Monday, December 21, 2015

Sweet and Savory Crockpot Roast

This recipe is really simple and easy to make, but shockingly delicious - the first time I made it I was trying for something that wasn't too much like American Chinese food but still had elements of sweet and savory. I was surprised how balanced it turned out. It's not overly sweet, nor is it overwhelmingly soy-sauce flavored. It's as easy to eat as it is to prepare.


Pork or Beef Roast (I used a 3 pound pork blade roast most recently - whatever is cheap)

1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. water
1.5 Tbsp cider vinegar
2-3 Tbsp brown sugar (more if you want it sweeter)
1 Tbsp yellow mustard powder
1 tsp ground pepper
1 2" cube of ginger, cut into slices
2 medium cloves garlic, cut in half
1-2 dried red chilis (to taste)

Combine sauce ingredients. Taste for balance. Place roast in crockpot, pour sauce over roast, let cook until it's dinner time.

If you're feeling fancy, you can add some veggies to the crockpot at the very end. Make sure it is on high, and you may want to remove the roast so they can get immersed and cook in the liquid which is faster than waiting for them to get steamed. I added carrots, then 10 minute later mushrooms, then 5 minutes later broccoli and cooked the broccoli until it was al dente. I served it on white rice. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Minestrone II

Adapted from recipe by Martha Rose Shulman (perhaps my favorite chef...She also has a version with squash that I'll have to try some day.)
Serves 4-6

2 Tb. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 Tb. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 garlic cloves, put through garlic press, divided in halves
1 can (14 oz.) crushed tomatoes (If necessary, use diced, and then mince them.)
1 1/2 lb. (or one small head) green cabbage, cored and chopped fine
1/2 lb. (1 heaped cup) dried white beans, picked over, rinsed, soaked in water for 6 hours or overnight OR 1 can cannelini beans
8 cups water (Optional: Substitute some broth for water, especially if you’re not adding meat)
1 Parmesan rind (No parmesan rind is fine. But then be sure to serve with Parmesan on top if possible. It adds great flavor!)
1 Bay Leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup elbow macaroni other small pasta
Sausage optional (I like to use a half dozen pre-cooked poultry sausages, chopped fine.)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and parsley. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is fragrant and tender, about 10 min.
Stir in half the minced garlic and cook, stirring, about a minute, until the garlic begins to smell fragrant.
Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes, until they have cooked down a bit.
Add cabbage, stir for a minute.
If using dried beans, add now.
Add water and bay leaf.
Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low, cover partially and simmer 1 hour or until beans are just about tender. If using canned beans, add them around the 45 minute mark.

2. Add remaining garlic, cover, and simmer another 30 minutes to 1 hour, until beans are thoroughly cooked and the soup very fragrant. Add pepper and salt. Remove parmesan rind and bay leaf.

3. Add pasta (and meat, if you like). Cook about 5-10 minutes, until pasta is al dente and meat is done.

Advance Preparation: The soup can be made a day ahead through Step 2 and refrigerated. Bring back to a simmer and proceed with the recipe. It keeps for a few days in the refrigerator and freezes well.

Variation: The original recipe includes 4 to 6 thick slices toasted bread rubbed with an additional clove of garlic (cut in half first). These croutons are placed one in the bottom of each bowl, before ladling the soup.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Braised Pork Belly - Hong Shou Rou

My goal in making this recipe was to explore Asian recipes that would translate well into American holidays. I think this would be a great recipe for Thanksgiving or Christmas, as it has a rich, special-occasion quality to it, as well as spices such as cinnamon which are traditional at the holidays. It turned out great, and really wasn't that difficult. Maybe not an everyday meal, but certainly worth making a few times a year. The pork becomes glazed with a sweet, flavorful sauce, and the meat is fall apart tender, with the fat completely melting in your mouth.

There are many versions online, and mine is primarily based on this video. You can add puffed tofu or hard boiled eggs at the end for more variety in texture.

