Pickin’ a Chicken.

We’ve got busy lives, Keith and I.  The working week can be particularly crazy.  Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays Keith is at the gym until 8.30 at the earliest; on those same nights, I try to be in bed by ten o’clock at the latest, as I’m slogging through my own work out Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 5.45.  Those evenings, I teach Puppy Kindergarten and don’t leave sometimes until after eight.  Other nights, I may meet with clients and their dogs and not return home until past nine.

Basically, it’s a little crazy around here.

To make things even trickier, I cook dinner several times a week, probably four meals on average.  A lot of the time, I cook in stages; perhaps I’ll prep my mise en place in the morning, or maybe I’ll make my meatballs several hours before broiling, or I might possibly start a recipe only to finish it later.  If I can, I find a recipe that can cook itself while I’m out — this chicken is a great example of that.

Soy-Ginger Chicken -- 10thirty.I like Asian food; it’s what I grew up eating.  This recipe brings all those sweet and savory flavors together in a highly-satisfying way, and the fact that everything can just be tossed into a pot and left alone is a solid plus.

Next time around, I’ll definitely add more ginger, and I was without a doubt more generous with my scallions and cilantro than the recipe called for, but I think it’s better that way.  And while I’m sure that this chicken is delicious with a pillow of steamed rice, I chose to pair it with some roasted cauliflower since Keith is off grains at the moment.  In my opinion, you can never go wrong with some roasted cauliflower.  Keith didn’t complain, anyway…

Soy-Ginger Chicken, from Everyday Food
Makes four portions

1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2/3 cups fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish
1 piece fresh ginger, about 2 inches, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 packed cup scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground pepper
4 chicken drumsticks and 4 thighs, about 2 ½ pounds total, skin removed
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Cooked rice for serving (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚.  In a 5-quart Dutch oven or other heavy pot, stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, cilantro, ginger, ½ cup scallions, vinegar, coriander and pepper.  Add chicken and carrots; toss to coat, then stir in 1 cup water.  Cover pot and transfer to oven; cook until chicken is tender, about 1 ½ hours.  Using a large spoon, skim off any fat from surface of cooking liquid.
  2. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup or small bowl, whisk cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water.  Ladle 1 cup cooking liquid into measuring cup; whisk to combine.  Pour into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil; cook until thickened, about 1 minute.  Stir mixture into pot to combine.
  3. Serve chicken mixture with rice, if desired, garnished with cilantro leaves and remaining ½ cup scallions.
Pickin’ a Chicken” by Eve Boswell.
Advertisements

An Eating Weekend, Chapter One: Supper Club.

German supper club, 1It had been a while since the supper club group had gotten together, so Stephanie and I decided to take the initiative and rally the cooking troups.  It’s hard, finding a night that eight people can meet up for dinner, but it so happened that this past Saturday night worked… so we all gathered at my house for an evening of German(ish) food.

See, supper club was Stephanie’s brainchild; the general idea is that we would have a themed dinner at someone’s house every month or so*.  Themes could be something as silly as “things made with flour” or as simple as a chosen country’s cuisine.  Once the theme was set, we’d then all brainstorm courses or dishes to bring to dinner, as well as beverages to share.

So, after a little caucus, Saturday night’s dinner was made up of with Käsespätzle (a sort of macaroni and cheese with bits of fried onions), potato salad, a lot of obscene-looking bratwursts**, Zwiebelkuchen (an onion, bacon and cheese tart) and a green salad.  We also made a bunch of radlers — which, while delicious, would have been much more refreshing if the weather actually began acting like June…

I’m getting off topic.

German supper club, 3My contribution to our communal table was dessert, something that made me a little nervous.  On my trips in Germany, all we ate after dinner was gelato, of all things, and the only other possibilities I could think of was  either a Black Forest cake or an apple strudel… neither of which got me overly excited.  Luckily, I found a recipe for a Gugelhupf, a traditional marble cake; I’ve always loved a marble cake — there’s something about the swirly cross-section that I find so endearing.  This cake had not only lovely whorls of chocolate and vanilla, but also fantastic flavors and a nice texture.  I served it along with some berries and mint sugar (two parts mint leaves to one part sugar, blitzed in the blender) and schlag, which is German for whipped cream.  Doesn’t everything taste better with schlag, after all?

Oh, and not to toot my own horn — toot toot — but I’m quite pleased with my invitation-making handiwork.  The photo from Keith and my trip to Bavaria a few years ago; it’s of the Neues Rathaus in Munich’s Marienplatz, the square in the city center.

