Borscht


Borscht! What an interesting dish, right? Whenever some TV cook pulls an exotic dish out of his or her ass, it usually comes off the tail of a trip to some foreign land where they acquired the taste for such dish, or maybe a recipe was handed down to them by a grandma of a friend who lived in said land for 87 years. Not me. I was sitting on my ass, as usual, browsing Wikipedia, and came across this.

Anyways, it’s not the journey that matters, it’s the result that makes you sit here and read this blog, right? Borscht is a healthy, hearty, easy soup made with red beets. Due to its diverse origins in about a dozen Eastern European countries, the ways to make borscht are near infinite. This is just one such variation that I’ve cobbled together from several recipes.

Ingredients

This is just most of the ingredients. Read the list for all of them. Or if you're feeling plucky, proceed blindly off of this picture alone. What's the matter, chicken?

This is just most of the ingredients. Read the list for all of them. Or if you’re feeling plucky, proceed blindly off of this picture alone. What’s the matter, chicken?

Total time: 1 1/2-4 hours
Serves 4-8

Beef Stock*:
~1 lb raw beef bones, tendons, etc.
1 yellow onion
1 carrot
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh or dried parsley
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Borscht:
4 cups beef stock
5 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 medium head of green cabbage
1 yellow onion
1 large carrot
3 medium beets**
3 medium or 4 small potatoes
salt
pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic
sour cream or fresh yogurt for garnish

*You notice that salt and pepper are not listed. Do not season your stocks so that they may remain a neutral ingredient when it comes to seasoning the actual dish. If you use store bought stock, you will have to take sodium into account. Use vegetable stock for a vegetarian and vegan version.
**With their leaves, if possible.

Cooking

We start with the beef stock. You can either buy the stock, or make it ahead of time. Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a pot and deposit your beef bones. Brown them for about 1-2 minutes on all sides.

The Necromancer from Diablo 2 would make a great soup cook.

The Necromancer from Diablo 2 would make a great soup cook.

Meanwhile, peel your carrot and onion and chop them into chunks. Deposit the chunks into the browned beef and cook until soft. Pour about 5-6 cups of water into the pot. Add thyme, rosemary, garlic, and parsley. Simmer for about two hours, then strain into a container. Either use immediately, refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for long-term storage.

Some of you might be wondering sarcastically if this is a vegetable stock with a bit of beef or a beef stock. Well if you are wondering that, just remember that I'm way Soup Nazier than you are.

Some of you might be wondering sarcastically if this is a vegetable stock with a bit of beef or a beef stock. Well if you are wondering that, just remember that I’m way Soup Nazier than you are.

Now, when you are ready for the borscht, the borscht is ready for you! Chop your onions and carrots into similar sized slices. Saute them in oil until soft in your soup pot.

You can also add meat to your borscht, but I'm only using vegetables here. Beet your meat on your own time.

You can also add meat to your borscht, but I’m only using vegetables here. Beet your meat on your own time.

As the onions and carrots soften, peel and dice your potatoes. When the vegetables in the pot are soft, add your tomato paste. Stir to mix, then add your beef stock, garlic, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and add the potatoes. Simmer for five minutes.

If you make the soup with chicken instead you can call the soup

If you make the soup with chicken instead you can call the soup “the birds and the beets”.

While you were cooking your vegetables and waiting for the potatoes to cook, you should peel and shred your beets. You can shred by knife like I did, but it takes a longer period of time. Also chop your beet leaves into pieces and shred your cabbage.

If you put your beets into a box that's called beet boxing.

If you put your beets into a box that’s called beet boxing.

Dump all of your vegetables into the soup and simmer until tender, about 20-30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and add your vinegar. When the vegetables are as tender as you desire, turn the heat off. Roughly chop 3 tablespoons of parsley and stir them into the soup.

If you eat enough beets it'll turn your piss orange. Romantically speaking, it's like pissing a sunset.

If you eat enough beets it’ll turn your piss orange. Romantically speaking, it’s like pissing a sunset.

Serve the soup hot with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt. Garnish with parsley (or more authentically, dill).

Finished borsch. It looks almost like an aborschion in a pot. Probably how the name came to be.

Finished borsch. It looks almost like an aborschion in a pot. Probably how the name came to be.

 

The Result

Too many beet puns. At this point I'm really beeting a dead borsch.

Too many beet puns. At this point I’m really beeting a dead borsch.

Wow, this soup isn’t bad at all, even without meat. It is slightly sweet, with a rich meaty flavor from the beef stock. Some recipes ask you to add a bit of sugar or honey, but I think that sweetners will definitely push the soup over the edge. Be careful not to spill the soup on your shirt while eating though. That shit’ll never come off. Or, if you do live in an Eastern bloc country, it might feel like you’re being drenched in the blood of revolutionary patriots or something. Wear it outside proudly.

