Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Brunswick Stew - Super Yums!


Ok, so last week when we had Gumbo, I realized as I was serving it, that what I really wanted was Brunswick Stew. And not just any Brunswick Stew, but my mother-in-law’s. She makes it a lot for Christmas Day, and we’ve had it other times throughout the year. It’s so good, that I just started craving it. So I turned to Jesse and said, “You know what I really need to do? I need to get Courtney’s recipe for Brunswick Stew.” Jesse immediately responded, “Oh, you mean this?” And whipped the recipe out of our recipe box. OMG, we had it all this time!!!!! I couldn’t believe it! (It was a totally awesome reaction, btw) So I immediately resolved that our next blog entry would be about the stew.

We decided to have the stew on Tuesday. Courtney makes it in the crock pot, so at first I was like, I can just do this in the morning before school. Well, I was subbing at Norcross that day, so that meant I was up at 5:30. The night before I was at a dinner and didn’t get home until 11:30. I require about 8-10 hours of sleep to be fully functional. So needless to say, I decided since I would be home by 2:30, I could just make the Brunswick Stew in the crock pot on high, take a nap, and still have everything ready to eat by about 7:00. Of course nothing ever goes that easy for me.

So obviously the first thing I had to do was get together the ingredients. I did that earlier in the week. Here’s the list of ingredients:

  • 1 (2 to 3 lb chicken)
  • 2 (28 oz) cans of regular crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (16 oz) cans of kernel corn
  • 1 (16 oz) can of creamed corn
  • ¾ can tomato paste
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • salt & pepper
  • celery salt

Yum yums!

So when I went to the store, I didn’t put all of the quantities down that I needed. For the can of crushed tomatoes, I wasn’t sure what the normal size was. I could only find the 28 oz size. I wasn’t sure if that was the size I needed, or if it wasn’t, so I just bought one. I also didn’t know which size can of tomato paste to get, so I got the most common one. Last, I couldn’t remember how much vinegar, so I bought a huge jug of it. For one tablespoon. Oops. Haha. I also realized when I got home from the store, that I needed more ketchup. All of that meant more trips to the store. I stopped on my way home from school and picked up the ketchup, still not realized I needed more of the crushed tomatoes. It wasn’t until I was home and getting all of the ingredients out that I saw I needed 2 28 oz cans. Doh! Back to the store. I made a super quick trip back to the store (good thing Ingles is about 2 miles away and no stops through traffic lights). Finally, I was home, had all the ingredients, and was ready to go.

The first step Courtney has is to boil the chicken until it’s falling off the bone and then to reserve the stock. I had no time for that, so instead I bought chicken breasts. I cut the chicken breasts up a little until Jesse said I probably didn’t need to do that, so I stopped. In hindsight, it would have probably been easy to cube the chicken…more on that later. I then cut up the onion, which I’d had in the freezer since the day before, to help cut down on watery eyes. Once those were done, I dumped those into my crock pot.

Next, I emptied out one can of crushed tomatoes, took one look at the crock pot and thought, crap! This thing may be too small. Not a good thought, but I was holding out hope. The recipe says 6-10 servings, and I’ve made 6-10 servings of recipes in the crock pot before. Jesse told me it was too small. But I stubbornly refused to listen and poured in the other can of crushed tomatoes and one can of corn. Yeah, it almost overflowed. Now what do I do??? At this point it was all I could do not to tell Sarah “I told you so” but I think I did anyway…

I called my mom. J She has some crock pots and I couldn’t remember if they were bigger than mine or not, so I asked her if I could run to her house and check them out and maybe borrow one. She said sure. Jesse volunteered to go with me, but when we got there, we noticed they were the same size. But what she does have, are some huge stock pots, so we took one of those instead. When we got home, we transferred the food from the crock pot to the stock pot. I then poured in the rest of the ingredients, we put this on the stove and turned it on to a medium-low temperature.


I had to nap, so Jesse kindly agreed to stir the stew and reduce the heat to low. If you do this on a crock pot, you only need about 2-3 hours on high (if the chicken is not already cooked, less if it is) and 5-6 on low (once again, less if the chicken is cooked). Just cook until the chicken is done. If you feel like it is too thick, add some chicken stock. Pretty soon, it’s done. since it usually shreds better when cooking in the crockpot (since it cooks so long), we now had to worry about the giant pieces of chicken that we had. After it cooked for a while, I fished the chicken chunks/breasts out, manually shredded them with some forks, and put them back in the pot.

