Monday, May 25, 2009

Roast Capon with Chile Cilantro Rub and Roasted Carrots (Page 399)

RECIPE #989

  • Date: Friday, May 8, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

My special gentleman picked this recipe out for dinner a few weeks back. He was curious about capon (young, neutered male chicken). The idea with capon is that the hormone changes caused by neutering the bird make the meat more marbled and tender. I started this recipe by making a paste of garlic, salt, cilantro, ancho chile powder, cumin, and butter. I then worked some of this paste under the skin of the capon, and I rubbed some of it inside the cavity of the bird. I then put the capon in a roasting pan and surrounded it with carrots. I seasoned the carrots and poured some water over them. Then I roasted it all for several hours, taking it out occasionally to brush more chile butter on the bird, and later to baste with pan juices. I served the capon and carrots with red chile sauce (see post below). This dish was very tasty. The capon did indeed come out very tender, and the meat was nice and moist. The skin was amazing -- so crispy and flavorful! And the sauce went wonderfully with the meat. My special gentleman also loved the carrots. Mysteriously, I didn't like them too much. Generally I love carrots -- absolutely love them. But there was something weird about the texture of these. They were so carmelized that they became almost gummy. My special gentleman thought that was a good thing, I did not. Either way, it was a tasty dish.

Here is the recipe.

Well, the big day is almost here -- we are getting married on Saturday! Tomorrow a few wedding guests are arriving (my parents, and my best friend, her husband, and her son!), which feels like the start of the festivities. Luckily I got most of the last minute stuff done last week because I spent most of this weekend in bed! I get tonsillitis every year. For whatever reason, I am exceptionally prone to it. It doesn't seem contagious -- I have never given it to anyone else. But I haven't made it through a whole year without getting it in the last decade. Typically I get it in the fall, occasionally in the winter. This past fall and winter it never came. But then I got pneumonia, and I figured maybe that meant I was off the hook for tonsillitis this year. No such luck. I woke up on Friday in a lot of pain from an infected tonsil, and it continued to get worse throughout the day. By the afternoon I was sick and miserable. I have had bouts with tonsillitis where I then got bronchitis and ended up sick for more than a week. I absolutely did NOT want that to happen -- it would be so miserable to be sick for my wedding! So I stayed in bed as much as I possibly could from Friday to Sunday, and now I am feeling much better! In fact, I feel almost completely well! Yay! I think by tomorrow I will feel totally fine -- just in time for our first wedding guest arrivals! I am so excited!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Red Chile Sauce (Page 400)

RECIPE #988

  • Date: Friday, May 8, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

This sauce was a component of a capon dish, which will be my next post. To start I stemmed and seeded some dried New Mexico chiles and some dried guajillo chiles. I then toasted the chiles for a few seconds in a hot pan. Then I soaked them in boiling water. Once they were soft, I transfered the chiles, and most of the soaking liquid, to a blender. I pureed, then strained the mixture, then added back the remaining soaking liquid. I cooked onion, garlic, cumin, and oregano in vegetable oil, then added some flour, and after a couple minutes, the chile puree. I simmered it for a half hour, then added some salt, pepper, and sherry vinegar. This sauce was extremely tasty. It really highlighted the flavor of the chiles in a beautiful way. Many people think of chile peppers as just a source of heat, but this sauce beautifully illustrated how chile peppers do have a flavor independent of that heat. This sauce was not spicy at all, but still clearly had a chile taste to it. I liked it a lot. We ate it over capon, but it would maybe be even more delicious with some slow-cooked pork.

The recipe is here.

