Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Tale of No Waffles

OK, so. This should be a lesson to you all.

Last night I got a hankering for some waffles, and turned to the always-trustworthy Molly and her recipe for Marion Cunningham's yeasted waffles. I sprinkled the yeast, scooped the flour, mixed the batter, and covered the bowl with plastic wrap. Easy peasy, macaroni-and-cheesy.

Except when I went to go get the waffle iron (I planned to set it out on the counter so that tomorrow I would not have to move around a bunch of pots and pans looking for it), I couldn't find it. It was GONE.

I searched every cabinet, every closet, and the basement. I still can't believe that it's not here. We recently moved and I felt sure that I had not given it away...or had I? Perhaps I gave it to my mom? Maybe it somehow fell off the back of the truck? Where art thou, waffle iron?

The missing-in-action waffle iron was a relic of the mid-nineties, given as a gift to my mother and used first by her and then by me once I moved out and appropriated it. It was a Betty Crocker automatic Belgian-waffle maker and it did a pretty good job. Notice that I speak in the past tense, because that waffle iron is nowhere to be found and I've already bidden it a mental adieu.

But! I had a huge bowl of waffle batter resting on the counter? Whatever was I to do?

Well, this morning, instead of letting the batter go to waste, I fired up the stove with a griddle pan (received as a wedding gift and never used until now, because we finally! have a gas stove, stirred in the eggs and baking soda as directed, and drizzled the batter into rounds that weirdly ran along the pan and turned instead to balloon-shapes. They did not rise or puff like normal pancakes, but they sizzled pleasantly and turned a beautiful golden brown. They were also an easy dream to flip. I took my first skeptical bite and...CREPE!!

Yes, that is what I ended up making. Although they are thicker than a traditional crepe, a little more savory (from the yeast) and not quite as lacy-delicate, they had that undeniably eggy, custardy, crepe-y taste. T. loved them and said that if I ever want to make crepes I should just use this recipe.

Not one to leave well enough alone, I realized that the volume of batter needed to make waffles far exceeds the volume of batter to make crepes. So I cooked a few more and then...poured spoonfuls of the batter into a non-stick muffin tin.

The muffin tin is now in the oven. I am following a rough version of the baking instructions for popovers, since this thin batter reminds me of pop-over batter (so I started them at 400 and after 15 minutes turned down to 350. I suppose I should have started them in a cold oven? But too late now). I am watching them like a hawk...they've started to puff up and the tops are browning, but I still see the unmistakable quiver of custard around the edges.

I'm not really sure what's going to happen with these...I sort of have the vague inclination that they'll be something like puffy biscuits? Or less popped popovers? Or those little tasty cake things you can buy from the street vendors in Chinatown (although I guess I should have used coconut milk if I was going for that)?

Who knows. Stay tuned! It's a culinary adventure!!

PS: The pot roast turned out great. I ended up putting it in the fridge and then cooking it stovetop for an hour the day of, and the juices and fat sort of reduced down and made a tasty sauce. With the same wine I had used in the sauce, it was fabulous over boiled potatoes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fly-by-the-seat-of-my-Pot Roast

My frugality sometimes works in mysterious ways.

See, e.g.: last night. The scene: Giant (chosen because of its proximity to Lowe's). The mission: buy supplementary ingredients for pho. One of our friends generously gifted us an entire pot of leftover pho broth, and I already had noodles and lemons (not limes, but the lemons were way cheaper) at home. So all I needed: bean sprouts, scallions, and meat.

The meat was what got to me. They didn't have the kind that I normally buy. I don't know the name of it; I just look and poke at all the cuts of beef until I find one that kinda sorta looks like what I normally use. If you slice it thin enough it doesn't matter anyway.

Well, the only beef that was on sale at Giant was Bottom Round Roast. Like, 3 lbs. And they were priced at $3.49/lb, which isn't the best deal ever, but certainly better than the $6.99/lb sirloin that was on the next shelf up.

So I ended up buying the roast and shaving off some thin slices for us to eat with pho, and that worked great. But then! I decided that I would actually roast the roast. I rubbed it all over with salt, pepper, and some garlic powder, and put it in a plastic bag with four cloves of peeled garlic, several generous dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and about a half cup of water. Then I stuck it in the fridge.