When I woke up from my nap, I noticed this very delicious smell. I was super excited. The stew looked yummy, and I couldn’t wait to eat it. So I promptly took a spoon and dipped it in the stew. I did not have the patience to wait for it to cool, and immediately burned my tongue. Oops. Finally Jesse and I served ourselves and sat down to eat. Here’s Jesse’s plate. He has to eat this with saltine crackers. I just had a few yeast rolls.



Note: Since this time we made this (first week of April) we have since made it two other times. Halfing the recipe fits perfectly into our crockpot. But it's just as good the other times around. Love it!!!!

Reviews:

Sarah:

Preparation: 5 out of 5. This was easy (once I had all of the ingredients). The hardest thing was chopping up the onion. It would have been even easier if I had been able to make this in the crock pot because then we wouldn’t really have had to stir it too much. Next time we may just make half a serving. Or, if anyone needs any gift ideas, a large crock pot would be awesome!

Taste: 5 out of 5. Seriously, this is soooooooo good. I could have had this for every meal last week. As it is, we had it for leftovers once, and have the rest frozen.

Pickiness Factor: 4 out of 5. I think this is a pretty good one for picky people. Unless your picky person doesn’t like the ingredients. J

Jesse:

Preparation: 5 out of 5. This was super easy….just put it all in the pot and you’re done! Just make sure your pot is large enough, haha—derp.

Taste: 5 out of 5. This dish has definitely evolved over the years. I started to realize how tasty it had gotten and noticed that I, along with Sarah, would look forward to Courtney (My Step-Mother) making it for special family events. She gave me the recipe a few Christmases ago and this was our first attempt at its recreation. I have to say it was amazing. I added Tabasco to mine for some more spice, and served it with a sleeve of saltine crackers. MmMmMmMmm GOOD!

Cost: 4 out of 5. If you don’t have all of the ingredients, it can kinda be a pain—but even so, it’s all still pretty cheap. After you make this, it stores great in the freezer for one of those rainy day meals when you just don’t feel like cooking.

TOTAL: 4.67

Monday, April 11, 2011

Whaddya mean Mardi Gras was a month ago??

So today I attempted Gumbo. First, I must make a HUGE disclaimer: I have never, EVER made Gumbo or Jambalaya, nor have I ever had it that I can remember. So this was a pretty big thing for me…

It all started out with some Cajun seasoning we got from Jesse’s mom from when she and her husband went to New Orleans for their one year anniversary. I looked at it and was like, we should make something Cajun. I figured jambalaya or gumbo could be made in a crock pot, so easy enough, right? I should have known better.

Jesse decided on gumbo, so I set around to searching for some easy-sounding recipes. And while I did that, I started wondering, “What is the difference between gumbo and jambalaya?” So I then decided to look that up. Here’s what I found: Apparently one difference is that gumbo is a soup made with okra and a roux, and jambalaya is not really a soup, and made with rice. I also found how they got their names, and being a French major, I kinda had to slap my hand to my forehead on jambalaya. So gumbo apparently means okra in one of the native African languages slaves spoke back in the day. Maybe Yoruba, I can’t remember. Jambalaya, is ham with rice. I.e. Jambon = ham + à la = of the + ya = rice (once again in a native African language). So Jambalaya actually used to be made with ham, although sausage is pork and ham is pork, so kinda the same (well, sausage usually has pork in it….who knows what else :P). Ok, there’s your linguistics lesson for the day. Sometimes I wish I had also majored in linguistics, but I didn’t realize that until my final semester of college, and I wasn’t going to stay any longer, no matter how much I loved Athens and UGA.

Anyways, back to the topic: Gumbo. I found a recipe for chicken and sausage gumbo that was in the crock pot. The only worrying thing about it was that I would have to make a roux ahead of time. I’ve never made one. I’ve watch both Jesse and my mother make one. I know the basics of making one (stirring nonstop really). But I’ve never made one… I was really hoping I could find some of this at the store. I saw it on a Cajun cooking site where some people from Louisiana said that it’s as good as their Grandma’s. Alas, Ingles doesn’t carry that, so I would have to face my fears.

Once I got home from the store, I then set up a playlist. I have a total of two Cajun songs à grâce de my French classes. I thought I would need at least two more, so I found two from iTunes that didn’t sound entirely the same and bought those. This brought my Cajun playlist to a grand total of 4 songs – one of which is a Christmas song.

