Monthly Archive: June 2007

Hell’s Kitchen 2007, Episode Two

These people seem pretty pathetic. Except melissa.

Anyway, I hate the massively long intros that show you stuff that won’t happen until later weeks, but make it appear it will happen this week. Where’s the ambulance, dawg? What’s interesting about the intro is trying to put a number on how many years Heather has aged in the nearly a year she’s had that executive chef job.

It took three tries before I understood that the words Ramsay was saying were “Dover sole.” And here I thought I knew English.

The fish gutting was disgusting, with the roe. They were all female? I found myself surprised that Dover sole had no bones, since one would naturally remove the skin, clean out the guts, and remove the bones. I must not be high class enough to have ever dreamed of a restaurant in which restaurant staff would remove bones at your table after the fish is cooked. Weird. But great fun for tormenting Aaron.

At the same time it was disgusting, it surprised me they got so few done. Joanna showed there was a bit of something there besides complaining and feeling maligned and being vicious. I think Ramsay accepted her third fish for the sake of not having a tie.

The boat ride would have been cool, but I’ve never been into fishing, so that part of the challenge prize wouldn’t have thrilled me.

The whole strutting around in panties thing seemed over the top.

The guys were pathetic. It wasn’t even close. I mean, getting kicked out completely while the girls finished dinner? Wow.

Rock is one of my favorites. I could see right now a finale pitting him against Melissa. It almost seems this year like they do have plants, or they pick people they know have no chance, pre-limiting the range of contenders later in the season. Perhaps they borrowed some of the screening producers from American Idol. You know, the ones who pick the hopeless cases who should never get to the three judges, for theoretical entertainment value.

What’s up with cooking lettuce?

In watching how bad Eddie was with the spaghetti – why do people have such trouble with that? – and watching Aaron be pathetic and trying to determine whether he’s an actor or for real, I didn’t pay much attention to how bad Josh was. I’m still surprised Rock didn’t nominate Aaron, and I half expected Ramsay to overrule him and pick Aaron anyway, but apparently working out in the dining room confers a degree of safety. Some theorize that is why they put Aaron there; to keep him safe this week. Well, besides the obvious entertainment value. Goofy, perhaps, but I thought he showed some initiative and personality, going around to the tables and introducing himself. His first experience boning a fish at a table (yes, I said boning, because it is not de-boning) took 15 minutes, was excruciatingly embarrassing, and reminded me of the first time I ever had to do a tech screen interview with a job applicant for Visual Basic support. We had a sheet of questions we cribbed from, ad libbing as needed. I was forced by my manager’s manager (whose nickname was Shiny Thing) to do the interview without a copy of the questions, couldn’t remember what they were or think of substitutes off the top of my head, and had to admit to the candidate (who luckily wasn’t close enough to appropriate to have been screwed by all this) what was going on. It took a ton of extra time and I thought I was going to melt in a puddle of my own sweat. I extrapolated that horrible feeling onto Aaron at that first table. But… 15 minutes?

Rock surprised me by not picking Aaron, who all but begged to be sent home. The producers probably want him to be there long enough to be especially logical and memorable as a member of one of the finalist’s staffs in the finale. He picked Eddie, who also knew he was likely, and Josh.

When the two defended themselves, Eddie gave a good response to why he should stay. Josh gave one of those whiny, content-free responses to why he should stay. Then Ramsay turned temporarily into Chef Seacrest, faking us into thinking Josh was going, telling him he was getting another chance, and tossing Eddie. I was kind of rooting for Eddie from an “appearances can deceive” standpoint, but he didn’t have it.

Finally the much touted ambulance scene is coming next week. Maybe. So they imply in the previews. It’ll be interesting to see whether it’s for Aaron or someone else collapsing or getting injured as some of the scenes seem to suggest, or if it’s because someone’s cooking does in a diner, as clever editing also seems to suggest.

A little disjointed, but as went the episode, so go my thoughts.

I’ll go out on a limb here and predict a male versus female finale. I will venture further to predict Melissa will be one of them, and that most likely Rock will be the other. Now the fun is in watching them get there and seeing if someone manages to surprise us with an upset.

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

Usually Deb makes this dish, but I did last night, rather than making random chicken and eating rice a third night in a row. Not that there’s anything wrong with rice, but we have all that pasta on the shelf…

The great thing is that this is so easy, yet it seems fancy to people. It’s something I only ever had in restaurants before I got married.

