Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gimme some mustard, honey!

Growing up, I always ALWAYS hated mustard. There wasn't a thing anyone could do to get me to eat it; just the smell made me irate! Then, I was diagnosed with all these food intolerances/allergies and suddenly, the list of condiments that I loved that I could still enjoy shrunk severely. Much to my chagrin, many mustards were 100% safe for me to eat and, desperate as I was, I figured I should give them a chance. I still won't eat run of the mill bright yellow mustard, but honey mustard is firmly on my list of wonderful things to put on food.

Here's something I whipped up tonight for dinner without any planning at all (or measuring!), just using what I had on hand. It turned out great and I'll definitely be making it again.

MsChristy's Happy Honey Mustard Shrimp & Chicken

Ingredients: (Please note, these are my best guesses on amounts, as I rarely measure while I'm cooking up something in a hurry!)
  • 1 lb chicken breast tenderloins
  • 1/2 lb raw peeled shrimp (thawed, if bought frozen)
  • 5 Tbsp cooking sherry or white wine
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 4 Tbsp honey mustard
  • 1-2 Tbsp honey (I like it sweet, so I used 2 Tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp molasses
  • dash chili powder (more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • dash garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste (optional)
  1. In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil and 3 Tbsp sherry (reserve the other 2 Tbs for step 2); mix in minced garlic and diced onion. Cook for a few minutes to soften onion slightly, then lay chicken pieces in single layer on top. Cook for about five minutes until perimeter of chicken turns white, then turn each piece of chicken over. Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder if desired.
  2. While chicken cooks, in a small dish mix all the remaining ingredients, including the 2 Tbsp sherry not used in step 1, EXCEPT for the shrimp.
  3. When chicken is white all the way through, pour the sauce mix over the chicken, making sure all pieces are evenly coated on both sides. Cover with lid or aluminum foil and decrease heat to medium, cooking for five minutes.
  4. When sauce is bubbling and has reduced slightly, add shrimp and stir in to coat with sauce. Cover and cook for another five minutes or until all shrimp is pink.
  5. Remove from heat and serve over jasmine rice with lightly seasoned steamed vegetables.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bread Experiment - FINISHED

This bread experiment is inspired by my new favorite cooking website: Hilah Cooking. Last month Hilah Johnson posted a video with a new way to make bread that she had learned from a 2006 article posted on the New York Times Online. The article is about minimalist bread making and goes into quite a lot of detail in regards to the science behind this method; to boil it all down, instead of kneading the dough time does all the work.

Hilah's recipe and video can be found here and since she uses regular wheat flour, I had to wonder if it would work with gluten-free flour. Creating the perfect loaf of gluten-free flour is one of my main cooking quests, and a lot of other people have asked Hilah if it will work with gluten-free flour; I'm doing a good thing for everyone!

So that's the experiment! Will update with each step:

Step One:
May 7th 9:20 PM

In a large mixing bowl: Mix 1 pkg Pamela's Gluten Free Bread Mix (19 oz bag, 1 loaf) with a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of yeast (included in the bread mix), 1-1/2 tsp salt and 2-1/4 cups warm water in a mixing bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and set aside.

Step Two:
May 8th 3:20 PM

After a lovely time at the eye doctor's getting fitted for new glasses, we got home just in time for step two of the bread experiment. The only catch? My eyes are completely dilated, so getting nice clear photos was a bit tricky. Also, I punched the dough a bit too hard and hit my knuckles against the bottom of the glass mixing bowl. Ouch!

Here's what you do and this is where not having gluten in the flour really shows up:
  1. Uncover dough; it should have risen quite a lot and if you used plastic wrap, there should be condensation inside...it's a very moist and sticky dough. Next - PUNCH IT! But wait, be gentle, because this dough is softer than gluten dough, so there's very little resistance to your mighty fist and slamming your fist into a glass bowl is a pretty good way to hurt yourself.