  • Michel Fugain, Les Acadiens
  • Paul Daigle & Robert Elkins, La Veille de Noel
  • The Cajun Playboys, T’en a Eu, T’en Au Vas
  • Savoy-Ducet Cajun Band, Port Arthur Blues

So, with my playlist cued up, I was ready to go. Here is the recipe I used, mostly pulled from a mix of websites, but the majority from this one:

http://www.ehow.com/how_5211257_make-sausage-gumbo-crock-pot.html

Some of you who know me, may be wondering, “Wait a minute, Sarah doesn’t eat sausage. What is going on here?” And you would be correct. I am one of the pickiest eaters you will ever meet. A sales rep I used to work with called me Sally, as in When Harry Met Sally. I’m honestly not that bad, and I have improved over the years from when Mac & Cheese and Peanut Butter & Jelly were the only things I ate (I’ll take partial credit here ;)). But yeah, still picky over here… And sausage is one thing I really don’t like, and not even because it’s pork. I don’t like the flavor. So turkey or chicken sausage is out. Poor Jesse. I think he was really hoping I would cook it with sausage and just pick it out of my bowl. But no. So no Andouille sausage – which we even already have (incidentally, in reading different posts on different recipes, I learned that this is not always readily available up North. Weird.). So basically these are the ingredients I used:

· 1/3 Cup of All-Purpose flour

· 1/3 Vegetable Oil

· 2-1/2 Cups of Chicken Broth

· 1 Cup of Vegetable Broth

· 1 onion chopped up

· 2 packages of chicken, cut up

· 1 Green Pepper – de-seeded & chopped up

· a few stalks of celery chopped up

· 1 can of diced tomatoes (may try Ro-Tel next time)

· 2 teaspoons minced garlic

· Okra (lol @ Sarah for buying breaded Okra)

· 1 Tablespoon of Big Kevin’s Bayou Blend Seasoning

So the first thing I did was to cut up the green pepper, onion and celery. I put those in a bowl.


Next, I cut up the chicken into small pieces, then browned those in a pan with a little bit of oil. About a capful of oil. And it’s not like the chicken really browned. More like it just cooked a little on all side. I covered the chicken when I was done and prepared to make the roux.


Then, I tackled the roux, with Cajun music in the background. I followed the recipe from the link I provided above. I mixed 1/3 cup of oil and 1/3 cup of flour in a 2-quart saucepan. Once it was mixed, I turned it on medium-high heat and kept stirring for 4 minutes. Then I turned it down and started stirring, fully prepared to stir for the full 15 minutes. Let me tell you how freaking boring that is. When you have ADD, standing there and having to stir is akin to torture. Not physically painful torture, but mentally painful torture. So I kept stirring. Suddenly I noticed the pasty-white color was starting to change. Which was good because it needed to be a dark brown-reddish color. Then it started to smell like it was burning. And I was thinking, uh-oh, is this supposed to happen? But I kept stirring. Then it set off the smoke alarm and I decided it was dark enough. I threw the smoke alarm on the couch and covered it with a blanket, then opened the kitchen window. Good thing it’s so nice outside. Then I let the roux cool, hoping I hadn’t just destroyed dinner. To me, it seemed like it was the right color. But then Jesse came home and said he thought the color looked burned (it was totally burnt, lol). Too bad because I had already added it to the pot… But anyways, here’s what it looked like.



Remember, this is the first time I have EVER made a roux, so please be kind in your criticisms about how maybe it really was burned and too dark. Please?

Ok, so roux is made and cooling. I was a little impatient but stepped away from the kitchen for a few minutes. Then I decided, I can go on and add the chicken and veggie broth. So I did. Of course, by then, I was really ready to get this stuff in the crock pot and ready to cook since it was already past 2:30. So I added the roux. Maybe it should have cooled longer. In hindsight, it also shouldn’t be burnt, but oh well. Then I added the chicken, veggies, can of diced tomatoes, okra, Cajun seasoning and garlic. I stirred it all up and turned the crock pot on high. If you’re doing this in the morning, low should be good enough. Now I just get to sit and wait and find out if the burnt roux ruined the Gumbo or not.

So now everything’s cooking. Jesse came home from work to check on it and see if the burned roux had done any damage. He tasted it and decided it wasn’t spicy enough and that the roux probably hadn’t damaged it yet. So he started adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that, as seen below.

Finally, it had a kick. So we sat back and let it simmer in the crock pot a few more hours…

And this is what it looked like:



So, the big question is, did I ruin dinner or not?

Sarah Review:

Preparation: 3 out of 5. The roux sucked to make. The rest of it was easy, but the roux is why I gave it a 3. I mean, if we do this again, I may just need to order some of that ready-made roux (or have me make it!). Also, as far as crock pot recipes go, this one is definitely not an easy one. I like the ones where you just dump everything in, turn it on, and go to work, then come home to a yummy smell. This could definitely not have been made in the morning. I am not a morning person and would never get up in time to not only make a roux, but brown chicken…

Taste: 4 out of 5. I thought it was pretty good. It’s not my favorite meal and I won’t be dying to have it again, but it was good enough.

