Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shredded Chicken and Black Beans

This is the good stuff. I make it all the time. Super cheap, super easy and super fun.

Here is what you need:

1 lb dried black beans, prepared according to the directions on the package
1 32 oz can diced tomatoes
2 big chicken breasts
1 green pepper
2 jalapenos
1 cup frozen corn
1 bunch cilantro
1 onion
butter to fry in
salt, pepper

The first step is browning the chicken. This gives you flavor and flavor is fun. Melt the butter over medium high heat in a big skillet and then brown the chicken for about four or five minutes on both sides. You do not need to cook it through.

Turn down to medium heat and add the can of tomatoes and then the onions, green pepper and jalapeno all chopped. Bring this to a simmer and cook covered for about twenty to thirty minutes or so, you want the chicken to be quite well cooked.

It's done when you can relatively easily break the chicken up w/ a spatula:

At this point, I generally let it cool, uncovered for about twenty minutes. It just makes it easier to shred. Though if you want, you can go ahead and shred it w/ forks right away.

I don't much worry if it's perfectly shredded just get it into nice bite-size pieces. Nobody is going to complain. Once you're at this point, you can serve this stuff over rice and it's great but I prefer the more protein-centric rout and mix it up w/ a package worth of cooked dried black beans. I also add a handful of frozen corn and a bunch of chopped cilantro.

At this point you'll want to put it over medium heat to bring it back up to serving temperature. Season w/ salt and pepper and you're good to go. I just plop this unceremoniously into bowls and eat it up.It's not fancy, it's fun!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fun Stock

About a week ago, stocks dropped about a thousand points and then jumped back up by five hundred in the course of five minutes. I wish I could get that much stock action going in a short period of time. The kind I make takes hours and only drops by about a quarter of it's original volume when all is said and done. Homemade stock is awesome though so it's all worth it. Fun cooks should always make sure to save their leftover bones to make stock out of. It is easily five times as good as canned broth. Easily. And it's easy to make. There is no real recipe just a procedure.

First step is to collect bones and keep them in bags in your freezer. Once you have enough to fill about half of your largest pot, throw them in there, no need to thaw first:

I do it in a 12 quart kettle. In the interest of full disclosure, it is not my largest pot but unless a lot of you are into canning or homebrewing it is probably somewhat larger than your largest pot. Make do w/ what you got. There are economies of scale timewise w/ larger batches so that is what I prefer.

My bones are most chicken bones but I normally wind up w/ a few pork rib bones, t-bones, &c. They all work. It is helpful to have at least some uncooked chicken bones because they provide a lot of collagen which helps make the stock thick. Bear in mind that the method of cooking you use will affect the flavor. I normally throw on a chicken whenever I break out the smoker so my stock winds up w/ a smokey flavor which I love but some people might not like. You really don't wanna get too much skin and fat in there. You want a mild meaty flavor but greasy broth is kinda gross. Also, don't salt your broth. Salt the final dish. You will have more control that way.

Cover your bones w/ water and throw in an onion or two, a couple big carrots and some bay leaves:

Cover and turn that burner on all the way up. If you have a big pot, it can take quite a while for it to get to boiling, at which point, turn it down to a simmer. I simmer mine uncovered to allow extra water to evaporate off. Top it off again if it gets to low. I like a more concetrated stock as my freezer has only limited space. You gotta cook this business about three hours, longer if you have time, and when it's done the carcasses should be falling completely apart.

OK, now is the crappy part which also happens to be the hardest part and the part I forgot to take pictures of. You need another pot that is at least about half the size as the pot you made the stock in. Then you need a colander. Put the colander in the small pot and pour the stock from the large pot into the colander. This is how you separate the bones from he stock. You will wind up w/ something like this:

Take this junk and put it in small containers and freeze the heck out of it. It will keep for longer than you can possibly hope to keep it around. Once you start using homemade stock in your soups and stews you'll never want to use a crummy can of broth again. (Of course, if you are like me, you still will out of necessity.) There are variety of ways to clarify the stock and get the excess crud out of there. I say the crud builds character so I leave it in.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Butter Onion Pasta Fun Sauce

I don't normally follow recipes too specifically for pasta sauce but I found this recipe that's been circling the world of food blogging for some time, I admired its simplicity and had to try it. Three ingredients and absolutely delicious. What could be more fun?