  2. Sprinkle flour on a clean surface, like a counter-top or cutting board; turn dough out onto the floured surface, sprinkle liberally with more flour, then as best as you can, fold it over onto itself at least twice. The dough will be EXTREMELY STICKY, so don't be surprised if your hand ends up being covered in dough.

  3. Sprinkle corn meal onto a clean plate or other shallow dish (maybe do this before you get covered in dough) and transfer dough onto the cornmeal. I ended up doing this twice because I changed my mind about which dish to use for step four, so my dough has cornmeal on both sides. Shape as best as you can.

  4. Cover with plastic wrap and towel again and let it rest for two and a half hours.
At this point my expectations are not very high, but I'm still hopeful. Even recipes designed for gluten-free flours end up with dough that really doesn't look like what we think of when we think "bread", so there's a chance that the process will still work despite the ugly dough situation.

Step Three
May 8th 6:30 PM

Two and a half hours later (or there abouts) the dough should be nicely risen. Following the original recipe, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees, placing the only round lidded oven-safe baking dish I have (I really really NEED a cast iron dutch oven) inside to heat up. When the oven was fully heated, I removed the baking dish and put the dough inside it, covered it with the lid and then put it back in the oven to cook for 30 minutes. It's this stage that makes the crust so deliciously crackly, thanks to the steaming action that's occurring within the lidded dish.

At 30 minutes, the lid came off and baked for another 15 minutes. Since this was my first attempt, I tried to follow the instructions are closely as possible, but supposedly you can make a pretty wide range of adjustments and still get a perfect loaf of bread every time.

After the forty-five minutes of cooking, out of the oven it came and I promptly turned the entire dish over onto a cutting board to release the bread and...

IT STUCK! It took Garen coming in and using the flexible spatula (he has more height and better leverage for such things) to pry the bread loose. Finally we got it out and it was VERY pretty looking. Nice crackly looking crust, great smell, and it looked quite done.

As with most baked goods, a cooling time is required before cutting, so I let it sit for 15 minutes on the wooden cutting board and then cut it in half; unfortunately it was still a little
sticky in the middle near the bottom. Next time I think I will lower the cooking temperature to 400 and bake it for 45 minutes covered and 15 minutes uncovered to see if that works better.
Garen and I shared a slice out of the middle and despite the sticky part it tasted great! One thing I would love to find is a lidded cast iron loaf pan, since the main reason I make gluten-free bread is to be able to make myself sandwiches during the week for lunch and a round loaf is a bit harder to slice up right for that use.

In summary: Yes, this recipe DOES work for gluten-free flour and the fact that there's zero kneading involved is a huge plus. The dish you cook the bread in really does make the most difference, so choose something heavy with a tight fitting lid. Try cooking the gluten-free version longer on a lower temperature; the gluten-free dough is almost always going to be more dense to start with. If you're not entirely sure that the dough will release easily, a bit of cooking spray or oil should help prevent serious sticking; otherwise use a flexible metal spatula to pry it loose.

Tonight I also made a wonderful gluten-free pizza using Daiya vegan cheese and that recipe will be coming soon! Here's the finished product of both the pizza and the bread.
Happy Eating!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Best Roasted Chicken EVER

For Thanksgiving last year, I decided that I was going to brine the turkey based on a recipe I found with photo instructions that seemed easy enough to follow. I'd heard from many people that brined turkeys were the best and wow, were they right! Thanksgiving was going to be even more awesome than before, despite the serious lack of dairy, gluten, eggs and pork.

Then I started thinking about how rarely I make a whole turkey. Would it work on just a turkey breast? Yes, it does, though obviously the quantities must be adjusted. That started me thinking about chickens...how much better would a whole roasted chicken taste if it were brined first?

Let's just say that when I roast a chicken, it's always brined now. There is no comparison.