You will need:
2 – 3 boneless chicken breasts
Bag of frozen broccoli, or similar amount fresh
Jar of alfredo sauce
Pound of shaped pasta
Spices to taste
Dab of butter or oil

The only thing tricky is the simultaneous nature and timing of some of this.

Trim and cut the chicken into small chunks. You know, like half an inch, maybe.

Put on water for the pasta so it can think about boiling on time.

Have water ready to go for the broccoli, or if you’re using fresh, it could go in the steamer most any time.

Heat some butter or oil in a frying pan, adding some spices. For this, the dominant flavor is generally garlic. I use garlic powder, black pepper, red pepper, and not necessarily anything else. Last night I also used garlic flakes, a touch of oregano, and some thyme as an experiment. It came out particularly good. This is a dish you could make with no spice at all, if you like it plain but for the flavors of the sauce and ingredients.

Fry up the chicken until fully cooked to somewhat browned.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water per instructions. I’d avoid spaghetti, and some shapes are better for how they look or carry the sauce, but you can use any pasta shape. I used penne rigatti last night, letting Sadie choose between that, our usual favorite rotini, and shells. Funny, as that was what I’d leaned toward.

I added the frozen broccoli to the boiling water shortly after that. This is a great use for frozen, even the chopped stuff that uses more of the stems than we normally would. It is better with fresh, steamed to slightly underdone. Frozen is convenient. I used Wal-Mart’s brand and it was excellent. I’m sure we used that brand before and didn’t like it as much, even though their other basic frozen veggies – corn, peas, French cut green beans, and lima beans – are our favorite store brands. We used either Hannaford or Market Basket store brand broccoli one time and found it was vastly superior to anything but fresh. Silly I can’t remember which it was.

Toward the time everything else is ready, pour a jar of creamy alfredo sauce into a small saucepan and heat gently on low, stirring as needed to keep it from bubbling for joy. A small flexible spatula thingie is your friend, for maximizing what actually comes out of the jar.

There seem to be two primary name brands in stores around here. We prefer Classico, no contest, to everything else we have tried, store or name brand. Unlike red sauce, which I adulterate to taste anyway, it really matters, but YMMV. We also prefer the plain old, rather than the variants like 4 Cheese or whatever. It might be interesting to try making my own someday, but it’s so convenient just to buy it.

When everything is done, drain the pasta and get it back into the pan. Drain the broccoli (or scoop it with something that leaves the water behind). Dump the chicken and broccoli onto the pasta. Dump in the sauce. Mix it up thoroughly. Serve.

The kids like it better than just about anything except sweets and maybe pasta with red sauce, and I’m not so sure about that. Last night Valerie required two refills of her plate, and Sadie ate most of what was on her plate.

Ah, then there’s the leftovers…

Suppose you ate half or so of that big pan and put the rest in the fridge. What I do the next day is put it on lowish heat on the stove, with maybe a dribble of water to help keep it moist enough. I cut some small chunks of cheese, usually cheddar, maybe some jack too or instead if it’s what we have, mixing and melting that in. Then we eat the cheesy version as leftovers at least as yummy as it was the night before. Microwaving servings of it also works well; it’s an excellent dish for leftovers.

Kitchen Shears

How did I ever live without them?

Before I met Deb, I’d perhaps heard of such a thing, but nobody I knew actually used them, as far as I ever noticed. That seems strange.

They’re all the better in that they come apart and fit conveniently in the dishwasher.

I made chicken broccoli alfredo for supper, which is what made me think of what a wonder they are. They’re so much better for cutting a boneless chicken breast into small pieces, and trimming off the suspicious bits, than a knife ever was.

Leftover Meatloaf Adventure

I was going to make chili today, but fell asleep at my desk about the time I’d have started the beans. By the time I remembered after waking again, it was too late.

Just as well, as we had beef the past two nights. The first was Deb’s meatloaf. The second was an experiment in using the leftover meatloaf. It may have been sparked by unconsciously remembering my mother making meatloaf burgers in sauce when I was in my teens. We had meatloaf burgers regularly, perhaps to stretch the meat, or perhaps to save time over baking in meatloaf form, or maybe both.

When you get meatloaf at a restaurant, gravy seems to be the norm. I never had gravy on meatloaf when I was a kid. In fact, gravy wasn’t a big thing at all. Since I discovered my talent for making gravy, I’ve come to see how it might have developed as a way to increase the richness and food value of a meal cheaply. Not to mention being a way to impart extra flavor or moisture. I made gravy once for meatloaf, a while back, but forgot this time. When we decided the leftovers would be supper the next night, as opposed to lunch – usually I have a meatloaf sandwich – I decided to make some.

