Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

31-recipe challenge Day 22 (the final day!): Beef Pho and Chocolate chip cookie Bailey’s milkshake

This is it, the LAST day of my 31-recipe challenge! It officially took me 22 days to cook 31 30 recipes. And I’m exhausted. Later this week I’ll put together a recap post that looks over everything I made last month and what I took away from it, much like I did at the halfway point.

And, to go out with a bang (well, a shake), I FINALLY nailed a dessert!

It seems as long as a stove isn’t involved, I can make a dessert. (Ironic, really, since I can cook but can’t really bake…Cookies! I can make cookies.)

But I want to go out on a high note, so I’m going to save the shake for last and start with my last-night-of-the-challenge dinner: Beef Pho from Zen Can Cook. The broth was easy enough to make, if not pricey–star anise, cinnamon sticks and fennel seeds don’t come cheap, and I couldn’t even find a black cardamom pod–but they impart a really exotic, interesting flavor. It did make my place smell preeetty weird the first night, though.

beef pho

The only slightly “off” thing about this dish was the beef itself–I used a top round to make the broth, and despite the fact that it literally sat in liquid all night, it was pretty dry when I took it out and sliced it up. It came back to life a bit once the slices were re-added to the heated broth, but it wasn’t the tender, juicy meat I was expecting. It was actually the low point of the dish.

Otherwise, though, the pho was quite tasty–lots of fresh herbs, peppers and rice noodles in the warm, beefy broth. Much like the soba, this was a total comfort food. I wish I had this around when I was sick.

I had to make a couple of slight substitutions based on what was available. I couldn’t find any Thai basil, so I subbed in regular basil even though there’s a flavor difference. It was better than nothing. I also used a regular green long hot (seeds scraped out) in place of a Thai bird chili, which my local grocery store also didn’t sell.

Nonetheless, the flavor was still bright and vibrant, and I highly recommend this. It seems so much more complicated than it really is. Once the broth’s made, it’s really just cooking the noodles and slicing up some veggies, herbs and beef. Done and done. My only recommendation? I used only one cut of meat in my broth, because it was available and exactly the amount I needed. I would recommend mixing it up, and next time, I’d use oxtail. I almost went with it this time but opted not to. I think it would add even more depth and meatiness to the broth.

But now, for what we’ve all been waiting for…dessert!

Let’s just put this out there: Chocolate chip cookie Bailey’s milkshakes. You can screw this up nine ways to Sunday, and it would still taste fantastic. Because you can’t go wrong with chocolate chip cookies, Bailey’s and coffee ice cream.

milkshake

And, it’s a cinch! Add ice cream, Bailey’s, cookies and ice to a blender, blend, drink. If you actually do screw that up nine ways to Sunday, I might worry.

But in all seriousness, this tastes as fantastic (and fantastically bad for you!) as it sounds. (It was hard to even get a decent picture…Kevin was way too excited and impatient to drink this to wait for a photo.)

Now, I could’ve gone ahead and really pulled out all the stops and baked my own cookies to put in the milkshake (and that had been my original plan), but time became an issue, so I bought a few chewy, yummy cookies from the Wegman’s bakery department. And, frankly, they were probably more delicious than whatever I would have baked. So win-win.

And there you have it. Thirty recipes in 22 days, all capped off with the ultimate of nightcaps. It was a whirlwind month, and now, because I’m me, I’m jumping into another whirlwind month, but this time because of rehearsals. (What can I say? I thrive when I’m busy.)

Hopefully in a couple of weeks I’ll regain the strength to lift a pot or light a stove. Until then, I’m reveling in the beauty that is takeout (sushi!) and leftovers.

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31-recipe challenge Day 21: Chicken and dumplings

Well, folks, we’re in the home stretch as far as posts about the recipe challenge go, now. This was my second-to-last day of cooking and third-to-last dish. (Yes, I promise, I’m all done now, I’m just still two days behind on blogging about it. I’m so looking forward to take-out tonight! No dishes!)

*********

I’m really glad I didn’t make this one the same week as the chicken pot pie.

Why?

Well, chicken and dumplings is, essentially, a deconstructed chicken pot pie. Personally, based on the way each dish turned out, I’d rather have the pot pie.

I’m not saying this one was bad, it just wasn’t as good as the pot pie. Again, I’m not really sure who (or what) is to blame here, but since I’m not in the business of bad-mouthing other hardworking food bloggers, I’ll take the fall on this one. Besides, this recipe came from Diane at Stylish Cuisine and her finished product looked all sorts of warm, happy and saucy.

I halved this recipe, but I halved everything, including the stew/sauce. I assumed that was the right way to do it, but were I to make this again, I would probably keep the full amount of sauce and halve just the actual chicken and dumplings.

chicken and dumplings

Why’s that? Well, when all was said and done, there was a serious lack of sauce/stew in the dish, making it more dumpling than liquid. And that stew base is supposed to be the best part (to me it is, anyway.) The dumplings didn’t really have anywhere to go in the scant amount of stew base, so they sort of blew up into one super-dumpling. (Any artists out there willing to create a rendition of the delicious and nutritious superhero “Super Dumpling” would be my new best friend.)

Somehow, despite cooking in liquid, my chicken also came out a bit tough and seemingly overdone, although I’m alone in this consensus. No one else that ate it seemed to agree; maybe it’s just my oversensitive, wisdom-toothless mouth talking.

Regardless, this wasn’t bad–I ate it for lunch the next day–but it wasn’t the comfy-cozy comfort food greatness it could have been. And yes, I am comparing it to the pot pie, which probably isn’t fair. It should stand on its own merit. But I can’t help it, they’re practically the same dish. I even “healthified” the dumplings a bit by making them with half whole-wheat and half all purpose flour, like the pot pie crust. I’m sorry (but not really) for turning chicken and dumplings into the shadow-cast little sister of chicken pot pie.

One day I’ll be a good cook and be able to write posts about how great and tasty my dish was rather than grasp at straws to find their virtues…I swear…

For some reason, this was just a tough week. But don’t worry, I went out on a high note! (You’ll see…)

 

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