Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I love my girlfriend's cooking, but...

So I'm eating another one of Nikki's Pinterest recipes. As much as I hate to admit it, they're usually very good. This time, it's ham and corn chowder. Very tasty. Here's what I'd do differently.

There isn't enough potato presence. I'd go for more of a riff on baked potato soup vs pennsylvania high school concession stand. I'm thinking double the potato - keep the amount that's pureed in the original recipe but cut the rest into larger chunks and oven-roast them after a butter and bacon salt rub.

Speaking of, I'm definitely going to call bacon on this. It needs lardons and to be thickened with a seasoned flour roux made with bacon fat as its base. Not flour just sprinkled into the crockpot. (love you, honey...)

The corn is great. I would source a bit differently - probably flash-frozen instead of canned - and roast it. Again with spices.

Finishing with bacon salt is nice, but probably wouldn't be necessary. Can't wait to try the remix. Oh and sour cream instead of half and half.

What would I cook it in? Definitely enameled cast iron. Roast potatoes and corn. Cook off lardons, remove them, add flour, make roux. Add all ingredients to the cast iron, cover and bring to boil to activate roux. Stir, then add to crockpot. Season to taste after four hours on low.

Cuisinart Slow Cooker (Google Affiliate Ad)
Lodge Color Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven, 7.5 qt. - Red - Lodge Ename (Google Affiliate Ad)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Things I couldn't cook without

Every cook needs the right tools. I'm not picky, but some things literally are indispensible.

Like good tongs. You want them to lock when you're not using them, cause tongs that are long enough to be useful will be unwieldy when fully open. You don't want anything on the tips, and if possible, an easy-grip lock would be great.

That's why I freaking love Oxo. Fifteen bucks and they're the last tongs you'll ever buy. Now for something completely different.

If you're going to cook with nonstick - and let's be honest, we all do it - get something decent. Calphalon owns everything. Yes, you'll probably have to look for it on clearance, but next time you get a bonus, replace everything! And yes, do it through me! I'll get a cut.

Most people aren't going to need anything else if they pick up that rockstar Calphalon package. But I personally can't live without cast iron. I grew up with 100 year-old cast iron seasoned by fifty years of daily bacon. It's so shiny, it's more nonstick than Teflon. Most people aren't used to being able to cook eggs in cast iron without oil but I thought that was the way they all worked.

Finally, everyone has different knife preferences. I could give a fuck, frankly, as long as it's as sharp as possible. But that means I need one of these...

Some people have the technical finesse to use a small cutting board. I do not. When I chop onions, they fly everywhere. Especially if I do my Chen Kenichi impression and double-cleaver it. I need the biggest cutting board available. This one's a good start. Thick wood is best, and I use a different one for meat than veg. 

Stuffed meatloaf

I actually wrote myself a recipe this time. And I followed it. Except for the sun-dried tomatoes. Nikki didn't have any. She had olives but the salt...I'm getting ahead of myself. This is not the recipe I wrote, but it's what I did.

1. Chop half a pound of mozzarella into small pieces. Marinate in a drizzle of olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt and black pepper. (Go easy on the salt - you'll be adding more later) Shake occasionally, or do what I did - make a whole pound and let Nikki nibble, charging her fifteen seconds of vigorous shaking per bite.

2. Roast bacon in the oven. I had twelve slices to the pound, which was too thick. Sixteen slices per pound, or an ounce per slice, should be just perfect. Use good bacon. If you make this recipe with Oscar Meyer bacon, don't tell anyone you got it from me. That shit's wack. Leave five slices raw to cover the loaf while baking.

3. Cut the bacon into very fine strips - by stacking it and slicing straight down - and mix with the mozzarella. Do the Harlem Shake.

4. Caramelize a large white onion. I added a little sugar, which was fine, and half a stick of butter, which was too much. Caramelizing onions takes a really long fucking time. Keep stirring it. Keep it on low. Eventually it'll start getting more and more golden. Keep stirring. I spent an hour and a half. Using a saute pan instead of a high-sided one should work way better. I also chopped very small pieces of pepperoni into this about halfway though. Not really sure if that was a good idea. Tasted great though. Eventually you'll see the individual pieces of onion turning into a mush. Keep cooking, keep tasting. If it goes over, you have to redo the whole thing sooooo....get it right? Everyone should know how to caramelize onions. I'm still learning.

5. Did I mention your meat - one pound each of 85% ground beef, ground veal and ground turkey thigh, as well as the rest of the bacon - should be sitting out so it's not super-cold when it goes into the oven? Totes should be.

6. If the onions are done but there's still excess butter, add some breadcrumbs. I used Italian seasoned. If you do this, make sure to toast the crumbs until you can smell them. Raw breadcrumbs are no bueno.

7. Once the onions are done and you've got your hands free, mix the meat together. Work it just enough to get it half-together, then add one egg and/or breadcrumbs. You're on your own here on consistency. Season aggressively with the same stuff you used for the mozzarella. Portion into three roughly equal balls.

8. Press a thin layer of the forcemeat (flavored ground meat mixture, aka the shit you just made) into a square baking pan. Keep memory of the thickness - you'll want to keep it consistent for all three layers.

9. Spread the caramelized onion blend on top of the first layer. Leave room around the edges.

10. Layer two goes on top of the onion mixture. Press around the edges to seal.

11. Mozzarella/bacon on top of layer two. Leave room around the edges.

12. Last layer of meat. Press around the edges to seal. Cover top with bacon. Bake for 45 minutes at 350.

I made one freeform layer on a baking sheet, then topped with the mozz and onions, then covered that with the rest of the meat. It worked well, but the version I wrote should work better. Trying that next time the mood strikes for meatloaf.