I never use to be a cry-when-I'm-happy kind of person. I've always cried when I get sufficiently upset, but happy occasions never left me teary-eyed. So I have never thought of myself as a very weepy person. I think that is changing though. I distinctly remember the first time I cried at a friend's wedding. I have no idea why I started tearing up, but as she walked down the aisle I couldn't help myself. When my best friend's baby was born last year, same thing. Definite tears. Both of those were huge occasions though, which more than merited some happy tears. But I have also been tearing up at some not-quite-as-huge occasions though. For instance, I got all teary-eyed watching the Chicago marathon. Why? No idea. I didn't even know anyone running in it. But as I watched all those runners go by, I felt a rush of pride for them, and it made me teary. The incident that has me questioning my sanity, though, is the following: last week my special gentleman and I were watching an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 from 1995 (NOT the new version of the show, but rather the good old days with Brandon, Kelly, Donna, etc...). Anyway, it was this absolutely terrible episode where Brandon and Susan were stuck in an eleveator with a pregnant lady and she (of course!) went into labor. So Brandon had to deliver the baby. And watching that made me cry! It's worrisome, no? My special gentleman looked so shocked that I was tearing up that I claimed my eyes were burning from allergies. He saw right through my excuses though. Apparently I am becoming weepy! Our wedding is next week -- hopefully I won't cry all the way through my vows!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Roasted Apple Strudels (Page 798)

RECIPE #987

  • Date: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


My special gentleman's thirtieth birthday was a few weeks ago. At the time I failed to mention it on the blog -- the omission was not due to lack of excitement about my special gentleman or his birthday though. Rather, the opposite. I felt that my special gentleman deserved all sorts of great things for his thirtieth birthday: a big party with yummy food, a special gift, etc... and I felt like I did a really bad job of delivering those things for him. Normally I would have (at the very least) made him a really special meal. I would have invited friends over to share it with us. I would have come up with some creative and personal gift. But with our wedding just a couple weeks away, the idea of planning anything else just feels so overwhelming. I am trying hard not to feel overwhelmed by the wedding, but I am certainly at capacity for planning things. So on my special gentleman's birthday we pretty much did nothing. We went out to lunch with some friends, but in the evening we stayed home and he ate Ramen. I felt terrible about it but at the same time I felt completely unable to do any better. Maybe in a few months I'll throw him a surprise 30th birthday party. No doubt he'll be surprised ("Ummm... wasn't my birthday four months ago?!?"). The one small thing I did manage to do for him for his special day was make him a birthday cake. Ok, it wasn't a cake really. It was a strudel. I would have made him a cake, but he prefers strudel and has been asking me to make this one for years. So, I got my shit together a little bit, and at least did something for him to commemorate his special day by making this recipe.

I started by making the filling. I roasted pieces of apple with butter, sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest, and salt until very tender. Then I stirred in some golden raisins. The fun part of making strudel though, is making the dough! I stirred together some bread flour, sugar, and salt, then added melted butter, egg yolk, and water. I mixed it for 10 minutes, then let it stand for 40 minutes. Then came the best part: stretching! What makes strudel so delicious is the incredibly thin flaky layers of pastry. To get the dough that thin is a lengthy and very careful process of gently pulling on the dough with your hands to stretch it out. My special gentleman helped with this step (and it's even easier -- and more fun -- with more people).
This picture is of the dough when we were just about done stretching. You can see in the picture that the entire table is covered with dough, which is extremely thin (notice how clearly my hand shows through). That is a regular size card table, and it's completely covered by dough made from only 2 cups of flour -- so the dough is quite thin!!

After the dough was stretched we brushed it with some melted butter and sprinkled with a mixture of finely chopped walnuts, bread crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon. Then I put the filling on one end of the dough, in two separate mounds. We then, very carefully, started rolling. We rolled until we got to the other end, cut the two mounds apart to form two strudels, and placed each on a baking sheet. I brushed them with butter, sprinkled them with powdered sugar, cut steam vents in them and baked until golden.

In summary: yum! The strudels were very good. The dough was flaky and crispy, just as it should be. Sprinkling powdered sugar on top before baking gave the strudels a delicious sugary shell that was awesome. The filling also had a great flavor to it. Roasting the apples gave it more depth than a typical fruit filling. In the future I would probably omit the raisins in the filling though. They weren't bad, but they didn't seem to go that well, and I think it would have been better without. Making strudel may seem like an ordeal if you haven't made it before, but it is fun, and a really cool process! My special gentleman loved eating this and seeing how it was made, which made me very happy! At least I did something to honor him for his birthday!