Pickiness Factor: 3 out of 5. Ok, this could turn off picky people on several levels. First, the spicyness. I love spicy foods so this was a good part of the meal. Another thing is the way it looks. It’s so dark brown and kind of an unappealing color. I know, that’s superficial, but sometimes, those kinds of things matter to me. But in this case, it was good, because it disguised what I was eating. I’ve never had okra, and I’m not a big fan on eating onions or green peppers (love the flavoring, not the texture), but the sauce color hid all of that, so I ate it an enjoyed it, without thinking, “ew, that was okra and I don’t know how I feel about okra.” I still don’t know how I feel, but I ate it. And those things also add to the pickiness – green peppers, onions and okra – they’re not the plain veggies picky people usually eat. If this had had sausage, the pickiness factor would have gone to a 1… J

Jesse:

Preparation: 5 out of 5. It was easy for me b/c I didn’t have to do anything! Ha! However if I as the one making it, I’d probably give it a 3/5 or a 4/5….it’s all pretty simple unless you’re not too well versed in roux creation—it just takes a lot of prep time….but that than that you can just set it and forget it!

Taste: 4 out of 5. This wasn’t the best gumbo that I’ve had, but it was definitely a wonderful first shot (like Mexican food, even bad gumbo is good gumbo, haha). I think more spices would be needed to be added in the beginning. I would also opt for fresh okra that’s not already cut up or breaded…I think the breading dissolved and make the dish a little thicker than it needed to be. Ultimately the dish still felt like it was still missing something…and I’m pretty sure that’s attributed to the lack of Andouille sausage and shrimp. Perhaps next time, it might be better to make this on a weekend in a stockpot instead of a crockpot…and when there’s about an hour left to go, split it into two separate pots and add sausage and shrimp to my portion =D

Cost: 4 out of 5. Fairly average expenses…the bulk of the cost will come from the sausage/chicken/shrimp…so if you want to skimp on any of this, your price will definitely go down. This also keeps extremely well…and would probably even taste better after being able to marry in the fridge/freezer for a few days. Just make some more rice and you’re good to go!

Average Rating: 3.83

Friday, March 18, 2011

Luck o' the Irish!

“May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends. And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.”

“Where next shall we go?” I asked last blog. Well, to Ireland of course! It’s only fitting that on St. Patrick’s Day, we attempt an Irish-themed meal. I thought back to the meals we had when we visited Ireland last year, and from there came up with this menu:

  • Guinness Stew
  • Irish Soda Bread
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Guinness

It’s pretty much what we had every other day. The next step was to find some recipes I thought I could maybe do. Well, mashed potatoes I can basically make in my sleep. It’s one of the first “complicated” things I learned to cook when I was younger. But more on that later. Anyway, recipes. So here’s what I found:

Guinness Stew: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Beef-and-Irish-Stout-Stew/Detail.aspx

Irish Soda Bread: http://www.irelandseye.com/aarticles/culture/recipes/cooking/soda.shtm

I tackled the Guinness Stew first, since that takes forever! Good thing I was subbing at Norcross, and also for a teacher that has 6B lunch and 7th period planning. I was home by 1:00. We decided we didn’t need a stew of 6 servings, so using my handy math skills, I calculated the ingredients for 4 servings.

Then, I did the most important thing. I put on my Celtic playlist so I could get in the mood. Some of my favorites are as follows:

“The Ferryman”

“Rare Ould Times”

St. Patrick’s Day Reels”

“Danny Boy”

And of course, all things Flogging Molly.

I then started to lay out the ingredients. If there is one thing I’ve learned since we began this cooking experience, it is to prepare everything BEFORE mixing it. That way I’m not running around like a chicken without it’s head trying to get things added to mixes before burning, or something like that. So I started first by mixing the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne in a bowl. Then I poured one tablespoon of veggie oil into another bowl. Next I cut the onions and put those in a measuring cup with the garlic. I used minced garlic instead of crushing a clove. I also added a little more garlic than the recipe called for, mostly because we love garlic.

Next, I cut up the carrots and put those into a separate measuring cup. Then I measured out the tomato paste and mixed it with some water. I had no idea how much would dilute it and what diluted tomato paste was, so I added some and stirred it until it was more like tomato sauce… Once I had all of that laid out, I started the prep part.


I dumped the beef into the bowl of oil. I then used my hands to mix it up and make sure all the pieces were coated. After that I moved the beef into the bowl with the coating. I realized a little too late that I didn’t exactly cut the quantity of beef down to 4 servings (more beef is always good…(that’s what she said)) so I really shouldn’t have cut down on the coating quantities. Oops. Once I had the beef all mixed in, I dumped it into the pot with warmed oil. I stirred that around and let it brown up, before adding the onions and garlic. After that I pretty much followed the recipe to a T. The only thing I added was peas. I figured it needed something more than just carrots, and peas are always a good stew veggie.



