Saturday, June 22, 2013

Quick Chicken, Mushrooms, and Rice

This happened this evening, starting with a Martha Stewart recipe and adjusting for ingredients on hand. Since Rebecca approved, I'm making sure I can do it again.

One pound of skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
A cup of white rice
Eight ounces of mushrooms, sliced
Half an onion, diced
Three tablespoons butter, divided into one tbsp and two to use at different moments
One tablespoon olive oil
A tablespoon of dried thyme
A teaspoon of "Better than Bouillon"
Three cups water ready to be heated in your nice countertop kettle

Turn on the kettle.

Check all your ingredients and do any final chopping.

Put the rice into a pot and use the same cup to measure two cups of water when it boils.  Put pan on the stove over low heat, cover it, and set timer to 20 minutes.

Heat the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a skillet or dutch oven.  Check that it's ready for the meat by dropping a tiny piece in and being sure it sizzles.

Add half the meat, turning it once a minute until it's a pale brown all over and a nicer looking brown in spots.  Remove that meat to a plate.  Repeat with the second half of the meat, including removal.

Add the other two tablespoons of butter and push them around until mostly melted.  Add the onions and stir for half a minute. Add the mushrooms, spread them around pretty evenly, and then stir roughly once a minute for about five minutes.

While the mushrooms brown, put another half cup of hot water in the measuring cup and add the "Better than Bouillon" and the thyme to it. Stir well.

Add the liquid to the mushrooms and onions, stirring well and gently scraping the pan bottom to get the beautiful brown flavor-filled stuff down there to merge into the liquid.  Cook that on medium for two minutes.

Add back the chicken, stir everything together, turn the heat to very low and give it about ten minutes to all merge nicely into shared flavor and matching heat.  Check once to be sure the liquid isn't disappearing, but you don't need much of it since you'll use it mainly to flavor the rice.

Put rice in bowls, add a share of the chicken and other ingredients and enjoy.

(First time through, I actually started with the world's simplest salad: a pile of spinach, a quick drizzle of olive oil, and a  quick little bit of ground salt.  I ate that while the chicken finished, then put the rice and chicken in the same bowl.)

(Martha Stewart used fresh thyme, didn't use the onions, and replaced half the bouillon and water with white wine.  I suspect that would be at least as good.)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sautéed Kale

Fresh kale is great food with a little more work than some other vegetables. Here's what you do:

Buy a bunch.  When you get home, cut the bottoms of the stems and stick the stems in a glass of water. Or two.  Leave them on the counter so they can pretend to be a house plant and remind you they want to be cooked.

For two people, take the leaves that will fit in one glass of water.

Fold each leaf so the spine faces out, and cut most of the stem away from the leaves. (I know the stems can be eaten, but haven't tried any suggestions I've seen,)

Stack several leaves together and roll them up like a cigar. Slice across the cigar to make ribbons. Repeat until it's all ribbons.

In a frying pan or dutch oven, heat a little oil.

When it shimmers, add as much kale as the pan will hold.  (If there's a bunch left, cook make it two batches.  If there are just a few leaves left, add them when the first set shrink.)

Push the leaves down into the oil a bit, then stir and flip and stir and flip until it all looks bright green.  Add some water, about enough to spread across the bottom of the pan.

Lower the heat, add a lid, and check after 10 minutes.  Check pulling a bit out, blowing on it, and chewing it. When you like it, it's ready.  Remove from the heat, drain, and eat.

Fancier options: 1) When you're heating the oil, add some minced garlic and wait until it smells great before adding the kale. 2. When the kale is done, squeeze some lemon on top.  3.  Do both.

Simpler option: Try any of the above with spinach, because it doesn't need the stems cut off.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lentils and ground lambporkturkeybeef

8 cups water
1 pound lentils, rinsed, drained

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoons ground cumin,
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 garlic cloves minced

1 pound ground lamb or pork or turkey or beef
1/2 onion, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Cook lentils in water for about 20 minutes, testing for doneness by biting a few.  There should be more crunch left than in a lentil soup.

While the lentils are cooking,  combine the next five ingredients, whisk together until they merge nicely, and set aside.

Add the other olive oil to a frying pan and heat.  Add onions and cook five minutes, stirring occasionally, until they're getting soft.

Add the meat to the onion brown, breaking it up and stirring and flipping until it's all brown and in small pieces.  (If there's a lot of fat in the pan, run hot water into the sink, use a colander to drain the meat with the water still running, leave the water running, and flip the meat and onions back into the pan.)  Add the remaining four spices to the meat, stirring rapidly to spread it around and paying attention to whether you're smelling the spices as they heat.  Move the meat into a small bowl.

When the lentils are done, drain into a colander and move to a large bowl.  Mix well with the oil-vinegar-spices you set aside.

Serve bowls of the lentils with a smaller amount of the meat nestled on top.

This recipe uses altered quantities, less salt, and different meat than the original I found at Epicurious.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Lentil Soup

1 pound of lentils
half pound mushrooms
half pound carrots
half an onion
tablespoon of minced garlic
olive oil
bay leaf
teaspoon of oregano
teaspoon of basil
one 28 ounce can whole tomatoes
two tablespoons vinegar (red wine vinegar ideal, any other kind can work)

Put the lentils in a colander and rinse them with water, turning them over a bunch looking for anything that turns out to be a little rock or a little stick.

