Archive for May, 2011

24
May

Fish Pie

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in dinner/lunch, dubious, economics, Food, non-vegetarian, Recipe, soup

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I hardly ever cook fish. It’s not easy here to find a good fishmonger, and then you have a narrow window for getting your fish home still happily fresh. It can’t hang out in your fridge until you have inspiration – it’s a make it right away kind of thing.

And I grew up with a father who did not enjoy the smell of fish, especially as it cooks. So I have little knowledge or practice.

But I have acquired sketchy frozen fish, and I hate wasting food. How sketchy you ask? Well, I’ve been cleaning out my parents deep freeze of things at the very bottom that are too old for them to consider worth eating. And this was in a box labeled with a neighbor’s name, so we were clearly storing it for her – especially since we don’t cook fish. And this neighbor has been dead for about seven years. On the other hand, the freezer has been a very reliable freezer without power outages or temperature variations.

The fish is Oreo Dory – which, wow!, so not sustainable. But it’s a little late to lecture my former neighbor on her purchasing habits, now.

So what do you do with seven year old frozen fish? Apparently, you make pie!

I looked through several recipes, and I ended up combining traditional recipes (with roux) and modern ones with more vegetables. But I had milk nearing its life expectancy, so I knew I needed the roux base to help me use up ingredients.

Fish Pie

In one pot, pour a little less than a quart of milk and add a pound of frozen fish. Also season with a bay leaf and a clove or two. Bring it to just barely simmering for five minutes and then remove from heat and strain the fish from the milk and into a casserole dish. If you added a bay leaf and/or cloves, remember to make sure you remove as many as you added.

In another pot, clean and quarter (and peel, if you so choose) some potatoes (I did three baking-sized ones, but it could have used another potato or two) and boil them in salted water until easy to pierce with a fork.

In a third pot deep skillet, sautee a minced or finely diced onion in lipids of your choice (I used a teaspoon of butter). Now you’re going to make a roux from untoasted flour. You might need to add more fat for the right consistency. Then add the hot, fishy milk to the roux – stirring assiduously – so you get a nice, medium-thick white sauce. Mine was actually much thinner than I wanted, so the trick for adding more flour when your roux is insufficient is to spoon the flour into a small sieve and tap dustings of flour into your simmering liquid (stirring assiduously) until it’s just thinner than you want. Remember that once your gravy has boiled (which it will do as you’re baking) and cooled, it will be even thicker.

I shredded three carrots, the flesh of a mild red pepper, and the zest of one lemon and added them to the fishy bechamel, too.

By now, your potatoes should be soft. Drain them and mash them with butter and milk until you have fluffy mashed potatoes.

Take a moment to salt everything! Salt the bechamel; it needs it. Salt the mashed potatoes; they need it. Maybe even sprinkle a little more salt on the fish in the casserole dish. Oh, and black pepper. Everything needs black pepper, too.

I also added some ground summer savory and a dash of ground thyme to the sauce.

Right, so there’s a casserole dish of fish fillets. Break them up into chunks.

And then sprinkle them with some (white, if you have it) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Pour the sauce over the fish, and swish everything together.

Top with mashed potatoes. Some people sprinkle more cheese on the top of the mashed potatoes, but I didn’t.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until bubbling. After 20 minutes, my potatoes still didn’t have any color, so I turned on the broiler for another three and a half minutes.

It was surprisingly pleasing.

1) My house did not smell strongly of fish during the cooking process!!! Now were there any lingering cooking odors this morning

2) The fishy milk sauce, which just sounds disgusting, was exactly like chowder. I should have guessed, except that I always think there are extra fresh ingredients and a bit of magic in good chowders.

It was a lot like soup in a casserole dish. On looking back at the recipes, a lot of them called for half as much milk as I used (though how that will fully cover the fish as it’s poaching, I don’t know). And they call for a thick layer of mashed potatoes, whereas I barely had enough to cover.

While the taste was smooth and pleasing (like chowder), there probably is no way to make seven years frozen fish not have the texture of seven years frozen fish – i.e. rubbery and a bit chewy

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Bake Sales are a challenge for me, as I’m new to baking. I’ve been calling myself new and baking for a couple years now, and it’s going to continue for a few years more because it’s still feels like a risky adventure every time.

I came to this recipe over the winter, when my friend Smittywing made a double batch for the Death Bi Chocolate bake sale. It was quick to put together and the ingredients were rather straightforward.

Having lost the recipe, I googled around and found several people with the recipe, and Post Punk Kitchen even attributed it to having come from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, so I’m mentioning that.

I am, however, changing almost half of the ingredients… slightly. And I’ve changed the name.

