Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

 "When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another , “Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”And they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger."  Luke 2:15-16


 Grinch tree pops (Cake pops formed in tree shapes). Structured by the industrious hands of my two hardworking elves. Just had to share.

The star was God's biggest gift that night, pointing us toward the Way, the Truth, the Life, His son, Jesus. He is the Light, the very embodiment of love and all we'll ever need for true peace, true joy and honest goodwill.
"May He fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him."

Friday, December 21, 2012

Asian Style Pork and Peppers

On flipping through my prior 70+ entries, recipe rotation dictated that it was over and above that time for a substantial protein intervention. Baking marathon characteristic of any given December had me parading through and vast, scrambling to scribble in the insane cookie recipe here and a confection series there, with not much being done for proper sustenance. Am I right? You know, the kind of meal making that's done daily (in my case, several a day basis) and never gets jotted down. Realizing I had to break off the perpetual sugar high this family was on, in addition to bring in check my ever expanding midsection (ugh!), I was desperate to find an answer for some good plated fare. And with due diligence, my poor pondering head came through.

The inspiration here most definitely came from the innards of my freezer box, wherein it's dark depths was found a tightly bound pack of pork tenderloin. Yes, it helps that it is so totally JZ's favorite white meat and it regularly occupies space back there. This hero has been previously showcased in my sis- in- law's spicy vindaloo, ground into an epic cannelloni, breaded and baked, chops style, to colossal meal status. So forth I knew, the One coming up would be much needed therapy for our Lollie ambushed souls.

And how cinchful it was! Since bottled condiment provision duly rested on the sides of my refrigerator door. The ultimate scavenger hunt, focusing on Asian flavors was completed in an effortless and very craveworthy, like- takeout meal. Asian style pork and peppers seemed the end of all white boxed blah and scooted it's way to being The Absolute Awesome. An incomparable one at that, be it side or main.

A great attribute of pork is that it adapts incredibly well to its surroundings. Roast nuggets of perfect seasoned pork, get part braised into a rich bed of flavor. These wonderful cuts then go on to sponge up a lovely pepper thickened sauce. This same gravy may seem a bit oil-heavy at first, but it is just right on spectacular, cradling and permeating every juicy edge and fiber of meat.

An element that deserves honorable mention, here is the tablespoon or so (I am of the or so set) of fermented soybean paste,which took this whole pork and pepper profile into a wonderfully umami-fied experience. Let me tell you, locating Doenjang will be your next Ta- Da To Do, the task which will steer you from humdrum cooking, straight to fierce, bonafide fabulous Asian cuisine.

Incredible, excellent and easy. Need I say more? Requiring less time than a batch of cookies, consider it my present to you.
Merry Christmas, my friends!

Ingredients:
  • 5 tbsp oil
  • 2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1 "cubes
  • 2 onions thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 green peppers, sliced lengthwise in slivers
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp fermented soybean paste
  • 1/4 c rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Salt ( according to taste)
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375° F.
  • Pour 2 tbsp oil in a foil lined baking sheet. Mix together cayenne, ginger, black pepper, salt and sugar. Toss in pork cubes and coat completely with the ingredients. Loosely cover with foil and bake pieces for 20-25 minutes, or until done.
  • In the meantime on medium high flame, heat remaining oil.
  • Stir in onions, ginger, garlic, and saute till wilt and slightly crisped.
  • Add green peppers, saute for a couple of minutes. 
  • Add soybean paste, chili garlic paste and stir to combine .
  • Add in vinegar, soy sauce. Mix well and allow sauce to come to a boil. Add in water if you need thinner gravy.
  • Taste and if needed add salt.
  • Spoon in pork mixture and sesame seeds, cook with sauce for an additional minute. 
  • Serve warm piled on a bed of white rice/ cooked noodles.

With Christmas being just a few short days away, I don't know if I will be finishing up my fruitcake post before the date. If not, I don't want to take leave without wishing you all a beautiful and truly blessed Christmas.
******
Isaiah said it nearly 700 years prior to Jesus birth~

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will  be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince Of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Homemade Lollipops

As you can imagine, everything does not go the way it's etched out, displayed all pretty in the back of one's mind. The other day, I had about 18 different things running through my head, unique ideas to post, creative models to click, conceptualizing the truckload of ingredients hauled from the store finding way into every corner of my kitchen, unable to reach any sort of palatable destiny (sigh.). Further to, there sits largely untouched the dried fruit bounty, those of which star in my greatest year end production ( read*bomb* referral that ended my last post). And while I'm getting there, yes, I will and shall, I thank you friends for the patience you possess, in coming over to page through and say hello. Who can deny, really life's rolls and dips? Where some months, more than not (the not's in December quite evident, right?) seem to ring in a tide and frequency of their own. But I assure, in these few weeks working to the holidays, all the stuff up there will download over to this hyperbright screen, typed and published to go.

