Thursday, May 20, 2010

Back Home: Chocolate and Chicken

So I've been back in P-town for 3 days now. And have spent the 72 hours in transcendent bliss. No essays to write, no tests to study for, no projects to pull consecutive all-nighters to complete. It was a revelation. Even though I did have that nightmare about a project that I just couldn't complete because it wasn't coming out right.

But with all this relaxing, I'm beginning to grow slightly worried that I will eventually become fat and lazy. So I started cooking. Tuesday I made cookies. Yesterday I made lunch. Today I made dinner. And currently, I am boiling a whole chicken carcass to make stock for tomorrow's dinner. If anything, at least the "lazy" part won't apply.

The cookies were Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, which I grabbed from Elissa's blog 17 and Baking, which in turn she grabbed from Allrecipes. Where to begin with these cookies...? Well, first it should be noted that I picked this particular recipe because I had all the recipes on hand already. No need to go to the grocery store (not that I would have minded, I love going to the grocery store). Or so I thought. Turns out my dad chucked my can of baking powder, because it was getting old. And we were out of vanilla extract, because I had used the last of it in a cheesecake I made during spring break. And we were out of confectioner's sugar...just because.

Well, fine. I forged ahead pigheadedly anyway, I subbing baking soda for baking powder (1/4 tsp of baking soda per tsp of baking powder), forgoing the vanilla extract (everyone knows chocolate is king), and rolled my balls of cookie dough in sugar, cinnamon powder, and cinnamon sugar instead (at least no one will get a mustache when they eat them). And the results...

Awesome! Despite the substitutions and omissions. Although I have to say that they aren't quite as crinkle-y as Elissa's, which I'm guessing is the result of a combination of the baking soda, the 10-minute baking time, and the giant scoops of dough I formed (the recipe is supposed to make 7 dozen, but my batch only provided 3). Also, they're so soft and densely chocolatey and fudgy, they taste more like a brownie masquerading as a cookie. Not that I'm complaining. Clockwise from the top: cinnamon powder, cinnamon sugar, and granulated sugar. I think my favorite is the cinnamon powdered ones.

Moving on...Wednesday lunch was pan-seared tilapia. Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, and when it's hot put down the filets (if it doesn't sizzle, you did it wrong). Sprinkle salt and pepper over the filets. When one side is golden brown (lift it up carefully to check because whitefish breaks I discovered, when I broke mine) flip it over with a spatula. Grab a lemon and roll it on the counter to break open the segments before cutting it open, and squeeze it over the filets and into the pan. Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper, as well as any kind of herb of spice you like (I used oregano). When the other side is golden and the fish flakes when you poke it with a fork, it's done!

Eat it while it's hot, because its deliciousness substantially declines when it gets cold.

There's an interesting story about the first item on tonight's dinner menu. I went shopping at Sam's Club with my dad, and during our shopping, tried a sample of their ready-made chicken salad. The employee doling out the samples explained to us how the chicken salad was "made fresh every day with our rotisserie chicken", and went into great detail about how their "chefs" took the chicken off the bone and mixed it with mayonnaise and other spices and seasonings. My family has always liked the rotisserie chicken, and my dad was impressed with the taste of the chicken salad, which, if you've read the post with my cheesecake recipe, you'll know all about. So I ran to the ready-made food counter and picked up a package of chicken salad, turned it over, and read the ingredients list.

If you aren't aware, ingredients are listed in order of predominance, or from most to least. The first ingredient in this chicken salad was mayonnaise. Okay, who am I to lecture on how much fat they put in it? I kept reading. The next ingredient was "chopped soy chicken substitute". It wasn't even real chicken! Taking the chicken off the bone, my ass, I thought. I told my dad I could make a better chicken salad.

Chicken Salad

1/2 storebought rotisserie chicken
if you're really into the all-homemade thing, you can obviously roast your own chicken. Alternatively, this is a good way to use up any leftover chicken you happen to have.
2-3 stalks of celery
1 cup mayonnaise NOT MiracleWhip! I hate that stuff.
pepper to taste

~Strip the chicken meat off the bone. Try not to get any fat or skin in it, because it will just taste slimy.
~Using your fingers, pull apart the chicken into pieces about the size of the first knuckle of your thumb. If you have big thumbs...pull them into smaller pieces.
~Dice the celery.
~Dump the chicken pieces and diced celery into a largish bowl.
~Add the mayonnaise. You may need slightly more or less than one cup, depending on how large your chicken was and how much you care about your arteries.
~Mix everything up good.
~Season with pepper. Taste. Mix again.

Unfortunately, my dad left for Shanghai this morning, so he didn't get to taste this chicken salad. I'll just have to make it again sometime.

The rest of dinner...

Olive Oil Toast

olive oil

~Cut the baguette into diagonal slices.
~Pour enough olive oil into a pan to coat the bottom and fire up the stove. When the oil is hot, drop the slices of baguette into the oil. Try to get the oil to coat the bread, because otherwise it won't brown.
~Fry each side of bread until golden and crispy (about 2-3 minutes each).
~Pull it out and serve immediately

Tomato-Avocado Salad with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

2 Hass avocados
2 cups of grape tomatoes
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp of oregano
1/2 tsp of salt
pinch of pepper

~Cut the avocados in half and remove the pit.To to this, you can either do it the pansy way, with a spoon, which will inevitably make a mess of the lovely avocado meat... or you can hold the avocado half with the pit in your palm, take a large cleaver (a small knife won't work here, trust me) and swing it recklessly downward. Aim for the pit. If you're lucky, the blade will lodge in it firmly (it may take a few tries to get it in there securely) and you will be able to pull it from the flesh of the avocado by twisting the knife. If not, call the ER.
~Cube the avocados and put them in a serving bowl.
~Cut the grape tomatoes in half and add them to the bowl.
~Put the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper into a small bowl and whisk to mix it all together.
~Pour your vinaigrette over the avocados and tomatoes and toss to coat.

*If you're not going to eat your salad right away, squeeze some lemon juice over it to keep the avocado from turning brown =)

Oh yeah, and the chicken stock...well, I tossed the chicken carcass leftover from the chicken salad into a pot with a sprouting onion (with the sprout cut off), some broken celery stalks, and a lot of water, and put it on the stove to simmer. And now the whole house smells like chicken, which is quite nice. Anyone know how long I'm supposed to leave it on for?

I bought some ingredients yesterday, and I'll be tackling a cake next week...wish me luck =3 Also, I am going camping with The Boyfriend this weekend! Delicious Russian camp food, mmmm.