Search results for 'no-knead bread'

A Love Story, With Bread & Chicken

15 Feb

My original intention in starting this blog was to celebrate the versatility of the most wonderful of urban convenience foods, the rotisserie chicken. My blog’s name was born out of this intention as well. The first name I came up with was A Chicken In Every Pot, an homage to the famous campaign promise attributed to Hoover, “A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage,” and to my belief that everyone should be able to guiltlessly enjoy roast chicken whether it was roasted at home or not. However upon getting home and springing this idea on The Boy, he suggested A Chicken In Every Granny Cart, to give it more of a feel for the neighborhood. Granny carts are very popular amongst East Village and Lower East Side dwelling hipsters.

Verrazano Narrows Bridge

I discovered rotisserie chickens after a disastrous attempt at roasting my own bird in our tiny LES tenement kitchen. My first post was about how to make a basic soup from the remains of a bird that had already served two for dinner. It soon became clear that this focus was far too narrow and that I had to allow my blog to grow organically and become what it is.

Two Tugs & A Paddlewheel

One day short of one year I can honestly say that I am so happy with my blog, but I am even happier with the little group of “blog friends” that I have made in the past 364 days. And so I wanted to say thank you to you guys, my readers, who propel me to keep cooking and writing. Thank you. You guys inspire and buoy me.

Lower Manhattan From Bay Ridge

In the past year (minus one day) I’ve tackled many recipes and dishes I never would have dreamed I could cook and accomplished some tasks I thought would always remain dreams. I recreated family recipes, overcame my fear of bread baking, discovered buffalo, created a recurring editorial feature, alerted the world to some dangerous fungi, created my own curry, grilled Croatian sausages, poked considerable fun at Sandra Lee, got pickled with a room ful of other food bloggers, traveled to Croatia, launched a photoblog and moved to Brooklyn.

It’s been a damn fine year!

Minerva In Green-Wood

But, there’s one more thing I need to share. Last weekend I hung out with Nigel in our huge new kitchen. No, not actually, but it was close enough, and Nigel helped me overcome two additional fears that have been dogging me for at least two years; he helped me bake a real kneaded loaf of bread, and he helped me roast my own chicken, both in spectacular fashion, and for one meal!

Nigel's Loaf

Both the bread and the chicken were from Appetite, my favorite book of his (although Luisa’s favorite, The Kitchen Diaries, is a close second). The bread was a half recipe of Nigel’s “A Really Good, And Very Easy White Loaf” with some added white whole wheat flour, while the chicken was a variation on his “A Pot-Roast Bird,” replacing two pheasants with one large organic chicken. Nigel loves experimenting and variations on a theme, so I know he’d be pleased with this dinner!

Nigel's Loaf

The bread was so easy, and the kneading was actually therapeutic. It’s a lovely movement. And the chicken was astounding. I mean, jaw droppingly good. The skin actually crackled and kind of shattered when I cut through it to remove the legs, which, in the end, didn’t even require the knife to remove. And the Brussels sprouts and mushrooms I put in the pot along with the chicken had absorbed all of the herbal aromas and sweet wineyness from the roasting process. It was a meal I could never have made in our tiny old kitchen.

Pot-Roasted Chicken

The leftover bread and the succulent chicken have made for some wonderful weeknight dinners while the carcass is wrapped in tinfoil in the freezer waiting for this weekend so I can attempt another culinary task I’ve never tackled; making chicken stock from scratch.

Me On Hvar

And so, 364 days after my first tentative, feeble steps into the blogosphere, I can honestly say, this blog has been a joy. Thanks to one and all that have been along for the journey. Here’s to 366 more days until my next sappy blogaversary post!

Head below the jump for Nigel’s Really Good And Very Easy Bread and A Pot-Roasted Chicken.

Continue reading

Sing Me Spanish Mackerel

7 Dec

Apologies to fans of the poppiest band in the world and to those who appreciate truth in advertising.

Brooklyn Heights

I am a huge (huge!) fan of the New Pornographers. After years in the music industry, listening to all my friends and co-workers babbling incessantly about them, it was Isaac who actually got me to sit down and listen to them. One go round with Twin Cinema and I was a goner. The goofy lyrics, impossibly catchy guitar hooks and Neko‘s voice are a power pop lover’s triple threat.

(Wow, looking back at that last sentence makes me realize why I failed as music writer at my college newspaper.)

