Oxtail Soup Disaster and Recovery

May 23, 2009

oxtail

I bought four pounds of oxtail from North Star Neighbors through the Nebraska Food Cooperative last month.  The oxtail sells for $2.95 a pound.  I got around to using it earlier in the week.  My original plan was to use up the last of my kimchi making a Korean inspired soup.  Somehow during the process, I forgot about Korea and drifted to Mexico for inspiration.  That’s when things went wrong.

My plan was to sear the oxtail, simmer for two hours, and during the last hour, add the aromatic vegetable bits that I had dutifully saved in the freezer.  I forgot to add the aromatics during the last hour, which turned out to be a good thing.  Not wanting to cook the meat into oblivion, I pulled the meat and added the vegetables to the broth, and simmered for an additional hour.  Then disaster struck as inspiration kicked in — I decided to add some smoky heat to the broth, in the form of one ancho chile and four chipoltle chilies.  Someone out there is probably cringing right now, who knows much more, or even a little more than I do about these dried peppers.  I was reveling in the bouquet the broth was giving off as I took my first taste….. and then bletch.  All it tasted like was, well I don’t know how to describe it, a smoky, bitter, bad.  I paused for a bit and then thought, add some salt and acid, and the soup will be back on track.  I added salt and it was a bit better.  I grabbed a bottle of red wine and added a cup or so, tasted, added more wine, tasted, and then added the whole bottle.  The broth still tasted terrible.  Now I was in a real pickle.  I was at the end of my culinary recovery ability.  Part of me wanted to press forward, add the meat and vegetables and make the soup.  The other part, the rational part, finally won.  I poured the whole works down the drain.  I pulled the meat from the bones, put it in the fridge and we ate cold cereal.

oxtail_chard

Luckily, due to the fact I hadn’t cooked the chilies with the meat, there was flavorful, tender beef to use.  I decided to attempt making a barbecue sauce for the meat.  For a side I settled on a Sicilian Style Sauteed Greens recipe, from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, using the swiss chard I purchased from the farmer’s market.  I turned to the Internet for a barbecue sauce template and settled on one from Culinary Cafe.  I’m happy to report both the swiss chard and the barbecue turned out wonderfully.

Barbecue

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds of oxtail, cooked until tender and pulled
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 onion diced and caramelized
  • 8 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

In a sauce pan, over medium high heat, add butter and onions.  Saute onions until just beginning to brown on the edges.  Then reduce heat to medium low, and slowly cook onion until caramelized.  While the onion is cooking, combine: brown sugar, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, cayenne and black pepper.  Once the onions are caramelized increase the heat to medium and add the spice/oil mixture, deglazing the pan.  Next, add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 30 minutes, add meat and warm through.

Sauteed Swiss Chard

Ingredients:

Greens

  • 1 pound swiss chard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper

Nut mixture

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup raisins, roughly chopped

Directions:

Pull stems off chard and chop.  Cut chard leaves into one inch strips.

Next prepare the nut mixture.  In a large saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil, red pepper flakes and onion.  Cook until onion is soft, then add garlic.  Once garlic has added it’s flavor, about one minute, add the nuts and raisins.  Cook until the raisins are soft, approximately two minutes.  Pull mixture from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and chard stems.  Cook stems for one minute, then begin adding chard leaves a handful at a time, as the leaves wilt, stirring between handfuls.  Once the chard is tender, reduce heat to medium, add the butter, stir to incorporate.  Add the lemon juice, stir, and add the nut mixture.  Stir for about a minute and pull off the heat.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

By Kenton


Challenged! Make Your Own Yeast

May 12, 2009

raised doughBe careful what you joke about.  After watching a food challenge cooking show, I joked that Kent and I should come up with challenges for each other.  He immediately challenged me to make my own yeast for bread making.  Well, I couldn’t back out of it so I started researching.