Cut the mushrooms in slices.

Peel the carrots and cut them in slices.

Peel the onion and cut it up pretty small.

Dump the tomatoes and their liquid into a bowl and pull each one apart with your fingers into several pieces.

Put the lentils, tomatoes, bay leaf, basil, and oregano in your soup pot.

Put a frying pan on the stove over medium heat.

When you can feel warmth holding your hand four inches above the surface, add just enough oil to cover the bottom.

When the oil shimmers a little, add the carrots, and stir and flip frequently. When they've all changed color a bit, dump them on top of the lentils.  (Could take five minutes)

Add a little more oil to the frying pan, add the onions, and a gain stir and flip frequently. Watching for them to be translucent.  (Could take five minutes)

Add the garlic to the onions and stir and flip constantly until the smell is strong and a bunch of the garlic bits are brown.  (Could take less than a minute) Flip the garlic and onions into the soup pot.

Add a little more oil to to the frying pan, and add mushrooms.  Stir and flip constantly until all the mushrooms are partly brown.  For this one, you may decide you need to add a second bit of oil, but don't add lots: mushrooms like to drink it all but don't need as much as they want. (Could take two minutes.)  Flip them into the soup pot.

If the pan has nice brown stuff on it, add a cup of water, and then push your spatula along the bottom to get the brown stuff to melt into the water. Add the water to the soup pot.

Add seven cups of water to the pot.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.

Simmer for an hour.

Add the vinegar.

Add some salt and pepper, stir well and decide whether to add more.

Celery, treated like the carrots, makes many people happy. I don't care for the texture of cooked celery, but you might.

Frozen corn, canned corn, or fresh spinach could be added 50 minutes or so into the cooking.  Thin sliced kale might be good too.

Everything except the lentils is about flavor. If you're missing something that's on the list, you can use alternate stuff: parsley, thyme, red wine, lemon,  chicken stock, chicken bouillion can all contribute.  Bacon or ham or sausage would make something different but lovely.

Grated cheese makes it better, though less thrifty.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Buy a lemon every two weeks

Lemons are cheap, and make many nice things nicer.

You can put lemon in your tea, hot or iced.

You can use lemon to make salad dressing.

You can add a little lemon to any vegetable--and it's especially nice on sautéed spinach or kale.

You can use lemon on your easy chicken thigh

For company, you can cook a whole chicken by cutting open a lemon, squeezing the juice over the whole bird, and putting the two halves inside the bird while it cooks.

For fancy pork chops, you can sautée some lemon slices in the olive oil at a low heat for a few minutes (until the kitchen smells great), take the lemon out, and brown the pork chops in the lovely lemon flavored oil.  Then add some chicken stock or some wine or some water, cover, and let them cook until done.

Buy a lemon.

Extremely easy chicken

Today's the last full day of my "Back up the Molly" trip.  Of the things I've cooked so far, I liked this one best.

Four chicken thighs (yes, organic and free-range is worth the price) (yes, you want the kind with the skin on)
A lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the chicken thighs in a 9 x 9 glass pan, skin side up.

Cut the lemon in half.

Squeeze the juice of one-half over the chicken.

Grind some salt and pepper over the chicken.

Put the chicken in the oven.

Basically, take it out again after 30 minutes.

You want more than basically, because you're, say, Molly?  You can try any of the following:

  1. See if it looks really beautifully browned on top, like chicken you've liked before.
  2. Listen for the sound of the pan juices sizzling because they're hot right through.
  3. Feel the texture when you stick a piece with a fork, again testing to see if it feels like chicken thighs you've eaten before.  
  4. Cut one piece open near the bone, and see if there's any pinkness left.
Oh yeah. There's half a lemon on your counter.  Put it on a tiny plate or in a tiny bowl, cut-side down, and use it tomorrow morning for tea or tomorrow night for your spinach.  Or, worst case scenario, you end up having spent 50¢ on a lemon and only using 25¢ worth.  Compared to other things you'd buy to make great chicken, and never use up, this may be the cheapest ingredient you could possibly waste.

Salad dressings without big bottles

I'm writing this from Molly's apartment, where she likes green leaves with no dressing and other people like green leaves with added flavor.  In her fridge and cabinet, I spy the ingredients for multiple dressings and little or no waste.  

Basic oil and vinegar:  Two tablespoons olive oil, one tablespoon vinegar, tiny quantities of fresh ground salt and pepper, whisked together with a fork until it all looks thick and you can't see through it.  (Any vinegar can work, with wine vinegars most classic for this.  Use balsamic vinegar, get balsamic dressing)

Honey-Lemon: Two tablespoons olive oil, one tablespoon lemon juice, one half-tablespoon honey, whisked the same way.

Honey-Mustard: Two tablespoons mayonnaise, one teaspoon mustard, one teaspoon honey, and just a little lemon juice, whisked until completely mixed

Easy Russian: One tablespoon mayonnaise, one tablespoon ketchup, whisked until completely mixed.

Nice on greens that go on a sandwich or panini: one tablespoon olive oil, tiny quantities of fresh ground salt and pepper.