Monday, June 28, 2010

naan disclosure:

I have a confession to make. I’ve never actually eaten at an Indian restaurant. It’s one of David’s final frontiers, and he’s wearing me down gradually.

David went on a field trip to Chicago for work a few weeks ago, and I decided I wanted to make something new and different.

I was going to make Indian.

The difficulties were clear—I didn’t have all day to cook, so I’d have to prep some in advance, get up super early in the morning and use the slow cooker. And then there’s the teeny tiny detail that I had no idea what I was cooking was supposed to taste like.

“Even if it’s not authentic, I’m sure it will at least be edible.” I reasoned. “If not, Papa Johns delivers until 9:45.”

After a few hours of searching, I created the menu for the evening. Literally.

Welcome to "Nomvana"

I broke out the calligraphy set and attempted to write in sanskrit. I'm pretty sure that all I managed to write was gibberish consonants run together and forgot the vowels, but it's the thought that counts.

I found a nice recipe for lamb slow cooker curry with Serrano peppers for the main, paired with raita--a cucumber yogurt sauce to scale down the heat from the Serrano. For rice, I cooked basmati with spinach and a generous amount of cumin. Dessert was the result of my recent pudding shot experiments. And because if you are going to do something, you might as well go all out, I made naan.

I shopped for all my ingredients the day before, which included staring at the fresh ginger for an embarrassingly long time, trying to figure out how much I'd need. I had debated the night before about making naan and decided to go for it. I had never tried to make naan. After I tweeted a picture, apparently I'm not alone.

this is all you need!

I don't understand why, now that I've made it. It's kind of like making pancakes. You don't need a brick oven, or a crazy rigged terra cotta flower pot (I'm looking at you, Alton Brown), or anything expensive or weird like that.

I knew nothing about Indian cooking, and I made very passable naan. You can too! I found this recipe on Chow and followed it closely, because naan recipes are all over the place if you just search the internet. This one seems pretty standard. I've made it twice now, and the results are consistent.

makes me want some hummus real bad

I would definitely classify this as a great success. David said the flavors were great, and the raita was the best he'd had. I liked the spinach+cumin+basmati dish I invented. The curry was delicious and had just the right amount of heat. And even though I've never eaten at an Indian restaurant, I can assure you, our apartment certainly smelled like one for the next couple days.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

bacon wrapped pork loin:

9 out of 10 times if I have some time off work, whether a free day or a few hours, I end up spending my time on cooking blogs and tastespotting, browsing recipes and adding them to my bookmarks. Somewhere around the 2 hour mark, I will have decided upon what I will be making and I will head out to the store with my list.

Which is what happened on Friday. David was working from home that afternoon, and after getting his input on the recipe, I retrieved the ingredients. David said he liked the simplicity of the dish. After we made it, we can say that this dish is deceptively simple. The ingredients are straightforward and work well together, but cooking the dish to bring out the most desired qualities of the ingredients is a little challenging.

You want the potatoes fully cooked and the bacon crispy--but the pork loin not overcooked and the tomatoes to retain a little shape.

We tied the lemon thyme in with the bacon and pork for some extra flavor. We recommend cooking the potatoes first for at least 30 minutes before putting in the tomatoes and pork to ensure they are fully cooked. We also added a little white truffle infused olive oil to the dish to make the flavor a little more unique.

Next time we try and make this, we may partially cook the bacon in the skillet, then wrap it, to make it a little more crisp.

You don't want to layer this dish, so it does take up a lot of space. We ended up using three dishes to roast it all. We had plenty of tasty leftovers.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tweaking classic comforts:

I'm all about tweaking recipes. I'll be in the kitchen, cooking away, and sneakily reach for a spice or ingredient from the pantry. "Woah. Woah!" David says, inevitably catching what I'm doing. "That's not in the recipe."
"And...?" I reply, grabbing the spice jar and sprinkling a little in the pot or pan.

I can honestly say that most of the time it works. And you never fail unless you don't learn something, right?*

Macaroni and cheese with tomato soup is one of my favorite classic comfort foods. While creamy macaroni and cheese has its place, I am partial to the crunchy edges that baked macaroni and cheese produces.

I also tweaked this recipe a little to add a fun--but inexpensive--ingredient. Fake lobster meat, which we refer to as "flobster". Altogether, this meal costs under $15 to make, and makes six jumbo mac n cheese cups. I also cheated a little and used box macaroni and cheese, mostly because I didn't want to fuss with real bechamel sauce. I put in some extra cheese and a palm full of flour to help it stick together better.

coat the bottom of the greased muffin tin with bread flakes, and sprinkle a little on top of each macamuffin

always, always add extra cheese

Bake at 375 for approximately 25 minutes, until golden.

David makes a great cream of tomato soup. We only had one instance of the acidity in the tomatoes causing curdling, then we discovered the magic ingredient. Baking soda. Add a little bit, and your cream of tomato soup will be safe.

When removing the macamuffins from the muffin tin, it is best to let them cool for at least 15 minutes. If you want them hot, they will be difficult to remove and lose their shape. But they will still taste great.

*Note: I have learned it is very important to follow the directions on semi instant tapioca pearls