Finished product, with stir fried Chinese broccoli and scallion pancake.
Towards the end of the cooking time, before you add the sugar and cook down to create the final glaze.

The assembled ingredients. The pork has already been blanched and is ready for browning.
1.5 lbs pork belly, sliced into 1.5" pieces (pick a piece that offers a good combination of fat and lean, according to your preference)
1 Tbsp oil
1/3 c. rock sugar, divided (or brown sugar)
6 cloves garlic
1" piece ginger, sliced
3 scallions
2 pcs. star anise
2" piece cinnamon stick
~2 c. chicken stock or water
2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce (I recommend Pearl River Bridge brand)
1 Tbsp. Shao Hsing cooking wine
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
4 eggs, hard boiled and peeled

The pork belly should first be blanched to remove impurities, and then rinsed well. Place the pork in a saucepan with cold water to 1" over the meat. Bring to a boil and boil 3 minutes. Rinse well under cold water and drain well.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy pot, such as enameled cast iron. Add 2 Tbsp. of the sugar and stir constantly as it caramelizes. When it is a nice caramel color (do not burn!), add the pork chunks, searing the edges and tossing frequently to coat with caramel. Pour off any excess oil.

Add the dark and light soy sauce and cooking wine. Add the chicken stock so that the pork chunks are ~80% submerged. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add the garlic, ginger, star anise, and cinnamon. Cover and simmer for 50-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The liquid should be reduce by now to at least half of its original amount. Remove the aromatics from the pot as best you can. With the lid off, increase the heat, stirring occasionally, until there is only about 1/4" of liquid in the pot. Add 2-3 Tbsp of rock sugar to taste, and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is reduced to a glaze on the meat (there should still be some liquid left to spoon over the meat chunks for serving). The hard boiled eggs should be added just before the end to coat them with the glaze, but take care not to break them when stirring the meat.

Serve garnished with scallions, with fluffy white rice.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Baeckeoffe - Alsatian Hotdish

We had this wonderful, hearty dish during a brief stop for lunch in Mulhouse in the Alsace region during our Europe trip this year. Using a recipe from an actual Alsatian, Hubert Keller, we found that our version actually far surpassed the simple fare we had in Mulhouse. The principle of the Baeckeoffe is similar to the Jewish cholent tradition: make a casserole in a earthenware or enameled dish, seal tightly, and allow to cook untouched for several hours (traditionally, by leaving in a baker's oven Friday before sabbath, then retrieve Saturday after sundown, when you are allowed to pick things up again). I opted not to seal the pot with dough because my lid has no vent (see original if you want to try). The heavy cast iron lid provided a plenty good seal. This dish takes some pre-planning because it should marinate overnight, but it is well worth it. Also, amazingly, I was able to find Alsatian Riesling at Total Wine!

Protective and delicious layer of potatoes.

The final product is not much to look at, but is packed with savory flavor and the meat is ultra tender.
The town hall of Mulhouse as viewed from our lunch cafe!


  • 2 yellow onions, minced
  • 2 small leeks, white and tender greens sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut into 18" slices
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. juniper berries
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • 3 c. dry white wine, such as Alsatian Riesling
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper


  • 1 lb beef chuck roast, cut into 1.25" cubes
  • 1 lb boneless pork butt, trimmed and cut into 1.25" cubes
  • 1 lb boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1.25" cubes
  • 1 lb pigs feet (optional--you can substitute one more pound of one of the above meats)
  • 2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8" slices
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. butter

The Day Before

Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add all the meats and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate overnight or longer. After it has marinated, remove the bay leaves, juniper berries, and thyme sprig.

Cooking Day

Preheat the oven to 350.

Butter a 4.5 qt or larger enameled cast iron pot or casserole. Arrange 2 layers of potato slices in the bottom, sprinkling each layer with salt and pepper. Place the marinated vegetables and meat into the casserole, and pour over the remaining marinade liquid. Arrange another 2 layers of potato slices on the top, sprinkling each layer with salt and pepper. Dab with butter and cover with a heavy lid. (Using the pastry seal is optional at this point.