Here's what you need:

1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
1 onion peeled and chopped in half
5 tablespoons of salted butter

The only change from the recipe posted above is I used salted butter and hence did not have to add any salt. The recipe I followed was apparently originally from Marcella Hazan. All you need to do is chuck this stuff in a pot and let it simmer for about one hour.

It starts out like this:

And then ends up like this:

Keep an eye on it as it simmers, stir occasionally and crush the tomatoes against the side of the pot as it cooks. Remove the onion before serving. I served mine up in a bowl w/ some spiral pasta and a glass of beer.

The beer is Green Flash West Coast IPA. It's a really nice, fresh-tasting IPA. Possibly not the best choice for pasta but great for a warm spring afternoon. Let us know what beer you drink w/ pasta in the comments.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chard, Goat Cheese and Olive Pizza

There is no limit to what you can do w/ pizza. You can put anything on it though probably what you put on it should be edible. Just a tip from the Chicago chapter of TFK!

This particular pizza is made w/ goat cheese, rainbow chard and olives.

The crust for that is basically, my semolina pizza dough recipe made using 100% all purpose flour. I am still perfecting it but just roll w/ that for now. You will need a batch of that, some olive oil and then three ingredients up there in the title of this post: chard, goat cheese and olives. Since our audience here at TFK is abnormally intelligent, I can probably just leave you go from there but our audience also has a lot of free time so I will go on.

First make up a batch of doug and let it rise for about an hour. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit during this time. You will also need to prepare the chard during this time. You can substitute any kind of greens you want though or even use something like broccolli if you are feeling like having some real fun. I used rainbow chard because that's what I had.

It is pretty but pretty much just tastes like chard.I chop the colored stems out o fit anyway and then fry it up w/ some salt in a little olive oil:

Yum! This only takes a minute. You don't want it to get all soggy. Set this aside and chop up some good olives (note, the olives in that can you've had in your pantry for six months are not good). I just used a handful, no need to measure.

Okay, now at this point, you are pretty good to go. You gotta spread the dough out over a well olive oiled cookie sheet and poke some holes in it w/ a fork. I didn't bother w/ the dusting of cornmeal I typically do. This just doesn't seem like that kind of pizza. Take some soft goat cheese and spread little bits evenly across the surface of the pie.

Sprinkle w/ salt and pepper and then add the rest of the chard and olives.

You might be tempted to eat this just as it is, raw dough and all but, trust me, you should cook it. 450 Fahrenheit for about fifteen minutes or until it looks awesome.

Chop this up and serve w/ beer. You must have beer. There is no other option. If anyone has any other pizza recipes featuring greens let us know about it in the comments.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cake Donut Holes

I was quite satisfied with my chocolate donut holes (previous post), and my frying oil was still hot and ready to make some more donut holes. So that's exactly what I did! These are just plain old vanilla ones, but they are still very delicious.

By the way, they are called cake donuts because baking powder is used to make them rise.

1 1/2 Cup Flour
2/3 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Baking powder
pinch of Salt
1 TBSP Melted Butter
2 TBSP Plain Yogurt
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla (vanilla paste will make it even tastier!)
Oil for deep frying

What to Do:

Start heating oil for frying to 375 degrees.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt

In a separate bowl, mix melted butter, plain yogurt, egg, and vanilla until blended.

Slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Keep stirring until everything is good and mixed in. The dough is pretty thick, so you might want to use your hands near the end.

Either coat your hands in oil, or put some flour on them. Then rip little balls of doughs to form your donut holes.

Put the holes into the 375 degree oil. It takes about 3 minutes for them to cook. They will be medium brown when they finish.

Take them out of the oil and put them on something to help drain the excess oil.

Just like with the chocolate donuts, I feel these are delicious enough and sweet enough to enjoy without any sort of glaze or extra sugar. Plus they're just less messy that way. Although I think they would be great with some lemon or orange glaze.

So now the next time you go on a picnic, you can bring two delicious kinds of donut holes! But I also give you permission to enjoy them them in a more traditional donut eating spot.

Chocolate Donut Holes (cake type donut)

It's cherry blossom season here in Tokyo, and I was invited to a picnic tonight. I decided to make some Japanese fried chicken, and maybe some more American-like fried chicken. I wanted to make some cookies too since they are very portable and individually sized, but I don't have an oven! Since deep frying was on my mind, donuts were the logical second choice. It's not a traditional picnic food, but once you have donuts on your mind you really can't think about anything else. Besides, people are always impressed when you make homemade donuts. But I don't really have room to roll out the dough, so I made donut holes.