Brooklyn Heights, The Promenade

Whenever I’m in a bad mood at work, I’ll switch over to my New Pornographers station on Pandora. It’s really hard to be pissed off at your co-workers when you’re chair dancing in your cubicle to songs like “Use It,” “Letter From An Occupant,” and especially, “Sing Me Spanish Techno.” It’s from this last song that I’ve borrowed the title for this post.

You see, the idea of Spanish techno is funny already. I mean, I used to like techno, a lot. American techno was okay, the Brits got it right from time to time, but it was the French and the Germans that made the good stuff. Never the Spanish.

Brooklyn Heights, The Promenade

But what’s even funnier is the idea of a song about Spanish mackerel. And when this song gets stuck in my head (which it does frequently, I’m very susceptible to ohrwurms) I tend to half-hum/half-sing it aloud, and when I do, I change the lyrics to “Sing Me Spanish Mackerel.” It tickles the hell out of me and confuses the bejezus out of anyone within ear shot. That makes it even funnier.

The point I’m trying to make is that I made a soup this weekend that makes me as happy as listening to the perfect New Pornographers song during a hellacious commute home after a long day of work. They both make me do a goofy little dance. And while the soup may be Spanish in origin, it contains no mackerel (I suppose it could, but it doesn’t). That’s where that whole truth in advertising thing comes in.

Brooklyn Heights Mews

I initially conceived of it one day late last week while relaxing on the couch with a glass of good red wine. Isaac was sitting at the computer and asked what I wanted to cook this weekend. I said I had no idea and asked him to pass me a few cookbooks for inspiration. I don’t remember which book or recipe it was that lit the soupy fire, but I started formulating a potage of sorts of squid and scallops and shrimp in a saffron-y broth, kind of like a bouillabaisse, but with a little extra something.

The very next day, while I was attempting, in vain as usual, to keep up with all the blogs I love to read (see! even if I’m not leaving comments, I’m still reading!) I stopped by Ximena’s Lobstersquad where she had posted this recipe for Cazuela. It was exactly what I was looking for. Kind of.

Cazuela

There are three main points to consider when making Cazuela, as I see it, based on Ximena’s instructions:

  1. Feel free to adapt at will based on local ingredients and seasonality.
  2. Use a sofrito (something I love doing but often forget to do).
  3. Let the fishies have their due. As Ximena says, “The veg is again a matter of taste, but keep it in the range of asparagus, artichokes, spinach, that sort of thing. Not too many, this is a Spanish dish after all, it won’t do to make it all green. “

With those points as my guiding principals, I adapted the already adapted recipe and bent it to my will.

Cazuela

And oh boy, let me tell you one thing, this soup rocks.

Isaac and I had the leftovers for dinner again last night, and there is something so special about this soup. Neither of us can put our finger on what it is though. There isn’t a single ingredient that stands up and says, “Look at me! I’m the star!” It’s the New Pornographers of soups: the tomatoes are Neko, the shellfish are A.C. Newman and the spices are Dan Bejar.

(Ugh. Once again reminded by that last sentence that I should leave the music writing to the professionals!)

It definitely benefits from a day in the fridge, but, who wants to wait. For optimal deliciousness, enjoyment and happiness; bake the perfect loaf of kneaded no-knead bread, make this soup, download Challengers and combine.

Just try to keep the chair dancing to a minimum while you’re eating. No one likes soup stains on their shirt.

Cazuela

Editor’s Note: I’d like to draw everyones attention to a comment I received yesterday from Lou at Hangar One. Some of you may remember that on our trip to San Francisco in August I was very disapointed by an attempted, and aborted, trip to visit the Hangar One distillery. Apparently someone brought this post to the Hangar One guys’ attention and they left me this nice comment yesterday.

I think it’s an incredibly classy move and I appreciate the heck out of them taking the time to write to me and explain what was going on that day.

So lets all raise a glass to Lou and his team. Thanks again guys. It means a ton to me that you took the time to write, and you can be damn sure I’ll be taking you up on your offer of a tour and a tasting when I’m next in San Fran.

And remember, anyone willing to go to Alameda (where they film a lot of Mythbusters segments I believe!) can go visit the distillery. Just make sure you go Wednesday-Saturday from 12-7 or on Sunday from 12-6.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Challengers Cazuela.

Continue reading

The Plan

4 Dec

It’s December. Ack!

Lions

Who let that happen without checking with me first? And how did it happen? Wasn’t it just October? Did November slip past without my noticing?