There are actually several options for making your own yeast.  Most sources talk about using potato water but they called for hops.  I didn’t want to mess with trying to track down hops so I kept hunting.  Finally, I came across a site with a recipe for yeast water that seemed like something I could easily do with what I already had at home.  It uses raisins.

http://originalyeast.blogspot.com/2008/02/how-to-make-yeast-water.html

I put the raisins in a jar with tap water.  In about a week, the raisins were floating and there was a layer of foam across the top.  I used a peasant-style pot bread recipe from Nancy Baggett’s Kneadlessly Simple cookbook. It is a kneadless bread that relies on a slow rise of over 18 hours.  For the second rise, you fold in the outer edges of the dough.

preparing for the 2nd riseThe recipe is available at

http://bakingbites.com/2009/04/no-knead-pot-bread/

Instead of mixing instant yeast into the 2 cups ice water, I simply used two cups of the yeast water.  And guess what?  It rose!  Woo Hoo!From the photo, it looks like it didn’t rise on the one side.  That is more the result of my clumsiness in moving it from the bowl to the hot stew pot.  In transferring the dough, I accidentally collapsed the one side.  I really liked this bread despite it being a white bread.  That’s mostly because of the crust.  Placing it in the hot pot really created a wonderful chewy yet flaky crust.  This is a crust that you do not want to cut off.

I’m not sure if I can just add water to the jar and continue to generate yeasty enough water, but I’ll give it another try with another bread.peasant pot bread


Disaster Averted

May 3, 2009
Cherry Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Cherry Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Cherry Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Baking is chemistry.  You read that again and again.  You need certain ratios and must measuring accurately or things fall apart.  My failed rhubarb bread with the missing from a few posts ago is proof of this.  But sometimes you get to baking you don’t have what you thought you had in the cupboard.  Or frig.  I know, I know.  A person should set everything out before beginning to bake so you know you have all the ingredients.  To be honest, I rarely do that.  And I realize that the rhubarb mess wouldn’t have happened if I had done that.  But still, I never learn.

Yesterday I decided to try this recipe I found in Midwest Living.  From the beginning, it seemed doomed.  First, I substituted oil for butter.  The recipe called for 1 c. butter, but I had recently read that you can substitute oil for butter but that you need to watch the moisture level.  So I reduced it to 3/4 c. canola oil.  Next I discovered I didn’t have any eggs.  But a month or so ago, Kent had emailed me a site that gave a list of substitutes for eggs.  One of them was banana.  So in went a banana.  Then I remembered that I had three egg yolks in the refrigerator so they were thrown in.  This should have been a disaster.  But lo and behold, it worked!  These are actually pretty good cookies.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix together:
1 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon

With a hand mixer, mix the dry ingredients with

3/4 c. canola

Then continue mixing and add

1 ripe banana
3 egg yolks

If you can, continue to blend with the hand mixer and add

2 c. flour

Then stir in

2 c. oatmeal
1 c. dried cherries

Drop tablespoon-sized rounds onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 18-20 minutes


The Glory of Crisps: The Fruit Dessert for Everyone

April 29, 2009

crispsFinding a good dessert for just the two of us can be a challenge.  Most make just too much for two people.  And what about single people.  When I was single, I had no business baking a whole cake and eating it by myself.  Which is one of the reasons I love crisps.

Crisps are wonderful. You can make a small amount or a big amount.  I usually use a muffin pan.  And you can make it around whatever fruit is in season.  This week I made up several different crisps with whatever fruit looked good at the grocery store – blackberry, apple, pear, cherry and peach.  If you just want to make single servings, you can use a oven-safe custard cup or even a muffin pan.

I used a muffin pan and did a different fruit in each cup.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place fruit into cups.  For pears, apples and peaches, that’s about a half a fruit sliced.

Squeeze lemon juice over fruit.  Top each cup with –

1 t. brown sugar
1 T. oatmeal
1/2 T. chopped nuts (I like walnuts or pecans)
1 thin slice of butter
Pinch of cinnamon

Bake for about 20 minutes  crisps-in-muffin-tin


Irish Soda Bread

April 27, 2009

irish-soda-breadIt’s raining today.  A lot.  And it brings back memories of a wonderful, but rainy, week spent in Ireland.  During this trip, I learned how important a fulfilling breakfast is to combating cold and damp.  Since I was planning on an afternoon of digging and planting in between the showers, I decided to bake one of my favorite discoveries from that trip in Ireland.

