Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Squash Mush

If I had a fancy restaurant, this would be called squash puree. Instead, it's mush. I've made this twice now. Both times, it had pretty good flavor. Its texture was very nice the first time, smooth and airy. On my second try, it was watery and gross. I think the difference was in the amount of parsnips and water in the mush (more parsnips and less water in the good one). Also, don't use too much carrot. I had two big ones left and figured I could use them up in this, but they really dominate the flavor.
  • 1 medium or large butternut squash
  • 3-4 parsnips
  • 1/2 of a carrot (or none)
  • 1-2 onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • rosemary, salt, pepper
  • butter, olive oil, or some combination
  • 1 tbs. maple syrup (or a different amount, but it's worth including)

Chop the onion finely and cook with oil or butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add salt. Chop the parsnips, carrots, and garlic and add them. Add rosemary (maybe a tsp. of dried rosemary?). Peel and chop the squash and add it to the pot. Mix everything and add a bit less than 1/4 cup of water. Cover the pot and keep the water simmering (you'll probably have to turn up the flame a bit). Stir every few minutes and keep cooking until the squash is soft. Add more water if you have to, but you probably won't, even if it looks like it needs it. When the squash is soft, mash everything with a potato masher (or a blender or mill). Add the tablespoon of maple syrup and salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cranberry Muffins

These are my mother's muffins with some additions. The recipe makes twelve muffins and takes almost no time.
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • slightly less than 1 tbs. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • between 1/8 and 1/4 cup of sugar
  • cranberries (about 4 oz.)
  • 1-2 tbs. maple syrup
  • zest of 1 clementine (or of an orange, I suppose)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 and 1/4 cups milk
Mix the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder). Add the egg and beat it. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix as little as possible while combining everything. Put the batter into a buttered muffin tin and put that into a 415 degree oven for 21-22 minutes.

This recipe is imprecise, but I really do cook it at 415 degrees, and it really is done after 21 or 22 minutes. Use the lower sugar amounts if you want muffins to eat with jam, and the higher ones if you want to eat them plain.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Káposztaleves olasz galuskával

Yesterday, I applied to Yale's Directed Independent Language Study program. Since I'll be learning Hungarian again, I now have an excuse to write titles that nobody can understand.

I had chicken stock and bok choy that I needed to use up. They, along with my pangs of reminiscence for Hungary, led to this soup, which involves weird Hungarian/Italian dumplings that were good but still need some work.

  • 6 cups of stock/water
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrot
  • 5 little bok choy heads (maybe 1/2 pound in all)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • parsley (not too much)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • nutmeg
  • salt, pepper, olive oil

Chop the onions, carrots, and cabbage. Cook them with the olive oil over medium-low heat in a big pot, and add a little bit of salt and pepper to them. While you're doing this, bring the stock to a boil. When the vegetables are soft (about 20 minutes), pour the stock over them. After this simmers for 5-10 minutes, start making the galuska by mixing 1/4 cup of flour with a lot of Parmesan (details at the end for this), salt, nutmeg, and pepper (lots of pepper). Add the parsley, minced very finely. Add two eggs and beat them a bit. Then add the 1/4 cup milk and about a tablespoon of water, and mix as little as possible while still mixing everything up. Then, add more flour until the dough is quite thick--it should still be liquid, but about as thick as a liquid can be. Before you add this to the soup, turn the heat up so that it stays at a boil when you do. Put the batter into your soup by pressing it through a galuska tray, which all good cooks keep around (well, in Hungary they did--you could push it through the back of a grater, or just spoon it into the soup in chunks). Cook this for about four minutes and then remove the pot from the heat. Add more pepper to the soup, and more salt if it needs it.

This soup was hard to screw up, since my chicken stock was good enough that I could have just heated it up and called it soup. The vegetables were nice, but I couldn't taste the Parmesan in the galuska at all. Part of the problem is that my Parmesan is not from Parma and is not very strong (or very good). I think I used about 1/3 of a cup, and next time I'll double that. I could taste the nutmeg and pepper, though, and they were good (though completely non-Hungarian).

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Clementine Question

How long is the clementine season? Specifically, how long will the supermarket have crates of them?

Chicken with Breadcrumbs and Parsley

A year ago, I took the Putnam (a six-hour math contest) and during the break ate dinner at Cynthia and Angela's, who enforced a strict no-Putnam-discussion rule. Joel and I almost got kicked out before the meal started for our Putnam-discussion-discussion (we were trying to figure out the exact parameters of what we were allowed to say), but in the end we were allowed to eat dinner, which was chicken. Now, it is the Putnam break again, and I am eating chicken again. Can I make it through this blog post without discussing the Putnam? (No. Joel: what do you think so far? I liked #2 and I got it completely (or so I think). #1 seemed straightforward but I didn't actually compute the integral. I was on the way to getting #4 but then I ran out of time.)

Today's chicken is leftover from yesterday's dinner, which I'll describe now. This serves two and should take about an hour to make. You could make it quicker by using boneless chicken breasts and not making the breadcrumbs yourself (or replacing them with flour or cornmeal).

  • 1 bone-in chicken breast
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • parsley--more than you think, but I don't know how much--maybe 1/4 cup packed or so?
  • breadcrumbs, made from 4-5 slices of bread
  • olive oil (lots)
  • salt, pepper

Make breadcrumbs by putting bread in a 325 degree oven until it's very dry and then breaking it up. I don't have a food-processor so I put it into a ziplock bag and crushed it. It's tedious, but not that bad. Cut up the garlic and parsley very fine and mix them up with the breadcrumbs. (If you're using a food processor, you could just throw these in with the bread to be chopped.)

Take your chicken and make two fillets from it. I followed Mark Bittman's advice, which is to cut as close to the bone as possible, starting on the outside and ending on the inside. (By outside, I mean the side away from what must be the chicken's sternum.) It's a very good idea to make stock from this, because then you have an excuse for why you're leaving so much meat on the bones.

While you're doing all of that, heat a pan over medium-high heat until it's very hot and then add a good amount of olive oil (probably the more, the better). When the oil is very hot, dredge each piece of chicken in some other olive oil, salt them, dredge them in the breadcrumb mixture, and put them in the pan. (Do them one after another, not at the same time, so that the pan stays hot.) Add pepper to each side as you cook. When the outside is nicely browned on both sides (two minutes a side or so), turn the heat down to about medium and keep on cooking. Cook the chicken till it's done all the way through, probably another 2-4 minutes a side (but check often). If your fillets are very thick, consider transferring everything to the oven at 400 degrees after the chicken is browned. (I did this out of desperation, and it worked pretty well.)

Mark Bittman says that to do a good job of browning, you have to get the pan very hot before adding fat, and then get the fat very hot before adding meat. Is there really any reason to wait for the pan to get hot before adding oil? I usually just add oil to the pan when I first turn the stove on and let it heat up.

On the second half of the Putnam, I did the first two problems and didn't even work on anything past that. Joel?