Makes about 18 large donut holes


1 Cup Flour
1/3 Cup Cocoa Powder
2/3 Cup Sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 TBSP melted Butter
2 TBSP Plain Yogurt
1 Egg
1 tsp vanilla
Oil for deep frying

And if you are messy like me, you should put your apron on.

What to Do:

Start heating your oil to 375 degrees.

Stir together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

In a separate container mix the butter, yogurt, egg, and vanilla until the egg is well blended.

Slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry dry ingredients. If it happens to be a wet day, you might need to put in a little extra flour but the dough should be kind of sticky. It might be easier to mix with your hands at the end.

Put some oil or flour on your hands, and then pull off little balls of the dough. The finished donut will be about twice as big as the ball of dough you pull off.

Drop the dough balls into 375 degree oil. After about a minute and a half or 2 minutes, give them a little nudge to flip them over. They should be finished in about another minute or so. You can't really tell if they are done by color with chocolate donuts, but you can try pushing them against the side of your pan with a kitchen utensil to see if they feel like they are cooked all the way through. If they are still really squishy feeling, they need to cook a little more.

Take our of the oil and put on some paper towels or other oil absorbing paper.

You can dip them in glaze or roll them in sugar, but they are good as is. The outside is a little crunchy like an old fashioned donut. These are best to eat the day you make them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

German Potato Salad

Regular potato salad is gross and that amount of mayonnaise is known to the State of California to lower your IQ. No thanks! Intelligent people are forced to find an alternative path to potato salad glory and, luckily, the Germans have laid it all out for us. Instead of mayonnaise, you use bacon. Brilliant!

Here's what you need:

6-8 potatoes depending how hungry you are
1 large onion
3 stalks of celery
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water

2 tbsp sugar
salt, pepper and dill

I used red potatoes for this guy. Usually you use some sort of waxy potato like red or Yukon gold but if you only have russets, go nuts and have fun. They work just fine. First step is to cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Just leave the skins on you will peel them of later.

You need to boil them about twenty or twenty-five minutes. When they are done they will be tender, slide of the fork a when you poke them and they will have split skins like this:

Drain the water and let them sit for a few minutes until they are cool enough to handle and peel off the skins. They should come right off if you cooked them long enough. Don't worry about a piece or two of skin on there. Builds character.
Then you chop 'em up into potato salad sized bits:

While they are boiling, you will have a chance to chop up the onions and celery. Good times.

You will also want to fry up six strips of bacon in a big pan. This is going to be the same pan you make the potato salad in ultimately so make sure it's got enough space to fit the potatoes in. Put the bacon in the pan, cold and put over medium high heat. Starting off gold helps keep the bacon from curling.

Cook it until it is browned to your liking and chop it into bits:

Oh yeah. That looks nice. Do your best not to eat the bacon. You will eat some but people will get mad at you if you eat it all. Really mad. People love bacon.

Leave the heat on medium and reserve two tablespoons of bacon grease. Drop the potato bits from earlier into the pan and add a quarter cup each water and vinegar, along w/ sugar and allow to simmer for about five minutes to reduce a bit. Salt and pepper to taste and add some dill. I'd imagine I don't use more than about a teaspoon or so of dill. I like it w/ just a hint. Some people add a bit of flower to thicken the dressing but I find it thickens just fine w/ the starch from the potatoes. Serve on plates w/ some sausage or roast pork and enjoy!

If you like mayonnaise or are otherwise unfit for public office, let us know about it in the comments!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Burrito Breakfast

Breakfast burritos are fun but that's not what this is. This is a breakfast, made out of leftover burritos. It is something like chilaquiles only w/ scrambled eggs mixed in.

All you need is some left over burrito, some eggs and a little bit of milk. Start w/ your burrito. It doesn't matter what's in the burrito or who made it. You just need some burrito. I had a pork one and some of a chicken one left over and that is what I used:

Chop that burrito up into little pieces.

And then throw it in frying pan on medium heat w/ some melted butter in it. While it heats, mix a couple eggs w/ a couple tablespoons of milk and season w/ salt and pepper and a little bit of hot sauce if you like. Once the burrito bits start getting a little warm, push them off to the side and scramble the eggs on the other half of the pan.

Once they are cooked through, mix 'em in w/ the burrito and serve on some plaints. If you have any left over (I didn't) dump some salsa over the top of this mess.