Place in the oven and bake for 3.5 hrs. I recommend putting a tin-foil covered baking sheet on the rack below the casserole to catch drips.

Potatoes should be cooked through and golden brown, and meat should be tender. Serve with crusty bread and more Riesling!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Moroccan Chicken with Tomatoes and Honey

My wonderful siblings got me a cookbook in Morocco that is both inspiring and idiosyncratically translated. The quantities are along the lines of "heaping coffeespoonful" and "one teaglassful". Many of the dishes have combinations of sweet and savory, fruit and meat, which intimidate me. I should try out more of these recipes than I do, but I thought this relatively simple one would be a good start.

Moroccans must be quite fertile, as these recipes often begin with "take 2 whole chickens, add 11 pounds of tomatoes...", so I scaled this one back for our 2-person family. The result was a deeply hearty, warming, satisfying stew, and I am finally reconsidering my dislike of sweetened meat dishes.

A thoughtful gift from Alex and Melanie for a food-obsessed person like me!
This dish has a wonderfully mellow, warming character. Almonds are supposed to be whole and blanched, but I couldn't find those.

1 whole cut-up chicken
1 stick butter
1 28-oz can of tomatoes, drained, and then diced
1 large onion, shredded (i.e. chopped finely in food processor)
2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. saffron (*see below)
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. honey
1/4 c. blanched almonds
1 Tbsp. oil

*My understanding is that in Morocco saffron often comes in a packet, mixed with marigold flowers for color. My substitution for this was one packet of Sazon Goya con Azafran + a pinch of real saffron.

Melt the butter in a heavy pot (I use a Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot). Brown the chicken for a couple minutes on each side to add some flavor. Honestly, I remove the skin before I do this because neither of us likes to eat jiggly chicken skin.

Add the diced tomatoes. You can use fresh, but they are supposed to be peeled and seeded, and seriously, who has the time? Stir in the shredded onion, pepper, and salt, and bring just to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 45-60 minutes or until the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender. Stir occasionally.

Remove the chicken pieces and set aside. Increase the heat and cook off much of the remaining liquid until the butter and schmaltz rises to the top and the tomato sauce is thickened. Add the honey and cinnamon and simmer a few more minutes to combine the flavors. Salt to taste.

At this point I removed the chicken from the bone and added it back to the pot, but the original recipe says to put the whole chicken pieces back in before you add the honey and cinnamon. I think it's easier to eat with the chicken off the bone.

Top with some blanched almonds that have been lightly toasted in oil. Serve over fluffy, buttery couscous.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Stschi - Meat and Cabbage Stew

My lovely brother accused me of posting elitist bourgeoise recipes using the steam oven, so here's a recipe for the people--LITERALLY. This is from DDR Kochbuch - Das Original, a cookbook of East German recipes that we got in Weimar. This clearly influenced by the multitude of Russian recipes for shchi, or cabbage soup. Being on the eastward side of the iron curtain, many GDR recipes were influenced by cuisine from within the USSR.

I believe this could be made with sauerkraut rather than fresh cabbage. If you use kraut, rinse it a couple of times first, and then don't add vinegar later on.

The humble appearance of this soup belies wonderfully rich flavor. For this version we used pork loin, but can be made with other cuts of pork, or with beef or veal. The meat is cooked until tender, but still with some chew to it.

2 lbs.  boneless stew meat: beef, pork, or veal (or 3-5 lbs bone-in)
1 large celery root (celeriac), cubed
1 large leek, separate the leaves, wash thoroughly and dice
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 white cabbage, shredded finely (~4 c.)
OR 1 can sauerkraut, rinsed and drained (omit vinegar)
1 stick butter
2 bay leaves
1 bundle thyme (optional)
white pepper
~1 Tbsp cider vinegar, to taste

Place the whole meat chunk (no need to cube) in a large pot and cover with 2 qts. water or broth, add the bay leaves and thyme, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1.5 hrs or until tender. Remove from the pot and allow to cool enough to cut into cubes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed soup pot, melt the butter. Add the leeks and cook over low heat until they are softened. Increase the heat and add the celeriac and carrots. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the edges of the vegetables start to brown (do not burn).