French Onion Soup


Every francophile I’ve ever met has sung praises about French onion soup. THE French onion soup, because you have to assume that there’s more than one type of onion soup in French cuisine (and there is). But it’s just called French onion soup in the United States. Even before I had any idea what the soup might look or taste like, it has carried some kind of mystique about it, like it was the ambrosia of soups.

Now I finally have a chance to make the soup and taste for myself what all the fuss is about. French onion soup, like many French dishes, can take either a really, really long time to make or not that long at all, depending on how thorough you feel like proceeding. It can also be quite cheap to make, or quite expensive. For this blog, I have chosen the “very thorough and long” route, and a “middle of the road” budget. Along the way I will point out where you can make cheaper or more expensive substitutions as appropriate. Of course, you can always use store-bought shortcuts for any step you feel necessary.

Ingredients

Note to self: napalm flamethrower not a viable cooking utensil.

Prep time: 1.25 – 3 hours
Serves 4-5

4 yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 5 cups of sliced onions)
5 cups beef stock[1]
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cooking oil
salt
pepper
pinch of sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 medium baguette[2]
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp oil (preferably olive)
1/2 cups Swiss cheese[3]
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley or scallions (optional)

[1]You can make your own from beef bones or buy beef stock or use bouillon, which is significantly cheaper and faster.
[2]This is to make the croutons. Of course, you can always make your own baguettes too, like I do 🙂
[3]Most recipes call for Gruyere, which is quite expensive. Use generic Swiss as a substitute.

Cooking

French onion soup has three base components which must be assembled before the soup itself can come together: the baguette, the beef stock, and the caramelized onion.

Baguettes can be bought or made. I have made my own baguettes ahead of time for this recipe. If you have never made baguettes before and are unsure on whether or not you wish to make them, try reading through a few recipes online. Baguettes are cheap but rather tricky to make, and are one of those things that require repeated attempts to understand and improve upon. You will need one medium-sized baguette to make about 3-4 cups of croutons.

I see your baguette is as big as mine. Now let’s see how well you use it.

Next up is beef stock. Beef stock is not difficult to make, but costs significantly more than a few blocks of bouillon. You can make it by browning a couple pounds of beef bones and scraps along with some chopped carrot and onion, and covering with 6 cups of water to simmer for about 90 minutes. Remove the bones and strain the vegetables from the stock when ready.

Slick product placement on the lower left corner.

When you have both the baguette and the beef stock, you are ready to start making the soup! Begin by thinly slicing about 4-5 yellow onions. You want about 5-6 cups of the stuff. And yes, that shit will make you weep.

No woman no cry? Bob Marley never chopped any fuckin’ onions.

Melt two tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon of oil on high heat in a pot. When the butter foam has subsided, add your onions and cook with a lid on the pot for about 5 minutes. This will steam and wilt the onions to prepare them for caramelization. After 5 minutes, uncover the pot and switch heat down to medium (medium-low on gas stoves). Add 1 teaspoon of salt and just a pinch of sugar to help the onions brown. Cook the onions, stirring with a spatula every 2 minutes or so, for about 40 minutes to caramelize the onions.

This isn’t something you can hurry along. Fast equals premature.

While your onions are cooking, you can start working on your croutons. Chop your baguette into 3/4 inch (2 cm) medallions, then cut them into approximately 1 inch pieces. In a separate bowl or container, add 1 minced clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons of oil (olive oil is best), and about half a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Dump all of your bread pieces into this and shake around to coat.

Make precise cuts. Think premeditated murder, not crime of passion.

Bake your croutons in a 275F (135C) oven, turning them every 10 minutes for about 40-50 minutes. These croutons need to be dryer than regular croutons because they need to withstand being placed in onion soup without falling apart.

While your croutons are in the oven, your onions should caramelizing nicely, and look something like this:

Interestingly enough this is also an effective dog poison.

Cook for about five more minutes. At this point in time, the caramelizing process will give significantly diminishing returns the longer you cook it. Sprinkle in two tablespoons of flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Pour in about 5 cups of hot stock to cover, and 1/3 cup of white wine. Season well with salt and pepper- you will need approximately an entire tablespoon of salt to counter the sweetness of onion. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Not that I’ve ever poisoned any dogs with this. Really.

Sometime during when your soup is simmering, your croutons should be done. Taste a crouton to make sure that it is completely dry throughout. It should not be moist or soft in any part.

If you have bad teeth you should probably not chew these without soaking in the soup first, or without first stealing granny’s dentures.

When the soup is almost done, turn the broiler on in your oven. Prepare as many bowls as you are prepared to serve. Ladle your soup into the bowls, then top with croutons and Swiss cheese. Stick the bowls into the oven under the red-hot broiler for 30 seconds to melt the cheese. I left mine to broil for a full minute, and the croutons burned. Top with your herb of choice and serve immediately.

The Result

The title of this soup has French, onion, and soup. The soup itself has two out of those three things. Oh well.