Once I had everything in the pot and let it simmer, I decided to take a nap. So lay on the couch for about 40 minutes with all the animals and napped. It was a good nap. Almost too good of a nap…

So my nap sadly came to an end. L When I got up I stirred the stew and did some tastings. I decided to add some more salt, pepper and cayenne. I wanted it to have a little kick to it. I also ended up burning my tongue so I may not know how this all really comes out… Next I prepared the potatoes. I washed, peeled and cut them. Then I placed them in a pot and put in water until it just covered the potatoes. Now, a little side note about me and potatoes. I LOVE potatoes. Pretty much anything potato. My dad always said that starch was my favorite food group. In 9th grade, I had to write a grant proposal for science, so I wrote a grant about studying the benefits of potatoes. Mashed potatoes are one of the first “complicated” things I learned to cook because I always asked for them. So finally one day my dad was like, “Sarah, I’m going to teach you how to make these so you can make them for us.” And it’s really pretty easy.


After I cut the potatoes up, I mixed up the dry ingredients for the bread. Then I covered those with plastic wrap, turned off the burner and put the stew in the fridge, and went to pick up Jesse from work. See, when we decided to make this, I forgot we had a 5:00 appointment we couldn’t change. So I had to work around that. When we got back from the appointment though, I set the potatoes to boil, preheated the oven to 450°, and put the stew back on the stove to warm up.

Once the oven was preheated, I added the buttermilk to the dry mixture. Ok, the recipe says lightly flour hands and then gently knead dough. Then make into a ball about the size of your fist. That was crap! It was sooooooo gummy and just stuck to my hands. It was impossible to get to the size of a fist because everything fell apart. I don’t know if I maybe didn’t add enough flour…


When I was measuring it I kind of lost count of how much I put in, so maybe? Anyways, I didn’t have much hope for the soda bread. But with that in the oven and the stew simmering, it was time to check on the potatoes.

It took awhile for the potatoes to boil, then even longer for them to soften up. See, when making mashed potatoes (and I don’t count powdered flakes as mashed potatoes), it’s important you boil the potatoes until they fall apart with a fork. If you do it too early, they get a little grainy. So finally the potatoes were ready. I drained the water, poured in a little milk, and spooned in some butter and sour cream. Actually, it’s crème fraîche our friend made (the label says Cream Cheese, but that’s not what it is, it’s what he had on hand at the time).



Then I used our cool Rasta potato masher to start mashing (Down by da beeeeeach, Mon).



Once I got a feel for things, I added a little more milk, sour cream and butter. Then I tasted it, added some salt and pepper and just a tad more butter. Then, Voilà! Amazing mashed potatoes! I like them just a little lumpy, but not too much. Potatoes are definitely a staple of Irish food. We had potatoes every night. When I lived in England the summer of 2002 we also had potatoes every night. They like potatoes over there. It’s meant to be. I belong there. J As a side note, I also love potatoes.

With the potatoes done, the bread timer went off. It looked like maybe it was done, until Jesse cut into the loaf. Yeah, still have dough…



Back into the oven that went. However, we still proceeded to eat because we were hungry. So we served our stew and mashed potatoes, Jesse poured himself a nice glass of Guinness, and we sat down to eat, continually checking on the status of the bread. Eventually the bread finally finished, but it took awhile. And was maybe still a teensy bit doughy… Oh well. But, I think we have begun a whole new tradition!

Pouring a Guinness:



The finished product:


Jesse sitting all alone eating his food:


Here’s a link to pictures of our food in Ireland. Notice the soda bread, it was in pretty much every meal we had in the country, even breakfast. We also had a lot of apple things (turnovers, pies, pastries, etc.). and the soup…the soups were TO DIE FOR

AWESOME IRISH FOOD CLICKY!

Reviews:

Sarah:

Preparation: 3 out of 5. This prep was not that easy. It wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve made, but definitely time consuming. There were a lot of ingredients and things to add for all three things. But, it was fun, especially listening to some good Irish reels. I wouldn’t let this discourage you, just maybe save it for a weekend or a day off. I was a little disappointed in the bread, because I was really looking forward to that. We had soda bread seriously every day in Ireland. It was so good and I was excited about having some more. But, I will just keep experimenting, and this time not zone out while I’m measuring. I may check out some other recipes as well.

Taste: 4.5 out of 5. This was really good. In my opinion, the potatoes were the best I’ve ever made. I could have eaten the whole pot of potatoes. The stew was also really good. There was only a hint of Guinness flavor left, and none of the alcohol.