This recipe isn't online.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sicilian Pasta with Eggplant (Page 212)

RECIPE #986

  • Date: Sunday, April 27, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I have been wanting to make this simple pasta dish for quite some time but have had to put it off because I couldn't find ricotta salata (Note: ricotta salata is not the same as the ricotta you can buy in tubs next to the cottage cheese at any grocery store. Ricotta salata is a hard cheese which isn't super easy to find). Finally I had surrendered and decided just to substitute feta (which was the closest thing I could think of). I hate to do substitutions in Book recipes because I feel like I am not being true to my project. So I was feeling bad about my surrender. It was one of those grocery shopping weeks where I needed lots of relatively obscure ingredients, and found myself wandering through 4 different grocery stores looking for them. Also on my list: Matzo Cake Meal. There is one place in town that claims to carry Matzo Cake Meal, but every time we go there they declare that they are out, or that the other branch of their store has it for sure (which they don't). On the last trip before I gave up on the Matzo Cake Meal and just ordered it online, while I was cursing them under my breath for telling me (again) that they would have it when (again) they didn't, I stumbled across some ricota salata in the store. Yay! And boy am I glad I did. Because that cheese was AWESOME! Seriously, it might be my new favorite cheese. It was flavorful, and salty, and delicious. And it totally made this dish. Feta would not have been the same.

So once I had my hands on the necessary cheese, here's what I did. I started by frying slices of eggplant in oil until browned. Then I seasoned them with salt and pepper. I cooked garlic in oil then added sugar and chopped, canned, tomatoes. I cooked it until thickened then seasoned with salt and pepper. Meanwhile I cooked some rigatoni. Then I mixed together the pasta with the tomato sauce, the eggplant, and grated ricotta salata. I topped it with more ricotta salata and served. This dish was really nice. I'm not a huge eggplant fan, and I mostly pushed the eggplant aside. But my special gentleman, who is eggplant-neutral, happily ate all his eggplant and my abandoned ones. The tomato sauce was simple, but tasty. It was the cheese, though, that really pulled the dish together. It gave it a punch of flavor, and a bit of richness. The more cheese I sprinkled on my serving, the more I liked it! This was a quick and easy dish (except for finding the cheese!) that I would make again for any eggplant lovers!

The recipe is here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Grilled Pork Kebabs with Manchamantel Sauce (Page 483)

RECIPE #985

  • Date: Sunday, April 26, 2009 -- 4pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: Bryan Park
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: A whole bunch of mathematicians
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I made these kebabs for a department picnic a few weeks ago. I started by making a marinade for the pork. I toasted then soaked some dried ancho chiles. Then I drained them and blended them with water, onion, garlic, thyme, oregano, cumin, salt, black peppercorns, olive oil, and lemon juice. I marinated chunks of pork tenderloin in this mixture for 6 hours. I threaded the pork chunks along with pineapple chunks, and red onion chunks on some skewers and cooked them on the grill. Once they were done I served them topped with the manchamantel sauce (see post below). These kebabs were pretty good. The pork was excellent -- the marinade gave it a great flavor which was beautifully complemented by the smokiness from the grill. The pineapple was also delicious, and it was well tied to the dish by the sauce (which also contained pineapple). My one complaint was the red onion. Grilled onions are extremely tasty, but in this case it didn't work so well. When the pork was perfectly cooked the onions were still pretty raw. And raw red onions are not nearly as delicious as nicely grilled red onions. Perhaps it would have helped if the onion chunks were smaller, or slightly pre-cooked before they went on the grill with the pork. As it was the dish was good, but I would have preferred it without the onions.

The recipe is here.