So where shall we go? To two simple, sweet ingredients that get metamorphosed to translucence, and perched to sit atop paper sticks. Here it is, a most awesome, straightforward lesson in homemade lollipops.

At one point in my life I held major grievance on boiling sugar for confection's sake on the stove top in my own kitchen. With more misses than hits and dangerously so, my fifteen minutes of candymaking  would end in clunkers too hard, and so beyond chewy. Tough, sweetened mass which would inevitably lodge into the recesses of one's molars for several hours, either to melt or eventually resurface as choking hazard.

Indeed, it was Christmas of last year, that I knew I had arrived, on just the right amounts of sugar and  syrup mixed to certain confection perfection. The miracle of the candy thermometer was the sole essential, and my new best friend, that stopped me in my disastrous tracks from further designing nuggets of concrete, and instead pave the way to a new and improved lollipop structure. Here, be the wholesome candy (if there is such a thing) I so desperately wanted to eat make.

That being said, this is just about the easiest in terms of staple ingredients; one- sugar, two-corn syrup. Assuming the water you pour in is free, so, it has not been counted. Instructionally, your time spent will be stirring these few ingredients, boiling those to a melt, followed by that 10 or so minute simmer, pulling through to a faultless 295° F,  pre-hard crack stage. This syrup will then be poured to shape, set with a stick, finalizing in on 10 delightfully crisp lollipops.

Candy making is more like a sport. Deft hands and swift motions are musts, all to a tune of refined exactitude. Astuteness to reach the desired end product that best resembles molded glass creations will be your ideal goal. Pouring in right amounts of translucent gorgeous at breakneck speed into molds, maybe cookie cutters, even trying a hand at free form art requires NBA precision. Ready, set, go!

Say hello to your newly developed skill, and may the knowledge of the lollipop keep you fa-la-la'ing all season long.

Beautiful enough to be framed, instead theirs was a destiny of crunch destruction, all by some very happy mouths.

Ingredients:
(Recipe Adapted from here)
  • 1 c sugar
  • ½ c light corn syrup
  • ¼ c water
  • ½ tsp flavor extract of your choice (I used peppermint)
  • Candy thermometer, decorations, cookie cutters, lollipop sticks
Brilliant gift giver you will be to many a gleeful recipient with these enchantingly edible works of art.

Directions:
  • Prepare two or three cookie sheets by lining them with parchment. 
  • Combine sugar, corn syrup and water and boil over medium- high heat. Stir gently until sugar dissolves. 
  • Continue to boil without stirring until mixture comes to boil and reaches 295-300°F on  a candy thermometer.
  • Remove from heat. Let bubbles subside a bit, and pour in flavoring. 
  • Pour into either greased cookie cutters arranged on the parchment lined baking sheets or just free flow into circles of 4" diameter, (1/8 " deep)
  • Immediately top with sprinkles or other decorations.
  • If using cookie cutters, gently pull them out at this point.
  • Press sticks and slightly twirl into the bottom end of candy. Sticks can also be dipped in the melted sugar and glued on.
  • Let cool and take off parchment.
Notes: 
The candy mixture is very hot, having all intention for serious burns. So it's a barehands- no- no, trust me on this, I learned the hard way and numerous times.

You can also mix in color, once it is taken off the heat. for a pretty kaleidoscope effect add bits of color right after pouring in the center of your candy and swirl with a toothpick.

Like I said, a lot happens in quick succession so keep your equipment on hand and ready to go - baking sheets, thermometer, extract, sprinkles, sticks, etc.

Beauties need to wrapped immediately on cooling to avoid picking up moisture. 

Unlike caramel making, sesame chikky and jam, I learned that simply winging it through with eyeball exactness will not reach you the right end. Hard crack perfection happens only when the thermometer reads so. 

