Sunday, July 31, 2011

Soufflé Two Ways

When it comes to making desserts, I fall squarely (and with a ample assed thump) in the homey, fruit pie, cobbler and crisp camp of earthly delights. This results in two reactions....1) It pisses off the gooey chocolate dessert lover fans (why don't you make more chocolate things???) and 2) I don't get around to making the more delicate airy desserts. Virginia Willis challenged the readers on her blog to Rise Up and tackle the delicate soufflé as this weekend's cooking assignment. Actually soufflé was already on my cooking to do list but Virgina naturally assumes there's an audience for the test kitchen soufflés you're about to make. For my kitchen, (which in all honesty, is a food photography blog kitchen) this posed a bit of a problem. Soufflés, once out of the oven, need to eaten immediately. IMMEDIATELY!!! So making six soufflés for just myself is overkill on the egg white consumption. But that's ok because the soufflé I was planning to make before Virginia threw down the Georgia Peach Soufflé gauntlet was a savory Cheese Soufflé from Judith Jones excellent cookbook, The Pleasures of Cooking For One. I've been thinking about making this version ever since I got hooked on Iowa Prairie Breeze Cheddar. I have to say it was fascinating comparing the styles and methods of these two chefs while preparing soufflés from their cookbooks.

cheese souffle

Now if you've never made a soufflé before (like me) you might be a little hesitant. I think the general perception is that soufflés are difficult to make. That might have been true back in the day of hand whisking whipped cream or meringue but in the age of the mighty Kitchen Aid stand mixer and the efficient food processor? Not a problem. What is a hurdle is timing. If you plan to make a soufflé for others, say at a dinner party, serving the soufflés at their peak height is a tricky thing. The photo above was taken seconds after emerging from the oven and still you can see the center has started to sink. That's not to say it's not supposed to inevitably sink some but if you haven't whipped your egg whites to the right consistency your soufflé won't rise enough to sink any. The recipe for Judith's cheese soufflé can be found over at Martha's conglomo website. NOT to be confused with Oprah's conglomo website.....where the recipe can also be found. Someday soon they will just merge into the World Dominatrix website Marthoprah and there will be no escaping either one of them....but I digress. Judith's instructions includes adding shredded cheese your buttered soufflé dish but not leveling off the top of the soufflé before it goes into the even, giving you a more rustic looking top. This is a great dish when you've got not much else in the fridge. An egg, some cheese, butter and milk and you can whip up something elegant and delicious in no time.

peach eggs

And then we have Virgina and her peaches. You know she's a good ole Georgia girl when she doesn't have one chocolate souffle in her cookbook but she does have a Georgia Peach soufflé. Sadly there were no Georgia peaches to be found anywhere in the greater Kansas City area so I had to settle for fresh Missouri peaches that I found at the farmer's market. A sacrifice, I know but what can you do? Now, Miss Virginia's recipe serves six so I sorta riffed off of Judith's proportions for Virginia's recipe so I didn't have to make and eat six mini soufflés all my myself.

peach souffle whole

That's not to say they weren't so wonderfully delicious that I couldn't. Oh no, I could. However I was too busy trying to be all "Karmic Kitchen Artistic", getting just the right shot with a dish that just wasn't destined to cooperate. Seriously, look at the badly out of focus and poorly lit reject photo below....

reject souffle see just how much taller it is from the previous picture. They were taken seconds apart. Seriously this is why cookbook photo shoots have tons of assistants and stylists. To get the perfect soufflé shot at the peak of the rise. Not that it mattered in the end.

peach souffle half

Because it was like eating a fluffy peach cloud. It even got a thumbs up from my good buddy Craig who stopped by to drag me away to go a quest for nesting Pyrex bowls. Virginia's recipe is in her cookbook but you really should go to her website for the more detailed lessons on creating the perfect soufflé and some beautiful bonus pictures of Paris. Don't be afraid to making your own soufflés, it anything is will amuse the children watching the incredible shrinking dish collapse right before their eyes.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Because it's not hot enough....

crock pot

See what's cooking in the crockpot later on this week.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Different Kind of Hunter Gatherer

In what now seems a lifetime ago, yours truly was a theater rat. A prop mistress to be exact, handing off various items to the likes of Alec Baldwin and Dana Delaney long before they were ever Jack Donaghy and a Desperate Housewife. While that part of my life has faded into legendary memories one habit just won't die. Chasing down your prop prey. Currently that means haunting antique malls and poking through thrift stores, always on the lookout for kitchen gadgets, distinctive dishes and colorful bowls. I seem to have a bowl itch that will never stay sufficiently scratched. I have enough bowls to serve the Waltons Christmas dinner on Walton's Mountain. One of the items on the search list stashed in my cranial memory stick was a cookbook. A Betty Crocker cookbook. Normally I don't plunk down cash for vintage Betty Crocker stuff, just not my style. But the Dinner for Two cookbook (circa 1958) was one I always had my eye out for. Why? Certainly not for the recipes but for the illustrator.

