Thursday, November 29, 2012

Just Because You Asked-Chicken Stock, Fat, and Burritos

Here goes:

For the Stock:

Remove the skin and as much meat as possible from a cleaned, whole chicken. Set those aside. In a large stock pot, place the carcass (you can cut it up to fit if you like, but it will also fall apart as it cooks-your call) and enough water to cover and set over medium heat. You don't want it to boil or the fat will get incorporated into the stock. You want a simmer-a gentle one at that. As the scum rises, skim it off adding more water if needed. When you have come up to a gentle simmer, and most of the scum is skimmed (about 20-30 minutes, add your vegetables. I like a quartered onion, carrot scraps, celery, a few stems of parsley, one or two garlic cloves, a teaspoon of black peppercorns, some thyme, a bay leaf, and salt. I save my carrot peelings/trimmings in the freezer for making stock, but if you don't just go ahead and use a new carrot.

Don't put the lid on the pot tightly, or the stock will sour. Leave it to vent and let it simmer (skimming as needed for 4-6 hours). Taste along the way, and when you're satisfied, strain the stock through a strainer lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth (or a clean pillowcase if that's all you have). Let chill, then scrape off any fat that has risen to the surface. At this point, you can return it to the stove and reduce it to glaze, which is nice for cooking, or freeze the stock as is for later use.

Chicken fat:

Place the skin (it helps to cut them into small-ish pieces) and about 1 teaspoon water in a heavy, small pot. Over medium heat, render until the skins are crisp, and the fat is golden. I know there isn't any point telling you to toss the skins, so sprinkle them with salt, and enjoy. Strain the fat through a fine sieve into a heatproof jar (or measuring cup). Chill.

For the Burrito meat:

Cut your chicken into cubes about 2 in. In a large, heavy frying pan (or stock pot) heat 2 tablespoons fat (I use Crisco for this, but lard, chicken fat, etc. are OK. Regular oil isn't the best, but it works fine in a pinch). Add the chicken and brown over high heat. Remove meat, add a bit more crisco if needed, and add 1 chopped onion, a tablespoon of peppercorns, and the browned chicken. Add enough water just to cover, and bring to a simmer (not boil). Cook, uncovered until chicken is tender (about 1 hour). Strain, reserving liquid. Let chicken cool slightly before shredding apart with your fingers.

Spices are up to you. I like cumin, coriander, chilies, paprika, salt, and epazote. Add 1 tablespoon crisco (yes, more fat-chicken is kinda dry) to pan (use the same one-why do more dishes?) and stir in the spices. Add the shredded chicken and cook about a minute to distribute the spices. Add the liquid back to the pan, and enough water to once again cover the chicken. Over medium heat, cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

This also works well for beef, and goat filling. Use the filling in burritos, tamales, or a sandwich on a good roll. The cooked, shredded meat freezes really well.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Three Dollar Chicken

I'm not one to let being vegetarian stop me from a good bargain, particularly when one member of the family is happy enough to eat animals. It took all day, but that three dollar chicken produced the following:

2 quarts of chicken stock (made with saved carrot peelings, celery trimmings, etc. that I store in the freezer).

Enough shredded, seasoned meat for ten large burritos (wrapped and frozen for lunches at work)

3/4 cup rendered chicken fat

Tomorrow, I'll cook part of the stock down to a glaze, and freeze the rest. Yes, I had to deal with a whole chicken, but I had enough experience dealing with that growing up that I dare say I could take the damn thing apart blindfolded. Like riding a bike I guess, though I can't say for certain I'd be able to stay on a bike more than ten seconds.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I cannot stand the term, "Mixologist." Look, there's no shame in being a bartender. The shame comes from employing the use of a term like mixologist. Calling yourself a mixologist is like calling yourself a pretentious asshole, albeit one than can make a decent gin and tonic. I get that there's an art to it-I'm not disputing the skill aspect of the job. If you're particularly good at it you become, "a good bartender."  Excellent, even. You can't be a mixologist. You can be a douchebag though, and that doesn't require much more effort than referring to yourself as a mixologist.

Admit it, you've missed these posts, haven't you?

Let The Quilting Begin-and other stuff

I have the pieces embroidered for Danny's yearly birthday quilt, now I need to put them together, sew on the bindings, and start quilting. If you ever feel inspired to embroider teeny, tiny squares to look like a Monopoly board, I'll offer you some advice-don't. If you're really determined though, remember to leave adequate seam allowance (oops). Designing your own stuff is hard-why do I never buy a pattern?