******

“From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.” Isaiah 43:13(NLT)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Perfect Egg Salad


This month couldn't be busier. So many year end activities, and enough crafts pinned from boards that will launch me from here, through to the next Christmas, and possibly beyond. Yes, it is the most wonderful time of my year, where I think I have enough vigor to take me through various channels, but in actuality, my pep gets dramatically curtailed. With trying to do all that has to be done, those that I wish done stay right up there in a conjured up ethos, desiring much to reach their manifested end.

Keeping in mind that your kitchens and heads will probably be busier than mine, perhaps not to the same ineffectual degree, I convinced myself to take it easy and bring you the one recipe that may cut you some serious seasonal slack. Introducing my lunch for the past five few days.
This is where the slicer makes for good egg salad. Pieces are textured, instead of forked up ugly mush.

Though not a salad in the quintessential sense, the only vegetables used in perfect egg salad are the one green onion and single celery stalk. The salad's magnitude comes from none other than six hard boiled eggs, with inflections from those few other handfuls I mention down there. Opulently textured, this is protein packed bliss. Not the one that is sectioned off your plate as the side, no, this could most definitely pose as meal.

Perfectly cooked and peeled, chopping the baldies are a cinch.The chunked nubs then get ribboned in with less than ten taste enhancing elements. A no fail method, distinctively overplaying it's major ingredient. When conveyed through a lightly rich, flavor packed vehicle, it is pure delight to even the pickiest, egg distressed mouth.

Whether for the healthful assurances within, or just the plain pining for some, this is an awesome plating to many a humdrum egg, taking it to quick meal potential, painless appetizer, and, oh, yes, the promise of a heartily pleasing breakfast. 
So without further ado, shal'st we begin?

Ingredients:
  • 6 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
  • 1 green onion chopped, small
  • ½ c chopped celery
  • ¼ c mayonnaise (light olive oil mayo or low fat)
  • 1 pinch horseradish
  • 1 tsp whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp cayenne (or paprika)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Directions:
  • Cut up eggs either with an egg slicer or with a knife, keeping it slightly chunky.
  • Add all the ingredients from the onions to the pepper in a large bowl and mash well with a large fork or wooden spoon.
  • Add eggs to the dressing mixture and combine well.
  • Serve on bread or layered in a salad.
Intentionally prettied, the salad works well atop crisp french bread slices. A guest pleaser for sure, be it party, potluck, not to forget self serve.

Notes:
Mix and match, Curry powder (Madras), red onions, capers and dill, raisins and even crunchy seeds deliver punch and crunch to fit the occasion as well as your craving. Versatility, yes and yes!

Oh, Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how beautiful your filling. And you, naughty Ginger we did catch- all bundled up savory, and with three bites- shoo:) Cookie cutters put to good use. 

Sidenote~
Egg salad does not keep well (especially with onions), so make enough for the need and fridge up for no more than a day.

Stay tuned people, we're going to soak some fruit next week. "What for?" you ask?  A holiday staple in my house, believe me, it is the BOMB.
******

Let every heart prepare Him room! Celebrate and dwell, for He is the reason, Christ- our joy our peace, our hope.


~Psalm 104:24

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Daring Bakers' November 2012, Twelve Days Of Cookies



Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

From Peta's list of twelve, we were given instructions to handpick a one. The second option followed, where free reign was permitted in choosing right recipe # 2, on our own, for the November challenge.

Ohh, happy day! Set out I did to fulfill this merry making test, all to the the tune of my favorite monster. And to think, just yesterday I was of resolute mind that official holiday baking begins only on December 1st. How wrong I was (?) since, here, on this page, I've come to see that kickstarting it the Daring Baker way made a whole lot more sense, giving me additional days of deemed holiday noshing baking and all the more reason to play Bing Crosby's White Christmas.

I chose Peta's piped shortbread cookies. Mainly because I saw a super concise ingredient list, five to be exact, all of which were in my stockpile. Not too, inspiring, I know. One heads up, though, ultimately those mighty five did me in(as they will you), playing their parts distinguishingly well, and hailing in an overall fabulous piece of cookie.

Many things about piped shortbreads bring back memories of old-school butter cookies, stacked rows in those round blue tins, perfect for tea, that is if you drank tea, their pronounced butter flavor (pure, artificial, convoluted,who knows?) passing through every opening of your face.

Still, I can tell you, this moment, right now, these are different. What with their cornstarch, confectioner's sugar and prescribed 10 minutes of uninterrupted beating, they bake to an evolved, refined rank, one of buttery- crisp- softmelt-vanishing-on-contact breed. Your tongue detects it and says thank you, over and again. There is no safety in fighting off craving. Just give in.