The great Charley Harper. His artwork is amazing and beautiful. With a few simple shapes and color he immediately captures the nature of a sparrow. He never shied away from life's brutal nature as illustrated in his portrayal of an owl at night from the perspective of the about to be dinner mouse or the incredibly sad statement he reveals in Backhoeasaurus. So when I saw the metal spiral spine in the pile of books at the estate sale I was rummaging through, I held my breath.

Betty Crocker's Dinner for Two cookbook

Really? I had it in my hands? In great condition for being fifty three years old, sitting there just waiting for Karma to steer me towards this little tucked away condo?


Even better? It was half priced day at the estate sale. My discovery cost me exactly one dollar. BWHHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH.

Harper's Outdoor dinners

harper southernbird


These are just a few of the fantastic illustrations. There are some food photos. They are classic mid-century food presentation style images. Elaborate table settings with brass candle sticks, copper salt and pepper shakers and visually busy tablecloths. But it's one of the few cookbooks I didn't buy for the photos. If you'd like to see more of the artwork of Charley Harper, check out Charley Harper Prints.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

House Guests

I have quite a few dishes and recipes in the hopper, whirling around waiting to spew forth onto the blog but not this weekend because I forgot that I was hosting some house guests.

I give you the very obedient and extremely well behaved Toby.


I also give you Rudy. Rudy likes runs a lot.


So while I'm entertaining my guests, there will be no cooking or shooting of food, because Goldens can't bear to be less than 6 inches from any human at any time and the Irish Setter believes he's a small lap dog.


Which means it's time for Plan B, better known as What The Heck is All the Love for Trader Joe's???


Kansas City just became home to two brand spanking new Trader Joe's stores. I thought some of the Trader Joe Junkies were going to blockade the city limits from any bbq from going out into the world until their demands for a Trader Joe's of their own were met.


Last week it finally happened, one on the Missouri side of the city and another deep in the Golden Ghetto. And despite a heat wave of pavement parching proportions, the Junkies gathered to battle over parking spots close to the source of their desires.


I decided to venture forth this weekend and investigate all the hubbub and I am back to report that I am thoroughly confused. First of all, when compared to regular grocery stores, TJ's are not very big. Their produce is ok, their dried fruits and nuts are really nice, they have a decent variety of frozen choices and some meat. As I stood in the midst of the milling crowd, suffering from a wee bit of agoraphobia, I realized that it wasn't a store meant for me. By "me" I mean someone who takes the time to buy fresh ingredients and cooks a dish, either from a recipe or totally pulled out from my.....imagination. No, TJ's is a godsend to those folks who want to buy eight different frozen meals to stick in the freezer and not worry about what to make when they get home from a long day at work. I'm guessing that the Trader Joe's line of ready made meals is a step above a Stouffer's Chicken Pot Pie. But is it really better than making it yourself and freezing your own? I decided to give one of their meals a try.

Trader Joe eggplant parm

I love a good eggplant parm but already I was having some misgivings. They grilled the eggplant? Really? My skepticism comes not from the fact that it's a healthy way to cook the eggplant, it's that the flavor has to be really pronounced for it to come through the tomato sauce and the cheese. However the label is a bit misleading. Unless in Trader Joe's land, grilling means hold over a weak flame for 15 seconds because the eggplant I got was floppy and full of liquid. No grill marks were evident after my CSI-like examination. I appreciate that there were no preservatives or artificial flavors but c'mon people, a flavorful eggplant parmesan is not that hard to make. It's also not like Kansas City isn't home to some incredible shopping options. We have a Dean and Deluca. We have Whole Foods. We have a ton of other organic full featured grocery stores popping up. Not to mention some excellent home grown regular grocery stores who buy and promote local produce and proteins. So while the Junkies are happy (and still fighting over that parking spot 10 feet away from the front door) I'll be hitting the farmer's markets and enjoying the Karmic Kitchen line of fresh and frozen foods.

That's not to say I didn't also pick up some dark chocolate covered cherries to stash back home. If there was a silver lining to the my little dark TJ cloud it was THIS!!!

le creuset

A store of just Le Creuset. Next to the Apple Store, across from the parking lot of the Crate and Barrel. This shopping center would be perfect if they would just open up a Nikon Store and the Just Bacon Butcher.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When Fiction...

...becomes Reality.

Cheesy Poofs, coming to a Walmart near you for a limited time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Poached Salmon

Virginia Willis had a good idea. The latest post on her blog is about sustainability and oceans fisheries, which I heartily endorse. But more importantly she gave us a cold dish to make for dinner. Because short of sucking on a Coke Slurpee in one hand and a fat watermelon slice in the other while lounging in a kiddie pool full of crushed ice, cooking in a hot kitchen is the last thing I really want to do.

poached salmon

If you'd like to try your hand at court-bouillon, poaching and even making your own mayonnaise, check out Virginia's recipe. As for me, when faced with a weather forecast calling for a week's worth of 99 degree heat and humidity, I'm ready to hide out in the cool darkness for an all day movie theater marathon. Here's hoping everyone stays safe during the heatwave.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

If you roll it, they will grow....