Ever since Chocolat, I have been aware of the adding of chili to chocolate and calling it exotic, and frequently also calling it Mexican. Also, I’m lucky enough that one of my local supermarkets has a good selection of Mexican and Central American food items. And, really, Mexican chocolate comprises a wide variety of spices and blends, and it’s also more about the processing of the original chocolate, as far as I understand, so I wasn’t comfortable re-using the title this time. Your mileage may vary. (here, have David Lebovitz’s write up of Mexican Hot Chocolate)

ETAA (2016): I’m going back to calling them Mexican cookies because I’ve been baking them for protests against the Trump Regime, and I figure Vegan Mexican baked goods would get right up his back.

Spicy Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

Preheat oven to 350F

Dump into the bowl of the mixer: 1 cup almond oil (being sure to use the 1/2 cup measure twice), 1/2 cup sorghum syrup (which now pours smoothly out of the greased measuring cup), 2 cups sugar, 6 Tablespoons unsweetened unflavored soy milk, 5 teaspoons spiced rum, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon kojinte cinnamon*, 1 teaspoon aleppo powder*.

Start the mixer going slowly, and then incorporate as you go: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda.

Voila! Dough! (Okay, so it’s still a good idea to stir a little by hand and scrape the sides to make sure the edges and bottom are fully mixed). The end result is very stiff.

Mix together come cinnamon sugar in a small dish. I didn’t measure. If you do, the proportions in the recipe were: 1/3 cup sugar | 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Now I was going to present these in snack sized bags… and I thought they’d be lovely to dip into coffee… so I made thick, stumpy cylinder shapes. Don’t do this. Once they are flattened and baked, they look distinctly unappetizing. But they were very tasty, fit into the baggies, and would have been good dipped into a wide variety of beverages. You should make them round! The recipe suggests walnut-sized, rolled in sugar, and then flattened a bit. Mine did not spread much, so what you see is pretty much what you get.

On the other hand, what you feel is not what you get. It says to bake each batch for 10-12 minutes. And I ended up putting the first batch in for another 5 minutes because a quick poke test had them feeling exactly the same as when they went in. Apparently that’s perfectly normal for snickerdoodles, and they ended up being delightfully cookie-like when cooled, even though they seemed like they were still doughy fresh from the oven.

*I’ve bumped the spices up higher in the order, because my dough didn’t end up evenly mixed and some cookies were definitely spicier than others. (also those flavor varieties are chosen simply because they were what I had on hand, not because they’re better than any other cinnamon or hot pepper powder)

Also a note if you are making them for a bake sale, too – obviously, you don’t want to put them inside a bag until after they have fully cooled. Otherwise, the steam will condense on the inside of the bag and turn your cookies soggy and your sugary coating to slimy syrup. Luckily, I had 14 little labels and ingredients lists to write up while these not-so-pretties cooled.

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6
May

Quiche two ways, both dodgy and delicious

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in dinner/lunch, Recipe

The past couple weeks, my friends and I have been having collaborative dinners.

Yesterday, it went like this:

NoCounterspace: if you want to have dinner at my house (dining out is fine), I have: more potatoes, more asparagus, bell peppers, onions, eggs, cooked zucchini of dubious virtue. I could make a frittata or possibly a pizza (never tried before, but I think I can buy pre-made dough at the coop sometimes).

geeksdoitbetter: i have roasted eggplant, mushrooms, onions wanna make a quiche?

NoCounterspace: There could be quiche!

geeksdoitbetter: shall we pitch the communal cooking idea @ Lulu?

And the pitch went like this:

Lulu –

Geeksdoitbetter has concocted a quiche dinner idea. It could be cooked your house, or at mine if you want some but not until 7pm.

ingredient options from me include:
more potatoes
more asparagus
bell peppers
onions
fresh or roasted garlic
cooked zucchini of dubious virtue (just means they need checking, not that they are necessarily bad)
raw yellow squash of dubious virtue
radishes

cheddar
rustic cheddar of eww
blue cheese
parmesan
homemade soft cheeses

ingredient options from Geeksdoitbetter include:
roasted eggplant
mushrooms

And we decided to make two quiches (for 4 people). One full of tasty things that Lulu’s husband (G) hates, and one full of things he could eat. G was included in the emails and could have been in on the decision making process if he’d answered them, so there’s no gender discrimination here.

So first on pie crust. I’m new to baking, yeah? I’ve never made pie crust. On the other hand, I really like the Pillsbury refrigerated crust that you just pull out and unroll. I think it tastes good and would be aiming to have any crust I made at home taste like that one. So why not buy that one? (note: I am considering changing this attitude now that I both own a food processor and have been introduced to Lulu’s pie crust, which is indeed better than Pillsbury’s – maybe over the next few months, but not this night)

I really wanted to use up some of my potatoes, so the first thing I did was to wash two handfuls (small red potatoes), cut out any bad parts, and throw them onto a baking sheet. I added 2 teaspoons of olive oil and put them on the low rack of the oven. Then I started the oven heating up to 350F, where I’d be baking the quiches.

