Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chicken dinners continued

Quesadillas for dinner yesterday with the kids. The one with filled with sriracha sauce was mine.

Chicken Marsala for dinner tonight.

Still have to make the stock and there is a little meat left over for a soup. I thinking it would be good for lunch on Saturday.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chicken dinners

Now that I have the pressure cooker and it is easier to make stock, I started buying whole chickens again. I like that I can do this with a half-assed plan. Chicken is chicken. There is no one way it needs to be cooked.

Prior to the Sunday grocery shopping trip, I checked the weather and saw that today was going to be pushing 40 degrees. Perfect winter grilling weather. The report, however didn't say anything about the precipitation was luckily dodged between 5 and 6 this evening. I've grilled in the rain and/or snow before and it isn't that big a deal. The hardest part is trying not to track up the house going in and out. Anyhow, upon seeing a 40 degree Tuesday and knowing that I have more time to get dinner ready on Tuesdays because of gymnastics - grilling was happening.  During the Sunday shopping trip, I picked up two fryers from Fresh Market. When they aren't on sale, two of these chickens will cost about $15. A sale drops the price closer to $11. I like getting two chickens because I get a minimum of three dinners out of them, plus a lunch or two and stock.  Plus, I think the chicken tastes better than buying pre-butchered chicken. Especially boneless breasts. Maybe it's my imagination.

After a little bit of handiwork (I'm actually getting pretty good at this), each chicken is broken down into 2 boneless breasts, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks and I break up the wings. A boning knife helps, but a chefs knife will do. Here's a good video on breaking down a chicken (there are 3 videos in the series - 1, 2 and 3). To make life easier in the future, I also remove the tenderloin from the breast and take out the piece of sinew that runs through them.

The breasts and tenderloins get wrapped up for the future. I'll probably remove the skin before I use the breasts. I leave them on in case I end up grilling them.I used to freeze the wings and save them until I had enough for a wing dinner. Lately I've just been throwing them on the grill.

The carcass and wingtips get packaged to make stock. This can easily get frozen. So can any of the chicken you don't plan to use this week.

Light up a chimney full of charcoal. I've been using Royal Oak lately. Sadly, I have the phone nymber to the Phillips Hardware store on Central in my phone. I also have the product SKU in there too...for easier ordering. There' no shipping charge if you pick it up at the store.

Got my chicken spice rub together. I'll give you a hint: one of the six ingredients is salt.

Apply the rub liberally and go grill.

It was a little to dark for outdoor photography at 5:30 this evening. I set up an offset fire in the Weber, put all the chicken on the cooler side and flipped everything after about 10 to 12 minutes. They were out there for about 25 minutes. I checked some pieces with a thermometer to make sure they were done and had to use a flashlight (the joys of winter grilling). Dinner is served.

Tomorrow, I'm on my own with the kids for dinner. I think I'm going to use one breast and the tenderloins to make tacos or quesadillas. Thursday will either be a slightly easier one pan take on chicken parm or chicken Marsala. Whatever is left will probably go into some chicken noodle soup. All plans are subject to change. Like I said, it doesn't matter. It's just boneless breasts of chicken. Except, these are fresher and I believe they will taste better than if I had bought them already off the bone.

Nighthawk Kitchen

I poke around the Serious Eats website pretty regularly. Nighthawk Kitchen at the Troy Farmer's Market got a nice writeup yesterday.  Here's a link.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I have no idea who Pam XYZ really is. I "met" her completely by accident.

Last April, I triumphantly made the leap from flip phone to smartphone and I have an unhealthy love for this new phone. My sister-in-law had already had a smartphone for a couple of years. In showing me around Google Play, she pointed me to Draw With Friends. The game is basically Pictionary, but it is on your phone, you draw with your finger and you take turns guessing with other people on other phones. So I began playing Draw With Friends with both of my sisters-in-law.

Once the kids saw the game, they wanted to draw for their aunts. Fun for the whole family. While my older daughter had control of the phone, she pressed the "Start a random game" button and drew an extra picture. A few hours later, I have a drawing from Pam XYZ on the phone. Who? What? Huh? Feeling very guilty for initiating a game, I couldn't blow Pam XYZ off. So, I drew back.

Pam XYZ's first drawing to me was "venom." She drew a pretty impressive snake and I'm guessing she has the full version because of all the colors. I drew a crappy unicycle back. You can watch the other player guess your drawing to see how quickly they get it. She figured out my weak unicycle quickly and sent me a ridiculously well drawn peacock. Wow. Colored in feathers. The works. Now it's my turn again.

My choices are cupcake, seagull or demi....I'm not an artist. I go with cupcake.

I make my little cupcake, put on some sprinkles, make some lines for the crinkle folds in the wrapper. Not my best artwork, but certainly not my worst. And I press send.

Oops. Turns out I fat fingered seagull. I drew a cupcake and the word was seagull. So I am watching this poor woman try and guess seagull as my crappy cupcake starts to come onto the screen. She uses a bomb to get rid of some letters. Then about six letter shuffles, a few letters go up and come down and then she finally unscrambles seagull. I felt horrible (although it was pretty funny to watch). I cleared up the error in the chat section and Pam XYZ thought it was funny too. The same thing happened to her a few months later.