I wanted it to be different, though.

I crumbled up a small hamburger I defrosted, this being to supplement the fact the meatloaf itself was limited. I cooked it with some butter and spices. I set out to complement the meatloaf, which was heavy on oregano, and otherwise spiced mainly with cumin.

I used some garlic powder, red pepper, black pepper, oregano, cushed bay leaf, cumin, and a wee bit of ginger and allspice. At this point Deb was making yummy smell noises from the living room.

Usually when I make gravy I heat a cup of water for two minutes in the microwave and drop two boullion cubes into it. I used one.

With the beef cooked, I moved that to the side, added 2 – 3 more tablespoons of butter and started adding flour to cook in it when that was mostly melted. It solidified right up so I started dribbling beef stock in, stirring, adding more flour, and so forth. It was two heaping tablespoons of flour. Then I added the rest of the beef stock.

Now the departure: I added half a cup of ketchup. This was too much, so I ended up doing far more adjusting than I would have liked. Tomato soup, paste or sauce could also have worked, while varying the exact flavor and how it might have needed tweaking. I am sure that what my mother served with meatloaf burgers was tomato soup based, if not essentially nothing more than tomato soup.

After the ketchup and stirring in the crumbled burger, I had to add more water and then more flour. In adjusting the taste, which had an oddly astringent quality, I added more cumin a couple times, a pinch more red pepper, black pepper, and brown sugar. I also added an entire beef boullion cube to the gravy and let it dissolve in. So much for using only one.

The idea was to get moderately spiced beef gravy tinged with ketchup – another item used in the meatloaf too – rather than ketchup flavored gravy. I succeeded, after all the tweaking.

Once I was happy with the gravy, I set slices of cold meatloaf in it and covered the pan for a couple minutes. Then I flipped them, stirred the gravy around them a bit and covered them longer. It was a nice way to heat the cold meatloaf.

We ate the meatloaf and gravy/sauce over rice, with lima beans on the side. The kids devoured it! Valerie was more interested in the lima beans, but she ate everything. Sadie especially loved the leatloaf and gravy. Deb enjoyed it, despite having been initially concerned over my adding ketchup. She thought I succeeded in my goal of complementing the flavor of the meatloaf in how I spiced the gravy.

I’d do something like it again, though it would remain subject to experimentation.

Sounds weird, eh? I’ll have pictures, but they’re still on the camera now. The pictures make it look great.

Honey Mustard Chicken and Sides

Here is the first ever Married Frugal Guy Cook guest recipe:

Honey Mustard Chicken with Potatoes and Vegetable of your Choice

Need:

  • Enough chicken to feed however many people are in your family. Tenderloins are useful because they come in strips already. Don’t use the stir-fry strips; they’re too small.
  • Three large potatoes.
  • Honey mustard (I prefer Publix brand, YMMV).
  • Cooking oil.
  • Bag of frozen vegetables (for the sake of argument, let’s use green beans).
  • Seasoning for potatoes (premade is fine). I’ve also done this with just rosemary, so you can use that if you want.

1. Get home from work. Put your stuff down. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Wash the potatoes. Cut them in half, then cut each half into three or more sections lengthwise.
3. Place potatoes in large bowl. Pour in about 2 tbsp of oil and sprinkle on 1 tbsp of seasoning (1.5 tbsp of seasoning if the potatoes are those massive ones you get sometimes).
4. Toss potatoes/oil/seasoning until evenly distributed.
5. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil (or use a large glass dish that is oven-safe). Lay out the potatoes on the cookie sheet.
6. Put potatoes into oven; set timer for 15 minutes.
7. Put chicken in microwave to defrost (unless you let it defrost overnight/during the day).
8. Go upstairs and change out of your work clothes. It’s okay if you take longer than 15 minutes; the potatoes won’t burn.
9. When timer goes off, flip potatoes (this takes a while) and put back in oven for another 20-25 minutes.
10. Get a large skillet and cover the bottom with a thin layer of cooking oil. Put it on the stove at low heat to warm up.
11. Squirt a generous amount of honey mustard onto a paper plate.
12. If chicken is not already cut into strips, do so. They don’t have to be thin.
13. Coat each piece of chicken with the honey mustard as if you were dredging it in an egg/flour mixture.
14. Place chicken strips into skillet and turn up the heat to 6 or 7 (medium-high).
15. Empty vegetables from bag into small pot. Put in enough water to cover 3/4 of the vegetables.
16. Put the pot on a back burner on high and cover it. Stir every five minutes or so. Once the water is boiling, it should be about five more minutes until the veggies are done. Taste one to test it.
17. Flip chicken every five minutes or so until done. If you don’t know how to tell when it’s done, cut a piece. If it’s pink inside, keep cooking.
18. When done cooking, drain oil from chicken.
19. When done cooking, take potatoes out of oven.
20. When done cooking, drain water from vegetables.
21. Arrange food on plates. Serve.
22. Get the kids to do the cleaning. After all, you cooked, right?