(Recipe Adapted From The Daring Bakers' Challenge Page)
Piped Shortbread Cookies~
    Ingredients:
    • ½ c confectioners' sugar
    • 1 c softened butter
    • 1¼ c all-purpose flour
    • ¼ c cornstarch
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
      Directions:
      • Preheat the oven to moderate 300°F.
      • Combine confectioner's sugar, butter, flours, and vanilla in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle beater. Mix on low speed until combined and then change to the whisk attachment.
      • Beat for 10 minutes.
      • Pipe into rings
      • Bake in preheated moderate oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.

      The snow caps are a recipe that has visited our home and my kitchen, every Christmas season for more than half a decade. I really don't know where it came from, possibly Food Network, but don't quote me on that. I've kicked and played around with this blueprint so many times, that today, it's final make up has taken it quite a ways from it's original destiny.

      Mounded scoops of dough are first baked and cooled. Here, then, comes the Ta-Da. The tops get adorned with melted semisweet chocolate and kissed with the white chocolate gratings of "snow". The cookies themselves are not saccharine sweet, so the double chocolate sings delicious against the nutty, no frills dough. Now with this you can bring on an infinite variation of topping conclusions. Your "mountain caps" can very well be white melted , with colored sugars, sprinkles, themed jimmies, etc. Or maybe a crest of milk chocolate tapped in coconut shreds. The possibilities are delightfully endless.

      (Possible- Could- Be- Adaptation from Food Network archives)
      Snow Caps~
      Ingredients:
      • 1¾ c flour
      • 1 c chopped walnuts or pecans
      • 1 stick and 3 tbsp butter (softened)
      • ½ c powdered sugar
      • 1 tsp vanilla
      • ¼ tsp salt
      • ⅓ c semi-sweet chocolate chips
      • 4 oz. white baking chocolate bar, grated
      Directions:
      • Preheat oven to 350°F.
      • Combine flour and walnuts; set aside.
      • In a food processor, pulse together butter and sugar until well blended. Add vanilla, pulse until all ingredients amalgamate. 
      • Gradually add flour mixture, stirring at each interval, until all is combined thoroughly and form a moist small crumb-like dough, which can be shaped easily when pressed in with hands (If not, add upto 1/2 tsp of water to aid in shaping). 
      • Shape into 1 inch balls and place on baking sheets.
      • Bake 18 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool cookies on racks.
      • Melt semi sweet chocolate chips in microwave -I cook on 50% power at 30 sec intervals until melted and glossy.
      • Have the grated white chocolate set in a wide bowl or plate.
      • Dip tops of each cookie into melted chocolate, then press lightly into white chocolate shavings for a snow topped effect.
      • Let stand until tops are set.
      • Makes about 2 dozen.
      NomNomNom. A dozen were gone before my two came home from school. Being the shameful cookie fiend I am, I was so pressed to hide the remaining from myself (help!). 

      So there you go, your holiday baking begins, and not with the generic- run- of- the- mill. This might just replace all those favorite cookie recipes you have scribbled in journals and bookmarked on screen. Keep with, the knowledge, that in a few short hours, you will be overflowing in pure cookie love, having enough for finishing, possibly even sharing. All the best with that.


      Thank you Peta for this disarmingly delicious challenge, sharing a plentiful array of cookie recipes and ringing in the cheer of this year's Christmas season. Much thanks also for introducing back into my life the art of the situp, ho, ho, ho - what fun it is!
      ******

      "I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!" ~Psalm 116:1-2 (NLT) 
      Picture Source: Proverbs 31 Ministries via The Better Mom


      Thursday, November 22, 2012

      Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

      Doesn't the picture say it all?

      I came across this recipe while foodgawking, again. With the hours spent browsing, pinning and bookmarking, you'd think I'd come up with enough inspiration and recipe material to carry well into a decade and plus. 

      Which brings to this poignant setting. A few days ago, during scheduled routine, my eyes stumbled across and over this gorgeous slice of four layer cake. Nearly peeling the roof of my mouth off the floor, I read through it's content and within a few I knew I was ready to tackle this magnificent piece from those insane Tastespotting publishers.

      And here it is Thanksgiving Eve, that I execute this spectacular next- day dessert. Oh, yes, I wanted, needed  to thaw my unyielding rock of a turkey, but it was my baking roll with Pumpkin Spice layering and the subsequent other and afters that took precedence for much of my today.

