Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Like a Beautiful Phoenix, The Poff-Coff Heroically Rises From The Ashes of Non-Cookery

Somewhere in the deep shadows of our kitchens, neglected pots and pans lurk, cobwebbed and spidery, haunting us with the specter of the chefs we shall become nevermore...

It's a real ghost town around here, eh? (Ba dum dum). Let's remedy this situation with some spooky eats. Halloween is just a few days away, and in honor of this most awesome of holidays, I call on all ye little ghouls and goblins to officially get this Poff-Coff party started once again.

This week's challenge is open-ended. Baked goods decorated in the colors of the season? Pumpkin flavors? Ghastly presentations? The possibilities are endless -- just make it Halloween-y!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Risotto: Kind of like rice, but not

Yay, risotto! I feel truly chef-like that I pulled this one off. So, I made Cauliflower Risotto With Brie and Almonds. And it was actually (amazingly?) really pretty good.

Step one was bringing the broth, water and thyme sprigs to a simmer. I, of course, stupidly didn't have any thyme sprigs, so I just used some dried thyme and that was fine. Perhaps it would have been better with fresh thyme, but I GUESS WE'LL NEVER KNOW, now will we? But, feel free to just use the dried stuff, cause it was, ya know, fine.

Anywho. Then I sauteed the cauliflower in butter, oil, salt and more dried thyme. Mmm, it smelled gooooood.

Next up was turning regular old rice into the magical goodness that is risotto. I was unreasonably afraid (as it turned out) of the process, but it wasn't really all that hard.

As was previously mentioned by others, the basic concept is just constantly stirring the rice whilst adding broth (by the half-cup) at regular intervals over the course of about twenty minutes. It's kind of fascinating to watch

Once I had risotto, I added in the previously sauteed cauliflower and the brie. By the way, the hardest part of this entire venture was removing the rind from the brie. What the hell? I'm sure I went about it all wrong, but my god did I create an unfortunate mess of that poor cheese. Thank god I was just mixing it in with the risotto, so nobody had to witness the squished up horror show that I created. Oopsies!

I topped it with toasted almonds, and Arie ate his with some pork chops that he made in the Foreman Grill, while I ate mine with a veggie-chicken burger. I'm showing a picture of his meal because his looks much fancier than my pathetic fake-meat.

In conclusion, risotto rules. This one in particular was quite delicious -- not too brie-y, and very rich and wonderful. Oh and also? Fake chicken doesn't photograph so well.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Risotto: Lobster Broth Goodness

One of the main reasons why I wanted to pick risotto for this P-off C-off is the fact that it is one of those foods I have always assumed was outside of my skill level in the kitchen, and we here at P-off C-off are all about pushing ourselves, right? The other, far more important reason is that fact that I currently have a freezer full of lobster broth and was searching for a good reason to use it. Rumor has it that risotto is all about the broth.

At first I looked for a good seafood risotto recipe, but didn’t find any that sounded exciting. Then I turned to my new cookbook The Art of Simple Food, which had a recipe for Asparagus and Lemon Risotto--a perfect complement for lobster broth. The book also included a whole section on tips for making risotto, which was very, very helpful.

The recipe called for:
1 lb asparagus, sliced into ¼” pieces
1 lemon, zested and juiced

3 T butter

1 small onion, diced fine

1 ½ cups Arborio rice

5 cups broth

½ cup dry white wine

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

First you melt 2T of the butter in a heavy bottomed pot and sauté the onions until soft and translucent. Then you add the rice, stirring occasionally until translucent. Meanwhile you bring your broth to a boil and then turn off. Add the wine and lemon zest to the rice and cook until the wine is absorbed.

Now comes the fun part—lots of broth and stirring. Starting with one cup, add the broth to the rice, stirring occasionally, until the rice thickens. Never letting the rice get dry, you then keep adding the broth ½ cup at a time. Keep stirring.

The recipe called for salting the risotto when you add the second cup of broth, to let it sink in, but since my lobster broth was pretty salty, I uncharact
eristically skipped that step.

About 12 minutes in, add the asparagus to the rice. Having never made risotto, this step made me nervous, because all of the asparagus made it harder to keep an eye on the consistency of the rice. It might be easier to learn how to make risotto on a plain version.

Keep adding broth until the rice is tender but has a firm core—about 30 minutes in total. Then add ½ of the lemon juice and parmesan and stir like it is going out of style to whip up that last bit of creaminess in the rice.

The lobster broth made for some amazingly rich risotto. I highly recommend it. I served it by itself, but it was so rich it probably would be better as a side dish. No matter what, I learned that risotto is easier than I thought and that it really is all about the broth.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Weird science: Risotto

I have wanted to learn to make risotto since I first found out that it doesn't have any cream in it. A creamy-tasting food with no cream--amazing! Actually making it made me even more impressed with the bizarreness that is risotto. How did anyone ever figure out that instead of boiling rice in liquid, you could cook it and then add liquid later, and that it would turn out totally different and awesome?