It seems complicated but it took me about 45 minutes to do all that last night, and I got other stuff done in between, like playing with the baby a little and giving her medicine, and also changing clothes and reading a few pages in a book.

This recipe, and the whole idea of guest recipes, is courtesy of the former blogger known as Josh Cohen of Multiplementality.com, who also posted at Wizbang Sports and Wizbang Pop, and can now could at the time of this post occasionally be found blogging or posting under his real name on 11Alive.com [he has move on since then].

I don’t know about you, but this sounds great to me. My father likes to make a plain version of the roast potatoes. After having garlic and rosemary fries while playing pool in Monterey with Deb, Denise and April, I eventually tried making rosemary fries myself. I hear they were yummy. But seriously, I did get to taste them, and they were good, but could have been even better. The potatoes above sound like a nice cross. Roasting saves work, but it’s not far removed from fries and can be seasoned, if anything more easily.

Shredded Pork Tacos

Okay, I have mention a couple topics I was going to talk about once I felt I had time. Close enough.

First, shredded pork tacos, as shown in this pictorial. The kids normally get the various ingredients loose on their plate, which is handy for pictures that show said ingredients.

Here is the recipe as originally found [dead link – glad I replicated the recipe below] here:

4 Flour tortillas (or taco shells)
1 Cup chicken broth
1/2 Cup enchilada sauce
1 Boneless pork roast 2 1/2 lbs
Choice of toppings such as shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, olives (ick), avocado, sour cream, or presumably anything else you might think is appropriate.

Trim the fat and put the pork in a crockpot, add broth, and cook on low 8 – 10 or high 4 – 5 hours.

Remove meat and discard broth. Shred meat. Put 2 cups of the meat in a medium saucepan, mixing with the enchilada sauce and heat on low to medium heat until hot.

Heat the tortillas or taco shells as needed and assemble as desired, like any other taco.

I was tempted to experiment, but I stuck with the recipe as closely as I could. In my case, “chicken broth” meant a single chicken bullion cube dissolved in a cup of hot water (I fill a Pyrex cup and microwave 2 minutes, then drop in the cube).

In my case, I had five frozen pork loin steaks that came to about the right weight, which it turned out made exactly two batches of meat filling. I used the crockpot on high about four hours, flipping the meat a few times.

The pork came out tasty but extremely salty. Probably salt content of the bullion combined with the cooking method soaking it in so well.

I had a 10 oz can of I forget which brand of enchilada sauce. That made half a can close enough to what the recipe required for each batch. I would imagine brands of the sauce vary. I can see why you’d use it as a quickie surrogate for the type of liquid and spices you’d use in traditional taco meat.

We used our standard burrito size flour tortillas, which we heat on a round flat pan, flipping a time or three as needed. When I start burning my fingers, it’s hot enough. Heh. You can tell, and it’s a matter of taste whether you want only to soften, or to crisp them slightly. The former is more traditional, but kids happen.

I shredded a bunch of cheese. For this sort of thing we usually do a mix of Monterey jack and medium cheddar, but it depends what we have. The second night of these it was mostly a Colby/jack marbled cheese that’s tasty on crackers. The anti-veggie crowd might stop there, or there plus sour cream.

We had lettuce and tomato on hand, so I cut up some of that. The girls have a surprising love of that stuff, especially tomato.

We put it together and it was fantastic. It tasted oddly similar to something you’d eat at Taco Bell. Fascinating.

Which makes me think of my reaction when I bought cumin for the first time. Cumin smells like Taco Bell. So I assumed cumin is an ingredient of enchilada sauce and… Helllloooo Google!… I looked it up and sure enough, it is. In fact, my impression is that enchilada sauce is essentially Mexican gravy. Some recipes call for tomato sauce. Others don’t. They all call for oil, flour, water or beef stock, and spices, prepared similarly to the way I would make gravy. Go figure.

