Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Where The Magic DOESN'T Happen

Those readers who aren't drunk when voting in my polls might remember something about bedroom pictures. As promised, here they are. And, just to be extra authentic, I didn't clean are seeing the BCC in his natural environment...

The hallway leading to the back bedrooms.

Horrifying, isn't it?

Ostensibly the clothes closet although it's become a dumping ground of sorts.

View from the bed...Go Cubbies!

The "entertainment center." HOLLER!!

Bedside reading #1

Bedside reading #2

Eagle-eyed readers might notice that some items just seem odd...a friend of mine is storing some of her stuff in my apartment while she is overseas.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Steamed Lobster with Herb Sauce, Lobster Bisque, Corn, and Fingerling Potatoes

This is a picture of Mr. 2.5-Pound-Lobster. My roommate and I decided to cook dinner for a few friends and settled on something quite elaborate. The exact recipe can be found in Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook. This is easily the most complicated recipe we have ever attempted. The recipe calls for 3 1.5-1.75 pound lobsters. Unfortunately, the Asian-Mart which we went to only had lobsters which were either too big or too small. We settled on one 2.5 pounder and two 1.25 pounders.

The first step was to steam the lobsters in order to remove the flesh. Start the lobster in a COLD pot and pour in 4 cups of water,and turn the heat to high. Ignore their cries of pain as they die a slow (but pleasant!) death. (George feels that this would be a better way to die whereas I would rather be plunged headfirst into boiling water. Maybe this will be the next poll).

Once the water starts boiling, wait one minute and then turn the heat off. You want the flesh to be barely cooked. Save the lobstery cooking liquid. We definitely overcooked the lobster so the next time we employ this technique, adjustments will be made.

Now it's time to savage the lobsters. Tear off both claws and the tail, leave the carapace/body intact. Be sure to save all the liquid that runs out of the shell...there will probably be quite a bit.

Ok, remove the meat from the tail and claws, hopefully in as few pieces as're looking for easily identifiable pieces of lobster. We actually had to resort to using a hammer for the 2.5 pounder because tearing into his shell was like trying to tear a car door in half. After 30 minutes of work we finally managed to extract all the delicious meat. It was a challenge not to halt the recipe at this point and just devour the unadorned lobster meat.

Once you get all the meat out, divide it into 6 portions, put it into a shallow pan, and pour 1 1/2 cups of melted butter over it and cover with saran wrap. This then goes into a 150 degree oven until you are ready to assemble the dish. We had some problems maintaining our oven at such a low temperature and our lobster was a little bit over cooked. Next time, we will make adjustments.

Now we will use the lobster bodies to make the bisque. Take a big knife and cut the bodies into 4 pieces each. Here is a picture of the carnage:
Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, and toss in the cut up shells. Brown them for about 15 minutes. If things look like they're starting to burn, take the pan off the heat for 30 seconds.
Meanwhile, chop a cup each of onions, celery, and leeks.

Toss them in with the lobster carcasses, along with a sprig of fresh tarragon, 4-5 cloves of crushed garlic, 1/2 a cup of white wine, 1 cup of tomato juice, a pinch of herbes de provence, salt and pepper, and all but 2 cups of the lobster cooking liquid which you saved from earlier. Cook it for about 40 minutes. This will smell insanely delicious.
After 40 minutes, strain the liquid out, trying to get every last drop. Throw out the shells. To the liquid, add 1/2 a cup of cream, some brandy or cognac, and season to taste. We loooove lobster bisque!

Next, we need to make the herb sauce.

Start by reducing down those last 2 cups of lobster liquid to 1 cup.

Make a slurry from 1 tablespoon water and 1 teaspoon of potato starch, and add this to thicken the reduced lobster liquid. Now, remember the 1 1/2 cups of lobster butter you have sitting in the oven at 150? Pour all of it into this sauce, and whisk it up. Finally, add some chopped parsley, chives,and tarragon. Here's a final picture.
All we need now is the potatoes and corn. Fresh roasted corn would be nice, but so would a (insert dirty sexual act) from (insert hot female celebrity). We had frozen corn in the fridge, so that's what went in.

You also need to peel about a pound of fingerling potatoes. This is the worst part of the entire recipe. Here is a picture of me suffering:

Boil these skinned potatoes in salted water for about 15 minutes, and cook the corn over high heat with some oil.

mmmm boiled potatoes...these are seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil.

NOW we are ready to assemble the final dish.

Make sure your plates are HOT. This dish is a travesty if served cold which is what happened to us. Maybe if George wasn't lollygagging around town then we could've attended to these details, yes? YES????

Start with the corn, put one portion of lobster on top, spoon some sauce over the top, and put the potatoes around that.

Put the bisque into a small bowl or ramekin, and place it on the plate next to the meat. Garnish with chives, parsley, jujube fruit, whatever.