How wazzit? Wouldn’t you like to know? Well, the soup has an interesting dynamic. The first bite is delicious. There is the crunchy, aromatic croutons (which are slightly soggy on the bottom), the rich beef broth, the sweet caramelized onions, an entire symphony of flavors and textures. Then the next bite isn’t quite as good, and the next is a bit less good, and by the fifth bite you’re wanting to finish the soup and move on to something else. So, I wouldn’t recommend serving more than 1 cup’s worth to anyone for any one meal.

Conclusion

Fuck. I’m fairly certain that hearing all these people talk about how great French onion soup is has ruined French onion soup for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good (for the first bite especially), but it’s not the mind-blowing epiphany that I was expecting. Long story short is, don’t let people tell you how great some food is. It’s far better to just assume that something is “pretty good” in a modest sort of way, so you can always leave more impressed than you were prepared to be.

How is French onion soup? It’s pretty good. You should give it a try some time.

Coq au Vin


You wouldn’t visit Egypt for the first time without visiting the Pyramids. Likewise, you wouldn’t learn French cuisine without making coq au vin at least once.

Coq au vin translates to “rooster with wine” in English (or cock with wine, but in this day and age that phrase is easily misconstrued). It’s basically a chicken stew made with a ton of wine. There are many ways to make coq au vin. For my inaugural attempt(s), I decided to go with Julia Child’s version, which is designed for the American supermarket. It certainly requires more work than some of the other versions, but all of its ingredients are readily acquirable in a supermarket.

This is going to be a long blog for a long recipe. I will be showing you how to make everything in the recipe from scratch, which takes anywhere from 3.5-5 hours depending on your hardware and multitasking skills. I strongly encourage you to read through the recipe before attempting the dish in the event that there is some hardware or ingredient requirement you do not meet. Of course, if you do not feel like spending much time/effort, feel free to take any store-bought shortcuts you deem necessary.

Last but not least, a ton of thanks to www.teamliquid.net member endy for answering my newbie questions and lending his vast culinary knowledge.

Ingredients

If you consider yourself a mature individual, you’ll probably want to skip the captions ahead. Coq talk incoming (aren’t you glad I tipped you off?).

Prep Time: 3.5-5 hours
Note: I know this looks like a lot of ingredients, but there’s a lot of repeats. And yes, you need all parts.

I: Brown Chicken Stock

Chicken giblets & bones
1 medium carrot
1 yellow onion
3 cups water
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 bay leaf
few sprigs of parsley
cooking oil

II: Brown-braised Mini-Onions [Oignons Glacés à Brun]

~ 2 dozen mini (or pearl) onions*
1.5 tbsp butter
1.5 tbsp oil
1/3 cups brown chicken stock**
2 sprigs parsley
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 bay leaf
salt
pepper

III: Sauteed Mushrooms [Champignons Sautés au Beurre]

1/2 pounds (~225g) mushrooms (button or brown is fine)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
2-3 tbsp minced shallots OR chopped scallions
salt
pepper

IV: Coq au Vin

A 4-5 pound chicken, cut into pieces***
3-4 oz salt pork OR bacon****
1/2 cups cognac
3 cups wine*****
2 cubs brown chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
3 tbsp parsley leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt
pepper
2-3 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsp flour

*Do not use large onions. You should be able to find some small or pearl onions that are roughly 1 inch in diameter or smaller. They do cost about 10x the price of regular yellow onions though.
**The original recipe says 1/2 cups of stock, but if you “simmer slowly” as the instructions direct you’ll never be able to simmer away all the liquid by the end of 50 minutes. 1/3 cups should be more than enough especially since the pearl onions I (and probably you) use are smaller and should cook faster than those in the recipe.
***Try to procure a good chicken, like a free-ranged type. Since you will be shelling out a lot of money for all the other ingredients, it doesn’t make sense for the star of the show to be of low quality.
****What you really need is a lump of high-fat salt pork that hasn’t been smoked. If you cannot find these, use bacon. Full instructions will be included below.
*****You want a full-bodied red wine. White wines also work, but my personal experience is with red. Merlots are a good choice for a cheap wine that is still full-bodied. If you have money to spare, a Burgundy, a wine from the Vallee du Rhone region made from Pinot Noir grapes, or a Chianti should also work.

Cooking I: Brown Chicken Stock

The cooking process for coq au vin begins and ends with the chicken. If you purchased a whole chicken, it should come with some giblets and a neck. Set these aside and de-bone your chicken. You should end up with two breasts, two thighs, two wings, two drumsticks, the spine, a few extra pieces of skin and fat, and the ribcage. Cut the spine in half to produce two additional pieces of dark meat chicken.

I’m not exactly an expert deboner. But your grandmother is, when she’s naked.

Bag the breasts and stick them in the refrigerator. They will not be used for this dish. Set aside the giblets, skin, and bones, and refrigerate the other pieces for now. These random pieces of chicken will be the base for the brown chicken stock.