Since I "met" Pam XYZ we have exchanged over 1000 drawings. The game stops keeping count at 999. Yesterday, I typed her name into Words with Friends. I was going to see if she was on there too and invite her to a game. Well, I must have hit the same button my daughter hit because I accidentally started a game with her. She accepted my challenge and off we went. I think we are going to start playing a Yahtzee type game too.

Ahh, the internet...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

More Mac & Cheese

When I first got my sodium citrate from Modernist Pantry, I tried one of the Modernist at Home mac & cheese recipes, Test 1. It was OK but the kids preferred the way I usually make mac & cheese. The lesson I took away from that batch was the technique of adding sodium citrate and blending the cheese while it melts definitely works and makes a beautiful sauce.

Test 2 in the sodium citrate trials was taking the ingredients of my standard no-boil mac & cheese, mixing the sauce together including some sodium citrate, and baking. I don't have a photo. It was decent although not as good as the original. The cheese didn't break but the finished cheese sauce was a little pasty.

Test 3 in the trials was the best yet. (I should probably note that the brand of cheese and the amount of cheese remains a constant in these trials. In fact, the ingredients in Test 2 and Test 3 are basically identical with the exception that I didn't weigh anything in Test 3 - I just winged it. Weeknight meal, science be damned.)  Here's the Test 3 recipe which is a slight adaptation of this New York Times recipe (the creamy one).

Preheat the oven to 375. Put 1 cup of cottage cheese and 2 cups of milk in a bowl (don't skimp too much on the fat content, this batch used 4% cottage cheese and skim milk, if there is no fat, the sauce will definitely break). Add a pinch of Coleman's dried mustard, 1/4 teaspoon of sodium citrate and then whir it up with a stick blender. I suppose you could use a regular blender, but I don't have one. Reserve a handful of 1 pound of grated cheddar (I've been using Cabot Hunter's Sharp) and mix the rest into the liquid. Add half a pound of uncooked elbows and stir to combine. Pour the mess into a greased 9x9 dish and cover with foil. Bake at 375 degrees for half an hour. Remove the foil, stir it up, top with the remaining cheese and bake for another half an hour uncovered. Dun. To make life easier, I put the 9x9 dish on a cookie sheet.

Test 3 was quite delicious and devoured rather quickly. In the past. the cheddar would break and get a little oily. It didn't this time. When you cut into it, the cheese kind of oozed out in a sauce. I tried to capture the cheese ooze (which tastes better than it sounds) to the left of the spoon in the picture. Want to confuse a kid - stop them from taking a scoop of mac & cheese so you can snap a photo.

I still haven't gotten to the more complicated mac & cheese recipe in Modernist at Home. The holidays, travel and everyone being sick have put that dish on hold. That will be test 4. One of these days I'll get to it.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Trader Joe's Olive Oils

Trader Joe's has several varieties of olive oil on their shelves. Since our Albany Trader Joe's opened last August, I have purchased two of their olive oils. I was disappointed in the first and almost didn't buy the second. Throwing caution to the wind (the stakes were pretty low here), I said screw it and bought bottle number two. Much, much better.

The first bottle was the Santini Premium for $7.99 on the middle shelf. Average oil at best. I think you'd be better off with one of the big name oils you'd find in a supermarket. Plus the little pour spout it comes with is useless. The spout went in the trash after it's first use. Bottle number two is the Extra Virgin Spanish Olive Oil on the top shelf. Surprisingly pretty damn good. Good for cooking. Good in a salad dressing. What a significant improvement. Save two bucks and go with Spanish oil. Or one of the many others, but pass on the Santini Premium.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Daydreaming of a Curing Box

I've been a combination of busy and lazy. Haven't really started any projects, just daydreaming about them. Mr. Dave has been working on Frankenfridge (a curing chamber) and that has gotten me rethinking the curing box that has been rattling around in my head. I don't really have the space or the desire to jackass a fridge or vertical freezer into the basement. And the new super basement dehumidifier has rendered my old setup useless. The air temperature in the basement is pretty much in the curing wheelhouse year round. July and August might get a little hot for curing but not by much. Really all I need down there is a space where I could control the humidity.

Here's where the plan is currently: Get some cheep wood. Right now cheapest is pine shiplap from Home Depot. Thirty five bucks should buy enough shiplap to make a 2' by 2' by 4'high box. I'd find something cheap and clear for the top. The inside of the box gets covered with a few coats of this mineral oil. There are also a few racks that support dowels (for hanging salami and other projects) attached to the walls of the box. At the floor level, the box is held up with small shims to allow for airflow. Near the top of one wall of the box, there is a hole with a small fan. The fan will come on every so often to move the air around. The fan will also come on if the humidity gets too high. Finally, the humidity: I looked at this in a Pet Smart and liked it. The price is better here though.

