Monday, 21 February 2011

Personal Pan-Size Four-cheese Italian-style Thin-crust Pizza... with Fresh Basil

When it comes to making pizza dough from scratch, there are two pretty big hurdles to pass in particular, so as not to end up with a very doughy, and a not-so-very-good crust. The first major hurdle is working with the yeast itself: too cold and the yeast won't activate, whereas too hot actually "kills" it. As could be gleaned from my yeast packet, if the water itself is far too hot but not hot enough to kill the yeast, it's best to mix the yeast into the flour; otherwise, it could be dissolved straight into the liquid. (By the way, for more fun reading on this particular fungi, click here.) The second hurdle is overworking the dough to the point where it will never rise; just think "elastic" and "springy" as adjectives you want your dough to be described as.

I acknowledge I've never actually made pizza dough before and have once again (this time, with much inspiration from this site) come up with a few techniques that yielded a result far better than my own expectations, especially as I don't have a cooking thermometer nor have had much luck with doughs in the past (though I am getting better).

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Today's Sunday Brunch Dish: White Wine Bacon Orzo with Green Beans and Mushrooms

Of the many things that signify breakfast, if not at the very least brunch, bacon is perhaps the most recognisable. And cognisant of the leftovers still in my fridge from Wednesday's six course extravaganza, I needed to make something that combined these together. With the help of some white wine and a handful of orzo, I came up with a great brunch dish for two (or one... if you're either really hungry or think it's as good as I think it is).

Oh, and I had thought I was being very original with this particular dish, but it turns out I'm not the only one who thinks bacon and pasta go well together. :)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Six Courses for Six (or More)

Greetings, dear Reader. As I'm sure you can tell from the timing of this post, I've continued the tradition of late night blogging. One thing I've recently noticed about my blog, and have had confirmed earlier tonight, is that none of the dishes I have prepared and posted on-line have not been traditionally laid out as you'll find on other blogs and websites. Indeed, my approach is to guide you step by step through the process of multi-tasking a variety of dishes; however, in situations such as tonight's dinner, whereby chronological detail would get too involved and not accurately convey simplicity without me showing you in person, I have grouped my notes as closely together as possible.

Tonight, I had five guests over in celebration of two birthdays, as well as for our post-Valentine's Day get-together. In actuality, if I served smaller portions, I think I could have served at least twice as many... but then again, I've built up a reputation from my study abroad days in France that in order to get through one of my multi-course meals, the best advice is to eat as little as possible beforehand (if not to fast completely).

Saturday, 12 February 2011

And the Jazz Goes On

Before my séjour in Paris, jazz was one of my least familiar genres of music. And yet, throughout my time there, it quickly became a staple of my life (alongside the language and food, of course). Guided by my roommate's strong interest in the genre, as well as the Parisians' apparent love for such music in, I stepped foot in many a jazz club and came out fully enjoying the experience. Unlike the case of our favourite location for pain au chocolat, two jazz clubs in particular became the staple centres: l'Hippocampus and Duc des Lombards. Ah, yes, and here's the gallery from the first one we went to: voilà.

I make mention of this here for two reasons in particular: first, whenever I now hear jazz, I think "Paris." And in my Ohio apartment, at least three and a half times (?) larger than my Parisian chambre de bonne, a small sense of Paris returned today when I found out my television picks up a jazz audio station. Second, coincidentally, the sister of Denison's French TA arrived from France this afternoon, and after settling in a bit, both of them came over for dinner as we ate crêpes to the sound of the melodious jazz.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

A One-Pan Experimental Dish Gone Right: Italian Dressing Chicken and White Wine Orzo Risotto

Super Bowl Sunday's cooking less than 48 hours passed, a second episode of Glee hit the airwaves as I began to prep for tonight's meal and take on the challenge of one-pan cooking. The solution for tonight in particular: use one of the best multi-purpose pans in the kitchen, i.e., the sauté pan.