Tschüss…

Gugelhupf (Marble Cake), from German Pastry Baking
Makes twelve portions.

for the batter
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1¾ cups sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup whole milk (though I used cream)

for the chocolate batter
3 tablespoons cocoa
3 tablespoons dark rum

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Butter and flour a 9-inch bundt cake mold.
  2. Cream butter, sugar and eggs.  Add vanilla.  Fold in half of the flour and baking powder.  Add the milk.  Mix in the remainder of flour, stirring gently but thoroughly.
  3. Stir cocoa and rum together in a separate bowl until smooth.  Remove one-third of the batter and fold gently into the cocoa mixture.
  4. Pour half of the remaining vanilla batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it with a spatula.  Add the chocolate batter to the pan, followed by the rest of the vanilla batter.  If you wish, run a knife blade through the batter to marble it further.  (I wished, and did.  Just be careful not to actually mix the batters together, just to swirl them.)
  5. Bake on the lowest rack of a preheated 375°F oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before unmolding onto a cake rack to cool thoroughly.  Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
* Disregard the fact that we haven’t had a dinner since January.
** Really obscene-looking.
It had been a while since the supper club group had gotten together, so Stephanie and I decided to rally the cooking troups and make it happen.  It’s hard, finding a night that eight people can all get together, but it so happened that this past Saturday night worked… so we all gathered at my house for an evening of German(ish) food.

An Eating Weekend: Prologue.

I’m not the kind of person who jams a lot of activities into her schedule, but sometimes things don’t go as planned.  This weekend is going to be a very busy one — for my stomach.  First up is a supper club get-together on Saturday night, followed by a dinner at Small Farm in Stow.  I’ll be writing about both meals soon, so check back to read about them…

Musing, Rambling, Celebrating…?

garlicPerhaps I’m a little nuts, but I think the cross-section of a garlic bulb is one of the prettiest things on earth.  The smell of a raw garlic bulb sliced open is another thing altogether, but its middle is nice, all tightly-layered and pressed together, each little nugget with a golden yellow eye in its center.  I won’t be persuaded on this: I think it is wonderful.

On an unrelated note, I browned some chicken thighs the other evening; when they cooled, I tore off their skins.  The recipe I was following indicated I should discard this, the crisped-up skin, but I couldn’t resist having a taste.  Fatty skin, how lovely…  I probably would have crunched on the skin of all eight thighs if I didn’t stop myself, though I couldn’t help but yearn yet again (again, or still?) for a dog — if we had a dog, I would have happily mixed my unwanted skin into his food bowl and watched as he fastidiously picked out all of the good bits.  This dream dog of mine, he would love me.  He would probably also be very fat.

Another non sequitur:  today marks the one year anniversary of this mostly culinary, vaguely literary and somewhat travel-oriented experiment of mine. Isn’t it spectacular, what can take place in three-hundred and sixty-five days?  Here’s a breakdown for you:

  • 254 posts
  • 126 meals out
  • 85 books read
  • 53 recipes
  • 10 trips
  • 8 get-togethers with book club
  • 2 digital cameras
  • 1 supper club dinner

And so, here I am, one year later: infinitely happier, metaphorically fatter and undeviatingly hungrier.  Hopefully you all feel the same.  Thank you so much for reading.

Our First Supper.

racletteHere’s a little secret: I wanted to host our first supper club not only because I desired so desperately to bust out my new raclette grill, but also because the only food prep I would have to do was slice up a four pound wedge of cheese.  It was very smelly work, but highly satisfying.

(And when I say that this was “very smelly work,” what I really mean is that this was very smelly work.  I love cheese — this is no secret, I would be so happy to have a trio of parrots named Fontina, Piave and Comté — but please know, my friends, that raclette is a stinker.  I broke a cardinal rule of cookery and went out to purchase scented candles; in my defense, I kept them away from the food.  I scattered them in every other room aside from the one we were eating in, however, and kept them burning throughout the night.)

table-setting1Oh, here’s another bit of dinner-prep that I took care of, though it didn’t include food: setting the table.  That doesn’t sound glamorous at all, I know, but as I was arranging the cutlery the night before, I decided to do something I don’t normally do when having people over for dinner, and that was make placecards.  I absolutely hate that moment when it’s time to eat and everybody stands around the table wondering where the so-called right place is to sit — so awkward.  Placecards, I thought, would eliminate that altogether… plus I did something a little sneaky and wrote ice-breakers on the inside of each card, just in case the conversation lagged a bit. They were each fill-in-the-blank sort of sentences, i.e. “If I were an article of clothing, I would be a —————”, “The room I liked best in my childhood home was —————”, and “My favorite smell makes me think of —————”.  It actually turned out to be a lot of fun, and was an interesting way to learn something we might not have otherwise about each other.

the-tableAnyway, onto dinner…!

Raclette is a Swiss cheese made of cow’s milk; traditionally it’s served melted onto steamed potatoes, caramelized onions and cornichons.  The group of us decided to stick mostly with tradition, though we added a few crusty baguettes, some sliced Gala apples tossed with lemon, and strips of red and orange peppers.  We placed the apples and peppers atop the grill to soften before smothering them with raclette — delicious.