Strain the broth into the soup pot, and bring the broth and vegetables back to a gentle boil. Add the cabbage/kraut and simmer for 5 minutes or until just tender. Add the chopped meat and adjust the seasoning with salt, white pepper, and vinegar. When heated through, serve hot, with buttered bread.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Miele Steam Oven Pulled Pork

I've been debating whether I should post some of these more niche recipes--now that we have a steam oven and a high powered stove, I am making recipes that not everyone can reproduce with other equipment. I've decided to post some of them 1) for my own records, and 2) because there are very few recipes available online for these devices (especially the steam oven). Perhaps these recipes will be of use to others. I don't have a photo for this one because I decided to post the recipe after the fact.

3-5 lb pork shoulder roast (~3 lb without bone, ~5 lb with)
1 large white onion, 1/4" slices
1 Tbsp. butter
1 chicken boullion cube
1 c. water

2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. whole coriander
1 Tbsp. coarse ground salt
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. celery seed

Saute the onions in the butter in a saute pan over medium for 10 min until the onions are somewhat softened, but not caramelized. Crumble up the boullion cube and add it to the pan, then add the water and bring to a simmer 1-2 min or until the boullion is dissolved.

Pat the pork roast dry and place in a deep, solid oven pan. Grind the thyme, sage, and coriander together in a mortar and pestle until, then mix in the remaining spices. Rub the spices onto the pork roast. Place the onions around the roast (don't pour on top, or the broth will wash the rub off). Tent with foil.

Place in the steam oven on surround mode, at 250 F, and 75% humidity, for 6 hours. Every two hours, add ~1 c. water to prevent the onions from burning. Turn the roast a couple of times. NOTE: I think that more liquid could be added at the beginning to prevent having to tend it during cooking. The onions should produce a dark, flavorful goo.

Once the pork is tender, pull apart with tongs or forks. Spoon over some of the onion goo. Place on a toasted bun and add BBQ sauce if desired. This would be great with Carolina style mustard sauce, but regular sweet BBQ sauce is good too.

Zingy Cauliflower Salad

Inspired by our trip to Germany and the many wonderful composed salads we had, I created this cauliflower salad. I served it with pulled pork sandwiches, as an alternative to cole slaw, which went well together.


1 head cauliflower, in small florets
1 carrot, julienne
1/3 c. red onion, sliced thin
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
~2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves


1/4 c. red wine vinegar + 2 tsp. cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt or to taste
1/2 tsp. black mustard
1/4 tsp. cayenne

Blanch the cauliflower and plunge into cold water to cool, then drain thoroughly. Combine the cauliflower, carrot, onion, and celery in a large bowl. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, and then pour over the vegetables, then mix. Adjust salt to taste. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes or longer.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Chicken with Red Curry Paste - Gai Pad Prik King

This is a wonderfully flavorful dish that can be easily prepared in a pinch. If you cannot find the kaffir lime leaf, omit it (although it adds nice flavor). You can also use standard string beans instead of the long beans. Make sure to cook the dish on as high a heat as possible so that the chicken sears quickly and doesn't dribble out all its juices in the pan. I recommend cooking only 1 lb of chicken at a time so you don't overcrowd the pan. My recipe is based off of the one here at Eating Thai Food.

1 lb chicken breast, cut into 3/4" slices
1/2 c. Chinese long beans, cut into 1/4" slices (or string beans)
3 Tbsp. Thai red curry paste
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
4 kaffir lime leaves, chiffonade
2 Tbsp. peanut oil

Heat a flat bottomed wok on medium high and then add the oil. Add the curry paste and stir/chop with a wok spoon or spatula so that it sizzles and softens for 30 seconds. Ensure it does not burn.