Taking chicken stock to brown town. Coqs are involved.

Chop one onion and one carrot. Pour a tablespoon of two of oil into a pot and brown the chicken, onion, and carrot. After browning, add three cups of water, bay leaf, thyme, and a few sprigs of parsley. Salt and pepper isn’t necessary at this point. Bring the water to a boil then turn the heat down. Simmer the stock for about 90 minutes. Strain the solids out and keep the stock for later.

I dub it the coq stock

Cooking II: Brown-braised Mini-Onions

Wash and peel your mini-onions (you can do this while your stock is simmering). Place your butter and oil in a non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat. The butter will melt, then begin to form foam bubbles on the surface of the oil. Wait until the foam has subsided; this indicates that the oil is ready to receive your food. Dump your onions into the hot oil and brown them on all sides to the best of your ability, rolling them around to brown all surfaces.

Pearl onions, because you can’t have coq au vin without the family jewels.

Once the onions are suitably browned, pour 1/3 cup of your brown chicken stock. Add salt and pepper to taste, thyme, bay leaf, and sprigs of parsley (you may notice a pattern in the herbs involved). Turn the heat down to low and cover the onions. Slowly simmer for 40-50 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated. If you are using a dark (teflon) pan, it may be difficult to discern if there is still any liquid left or if there is only oil. You can always tip the pan a bit to find out, or taste an onion. It should hold its shape, but be soft enough to melt in your mouth.

Cooking III: Sauteed Mushrooms

This step can be done ahead of time, or later while your chicken is simmering in part IV. Wash and thinly slice your mushrooms. Meanwhile, melt your butter and oil in a pan (medium on gas stove, high on electric). Again, the way to tell that the butter is ready is when the foam rises then subsides in the pan.

Bubble pop, bubble pop.

Toss the mushrooms for about five minutes. The mushrooms will first absorb all of the oil, then gradually release it to coat all the mushrooms with a nice slick sheen. There should never be any water or juice in the bottom of the pan while you are sauteeing. If you do see water collecting, turn your heat up.

Chop some shallots or scallions while you are tossing the mushrooms. Add them to your sauteed mushrooms and toss for another two minutes. Salt and pepper to season. Remove from heat and set aside for now.

Up until now neither coq nor vin have made their appearances yet. But hold your fucking horses, it’s coming. By which I mean the coq.

Cooking IV: Coq au Vin

We are now ready to assemble the dish! Bring about 5-6 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Cut your bacon into pieces and boil them for 10 minutes to remove the smoky taste. If you are using salt pork, you can skip this step. Once your bacon is boiled, drain the water.

To do this step completely from scratch, first smoke your pork to make bacon, then boil the bacon to remove the smoky flavor.

Fry the bacon in a pan with two tablespoons of butter until the fat has been rendered from the bacon. Remove the bacon from the pan.

Take your dark meat chicken pieces out of the refrigerator. Use 6-8 pieces of paper towels to pat them dry. This step is very important! It may seem wasteful, but it is essential to dry the surface of the chicken so that you can brown them without steaming them.

Heat the bacon-infused butter oil until it is smoking, then brown your chicken on all sides. Salt and pepper them at this time. Make sure to cook your chicken on a single layer, and do not crowd your pan. If you have a small pan like I do, brown your chicken in batches.

Cutting it up and frying it in butter, the French sure have a way with coqs.

Once your chicken is browned, collect them in a pot. Add the bacon back to the chicken and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes, turning the pieces once.

Pour it on your coq and set it on fire.

Now, take the lid off the pot. Pour 1/4 cup of cognac all over the chicken and light that shit on fire, using either a match or a lighter.

It’s like that scene in the park in that movie Baby’s Day Out. You know what I’m talking about?

Carefully shake the pot from side to side while it is on fire, making sure not to catch on fire yourself. Now, add to the chicken two cups of brown chicken stock, three cups of wine, one mashed garlic clove, a tablespoon of tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoons of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of salt, and some pepper. Cover the lid, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Coq and vin, finally united.

At the end of 30 minutes remove the chicken from the pot. Yes, the pieces will be a dark purple. And that’s fine. There should also be a brownish film over the soup in the pot. Use a ladle to skim all of this off- this is most of the fat that have been used so far in the dish. Then, turn the heat as high as it can go. Boil the liquid down until you have about 2 cups left skimming off any scum that rises to the surface, then turn the heat down until the sauce is at a bare simmer.

That coq residue right there ain’t good for eatin’

Mash together 2-3 tablespoons of room temperature butter with equal parts flour. Dump this mixture into your reduced sauce, and whisk (use a plastic spatula if you are using a non-stick pot like I am!) the butter into the sauce to incorporate. Simmer for a few minutes more. Return the chicken to the pot, and add the mushrooms and onions. Fold into the sauce. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve hot with potatoes, pasta, or rice.

You know a dish isn’t half-coqed when you’ve been cooking it for the past 5 hours.

