Saturday, January 28, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year!

Eggs:  promise of life in the new year!
(except when they're hardboiled)

In honor of this Year of the [Water] Dragon (I was born in the Year of the [Fire] Dragon myself), I wanted to cook something Chinese this January. The first day of this new lunar year was Monday the 23rd, but I'm still posting because, after all, there are fourteen additional days of festivities that follow the new year's day itself.

Turns out I don't have a Chinese cookbook (madness!) but I was able to find sections in some of my books dedicated to Chinese cookery. I chose a simple appetizer, because lately I've been feeling like a mother of two small children (as, of course, I am).

From Mary Ann Zimmerman's
The Tupperware Book of Picnics, Parties & Snacks Around the World

Eggs Cooked With Tea Leaves

  • 10 eggs
  • 2 Tbls black tea
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 10 aniseeds
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce

Place eggs in pan, cover with water and bring to a boil, simmer 10 minutes. Soak in cold water and crack all over with a spoon, but keep shell on egg. Add remaining ingredients to water and cook eggs again, this time for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and shell. The resulting pattern is lovely. Store in a 4-cup Wonderlier.

Three things:

  1. I'm not convinced this is a genuine Chinese recipe (though it may be? Anyone know?).
  2. This recipe produces attractive hardboiled (though overcooked, if you must know) eggs that taste exactly (eggsactly! egg-sack-tly? eww....) like normal overly-hardboiled eggs. Yes, the light pattern of the whites is lovely. No, it's not really worth all the time it took to create it. In my opinion.
  3. This cookbook's main premise is to show you how to cook fabulous picnic, party, and snack foods that coincidentally then may be stored perfectly in a Tupperware container. Kind of makes me laugh. We'll see about future dishes I may cook from this book, but I suspect they're all honed to be of a certain shape or volume vs. to be extraordinarily tasty. Perhaps this is the year we'll find out.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Brown Rice & Resolutions

As part of my new year's resolutions I decided to make at least 24 new sauces (or dips or dressings) in 2012. Sometimes it's too much to make an entirely new main dish, but a new salad dressing seems doable. And I'm happy to inform you that January isn't even half over and I've already succeeded in making a new sauce! (Please, hold your applause until the end. Thank you very much, though, thank you.)

from The New Laurel's Kitchen:

     Stroganoff Sauce

1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbls cornstarch

1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic (optional)
1 Tbls butter
1/3 - 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced

1/4 tsp salt or 1 Tbls shoyu
black pepper
Combine buttermilk and cornstarch and set aside. Saute onion and garlic in butter until soft. Crush the garlic with a fork. Stir in mushrooms and cook just until tender. Remove mushrooms and juices from the pan and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Stir and cook until thickened, then return the mushrooms and their juices to the pan. Season with salt (or shoyu) and pepper.
The recipe claims to taste "like a sour cream sauce," and I suppose it does. And I even cheated a bit when I made it by substituting vinegar in milk rather than using the buttermilk that was called for (tell me I'm not the only one who doesn't ever have buttermilk on hand?) I also used dried mushrooms instead of fresh (soaked in boiling water for 10 mins to reconstitute), and they worked great.

Overall, I'm happy with the sauce, but I admit that when I first tasted it I thought it was just okay. What took it from okay to happy? Putting it on the bestest, most delicous rice ever.

I made this rice almost as an afterthought (had to put my sauce on something) and am still amazed by how wonderful brown rice is when done right. I'm not kidding. I'm a convert. No more brown rice in the rice cooker,  not ever again. This is the way it should be:

from Nourishing Traditions:

     Basic Brown Rice I
     (unsoaked rice)
2 cups long-grain brown rice
2 Tbls butter
2 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
3 cardamom pods
4 cups stock or combination of water and stock
1/2 tsp sea salt
In a heavy, flameproof casserole, melt butter and olive oil. Open cardamom pods and add seeds to the casserole. Saute rice in butter and oil, stirring constantly, until rice begins to turn milky. Pour in liquid, add salt and bring to a rolling boil. Boil, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until water has reduced to the level of the rice. Reduce flame to lowest heat, cover tightly and cook for at least 1 1/2 hours or as long as 3 hours. Do not remove lid during cooking. Serves 6-8.
My rice took exactly the 1 1/2 hours on the stovetop. And. It. Was. Wonderful. It sounds ridiculous, to say rice tasted wonderful. But I'm serious, cross my heart and everything. Wonderful.

Sauce + Rice = superb side for dinner and delectible leftovers for lunch (which I'm eating right now). Very, very pleased with this receipe attempt! (This is what I'd hoped for, starting Wellcookbooked!)

You may now applaud.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pondering Mulled Cider

My post seemed well-timed for the end to this Christmas season (which ended, as far as I know, on Saturday, with the Orthodox Christmas Day). After all, a hot beverage is perfect in winter, it's easy to prepare in large quantities to share at holiday gatherings, and what with the pondering Mary supposedly did (seriously, does not every other verse about Mary say she " her heart"?), a mug of mulled cider seems very apropos. Now, of course, I didn't hit the "Publish Post" button until after the holidays are over, so perhaps you'll call me on that one. But I was writing it during the holidays. ;-)

I used to make mulled apple cider by adding three ingrediant together:  apple cider (which, for all intents and purposes, in today's grocery is identical to apple juice. I think a distiction used to be there because cider wasn't pasturized, but that's no longer true, at least in non-speciality stores); cinnamon sticks; cloves. And the only direction I used was this:  heat until hot.

I have since learned that mulled cider can (and should) be much more.  Mollie Katzen has the best home-mulled cider recipe I've found (and just because it's the only mulled cider recipe I've found is irrelivant).

     Mulled Cider from Sunlight Cafe

Note: I couldn't find my copy of Sunlight Cafe, which is why this post is late, but here's the basic gist and I'll update with exact specifications once I lay my hands on my cookbook!
  • container of apple cider (or, if you're feeling fancy, your own home-pressed cider!)
  • peppercorns, whole (aprox 10)
  • cloves, whole (aprox 10)
  • cinnamon sticks, whole (aprox 2)
  • cardomom pods (aprox 5)
  • ginger, fresh
Pour the apple cider into the pot or crockpot. Break up the cinammon sticks into 4 or 6 pieces. Peel and slice up some ginger (I found 1" pieces were good). Add the cinnamon, ginger, and other spices to the cider (either loose or contained within a mulin bag or cheesecloth). Steep and warm on med-low heat for at least an hour or two (though can be drunk [dranken? drinken?] as soon as the temperature appeals to you).

Aromatic. Tasty. Simple. But not boring. This is world-class apple cider. Mmmm....