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e_moon60

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A few cooking bits... [Jul. 13th, 2016|10:14 pm]
e_moon60
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This is a scattershot sort of post, because we had a wonderful Houseguest for 10 days (she's been gone over a week now, but the 10 days were memorable) who cooked, and then I cooked, and then we cooked, and  lot of cooking-type stuff happened.  She wanted to watch me make chili, and chicken stock, and apple bread pudding, and bean soup.  I wanted to learn more about Italian cooking, at which she is excellent (OMG her chicken piccata!  My mouth was dancing in the streets with glee!)  Then there was the after-cooking with the leftovers after she left.  The only picture I have of the whole cooking extravaganza is the bread pudding one she took.
Bread-pudding-6-30-16
That's right before half of it disappeared

So:  She learned to tell when chili's done by the shift in color from orange-brown to brown-brown and the thickness (chili needs no thickener if you simmer it long enough.)   This chili included garlic from our back yard, which had helpfully turned ready to pull that week.  Chili is a meat dish.   I use onions and garlic and tomatoes in mine; some people are opposed to the tomatoes, but I like them as long as they have time to cook down and disappear into the thick stuff between the meat chunks.  Chili done well is not fast food.  It is not even medium food.  It is "get it on by 8 am and you can eat it at 6 pm."  Yes, that's ten hours.  Most of which time you're ignoring it and doing other things.  (It's not horrible at lunch, but it's not really chili yet--the liquid is way too thin, the color way too orange, the tomato pieces can still be distinguished, etc0.  This is the point at which people are tempted to do silly things like "thicken the broth" because it's not thick yet.  Nope.  Leave it alone.  Trust that moist heat will move more and more meat fibers into the broth and it will thicken by itself.   On a low fire, it won't stick to the pot or burn because it doesn't have beans in it.  All you have to do during the day is check it every hour so you can feel like you're being a cook, and put the top back on the pot.  Around 3-4 pm it's beginning to "turn" and from there it matures steadily and obviously.  Leave the top half off or completely off if you accidentally put too much liquid in to start with, and check it every half hour until it's nine hours in; from there give it a stir every 15 minutes.   If you cut the meat into small pieces (as I do) instead of using a coarse grind, the chunks should be spoon tender (press the side of a spoon against a chunk that's next to the pot side and it should immediately break.)   Range beef takes longer getting to that stage than supermarket beef.  Chili was a dish made with tough, lean beef--you won't get the flavor from prime.

Bean soup.  Since I don't put beans in chili (but keep reading, there's an exception) I make beans to have *with* chili if you want.  If you mix them into your bowl I won't make a face.   I like a mix of beans; not everyone does.  But pinto beans, traditional and tasty as they are, can be a bit "flat" (esp. after we started growing bean varieties and I started using a mix of what we grew.)   Now I buy a pound sack of each of  the easily-available beans, pour them all into a big pickle jar (BIG pickle jar) and stir them up.  I could stir them up first, but it's fun to pour them in the jar layer by layer until the first batch of soup--they're pretty.   Red beans, often two sizes.  White beans.  Black beans.  Pinto beans.  Anasazi beans.  Black beans.   4 cups of mixed beans soaked overnight in cold water and rinsed.  One very large, or two smaller onions, diced.   Bay leaf.   A garlic clove or several if you have them.  Ham bone or (even better) about a half pound of smoked ham hocks.   Water to cover, bring to boil, simmer until the black beans are tender all the way through (they cook the slowest.)  Add a little water if it gets too low.  The white beans will have melted into the pot likker by then.  That's fine.   The pot likker should be opaque, not translucent, when it's done, and medium-thick.

From bean soup comes bean dip.  Take a cup of two of the bean soup, mostly beans, and blend it (I put it in a narrow container and use a stick blender) until as smooth as you want it.  That thickens it enough.  You can go through a whole sack of corn chips with this homemade bean dip in nothing flat.   If you want a hot bean dip, toss in some diced jalapeno.  Not too much; the salt of corn chips will hurt if you burn your lips on the bean dip.

Or...if you happen to have, say, a cup of chili left, and two-three people to feed, this is the one time I put chili and beans together.  Leftover chili with leftover bean soup heated up togeher are great as a dip, or a meal, and of course the addition of diced onion, and/or shredded cheese, is great.  Yes, we did that.  Yes, we liked it.   With corn chips and without.  Liked it a lot.

Chicken from the stock-making project.  Well, you can't go wrong with boiled chicken from the stock-making.  Soup--some of the stock plus a couple of cups of chunked chicken, a can of Rotel,  some pasta or rice or other starch, some capers, some lime juice.   The leftovers of that can be "freshened" with 1/2 to 3/4 of a jar of commercial pasta sauce, and another batch of pasta, and some sliced (or whole) black olives.    Homemade pasta sauce is great, too.