From the French, sauter (to jump), the technique of sautéing typically requires high heat and low fat (as the wide pan bottom evenly distributes the heat in such a way you don't need oil to provide that function), and is further characterized by the tossing of ingredients within the pan itself. At the same time, a sauté pan's construction lends itself to low heat/longtime cooking, as well as the development of deep-flavoured sauces, the base of which I've found to be called a "fond" (i.e., the brown bits usually rendered after cooking pork, poultry, etc.). Technical discussions on the proper use and materials of kitchen cookware are certainly a plenty, and so I say choose the one you're most comfortable with and adapt techniques to suit what works for you. [Contrary to what some suggest, and as you may note in some of the dishes I've prepared already, I get a fond quite easily with my non-stick pans.] More specifically, so long as you have either a sauté pan or a skillet, and a lid to match, you should be able to recreate tonight's meal: Italian Dressing Chicken and White Wine Orzo Risotto.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Super Bowl "Unity" Dinner... Because I'm Not Officially Choosing a Team

After the official coin toss and start of play, I got to work on last night's dinner. For those who don't follow the Super Bowl, or were perhaps less inclined to turn on the game as I was, yesterday saw the meeting of the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, with the former eventually winning the game. And as alluded to in the title of this post, I had no strong preference either way as to who would win; unofficially, if your team name somehow has my favourite colour incorporated in it and you come from the midwest, chances are my support may lean in your favour. In any case, I attempted (and I think succeeded) in cooking to unite both teams, and using lemon as the common thread in my meal, created a fabric of flavour that was coloured with green, black, and of course yellow.

Friday, 4 February 2011

This Morning's Midnight Meal: Two-Story Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Nutella, Warm Chocolate Minute Milk, and Crispy Bacon

Yesterday afternoon, I finally received my re-ordered pots and pans that my sister had bought for my Christmas gift; subsequently, I began planning for a Super Bowl feast as the first meal with the cookware. Despite all that planning (which may or may not actually happen), notes of hunger as I watched "ICA: Battle Clams" were taken as a sign that the cookware needed to be broken in sooner rather than later. Just an hour beforehand I randomly thought about pancakes and how I could make those from scratch, without boxed pancake mix. And so, dear reader, I present to you my midnight meal, which included a successful batch of what I'm calling "2-story chocolate chip pancakes."

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Leftover Blueberries and Bread = Blueberry Bread Pudding

Happy midnight munchies, y'all!

Well, after a day off and much cooking on Tuesday, I found myself not at work again Wednesday. Throughout the day, temps continued to drop and the wind was certainly on a roll as the tall trees outside of my window shook; it seemed that even those were freezing. I tried my best to not cook, but after all my work from home was as done as it could be, I ended up rearranging my kitchen a bit to create a bit of a cooking island so I could cook more efficiently while watching the Food Network. (I rather like this new set-up; what do you think?) Anyway, with leftovers being the theme these past few days, I used up the rest of my blueberries and mini Italian bread to experiment and create my own version of blueberry bread pudding.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

First Angel Cake Trial (with Orange Blueberry Reduction)

Back in the day, I was first and foremost a baker and was into the measurements and precision that go into baking from scratch. One of the cookbooks that made it into the early days of my cookbook shelf was one titled "1000 Class Recipes," from which I drew most of my non-chocolate creations. Again, given all the "free time" I had today because of the freezing rain, I returned to the kitchen and made my first attempt of adapting an angel cake recipe (p 480).

Cold Weather Cooking and Comfort Food

After finishing up my last blog post, imagine my surprise when I got a message a few hours later from the college saying campus was closed. Well, that meant two things for me: more time to catch up on sleep and an early afternoon of cooking ahead. After making the gnocchi a few days ago, I had to think of something I could make to use up more of my stored mini redskin potatoes. Being able to finish up the remaining chicken stock sitting in my fridge since the pupusa night would also be a plus. Thankfully, two recipes took up much of the potatoes and got the stock out of the fridge. Let's take a trip to Québec for some poutine and return back to the Midwest for some bacon cheddar potato soup.

Couldn't Go to Sleep... So I Made an Orange Dark Chocolate Soufflé with Orange Dark Chocolate Custard

The introduction of the soufflé is a bit hazy for me, but I've narrowed it down to two possibilities: a soufflé made by a PBS cooking personality back in the '90s (most likely Julia Child) or the soufflé made by Vince on the show "Recess." There must have been something about the possibility of youth just getting up and leaving school to train in culinary arts in Paris that resonated with me. Whichever of the initial influences,, one fact remained: I had perceived soufflés as too delicate, necessitating absolute silence, and extremely difficult and pointless to try and bake, because it would all collapse in the end. Well, let me say that whatever brought me to baking a soufflé of all things has shown me how not so difficult the process really is.