I mean, yes, I did see them putting up the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I saw it with my own eyes. You’d think that would have been a strong hint that the holiday season was approaching. But no, it didn’t register.

Then there’s the Chrazy Chanukah karaoke-fest that my co-worker Jane has planned. Did that get me to acknowledge the inevitable? Oh heck no.

Perhaps it was the restraint that my neighbors showed in putting up their Christmas decorations. The folk here in Bay Ridge are crazy for holidays. They dress their brownstones in the finery of even the most underrepresented holiday. I had mentally predicted that they would be incapable of not decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving, but I was wrong. In fact it was only this past weekend that many of them started gussying things up, and to gorgeous effect, too, might I add.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Christmas doesn’t stress me out. I’ve got a small family, no children, don’t entertain often or get invited to many parties and, if I may say so, am a talented gifter. So the actual holiday is a breeze. What does send me into squeaky, unpleasant Ann-mode however is the end of the year at work and hoo boy, is that coming along real quick.

There’ll be meetings, both of the planning and rah! rah! variety, a few cocktail parties and the part that sends me into spirals of depression, the receiving of bonus checks. There’s something so symbolic to that one white envelope with its crinkly pane of translucent paper. It’s the culmination of 12 months of hard, hard work, late nights, weekends spoiled and tears of frustration cried.

But this year I’m not going to let whatever number is printed there bother me because it’s all part of my master plan. And why am I telling you this? Because the ever eloquent, sweet and thoughtful BlogLily asked me (and many others) to tell her about how we plan. It’s a good time of year to think about this, don’t you agree?

Ice Skating, Bryant Park

I’m not a big planner when it comes to the small stuff. On weekends, I’ll write up an agenda of things I’d like to accomplish, but if they don’t happen, it’s no big deal. This is how I cook, too. I’ll put together a recipe in my head with a list of ingredients and if they all make it into the pot, brava! If they don’t, I ask myself, “Did dinner taste good?” If the answer is yes, I’m happy. If the answer is no, I make a mental note and try not to repeat the mistake the next time.

But a few months ago I decided it was time to work on a big plan, the master plan, the path to a better future (that sounds so communist). I decided it was time to get serious about my career and to make other people serious about it too.

What was my plan? It’s rather mundane really. I set myself goals. Revolutionary, no? But what I feel is even more important, I got a haircut and started dressing better. You know that old chestnut, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” well ladies, I do believe it’s an oldie and a goodie for a reason. People take you more seriously when you dress the part. They’re more willing to have you meet important people, delegate responsibility and offer you chances. And to top it all off, it makes me feel better about myself.

Santa & the Shoppers

So, has it worked? I’m not sure yet, but I have hope. All signs point to good things. And if not? Well, I guess it’s on to Plan B. What Plan B might be though, is anyone’s guess.

There’s one thing for sure that I’m planning though, and that’s working on two new tweaks I’ve developed for another old chestnut, Bittman’s no-knead bread. The first tweak was intentional; I substituted whey for water. It’s a good tweak, if you just happen to have cups and cups of whey in your freezer. It enhances aroma, flavor and color rather nicely.

The second tweak was definitely a mistake that turned out to be (possibly) a revolution. I kneaded the no-knead bread.

Kneaded No-Knead Bread

You see, the starter, or poolish, or sponge or whatever-you-want-to-call-it I made was too wet, but I didn’t want to waste it. So after the first rise, I tipped it out onto my heavily flowered board and gently kneaded flour into the amorphous blob of goo until it resembled the most gorgeous, springy, alive feeling dough I’ve ever handled. Then I tucked it into a ball, placed it in a bowl, let it rise two more hours and baked it.

It’s the loaf I’ve been dreaming about. Fragrant. Beautiful. Tasty. Perfect. Without further testing I can’t tell if it was a fluke or if this is a revolution. Might this new step, kneading the kneadless, be the way for the stand mixerless masses to make perfectly structured loaves of European-quality bread?

Kneaded No-Knead Bread

Only time and testing will tell. But I plan to work on it.

Housekeeping

1 Oct

Over on My New York, I dedicated a post to “The Other Bridge.”

Birds On A Wire

You’ve seen her around these parts a lot lately. She’s a beautiful bridge and is often overshadowed by her more glamorous and famous sister the Brooklyn Bridge.

There’s a few recipes and dishes that I keep meaning to write about that are beginning to feel a bit like the Manhattan Bridge; worthy, beautiful, simple and yet, overlooked. The glamorous dishes and serious cooking have been hogging the spotlight.