I tasted Geeksdoitbetter’s roasted eggplant leftovers (eggplant, onions, some herb mix that included rosemary), and they were going to be delicious with the potatoes, so that was planned. If I hadn’t found anything to go with the potatoes, they would have made a good side dish, anyway.

Then I pulled a pound of bacon out of the freezer (because the pieces in the fridge had gone off). Open the package, cut the strips in half width-wise (because they fit in a round skillet better that way) and forcibly separated about half of the half strips (quarter of the pound) out to cook (and put an eighth of a pound into a half pint takeaway container in the refrigerator for easy use later). Put that in my little cast iron skillet and popped it into the oven next to the potatoes, with the slices still all frozen together.

Now for the pie crust. I selected my two 9″ pie plates, unrolled a crust into each of them, settled it into the shape, tucked the edges under and pressed them into place, and took a fork and pricked the shells thoroughly. Then I cracked two eggs into a bowl and brushed the crusts with just the egg white bits (but no need to get another dish dirty – and you can just scramble the eggs for the filling in this bowl). Pie crusts go into the 350F oven (which had reached temperature by now) for 15-20 minutes – they’ll be golden, but not brown.

I pulled the skillet with the bacon out of the oven and started cooking it on the stovetop where I could watch and micromanage. By now the pieces were easy to separate, so I moved everything apart.

Then I took a bunch of asparagus, trimmed the bottoms, sliced them into 1cm pieces, and pre-cooked them on the stove in 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Over fairly high heat (7-8 on a knob with numbers) they got a nice bit of roastiness in 8 minutes. I could have put them in the oven, too, but I wanted to be able to look them over.

From my freezer, I pulled out the tomatoes I had grown and Geeksdoitbetter had dehydrated 2 summers ago and sliced them into small pieces.

Right – so here’s the plan.

Quiche 1 (with things G does not like): Roasted eggplant and onions with roasted potatoes and goat cheese

Quiche 2: Asparagus, dried tomatoes, bacon, cheddar cheese

Pulled the first cooked crust out of the oven… and, well, it has sagged a bit and isn’t all that pretty. Luckily, that’s the opaque pie plate, too. So because Geeksdoitbetter is dating him, she decides that G gets to have the pretty quiche, and I load up the less pretty one with the eggplant and roasted potatoes. I pull out my 5 ounce log of chevre, and I manage to fit all of it in the quiche (in nice rustic chunks). The pie is pretty full!

I mix up 4 eggs (two of which have had some of their whites used on the crust already) and pour in about a cup and a half of whole milk – not all of the liquid fits in the pie plate… let’s say I only got 2/3 of the mixture in. Set that up to bake.

Take the other pie crust, which has stayed in place and is lovely. I dump in the asparagus and tomatoes. And it’s really not taking up nearly as much space. So I do quickly sautee a smallish onion (cut into quarters and them thin crescents) and drizzle about half a teaspoon of balsamic over them at the end. Add them in, too!

So we have asparagus, 2/3 of the cooked bacon (crumbled), onions, dried tomatoes, and 3 ounces of sharp yellow cheddar cheese, thinly sliced into short pieces. I added the rest of the egg mixture and then quickly scrambled two more eggs and a bit more milk.

They should probably bake about 40 minutes, but quiche is never done when I expect it to be. I suspect it’s because there’s such a range int he possible density of fillings and that I freehand my ratio of liquid dairy products (milk or cream or whatever) to egg.

But we had it cooking for about 25 minutes when 8pm hit. By then things were not sloshy and we could relocate to Lulu’s kitchen.

The asparagus one was not as pretty as desired. My last egg scrambling could have been more thorough and patches of egg white were visible. No problem! I’d already planned to top that one with the rest of the bacon, so I gave it a quick dusting of paprika and then crumbled the bacon on top.

We relocated, put the quiche’s back into an oven, and settled down for a pot of tea and chatting. And it had to heat up from scratch, so the heating times are complete bunk here.

But 25 minutes later, both quiches could pass the knife test. We pulled them out of the oven and ate them while hot. Because hot quiche is even more delicious than room temperature quiche.

And they did not suffer one bit for all of the dodginess in the preparation. The texture was smooth and the appearance was lovely… well, lovelier on the asparagus one because the eggplant one was clearly overstuffed and abundant, so still sexy but not as elegant.

Everyone went back for seconds, and they were still tempting once we were full. Quiche is amazing!

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