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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ghost Chile Almonds + Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats

I'm mostly done with my holiday baking.  I was sort of low key about it this year, and was also not as into it as usual.  I've been cooking/baking a lot, usually with good results, but for some reason my fickle heart was just not into my old favorites, and I was a little careless.  The old standbys came out ok but not great.  However, the new recipes I tried turned out fabulous.
I did a lot of nuts this year.  I decided to do a batch of savory ones for my brother.  (Dude, if you're reading this, SURPRISE!)  Inspired by a recipe in the New York Times, I prepared some roasted almonds with a ghost chile powder coating.  The ghost chile powder is a gift from my brother so I thought I'd return the favor.  It contains dried New Mexico chiles, cumin, garlic powder and a hint of ghost chiles.  It doesn't seem hot at first but will sneak up on you.

Hot 'n Spicy Almonds
3 cups raw almonds
2 tsp olive oil
salt to taste (I used about 2 tsp kosher salt)
1/2 tsp ghost chile powder (or cayenne)

Heat oven to 350F.  In a bowl, mix almonds with olive oil until coated evenly.  Add salt and chile powder and mix well.  Place nuts on a cookie sheet and roast for about 15-20 minutes, until they smell toasty.  Be careful not to breathe in when opening oven since the capsaicin is pretty volatile.  Remove from oven and cool. 
They have what seems to be a subtle hint of salt and spice, but the heat sneaks up on you.  I could've made them a lot hotter for my brother but for a general crowd this is a good heat level.   As they said in the NYT article, that little bit of heat keeps you from eating too many.  I'll definitely make them again if I have to bring something to a party.

The second new recipe was the browned butter Rice Krispie treats from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.  (You can find a similar recipe here, but the cookbook version doesn't have any added salt.)  I made them for the grad students and they were a huge hit.  The brown butter and slightly higher coating/cereal ratio made a big difference.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pumpkin Fest Part 1: Pumpkin Yeast Bread

I got this recipe from the King Arthur Flour website.  (Bakers - if you haven't checked out the recipes there yet, I highly recommend it.  There are a lot of great recipes as well as the option to convert amounts into ounces or grams.  Being a chemist, I like to bake by weight rather than volume ;-))  It was easy to make and the dough rose quickly.  I just used my stand mixer to knead it and then gave it a few token kneads by hand at the end.  For the second rise I put it out in the garage (45F?) overnight and baked it first thing in the morning.  It rose a bit too much so the bread may've been a little bit less tender as a result.  It was really good.  Next time I'll be more careful with the rise, and may try making some of it into dinner rolls as they suggest.
The flavor of the spices and pumpkin came through nicely.  It did not taste very sweet.  I like the combination of sweet and savory, so I wouldn't hesitate to use this in a sandwich.  It also made good French toast this morning, and was a tasty side for my dinner of pork roast, beets and spinach.  I think it would be absolutely delicious as dinner rolls with a chicken or turkey dinner.

1/2 cup warm water
2 packages (2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups puréed pumpkin, either fresh or canned
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 1/2 cups (approximately) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
In a large bowl, stir yeast into water to soften. Add milk, eggs, pumpkin, oil, 4 cups flour, brown sugar, salt, ginger and cardamom to yeast mixture. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

Gradually add remaining flour, a little at a time, until you have a dough stiff enough to knead. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead, adding flour as necessary, until you have a smooth, elastic dough.

Put dough into an oiled bowl. Turn once to coat entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Turn dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Divide dough in half. Shape dough into loaves and place in well-greased 10 x 5-inch pans or, shape half into a loaf, and other half into 12 large dinner rolls. Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 375°F oven. Loaves bake about 30 minutes, rolls about 20. Check the internal temperature of each with an instant-read thermometer; a reading of 190°F means bread or rolls are done.

Immediately remove bread or rolls from pans and cool on a wire rack to prevent crust from becoming soggy. For a shiny crust, brush tops of bread or rolls lightly with vegetable oil. Makes 2 large loaves, or 1 large loaf and 12 dinner rolls.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cook's Illustrated Pad See Ew

I have developed a fondness for pad see ew since I moved to Ithaca.  It's sort of an iffy dish, but Taste of Thai Express does it pretty well, some of the time, and we order lunch from them every Friday.  Much to my delight, Cook's Illustrated published their version of it recently.  You can find the recipe here
While I was looking for the recipe online, I also found a NYT article about CI, and its publisher, Christopher Kimball.  It was an interesting read and described the history of the magazine.  I recommend it if you're a foodie or a CI fan. I hadn't really thought about it too much since until recently I didn't subscribe to any high brow cooking magazines, but it does point out how CI's precise yet middle-brow approach is quite different from a lot of other cooking magazines.  They won't show you food porn pictures of a banquet for 16 people, or even pair recipes for a meal, and, as I've mentioned, it's usually all about the secret technique or ingredient.  In all my years cooking recipes from them, I've only had one turn out badly.  (Admittedly, I do alter ingredients and cut corners, but I like to think that their recipes are overengineered and can withstand a few tweaks, as long as you don't mess with the secret technique or ingredient.)  Although they are often fussy with their tricks or secret ingredients, they don't go over the top with hard to find ingredients.  This particular recipe relied on soy sauce, fish sauce,* oyster sauce and brown sugar.  Compared to some Thai recipes I've seen, that was pretty minimal.  It explained why CI is finally doing more international recipes (answer - readers want them) as well as why they don't call them by their common names, e.g. pad see ew rather than Thai stir fried noodles with chicken and broccolini (answer - even though the readers want them they're not sure the real names will go over well with the readers who are less familiar).
I didn't take pictures this time around.  I substituted broccoli for broccolini, and boneless lean pork for chicken.  I cut up the broccoli, cut up the pork and gave it a quick soak in a bit of water with baking soda (the CI magic trick worked!  The pork was very tender even though it was lean and had previously been frozen), soaked the noodles in hot water, made the sauce, and then commenced with stir frying everything in batches, with a little sauce each time  The garlic and pork went in first, followed by three eggs.  Then I dumped it into a bowl, stir fried the broccoli with some sauce, and then did the same with the noodles.  At the end everything was dumped back into the pan and warmed up. 
Anyway, it was really good.  I'm not sure how authentic it was - I've had it so many different ways that I don't really know what is normal.  The noodles were narrower than the ones used in Thai restaurants, but that is a minor detail.  It was still better than most restaurant versions, including Taste of Thai Express on a bad or mediocre day.  I liked that there was enough sauce - sometimes there is too little, and the noodles are bland.  The only thing I would tweak is to add some of those fermented garlic black beans that I sometimes find in there, and possibly a bit of garlic chile sauce.  I will definitely make it again.

*  Molly the cat was obsessed with the fish sauce.  Now I know what to use if I ever need to give her medicine.