Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pork Chops

I'm pretty proud of this whole meal. First off, I made a salad with no lettuce... Exhibit A:


And second off, I made pork chops. Well, pork chop to be more accurate. Cooking for one has its challenges. But hey! I made meat. And I didn't get sick, so I must have properly handled *dangerous* organic matter.

The recipe I used comes from the Kitchn, a great source for cooking knowledge and tips. They suggested even just a 30 minute brine would help make the meat tasty, and they were so right.


Juicy, not overcooked. Just salty enough, but not anywhere near bacon levels. Flavorful, mostly from the pork and with just a hint of garlic and pepper. I'll be making this one again! And I have another pork chop in the freezer, so I can!

The pork is cooked uniquely too, to maximize a caramelized crust and tender inside. You sear the meat on one side in a cast iron skillet (which you have conveniently left inside the oven while it preheats). Then, flip it and immediately put it back in the oven, where the other side will get a golden crust while the meat inside cooks slowly and evenly. It's genius. And it took under an hour.

Genius Pork Chops
Yield: as many as 4 chops

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups cold water, divided
  • 3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt (or 2 1/2 tablespoons table salt)
  • Optional flavorings: smashed garlic cloves, black peppercorns, bay leaf
  • 2 to 4 pork chops — The Kitchn suggests center cut, bone-on, 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick (about 1 pound each); I used boneless chops which were a bit thicker and pounded it down a tad to about an inch thick
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper


Method:

  1. Brine the chops: Boil 1 cup of the water, stir in salt and flavorings to dissolve and infuse. Stir in 2 cups of cold water, and pour over the meat in a shallow dish. Cover and refrigerate for anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours.
  2. Take the chops out of the refrigerator and pull out of the brine. Pat dry with paper towels and rub with olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides, then set aside (on the counter). 
  3. Put a cast iron or otherwise oven-proof skillet in the oven. Preheat to 400 degrees F.
  4. Take the skillet out of the oven, and put it on the stove on medium-high heat. Put the pork chop in and let sear for 3 minutes. Flip with tongs, then place the whole skillet in the oven.
  5. Cook for 6-10 minutes, or until the pork is done to your liking. It's going to rest in step 6, so it will keep cooking. Several places on the internet have metrics of what temperature you want it to be when you take it out of the skillet; the Kitchn recommends taking it out at 140-145 degrees F. I cut it open a bit in the center to check, and took it out when the pink was just gone, around 10 minutes (granted, it was on the thick side).
  6. Remove from the oven, set on a plate, and tent with foil. Let rest for at least 5 minutes, 10 if you can stand it. 
Via the Kitchn.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chocolate Pudding

This.


THIS.

This took less than half an hour. It's rich, but not too rich. Very chocolaty. Simple, comforting. Magic as the cornstarch thickens sweet, cocoa-lush milk.

I put a few raspberries on top, because I didn't have the courage to pour straight cream like Alice suggests. But I'm sure it's divine.


A few days later, sitting in the fridge (I too, am a lover of pudding skin), it becomes fudgy, almost like pot de creme or a thick custard.

So deeply chocolate. If you're used to making this, try this instead. It will blow your mind off with endorphins!

Chocolate Pudding
Yield: 6 pots of pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup (66 grams) sugar 
  • 1/3 cup (28 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably natural 
  • 2 tablespoons (17 grams) cornstarch 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 3/4 cups milk (whole is best but don't sweat it. Or, figure out the percentages
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream 
  • 3 to 4 ounces (85 grams to 115 grams) dark chocolate, very finely chopped 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • rum, if you want!

Method:
  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients (sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt) in a medium saucepan. Add a splash or two of the milk and whisk to combine into a smooth paste. Then, add the rest of the milk and cream and whisk to combine.
  2. Heat mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken and bubble (about 5 mins). Make sure to scrape the corners of the pan. Heat and stir for an additional minute after the mixture starts bubbling.
  3. Take the pan off the heat, then add the chocolate. Stir to melt and combine. Add the vanilla (and rum if desired) and stir to combine.
  4. Divide into 6 ramekins, teacups, or whatever small vessels grace your kitchen. Refrigerate or eat warm, with or without cream/whipped cream.

From Food52, recipe by Alice Medrich (Chocolate Goddess)
*Note: this recipe is called "Chocolate Pudding You Can Serve Naked (or Top With Cream)"--I would not suggest that you parade around au natural offering people pudding. I would instead suggest serving it without accompaniment, or putting a bit of cream on top :).

