Friday, October 12, 2012

Creepy Crawly Rice & Noodles for Halloween

 I was inspired while unpacking my Halloween decorations the other night...I wanted to make something black and orange!  Clearly rice was the answer !?!

 To make this follow the instructions on your package of long grain rice, the trick is to replace the water with chicken stock.  Cooking this way gives some needed flavor to the rice and also helps to keep it moist while cooking.

  I had decided that a pre-made black gel food dye would be best and headed to the store while the rice cooked.  I spotted some rice noodles and found the translucent color and slippery texture interesting so I decided to dye those as well.

I added the dye to both the rice and noodles while they were warm and then let them cool down over night. It ended up taking a surprising amount of gel dye to get the color to show (probably half a Tablespoon for a half a cup of starch). 

The orange was slightly paler the next day and the black had turned to a more purple/gray which actually worked quite well for Halloween.

In the end I think the rice noodles turned out better for Halloween.  The vaguely see-through quality they have worked well with the paler colors, they could pass for a "bowl of worms" at a party.  But the rice was pretty darn tasty.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Ad Hoc Lemon Brine ALMOST Fried Chicken

This recipe produced some of the tastiest and juiciest chicken I have ever had!  The inspiration is from several different places but the original recipe is from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc published in Food & Wine.  I used the recipe from inuyaki blog as my base.

I started out with 12 pieces of skinless chicken thighs, and after cutting off the extra fat, I followed the steps for the brine exactly. I brined all 12 pieces at the same time but after the process I split the pieces up into sets of four to be vacuum sealed.  I froze two sets of the pieces to be used later and because they are already brineed cooking them will be a snap.

*When you go to seal the chicken make sure that it is as dry as possible.  Even with the wet seal feature on my FoodSaver I still had to double seal each of these a few times to make sure no water would get in during cooking.

I then cooked the chicken in the Sous Vide as suggested.  After the water bath I removed the pieces from the vacuum bag and dried thoroughly with a paper towel making sure no brine bits were stuck on.  That particular day I was not really in the mood to deep fry so I ended up doing a pan fry.

To maintain the flavor profile from the original recipe I used the same dry ingredients that the dredge called for.  Because I had only four pieces for this particular dinner I split the dredge recipe from inuyaki by 2/3 using my handy dandy recipe divider.  Even cutting it down I still had leftover dredge.

I dredged each piece once through the dry ingredient mixture and immediately transferred to a stainless steel saute pan and cooked on medium-high with about 2 Tbsp. of grapeseed oil just until a nice golden color was achieved.  Once you get it in to the pan do not move it until you are ready to flip.  Even though I used skinless chicken the pan fry still put a very nice crispy crust onto the meat without the added fat from the skin or from deep drying.

This recipe has the modifications I made:

12 skinless chicken thighs 
2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 gallon cold water
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 large rosemary sprigs
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of parsley
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
DREDGE INGREDIENTS (for cooking 4 pieces)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2/3 tsp cayenne pepper
2/3 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp ground pepper
2/3 tsp kosher salt
  1. In a very large pot, combine 1 quart of the water with 1 cup of the salt and the honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Let cool completely, then stir in the remaining 3 quarts of cold water. Add the chickens, being sure they’re completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry. Make sure the chicken is really dry and that you scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin.
  3. Add four pieces of chicken to each Foodsaver bag, then vacuum and seal the bags (freeze as many bags as you like).  Place the chicken at 140F/60C water bath for at least 1 hour. 
  4. Remove the chicken pieces from the bag and pat dry with paper towels. Make sure chicken is very dry.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, ground black pepper and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Working with one piece at a time, dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over.
  6. In a large un-coated pan heat oil over medium-high.  Pan fry until golden brown.
  7. Serve with thyme for garnish.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sweet Sous Vide Carrots

Requiring only a few steps of prep work, this side dish really delivers on flavor without being too over the top sweet.  By using the Sous Vide for cooking, the "carrot" flavor is really highlighted (in a good way).

We enjoyed these with a weeknight dinner but they would be great for special occasions and using the Sous Vide would cut down on stress when entertaining.

Sous Vide literally means "under vacuum" in French.  I have had my machine for a few months now and it takes a bit of adjusting to your normal cooking routine (you really have to plan things out to use last minute dishes) but it really produces delicious foods with very little hassle.  If you want to learn more about Sous Vide cooking you can get some great information here.

Really the only active prep for this recipe is to peel and cut up your carrots.  Nice even bite sized pieces will do the trick.  After you get those steps out of the way then you just need to load up your bag with the carrots and other ingredients then suck the air out!  I use a FoodSaver but any similar machine would work.

For 8-12 large carrots I used:
1 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. of maple syrup
Pinch of ginger (1/8 - 1/4 tsp.)
Pinch of cinnamon (1/8 - 1/4 tsp.)
Pinch of smoked paprika (1/8 - 1/4 tsp.)

I just shake the items in the bag for a nice coating then seal.  The pat of butter stays intact and melts as the carrots cook.  Place the bag into the water bath which has been pre-heated to 185° F for a minimum of 45 minutes.  This time yields a nice crunchy carrot but the longer you cook the softer they become.  When you are ready to eat just cut open your sealed bag and serve.