Category: Recipe Maven


or, How to Deal With Pests That Are Too Big for Their Own Good.

So, Grannie’s had this venison sitting in her freezer for forever and a day, and hadn’t done anything with it. When Hurricane Irene came knocking in August, Grannie packed up a couple of days in advance and brought herself up here for a couple of weeks while she waited for power to be restored at Ayrfield. Part of what she brought was the complete contents of her fridge and freezer, including a number of packages of the most organic venison you can find.

Naturally, when she left, she left the venison here. We’d made arrangements to hand some off to friends, but there were still a couple of packages of ground venison left (nominally ‘hot venison sausage’) that had been pretty badly freezer-burnt. I hate to let a good, dead white-tail go to waste, so I plotted.

After a bit of plotting, I stumbled across Mommy’s recipe for sausage soup, and said to myself, “Self, that’s probably the best way to deal with freezer-burnt meat. So, get cooking!” Of course, I then promptly ended up losing my life to the office for a while, but today, I finally got around to using the meat.

I’d previously defrosted it, and then browned it over the weekend so it would be ready for today. I also acquired a hefty load of things-what-food-eats at the nearby Purveyor of Such Things, and thus was prepared to render the remains of this dead, over-sized pest into edible food.

First, I dumped some extra-virgin olive oil into a six-quart pot, and promptly followed it with a finely-diced large yellow onion and about a teaspoon of minced garlic (because I misplaced my fresh garlic again). I let that sit to sauté for a bit while I washed and finely diced the potatoes. After I’d diced three of the six potatoes I had out, I up-cocked the bag of browned venison into the pot with the onions, mixed it all up, and resumed dicing potatoes.

By the time I got three potatoes into the pot, along with one large (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes and two quarts of chicken stock, I realized, “Well, crap. Looks like I should have used the bigger pot,” whereupon I retrieved the twelve-quart stock pot from the cabinet and swapped it in for the six-quart. I shan’t make that mistake again…

I added another quart and a half of chicken stock, the other three potatoes, and two handfuls of baby carrots to the pot, gave everything a nice healthy stir, and left it on medium heat with the lid on. Then I went outside to observe asteroid YU55; I’m not entirely sure, but I think I saw it. Either way, after about 20 minutes outside or so, we came back in and I gave the pot another stir. By this time, the soup was bubbling merrily away, looking and smelling good enough to eat right then, but it wasn’t quite done.

I pulled out a large bundle of green chard and separated it roughly in half; the other half went back in the fridge. I chopped the leaves off the stems, and rendered them width-wise into strips about an inch and a half wide; this seemed to be a good size to work with. In my opinion, the chard is what makes this edible. Without it, the soup very much resembles pot roast that fragmented. With the chard, it has a bit extra zing, and definite green flavors which are good for you.

After the soup had been boiling for about 45 minutes, I turned the heat down and dumped in the chard. I let it cook over low flame for about five minutes, then added a healthy grinding of fresh salt and pepper, and let it cook another five minutes or so before proclaiming it done.

It turned out reasonably well; it’s not spectacular, but what do you expect for severely freezer-burnt meat?

As always, pix or it didn’t happen:

Soup in a bowl!

Soup in a pot!

 

For those of you who want a recipe, here’s something I cobbled together from the above:

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 lb ground venison
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1-ish tsp minced garlic
  • 6 medium potatoes, finely diced
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes
  • 3.5 qt chicken stock
  • 3-ish c red or green chard, chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pour some olive oil in a rather large pot.
  2. Add the onion (finely diced) and the minced garlic, then sauté over a medium-high flame.
  3. Add the ground venison, and sauté the meat with the onion and garlic until the meat is slightly browned.
  4. When the meat is browned, add the potatoes (finely diced), tomatoes, carrots and chicken stock to the pot, then cover. Simmer for 30-45 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped chard the pot. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste, then simmer for another 5 minutes.

Makes ~8 quarts of soup.

or, Two Good Reasons for Owning Your Own Dairy Cow

My mommy is visiting today, so part of today’s adventure included making things that Mommy knows how to make, and I only knew in a vague sort of ‘yeah, yeah’ fashion: yogurt, and paneer. I should have taken pictures of the process, but I was more interested in not screwing up, so I didn’t.

Start with milk. It doesn’t really matter how much, or what kind of milk, really, but ultra-high temperature pasteurized milk will require more effort. Fat content matters not a whit, unless you have a preference to avoid something that resembles blue sidewalk chalk more than real food. Remember, though, that I subscribe to the Paula Deen School of Cooking (“Everything’s bettah with buttah!”), and thus I used six quarts of whole milk.

