Odds & ends

As you can see, I’ve been cooking. Oh, how I’ve been cooking. But there hasn’t been a lot to say about the food. I mean, we can all get behind a great roast chicken, but really, what more could I possibly tell you about it? Well, OK, just a word about this one, then we’ll move on…

I was craving another Zuni roast chicken for dinner during the week, but my way-back machine was in the shop and I couldn’t have one seasoned in time for that evening’s meal. So I did the next best thing; I used Thomas Keller’s method of seasoning and dry roasting a chicken in a 450-degree oven for an hour. (Thanks for the heads-up, Dietsch.) It’s very similar to the Zuni method, only it requires no advance planning. It’s also very similar to my grandma’s roast chicken: 500-degree oven for an hour, but she bastes it in butter whereas this one stayed completely dry, the better to crisp the skin, my darlings. It was a delicious bird, only not seasoned through the way it would have been if I’d started the project three days earlier. Live and learn.

One thing among many I’m grateful for is that my husband remains unmoved by chicken butt. Rufus and I go crazy for it, so there must be some primal instinct that Gil’s missing. Whatever — more for me. (What? You don’t really think I’d actually share this little morsel with a dog, do you? He got a few bites of chicken skin after we’d finished eating, which was all the reward he was getting. Did he help me lift the heavy cast iron pan into the oven? No. Did he help me make gravy from the salty pan drippings? No. He just napped cutely while I did all the hard work.)

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Yet another craving from last weekend, I think — spaghetti and meatballs. Nothing special about them, but it was the perfect meal for a blustery day. I didn’t even mind eating these leftovers, which should tell you something.

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And then there were tea eggs. I was lucky to take my last vacation day of 2008 this past Wednesday during the snow/ice storm and thought I’d try these since they didn’t require a trip to the grocery store. Chinese new year had come and gone, but wasn’t so far in the distance, so they were very nearly on trend.

To be honest, I made them mostly for the pictures.

But they were ridiculously good — savory with just a touch of sweetness — so I’ll definitely be making them again.

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UPDATE: I forgot to mention these!

I first read about the lure of olives, harissa and goat cheese with honey over at Orangette, but it took cook, eat, FRET‘s hearty endorsement to get me to try it last year. And ever since, I’ve gone through long periods where I’ve wanted nothing else for breakfast. The craving struck again last weekend, when my kitchen was sadly depleted of both flatbread and olives, but there was no way that could stop me. For the wrap, I tried my hand at crepes, adapting the helpful article/tutorial in Martha Stewart Living to make a heartier version with whole wheat flour to stand up to the fillings.

Hmph! I turned out only a few crepes that didn’t tear, bunch up, or otherwise look “off.” It didn’t help that the article’s opener kept running through my mind:

If you were to tell a French friend that you find making crepes rather intimidating, she would likely smile incredulously. You see, in France, even the average home cook has been flipping crepes since she was barely tall enough to see above the stove top.

Being quite a bit taller than my stove top, I felt enormous frustration, but I took those few, those proud, those unblemished crepes as my base, added goat cheese thinned with Fage yogurt and a few dabs of freshly made harissa before folding them up. With a few of these tempting pockets on my plate, I added a liberal drizzle of honey and tucked in.

You know, I really can’t say why I ever eat anything else for breakfast. I didn’t even miss the olives and the flavor wiped out all memory of the crepe-making debacle, at least in the short term.

Basic Crepes from Martha Stewart Living

Makes thirty-two 6-inch or twelve 10-inch crepes

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 cups whole milk, room temperature, plus more if needed
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for skillet

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together milk and eggs in a medium bowl. Pour milk mixture into flour mixture, whisking to combine. Whisk in butter. Strain mixture into a medium bowl, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 1 day). Batter should be the consistency of heavy cream; add more milk if needed.

Heat an 8- or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, and brush with butter. Ladle or pour 3 tablespoons batter (for small crepes) or 1/3 cup batter (for large crepes) into pan, turning and tilting skillet to coat bottom evenly with batter. Cook until top of crepe appears set, bottom is firm and golden brown in spots, and center is lifted by pockets of air, about 1 minute. Run a spatula around edge of crepe to loosen. Slip spatula under crepe, and gently flip in one swift gesture. (If it doesn’t land quite right, that’s OK; use the spatula to unfold or rearrange it.) Cook until bottom is firm and golden brown in spots, about 45 seconds. Transfer to a plate, and cover. (The first one will not be your finest.) Repeat with remaining batter, brushing pan lightly with butter as needed (every 2 or 3 crepes). Serve immediately.

Chinese Tea Eggs adapted slightly from Steamy Kitchen

6 eggs
3/4 cup soy sauce
2 star anise
2 tablespoons black tea (or 2 tea bags)
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorn

Gently place the eggs in a medium pot and fill with water to cover the eggs by 1-inch. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat and let simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the eggs (leaving the water in the pot) and let cool under running cool water. Using the back of the teaspoon, gently tap the eggshell to crack the shell all over. The more you tap, the more intricate the design. Do this with a delicate hand to keep the shell intact. (I went a bit too far with a few of them, but my enthusiasm only harmed the final pattern on the egg white, not the flavor.) To the same pot with the boiling water, return the eggs and add in the remaining ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil and immediately turn the heat to low. Simmer for 40 minutes, cover with lid and let eggs steep for a few hours to overnight. The longer you steep, the more flavorful and deeply marbled the tea eggs will be. (I steeped mine for 5 hours.)

Harissa adapted from Global Gourmet

3 1/2 tablespoons dried chili flakes, soaked in the same amount of hot water
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons caraway seed
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, dry roasted then ground
1 teaspoon salt

Place ingredients in small food processor and blend or grind in mortar until a paste is formed. I stored the extra in the fridge with a small amount of olive oil floated over the top. Not sure how long it lasts, but I’m not going to keep it much longer than a week because of the fresh garlic in the paste.

9 Replies to “Odds & ends”

  1. Amy:

    Do not let you know who google CeF. Ms. Claudia’s latest post has some photos of a decidedly decadent doggie domicile. It looks like the entire toy aisle at PetSmart wound up in one little doggie bed! BTW, if Rufus is one of those companions that quickly chews up HER “pets” there is a place down in FL,IIRC, that sells “indestructible” chew toys. A friend of mine got a couple for their yellowlabmistress and they actually lasted a few weeks, despite her aggressive gnawing! And they only cost about $50 (replacements were free–at least the first time).

    Oh, yes, the real reason I wrote; you mentioned cane syrup (thank you for the explanation). Have you ever tried barley malt or sorghum syrup? I can attest to the sweetness of barley malt, but not sorghum.

  2. I’m definitely trying those tea eggs. As a vegetarian with a dairy intolerance I tend to spend a lot of time gazing longingly at your photos, but this is a recipe I can actually try out. Nice one!

  3. Demo – I love the idea of an indestructible toy, but suspect it would last about about as long as your friend’s did. That’s the good thing about not having kids, though; spoiling Rufus with a toy once or twice a month really doesn’t break the bank. 🙂

    Tina – Let me know what you think when you try them. I have another recipe at home that doesn’t involve cracking decorative patterns into the eggs, if you want it. It’s from Kylie Kwong, so you know it’s good!

  4. Loved the eggs…Tried them as soon as I got home last night…
    I think I was a bit heavy-handed with some of them, but the marbling was moderately successful.

    I’d love your Kylie Kwong recipe. In exchange I can give you my Maggie Beer Grownup Mac and Five Cheese recipe (mmmmm…Persian Fetta…). I can’t eat it now, but I tried it once before my naturopath convinced me to cut out dairy and it was amazing.

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