I compared a bunch of recipes and ended up using the one for Parmesan Risotto from the New Best Recipe cookbook. Generally I find that cookbook is way too complicated, but since I was in awe of this foodstuff, I wanted lots of detail so I'd make sure I did it right. Here's the recipe:

3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 onces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (1 cup)
Ground black pepper

You bring the broth and water to simmer in one pot and then turn down the heat to just keep it warm. Then separately you cook the onion in butter for ~10 minutes, until the onions are soft and see-through.

Next, in the step that seems very counterintuitive, you add the rice to the onions and cook it for about 4 minutes ("until the edges of the grains are transparent," according to the cookbook, but I could not discern that change.) At this step you could sort of start to tell that the starchiness of the rice was making it all goopy, which I guess is what leads to the mysterious creaminess.

After that you start adding liquids: first the wine, cook for 2 minutes stirring frequently, then 3 cups of the water/broth mixture. This turns the whole operation into a soupy mess. But after you cook it for about 10 minutes, stirring infrequently, the rice absorbs the liquid. You then keep adding the broth mixture 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring every 3-4 minutes so it doesn't stick to the bottom, until it tastes done.

Lastly you add in the cheese, salt, and pepper, and eat! Pardon the blurriness of my plate picture and the big pork chop in front (Mr. Jenny made that part of the meal, which was also quite good). I was very happy with my risotto--it was a whole lotta creamy deliciousness. I will definitely make it again, and maybe experiment with adding other stuff, like mushrooms and saffron. Mmm, science.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shallots = Love, updated

I didn't think I was actually going to get around to doing a shallot recipe this week, but when I clicked on Apartment Therapy's Kitchn yesterday and there was a shallot recipe at the very top, I figured it was probably a sign. This one actually comes from Martha Stewart, and let's just admit it: that woman is awesome. We're all on that bandwagon now, right? Good.

So, I made this braised chicken with shallots, & it was fan-freaking-tastic.

PoffCoff has really helped me learn how much I like to cook. I would never have made this kind of meal for just myself if it weren't for this site, but now I know that cooking at home solo, with a little glass of wine, some John Legend -- it's a great way to spend an evening.

I pretty much followed the recipe. Brown your chicken thighs, go ahead with the big chunks of halved shallots -- they'll break down some in the cooking process -- and opt in for the tarragon at the end. It really added (dare I say it?) complexity to the flavor. I want to eat this every day.

Update: The lovely folks at posted an update on this recipe today, having now tried it themselves. They served the dish over pasta, which I think would be tasty, but also seems unnecessary. The chicken thighs I used were boneless and skinless, and I agree that its easier to deal with. The chicken was still amazingly flavorful. Mainly, I was just excited to see a bunch of commenters talk about how delicious this was, because I agree! I ate it for four or five days.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Cider Vinegar Sauce

It's a twofer! I wanted to catch up on the poff coffing, so I followed this recipe from Epicurious, which involves both stuffing foods in other foods and shallots! The first step involved making the shallot/cider vinegar sauce... I was skeptical about adding the sugar to the sauteed shallots without adding any liquid, but it worked and didn't burn or anything. I didn't have homemade beef or chicken broth to add once it was called for, so I just used instant vegetable broth--my favored brand is Rapunzel--which seemed to work just fine.

Then, the stuffing... all that was involved here was some fairly straightforward sauteeing.

Then, the assembly. My chickens came split, which was handy.

They also came skinless, so I skipped the step of browning them in a pan... Also, I forgot to buy kitchen string to tie everything together, but it all held together well enough. So yes, into the oven they went, and 15 minutes later, done! The only other change I made was to cut out some of the butter in the sauce, as it seemed like a lot of butter. But the results all around? Delicious!

The sauce tasted great in combination with the sweet and savory chicken and stuffing. Overall, I must say that it was a bit of a potschke, as my mother would say... but none of the steps were hard, and it's pretty fun to cook up some fancy food for yourself. Also, I think this recipe could be easily adapted for non-meat eaters by using slices of firm tofu instead of chicken.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Farfalle with Asparagus, Roasted Shallots and Blue Cheese

For my shallots, I followed this recipe from epicurious. I took advantage of the recipe reviews to make a few adjustments. It also seemed like it would make a lot of food so I halved the recipe and it made enough for two servings plus leftovers.

First off, instead of bread crumbs, I toasted about 1/2 cup of pine nuts in my cast iron skillet.

The recipe called for peeling and halving the shallots, which seemed to me to be really big shallot chunks, so I cut them a little smaller. After they cooked down during the roasting, the size was much better.

Many of the reviewers pointed out that you have to really love blue cheese to make this recipe. I love me some blue cheese, but since I was making this for company (does Amy count as company?) I decided to tone down the strong flavor of the Saga Blue that I bought by mixing about 2/3 goat cheese and only 1/3 blue and that worked. It could be ramped up to half blue and half goat, but even I might have been overwhelmed by all blue cheese.

To make the sauce creamier, I set aside a little bit of the pasta water to mix in along with the cheese and also added a little half and half. Toss it all together with plenty of salt and pepper and it was done.

This was a super fast and super easy recipe. Between this and Amy's Mac and Cheese, I can safely say that shallots + cheese + pasta = gooooood.