Sort-of related: Danny wanted to take a sewing class, so next week he'll be learning to embroider from a "professional" that is, someone other than his mother. I'm not hurt, as I know a few basic stitches to get by with, and am a terrible teacher (sewing teacher, anyway. The jury is still out if I've screwed the kid up academically).  He's making a lovely dresser scarf for his grandmother as a Christmas gift, which I'm guessing she isn't expecting.

Know what I am good at? Decorating cookies. I've baked more gingerbread over the last week than anyone outside of Santa's Workshop ought to be baking. The cookies have been sealed in treat bags, tied with red ribbons, and hung on the tree. Yes, the tree is up-don't fret, it is artificial. If you're living with an artificial tree you bought for ten bucks at Goodwill several Christmases ago and it is starting to look a bit thin-bake cookies. The cellophane bags and ribbons when placed strategically do wonders to hide a tree that has seen better days. As a bonus, you always have Christmas cookies ready at a moment's notice. Glass ornaments are nice and all, but they taste terrible, and really shred the hell out of your mouth.

The birthday cake-you want to know what I'm doing, don't you? Of course you do. Monopoly. What did you think I was going to do, The Day the Earth Stood Still in cookies...wait...nevermind. So yeah, the cakes will be a a red hotel, and a green house. The decorated cookies will be the monopoly board, with properties fit together around it in small individual cookies (like the quilt). I'll try to do the title cards, but that may be ambitious. Oh well, it isn't like I'm trying to depict the siege of Troy in cake...shit. Nevermind.

Thanksgiving was nice though. A welcome rest, didn't have to do dishes. Had beautiful coffee mugs to match my china pattern to enjoy at dessert (thank you again Janice-we just love them!). Now we have tooth extractions (Danny), concerts, plays, Flamenco dancing, sewing classes, and while I might grumble a bit, I really do love being busy with fun things to do. My house may look like Martha Stewart puked gilt all over the walls, but eh, whatever-Danny likes that sort of thing.

 *Sob*. I'm not getting any sleep at all for the next few weeks, am I? No, I mean I know I'm not. Am I? You're probably not either. Are you? Of course you're not.

Awright-that quilt ain't gonna piece itself...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Owl Get That

The kid speaks owl. When the great horned owl took up residence on the farm, kiddo went outside at dusk, and kept a call/answer thing going with it for several minutes. He knows their different calls (from listening to recordings online), types of nests, and pretty much anything you'd want to (or not) know about owls. He's pretty good with other birds as well.

Last weekend, Danny had the opportunity to speak with a "renowned owl expert", which is my kid's idea of a celebrity. So they got to talk owl, and all was well until we got in the car to leave.

"I forgot to tell him my great joke!"
"Which joke was that?" I asked.
"What do you call a small owl that got caught in the rain?"
"A moist owlet."

I'm kinda relieved he forgot to tell it.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Making Lefse

OK, one more photo to make sure the editor I'm using works. The kid rolls out a beautifully thin lefse, by the way. I should have him do that more often.

Belated Halloween

Uncle Pennybags.

Eyeball Cake-Photo Test

How do "Eye" look? Yeah, I had to make that joke.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It Costs HOW Much?

Danny: (Pointing in the butcher's case) What's that called?

Me: A standing rib roast. I've never made one as Papa is the only one that would eat it, and I'd be afraid of ruining something that costs ten dollars a pound.

Danny: How much?!

Me:  Well, that's a sale price, it usually costs more.

I could see him doing maths, figuring the approximate weight of the roast, and I watched as a look of I dunno...not horror exactly, but disbelief started to take hold. Danny is a kid that never spends money, almost never asks for anything, and is frugal to a point where I think he's channeling my grandmother. In his ideological field, no one buys sixty dollars worth of a dead cow. He just can't get his head around it.

Danny: Well I guess I'll be staying vegetarian then.

Danny is keenly aware of what things cost, as we've been doing a weekly grocery journal for staple items since he began school. I can't count how many times he's looked at a "sale" price only to announce to everyone in the aisle that it is, in fact the same price as always. Just because it is featured in a circular does not mean it is on sale.