Which is not to say the rest of our table wasn’t laden with less delicious fare, because that definitely wasn’t the case.  Personally, I couldn’t get enough potatoes onto my plate, or parsley, or pearl onions (though later, when we had consumed all but the bread, I poured my melty cheese onto a torn piece the size of my palm and chewed thoughtfully while I listened to an impromptu dinner-table debate).  That’s the best part about raclette: the mixing and matching of condiments and accompaniments.  If anything, it’s a total DIY kind of meal, and one that requires sharing, reaching over your neighbor, and a lot of talking.  In other words, it’s brilliant.

hot-chocolate-marshmallow

Another exciting part of the night was that my friend Marcella drove down from Saratoga Springs — through a snowstorm! — to join us.  She’s my closest friend, and we don’t get to spend nearly enough time together.  In spite of that, we somehow always seem to end up on the same sort of page, no matter how far apart we are.  (We’ve not only purchased identical underwear and books, but also wore and read them at the same time, in different area codes.)  That said, it wasn’t any sort of shock when we simultaneously suggested to the other that we should make marshmallows for dessert.  (I’m not kidding.  Simultaneous.)  It was surprisingly easy, making marshmallows, and unsurprisingly sticky — though it was sticky in the most beautiful way.  That night, we whisked ten ounces of melted semi-sweet chocolate into milk, and poured them into hot mugs.  Somehow, entire families of marshmallows ended up in mine.

the-morning-afterOf course, the night came to a close much too soon — but isn’t the always case any time you’re enjoying yourself a little too much?  The times that lag are only when you’re waiting in line at the post office, or staring at the clock during algebra, or tapping your fingers during a traffic jam of questionable origin.  The proof of our pleasure was in my kitchen the next morning, shining a little too brightly in the dazzling light spilling in between the horizontal blinds.

Marshmallows, from David Lebovitz

2 envelopes powdered gelatin
½ cup + 1/3 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
4 egg whites
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
about ½ cup powdered sugar and ½ cup cornstarch, sifted together

  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the ½ cup of cold water to dissolve and soften.  In a saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, mix the sugar and corn syrup with 1/3 cup of water. Place over medium-to-high heat.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, pour in the egg whites and beat on low speed until frothy. Add the pinch of salt.
  3. When the syrup reaches between 210 and 220°, increase the speed of the mixer and beat the whites until they are thick and fluffy (do not overbeat).
  4. When the syrup reaches 245°, while the mixer is whipping, pour the syrup into the whites. Pour so that the syrup does not fall on the whip, otherwise much of the syrup will splatter onto the sides of the bowl, not into the egg whites.
  5. Scrape the gelatin and water into the pan that you used for the syrup and swirl it to dissolve (it should be hot enough from the syrup to dissolve it). Pour the liquified gelatin into the whites as they are whipping. Add the vanilla and continue to whip for 5 minutes.
  6. Dust with a sifter a 11x 17 (approximately) baking sheet evenly and completely with cornstarch mixture. Use a spatula to spread the marshmallows in a layer on the pan. Allow to dry for at least 4 hours or overnight, uncovered.
  7. Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the marshmallows into pieces and toss in the powdered sugar and cornstarch mixture. Put the marshmallows in a colander or strainer and shake off the excess cornstarch mixture.  Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Coming Up!

In early November, my pal — and fellow New Yorker! — Stephanie had the absolutely brilliant idea of bringing together some friends, new and old, and starting a monthly supper club.  The basic idea is this:

supper-club1

The group would get together for dinner every four to six week, rotating amongst ourselves as to who would host each meal.  The host or hosts would then decide upon a theme (Mediterranean, squash, things that are red, etc.) and have first choice as to which course he, she or they would prepare.  The rest of us would be asked to bring the remaining courses to dinner, along with a bottle of wine, beer or similar, and Tupperware containers to bring home leftovers.  Then we could eat, drink, be merry, and have lovely conversations with new friends.  We planned to get together at my house late in December for our maiden voyage (maiden meal?) but unfortunately, we weren’t able to work it out.  It didn’t help that Boston got dumped with a gajillion inches of snow the day before, either.

This weekend, however, is our second go.  I think I might be even more excited about supper club now than I was in November, mostly because I’m using it as a reason to debut one of Keith’s Christmas gifts to me:  a raclette grill.  I’ve had raclette exactly once before, during a ski weekend that wasn’t quite a ski weekend, since only two people went skiing, and neither of them were me.  What it ended up being more than anything else was an eating weekend, and raclette was most definitely the gastronomic highlight.  Even now, more than two years later, I can easily rhapsodize about this cheese.  So I’m very much looking forward to Sunday, and to when we’ll be eating massive piles of melty raclette stirred into potatoes, mixed with caramelized onions, and spread onto crusty baguettes.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  I’ll let you know how it all goes…  Aside from fabulously, of course!

(P.S. I was really happy with how the invitation to the Supper Club That Wasn’t turned out; the picture is actually from the first dinner I had at Persephone in Fort Point Channel last April.)