Friday, April 1, 2011

Revisiting Some Old Faves

Hi.  Hello.  Sorry to be a no-show for like, the past month.  Cooking school, I'm telling you.  So much cooking during the day, noooo cooking at home.  I spend all my free time at the gym now.  Which sadly, doesn't make for very good blogging.

Last Friday I did get the baking bug, and I churned out a few things.  One was revisiting Oatmeal Bread #1, which I first wrote about last August.  It was great to go back to it and work out some of the kinks that I experienced in the first go-around.  First, I remembered the salt.  Big difference!  Also, I kind of "hot boxed" my bread dough (mostly because I was short on time).  By this I mean, I placed a shallow pan of very hot water in the bottom of the oven to make it nice and warm and steamy in there, then let the dough rise in the oven with the door closed.  It cut down the rise times for both the first and second rises to about 45 minutes each, which was great.  Also, when I first tried the recipe I actually kneaded the dough by hand for the recommended 15 minutes, but this time around I called it quits after about 7 minutes, and I didn't notice any difference whatsoever in the texture of the bread, so that was also a happy discovery.  I mean, I'm a good kneader and all, but 15 minutes...puhleez!  Sometimes I don't have the attention span!  And finally I made sure that the oven was preheated at the right time, so in it went, no over-rising and subsequent collapse.  

 A work of art this time around! And no, I'm not referencing the background.

(I also made muffins, which I will blog about later, since they are an old recipe for me, but, to my great surprise, not one that I had already blogged about.)

Then on Monday in school we had a "Market Basket" challenge--think "Chopp'd" on the Food Network, except luckily they didn't kick us out of school for not having the best dish.  Whew.  That would have sucked.  Actually, the only similarity is that we were given 4 ingredients and had to come up with a first course and an entree using the ingredients.  Our ingredients were asparagus, spring onions, beets, and mini-chicken (A "pullet"--is that what it was called?  Let me know if you remember.) Everyone made the chicken for the entree--my variation was half a chicken under a brick, with caramelized spring onions (heaven!), celery root and apple puree (a personal fave, inspired by a delicious soup I had at Clink two nights before), and over-roasted beets crisped up in some of the rendered chicken fat--a last minute save after I had forgotten about my beets in the oven, for oh, a while...and they ended up so small and wrinkled they could have passed for black truffles.  Oops.  Someone told me they tasted good though, so hey, that's cool!  

But, to get to my real point: the asparagus.  In a moment of inspiration I remembered the Shaved Asparagus Pizza that I made last summer, and decided to serve a few slices for my appetizer.  Thanks to the wonders of smart phones I was able to look up my quick pizza dough recipe, whip that up speedy quick, then proceeded to shave the asparagus using a big, fancy mandolin.  Let me just say, in the future, I will stick to the veggie peeler method.  Much safer and less scary!  Because we were limited by the ingredients we had in the kitchen that day, I had to make a few substitutions.  First, I added shaved spring onion with the shaved asparagus, since I had to use it, and I wanted to cover my bases in case I botched the caramelized onions (though luckily I didn't).  I nixed the scallions because we didn't have any, replaced the pancetta with bacon (but in the future would definitely use pancetta if I could get it), and squeezed some fresh lemon juice on the pizza after it came out of the oven.  Of the changes, I'd say the onions with the asparagus was subtle but good, although I don't think I'd go out of my way find them, especially because they are so seasonal.  I think the scallions, if I could ever remember them, would work equally well.  The lemon juice was killer, adding a hint of acidity that elevates things in that way that lemon juice magically does.  I'd forgotten just how good this recipe is...potential for my final project, perhaps...?

Sorry I've been such a blogging slacker, and now that I've made my return, I'm just telling you about stuff I've already done!  Fail.  But it's a start.  I have lots of things up my sleeve, just not nearly enough time to tell you about them!

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