It's not pretty but it's a tasty hot breakfast done quick and if you do things like we do here at TFK a lot of times burritos are something of a late night snack and often the morning after you are not much in the mood for cooking anything too complex. If you have any better ways to reuse burritos, let us know about it in comments!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Whole Wheat Tortillas

In Tokyo if I want to eat tacos, I can order something called taco rice that tastes like ground pork mixed with ketchup put on top of rice. Or I can get on a train and go to a fancy, upscale grocery store to buy way over priced Ole El Paso hard taco shells. Or I can walk 3 minutes to a normal grocery store, buy flour, and then make flour tortillas. Flour tortillas are actually quite simple to make, and when I went to the store today they had whole wheat flour so I decided to make whole wheat tortillas.

This is a small recipe, so if you are feeding more than 2 people or have a particularly large appetite you will want to double it.

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 Cup Water
¼ tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp Salt
1 TBSP Oil

What to Do:

Mix flour and water. Whole wheat does not absorb water as easily as white flour, so it’s good to let the flour and water sit for by themselves for a while. This will help prevent your tortillas from having a cardboard texture.

Stir in baking powder, oil, and salt. The dough should form a ball.

Knead for a minute or two. This is a small recipe so it doesn’t take the dough long to get nice and stretchy. It’s also really easy to do because there’s so much oil in there.

Let the dough rest at least 15 minutes.

Divide the dough up into balls. I made 6, which were a little on the small side.

This picture does a pretty good job showing just how tiny my apartment is. Usually I'm a little more careful about it with my pictures.

Anyways, roll out the dough into as circular of a shape as you can. It should be pretty thin, but thick enough to withstand anything you might be filling it with later. If the dough keeps retracting as you roll, that means you should let the dough rest a little longer and then try again.

Heat an ungreased frying pan to medium high. Then put in a tortilla. It only needs to cook about 30 seconds on each side.

Wrap the fresh tortillas in a towel to preserve their softness.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Slow Cooker Corned Beef

Fake St. Patrick's day was celebrated this weekend across the United States by people drinking tons of cheap beer dyed green and shots of poor quality Irish Whiskey. Whether or not you chose to participate in such a debacle is your own business but for real St. Patrick's Day, which is celebrated March 17, you might want to consider celebrating by coming home to a hot pot of corned beef stew.

The great thing about corned beef is you can cook the bojangles out of it and it's still good.The meat just gets more and more tender as it goes on. This stew is prepared from a store-bought corned beef but I suppose you could corn your own if you got the time and salt. Here is what you will need for mine:

1 corned beef of whatever size
4-6 potatoes peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1-2 onions peeled and halved
1 can beer

First thing you wanna do is open the bag of corned beef and drain off all the salty liquid in there. Some people rinse it too but I fear losing too much salty goodness. I chuck that in my slow cooker along w/ the seasoning packet of spices that comes w/ it. My quantities on the veggies is a little vague because I basically just peel and chop until I have the rest of the pot full.

Good times! But we're not done yet. There is one more critical ingredient:

It doesn't have to be Hamm's but it has to be beer. Some people use Guinness, operating under the erroneous assumption that it is good beer and that it is Irish. Well, some of it is Irish, the extra stout and that is a good beer but a bit too bitter to be used for cooking in my opinion. The stuff that comes in cans and bottles w/ the little widget to make that thick white head is made in Canada and tastes like Budweiser mixed w/ coffee and vomitus. Avoid! I think cheap, tasty beer like Hamm's, Stroh's or Pabst works well in this situation. Nice mild beer flavor to compliment the meat. So just let your corned beef chill w/ a can of brew.

So here is where we get to the extremely difficult part: you have to turn your slow cooker on low and let it sit for about six or so hours while you go ahead and do whatever else you do. Corned beef is kind of like pulled pork where you actually want to overcook it to make it tender and, like pulled pork, it should be shredable once finished. A lot of people say that it's more tender if you cook, let it sit overnight and reheat for the next day and, it's true that corned beef makes for some of the best left overs in the world, but the real reason it's better is that the process of reheating further overcooks the meat and let's it get super tender. The only thing you want to avoid is cooking the potatoes until they turn into complete mush.

Serve it up on a plate and reserve any left over juices to use as a base for another stew or another corned beef sometime. A lot of times the corned beef will just tear into pieces w/o even having to use a knife:

If you are a fan of black Budweiser that smells faintly of vomit and think such a thing is authentically Irish, let me know about it in the comments!