The Result

Les filles, elles adorent mon coq.

A lot can go wrong when someone as immature as I am has to talk about tasting a dish called coq au vin. I’ll say that it is pretty good. Cooking all the ingredients separately means that they all have a unique identity in the dish. The chicken is nice, tender, and chickeny. The onions, sweet from caramelization, melt in your mouth. The mushrooms are nice and mushroomy, and when you chew them the rich flavor of butter come bursting forth. The rich wine sauce ties everything together nicely.

Conclusion

Man, this writeup was really long. It’s probably really long for you to read too, so I’ll keep this short. French cuisine is fucking fun to cook, I enjoyed every minute of the five hours or so it took to make the dish. Sure, if you’re not so into cooking you can buy stock from the store and significantly cut down on the cooking time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the near future I have some baked goods projects planned, so stay tuned!

Chicken and Dumplings


In the past few days, I planned to blog about strawberry shortcake. That plan fell through (but you bet your ass you’ll see a recipe in the future!), then I planned to blog about chicken pot pie. But the most intriguing recipes for chicken pot pie called for obscene amounts of butter (almost a full pound of butter AND heavy cream for two 8-inch pies, really?), so fuck that. You wonder why Americans are so obese? That’s fucking why.

Basically in the process of learning to cook, you tend to end up flipping through recipes that call for both obscene amounts of butter and a ton of pretty expensive equipment and ingredients. Is it not possible to make something that’s hearty, relatively healthy, and tastes good?

Enter chicken and dumplings. This is not your normal fat-ass chicken and dumplings loaded with butter and shit. There are three goals here: 1) It uses just enough grease to be tasty but doesn’t overdo it, 2) It uses some of the absolute cheapest vegetables and meats you can find in the United States, and 3) It is chock full of said vegetables as to actually provide a balanced meal, something you can eat day after day without serious risk of heart disease.

Ingredients

Yo momma

I've got nothing against fat people, I just don't want to be one, yes?

Cook & Prep Time: ~90 minutes
Serves 3-5

Chicken Stew:

8-12 pieces of dark meat chicken (drums, thighs)*
1 large onion, diced
4-6 large stalks of celery, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 large russet potato OR 3-4 white/red potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes**
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
2 sprigs green onion, chopped into 1/2 or 1 cm pieces (optional)
salt
pepper
4 tbsp cooking oil
3 tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted (MUST be sifted to avoid lumps)
1/4 cup cream (optional)
1/4 cup cooking wine***
3 cups chicken stock OR chicken bouillon****

You will also need: 1 large pot, 1 smaller pot (but capable of holding 3 cups of fluid)

*Many recipes recommend using breasts, which is far trickier since breasts are far easier to overcook. Thighs and drumsticks are dark meats which are a) more flavorful and b) do not overcook as easily.
**Depending on if you use russet potato or white/red potatoes, cook times are different. Russet potatoes tend to fragment after a period of boiling while white/red potatoes do not, so Russet potatoes should ideally be added about 15 minutes before cooking finishes.
***From what I can see sherry is the optimal liquor. I used Chinese cooking wine since it was on hand, which still works. I think white wine could also work.
****By which I also mean 3 cups of water and a chicken ramen flavor packet.

Dumplings*:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
salt
1 tsp baking powder

~OR~

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tbsp cooking oil
salt
cold water

*I included two recipes which provide drastically different textures depending on your preferences. The first dumpling recipe produces soft, fluffy dumplings, which is more authentically American. However, I find this to be too mushy, and prefer the second recipe, which produces a dense, chewy dumpling. I did not include a water amount for the second recipe because I usually just eyeball it. You should add just enough cold water to produce a slightly damp ball of dough that isn’t floury on the outside, yet not very sticky to the touch either.

Cooking

First, measure out 3 cups of chicken stock or water and bring to a boil in a small pot on the side. Add bouillon to the pot if you are not using stock.

We now start with the chicken. Pour two tablespoons of oil into your big pot over medium heat. Add chicken pieces, salt and pepper them, and brown them on each side (simply leave the chicken pieces without turning them until they are browned, then repeat for the other side). You may need to do this twice if your pot cannot fit all the chicken pieces. Don’t worry if bits of chicken stick to the pot bottom; these bits will come handy later.

Yo Poppa

"Mommy what happens to the rest of the chicken when the leg gets cut off?" "Well son, we get chicken legs when chickens accidentally step on landmines and their legs have to be amputated. There are actually large buildings just full of peg leg chickens running around." "Cool story brah."

While the chicken is browning, dice your onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Group the onions, carrots, and celery together; these are typically called the “trinity” in culinary speak, except in New Orleans where the carrots are replaced by green bell peppers. They are a trio of aromatic vegetables that can greatly enhance the flavor of many soups and other dishes. For this specific dish, it is the onions that are the most important because onions significantly enhance the flavor of chicken stock.