Like the two bridges the good story gets all the glory. But, do you know where to get the best view of the Brooklyn Bridge? Why from the middle of the Manhattan Bridge of course!

Dumbo Pebbles

And so, without further ado: A salad, bread & cheese, a juice and dessert.

Michael’s Onions

Michael's Onions

I first tasted these onions at my friend’s poker game a few Fridays ago. Our host had planned to make them on the grill, but due to a series of unforeseen mishaps he ended up cooking them in the oven. They couldn’t be easier, or tastier. Just thickly slice a sweet onion, dot it with a little butter, season with a shake of Lawry’s and then roast in the oven until soft and wiltingly tender. We ate ours with sausages.

Two nights later I just had to make them to top a salad. Equally as good. I don’t keep seasoning salt in the house, so I used various spice mixes my mom has given me over the years and a little salt. They come out so soft and delicious, like the inside of the very best onion rings.

Bread & Cheese

No-Knead Bread

Yep, it’s back. What’s back? No-knead bread season of course! While I conquered my fear of kneading last winter, I’ve been craving Bittman’s magic bread. (As an aside, thank you NY Times for finally removing the asinine Times Select thus allowing home cooks everywhere to access timeless recipes again.) It has a yeasty flavor and magical texture that I haven’t yet been able to capture in my kneaded loaves.

Fromage Blanc & No-Knead Bread

This loaf was 2 cups AP flour plus 1/2 cup white whole wheat and 1/2 cup extra fine semolina. I love the flavor and texture the semolina added, a slight nuttiness, a little extra browning on the bottom and a gorgeous crust on top. We christened autumn’s first loaf with homemade fromage blanc flavored with herbes de Provence.

Fromage blanc is a cultured fresh cheese from France that closely resembles cream cheese. It can be drained to a thicker consistency or kept a little liquidy for use in cooking or making sauces and can be flavored anyway you see fit. You can order the cultures here.

Concord Grape Juice

Concord Grape Juice

Have you ever thought about making your own grape juice? Neither had I, until yesterday. On Saturday I had been seduced by the aroma of concord grapes wafting through the breezes at the greenmarket. Seriously, it’s a heady, addicting aroma. So I bought a quart of them, got them home, smelled them and then looked at them and said, “So, now what do I do with you?”

No, the grapes didn’t answer, but I did finally come up with a solution, I turned to the Shakers. Up at the Watervliet site there’s grape vines everywhere, so I figured they’d have some recipes for them, and I was right. I settled on making some juice for use in a pork roast (more on that later).

All you do is pick the grapes off the vine, wash them, add them to a pan with a scant amount of water an let them boil until the pulp has broken down completely, stirring often. Be warned. If you use a wooden spoon, it will be permanently stained a striking (and attractive) shade of shocking violet. Once the juice has cooled slightly, strain it through a colander lined with cheesecloth. That’s it. You can then use the juice in cooking or dilute it with a little seltzer for a refreshing beverage.

Dessert

Ice Cream & Pretzels

My grandmother grew up in Bucks Co. Pennsylvania. Her favorite dessert, that she claims everyone ate, was peach ice cream eaten with Amish hard pretzels. It was always the treat she gave me when I would visit and I crave it often. While my grammy’s still around, she can no longer remember much of her past, so I keep at least a little part of it alive in this dessert.

Peach ice cream can be difficult to find, luckily the pretzels are a snap. Martin’s, who sell at the Union Square greenmarket, are the real deal, exactly like the ones I remember her brining back from her annual visits to Bethlehem. If you love the combination of salty and sweet, this is the treat for you. I especially like it with vanilla goat’s milk ice cream as a stand-in for the peach. Enjoy!

The Best Thing Ever To Come Out Of My Kitchen

21 Nov

Well, there she is, the best thing ever to come out of my kitchen, and she’s a loaf of bread.

No-Knead Bread

Yes, yes, she may be a bit of a band-wagon-jumping-loaf, every food blogger out there worth his or her salt has made this loaf, the famous Minimalist’s no-knead loaf, but, to me, and to my loaf, it was a massive triumph.

I have left countless comments on countless blogposts about pastries and breads saying, “Oh man, that looks so good! I wish I could make that but, well, I can’t bake!” Now I know that’s a lie.