Today was a big day. My special gentleman and I went to the county clerk's office to get our marriage license! Now that we have it in our possesion it just needs to be signed by us and our officiant and we will be married! We'll still have to wait a couple weeks for that to happen though... Obtaining a marriage license in Indiana is apparently quite easy. You need to answer some simple questions. My favorites: "Are you currently of unsound mind, or have you ever been deemed by an official to be of unsound mind? Are you currently under the influence of any alcoholic bevarages? Are you currently under the influence of any narcotics? Are you related to one another closer than the relationship of second cousins?" After answering those questions (and other, more boring ones, e.g. "What is your mother's maiden name?") we paid our 20 bucks and that was it. Apparently there used to be some sort of physical examination that was part of this procedure in Indiana, but no longer. It was quick and easy. They handed us our forms (and, strangely, some information about STDs) and we were on our way! This is starting to feel very real! And while I admit the last couple weeks I have felt a little stressed out about various wedding details, now I am just excited! The final details I have left to take care of are fun for the most part, and I am just eager for our big day to be here!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Manchamantel Sauce (Page 484)

RECIPE #984

  • Date: Sunday, April 26, 2009 -- 4pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: A whole bunch of mathematicians and their families!
  • Recipe Rating: A-


Every spring our department has a picnic where everyone brings some food and we grill, drink beer, and have fun enjoying the spring-time weather. I had planned to bring a delicious dessert to said picnic, but that was the weekend my oven broke. So instead I brought some kebabs to grill. This was the sauce for the kebabs. My special gentleman did much of the work to make this sauce. He started by toasting dried ancho chiles on the stovetop, then seeding them and soaking them in boiling water for 30 minutes. We cooked garlic and onion in oil until golden, then added sugar and cider vinegar. We then put that all in the blender, along with the drained chiles, chicken stock, water, pineapple, bananas, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper, blending until smooth. We then cooked the sauce in some oil, simmering for 5 minutes. This sauce was (obviously) not so photogenic, but it was tasty! It had a nice depth of flavor to it, and a lovely tanginess. It was definitely on the sweet side (with sugar, pineapple, and banana in it!) but that sweetness was a great complement to the grilled pork that we served the sauce on. It wasn't spicy at all -- it might have been nice to have a little kick. But it was still a great sauce, and I would certainly serve it again with grilled meat.

The recipe is here.

Happy belated Mother's Day! We drove to Ohio this weekend, to surprise my special gentleman's mother for Mother's Day. She was indeed surprised -- she almost fell over when she saw us! It was a nice, relaxing weekend. We ate good food, played board games, went to a concert that my special gentleman's mom was performing in, etc... We had a fun time! It was a nice end-of-the-semester mini-vacation.

I was feeling pretty relaxed until the phone rang, about 30 minutes after we arrived back home in Bloomington this afternoon. It was the place where we bought my special gentleman's suit for our wedding (which, notably, we haven't yet received because they had to order it). They were calling to tell us that they filed for bankruptcy. Awesome. After several phone calls we established that we may or may not get the suit (which we were scheduled to pick up on Wednesday). If we do get it, we may or may not get it in time for the wedding. And if we don't get it, we may or may not get our money back. Like I said, awesome. So what do we do? We don't want to buy another suit without knowing if we are going to get the one we already paid for! And my special gentleman doesn't own a suit that fits so it's not like he can just wear one he has. And the company doesn't know when they will know anything. And our wedding is less than three weeks away, which isn't much time since my special gentleman is so thin that almost any suit needs to be special ordered or at least altered. It's just a shitty situation. I spent a while on the phone with a very nice lady this afternoon, trying to get some answers, which unfortunately she didn't have. After a while, she said, "If I were you, I would institute your back-up plan." My back-up plan? Sometimes I think to develop a Plan B, but I didn't see this little snag coming. I can honestly say that I have never had the experience where a company I have paid money to has gone bankrupt before giving me what I paid for.

*sigh* Time to develop that back-up plan I guess!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Scallion, Mushroom, and Shrimp Custards (Page 77)

RECIPE #983

  • Date: Saturday, April 25, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C-

This recipe came off the list generated by the random number generator. I started by lightly beating some eggs, then adding chicken broth, mirin, soy sauce, lemon zest, and salt. After letting it sit for a bit, I strained the mixture and added chopped raw shrimp, scallions, and mushrooms. I divided the mixture among ramekins, and covered each tightly with foil. Then I steamed them on a steamer rack until set. I don't know what went wrong here, but these custards were bad. The flavor was pretty ok -- I neither loved it nor hated it. But the texture was a disaster. I was skeptical of 3 eggs being able to properly set so much liquid. And indeed this was the problem. The custards came out very watery. They sort of separated -- with a part of each custard reasonably set, and then some liquid floating around. It was a very gross texture. The texture disaster made it hard to appreciate the flavor, which was a little bland, but otherwise unobjectionable. We ended up throwing these custards away, and needless to say it is not a recipe I would make again.

