Friday, April 09, 2010

Update on Yearly Menu and Giveaway!

Having my menus planned out is saving me a lot of grief (and money). True, I don't always follow exactly what the menu plan says; I often switch days around based on what I feel like eating. But knowing what I have available to fix and having a plan in mind for several different meals has been lifesaving. We eaten junk/fast food a lot less since I made my plan, and I've even lost a couple of pounds! Woot!

Also, just wanted to let you know you need to jump over to my blog because I'm hosting a giveaway of a 6 qt pre-seasoned, cast iron dutch oven. I can just imagine all the yummy things you can make in it. Go check it out now!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Carrot Fry

Carrot Fry*
by my mother-in-law

4 green chilis, halved
1/2 an onion, sliced (we use red)
7 curry leaves

Heat some oil and add these first three ingredients, and stir until the onion starts to brown a bit.

Add about 6 shredded carrots, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

Cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add a little dry, unsweetened coconut, stir it in and cook for 2 or 3 more minutes.

*It's called a "fry" becuase it doesn't have a sauce. If it has a sauce, it's called a "curry."

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Deep Fried Pickles

I can't believe it's been almost a year since we visited Jenn in San Antonio, but that how time goes. While we there, we tried an appetizer at a steakhouse on the Riverwalk that Tom and I had never encountered before:

Deep Fried Pickles.

I cannot remember if the batter was smooth or crumbly, crisp and crunchy, or soft and chewy, but I cannot forget the sensation of biting into a pickle and feeling an explosion of garlicky brine, hot like broth, similar to the satisfying crunch of a cold pickle yet completely unfamiliar. The heat reduced the saltiness and amplified the dill and pepper taste.

My mind and tastebuds were transformed.

Tom's nephew came to visit us for his spring break a few weeks ago. One night while he was here we made fresh burgers and french fries. It was only the second or third time we've worked with that much hot oil in our kitchen. While going into the fridge for some lettuce and cheese, I spotted a jar of Nathan's Kosher Dill Halves on the top shelf. It would be a shame to let all that heat generated from making french fries go to waste....

Deep Fried Pickles
1 cup AP flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
A few grinds of fresh black pepper
1 cup water or flavorful liquid
3 - 4 thick pickle halves, halved, thirded, or quartered length-wise depending on size and preference
Approx 1/2 cup cornstarch
Approx 2-3 qts canola oil in a heavy pot, heated to 375

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt and pepper together to thoroughly combine then stir in water. Once a smooth, thick consistency is reached, set batter aside for 15 minutes. Heat oil to 375-385 degrees. Coat pickle spears in cornstarch so that all surfaces are lightly dusted, tap or brush off any excess. When oil and batter are ready, dip 3-4 dusted spears into the batter, covering completely. Lift and allow excess batter to drip off, then add one spear at a time to the hot oil, making sure it is submerged completely. Add 3-4 spears to the oil at a time, adjust temp at necessary to keep between 375-385. Fry each spear for 2-4 minutes until golden brown and batter is cooked through. Lift from oil carefully with a metal strainer, spider, or slitted spoon and let dry on a cooling rack set inside a metal pan. Let oil come back to temperature and repeat process for remaining spears.

Let the pickles cool long enough that they won't burn your your tongue, but not too long that you miss out on the distinct difference of the hot brine. This batter creates a thin crispy outer layer housing a chewy, light interior surrounding the pickle. The cornstarch lets the batter bond with the pickle and keeps it from sliding out of the batter completely during cooking and eating. As for serving size, I agree with Michael Pollan--eat all the junk food you want as long as you make it yourself.

Misadventures in Cooking

Yes, I double posted. So sue me.

Last night, I was craving something sweet yet spicy all at once. Then I started thinking, "How would a curry with peaches in it taste?" So I set to experimentin'. I modified another recipe for curry I found, sauteing some garlic cloves and half a sweet onion, then adding sausage links, curry powder and dried mustard powder. Then I added some chicken broth, put a lid on it and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Then I added a can of sliced peaches, recovered it and let it simmer for 8 more minutes. I didn't think it tasted too bad, but still wasn't quite what I was looking for. Also, Jamie apparently didn't like it at. all. I had forgotten one all important thing: Jamie hates peaches (unless it's my peach cobbler). If I experiment again with this, I'm going to try it with orange slices or mangoes instead of peaches and I'll add some red bell pepper strips and/or tomatoes, as well as a green vegetable of some sort (asparagus maybe?) to add some color and extra nutrients. I'm also going to use chicken instead of sausage. I'm also going to use more spices. I want my mouth to feel hot from the spices but cool from the fruit all at the same time. Any suggestions from my cooking friends on how to accomplish that?