Category Archives: Home Meals

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.

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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.

2017 Cookery Project — Baked Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts

Baked Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts

Baked Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts

There’s a rumour going around that some people don’t like Brussels sprouts.

I’ve been unable to personally verify the rumour, since I make it a habit to associate only with people of impeccable taste (and no active arrest warrants.) But if it’s true, I can only suggest that those poor unfortunates seek help before it is too late.

I love Brussels sprouts, so I was eager to try a recipe for Baked Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts that I found on Nerds with Knives. Part of the attraction was that the meal could be cooked on a single baking tray.

In addition to the three ingredients already mentioned, the recipe called for lots of shallots—always a good sign—and garlic, Dijon mustard, honey, and Worcestershire sauce, all of which I keep in stock. I added fresh rosemary and a single lemon to my shopping list.

Here’s where I get to vent: Recipes always understate the amount of prep time. The published estimate of preparation time for this dish was 20 minutes.

The Brussels sprouts had to be cleaned and halved, the chicken washed and cut into chunks, and the sausages chopped into two-inch segments. The shallots had to be peeled and quartered, and the garlic had to be peeled and minced. The liquids had to be measured, poured, and whisked. The rosemary needles had to be chopped, and the lemon had to be cut into thin slices.

Granted, my knife skills leave a lot to be desired, mainly because I’m terrified of cutting off a useful body part, but there was no way in the world that I could do all that in less time than it takes to get through to customer assistance at the DC tax office on a good day.

So prep took about 40 minutes.

But the meal turned out really well.


★ 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 — Bulgogi

Bulgogi

Bulgogi

Rice and beef, starch and protein. That looks pretty bland and uncomplicated, doesn’t it? Looks are deceiving.

The surprise comes when you taste the meat. It’s not just beef, it’s Bulgogi.

Bulgogi originated in what is now North Korea. At the end of World War II, refugees from the north brought it south. In South Korea, it’s now practically the national dish.

I used a recipe from Bon Appétit. The key to bulgogi’s taste is the marinade, which is a combination of soy sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, light brown sugar, toasted sesame oil, grated garlic, grated peeled ginger, and…grated pear? That puzzled me, so I researched it. Turns out that grated pear is a meat tenderizer, which allows you to use a cheaper cut of beef—flank steak, hanger steak, whatever—in the bulgogi.

The recipe said to let the steak marinade for 30 minutes at room temperature, or eight hours in the refrigerator. I let it sit overnight.

I removed the thin slices of beef from the marinade and cooked them undisturbed in a single layer in a hot skillet for a minute, then stirred them occasionally, until they were brown on all sides.

The marinade’s unlikely combination of sweet and spicy and hot and cool ingredients gives the finished dish a unique and, well, addicting taste. I made bulgogi twice in one week.


This is sort of a cheat, because I’d never post a low-rated dish unless it went spectacularly, memorably wrong. The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ 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.