      Contrary to the usual, I cannot string into a prolonged melody as to how good it really shall be. I do not know, yet. I do know, however, that it has tucked into it's opulent body some depthfully magnificent flavors. The something that brings me to the conclusive thought that pumpkin spice layer cake may just be the show stealer for tomorrow's gluttonous feast.

      Excruciatingly tough my whole prep, assemble and bake scenario, inasmuch the desire in me, I kept myself from trying a crumb, not even the spoon lick. I did succeed, obstacles be gone, just to experience my much anticipated bite, at tomorrow's table. Chiefly throwing me over wit's edge was the aroma exploding anywhere and all about, several concentrated whiffs that extended into neighbors' confines, and lasting well after JZ's evening return, having the grown man dancing, sneaking in scraps, crumbed hands and all. This was my madness that knew no end.(Aaaahh!)

      The brilliance of the recipe is the combination of so many flavors, balancing a very profound cake, topped with the sweetened tang of cream cheese icing and cut with an ambrosial douse of toasty rich caramel. Luxury awaits, and I am all for the telling, once I cut in through my slice, come tomorrow morning afternoon.

      Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a 15 pounder to brine.

      Have a blissful, and lovely Thanksgiving day.

      Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake~
      (Recipe adapted from TasteSpotting blog) Ingredients:

      • butter for pans and parchment liners
      • 3 c all purpose flour
      • 2 tsp baking powder
      • 1 tsp baking soda
      • 1 tsp salt
      • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
      • 2 tsp ground ginger
      • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
      • ½ tsp ground cloves
      • 2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
      • 1 c granulated sugar
      • 1 c light brown sugar
      • 4 large eggs
      • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
      • 1 c pumpkin puree 
      • Simple Cream Cheese Frosting 
      • Caramel

      Shhh, I haven't enlightened my picky one and two that pumpkin is the main ingredient (gasp!), since they won't go near two feet of any dessert carrying the p-ingredient. I actually cut down the amount from the original, since I didn't want an exaggerated scene of gagging and faces from either.The secret lies with me to the grave(unless probably they read this), though they were none the wiser when combing up shaved cake ends earlier today.
      Directions:

      • Preheat oven to 350°F.
      • Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Alternatively, you could line the bottom with rounds of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper, as well, then flour the parchment paper bottom and sides of the pan.
      • In a bowl, sift together all 8 dry ingredients starting from flour, ending in cloves. 
      • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), beat on medium speed granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time. Incorporate pumpkin and vanilla until just combined, reducing speed to low.
      • Add the dry mixture to the wet and stir until just combined.

      • Divide the batter between the buttered pans. Lightly tap the pans over the countertop and smooth out the tops of the batter.
      • Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centers come out clean.
      • Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes.
      • Transfer to cooling racks. Let cool completely. Flip upside down so as to flatten the dome tops.
      Make the Cream Cheese Frosting, tripled. For my next time, I will be trying a certain orange cream cheese frosting .
      After that  pour on the Caramel drizzle.

      Save yourself time and tension. Layers can be baked ahead and keep well in the refrigerator or even the freezer.
      Once I cut into it, I promise I will update with a nice picture of my charming quadruple layered first wedge.

      *Update* For my buddies who wanted in on a slice~
      Multi storied, mega towering.. How could one slice ever be enough?

      ******
      "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!" Psalm 107:1 (ESV)
      There is always something to be thankful for.

      Friday, November 16, 2012

      Daring Cooks' November 2012 ~Brining and Roasting/ North Kerala Stuffed Chicken


      Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host. Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!
      A while back, one November, Food Network aired a special prior to Thanksgiving, a sort of Q&A on the how- to's of the big meal. Of course, turkey brought in major mention, and in tow came the discussion on the needs and basics of brining that turkey. After the viewing, which I later went on to bookmark twice, the calling to brine has always been first up in prepping good bird. So start Thanksgiving eve, my multi gallon bird bath begins. Which, by the way started out in a black double lined trash bag (since then I have graduated to a pot the size of a medium ground well, used only and solely for the purpose), replete with apple cider, salt handfuls, two sugars, a few cloves and bulbous heads of garlic. Almost everything but the kitchen sink( if need be, too), goes into saturating the day's star.
      It was from there, my brine trials continued, extending into beloved fryer recipes, as well. The spicy fried chicken you most definitely should check out here is always moist because of it's overnight buttermilk soak.