Drill a small hole in the side and the hose from a fogger can get piped inside. It looked like you could upgrade the 1 liter bottle to a 2 liter bottle. I like this controller that handles the temperature and humidity by itself. With this particular setup, I wouldn't need the temperature control.

But the controller is $100. Humidity controllers without the temperature control run in the $80s.  I think with scrounging, stuff I have, stuff sitting in my father-in-laws barn, and a well-timed trip to Rochester to avoid shipping on the mineral oil...the combined cost of everything else is less than the controller. Probably close to it, but less. On the plus side, the controller would still work if I ever moved to a fridge or vertical freezer.

The cost of this system is just too damn close to the price of one that includes temperature control too. There are cheaper controllers, but the one I saw at Pet Smart looked like a piece of junk. I wonder how many lizards it has killed or at the very least made very uncomfortable for weeks at a time. If I'm going to throw $200 at a half assed curing chamber, why not throw $250 at it and do it right? And then if I'm going to throw $250 at it, why not throw a little more money in and get something with a glass door? It is a very slippery slope.

The answer to these"Why?" questions is because I'm too cheap to buy this toy. Somehow I rationalized the overpriced pressure cooker (which I use at least once a week including earlier tonight). A curing chamber...if I had the right plan, I think I would steal some of my brick oven savings from myself. I'm not there yet.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dinner at Nosh

I dragged the family to Nosh earlier tonight. I had wanted to go for awhile. Got myself a pastrami on rye. I was tempted to order it on white bread with Miracle Whip, lettuce and tomato just to see what the waitress would say, but I behaved. And I was glad I did because the service was incredibly friendly and our waitress didn't need a wise ass a hour before closing.

If I wanted to compare this sandwich to one in the city and tear it apart, I definitely could. It wouldn't be hard and Nosh loses the fight every time. It's an OK sandwich, but not one I'll crave or remember years from now.

Let me tell you about a sandwich. Mid 90's. My buddy Ray is going to graduate from college. His whole family is flying out for the graduation. But his younger brother wants to go to the Prom. So his parents fly out early, Ryan is going to the Prom on a Friday night, then Ryan and his younger brother Randy are catching a 6:00 AM flight out of Laguardia.  But here's the kicker, they need the car to get home when they return. So my good friend Derek and I pull an all-nighter to drive them to Laguardia, get them on the plane and leave the car in a short-term parking lot. After we get them on the plane, we planned to take a cab into the city and then we'd take a metro north train home.

Before we take the train home, we decide to grab a bite to eat so the cab drops us off in front of the Carnegie Deli. The place was dead around 6:30 AM on a Saturday morning. There was us and maybe two other tables. At one of the tables, Damon Wayans and a guest were drinking coffee and not eating a bagel. Derek ordered and omelet (which when delivered to the table was delicious and the size of a small TV). I asked the kind of surly waitress if it was too early to get a corned beef sandwich.Her reply, "If it's on the menu, you can get it." I did. That sandwich....well that sandwich was good enough for me to be typing this over 15 years later.

Friday, January 11, 2013

41 going on 12

The first two weeks of the year are pretty much gone. Christmas was a blur. This was the first time the kids really tore at presents. Years past had been a leisurely affair where they would open something, want to play with it and completely forget that there were a bunch of other things for them waiting to be opened. After Christmas with my in-laws, we had a one day layover back at the house then we headed down to visit Joe and Adrienne (and their kids Olivia and Nate) for New Year's in Maryland. Joe and I were freshman roommates in college and it is always fun to get together. We went with less of a sit-down dinner for New Year's Eve this year and it was more a a pick at stuff all night affair. Shrimp, steaks, scallops in bacon, cheeses, wines...the list goes on and on. The big finish to several hours or eating and drinking was a bread pudding. Here's the recipe. From Emeril. Wow. And the sauce - WOW.

If you take away the several back-to-back days of gluttony, my favorite thing to do while visiting is outside. Nate has a kick-ass Razor scooter. The wheels are bigger, the base is wide and trust from experience, that model scooter is significantly faster than other models. Which bring us to the hill. Here's the view from the driveway.

Right off the bat you are heading downhill. A few pushes and you're moving at a pretty good clip well before you get to the stop sign. That's a 3-way stop. Cars coming at you don't stop. So when all is clear, you push off at the driveway, get the scooter going and make a wide left turn (remember, you're already going kind of fast) at the intersection and head down this long hill.


I'm not sure how fast I am going when I past the first neighbor's house but I'm giggling, the wind is loud in my ears and it feels like you would really hurt yourself if you wipe out, so wiping out is not an option. I keep going until the Razor runs out of gas at a side street you can't see in the picture. Damn, that is a fun ride. If we leave now, we could be taking turns riding the scooter in about 6 hours. Who's in?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Supermarket wars

For reason's that are completely unknown to me, I am occasionally sent a press release. It was from such a press release that I learned Shop Rite began its 42nd "Can Can" sale earlier today. The sale goes from today until January 19th. In an amazing coincidence of timing, Price Chopper is running a "Go Can Crazy" sale. Haven't heard from Hannaford. Perhaps they are playing the role of Switzerland in this canned goods battle.