In the beginning, there was milk, and a surface, and heat, and God said: This better not stick! Gimme a spoon. -The Gospel of Cheese, according to Mrs. Tony’s Mommy

We’ll start with the cheese. You’ll need milk, a heavy-bottomed pot, a cheesecloth, a colander, some lemon juice, a couple of dinner plates, and a heavy bag of beans.

Pour a gallon of milk into your heavy-bottomed pot. Don’t use a flimsy pot, unless you like your cheese to be close, personal friends with atomic element number six. Bring the milk to something close to a boil over medium to medium-high heat, stirring at least periodically. I’m pretty anal retentive when I’m learning how to make something for the first time, so I stood over it and stirred pretty constantly. Make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom for very long; if you do, don’t scrape it up, ’cause it’s nasty and crunchy and black. The objective is to get the milk to about 185° Fahrenheit, to kill off the nasties that conspire to make you sick, but it’s easier to bring the milk to a boil. Once the milk has foamed, and is beginning to be active in the middle, you’re at the right place.

Line your colander with your cheesecloth, and rest it in your sink; you’ll be happier for this than to try and strain into a bowl, which only creates more mess. Mix about half a cup of lemon juice with a bit more than a cup of hot water, and gradually pour it into your now-close-to-boiling milk. Stir constantly, and watch the magic as the milk curdles. Once you’ve given it two or three minutes to itself, it’ll be pretty well separated, so empty it into your lined colander. Rinse thoroughly with cold water, both to remove the lemon juice, and because it’s convenient to retain the skin on your hands.

Bundle up the cheesecloth and twist it up in a ball around the cheese, and squeeze out the remainder of the water and whey. Once it’s as wrung out as you can manage with you hands, plop it on a plate and open the cloth up. Then, fold the cloth loosely around the ball, and plop the other plate on top, followed by the beans. I’ve currently got about ten pounds of daal and chana sitting on top of my improvised cheese press. I tried using one of my cast iron pans, but it didn’t really want to stay put, hence the beans.

Once the cheese is imitating Queen feat. David Bowie, it’s time to get started on the yogurt. For the yogurt, you’ll need milk, a smaller heavy-bottomed pot, some containers and a culture. In this case, the culture is probably going to be a few tablespoons from your previous batch of yogurt. Dannon ‘All Natural’ or something of similar ilk will be perfectly fine as a culture as well, but anything pasteurized is going to make you wait around for a Zap Gun for Hire.

Pour two quarts of whole milk into a smaller, but no less heavy-bottomed than the one you used for cheese. You’ll need enough headroom left for your spoon, and a healthy dollop of the culture. Heat this milk to about 185° Fahrenheit, stirring frequently to as to prevent sticking and burning (see the same bit about cheese), and then turn the heat off and let it cool down to between 90° and 110°. This will take a while, so go do your laundry. Then walk your dog. Then wash your cat. Then read War & Peace. Come back to it, and it might be ready to work with. I started writing this post after I had set a timer to let the milk cool, and it only just cooled off enough to contemplate adding the culture to it about the time I finished the first draft.

You’ll need a convenient place that’s warm enough to allow your culture to propagate, so if you don’t have a place in your house that consistently above 75 degrees, you can probably use your oven. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, that’s just fine as-is; otherwise, preheat it to the lowest setting it has, and then turn it off. Mix the culture into your pot full of warm milk, and then distribute into whatever containers you have to contain your yogurt; I used five regular-mouth 1-cup mason jars and 1 wide-mouth 1-quart mason jar, which didn’t get quite filled. Put a lid on your containers (the plastic screwtops for mason jars are wonderful things), and then stash them in your oven which should be hanging out around 110 once you open it to put your yogurt in. Leave the yogurt to incubate until it is sufficiently set, and as strongly flavored as you like, then tuck it in your refrigerator. Remember as you’re eating your delicious new yogurt to keep some aside as a culture for your next batch; you can use as little as a teaspoon for a gallon of milk, but it will take a long time to set, so about a tablespoon of yogurt per quart is about right.

So, personally, I enjoy cooking, but I don’t much care for (read: “I loathe”) standing over a hot stove for many, many hours waiting for chicken stock to finish doing its thing in a pot. So, I took advantage of one of man’s many great inventions and fished out my crock pot.

You may recall my post from Wednesday last week, wherein I described the rendering of a chicken into an edible dinner of epic adventure (or perhaps the epic adventure of rendering a chicken into an edible dinner). But what to do with the carcass when we were finished? Why, waste not, want not! I promptly stuck the carcass, pan-drippings and all, in a box in the fridge and left it there while we traipsed off to Darkover.