      Knowing the secret of brine made me feel that cut above, where this excellent way of preparing meats was my secret and not yours, ha, ha and ha. Well, the month's challenge on Daring Kitchen changed all that, eye opener it was, clearing my Pooterish mind of incorrect brining after effects, still yet, opening up an enlightening avenue, of the what, the where, the how much and how longs of a good soak. You see, people there is a whole science behind moist, roasted food, and it must be taken seriously.

      Audax says, "Brining works in accordance with two principles, called diffusion and osmosis, these two principles like to keep things in equilibrium (or in stable balance). When brining a fowl for example, there is a greater concentration of salt and sugar outside of the fowl (in the brine) than inside the fowl (in the cells that make up its flesh). The law of diffusion states that the salt and sugar will naturally flow from the area of greater concentration (the brine) to lesser concentration (the cells). There is also a greater concentration of water, so to speak, outside of the fowl than inside. Here, too, the water will naturally flow from the area of greater concentration (the brine) to lesser concentration (the cells). When water moves in this fashion, the process is called osmosis. Once inside the cells, the salt and, to a lesser extent, the sugar causes the cell proteins to unravel, or denature."

      Those proteins that unravel drastically change your roasting results, be it poultry, red meat, fish or other, all for the better.

      In other words, this birdie's getting punch drunk. Where it loses it's natural qualities and it's whole structure gets a reboot.

      So, the song that starts on the DC challenge page, I play over to you. Chirrup buddies, you are one step away from being the skilled roaster, having never to associate with unsucculent, dried up substance again.

      Brining Times~Meats, seafood, vegetables, nuts or seeds can all be brined. The length of time meat soaks in a flavour brine depends on the type of meat and its size, as well as the amount of salt used in the brine—the saltier the brine mixture, the shorter the soaking time. Kosher salt  and table salt are the most common salts used in brining. Generally brining takes from ½ hour to 2 days.

      The secret of the air dry~Once brined and out, you must air dry, chicken( in this case). Since I was going in for my a spice rub, I dried the whole parts and inside the cavity off with paper towels, which I suggest you do before applying anything over it's skin for seasoning.
      Roasting Tips~Roasting can take up to 2 hours for most pieces of meat, for large poultry 6-7 hours.When brined cuts of meat are roasted, the skin needs to browned at first at a hotter temperature. Then the oven gets lowered to reduce moisture loss in the roasted food. It is important to rest (loosely covered in foil) your roast so that the moisture can redistribute itself in the meat, it greatly adds to the final tenderness of the cooked product.
      I nearly tripled my new found all purpose brine to dunk my whole chicken, tossed in smashed heads of garlic, an inch of ginger, peppercorns, of course, also the couple of bay leaves.

      The idea to do this lovely style of chicken, bearing the stamp of my homestate Kerala's Northern regions, came in part from the one episode prior, in trying my hand at this self same recipe, eons ago. A desperate effort that came to epic fail results. Ever since, I wanted to revisit with a better game plan in hand. Here, I have finally arrived

      All Purpose Brine~
      Recipe:
      Makes 4 cups of brine enough for about one pound (½ kg) of meat. This is the brine to use for most cuts of meat and poultry that will be roasted.

      Ingredients:
      • 4 c of cold water 
      • ¼ c table salt or ½ cup Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
      • optional 2 tbsp  sugar 
      • optional 3-4 peppercorns, a few springs of herbs, a garlic clove or two, a knob of ginger etc. 
      Directions:

      • Heat 1 cup of water to boiling point add the salt and stir until all the salt has totally dissolved.
      • Place in a non-reactive container (glass, plastic, stainless steel, zip-lock bags etc). Add the remaining water and stir. Make sure that all the salt has dissolved. Wait until the brine has reached room temperature.
      • Add your cut of meat make sure that the meat is completely submerged (that is totally covered in the salty water) if need be you can weigh down the cut of meat with a clean plate (etc). If using plastic bags make sure that the meat is totally covered in brine and make sure that is bag is locked securely.
      • Cover the container with plastic wrap to prevent odours contaminating the flavour brine or the brine leaking.
      • Place the container into the refrigerator for the soaking time (3-8 hours for chicken).
      • If desired you can air-dry your poultry (usually over night) in the refrigerator if you wish to have crispy skin on your bird. It is best to pat dry your brined item (inside and out) with paper towels before cooking.
      • Cook the brined item as directed .
      Notes:
      • You can substitute all or some of the water with a combination of wine, cider, beer, tea, coffee, fruit juice, most sauces, chicken stock, beef stock or fish stock. Be careful with acidic liquids like wine, cider, fruit juices which can turn your meat to mush if brined too long.
      • A little sugar can help overcome the saltiness of the brine and helps to give a nice sheen to your piece of meat when roasted. You can use up to ¼ c of sugar (use the lesser amount (2 tablespoons) for high temperature roasting since the brine can burn at high heats if you use too much sugar). You can use brown sugar or honey or other sweeteners also.
      • Any combination of spices and herbs can be used to flavor the brine.