Pickiness Factor: 3.5 out of 5. The mashed potatoes I give a 5 out of 5, unless you don’t like potatoes. But the stew, while I liked it, others may not. It did taste a little bit like beer, so if you really don’t like the taste, you probably won’t like this. The other flavors were really good and I would like to experiment with adding some more cayenne to the flour mixture and coating the beef better.

Jesse:

Preparation: 5 out of 5. All I had to do was pour the Guinness in the Glass. Easy Mode!

Taste: 5 out of 5. This was AMAZING. I’ve had the real stuff, and this was just as good if not superior. And Sarah is correct; these are some of the best Mashed Potatoes she’s ever made. NOM NOM NOM NOM. Seconds! Thirds!!!

Cost: 4 out of 5. You could totally make a whole heaping pot of this and survive the entire winter--that’s for sure. Most all of the ingredients are pretty easy to find and cheap too…just make sure you have a good supply of Guinness!

Average Rating: 4.17 out of 5

“And it's all for me grog, me jolly, jolly grog
All for me beer and tobacco
Well I spent all me tin on the lassies drinking gin
Across the western ocean I must wander”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Russian Chicken!

Let’s see if we can get better with these posts… So the other day we were trying to figure out what to make. Jesse and I are kinda in a slump, we can’t come up with original ideas for dinner – especially something relatively easy, cheap and fast. But, I raided the recipe box I got for one of my bridal showers to find a recipe (Side Note: It was so sweet, the recipe cards were sent out in the invites and all these sweet ladies that are friends of my grandmother’s wrote down some of their favorite recipes, so we have some good Southern ones). Admittedly, this recipe did not come from the shower, but from my mother-in-law Susan. It’s one of Jesse’s favorites from his childhood – Russian Chicken. I’d made it before, but not following Susan’s recipe, so this time I followed hers. Apparently Jesse and I are moving around the world here for food. Tacos, Korean BBQ, and now Russian Chicken. What next? Or moreover, whereto next?

First, though, we had to go to the grocery store. We didn’t have any food at all in the house! So we headed to Ingles by way of Target. But here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

2-4 cooked chicken breasts

1 bottle of Russian dressing

1 package of onion soup mix (dry)

2-3 cups of cooked rice

We almost had a mini-crisis when I realized we hadn’t bought any onion soup mix. But then I looked in the pantry and we had one packet left from the last time I made meatloaf.

So to make this, the first step is to cook the rice. I opted not to cook the chicken first, but to let it cook on top of the rice. Screw Board of Health suggestions… J Oh, and of course I had to preheat the oven. The recipe calls for preheating at 325°, but I chose to set it to 350° since I would be cooking the chicken in the oven. I started by making 3 cups of rice in the rice maker. Or, at least according to the bag of rice, 3 cups. When that was done, I started to put it in the bottom of the lightly greased casserole dish. But then I realized there wasn’t enough rice! Yikes, I had to make MORE rice. Let’s just say this set us back a few minutes… So I then set about to make a whole ‘nother serving of rice (yes, I know that technically ‘nother is not a word. I don’t care so deal with it!). Eventually I was back on track and the rice completely covered the bottom of the casserole dish.


The next step was pretty easy, place chicken on top of the rice. So I did. And just a quick note from the refrigerator of the Wades: we have started only buying non-hormone added, organic chicken. There are too many 12 year olds walking around with boobs bigger than me, and that’s not normal. Sure it happens to some, but a lot of it is because of all this extra crap added to food. I know it’s not just in chicken and that we should try to eat healthier on all things. We’re working on it, one at a time. All I know is that our kids won’t be eating chicken raised with hormones (Booo GMO’s!) in our house. Sorry future daughters. Ok, end rant. Sorry, I’ll step off the soap box and get on with this.

Yeah, so I put the chicken on top of the cooked rice. Then, I mixed together the onion soup mix and the Russian dressing in a large measuring cup. Once those were mixed, I poured that over the chicken and the rice.



I then covered the dish with aluminum foil and put this in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes I took the foil off and put the chicken in for another 10 minutes. It actually needed to stay in for some extra time, seeing as how the chicken breasts were pretty large (which made me question the hormone-free chicken…).

This wasn’t the only thing we ate, though. We decided to have a green vegetable, a non-starch as it is. Jesse had the brilliant idea to sautée zucchini. We love zucchini at Japanese restaurants, so why have we never eaten it at home? Good question. One for which we have no answer. So we bought two puny looking zucchinis at the store. Sunday afternoon/evenings are never a good time to go grocery shopping. We tend to forget that. Oh well. Then, Jesse did his thing with the zucchini. I’ll let him tell you all about it.

