem to be an enriched, sweetened bread. Since brioche is good for french toast, this should do well.
  • I omitted the nutmeg (Diane doesn't like it).
  • The bacon was cooked in water, initially, which keeps it tender and meatier.
  • To go with the french toast we had bacon, fresh fruit salad (strawberry, pineapple, banana, blueberry, raspberry, orange), and mimosas.

  • The french toast was good, not great. It was pretty sweet with ¼-cup sugar in the the batter plus maple syrup or jam topping.
  • It had an odd texture in the center, kind of chewy rather than custardy. The bread is a little thin for french toast and it would be interesting to taste a slightly thicker version.
  • There was only a little batter left over, maybe enough for one more slice, but 8 is a good number: 4 for dinner and 4 for leftovers.

Eat leftover
  • The leftover slices of french toast were cooled then placed in individual sandwich bags and frozen.
  • For breakfast: one slice is removed from the freezer and heated in the toaster on "frozen" mode and a setting of 6.  It makes for a good, quick breakfast with some juice and tea.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Notes: Cowboy Pie

May 10, 2015: Mother's Day

  • Mom didn't select this meal, but after a special Mother's Day breakfast out, I wanted something simple and quick to make but flavorful
  • The recipe is from The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook, p. 109
  • Total time to prepare was about an hour
  • You might think of this as a big beef pot pie
  • The recipe uses many prepared ingredients: deli roast beef, canned black beans, frozen corn, refrigerator pie dough, bottled barbecue sauce
  • The fresh vegetables (onion, red bell pepper, garlic) are cooked in the microwave before being added to the other ingredients for baking
  • I used Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Sauce which is less sweet than my usual Red Bull
  • I had the roast beef sliced to a medium thickness and I bought a little extra to have in sandwiches
  • The cookbook has a cow girl pie variation that is made with chicken instead of beef
  • The Cowboy Pie was just OK, nothing great
  • The sauce was a little runny, maybe the Dinosaur sauce is thinner than other bottled barbecue sauces?
  • It was a little spicy from the chili powder
  • The pie was served with a fresh fruit salad including pineapple, black berries, apple, grapes, strawberries; we drank Pinot Noir with this dinner
Eat as leftovers
  • TBD

Monday, May 4, 2015

Notes: Honey Fried Chicken and Northern Corn Bread

3 May 2015

  • I have made the Honey Fried Chicken before and have fond memories of it.
  • My Cook's Illustrated Baking Book has three recipes for corn bread: southern style, northern style, and all-purpose. I meant to make the all-purpose but didn't look at the right recipe when making the shopping list, so northern style it is.
    • Diane prefers sweet, northern-style corn bread while I am partial to the southern savory style, thus the desire to try the all-purpose recipe.
    • The recipe calls for a 9-inch baking dish, the closest we have is an 8-inch Corning ware; it will have to do.
    • I used buttermilk baking mix instead of buying buttermilk.
    • For corn meal I used Bob's Red Mill Stone Ground Corn Meal, medium grind.
  • I made the corn bread first then proceeded with the chicken and the first step, cutting up the whole chicken. Since the chicken has to brine for 30 minutes, I should have started with the chicken instead of the corn bread. 
  • I bought a whole 5-pound chicken (the smallest I found at the supermarket) and broke it down into 8 pieces: 2 drum sticks, 2 thighs, 4 half split breasts, all bone-in and skin-on.
  • I bought a Kale Waldorf salad at the supermarket.
  • The glaze is made from honey and Sriracha.
  • The oil seemed to stay at the right temperature, 350°, with a burner setting around 6. When I put in the chicken I turned it up to 10 which did a good job keeping the temperature of the oil above 325°. 
  • I did not take the temperature of the chicken to determine when it was done. That would have been difficult with my only instant-read thermometer measuring the temperature of the oil. Instead I relied on the times given in the recipe.
  • I was in the kitchen for a little over two hours making dinner.
  • I filled up the dishwasher with bowls, it seemed, when all was done, and used a lot of corn starch.

  • The chicken came out very nice, though it didn't have the rich golden color of, say, KFC. It was done all the way to the bone, crispy, tender, and moist.
  • The glaze was good, not at all spicy or overly sweet. It might have been even better if it were a little spicier.
  • The salad was nothing special, perhaps more interesting than cole slaw but not much.
  • The corn bread was disappointing. It was cold by the time it was served and not done in the middle. I should probably invest in a new 9-inch baking dish.
    • I thought the texture was good using the medium grind corn meal.
  • Served with Pinot Grigio. 
Eat as leftovers 
  • I will be eating the corn bread for breakfast. When having it again I thought the texture a bit coarse.
  • Some of the middle pieces of the corn bread I discarded, just not cooked enough.
  • The chicken was simply warmed in the microwave. The skin was no longer crispy but the chicken was still good. We saved some of the honey/Sriracha glaze and added that, too, which was good.