Irish soda bread is one of those earthy, dense breads with a crunchy crust that I enjoy with butter and jam.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big white bread fan (sourdough being the exception).  Just one slice will get you through your work and it goes great with a hot drink to relax with when you’re done.  This is a low fat version I tried this morning.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
2 2/12 T brown sugar

Cut into the dry mixture:
2 T. butter

In a separate bowl, combine:
1 egg white, beaten until frothy
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. raisins or currants

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix.  Turn onto a floured board and knead about 10 times.  Shape into a 9″ round and place on a greased baking.  Make a cross in the top of the dough with a sharp knife.

Bake 45 minutes.


7 Grain Pancakes

April 26, 2009

7-grain-pancakes

A few years ago I began having problems with eating things like pasta, pancakes, pizza and sweets.  After eating these items I would feel like I had drunk too much caffeine.  I’d be hungry shortly after eating, even if I’d partaken in a large portion.  I visited the doctor and he said my symptoms didn’t quite sound like hypoglycemia or a food allergy.  To remedy the situation I avoided the foods that made me feel bad.  I also found that by ingesting protein throughout the day, usually milk, I felt better.  After avoiding these foods for several years I was able to begin eating them in small quantities.  I could eat spaghetti as a side but not as a main course.  Fast forward to today.  I’m able to eat pizza or pasta as an entree but I can’t do it every day.  Pancakes have been an exception though.  It must be the combination of sugar and the refined wheat.  A few months ago we were visiting Matt and Alicia (Melissa’s sister and brother in law) and Alicia served pancakes using a mix from Paul’s Grains.  I felt fine after eating the pancakes, so upon returning home, I looked up Paul’s Grains and discovered their products could be purchased online.  I finally ordered some flour last week and made my first batch of pancakes today.  They were delicious and I felt fine after eating them!  The recipe I used was out of Michael Ruhlman’s new book, Ratio.  The recipe called for all purpose flour, I used Paul’s 7 Grain flour, so I ended up using more liquid to compensate.  Ruhlman’s book mostly uses weight to measure ingredients, which I’m liking more and more.  The base ratio is: 2 part liquid, 1 part egg, 1/2 part butter and 2 parts flour.  This is my adaptation.

Wet Ingredients:

  • 4.5 oz buttermilk
  • 8.5 oz skim milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 oz butter (1/2 stick), melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients:

  • 8 oz Paul’s 7 grain flour or all purpose flour (1-1/3 to 1-1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar (turbinado)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Combine dry and wet ingredients in separate mixing bowls.  Then combine the wet and dry mixes together, stirring until smooth.  Cook the pancakes over medium heat on a greased skillet.

By Kenton


Baking in a Toaster Oven

April 25, 2009
Toaster Oven Muffins

Toaster Oven Muffins

I baked the funniest looking muffins the other day and I have to share the pictures.  The pictures may not do them justice, but if you imagine gold smurfs you’ll have a good idea of what these looked like.

Here’s the back story.  A few posts ago I mentioned that Kent had converted our oven into a pizza oven with layers of fire bricks.  I’ve been leaving them in the oven in hopes of more pizza or maybe calzone.  Since this blog is about learning I thought I’d use this time to see how our toaster would do in baking muffins.  It is a convection toaster oven.

I decided to use up two muffins mixes I had on hand.  One, because the muffins pans that would fit into the toaster oven only had room for 6 muffins or were the tiny muffin kind.  Two, I was still in a “experimenting” mood and I knew that a commercial mix would yield more consistent results.

Toaster muffins 2

Toaster muffins 2

The result – golden smurf muffins.  Both sized muffin pans yielded muffins that rose to a high point and spread out to an almost mushroom-like appearance. Then there is the lean.  This is where the convection oven part comes into play.  The air of the convection most definitely comes from the left side of the oven and caused the lean as well as one-sided browning.

Lesson learned.  And by the way, I’m still waiting for more pizza.  And for Kent to post on his pizza making.