Add the chicken, fish sauce, and sugar and toss over high heat for 4-5 minutes, until the chicken is mostly cooked through. Add in the lime leaf and long beans and continue to toss and cook an additional 3-4 minutes. The beans will be crisp in texture.

Serve with jasmine rice and a fried egg. In Thailand the eggs are traditionally fried in a wok so the edges are crispy and the yolks are cooked through. Enjoy!

Yellow summer squash curry

This recipe is a perfect one for summer - it uses yellow summer squash which is always in abundance and ends up tasting very light.  It takes very little time to cook, and there's not really very much prep. The hardest part is getting the spices together, but overall there's not that much chopping or cooking. It was meant to be sort of a one-off recipe, but as soon as we tasted how well it turned out, I started writing it down to keep from forgetting it.


1 tsp whole fennel
4 cloves
1 tsp whole coriander

4 green cardamom pods, lightly smashed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you want it spicy)
1 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 heaping tsp black mustard seeds

2 medium yellow squash cut into thin circles or half circles
1 can coconut milk
1/3 c. chicken broth (i.e. one muffin tin cube's worth, optional)

1 chicken breast cut into thin pieces


Toast the fennel, cloves and coriander in a high sided skillet on medium heat until fragrant. Pour into a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind. Combine with the cardamom pods, tumeric, cayenne and pepper, set aside.

Sautee onion in the same pan with a Tbsp of oil on medium high, cook until the edges are start to brown. Add garlic, ginger, cumin and mustard seeds. Cook until everything is getting browner. Add the other spices. Stir for 30 seconds, then add squash, stir for 30 seconds or so and add coconut milk (and optionally chicken broth). Stir until everything is mixed, then add chicken and simmer until just cooked (should not take long). 

Serve over rice.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Savory chicken apricot pie

There is a restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin, called "Mediterranean Cafe" aka MedCaf and they have perfected how to do 'fast food' right. They make huge batches of homecooked food, and have such quick turnover that it's always really fresh. Every day they have 4 specials, in addition to some standby items that are always available - it's hugely popular, and at lunch time there's often a bit of a line out the door.

One of my favorite dishes that they had, which was a special and so only available certain days, was a chicken apricot pie. I don't think this is an authentic dish in any particular country, but represents the kind of fusiony approach that make MedCaf so popular. This is the recipe from my third time making it, since the first couple just didn't come close enough to what I remember.

This recipe requires one unusual ingredient, "Qamar ad-din" paste. It's basically unsweetened apricot fruit leather that is normally used to produce a beverage during Ramadan. You can buy it at most Middle Eastern markets year round. Here's a picture of one brand of it:


  • 250 grams qamar addin
  • 3 cups water
  •  2 large chicken breasts, or 3 small
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 cloves
  •  1 stick butter
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 2 c. milk
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon


The night before making this, roughly chop the qamar addin into chunks, then soak in the water. You're hoping to create a fairly viscous liquid that is pourable but won't slosh around, a bit like a pie filling or something. Check how things are going in the morning, you may need to add a little bit more water, and it helps to shake the container a little bit. If by cooking time there are still chunks or it is too watery, you can cook it on the stove until everything is dissolved and it reaches the correct consistency. 

Boil the chicken breasts with the spices (cinnamon, garlic, allspice, pepper, cloves) until cooked. Remove, let cool, shred chicken. Retain some liquid.

Grease a brownie pan (9x9 or 9x13), preheat oven to 400, put the shredded chicken in the pan, pour the apricot over it, and then begin preparing the bechamel sauce as follows: Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour, whisking it in vigorously to ensure it's fully mixed. Cook the roux until it is just barely starting to brown.Very slowly add the milk, mixing continuously with a whisk. Add the spices. Simmer and stir on low heat until the sauce is beginning to thicken. Remove from heat, whisk in eggs, pour over everything in the brownie pan. Bake at 400 until the top is browned, about 30-40 minutes. 