I didn't buy Mr. ETB a standing rib roast, but I did get him a duck-not for the holiday, but "just because" it is his favourite. We're having a"Massachusetts Turkey" for Thanksgiving-a baked, stuffed cod-a tradition we've had for several years now.

Is there anything so expensive you've never prepared it for fear of ruining it?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Buttermilk Raisin Cookies

These are odd cookies. They stay very moist, don't need to be stored with anything more than a plate with a piece of wax paper over it, and keep well which is a good thing as no one seems to eat them. The boys both claim to like them, but after you've had a couple, you don't really need to have any more-or so I'm told (I haven't tried them). The recipe makes a large batch, and I would try freezing them, but I suspect they would become forgotten in the depths, and eventually tossed out. I did find someone who likes the cookies though-the fat squirrel that lives in the tree by my kitchen window. I swear, he'll eat anything. From where I stand, I'd rather feed him outside than have him rummaging through my wall as he's wont to do (he's been caught, relocated, he finds his way back-same squirrel-we think unless squirrels have collective memory about holes in the foundation that lead to the kitchen wall they pass along to others. I think it is him-I'd know that fat little rodent anywhere). Every day, I toss a handful of bread for him in the same place, and each morning he comes at about the same time to eat what's there. I have not heard him in that wall this year, so I'm hoping he'll be satisfied with bits of stale bread (or unloved cookies) and stay outside where squirrels belong.

If you like a soft, puffy buttermilk cookies with raisins, this may be for you. The recipe is based on one in The Ultimate Cookie Cookbook (Confident name, but so far the cookies haven't really lived up to the title's assertion).

Yield-60 cookies (more or less) enough to feed a large family, or one greedy squirrel

You Will Need:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups granulated sugar
2large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
4 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets. Cream together butter and shortening, adding sugar slowly until light. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in buttermilk. Whisk to gether dry ingredients, and stir into batter. Add raisins.

Drop by teaspoons onto pan (they spread a bit, so leave about an inch between). Bake about 10 minutes, or until browned at the edges and firm on top. Store loosely covered.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Hartford Election Day Cake

Hey, who wants a cake from 1800? OK swell, I've got one.

This cake, isn't really a cake at all-it is a bread with great amounts of butter, candied fruit, and a sweet buttermilk frosting. It weighs a ton. I used the recipe in A World of Cakes, Casella, 1968. I have no idea how authentic it is, but it certainly is an adventure to make. I seem to remember making a stollen that required kneading in eggs and butter after the initial rise of the dough, but I guess I forgot what an utter mess it makes to do so. I'm afraid there is no good way to approach this other than resigning yourself to a good cleaning of the kitchen afterwards.

I have a hard time picturing colonial women using this much butter, milk, eggs and sugar (not to mention all the fruit) given that every other damn thing they baked was full of molasses and apples. Maybe they had more dough (sorry, couldn't resist) in Hartford to permit such extravagance.

You Will Need:

Yeast Dough:

1 cup diced, peeled raw potato
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 cake yeast (I used 2 1/4 teaspoons granulated dissolved in 1/4 cup of the warm potato water)
1 large egg
3-4 cups plain flour


3/4 cup very soft butter
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup brandy
1 cup raisins or sultanas
1 cup candied fruit
1 cup plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice

Cook the potato in water to cover until tender. Mash, and set aside. Pour scalded milk over butter in a large bowl and add sugar and salt. Stir until butter is melted. Meanwhile, proof the yeast if using granulated in 1/4 cup potato water. Then, stir into milk mixture. Add the mashed potato and then the egg. Add flour a cup at a time until you have a soft, but workable dough. Place in a buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled.

Punch down the dough and work in the butter in pieces. Add the eggs, brown sugar, and brandy. Coat the raisins and fruits with flour and add to the dough. Add remaining flour and mixed spice. Work very well so that dough is not streaky (it will be a mess, but stick with it (sorry, I just seem to be full of these tonight). Turn into a well-buttered 10 inch tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees F. for about 1 hour, or until cake is baked through inside. Cool in pan ten minutes, then finish cooling on a rack. When completely cool, frost with buttermilk frosting below.

Buttermilk Icing

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon bicarb
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup butter

Combine all, cook over medium heat in a medium saucepan until it reaches 230 degrees F. on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. With a hand mixer, beat until icing begins to thicken. Spread quickly on cake.