Remove your brown chicken and set it aside to cool. In the same pot, add your other two tablespoons of cooking oil and saute the vegetables until just translucent. Do not forget to salt and pepper the vegetables!

Yo Auntie

I messed up the pots/pans planning while doing this dish, hence stainless steel pan. In other news, I got a stainless steel pan so I no longer do atrocious things to my non-stick, like make caramel in it... Huzzah!

When the vegetables are ready, add your cream and wine. Stir everything around a few times and add your 3 tbsp of flour. The flour should thicken everything, and the liquids plus the sauteed vegetables should have loosened any stuck bits of chicken on the bottom of the pan. Add your boiling stock to your main pot with the vegetables right now, as well as the bay leaf and thyme. Add red/white potatoes at this time. Adjust your heat so the pot is at a bare simmer.

If you are going to make the dumplings that do NOT require baking powder, prepare your dumplings now: Bring together oil, salt, flour, and just enough cold water to mix into a cohesive ball. Knead ball until consistent. The ball of dough should have no excess flour and be slightly damp to the touch, but not sticky. Pat the dough flat on a very lightly floured surface until about 1/3 inch or 1 cm thick, then cut into 1-inch/2.5 cm pieces. Place the pieces into the vegetable stock mixture. They will have to cook for at least 45 minutes.

Yo Grandmomma

Not exactly "chock full" right now, but it will be. Oh, it will be

Once your chicken has sufficiently cooled (given about 20 minutes), take a knife to them on the cutting board, de-skin and debone them. I recommend this de-boning process since most recipes do and it makes for easy eating. However, if you are lazy, it’s perfectly fine to keep the chicken pieces intact. Add the chicken to the soup.

Now comes the critical part. If you are using the dumpling recipe that HAS baking powder, now is the time to prepare it. Bring all the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, bring melted butter and milk together. The most effective way to do this is to partially melt the butter by microwaving it at 5 second intervals, then adding milk, and microwaving until the rest of the butter is melted. Add melted butter and milk to your dry ingredients and mix just enough to combine everything. Do not over-mix!

The other dumpling type sinks, this type floats. Like how skinny people tend to sink in a pool and fat people float.

Now, IF you are using the dumpling recipe with baking powder: turn the heat up on the soup until it is actively boiling. Add russet potatoes at this time. The increased temperature will allow the soup to continue to boil even with the additional cool ingredients. Drop the wet dumpling batter two tablespoons at a time into the boiling soup. Cover the pot with a lid and let cook for 15 minutes. Do NOT take the lid off during this time for any reason. These dumplings need to steam to cook. The baking powder expands the dumplings, allowing the hot air within to quickly cook the dough.

Dumplings with baking powder should double in size.

Once the fifteen minutes are up, add your frozen peas and simmer for five more minutes. If you are using the dumpling recipe without baking powder simply time it so the russet potatoes are added 15-20 minutes before the dumplings are done and the peas are added 5 minutes before the dumplings are done. Meanwhile, chop up your green onions and spread over the finished soup. Try to remove the bay leaves if you are able to hunt them down. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

The Result

Give a man a bowl of soup, he eats for a day. Teach a man to cook soup, he laughs in your fucking face, goes to the grocery store, and buys it pre-made. Such is life today

4.8 / 5 Not bad, huh? And it doesn’t contain six sticks of butter? You don’t say. This is a nice hearty soup that sticks to your ribs but not in the way that’ll clog your arteries and kill you. Make a big pot, stick it in the fridge, eat it over a few days. Great for the winter time. If you ask me, this is the ideal way food should be. Tasty, healthy, and reasonably priced.

Well, unless… I can think of a couple of upcoming planned blogs that might go in the opposite direction of healthy >_>

Conclusion

Carrots, onions, celery, and potatoes are cheap. They are dirt fricken cheap where I live, and in most parts of the United States. At least two out of these four ingredients are present in my fridge at all times. As a result, I am intimately familiar with these vegetables. Necessity dictates that I become creative with these vegetables lest I become sick of them. The two dishes chicken and dumplings and chicken pot pie both use all of these ingredients to a similar (and very delicious effect). While I personally don’t mind making an emaciated, super-lean version of chicken pot pie for myself, it doesn’t quite taste rich enough to merit a legitimate blog. I will do more research to come up with a tasty compromise between richness and full-on heart attack.

Basic Chili


Introduction

Welcome ladies and gents to the second installment of FoodinMind. For the immediate future, I will continue to import past blog entries that were posted on http://www.teamliquid.net under the “The Ghetto Cook” moniker.

In this installment I will be showing you how to make chili, cheapass style. What makes it so cheapass? Well, the main thing is that it features no beef. That’s right, no fucking beef 😦 But still, I will try to aim for the best tasting chili possible with what I have on hand.

First, let’s talk about what the important qualities of a good chili are. I’m no chili expert, but I do have an ideal chili that I try to aim for. A good chili should be a thick stew chock full of ingredients. It should have a rich taste and a complex spiciness that lingers pleasantly in the mouth.