....and voila!

BTW if you find that any of these pictures are unsatisfying, blame this guy:

Thanks, Han.

Time- Four hours of vigorous, unorganized work. Attempt this recipe only under two conditions:
1. You're trying to get laid.
2. You're insane.

Food Cost-
Lobster- $10.00
Potatoes- $0.33
Corn- $0.18
Incidentals- $1.00
Total per plate- $11.52
Serves six.

The Anti-Igor's Reward Dinner

For whatever reason, the Igor Omelette from last night really made me crave vegetables...I really can't imagine why. While at the grocery store early this morning, I spied acorn squash on sale so I bought one.

I decided to make one of my favorite side dishes...Mashed Winter Squash. Super easy.

Take an acorn squash and cut it vertically in half. Mine was about 2 pounds.
Scoop out the innards:
Rub the cut side with a bit of oil and lay the squash, cut-side down, on a foil lined baking sheet.
Chuck into a preheated 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Bake until done. You'll know it's done when a knife easily pierces the flesh.

Allow to cool to a manageable temperature. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon and place in a bowl.

Mash with a potato masher or squeeze it through your fingers...I don't really care. To finish, season with salt, a pat of butter, maple syrup and a bit of apple cider vinegar. My squash was already quite sweet so minimal enhancement was necessary. I think I used about a half tablespoon of maple syrup. Maybe a teaspoon of vinegar but you're the one eating it so you season it how you like. Orange zest is also a very appropriate flavor.

I served this with a mixed greens salad with blue cheese and a sherry vinegar/maple vinaigrette, leftover lentils and a multi-vitamin. Mmmm....wholesome.
Time- 55 minutes, most all of it unsupervised.
Food Cost
Squash- $1.50
Greens- $0.70
Incidentals- $0.50
Total- $2.70

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Igor's Reward

Remember this post? The one where I said that the person who could identify the type of beer would get a reward? Well, Igor, a hunky Russian-bear of a man was the winner! He IM'd me a few days ago and asked what the reward was. I told him that he could pick anything he wanted and I would cook it. Here's how it went down:

Igor: I want an omelette.
Me: Okay. (I was thinking to myself, umm, we'll see...I've never, ever made an omelette before.)
Igor:...and I want steak. I like bits of steak in my omelettes.
Me: Okay. ( I actually have to buy a steak? Doesn't he realize that I'm the BUDGET college cook? Ughh. Whatever, he won.)
Igor: And home fries. It's breakfast and I'm hungry. I want home fries.
Me: Okay. Sure thing, Igor. (You bastard. I've never made home fries so now I have to look up how to make an omelette, how to make home fries AND buy a steak? ARFFGHEHERHWEERJHFFWE!)

The guy also asked me to put some pork in the omelette but I had to draw the line somewhere. I don't know how they roll in Mother Russia but this is my blog and I call the shots. Got it?

Hahaha, but seriously, it was a pleasure putting this together for Igor. My roomie donated the steak, I learned how to make great home fries, and my omelette technique needs PLENTY of work. My roommate makes superior omelettes. They turn out all nice and fluffy. I need a lesson, hint-hint.

All in all, a good experience. I decided to caramelize some onions for the omelette and sprinkled blue cheese crumbles on top. Steak and blue cheese, a classic pairing, oui? I'm going to post a series of pics with minimal captions...keep this one simple...physics midterm in 36 hours....the lever arm? torque? what? I have to calculate things? uh oh.

The ingredients. I was also going to make a salad but never got around to it. Anyways, potatoes are vegetables, right? Good enough for me.

Sauteeing onions. (I saute onions with such frequency that I'm considering shooting a stock photo and using it from now on.)
The onions a few minutes later:

Diced potatoes. Check out the shoddy, haphazard knife work!

1/3rd of a ribeye steak. Nice and blurry, just the way I like it.
The onions, barely boiled potatoes and cooked steak ready for the next step.

The sliced, cooked steak. Still blurry!
Fast forward about 15 minutes...the finished deal. Toasted English muffin on the side.
Here's a photo of the omelette's interior...

I seasoned the home fries with Old Bay seasoning. I love the stuff and it's appropriate. After all, Igor lives in Maryland and Old Bay is pretty much the official seasoning of Maryland.

Gotta tell ya, I am FULL. Three eggs, a third of a steak, a small russet potato, half an onion and an English muffin. What will win...the impending food coma or my physics book? We'll find out at Tuesday's midterm!

Time- About 30 minutes of FRENZIED work. I almost chopped off a few of my fingers when the knife slipped.
Food Cost- Going to make some assumptions here b/c I didn't buy the steak.
Steak- $2.50
Blue Cheese- $0.50
Onions/Potatoes- $0.75
Incidentals- $0.75
Total- $4.50

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Indian Stir-Fried Long Beans

(This is the first of a three part post. Just think of it as quasi-indian food for dummies.)
Remember long beans? They're back.