So, to other bake-o-phobes out there, it’s okay! Jump in! Join the no-knead party! It’s easy, it’s kinda fun and it’s oh so very, very gratifying and best of all, heavenly smelling and possibly the most delicious thing you’ll ever make with your own two hands and then scarf down greedily, leaving crumbs for Mr. Mouseypants. Yes, it’s that good.

No-Knead Bread

I started my loaf on Friday night, using 2 cups all purpose white flour and 1 cup white whole wheat flour. I doubled the salt and added a packet of Sugar In The Raw borrowed from the boy’s office. For those on the hunt for instant yeast, I got mine at Trader Joe’s. It says “Perfect Rise,” but after some pow-wowing with my bread-expert friend Virginia, we concluded it is the same thing as the red Saf-Instant so favored by professional bakers.

I let it rise for exactly 18 hours. It was spongy and full of air holes and smelled pleasantly yeasty and it was sticky, but you know what? Sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty! I tipped it out onto a well floured board, shaped it as well as I could, covered it with saran wrap and let it sit 15 minutes.

Then, just like the directions say I folded it a few times and placed it on a towel I had strewn with cornmeal. Now, here’s where I should have actually read ahead in the directions… I wanted the cornmeal on the bottom and flour on the top, so that’s what I did, cornmeal on the bottom towel, flour on the top. Ah, no Ann, you should have done the exact opposite! You see, when you plop the dough into the pot, you flip it over. Doh! Oh well, next time!

No-Knead Bread

From there everything went exactly as the recipe states. I pulled her gorgeousness out, let her sit, and then dug in. The first slice I ate with butter. The second with ajvar. And the third piece with Eldress Hall’s Tomato Soup. It was heaven. Pure, simple, minimalist culinary heaven.

And where was the boy during all this? Visiting family in Colorado. In fact, I was so blissed out on bread that I started a second loaf that very same evening so he could enjoy it fresh and warm from the oven when he arrived home. And what became of that loaf? Well, that’s kind of a sad tale actually.

No-Knead Bread & Shaker Tomato Soup

Sunday morning our sleepy heroine climbed out of bed, searching desperately for her slippers. It was a cold, gray morning. Slippers on, arms wrapped about her body for warmth, she padded into the kitchen to check her bread dough, which had spent the night silently slumbering on the shelf above her stove. Still groggy she chose not to use the step ladder, confident she could reach that high.

Fortunately, she saved her dough, unfortunately, she dropped her large, heavy cutting board onto her stove. Immediately an odor of gas consumed our heroine, but her nose was so stuffy, she just wasn’t sure. Were the odors real? Were they imaginary? She couldn’t tell.

After a few minutes, she couldn’t stand her paranoia anymore so she went out for a walk. Upon arriving home, she thought the odor was still there, but again, wasn’t sure. So off she set for another Brooklyn amble. This time upon arriving home, she was sure she could smell something, so again she left her humble abode and called the only person that would know what to do, her mom.

Mom said call the FDNY. Our heroine balked. What if the firemen forced everyone to evacuate the building? All her neighbors would hate her! In her infinite mom wisdom her mother replied “They’ll hate you more if you blow up their apartments!” Ah, logic…

So call the FDNY she did, and they came. One nice man ventured up to the 4th floor with our heroine. Upon entering the apartment his estimable sniffer went into overdrive, “Yes ma’am, you’ve got a leak in here, you did the right thing.” He called down to the truck, three more men made the four-floor ascent, one carrying a thingy that looked and sounded like something from Ghostbusters.

Areeeeeeeeeearoooooooooooareeeeeeeeeeeem! It went.

What does that mean our heroine asked? Mr. Mustache said, “That there’s gas in here ma’am, you’ll have to step outside.” And so into her tiny, tiny kitchen four rather large men with tanks on their backs wedged themselves in, breaking many things along the way. But they turned off the gas and all was safe again.

The firemen told our heroine she was going to have to get a new stove. This made her very, very sad as she knows how slow to act her landlord can be. Visions of eating out every night for weeks on end brought the shimmer of a tear to the corner of our heronie’s limpid hazel eyes.

But an hour later the ConEd guy showed up and determined that the leak had probably been fixed when the firemen clamped the valve shut. He ran tests, lit matches and declared emphatically that all was, yet again, well, and that our heroine could continue to bake and cook to her heart’s content.

The only problem? In her deep sadness our heroine had thrown away her bread dough.

So the moral of the story? Even in real life tales of woe, sometimes, all’s well that ends well. So don’t be too hasty in throwing away that slow-rise dough!