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cauliflower Rice


Reviews of Cauliflower Rice:

carbfanatic
3 stars:
This is good, but it's not rice. It's not short, long, or really, any kind of grain. But, it takes to butter and cheese well, so in that sense maybe it's a kindred spirit.

moms4health
4 stars:
I love how I can make healthy "rice"--and my husband doesn't even know the difference! It's hard to keep a family healthy but this trick to sneak some extra veg into their tummies is great!!

paleoluver
4 stars:
Sometimes you're really looking for a way to not eat grains, but like, eat grains. This is the way. Follow the light, and find the truth.

samcheezburg
1 star:
Rice? Nope. Vegetables. And I thought rice was white? I don't want any cruciferous vegetables up in here!


If this "rice" could talk, it'd tell a story. Of converts and of skeptics. If it had an amazon page, the comments field would be a firezone.

To be honest, I'm in the carbfanatic camp. It's not rice. It's a bit closer to couscous. If you dress it up enough, it tastes okay. But I kind of would rather it pretend to be mashed potatoes and be entirely pureed or something. And adding butter and cheese negates the health aspect just a bit...


I tried it out though, because the internet was raving. And I had an enormous half head of purple cabbage to use. So give it a shot, and see which camp you end up in!

Recipe at the Kitchn (FYI I sauteed it as suggested and first put a poached egg, parmesan, and butter on top. The second night I made stuffed peppers with tomatoes, cayenne/chili, and cheese.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cooking meat

It's not as scary as it seems!

Last week I roasted a chicken and made steak with a friend. Success!

My first meal, though, of course, was just lentils and brown rice. Healthy, cheap, and comfortable. The apartment I'm in for the summer has a pressure/slow/rice cooker combo that made cooking the rice quick and easy, and I put some curry powder in the lentils.



It was tasty. But, the main thing is: I'm learning to cook meat. And to be clear, I'm not a vegetarian. I'm just a college kid who hasn't done much other than baking, and now I'm learning to cook. Including things other than eggs and pasta and breakfast for dinner and lentils and rice.


This recipe for roast chicken comes from Twelve Recipes, a lovely book which is really not 12 recipes but rather the usual 12 chapters of recipe categories. The way it's put together, though, makes you feel empowered to cook the way seasoned cooks do--feeling, tasting, improvising, and taking it easy. This is contrary to the measuring, exacting process of baking recipes.

The recipe isn't even written out in steps...it's all paragraphs, making the book an excellent dinner companion for easy reading.

A little dessert in a little bowl...white peaches are prime.
Like most roast chicken recipes, it calls for liberally salting and peppering, then slathering the chicken with olive oil and just popping it in the oven. Unlike most roast chicken recipes, the oven is unusually hot: 450 degrees F. So get ready for popping and sizzling!

Left: crispy, delicious skin. Right: flabby, not crispy skin. Guess which one I ate and which one was compost?
I used a rather small pan, which meant that the chicken sat in its juices a bit and the skin lower down didn't get as crisped up. Using a bigger pan would help with that (and you can also put potatoes, garlic, vegetables, etc. in there 15 minutes into the cooking process if you want to roast up a whole dinner). But man were those legs awesome. So crispy and caramelized and Maillard reaction-y. The chicken also took an extra half hour longer than the recipe stated, so either my oven isn't hot, the chicken was too cold (still frozen?), or it just needed extra time.


Without further ado, a not-recipe recipe. I think one of the most valuable components of the recipe was instructions on how to carve the chicken, so I've included those too.

Dinner Bell Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken (3-4 lbs)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh rosemary is nice if you have it!
Method:



  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees (and give it plenty of time to get hot). Stick a baking sheet under the rack where you're going to put the chicken to catch drips. Thaw the chicken if it's not thawed, and take out the gizzards and innards.
  2. Put the chicken in a baking dish and liberally salt and pepper all sides (and in the cavity). Rub all over with olive oil.
  3. Tuck the wings back behind the neck, and tie the legs together if you have string. Sometimes my dad can poke a hole in the skin of one leg and put the other leg through it, which is a neat trick.
  4. Roast for a long time! Check at 45 minutes, but mine took well over an hour. You can tell it's done when you can easily twist a leg-the bone should move independent of the meat. Another way to check is to cut in between the thigh and the body and wait until the juices run clear. 
  5. To cut the bird up, first cut off the leg and thigh on each side, then the breasts and wings. Or watch a video if it's your first time.
  6. Eat hot, shred the extra and put it in the fridge for chicken salad, casseroles, and leftovers.
Bonus: my friend also cooked steak the next night (with potatoes and roasted red peppers, under the broiler). Here's the results...they were absurdly delicious.