So the hardest part about cooking the zucchini was figuring out if I wanted to cut it up into round disk slices, or if I wanted to cut them in long little wedges likes they do at the Hibachi store. I went with the latter. While I was doing this, I already had a skillet heating on medium heat with some olive oil, oregano, garlic powder, and sea salt. Once the zucchini were cut, the pan was hot enough to add ‘em in.



Now I like my zucchini a little soggy, yet with a little crispness. So really, cook them as long or short as you want. When they were about 50% done, I added some pepper and about 1sb butter and turning the fire up to high for about 3 minutes. After that, I used a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl to cool.




All in all, a pretty easy and tasty meal.

Ratings:

Sarah:

Preparation: 5 out of 5. Seriously, this was really easy to make. Next time I just need to remember to make more rice, that was pretty much the only snafu to this prep. Oh, I also think next time I’ll either buy chicken strips or cut the chicken into smaller pieces. That way it will cook faster and more evenly.

Taste: 4.5 out of 5. The zucchini gets a 5 out of 5. Maybe even a 6 out of 5. It was just that good. Like, amazing. Like, I called Jesse right before he left work today to practically beg him to buy more zucchini on his way home and make some more tonight (it’s true, she totally did. So I did. Like, totally.). The chicken is pretty good too. The Russian dressing adds a nice tangy taste to everything. It’s a change from our usual Asian or Mexican influenced foods. It’s nothing to die for, but it’s still good. Sometimes, on bites where there’s too much dressing, my taste buds feel a little overwhelmed. (Not underwhelmed or just whelmed…) Overall, good meal. Definitely a keeper, too.

Pickiness Factor: 4.5 out of 5. I think this one is a pretty good choice for picky eaters. Maybe not the zucchini. I know for years I didn’t like squash because I didn’t like how watery it was and then how mushy the insides were. But the chicken and rice part is a given. For the longest time I only ever ate things like chicken and rice. And the Russian dressing is a good flavoring to add. So I think this is a pretty good one for the picky eaters in your life.

Jesse:

Preparation: 5 out of 5. Cutting zucchini is super easy! Well, maybe unless you don’t have hands =(

Taste: 4.0 out of 5. I’ve always really liked this, but it’s not something you’d want to have all the time. I’m sure it’s also nostalgia from when my Grandma Price made it when I was little. Adding the zucchini was a nice touch…or any vegetable for that matter too.

Cost: 4 out of 5. Chicken can be expensive. Especially if you are homeless.

Average Ratings: 4.5 out of 5!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Korean BBQ


And another delay… So about two weeks ago, I was out getting things for Noelle’s baby shower when Jesse texted me and said, “i can cook us korean bbq tonight if you want we have all the ingredients except 1 onion and flank steak. (That was quoted verbatim from his text, too…also note that whenever you read blue text from this point on in this blog, that’s just Jesse talking and adding key points). I was thinking, “That sounds awesome!” So I called him to discuss what else we needed and then headed to Kroger. I like our Ingles, but let’s be honest here, if you want good steaks, Ingles is not the place to go.

And we have two really nice Krogers not terribly far from us. So I grabbed what we needed at Kroger and found a really yummy-looking flank steak. I then went home, tired from all of my errands, but excited about a super-awesome meal. Not to mention the fact that the only thing I needed to make was the rice. And we have a rice cooker for that.

Well, I came home and unloaded the grocery bags with Jesse’s help when all of a sudden he looked at me and said, “Where’s the soy sauce? I can’t make this without the soy sauce!” Ugh, that meant I had to go out again, something I REALLY didn’t want to do. I had already been out for several hours and was pooped! Oh well, this recipe really did need the soy sauce. So this time I just went to Ingles, grabbed two bottles of soy sauce, a Pibb Xtra and went home. Jesse took one bottle of soy sauce and put the other one in the pantry. We were finally ready to make the marinade and let the steak soak for a little bit. Here’s the recipe Jesse found and used:

http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1818,142164-234200,00.html

And here is it written out:

Ingredients:

2 cups water

2 cups low-sodium soy sauce

2 cups sugar

6 garlic cloves, minced

4 tablespoons sesame seed oil

3 tablespoons black pepper

1 white onion, grated

Mix everything together and let the steak sit in the marinade for at least 30 minutes.

Jesse’s favorite part was grating the onion… He thought that was so cool! Just kidding, he said that was the worst part. In fact, I do believe I remember him saying something along these lines, “The only thing worse than cutting an onion? Grating an onion.” I felt bad for him, but seriously was glad I wasn’t doing it. Yeah, this was really the worst part…it just makes me so sad….the plight of onions, I just cry every time...