      Dry chicken marinade~
      Ingredients:
      • 2 tsp cayenne
      • 2 tsp coriander
      • 2 tsp garlic powder
      • 2 tsp ginger power
      • 1 tsp cumin
      • 1 tsp salt or enough to flavor
      Directions:

      • Mix all the powders and together in a bowl.

      ~Check out the egg masala, used for my stuffing in the puffs. A word of warning, the eggs get cooked further in the roasting (not much of a problem tastewise, I think). You may want to consider soft boiling them. A few tweaks/upgrades: I sliced in an extra onion, chopped up a tomato, which I wilted along with the first ingredients. The texture was also enhanced with sesame seeds tempered along mustard seeds, likewise I threw in ¼ c raisins (optional), ¼ c cashews (optional) towards the end. Finally, there is the ¼ c canned coconut milk plus ¼ c water combined, boiled with the rest of the elements to a thick gravy concentration. On many accounts, the gravy for this is made separately, here I just combined it all into one pot. 
      Not sitting pretty and most certainly odd. Eggs come out of bird, not go back in, right? Though one bite of this unparalleled piece of chicken awesomeness will transform you to think from the other end. Do yourself the favor and have a taste and see. And, tell me I was right.

      North Kerala Style Chicken Roast~
      Ingredients:
      • 1 3-4 lb. whole chicken, cleaned and innards taken out
      • 1 part chicken dry marinade
      • 1 part egg masala
      Directions:
      • Brine the whole chicken in the flavoured brine in the refrigerator  4-6 hours or overnight. (Make sure that every part of the chicken is covered in the brine you can weigh the bird down with a clean plate so it is completely submerged.)
      • Discard the brine and dry the skin and inside of the bird with paper towels.
      • Use your chicken marinade and rub onto all sides, all over the chicken, getting between skin and flesh as well.
      • Set aside for 2 hours.
      • Preheat oven to 425°F.
      • Stuff the egg masala into the cavity of the chicken lightly, eggs first, gently squeezing in only the few that fit. (you can serve the rest alongside the chicken), a bit of the onion mixture after that. Reserve the remaining gravy to pour over the bird after the final bake. Alternately you can close the openings with skewers or cooking twine. I do neither. 
      • Roast on 425°F for 15 minutes.
      • Reduce oven to 350°F and roast for an additional hour upto an hour and a half, loosely covering the chicken with foil. Done-ness should be when the internal temperature is 165°F, or the juices  run clear when you pierce the bird between the leg and thigh.  
      • Rest for approximately 30 minutes covered loosely in foil.
      • Cover chicken with remaining curry gravy.
      The whole bird stuffing gala made me think it might end in another catastrophic conclusion. But no, this time, I brined for moistness and roasted to beautiful crisp skinned goldenness. Hands down, this was a best, one made to be revisited many times, year round. The recipe and the ingredients alone gave it first rate flavor dimension, but the bird itself moved up to the Sensational, enhanced specifically by it's method of preparation.



      I used 6 eggs, them providing an ample enough one meal for four. Tucked into this four pound chicken, the whole thing will make it to a couple of dinners or perhaps a dinner and smashing next day leftover lunch.

      Great thanks and many cheers to Audax for our challenge, running us through those drills and skills needed to make the ultimate brine and roast. Indeed, many of us, with Thanksgiving coming up in a few, will be heaving the long sighh of relief and gratitude to you, our roasted turkeys all ready, set to carve and done to faultless succulence. Hip, hip and hurrah!
      Decided to be inspired by nature for the day (?) Took some pictures on the whim, why not share? It could work as a peace offering to the Daring Cooks for my triple day late challenge entry. Sorry :-/
      ******
      "When fear comes knocking at your door, send faith to answer." Joyce Meyer

      Monday, November 12, 2012

      Sweet Potato Fries and Green Chili Chutney

      Orange. It just seems that all things made right is contained in this simple color. Such a fan am I that the many shades cast in this orange-scopic color range, whether it be dusty coral, gorgeous vermilion, even anemic salmon take my breath away, make my heart race and help me to think a little bit faster. 

