Archive for January, 2009

Defrosting the Freezer

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

I hate defrosting the freezer.  I never seem to have enough coolers to put everything into, and it’s just a pain to do–especially when your fingers start to sieze up because the gloves you wear inevitably get soaked and then frigid.  But, because some of your food is sitting out thawing, it’s imperative that you get through the process as quickly as possible so it can all go back in!

Anyone who lives around here knows that Pittsburgh has been going through a cold snap lately.  I decided to take advantage of the weather to defrost my freezer at a more liesurely pace.  I loaded the food all into boxes and lugged it out into the single-digit outdoors.  Then, knowing that it was stored safely, I let the heat from the pots of boiling water do most of the work of clearing the coils.  It helped that my basement floor drain is right next to the freezer, so I didn’t have to worry about where the melted ice would flow to.

because I had some extra time to consider the process, I realized that an inventory of what’s in the freezer would be invaluable to making sure I actually use up all of the stuff I’m preserving.  So, I made a list as I returned it to the cooler, the meat cuts organized by source animal; plus a list of fruits, vegetables, and other products.  Now, when I take something out or add something in, it’s easy to keep an accurate tally of what I have in stock.

If I were really on top of things, I’d type it all into a spreadsheet so that it’s easily updatable when many changes have been made.  Maybe I will when lots of the items have been scratched off and revised.  For the time being, though, even having a list seems like a huge leap forward, especially since I don’t have to prop the door open and plow through the inventory to figure out what I have and what I want to take out–I can do my browsing with the door closed and not have to worry about temperature fluctuations while I ponder my options.

Inauguration Doughnuts

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Apparently, there’s some big to-do in Washington, D.C. today.  In honor of the occasion, I’ve reached into my copy of The White House Cookbook for a recipe that can be brought into modern times and enjoyed all around.

Figuring that some sort of hand-to-mouth pastry would be appropriate for the party atmosphere of the day, I decided to update the recipe for Puff-ball Doughnuts:

As it appears in my 1902 edition of The White House Cookbook (page 302): “These doughnuts, eaten fresh and warm, are a delicious breakfast dish and are quickly made.  Three eggs, one cupful of sugar, a pint of sweet milk, salt, nutmeg, and flour enough to permit the spoon to stand upright in the mixture; add two heaping teaspoonfuls of baking powder to the flour; beat all until very light.  Drop by dessertspoonfuls into boiling lard.  These will not absorb a bit of fat and are not at all rich, and consequently are the least injurious of this kind of cakes.”

As adapted for the modern kitchen:

Quick Doughnut Drops

* 3 eggs
* 1 cup sugar
* 2 cups milk
* a small pinch of salt (optional)
* 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon ginger
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 5 1/2 cups flour
* 1 tablespoon baking powder

sugar mixing for tossing doughnuts with:
* 1 1/4 cups sugar
* 1/4 cup cinnamon

Heat up a couple of inches of cooking oil in a heavy pot over a medium-low flame.  As the oil heats, beat the eggs with the sugar, then add the milk.  Combine flour, baking powder, and spices together, then beat into the liquid mixture.  When you have combined all of the dry ingredients, the dough should be thick enough that your spoon will stand upright briefly.

Use two spoons to scoop portions of the dough into the hot oil.  The oil should be hot enough that the batter floats when added to the oil, but not so hot that the doughnuts turn dark brown too quickly.  Let the doughnuts cook 2-3 minutes on one side, then turn them for another 2-3 minutes of cooking time.  Doughnuts should be golden brown and cooked through when removed from the oil (if in doubt, cut one in half to make sure that it is totally done).

Toss the doughnuts with the cinnamon and sugar mixture, and serve immediately.  Great for breakfast or any occasion!