Once the marinade was completed we put the steak in. And boy, did it all smell REALLY good. I was starting to get super excited. We put the bag of marinade and steak back in the fridge and let it sit there to rest. Of course, though, something typically goes wrong while we cook. I had already run back to the store once. But no, this was even better. The extra bottle of soy sauce in the pantry? Well, it fell off the shelf, shattering on the floor and pouring soy sauce all over the pantry floor and out into the kitchen. Awesome! I leaned down and started to pick up all of the glass bits while Jesse shooed the animals away and got some towels from the garage. We then removed everything that was sitting on the floor of the pantry and he proceeded to clean it up. In all honesty, I was pretty glad that happened. The bottom of the pantry was filthy and cluttered, and we hadn’t cleaned it in awhile because that’s where we keep the two bins of pet food, so it’s kind of out of sight, out of mind. But now it’s clean, albeit with a faint hue and scent of soy sauce… Sadly, we have no pictures from this ordeal, we were too busy cleaning it and making sure there wasn’t any glass on the floor for the pets to step on, or play with, or eat.

Once the steak had been marinating for awhile, I made the rice in the rice cooker (I highly recommend getting one of these if you eat a lot of rice like we do!).

Then I got out the brand new salad spinner Jesse bought me for my birthday and cleaned the salad.

Jesse turned the burner on high to get the pan really, really hot, so he could sear the steak. We both like our steak medium-rare, so we have to make sure we don’t overdo it. Right before he placed the steak on the pan, he said, “I hope this doesn’t set off the smoke detector.” Famous last words.

Sure enough, our obnoxious smoke detector started beeping (actually, it’s a very nice smoke detector, loud and linked with the other one outside our room. But still it’s loud and talks to you.). Yoda, with his tail between his legs ran away from the kitchen, and Jesse grabbed the thing off the wall and set it on the coffee table while I opened the kitchen window. Annoyance had been diverted. This is really the best part about our smoke detectors…they are actually just fastened to a ring that’s attached to the wall. So when there’s an influx of non-house-burning-down-fire/smoke in the kitchen, you can just twist them off the wall and throw them under a pillow instead of wafting a towel in your kitchen with the windows open like a moron.

So Jesse finished searing the steak and very quickly it was done and ready to eat. He also took the extra sauce and put it in a saucepan to heat up so we could pour it over our steak.

The sauce was actually quite easy. Already having a great marinade, I simply threw a small bit in a sauce pan and added some Wondra sauce/gravy flour to thicken it a little after bringing to a boil. It was pretty strong, so I’d either need to water it down a bit in the future, or just use it sparingly as a garnish-sauce…it was still very tasty though…and great on the rice.

All in all, a yummy looking meal.

Ratings:

Sarah:

Preparation: 5 out of 5, Jesse did all the hardwork, I just put the rice in the rice cooker and cleaned lettuce!

Taste: 4 out of 5. This meal has a LOT of potential. It involved a lot of my favorites types of foods. But, this was really peppery. I think next time we make this, we should marinate the steak overnight. Also, we could cut down a little bit on the pepper, made add something else to enhance spiceyness. But, overall, it was good. The flavour of the marinade was good, just sweet enough, but next time we agreed to use brown sugar and not white. I can’t wait until we try it again.

Pickiness: 3.5 out of 5. If you are sensitive to spicy things, you may not like this. As I mentioned before, the pepper was a little overwhelming. Also, some people don’t like steak, so obviously this would be fail for you. But if you like steak and Asian food, then you will like this!

Jesse:

Preparation: 4 out of 5 – pretty easy, just make the marinade. And then sear the flank steak to your choice of doneness. The worst part was cutting the onions…I even put them in the freezer for about 10min before hand and they were still horrible.

Taste: 4 out of 5 – I agree with Sarah…as much as I like pepper (and saltiness), this was a bit much. Next time, we’ll cut down on the pepper, but also switch to brown sugar as I think that would be a little richer and cut some of the pepper…and also create a better glaze. I could totally see Toasted Sesame See garnish on here too…with perhaps a pineapple ring on top? But even without these, this was one of my more favorite recipes for KBBQ that I’ve made. *note that we used regular (sodium) soy sauce instead of low-sodium…that stuff tastes like Jawa spit O.o

Cost: 5 out of 5 – super cheap and inexpensive…especially when you pretty much already have all of the ingredients. A lot of times, Flank or Skillet Steaks are a cheaper alternative to individual portioned steaks since you end up getting leftovers most of the time. It’s also great cold as leftovers or eve in sandwiches.

Overall Rating: 4.25