The recipe is here.

My final exams are graded, and this evening I submitted my final course grades, so my semester is over!!! I enjoyed teaching a graduate course quite a bit this semester, but I also found it slightly stressful. Up until now I have always taught undergraduate courses. Teaching undergraduates can have various frustrations associated with it (students cheating, for example). And there are certainly aspects of it that aren't enjoyable (writing and grading exams comes to mind!). But I don't find it particularly stressful. As long as I am prepared for class, the process of standing in front of the room explaining calculus is generally enjoyable, not stress inducing. And preparing calculus lectures is also not a particularly stressful task.

Teaching a graduate course was different though. I had a big sense of responsibility teaching a room full of students who love math and want to be professional mathematicians. I feel responsible for my undergraduate students too, of course, but in that case I suppose I feel more confident in my ability to do a good job. Having never taught a graduate course before, and only being a few years out of graduate school myself, the experience made me nervous. Despite the stress, it was fun. My class was very engaged, and for the most part they worked hard. Generally people did well on the final exam, which is always nice. I am looking forward to the next time I teach a gradaute course -- hopefully then I will feel more relaxed about it, and hence enjoy it more!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Grilled Shrimp Remoulade (Page 324)

RECIPE #982

  • Date: Saturday, April 25, 2009 -- 1pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I bought the shrimp to make this recipe so long ago that they had some pretty nasty freezerburn when I thawed them to actually make it. Pretty gross. My special gentleman insisted that he would eat them though, freezerburn and all, so I proceeded with the recipe. I started by making the remoulade. I mixed together mustard, white wine vinegar, vegetable oil, parsley, horseradish, dill pickle, scallion greens, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Then I deveined my shrimp, leaving the shells on, and tossed them with oil, salt, and pepper. After that the shrimp were meant to be grilled, but we have no grill. The Book lists the broiler as an alternative, so that's what I did. I broiled the shrimp until they were cooked through, then I tossed them in the sauce. These shrimp were very tasty! The recipe seemed strange to me because the shrimp were tossed in the sauce with their shells still on, but the sauce did manage to penetrate into the shrimp meat. The remoulade had an excellent flavor. All the strong flavors were balanced perfectly to create something really nice. It was spicy, and vinegary, and pungent -- and delicious! My one complaint is that the shrimp were hard to eat since they were cooked in their shells and then drenched in sauce. It was messy! I would like to try this again, grilling the shrimp. I have no doubt that would also be delicious -- maybe even better.

The recipe is here.

My apologies for the ridiculously long blog silence. Partly I haven't blogged because I have been busy. I taught my last class of the semester on Friday and then went to straight to the airport to fly to Minneapolis for the weekend to speak at a conference at the University of Minnesota. But usually even when I am busy I try to make time to blog at least every couple days. Lately, though, I have been in a bit of a funk. It all started with a hair appointment last week. It was my pre-wedding hair trial (yes, such things exist). The woman who did my hair was nice and my hair looked cute after she did it, but something about the experience made me really lonely. It was the kind of appointment where it's so much better to have someone with you (to make fun of you, to give her opinion, etc...). And I have several great friends (plus my mother) who would all be perfect for the job. But everyone lives so far away! It turns out that planning a wedding is a lonely experience when all of your close friends live hundreds (or thousands!) of miles away. This is the trouble with moving around so much I guess... In any event, my special gentleman would be willing to come along on various wedding errands, but let's admit it, he's just not the right person for the job. While shopping for white shoes and a matching handbag sounds pretty fun to me with the right friend, it would likely be a not-so-fun experience with my special gentleman. He doesn't like to shop.

So I have been a lonely bride in a bad mood. But I decided today I am going to snap out of it. There's not that much left to do, and Emilee will be here three weeks from today (!) to help. So I am going to suck it up. That's the plan.