Take a pinch of black mustard seeds, cumin, fennel, fenugreek and nigella. Set aside.
Grate enough garlic to yield a teaspoon.

Mince up half of an onion.

Take the long beans, trim the ends and cut into one inch pieces. I used about 12-15 long beans.

Heat up a wok. Add oil and toss in the dried spices and garlic. Saute for 30 seconds. Add the minced onion and cook until the onion has softened.
Toss in the long beans, mix, and add a half cup of water. Bring the water up to a boil. Add a few pinches of salt.
The water will evaporate and cook the beans. It will also create a bit of a thin sauce. This should take 5 minutes or so. At this point, taste a bean and adjust the seasoning. Done!

Time-10 minutes
Food Cost-
Long Beans- $0.50
Incidentals- $0.50
Total- $1.00
Makes enough to serve two as a side dish.

Easy Dal

(Let me clear up any confusion: I made a quadruple batch of the lentils but gave instructions for a single batch. The quantities shown in the pictures will seem exaggerated due to this difference. I have also edited the food cost...lentils are cheaper than I remembered.)

Dal refers to lentils. It looks like porridge or thick split pea soup but is unmistakable in it's Indian flavor. When combined with rice, it's also highly nutritious. Check out this link. In addition to being delicious, nutritious, and cheap, it's remarkably easy to make and can be varied to suit your mood. Here's one way to make it.

Take a cup of dry lentils (I used channa dal) and rinse. Place in a pot with water. I use a 4:1 ratio of water to lentils.
Bring to a boil and skim off the weird flotsam. Add a half teaspoon of ground turmeric, stir and lower heat to a gentle simmer.

Assemble the rest of the ingredients. I used 3 dried chiles, a teaspoon of coriander seed, two pinches of cumin seed, 4 cloves, a cinnamon stick, and a few black peppercorns. Grind in a coffee grinder. If it looks like I have a ridiculous amount of spices, it's because I made a quadruple batch. Set aside.

Cut up an onion...I go with a chunky, coarse cut because I like the texture it gives to the final product. Set aside.

When the lentils have softened into a gruel like consistency, it's time to finish the dish. This might take anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending on the type of lentil you used.

To finish, stir fry the onions for 5 minutes. You just want to soften them a bit.

Add the ground spice mixture and cook for another few minutes. It should smell quite nice.

Mix the onion mixture with the lentils and cook for another ten minutes. Season to taste with salt. Adding some lemon juice is also nice. Done!

Time-45 minutes, much of it unsupervised.
Food Cost
Lentils- $.75
Incidentals- $0.50
Total- $1.25
Serves 3-4

Stewed Chicken with Indian Spices

No sassy introductions, I'm just going to get right down to business.
There's what we're working with for today's meal. I know all those little baggies of spices might seem intimidating but hey, it is what it is. Umm, ignore the liquor in the back corner. And the bottle of acetaminophen. Yes, there is a relationship between the two. Ugh.

Take two pinches each of black mustard, cumin, fennel, fenugreek and nigella seeds. Place in a container. Add 3 cloves, two whole cinnamon sticks, 3 bay leaves and 2 teaspoons of ground coriander. Set aside

Grate ginger to yield 1.5 tablespoons. Grate garlic to yield 3 teaspoons. I use a Microplane Grater to do this.
Grate enough onion to yield two cups.
Grab 5 dried red chiles and set aside.

Skin 9 average sized chicken thighs. Rinse, drain, and set aside.

Place two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of oil in a heated pot. Allow the butter to melt. The mixture will foam up.

Wait until the foaming subsides and toss in the mustard seed/cinnamon/clove/bay leaf/coriander mixture. Saute for about a minute. The spices should become very aromatic. DO NOT ALLOW THE SPICES TO BURN. IF THEY BURN, THROW EVERYTHING OUT AND START OVER. It should, however, get nice and brown.

At this point, toss in the grated onion and the dried chiles. Turn the heat down to medium. The onion will be quite juicy so you want to cook it until most of the onion juice has evaporated. Here's a before and after shot.

Add the chicken. Turn the heat back up to high. Stir throughly. Allow the chicken to cook until it's changed color from raw to white.

Pour enough water over the chicken until it just barely covers the chicken.

Toss in a good 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring everything up to a boil then turn the heat down to a bare simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Give it all another stir, taste for seasoning and cook until the chicken is tender...maybe another 15-20 minutes.

I'll be the first to admit that this dish looks like a gloopy mess but trust me on this, it tastes great. Serve with plenty of rice to soak up the stewing juices.

Time- 1 hour, much of it unsupervised
Food Cost-
Chicken- $3.50
Onions- $1.00
Incidentals- $1.00
Total- $5.50
Serves 4 average adults.