Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

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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!)

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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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31-recipe challenge Day 19: Oscars and short ribs

What better, swankier dish to serve on Oscars Sunday than red-wine braised short ribs? There isn’t one, really.

These braised short ribs, courtesy of Diane, A Broad (love the blog name!) might be hands-down one of the best things I have ever cooked, ever. After just three hours in the oven, these were the richest, most fall-apart ribs I’ve ever had. (Enough so that two days post-surgery I was even able to eat them!). They seem scary and complicated and oh-so-fancy, but really it’s just a lot of throwing stuff in a pot and letting it go.

short ribs 1

There are several steps, between searing, slow-roasting, separating and reducing, but no one step is particularly intimidating on its own. It’s the sum of its parts that’s so seemingly overwhelming, really, but once you break it down you realize it’s really not all that bad. It’s downright doable! And I would totally do this again.

Also, I’m not sure I’ll ever eat a cooked carrot that’s not braised in red wine again. Even the carrots were melt-in-your-mouth.

I served these over some instant polenta, much like Diane, though I pumped mine up with pecorino romano and little light cream. Add a ton of chives and more sauce and dig in and don’t look back. Thank me later.

Despite the fact that I’m going home to cook dinner tonight (duh), all I want to do right now is eat leftover short ribs straight out of the fridge. Short rib appetizer, anyone?

short ribs 2

Short ribs, Seth MacFarlane, Les Miserables…it’s like everything I love just came together to make me the happiest girl in the world. Add in Jennifer Lawrence being adorable as ever while winning Best Actress (and HOW sweet was it when both Hugh Jackman AND Bradley Cooper ran up to help her when she fell?? Such gentlemen!) and it was a pretty great Sunday. The only thing that would’ve made it better would have been a big glass of the malbec I used to braise the ribs. Curse you, amoxycillin! I thought we were over.

 

31-recipe challenge Day 14: The day I ate a beet and roasted beef

I did two things I’d never thought I’d do on Saturday: I made a roast and I ate a beet.

OK, so maybe that first one wasn’t so out there, but it wasn’t something I foresaw for the near future. There’s something about pulling a big roast of meat out of the oven that makes me feel like I should be wearing heels and pearls with a lace apron and a beehive. Instead I’m pretty sure I was wearing Converse. But the roast was still good.

I pulled out all the stops for a super-fancy (ish) dinner that night, complete with Cesar-crusted roast beef and a blood orange, beet and fennel salad, both courtesy of Bon Appétit.

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Although I ate beets, I’m still not going to be running out to buy them again anytime soon. I discovered I like golden beets more than red beets, but they still have that distinctly “beet” flavor that turns me off. It’s kind of weird, my distaste for beets, seeing as I have a MAJOR sweet tooth and beets are nature’s candy. But I just don’t care for them. I actually ended up tossing the last of the red beet that was leftover after I finished the rest of my salad. The best part was the blood orange, which is just so sweet and citrusy and flavorful.

The only “modification” that I made to this salad, though, was that I halved it. (This doesn’t really even count anymore) and I, in a very uncharacteristic move, forgot the cilantro. Ugh. That probably would’ve made it better, because cilantro makes everything better.

And for those wondering, no, this is NOT the recipe which prompted my disdain for the mandolin. That was the next day…

Now here’s the part where I make a big confession: I didn’t make a roast beef tenderloin, like the recipe says. I made a rib roast. Yes, I know those are VASTLY different. Here’s the (quick) story:

Beef tenderloin (aka chateaubriand) is, apparently, super expensive. (I really should’ve done more research before I dove into this challenge.) I’m talking $50 for a two-pound cut expensive.

Now, I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again: I don’t make that much money! I’m not exactly in a financial position to spend $50 on one roast. So, after some iPhone research and a discussi0n with the butcher, I went with a much more reasonable rib roast instead. It was much fattier, and a different shape, but it was good in the end. Would the tenderloin have been better? Duh, that’s where filet mignon comes from, but I’m not exactly capable of shelling out for four filets.

Another, far more minor tweak, is that I made this gluten-free. Instead of using fresh bread crumbs, I used gluten-free cornflake crumbs so everyone could eat it. I also (surprise, surprise) halved the recipe, because I don’t have eight people to feed. As it is we have about half a roast left over.

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Because of the change in the meat, I had to play around with the cooking time a bit, and just keep watch–and temperature. This taught me the unfortunate lesson that my oven does not cook things evenly. When the roast finally seemed to come to temperature, I took it out of the oven and let it rest a while, but when we finally cut into it, one end was red, nearly rare, while the other was almost all brown, a solid medium at least. Lesson learned: always, ALWAYS rotate things in this oven. (For the record, I was shooting for a nice medium-rare.)

We sliced up the whole thing and seared off the pieces that were on the undercooked side to finish them up.

Now, I’m not a big roast/steak eater, but I must say, this was a pretty lovely piece of meat. It was juicy and still quite tender, considering I used a lesser cut of meat. It got the stamp of approval from the two carnivores, so that’s always good!

I felt like such a big girl, and a classy one at that, pulling off not one, but TWO Bon Appétit recipes and making such a sophisticated meal! Don’t expect it to last.

31-recipe challenge Day 12: Swedish Meatballs

I promise mine turned out better than that.  They didn’t bounce, for one thing. I’m also pretty sure those aren’t actually Swedish meatballs–regular meatballs made by a Swedish chef don’t count! But he’s a Muppet, so we’ll let it slide!

Anyway, clearly what that guy was trying to tell you is that for my 12th day and 14th recipe of the challenge (almost at the halfway point!), I made Swedish meatballs from Jo Cooks!

All in all, they’re pretty simple (and pretty not-so-good for you…fried meatballs in a butter and sour cream sauce!). I’d certainly make these again, but I think next time I’ll bake the meatballs instead of fry them (save where I can.)

I pretty much followed this recipe exactly, except I used wheat bread instead of white bread (because it’s what I had), and I lost my allspice (seriously, I have NO idea where it went…not happy), so I omitted it.

Meatballs cooking

I had these for lunch the next day along with leftover cauliflower curry.  It was quite the diverse lunch, yet they went together oddly well.

I have a ton of these leftover now, but I have a hunch they will freeze well, and who doesn’t love homemade Swedish meatballs on a whim?

Confession: my first Swedish meatball experience was the frozen, Lean Cuisine version. These are way better than that.  Freeze them in individual portions, and I have my very own homemade version! (Though more cuisine, less lean.)

Swedish meatballs

When I made these and had them for lunch the next day, I ate them on their own, but they would be FANTASTIC over some buttery egg noodles. Granted, anything would be fantastic over buttery egg noodles.

And these are a *tad* more authentic than the Swedish chef’s. Except there’s no possibility that Kermit will come be my sous chef…bummer.

 

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