Part One: How to Brine a Whole Chicken

  • 1/4-1/2 cup coarse Kosher salt**
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 package Fresh Poultry Herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme) or 2 Tbsp dried poultry herbs or herbs you love, fresh or dried
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (optional)
  • Stock Pot (needs to be large enough for a whole chicken to submerge completely)
  • Ice Cubes (about 2 trays worth)
  • Whole THAWED chicken (3-5 pounds, rinsed with cavity cleaned out thoroughly; discard giblets and neck; pat chicken dry with paper towels; extremely important that the entire chicken is COMPLETELY THAWED first)
  1. Place stock pot on large burner of stove, turn on high and add these ingredients: water, salt, herbs, pepper, molasses, brown sugar.
  2. Stir until combined and heat to a boil.
  3. Turn off heat and steep, with lid on, for approximately half an hour.
  4. Stir well, then add ice, stirring until most of the ice is melted or let it sit for another ten-twenty minutes. The water needs to be less than room temperature before the chicken goes in.
  5. Add whole chicken, breast side down and angled towards bottom (feet up!) until it is completely submerged; add additional cold water if needed and put the lid on.
  6. Place entire stock pot in the refrigerator for 2 to 6 hours; the longer the chicken rests in the water, the stronger the flavor.
  7. Remove chicken and either roast, grill, or cook in a rotisserie cooker. You could probably also go ahead and cut the chicken up and use in pieces if you really want to...I hate cutting up raw chicken, so if I want chicken pieces I buy them already cut up. It's a lot easier to take a chicken apart after it's cooked, anyhow. Discard brining solution.
**Salt content- I do not have figures on how much of the salt used ends up in the meat; most of it is discarded and my partner, who has high blood pressure, has not had any problems from eating brined foods. Please check with your doctor if you are on a sodium-restricted diet before using this recipe!

Part Two: Roasting a Whole Chicken

I have two pans I use for roasting chicken; one is a basic clear glass 9x13 baking dish and the other is a large roasting pan with rack. I've used both and each have their good points and bad. MOST of the time I use the glass dish because a single chicken in my huge roasting pan is a real waste of energy and it's harder to clean up! Also, it makes for a dryer chicken, which some people prefer, especially if you're really watching fat calories and you want the fat to drain completely away from the chicken.

For this, I'm going to show you how to use a glass 9x13 baking dish.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Take the recently brined chicken out of the brining solution and place breast-side down in center of a 9x13 glass baking dish. Pour 1-2 cups of cold water in bottom of dish (this keeps the breast from sticking and keeps it nice and moist while also pulling the fat away).
  3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and other seasonings/herbs as desired.Cook in preheated oven for 60 minutes on center rack.
  4. Remove from oven and flip chicken over so that breast-side is now facing up. Season as in step 3. Add more water if needed.
  5. Return to oven and cook for another 45-60 minutes, using a meat thermometer to determine internal temperature has reached recommended levels (I usually shoot for temps between 140 and 165 in the breast, which means the dark meat is almost always 10-20 degrees higher; check here for FSIS recommendations on safe chicken handling and cooking.)
  6. Remove from oven and let chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before carving up. We usually have one meal with fresh roasted chicken then use the rest for lunches and other meals after I de-bone the entire chicken. If you like to make soups, save the carcass to make broth!

Leftover Roasted Chicken Meal Ideas:

  1. Chicken tacos, burritos or enchiladas - shred chicken, season to taste with pepper, paprika, chili powder and cumin cook with white beans; use appropriate type of tortilla and toppings
  2. Chicken, rice/quinoa/pasta/potatoes and steamed vegetables, either mixed together (to make chicken go further) or served separately
  3. Chicken chowder, soup or stew (another good way to stretch a small amount of chicken further)
  4. Chicken salad or salad with chicken
  5. BBQ Chicken (I like Bull's Eye Barbeque Sauce in the "Sweet and Tangy" flavor...free of high fructose corn syrup and free of gluten, soy, eggs and dairy) served with corn on the cob and coleslaw made with Brianna's Poppyseed Dressing instead of mayo; buns/bread for those who can have it.Chicken Mac 'n Cheeze using Daiya Vegan Cheese and Ancient Harvest Quinoa Elbow Macaroni