Category Archives: 2017 Cookery Project

2017 Cookery Project — The Year in Home Cooking

Here are some of the dishes I made at home during 2017. Not every meal was an unqualified success, but I learned something new with each of them.

Click any image to enbiggen and open a slide show.

Washington’s various Winter Restaurant Weeks begin on Friday, 10 January 2018, and run nonstop through 4 February 2018—I’ve already started to make reservations—so I won’t be spending much time in the kitchen during the next month.

I’m looking forward to launching the 2018 Cookery Project by mid-February.

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2017 Cookery Project — Christmas Meal

Christmas Meal, 2017

Christmas Meal, 2017

I’m not sure what exactly this is, because it’s somewhere between lunch and dinner. Dunch? Linner?

Whatever we call it, it’s a very full plate of very good food. It’s also, almost certainly, the final meal of the 2017 Cookery Project.

Going clockwise, we have roasted pork loin with dried California peaches, pan drippings seasoned with orange juice, and cilantro. The potatoes were roasted with tarragon, and the Brussels sprouts were cooked with golden raisins and shallots, then sprinkled with crumbled bacon.

Not the traditional turkey or goose, but a nice change. Colourful, isn’t it?


★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

2017 Cookery Project — Sour Cream Chicken with Apple and Onion

Sour Cream Chicken with Apple and Onion

Sour Cream Chicken with Apple and Onion

It’s getting close to the end of the year, and this might be the last posted meal of the 2017 Cookery Project. Or maybe not.

I went to some old printed cookbooks for the recipes for today’s lunch. The Sour Cream Chicken with Apple and Onion recipe came from a 1994 book called The Easier You Make It, the Better It Tastes. After carmelizing sliced apples and onions, I put them on top of chicken breasts that had been on slathered with sour cream and seasoned with basil. Each chicken breast went into a tightly sealed aluminum foil packet and baked for half an hour.

The glazed carrots came from a 1981 book called Dinner for Two, and featured Hungarian paprika—guess where that came from—and a bit of brown sugar.

It was a good meal, but it didn’t look v interesting.  The white-on-white-on-white of apples and onions on sour cream on chicken breast seems bland.

Needs a touch of green on the plate, doesn’t it?


2018 New Year’s Resolution Number 2

Work on more creative plating for food photography.


★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

2017 Cookery Project — Peach and Blue Cheese Toast

Peach and Blue Cheese Toast

Peach and Blue Cheese Toast

An update: I made Peach and Blue Cheese Toast for the first time last year, and liked it a lot, but thought it could be better. When I made it last week, it was.

The difference was the bread. Last year, I used mass-produced bread from a neighbourhood supermarket, while this year, I used freshly made Country White from a bakery.

The moral of the story is to use the best ingredients you can. It took me a long time to realize that, no, beef bullion from cubes was not an acceptable substitute for beef stock, and that once you try Maldon Sea Salt Flakes, you’ll never use table salt again. It’s a false economy to try.

The recipe came from Bon Appétit. Using great ingredients is what moves this dish from “Good” to “Excellent”.


★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

2017 Cookery Project — Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Chicken

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Chicken

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Chicken

Hmmm. Another red and green, Christmassy coloured dish, like that Shrimp Fra Diavolo I made a few weeks ago.  All those holiday ads must be having a subliminal effect on me.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

I got this Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Chicken recipe from Yummly, an interesting all-purpose kitchen site with 20 million registered users. It was an simple one, with only nine ingredients.

The red and green accents came from roasted red peppers and chopped basil. I made the sauce in the frying pan, with onions, garlic, crushed red pepper, cream cheese, and chicken broth.

This was the easiest dish I’ve made in quite a while. It tasted fine, but it didn’t have enough heat. I think I should have doubled up on the crushed red pepper.


★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

2017 Cookery Project — Sausage, Greens, and Beans Pasta

Sausage, Greens, and Beans Pasta

Sausage, Greens, and Beans Pasta

It always surprises me how much greens like spinach and Swiss chard leaves shrink when you wilt them. I used enough kale in this dish to fill my largest pot to overflowing, but by the time the green had wilted into the pasta cooking liquid I’d added to the pot, it had shrunk to less than a tenth of its original volume.

But that came late in the process. Let’s start at the beginning.

The first thing I did was fry two sprigs of rosemary in olive oil. (Never did that before, but it’s what the Bon Appétit recipe called for.) While they were cooking, I removed the casings from three spicy Italian sausages and broke up the contents into bite-sized pieces. After I removed the cooked rosemary and set it aside to drain and dry, the sausage segments went into the same pot.

Once the sausage was cooked, it too got the drain-and-dry treatment and was replaced in the big pot by cannellini beans, and some white wine.

Meanwhile, on another burner, the rigatoni was almost ready. (This is what’s known as a “B Story”. I included it to add depth and variety to this posting, which was becoming far too linear.)

And that was the point where the pasta water went into the pot and the kale went into the pasta water.

After the kale melt-down, I returned the sausage pieces to the pot, added the rigatoni, and blended in some Parmesan and butter.

I crumbled the rosemary leaves—remember the rosemary?—over the top, and it was ready to go.


★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

2017 Cookery Project — Mussels with Tomato and Chorizo Broth

Mussels with Tomato and Chorizo Broth

Mussels with Tomato and Chorizo Broth

Oh, this was good!

It’s always the broth that determines whether a serving of mussels succeeds or fails.  I used a recipe for Mussels with Tomato and Chorizo Broth from Bon Appétit as the starting point for this one, and it was a winner.

For the broth, I removed the casings from three Spanish chorizo sausages and chopped them into one-inch slices. I tossed them into a pot and fried them until they had that nice cooked sausage look, then added some fennel seeds and minced garlic. After they’d sizzled for a while, I mixed in a pint of halved cherry tomatoes and a cup of white wine, and let it cook down by half. Finally, I filled the pot with mussels and steamed them until they opened.

When they were finished, I served them in bowls, with chopped tarragon—which really made the dish—and a side of sourdough bread, which I’d dotted with olive oil and toasted under the broiler.

The sourdough bread was the perfect medium for sopping up the excellent broth.

Loved the results! This one’s a keeper.


Rating:

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.