Kinda loving this for those small spaces that you could use to grow veggies and fruit. Available at FoodMap Design.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Playing with your Food

Some folks take the off the cookie of their Oreos to eat the icing....

...and some folks take off the cookie to make cameos out of the filling.
See more of Judith G. Klausner playing with her food.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Supper

I'm on an email list with Cook's Illustrated. Each week I receive a missive from the good folks at the Test Kitchen with recipes and tips. This past week the featured recipe was for Beer Can Chicken. I've avoided this preparation in the past because I thought it was an overly complicated and precarious way to cook chicken. I couldn't have been further from the truth.

Beer can chicken

Beer can chicken requires a chicken, some of your favorite rub, a can of beer, a heat source and some wood chips for smoking. Nothing more than that. Bring both the beer and the chicken to room temperature. Next rinse your chicken thoroughly and pat it dry. Cover the body of the chicken with a dry spice rub. You can make your own or purchase the many, many spice rubs that can be found at your grocery store. Put some into the cavity of the bird and even tuck some between the skin and the breast meat. Don't forget to pierce the fat parts of the body of the chicken to allow the fat to render out more easily. Your chicken is now ready, time to prepare the beer. First, either pour our or drink a 1/4 of a cup of the beer. You don't want your beer boiling over during the cooking time. You'll need to open two more holes in the top of can to allow more steam to escape up into the cavity of the chicken and...bonus.... you'll get to use the weirdly named tool, the Churchkey.

beer can chicken can

As to the quality of the beer, cheap or expensive, it doesn't seem to matter. Actually you can use soda, lemonade or any other flavorful liquid you can put in a can. Cook's Illustrated tried other liquids and suggests beer first, then soda or lemonade. They also suggest breaking up a couple of bay leaves into the beer.

beer can chicken setup

Before we turn the heat on, we've got to get our other flavor element prepared. Wood chunks or chips to help smoke our bird. I'm using apple wood chips in two little smoker pans. I'm using a gas grill that has three burner elements. You can see above I've got smoker pans on each side of the chicken. I also have a drip pan directly beneath the bird to catch any fat or juices. We're cooking chicken with indirect heat so the middle burner is turned off and the surrounding burners are set to medium. Place the can of beer in the middle and carefully insert the can into the cavity of the chicken. Use the legs and the tail nub as a tripod to balance out the chicken. Shut the lid and let it cook at roughly 300 degrees for a little more than an hour depending on the size of your bird. Mine was over four pounds and it went about an hour and fifteen minutes. Test the temperature of the thigh meat. When it reaches 170 to 175, it's done. Here's the trickiest part of the whole deal. You need to remove both the chicken with the can still inside so you'll need a good sturdy set of tongs and something that is heat resistant so you can take chicken off the heat to rest. Fifteen minutes to allow the juices to resettle in the bird and again, mindful of the hot can, remove the beer can from the chicken. Serve immediately.

beer can chicken leg

What you'll be serving is incredibly moist chicken with deliciously crispy skin with tons of flavor. It's that simple and so good they will think you are a grill master. Plus all the kids can brag about having had Ass Can Chicken.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to our dear blog friend in the Great White North, Susan Black of the blog 29 Black Street.

Susan is an artist and graphic designer extraordinaire.

She's a prolific and talented photographer

She also loves good food and knows how to make us all want to come to her house for dinner.

Happy Birthday Susan, please enjoy some NamaimoBars on us.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Red, White and Blueberries

I don't know why but whenever the Fourth of July rolls around, I feel like making pie. This is rather counter-intuitive because making pie dough and cranking up the oven in the sweltering humidity that is July in the Midwest is just plain crazy. However when I get the whiff of a ripe peach or taste the juicy sweetness of a plump blueberry, hot kitchen be damned, I reach for the rolling pin.

blueberries 3

Sad to say the peaches available in our area have not been very pie inspiring. The blueberries, on the other hand, have been excellent, sweet and full of juice. But it's that juice that causes many a soupy pie. Too much juice ruins your bottom crust and makes your slice a drippy mess to eat. The other problem is getting just the right amount of thickener so your pie sets up. However too much and you've almost got Jello pie. Would Cook's Illustrated have the answer?

blueberry pie 1

Their version of pie crust and filling tries to address the perfect jelling blueberry filling. Quick cooking tapioca and shredded Granny Smith apple are part of their solutions along with cooking down some of your blueberries.

blueberry pie 2

The results? Looks good in the pie pan but still I have a bit of a slump on my slice. And in an attempt to balance out the sweetness of the berries and the added sugar, they include a measure of lemon zest and juice. Personally, next time, I'd go half the amount of both since it seemed just a bit too much citrus for me.

blueberry pie 4

The crust was excellent and despite the citrus, the blueberry filling was sweet and fragrant. All that was missing was some fresh, hand cranked, cold vanilla ice cream.

Happy Fourth of July, Everyone!