Then, on my way home from work today I stopped and bought a bottle of merlot (Hayes Ranch, a good wine for a good price). I got home, popped it open and poured myself a glass while I got to work on tomorrow's dinner. Yes, that is right. Because pot roast takes forever to cook.

I browned the roast on all sides and then poured the marinade (such as it was) into the pan to deglaze. Then I glugged in probably a good 1/2 or 3/4 cup of the wine. Then I stuck the whole thing in the oven, where it has been sitting happily for the last two hours. I'm going to give it another hour I think. But I started it at 375 for about an hour; reduced to 350 for another 45 minutes; then covered it and reduced to 200. We'll see how this goes; part of me says that anything with wine that sits in the oven for that long is bound to be good. The other part of me says "What were you thinking to combine Worcestershire and merlot!?"

Cross your fingers that we don't have to order pizza tomorrow!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Daring Substitution

I have cinnamon raisin bread dough (hopefully) rising in a cold oven right now and I did something bad. I subbed half-and-half for milk.

Now, I have played fast and loose with the liquids called for in various recipes before. I've subbed soy and/or almond milk for regular milk in scones to no ill effect (and actually I might have made it a bit more vanilla-y, since the almond milk was vanilla flavored). I've also subbed different milks (skim for whole) and have not noticed a detrimental effect.

However, half-and-half is another beast. The fat content is higher, so it could actually affect whatever magical chemistry is going on in my bread. To make matters worse, I only had 1 cup of half-and-half and the recipe called for 1 1/2 cups. So (instead of waiting until I had all the right ingredients, like normal people do) I scaled the entire recipe down by a third, resulting in odd measurements like 5 1/3 cups flour, etc. I've heard that bread recipes don't always scale or halve well, but I crossed my fingers and threw caution (and flour) to the wind. Besides, if I hadn't used that half-and-half by today it probably would have been on its way to funkytown (anyone recognize the quote?). So I HAD to use it.

I've got probably another hour of rise to go so we'll see what happens. For some reason I got a bug in my head about raisin bread and all I wanted was raisin bread and holy cow Pepperidge Farm raising bread is like $3.99 at the grocery store and I can do better than that and look the special baking raisins are on sale for a dollar and...well...turning and turning in the widening gyre, I suppose.

Wish me luck! I will report back (if I remember) on the results of this daring substitution.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Trust the truss

The other day I roasted a chicken. Incidentally, it is the same chicken that my husband is currently gnawing on. We ate pretty much all of it but there's still a carcass, so there you go.

Anyway, to get back on topic, I tried to truss the chicken. The chicken I tried to truss. But though I tried to truss the chicken, the chicken made a fuss and did not truss.


I watched a video made by Michael Ruhlman, starring Chef Brian Polcyn from Detroit, in which he very succinctly and matter-of-factly explained and demonstrating superb chicken trussing technique. Despite this excellent instruction, I failed. Here are the reasons:

1) I did not have enough twine. Strictly speaking, I did not have any twine. What I DID have was a "Roast Lifter" purchased from the post-Thanksgiving clearance bin and made on nothing but some twine fastened with plastic. Supposedly, you lay this contraption in your roasting pan, place your turkey upon it, and hey presto, four hours later you can remove the turkey from the pan with ease. I have my doubts about this "E-Z No-Mess" device, but will never get to test it out because I unceremoniously snipped the plastic off and was left with nothing but a few six-inch pieces of twine that were ridiculously eager to unravel.

2) My chicken was really fat in the breast and really puny in the leg. The correct method of trussing is to tie the legs, crossed over the tail (and cavity) of the chicken, in order to draw the entire bird into a more consistent shape that allows for even cooking. However, my lack of twine meant that all I could do was tie the legs together, shove them downward (and keep doing so, as they resisted my efforts by popping up now and again) and hope for the best. I did tuck the wings underneath the breast, but they migrated outwards during cooking.

Now, all that said, I used Thomas Keller's excellent recipe for roast chicken (salt and pepper a chicken; roast) and it turned out beautifully, defunct truss and all. We enjoyed the bounty for several days and the carcass is now to become stock. But I still have the truss on my mind and, provided I find a ball of butcher's twine for a decent price, next time, OH NEXT TIME, I will conquer. Truss me.