      Transfer this philosophy of mine to food and it multiplies by a couple, landing on that very bridge, where bright, beautiful pigment meets and cloaks the insides of a wonderfully good eat.

      The earthily pretty sweet potato, gem like and very majestic in it's naked state (I said it!), is  exactly what I am referencing right now, and serves as top subject for today. 

      Row upon row, piled together in season bearing abundance, these magnificos totally mark the harvest and the accompanying plenitude that walks about in it's timely tow. Tubers of all shapes and sizes crowd in unabashedly, but on most occasions, I am plighted with the warm hued Sweet that screams my name. 

      And due to the quantum fact that they are so haplessly cheap, I am basket- laden, and desperately deluged with more than a month's share, which then finds space all over my storage area, read the floor, and onto the designated chop zone of my counter. On sight, cravings stumble in, those of which ideas and bomb recipes spring forth.


      So I set out to make my first batch of sweet potato fries for the month. Taking five firm tubers and utilizing much ignored arm muscle I slice, imperfection at it's height, wedges of a dimension that qualify as only homemade bestly could. Covering those wedges with just the right amount of oil, I bake sweet potato fries to a crisply conjured, light- seasoned perfection. 

      With the spot on temperature and timing, these sweet fries are spectacularly easy and so intriguingly good. Not only are they flavorful, but the very root from which they were birthed hail in optimum health kick status. With more than a lofty share of nutrient value sourced from vitamins B6, C, and D, so also a good dose of magnesium working it's anti stress properties through this cartenoid high biggie, sweet potato has more benefits than I have possible page space for or time to allot. A performing potato that transcends super mega function.

      So to brace this heavy weight, I don't consider a dipping sauce, gooped concoction worthy of it's time or your tastebuds. No. Instead, an effortless 4 ingredient, no count salt, chili crushed chutney works here. Oh yes, this glorious pairing will just about blow that inert palate right out of your unsuspecting mouth. It will usher in a new dawn, an appreciation for all sweetly starched roots and the knowledge that they most rightly should be anchored into only this formidably piquant destination. 

      As for the chutney, it does dual role, creating balanced harmony, as well as cutting through any saccharin-ey, cloying taste rendered by Sweet. Both the fries and the chutney sort of build on each other, where knowing one will create a need to get better acquainted with the other.

      Yes, this one alone may well be the converter, where even the most cynical prophets of sweet potato doom will fall prey to baked orange charm.

      So, for all you doubters and nonbelievers, never say never.

      Sweet Potato Fries~

      Ingredients:

      • 2-3 tbsp canola oil
      • 5 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
      • ½ tsp salt
      • 1 tsp sugar
      • ¾ tsp cayenne or paprika

      Red cayenne, salt and a shot of sugar gussy up my not so perfect cuts.  


      Directions:

      • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
      • Line a sheet tray with foil. In a large bowl, combine oil, salt, sugar and cayenne.Toss to coat slices with this mixture
      • Spread slices in single layer on prepared baking sheet, don't crowd . 
      • Bake until tender and golden, flipping halfway through, about 30 minutes total.
      • Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving with green chili chutney.
      Green Chili Chutney~
      Ingredients:
      • 8 green chillies( serrano peppers)
      • 1 tsp salt
      • 2 tbsp water
      • 2 tsp vinegar
      • ¼ c coconut oil
      Directions:
      • Crush chillies, salt water and vinegar with a mortar pestle or a small mini grinder, chunky form.
      • Pour mixture into a small container. Stir in coconut oil.

      For the faint of heart, I'd  deseed these, replace serranos with jalapenos, or best yet, bring down the number of chilies and blend in half cupful of plain yogurt. 


      There is a faultless crisp that takes place here. Crunchy outsides with soft insides. A good thing they  are healthy, since you won't be able to stop with just a serving, why not two (?), most surely three.

      ******

      So small a thing, yet it has the power to destroy or bring forth life and light. ~
      "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." Proverbs 18:21 (ESV)

      Who have you blessed today?