Anyway, I was looking at recipes for barbecue shredded pork when I found the taco recipe. Those are an interesting and varied lot. I’ll want to try the taco variant again, but in a more do-it-yourself, experimental way. I’d also like to try the barbecue variant, which I should be able to pretty much make up as I go along. I wouldn’t object if anyone has a good recipe to share, though.

On a final note, some of the barbecue shredded pork recipes actually call for cloves. I’m intrigued by that. I have some whole cloves and would love to use them more. They smell divine. I had thought of them as being much stronger and more bitter than these give the impression of being. I could see it being good, imbuing the pork with a hint of cloves to work with the relatively strong flavor of barbecue sauce.

Hell’s Kitchen Returns!

Hell’s Kitchen is back! Will it be better than last year? I sure hope so. It’s looking good so far.

Last year Heather was a standout early in the season. This year’s Heather, though not a clone, seems to be Melissa.

First season we had Elsie, who was the only one to impress him with the initial signature dish challenge and lacked some of the experience others had. Julia seems to be this year’s equivalent, if a bit more assertive.

The ones who stood out for me at all on the men’s team were Rock, who exuded just plain competence and sense from what I could tell, and Eddie, who seems to be there to show appearances don’t count. Aaron is memorable, of course, but he was cast as this year’s male emotional wreck.

Overall there was no contest as to which team should “win,” which benefitted Aaron, who’d have been the prime candidate to leave.

Tiffany was the right choice, but Joanna will be trouble until she inevitably gets tossed too.

Despite the women being so hopeless, overall this gang did pretty well with the first night of service, if I am remembering past seasons right.

And what’s up with serving quail eggs?

Pictorial

I have to do some work that prevents me from posting further until later or tomorrow, unless I find I really need a break and a post fits that neatly. Meanwhile, I leave you with a pictorial (click each picture for larger version in new window if desired)…

The three above relate to my burrito post. First, ingredients for chicken burritos made without refried beans, as laid out for consumption by the kids. Sadie eats it with a quarter flour tortilla on the side, and usually eats a second quarter too. She wraps meat or dips it in sour cream. Next, ingredients for the same thing, but with refried beans, amd corn rather than the usual lettuce and, for me and the kids if we have it, tomato. Finally, chicken cooked to go in burritos, as it appears in the frying pan.

The above two are the chicken in gravy concoction I invented, as mentioned in this teaser post. First, in the pan, then in context as served over rice to one of the kids, with peas and our first of the season corn on the cob. Unlike when we serve us burritos and them burrito ingredients loose on a plate, we all ate it the same way. It would have been great on egg noodles or mashed potato, let alone as a pot pie filling with carrots and whatever.

The above two also relate to the teaser post and should get their own post later. First, it’s the ingredients for shredded pork tacos as served on plates for the kids. Then it’s a shredded pork (soft) taco before being folded to eat. Pretty, huh? These were a big success, and great for using the crockpot for convenience and not having to think about spices because you’re using a canned sauce. I’d like to try making my own variant sometime, seeing what I can do without the canned sauce. But I digress, and will get to this topic again later.

Banana Cream Pie

I’d never made it before, though it’s something I’ve always loved. Recently I bought various flavors of pudding on the idea the kids would like it, it’s cheap, we always have milk and, at the time, still had to worry about it all getting used without spoiling. On the banana pudding package it talks about making pie.

So I eventually spent 98¢ on a premade graham cracker crust, made a point of buying banana, even though they’re optional, and spent 99¢ on Cool Whip late this afternoon, even though it’s optional. I’d intended to make it this afternoon, early enough to have ample chilling time so we could have it right after supper. Ended up not doing it until the kids were in bed. It got less than two hours of chilling before we ate a couple sloppy pieces of it. Yum!

I used the traditional pudding you cook, which I think I should have let boil slightly longer so it would set better. That poured in the crust after sitting in the pan several minutes per the box instructions. I wasn’t sure about whether to add the banana then or later or what. I took a chance, sliced one up and covered the top, then refrigerated it while the Cool Whip sat out to thaw.

Later I spread an ample layer of Cool Whip over the top and learned why owning a pie server might actually have merit. Then back in the fridge. It tasted amazing, messy or not. The girls ought to love it tomorrow, whenever we get around to it, as there is a big graduation party to attend.

So. Any better ideas or advice on making banana cream pie, or other simple pie-like or pudding-based treats?