To accomplish these ends, the key ingredients should be a source of rich flavor (usually provided by meat) and a good blend of spices (usually provided by… spices). Below, you will find the walkthrough on how I made my chili, as well as commentary on how a proper chili could be made with better resources. Also, if you are planning to make this dish, you will need [b]3 hours[/b] of time. Most of it won’t be spent in front of the stove, but still.

Ingredients

what a pound of hydrated pinto beans look like
Looking significantly less than impressive
1 lb Pinto beans*
Ground chicken breasts**
Green beans***
Tomatoes, chopped
Onion
Salt
Pepper
Sriracha sauce****
Vegetable Oil
Bouillon*****

*That’s right, beans. They are the base of this dish. You can also use black beans if you like them better. Soak overnight in a container with the water level about 2x what the dried beans level is.

**Really, the optimum is beef, diced into small pieces. Ground also works. The breasts here are the meat removed from the bones in the previous installment, ground by yours truly# with a knife and marinated overnight in salt, pepper, and sriracha sauce. The important thing to note here is that chicken breast meat is heavily suboptimal for this type of dish. Breast meat is extremely easy to overcook, not to mention not the most flavorful.

# If you want to ground your own meat, all you have to do is cut the meat into 1 inch pieces, group them 1 layer thick in the middle of the cutting board, then rapidly and methodically chop the meat from one direction to the next and switching directions. Every minute or so fold the meat over itself and repeat chopping. Don’t worry if your chops do not cut all the way through, it’s quantity that counts and not quality. 4-5 minutes will do, but the more you chop, the finer the ground. Best to attempt this on the floor, with newspapers spread. Also if you are in an apartment, when neighbors aren’t home.

***Not a typical ingredient in chili, I just had these on hand and they were about to go bad. Color clashes with the dish, but texture does not.

****Generally a blend of whatever spicy powders/pastes you have on hand works best. This is all I had, so I crossed my fingers and hoped it can pull through.

*****This is my err, “special weapon”. Basically I used a beef flavored packet from a pack of ramen. It will give the chicken a helping hand in providing a rich meaty flavor. Just buy ramen and save the packets to cook with, they are like the poor man’s bouillon. If you are already using beef and/or have more spices on hand than just salt, pepper, and one source of spiciness, this is NOT required.

The Process

It all starts with the beans. The night before cooking starts, rinse and soak 1 pound of pinto beans in a plastic container.

Once the beans are re-hydrated, rinse them one more time to get rid of the bean juice and pour them into a large pot, with just slightly more than enough water to cover all the beans, like this:

The Indians were definitely onto something when they started cultivating this

Bring the beans to a boil, and then turn the heat down low to simmer. I seasoned the beans right at the beginning with salt, pepper, and the bouillon (French for beef flavored ramen packet). At this point you can pretty much go away, coming back to stir every 20-30 minutes. If the beans are getting a bit dry add just enough water to cover them again. At the end of 2 hours, they should be tender and smooth to taste.

yup, after 2 hours they're still beans

[b]IMPORTANT[/b]: do NOT add any more water to this pot than is shown, or add water to anything else. That is the key to making a rich, thick chili.

Now the real cooking begins. Have all the rest of your meats and vegetables prepped. You will need a second pot and a saucepan (whoops, if you don’t have those hopefully you haven’t been following along in real life up to now) for the next part. Here’s how it’s going to go down:

Exhibit A
you probably felt like farting just looking at this, didn't you

Onions go into the main pot. This is a personally preference, as I like my onions completely disintegrated into the stew at the end. 1 hour of stewing will make onions completely disappear texture wise, leaving their flavor. If you like to chomp on your onions, delay this move.

Exhibit B
you say tomato, I say tomato

Tomatoes go into a saucepan with some oil and some salt. The point of this is to break the tomatoes down into a sauce which will later permeate the stew. This will take about 15-20 minutes at medium heat.

Exhibit C
 I wonder what a chicken would think if it sees another chicken's boobs ground up like this

This part is tricky with chicken breast meat. What you want to do is cook it with a little vegetable oil at medium heat until just when you stop seeing any pink. This will mean the meat is almost done, but not quite. Remove it from heat and let it sit. It will be the last thing to go into the chili, just before it is done. It should now look something like this

Shitty camera plus steam, if you were wondering how I achieved this unique effect

If you are using a better meat like beef or pork, what you want to do is brown the meat on all sides and dump it into the main pot as soon as the meat is browned, which will probably be 10 minutes after the beans have reached the 2 hour mark.

Now, you should have all three parts of the dish going on at once. If you’ve played any Starcraft at all and your APM is above 25, this multitasking should not be a problem. Once the tomatoes look like this

 all I see is blood, blood everywhere

Dump this into the main pot. You should also put the green beans into the pot at this moment in time, and they will be perfectly done at the end. Cook for about 15-20 more minutes. The stew is now almost done. Add the chicken, stir a few times, then turn the heat off. You can serve it as is, with cheese grated on top, over rice, with cornbread, or however you like.

