Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Notes: March 2016

13 March 2016

"All American Beef Stew"

Recipe from Serious Eats

I tried a new recipe for beef stew, this one from the Serious Eats blog.  I didn't note how much time I spent cooking it, but between the stew and the pie (below) and the relaxing I killed a whole Sunday afternoon.

The stew didn't take all that long,  I started with a three-pound chuck roast and it spent about 2½-hours cooking. I followed the times in the recipe and it probably would have benefitted from another half hour or so as some of the beef wasn't as tender as it might have been. The 1-½-hour estimate in the recipe for active time seems about right.

The stew tasted good! I used Thai Fish Sauce, instead of anchovies, in the "umami bomb" that was part of the recipe. We thought it could have used more carrots and some more potatoes would have been okay, too.

The recipe called for cutting the roast into three steaks and browning these all at once in a Dutch oven. However, three steaks were too big and I should have browned them separately. which would have taken some more time.

The sauce was a little thin, it could have reduced more. The stew cooks with the lid only partially covering the stew and I could have exposed more of the stew than I did during cooking.

This stew is worth making again.

Lemon Meringue Pie

"Lemon Meringue Pie" recipe from Cook's Illustrated Baking Book, p. 405
Crust recipe, "Classic Single-Crust Pie Dough for Custard Pies", ibid., p. 373

This is the second time I have made a lemon meringue pie. While it has been too long since the previous pie to make a comparison, I can say this pie came out great. I made it this month because lemons seem to be in season. But that's silly: lemons are available all year and you only need three or four of them to make the pie so there is no reason to make it at any time of year. (And it allowed us to have pie on Pi Day.)

The crust recipe is pretty standard, using a mixture of vegetable shortening and butter which are mixed with the flour in a food processor. The interesting part is that the use of graham cracker crumbs instead of flour when rolling out the chilled dough. You get a classic flaky pastry crust plus the flavor of graham crackers.

The filling is easy to make. The meringue was fun because it was the first time I've made an Italian meringue. A hot sugar syrup is slowly added to the whipped egg whites in the mixer with the mixer running. This cooks and stiffens the meringue. The end result is smooth and sweet. And it made for great licking of the bowl and other tools used to make the meringue.

This pie is worth making again. I think, though, that I should try making a lemon chiffon pie next.

20 March 2016

"The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies"

Recipe from Serious Eats

The title of the recipe is pretty boastful. I have tried many different recipes for chocolate chip cookies and the New York Times recipe has been my favorite for some time. But perhaps the King is dead, long live the King! I'll have to try a few more to be sure, but the initial impression of these cookies is excellent. They are crispy and chewy with large pockets of chocolate throughout. Like the America's Test Kitchen recipe these use brown butter to give them a nutty toffee flavor. But unlike the ATK cookies here the toffee flavor is more subtle, which I like.  I baked these cookies for about 16 minutes which may have been too long ... next time I should go for 14. The recipe made 28 cookies.

"Better Chicken Marsala"

 Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, November 2015

For the second consecutive month we had chicken marsala. It's a favorite of Diane's and a recent recipe from Cook's Illustrated magazine was worth trying.

The two boneless, skinless chicken breasts were larger than the upper limit in the recipe even though I purchased the smallest ones available: 1.6 pounds. I made a few changes to the recipe:  The Marsala was a mixture of our old bottle (which was not marked "sweet" or "dry" and our new bottle of dry Marsala; the recipe specifies dry. I used dry parsley and oregano because the amounts needed were too small to purchase fresh herbs. The pancetta was thinly sliced rather than the ½-inch pieces in the recipe. I didn't pay close attention to the time but it was probably about 90 minutes in the kitchen to prepare this dinner.

The result, though, was good. The sauce was more richly flavored than the recipe I used last month. In part this was because some of the chicken burned and the sauce was probably over-reduced. The chicken was also a little over cooked and dry. Nonetheless, despite the flaws in execution, this is a recipe worthy trying again because of the rich flavor of the sauce.

"Perfect Quick-and-Easy French Toast"

Recipe from Serious Eats

I have written in this blog several times about French toast. I have not had any for a while and so while home alone for a weekend I tried this recipe. Like most people I didn't usually follow a recipe when making French toast. In this recipe, the author ran various tests to determine the best ratio of milk to egg, for example, as well as optimizing other variables. 

I halved the recipe, making four slices, though I had enough batter to make at least one more. I used homemade sandwich bread which I dried in the oven. I cooked the toast using a square griddle on a round burner on the stove top.

The result was very good. The toast was nicely flavored by the vanilla with hints of spice from cinnamon and nutmeg. It took longer to cook than the recipe said. Perhaps I should have used a higher setting on the stove, though much higher and the butter would have burnt. The slices did not cook evenly because the pan was hotter in the center than in the corners which were not near the heating elements. Cooking just two slices at a time might help with this.

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