Friday, January 30, 2009

Becca's No Clue Curry

I'm a little nervous posting this one, since I'm afraid Ann and Daniel might come hunting me for messing up a classic. I've discovered Indian food over the past year and found that I love it, especially lamb! I had the good fortune of working with an awesome Indian woman named Radhika last year who shared some secrets about cooking Indian food, and helped me realize it's not as scary as I thought.

Since I don't have time to cook traditionally, I'm posting a few modified recipes that I make at home. This is from studying traditional recipes and figuring out how to modify for the time I have. I don't have a recipe set in stone, but just cook; this is what I did last night. I'll borrow from Tara's structure--Dishes first, recipes to follow:

Quick Chicken Curry
Basmati Rice

Quick Chicken Curry
Roughly 2 cups cooked chicken (about half of a rotissarie chicken left over from a night or two before)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can green chilis, diced
1/4 onion, chopped or frenched (or onion powder)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced (I cheat, I use a heaping tablespoon of garlic from a jar I get at Costco)
6-8 oz plain yogurt (whatever size carton you get at the grocery store)
Curry powder, turmeric, ground cumin, red pepper flake, ground ginger, black pepper, kosher salt

In your favorite skillet on medium heat, add a pat of butter and melt. Add the onions and cook till soft. Add 5/6 of the tomatoes and all the green chilis. Add curry powder, cumin, and pepper flake to your taste. Add pinch of kosher salt, few cracks of black pepper, and sprinkles of turmeric and ginger. Turn to medium-high heat and cook until the liquid begin to boil; turn heat to medium and stir in carton of yogurt. Stir in cooked chicken; reduce on medium heat until sauce thickens and reduces, stirring occasionally (about 10-15 minutes, depending on the amount of liquid). Adjust taste and add more curry, cumin, or salt as you desire.

Basmati Rice
(note: If you have frozen peas, you can add them directly to the saucepan after the broth comes to a boil and you turn the heat down, or about 5 minutes before the rice is done--it depends on the texture you want. Closer to the end makes for peas that are crisper to the bite. You might need to adjust the salt and seasoning with the extra moisture from the peas)
1 pat butter
1 cup basmati rice (you can use white rice, but there's a nuttiness to the flavor that you'll lose)
1 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
Pinches of salt, turmeric, and black pepper

In a saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter then add the rice, stirring to coat. Once you start smelling the aroma that gets unlocked from the rice, add the broth or water, salt, pepper, and turmeric. Bring to a boil, then turn to low heat. Let simmer about 15 minutes (start checking around 12 minutes to make sure rice doesn't overcook). Done.

(I cheat quite a bit here)
1 can garbanzo beans
1/6 can diced tomatoes (kept from the curry above, or you could chop a tomato if making this alone)
1 t. dried cilantro
1 t. lemon juice
Kosher salt, black pepper, garam masala (or curry powder, cumin, and nutmeg)

In a small saucepan, combine beans, tomatoes, cilantro, and lemon juice. Add pinch of kosher salt, few cracks of black pepper, and sprinkles of chosen seasoning. Cook on medium low heat until heated through, stirring occasionally.

(This is Tom's favorite part)
2 fresh tomatoes (good ripe ones)
1 cucumber
6-8 oz carton of plain yogurt
1t - 1T lemon juice
Kosher salt, black pepper, ground ginger, honey

Peel cucumber and dissect, removing seeds. Cube and place in bowl. Cut tomatoes in quarters, remove seeds, and dice. Add to cucumber. Add pinch of salt, cracks of pepper, sprinkles of ground ginger, one squirt of honey. Stir together, then add lemon juice and yogurt. Stir--done.

Last night, I managed to get the timing down so that I started the rice, got the curry going, put on the chickpeas after the rice was done, and let the rice cook while made the raita and the chickpeas and curry finished. Around half an hour from start to finish.

Here's what's cooking!

I've got an extra kid today since his mom is at appointments with his little brother ALL DAY LONG. Since I'm totally insane I'm also tossing together some dinner for them. (Have I mentioned that I'm totally insane?)

Here's the menu, recipes to follow.

Farmer's Casserole
Focaccia Bread
Chocolate chip/M&M cookies

Farmers Casserole (Once A Month Cooking cookbook)

6 cups frozen shredded hash browns
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers (using plain, lots of kids)
1 cup diced fully cooked ham (leftovers from the other night, bonus!)
1/2 cup sliced green onion
4 beaten large eggs
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/8 t pepper
1/4 t salt

Grease 9x13 pan. Arrange potatoes evenly on the bottom of the dish (which means dump them in and spread them around). Sprinkle with cheese, ham and green onion.

In a medium mixing bowl combine eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over potato mixture.