The Result

stylishly cheapass

3.5 / 5 Well, I’ve made better chili than this. Sriracha alone isn’t nearly enough to pull a chili through, nor is the chicken breast meat. The spiciness falls flat and the aftertaste is one dimensional. But if you’ve got beef and a bunch of spices you can easily make a 5/5 using the method entailed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walkthrough :).

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup


Welcome one and all to what will be an ongoing series where I will share my adventures in making various dishes. I love cooking, but because I’m so fucking poor (and a cheap-ass to boot), I tend improvise substitutes for ingredients when I cook. This (hopefully) series of blogs will feature a wide variety of dishes that can be made with extremely cheap ingredients.

Recently, my room mate offered me several bags of frozen vegetables that she was going to throw out, with two of the bags being broccoli. Since I happened to have some cheddar cheese on hand, and having never had proper cheddar and broccoli soup, I decided it was a good opportunity to try something new. This soup has the added advantage of not needing a high-powered gas stove so you can make it on the electric range.

The Ingredients

The mise en place, minus black pepper and milk

Broccoli (cut into bite-sized pieces)
Cheddar Cheese
Chicken Broth (or make your own like I did)*
Flour
Butter**
Milk
Onion***
Salt
Pepper

NOTE: If you can, prepare the cheese at least 2 hours beforehand by mincing or shredding it and leaving it out to warm up to room temperature. This lets the cheese melt better.

*Chicken breasts with skin and bone were on sale. De-skin and de-bone the breasts, throw away the skin but keep the bones for making stock. You also get some nice boneless chicken breasts.
**I used margarine, which is cheaper and presumably healthier
***Half of one, minced

The Process

This is my second time making this soup, so I had a general idea of what to do: create a cream sauce using butter, flour, and milk in one pot, prepare the chicken broth in another pot, cook the vegetables in one or the other pot, and bring everything together into one pot at the end before melting the cheese into the soup to finish the dish. It sounds sophisticated, but I’m really just winging the whole thing, using bits and pieces from several recipes I found online, since every recipe is calling for something different.

First, I filled a pot with about 3 cups of water, plopped the chicken in, and closed the lid. It takes a while for the water to come to a boil, so the broth is cooked in parallel with the sauce base.

To make the sauce base, first melt the butter (about 1-2 tablespoons) in the pot at low heat, and then slowly stir in an equal part of flour until you get something yellow and sandy, like this:

Do not eat the yellow sand

It is important to do this at low heat so that you do not burn the flour. You know you’re doing it wrong when the thing is turning brown. Stir for about 1-2 minutes. Then, start adding the milk in intervals and stirring until you get a creamy sauce with a nice sheen:

So I heard your mother likes a different kind of white sauce

This is known by the French as bechamel sauce, which is a basic sauce that can be used to make other sauces. It also looks pretty fucking impressive considering how easy it is to make. Once it has reached this stage, I added the onions so I can soften them while the sauce is cooking, which takes about 10 minutes. The onions provide a nice aroma and they combine exceptionally well with chicken broth and black pepper.

This looks totally different from the last picture. Dem white lumps be onionz.

At this point, I knew I fucked up on timing because the sauce was nearly done but the chicken stock wasn’t even close to boiling. Bummer. So I dumped the broccoli into the sauce to cook it instead of my original plan of softening it up in the chicken stock. The broccoli will also need about 10 minutes to cook anyways.

Almost done, minus cheese, minus chicken broth.

After a few more minutes of standing there and stirring the sauce pot, the chicken broth is finally ready:

This kind of looks like shit, but I did strain it before adding to the soup so it's all OK.

I added about 2-3 ladles (1.5 cups?) of chicken broth to the soup, then took it off the heat for a bit to lower the soup temperature. Optimally cheese should be melted at a low heat and only at the end of a dish. I added the diced cheese to the mixture and stirred until all the cheese was melted. The final product:

If cooking was on iccup I'd be a B- at least

The Result
4 / 5 – The sodium levels were a bit off (underestimated the saltiness of cheese) and I didn’t control for thickness as well as I thought. However, the chicken broth definitely brought something special to the soup and the cheddar cheese taste definitely came through. Goes well with a piece of toast or something similar.

Things to Improve
1) Frozen broccoli sucks. That frozen shit just doesn’t cut it, fresh is infinitely better.
2) Don’t add too much milk to the bechamel sauce. The chicken broth will thin out the sauce and is much tastier.
3) Add less salt. You can always add more salt after the cheese is melted.

And there you have it folks, broccoli and cheddar that’s doable for the piss-poor masses. Questions and comments welcome. Also, if you are a cook yourself and you know something that I did wrong or fucked up on, please share the knowledge so I can improve!