Guilty Pleasures

Friday, January 16th, 2009

We’ve all got ‘em.  And I don’t want to pry too deep to find out all of them, but a conversation I had with Justin as we ate the goose I’ve been writing about lately got me thinking about what mine are: foods that I know are crap but just can’t help but to love.  I’m sure I have others, and if I think of them in the next couple of days, I’ll add them to the list, but for the time being here are the five that most readily came to my mind:

  1. Frosties from Wendy’s.  I don’t know what kinds of emulsifiers and syrups and preservatives go into them, and frankly, it doesn’t even matter.  I like ‘em.  But only the chocolate ones (as if there were another kind!)  When they ask me which flavor I want, I think I’ll always respond  with, “What do you mean which flavor?  There’s only one!”
  2. Tootsie Rolls.  I’ll eat ‘em by the handful.  If I have the chance, i’ll load up my pockets with them and absentmindedly chew throughout the day.
  3. Toaster Strudels from Pillsbury.  But only certain flavors: I don’t want anything too colorful.  I usually stick to apple or raspberry (I don’t want anything toxic blue or green), but that little packet of icing is such fun to doodle with before I devour the sticky sweetness.  I don’t usually go for the cheese flavor because…
  4. Enteman’s cream cheese coffee cake.  I mean, yeah, I’ll take a cream cheese danish from Dozen over it anytime (that, by the way, is a pleasure I will never feel guilty about–it’s one of the best d–ned pastries I’ve ever had, so flaky and rich, and at the same price as one of their cupcakes).  But for a supermarket pastry, one of those preservative-laden Entemann’s coffee cakes hits the spot anytime.
  5. On the savory end of things, I love me a taco from Taco Bell, especially if it’s a double-decker supreme.  I don’t care if the meat does come in a bag and the sour cream comes from a caulking gun, I’ll take three or four of those bad boys and call it lunch any day of the week.

So, I’ve fessed up–now it’s your turn.

Your Goose Is Cooked!

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

All I knew about roast goose before I roasted mine was a story that my dad tells from time to time about how when he was a kid, his cousin (Janet, I think, if I remember correctly) visited from college, and his dad decided to spit-roast a goose in her honor.

The story:

I obviously wasn’t around for the meal, but I can imagine the preparations that went into it.  Lew probably measured the heat at various intervals from the coals to determine exactly where the bird should be placed, and had several heights pre-arranged with holes drilled into a piece of sheet metal in case the bird needed to be moved while it cooked.  He had probably measured the goose to determine its exact center of gravity, and skewered it so that it would turn on a precise rotation.  And, the turning mechanism for the skewer was probably an old turntable that had been co-opted for the purpose of cooking outdoors.


Top 3 Meats

Monday, January 5th, 2009

I roasted a goose the other night.  It was my first goose ever, and I really enjoyed it.  In fact, i liked it enough that goose now enjoys a spot in my top 3 favorite meats:

1) Prosciutto, specifically from Parma Sausage on Penn Avenue, where the hams are aged for a minimum of 16 months and it’s sliced to order and it melts in your mouth.

2) Goose–which is an accomplishment, as it jumped right into the #2 spot out of nowhere.  I suggested roasting goose for Thanksgiving next year.  Aurora said it doesn’t feed as many people as turkey does.  I said that we’d just have to invite fewer people.  She shot me a dirty look.

3) Lamb–pretty much any preparation, so long as it’s medium rare if roasted and falling apart if braised.  In particular for braised lamb, I enjoy a mediterranean-style preparation with good green olives and pistachios in with the stewed meat.  But so long as it’s been well-prepared, you can’t go wrong with lamb in my book.

Duck had previously held the number 3 spot, but was edged out of my rankings by the tastiness of the goose.

While everyone who was dining with me enjoyed the goose, I was the only one among us for whom goose ranked in the top 3.

Aurora’s top 3:

  1. Rabbit
  2. Duck
  3. Seared Ahi Tuna

Justin’s top 3:

  1. Corned Beef
  2. Lamb
  3. Seared Ahi Tuna

Ji Eun’s Top 3:

  1. Spicy Pork
  2. Tandoori Chicken
  3. Cephalapod (either octopus or squid will do)–but only if it’s spicy!

Your top 3?