Chicken from the stock-making project also produces chicken salad.  Husband and I like slightly different recipes (and why not) and Houseguest suggested using half sour cream and half mayonnaise for the "glue."  YES.  Great suggestion.  (My lazy way had been sometimes using Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing.)  I like my chicken salad to have crunch things in it: diced celery and diced green pepper.  I like the chicken to be in small lumps, not reduced to chicken-flavored mush, and just enough of the mayonnaise/sour cream to coat the other ingredients, not them floating in a sea of white stuff.  Sliced black olives in it brings it up a notch.  Husband likes diced raw onion in his and tried capers this time.  Both of us happy.
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Comments:
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-07-14 12:14 pm (UTC)
As I mentioned, my husband likes onion in his chicken salad. I don't. I might try almonds sometime, though I'm not that fond of almonds. Chopped pecans are more likely.
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[User Picture]From: theidolhands
2016-07-14 04:28 am (UTC)
A weekend of happy smells and bell(ie)s indeed.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-07-14 12:14 pm (UTC)
Sure was a ten days! We feasted.
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[User Picture]From: gifted
2016-07-14 05:34 am (UTC)
"If you mix them into your bowl I won't make a face." *giggle.*

Thanks for sharing; great post, and glad you had an enjoyable ten days with your friend.

edit-- the bread pudding looks amazing.

Edited at 2016-07-14 05:46 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-07-14 12:53 pm (UTC)
The bread pudding...I find it hard to believe I started making it only in January of this year. What was I thinking, not to have tried it before? I guess it was the memory of not-great-bread pudding eaten a few times in my past and then ignored. The soupy/mushy kind I'd tried (and didn't like) in cafeterias. It is another "ignore the diet" recipe (milk, eggs, sugar, butter: necessary elements.)

You need enough bread pieces/cubes to fill whatever casserole dish you're using. (Mine holds about 7-8 cups of bread pieces.) A good bread, with a firm crumb. Needs to be dried out some; if using a fresh load, spread the cubes on a baking sheet and put in a low oven until dry but not toasted--15-20 minutes works in my oven. Enough custard mix (the milk/eggs/sugar/butter) to soak all the bread. (I use three cups of milk, six eggs, about 3/4 to 7/8 cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons butter (melted as the milk warms and dissolves the sugar), plus just under a tablespoon of vanilla extract and a full teaspoon of cinnamon.) While the milk warms whisk the six eggs until they're well beaten and a shade paler. Temper the warm milk/eggs slowly together. One apple (a good eating apple--crisp, juicy, sweet-tart, like a Fuji, Braeburn, Pink Lady, or Honeycrisp), quartered, cored, and sliced thinly. A layer of bread in the bottom, then a layer of apple slices, then the rest of the bread. Pour on the custard mix. Lay a "wheel" of apple slices on top, dot the slices with butter. Top with a mix of brown sugar and flour and a little melted butter, hand-mixed until like wet sand, and sprinkle that over the top, including the apple slices. Let soak for at least a half hour; an hour isn't too long. Then into the oven (casserole on a baking sheet because sometimes the custard bubbles over) at 350F (medium oven) for about an hour. It will rise up like a souffle. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving as it settles back down. (If desperate people are clamoring from the table, you can dig it out right away but it's better a few minutes later. The clamorers won't believe you.)

Serve with vanilla ice cream or heavy cream.

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[User Picture]From: gifted
2016-07-15 04:02 am (UTC)
Thanks so much, I just saved this in a document. I will definitely try it before winter is through. :>
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[User Picture]From: mevennen
2016-07-14 07:03 am (UTC)
Taking careful note of your chili comments! Jim C is very kindly posting us a very good chill packet mix from Texas (I don't usually use packets but this one was good last time).
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-07-14 12:33 pm (UTC)
If it's Red Eye, it's the best I've found. It's made very close to here, by a family using a relative's recipe from way back. I use it now instead of mixing spices myself as I used to (because I'm lazy.) Lots of flavor more than heat, and you can add more heat using Ro-tel, the canned diced tomatoes & green chilis, if you are OK with the tomatoes and want more heat. Most of the packets are all about the heat. Because I remember my mother cooking with really tough, lean range beef (from the '50s drought in south Texas), I use a little pre-cooked ground pork (sausage or just the ground pork) in with the lean beef. We no longer have access to range beef (rancher friends pretty much retired) so buy cheap lean cuts from the market. If you have an enameled cast iron pot with a tight lid, that's a great pot for chili. Plain cast iron will do, but the tomatoes will leach out the seasoning of the cast iron and it'll have to be re-seasoned after the batch is done.

But chili is "right" for someone when it suits their taste buds, even though I wince at some of the recipes found in magazines or online. It's supposed to be comfort food. If you can come in from a cold, wet day, chilled and tired, and by the third spoonful feel the warmth moving out from mouth and stomach to cold legs and feet, and by the meal's end feel warm, relaxed, and contented...it's right for you. Which is what matters.