Yesterday, we went shopping, and I acquired a fair bucket-full of vegetables from our local Wegman’s. Some of these I have since whacked into little bits and stuck in my Crock Pot alongside the aforementioned chicken carcass, jellied pan-drippings and all, and the leftover chicken leg that I didn’t get around to eating. I chopped up two stalks of celery, two medium-sized carrots and one rather large sweet onion. Additionally, I added some more salt, a fair sprinkling of rosemary, and two bay leaves. Poured over this mess was 6 cups of cold, filtered water, which is about all I could get into my little 3-1/2 quart crock pot without causing it to overflow.

I set the crock pot on low at around 8:30 last night; if I so chose, I could probably strain it now, but I think I’ll wait a little longer – it’s making my kitchen smell rather lovely right now!

So, tonight I decided we’re having chicken. Chicky tits are generally pretty flavorless (thank you, Catherynne Valente), but if you subject them to curry, or batter and a deep-fryer, they’re pretty palatable. Tonight, however, I didn’t want to go to all that effort to render what usually amounts to a “kindergarden eraser” edible, so I bought and roasted a whole chicken.

First, I spatchcocked the bird. Well, actually, first I set the oven to preheat to 375. Then I spatchcocked the bird. This involved a few minutes of wrestling with the bird’s spine and a pair of scissors, before I finally just grabbed the backbone and (rather messily) ripped it out. After that, I promptly flipped it on its back, splayed, and pressed my (not inconsiderable) weight down on the sternum until that snapped in twain and the bird lay flat on the cutting board. I splashed some olive oil in my larger cast iron pan (since I don’t have a mister), and spread it around a bit. Once the pan was coated, I plopped the chicken, breast up, in the pan, then tucked the backbone under the legs.

I ground up some rosemary and a ‘Garlic & Herb’ mix that Angel has in my little stone mortar. After dribbling and spreading olive oil all over the bird, I spread the herb mixture on the bird and rubbed it in. Apparently, I didn’t rub it in well enough, ’cause when I splashed a healthy couple of glugs of white wine over the bird, it carried off a fair bit of the herbs.

After covering the pan with aluminum foil, I popped it in the oven. Since I was referencing this recipe, I figured 9 minutes per pound would work out okay, and promptly set the oven for just shy of an hour for the ~6.5-pound chicken. When the timer when off, I removed the foil, took a good, healthy whiff of a wonderful scent, and then set the timer for another 15 minutes. I let the bird rest on the cutting board for about ten minutes before I had at it with my cutlery. (I really, really need to get a proper carving knife; perhaps that will be my Bir-Hanu-Mas present to myself.)

It was most yum – needed a pinch of salt and some more pepper ground on it, but it came out rather well. I needed to cook the legs and thighs a little longer; I think 20 minutes after uncovering will work well enough, or perhaps 10 minutes per pound  instead of 9, but a brief stint in the nuke fixed up the legs enough that I could enjoy them. Tomorrow morning, I’m dumping the pan drippings, the backbone, the wingtips and the remainder of the carcass into the stockpot with a bunch of water and some veg – perhaps I’ll be able to turn out a decent stock from this, too!

And, pix or it didn’t happen:

Not bland and tasteless!

When I was little, my parents and I used to eat at a lot of local ethnic restaurants, and the end result of this was my exposure to a lot of international cuisine at a young age.

One of the places we used to go was a joint called Oasis, a nearby Indian restaurant, where they weren’t liberal with the spices, but it was more than my undeveloped palate could handle comfortably. The counter to this, of course, was the Indian concoction called a ‘lassi’, which puts out the fires quite nicely.

Lassis come in as many flavors are there are flavorings, but there are a few things that remain constant: there is always a thick dairy product, usually yogurt or sour cream, and sugar. Sometimes, milk is added to keep it runny and potable, since many of the flavoring agents either don’t get runny when you blend them, or aren’t added in sufficient volume to make that difference. The end result of the blending, however, is the thick, but easily drinkable, goop provided by the heavens.

Needless to say, I love lassis, but of all the flavors I’ve tried, I retain my greatest love for lassis blended with mango.

Tonight, I made a couple of mango lassis in my Magic Bullet (which, by the way, makes single-serve lassis a snap). When I handed the first one off for a taste, it was promptly confiscated from my hands to the phrase, “It’s mine; you can’t have it back!” I guess it was a hit, yeah? After tasting the next one, I couldn’t agree more.

These are really, really easy to make. They need:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup mango juice, pulp, or chunks
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

I’ve had lassis with cardamom, but I prefer mine without, which is good, since I don’t have any cardamom right now.