**At this point you can freeze this dish and make it for later. When you go to use it, thaw it out and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until center appears set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

***I'm making two smaller pans of this instead of the one. One for us, one for them!

Focaccia Bread: I got this one at Antique Mommy this morning. Instead of copying the entire thing I'll just link!

And the yummy sounding cookies I have no recipe for. They're from a jar mix we were given when we moved in! :) Happy cooking!

A Simple Drink

This is a short one, but as I'm curled up with this drink right now, I thought I would share. If you're looking for an alternative to $4 Starbucks, here you go:

1 packet hot cocoa mix of your choice
6 oz brewed coffee

Open packet, dump contents in mug. Pour in coffee and stir. Mmm, that's great mocha!

In college we discovered this when we were working in the radio station at odd hours and the coffee was sitting so long it got bitter. We called it Cafe del Diablo. If you have coffee that's been sitting for a while, go ahead and mix in some cocoa and pour over ice--if you're so inclined, throw it all in a blender and you have a Frappuccino!

This is also really good for those times when you buy a brand of coffee on sale, like a store brand, even though you haven't had it before, but you can't resist the deal and go ahead and buy the 32oz can for 3.99 and after you get it home and open it and brew a pot, you realize that it's fairly disgusting and you have a WHOOOOOOOOOOOLE lot of coffee left before you could justify opening another can.

And if that happens, and you happen to have a box of fat-free, 25% less sugar hot cocoa packets sitting in your pantry for a year because you stumbled upon them on sale and thought to yourself, "Fat-free, less sugar, but it's cocoa--how can you screw that up?" but then you tried them and realized that indeed, that could get screwed up fairly badly, then you have everything you need for some Cafe del Diablo.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

steak fajitas

I know it's been ages since I posted a recipe or even a comment, but that doesn't mean I haven't been reading! Here's a recipe I just put up on Madtown Mama...

This past fall we split an order of a quarter steer with a friend of mine. The animal was organic, grass-fed, and lived on a farm not far from Madison. It's good meat. Since I didn't eat meat regularly as an adult until I got pregnant with Daniel (I craved protein and it never let up!), I am pretty clueless as to how to cook it. Ground beef isn't so difficult (taco meat, hamburgers), but we have all these roasts and steaks that take actual culinary skill to prepare. My mom's coming up for a week next month, and I'm hoping we can do a roast together so I can learn how to do that. But steaks? I'm not a big fan of steak, never have been, and I know that they can be tricky to get right. I tend to be paranoid about undercooked meat, so if I tried to cook a steak, it would probably be completely overdone and tough and, frankly, a waste of time and good meat.

When meat is cut up into little pieces, I find it much less intimidating. When it's combined with other things like vegetables, I find it much more appetizing. Thus, I've come up with one solution to this particular problem: steak fajitas. They can be rather labor-intensive to prepare, but they're so delicious, they're worth the effort.

First of all, I make my own tortillas. I think I've posted this recipe before, but that was a long while ago, so you get it again. Once you make your own tortillas, it's awfully hard to go back. If you live in Chicago or New York or someplace with lots of Hispanic/Latino markets with fresh, cheap tortillas, consider yourself lucky. Madison is not such a place, so I make my own.

Flour Tortillas (1 recipe makes about 16 flatbreads; I usually do half for me and Stu)
4 cups flour (can sub up to half with whole wheat)
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
Cut in:
1 stick unsalted butter OR 1/2 cup shortening OR 1/2 cup lard
Add and knead just for a minute or so:
1 and 1/4 cup warm water, more if the dough is dry, less if it's sticky
Cover and let rest for an hour or so.
Divide dough into 12-16 balls of equal size, depending on how big you want the tortillas to be. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Do not add oil; the skillet should be seasoned, but dry. One at a time, roll the balls into flat rounds. To cook, place the tortilla on the hot pan, flip after 10 seconds, flip again after about 30 seconds, then remove when it starts to brown, but not smoke.

Steak filling
Slice 1 medium onion, 1 green or bell pepper, and 1-2 cloves of garlic, mix with 2 T. fajita seasoning (Penzey's is good) or 1 T. chili powder and set aside in a bowl.
Slice a steak of your choosing (I've used tenderloin, porterhouse, and sirloin because I really don't know the difference...) into very thin slices. Sprinkle with fajita seasoning or chili powder, then add to a very hot cast iron skillet with a little oil and stir fry 1-2 minutes, or until pieces are browned through. Remove meat from heat and save in a bowl. Turn heat to medium and sauté vegetable mixture 3-5 minutes, or until onions are clear. Add meat and stir until everything's heated through.

Wrap the filling in tortillas with any or all of the following:
chopped lettuce
chopped tomatoes
sour cream
shredded cheese (jack, queso fresco, etc)
avocado or guacamole

I can eat these until, well, until the cows come home.