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[User Picture]From: badgermirlacca
2016-07-14 11:55 pm (UTC)
That bread pudding looks fabulous. When do you put in the apples?
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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2016-07-15 06:31 pm (UTC)
As an English pedant, I'd say that you made bread-and-butter pudding; bread pudding is quite different, a sort of cake made with left-over stale bread, and, although it can be eaten hot as a pudding, with custard, it is more usually eaten cold. Both are delicious, but quite different!

With your chilli, do you use stewing steak or minced beef? From what you were saying, I think the former? And how do you store the left-over beans? Four cups of dried beans must make enough for several meals, even without having them with chilli!

I do find the American habit of calling something mixed with mayonnaise "salad" odd - here, salad is lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, etc, and you might have chicken with it, but not necessarily in it! And if it is chopped, hard-boiled egg, or tuna fish, we call it egg mayonnaise or tuna mayonnaise, not salad!

I love the way our two cultures approach food slightly differently! I hope that, when you have visited the UK, you have enjoyed our cuisine as much as I have yours when I have visited the USA.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-07-15 08:31 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed most of the food in the UK (and if anyone gets a trip with only less than stellar meal...they're lucky.) I love the egg salad and chicken salad (compared to what you get in most US sandwich places...or did...) And in fact that's what they were called, 'egg salad sandwich' (that was in London, in a Pret a Manger.) Maybe because so many US tourists?? I did figure out elsewhere that egg mayonnaise was the same as egg salad, pretty much, and I liked it a lot.

Love your cheeses; your gingerbread is way better than anything we get. Like Cornish pasties (including what you get in the big rail stations), tried out several varieties of English (I think) apples. Etc. Oh, and fish and chips? Love it. On a cold winter day in London: perfect. With vinegar and salt on the chips. The only place I've had better fried fish was in New Zealand, right down on the harbor. In London also ate some French, Italian and (what was the other one???) dishes that I don't find in our French, Italian, etc. restaurants. Sometimes I have fantasies about the food I ate in England.

Good chili can be made with ground (minced?) meat as long as it's coarsely ground. Typical "hamburger meat" or "ground beef" is too finely ground. I prefer to cut the meat up myself, so it's usually something labeled a roast of some sort. I've tried to thin strips and cubes/chunks, and now prefer the cubes/chunks. My strips tended to be uneven in thickness. But that's a matter of personal choice. There's a particular coarseness of grind here called "chili grind". YOu want something that will still have some texture after hours in the pot.
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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2016-07-15 08:41 pm (UTC)
Although Pret's sandwich also contains a fair amount of salad ingredients! I find the Cornish pasties you buy at railway stations are usually disappointing (but the stall at Euston station used to do the most delicious bacon rolls of a morning - don't know whether they still do). And have just eaten a very disappointing fish and chips - the chips were lovely, but the fish was far, far too salty, to the point of nearly being inedible!

Have you been to any of our curry houses? I believe Indian restaurants/take-aways are not as common in the USA as they are here.

I am not sure whether I should like a "genuine" chili, but maybe one day I'll get the chance to find out!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-07-16 06:18 pm (UTC)
Here you're more likely to find Mexican restaurants and take-aways than Indian. Beyond Texas-food, or generic American, the larger cities around here always have Mexican (mostly north-Mexican, but increasingly something specializing in another part of Mexico's very varied cuisine, Chinese, usually also Vietnamese, sometimes Korean, Italian, Greek, eastern Mediterranean (Turkish, Lebanese, etc.), Indian, sometimes Pakistani as well, sometimes Japanese as well. Some of the best Mexican food is at small places out of the cities, from roadside stands to cafes. And of course we have the chains...which are generic in their own way (but some of them quite edible.)
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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2016-07-16 06:36 pm (UTC)
We do have Mexican, but they are mostly chain restaurants, rather than take-aways. I never quite like Mexican food as much as I think I'm going to!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-07-16 07:12 pm (UTC)
It's very different. The whole flavor palette is different from what I ate in the UK. You might like it if you got what I consider "the good stuff" but you might not, too. And west coast isn't like east coast, north border isn't like the mountains of the interior, or farther south, or the Yucatan. It's local, using what naturally grew there and the crops that would thrive.

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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2016-07-16 07:18 pm (UTC)
One of these days I shall have to visit Texas properly - thus far, I changed planes at Dallas Fort Worth Airport nearly twenty years ago, and that constitutes the entirety of my visit to your great State!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-07-16 03:24 pm (UTC)
A question about English bread pudding--how do you make it? How do you make "a sort of cake" from stale bread piece? What holds it together?

My mother used to make something she called "Apple Brown Betty" that had sliced apples layered with less bread, brown sugar and cinnamon and a touch of butter (for my mother, sugar and cinnamon went together with butter!) and a little water to moisten the dry bread.

This one's often made with stale bread, when we have some, but if not, we dry the fresher bread in the oven. And we usually eat it cold, except for that first serving.

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