I recommend serving this with rice, cooked with a pinch of saffron and 1 tsp of turmeric, and a green side salad. The rice helps cut down on the richness of it.  

I don't have any pictures of it since we tucked right in. Maybe next time!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Make your own mustard for fun and profit

So it turns out making your own mustard is ridiculously easy, though not actually that profitable since mustard powder is not actually that much cheaper than just buying mustard. However, given how easy it is, there's almost no reason not to make it.

The main ingredient is yellow mustard seed powder, which you should be able to get almost anywhere. You can also add brown or black mustard seeds (note that they look almost identical), in whole or ground form (I don't see much availability of these as pre-ground, you generally have to grind them yourself). To make the condiment mustard, you'll mix water, vinegar and spices in with your mustard powder/seeds. You then need to wait a couple of days for it to get less bitter - hold in mind while tasting it at first that it's going to be bitter.

The main rule of thumb is that the temperature of water you use will play a big role in spiciness - the hotter the water, the less spicy the resulting mustard is. It seems really sensitive - when I made some with not-quite-boiling water because I was being lazy, it was much spicier than when I made it with just boiled water.  What I don't think is necessary is to actually cook the mustard on the stove top - I've seen a couple of recipes like this online, and it just sounds like a good way to gas the entire house.

Since it's just a condiment, you can also continue to adjust it after you've mixed it initially. I sometimes find the balance of sweetness isn't quite to my liking once it's sat for a couple of days.

Here's a semi-recipe for a nice generic style of mustard for sandwiches. I'm not giving proportions since I just mix and taste, mix and taste until I like the result:

Yellow mustard seed powder
Brown mustard seeds
Garlic powder (I find this really helps the flavor)
Turmeric (for color)
Boiling water
White wine (not much)
Apple cider vinegar
White wine vinegar

Mix ingredients, taste. Hold in mind that the brown mustard seeds will absorb a LOT of liquid and approximately double in size, so make this runnier than you'd want it to be, and it will become thicker. Place in jar in fridge, let sit 2-3 days until less bitter, enjoy on sandwiches. 

Tasty mustard, in an artichoke heart jar (perfect size!)

Crockpot beef and broccoli

This is unfortunately a bit of a non-recipe, since I just eyeball the ingredients. However, it turns out delicious every time I've made it, it takes almost no effort, and it makes a lot. Obviously beef and broccoli is normally a stir-fry and doesn't make that long to cook. The advantage to this recipe is that it allows you to use a really cheap roast cut instead of more expensive cuts good for stir frying, and it actually takes even less effort than stir frying.

Beef roast (~2 lbs) - my favorite is London Broil, since the grain makes for pieces that are great for picking up with chop sticks
1/2 onion, cut into wedges

3-6 garlic cloves depending on size
2-3 slices of ginger
Soy sauce (Tablespoons)
Oyster sauce (Tablespoon-2 Tblsp)
Rice wine/sherry (Tablespoon)
Cornstarch + cold water (optional)


Mix up the sauce and taste. I often end up making too little - the roast will contribute less liquid than you think.Adding water actually helps the flavor, so feel free to add as much as 50% water.

Put roast and onions in slow cooker, pour sauce over roast, cook as long as you're going to be away from the house.

When you get home and are nearly ready for dinner, make sure the slow cooker isn't about to switch into 'warm' mode, and add the broccoli and put the lid back on. Go get changed, take a quick shower, whatever, and the broccoli will be cooked and delicious. If you want a thicker sauce, you can add a mixture of cornstarch and cold water.

Serve over rice, preferably rice that your automated rice-making minion has also prepared while you were out. 

A fuzzy picture, but you can see why the grain of London Broil makes it easy to eat with chopsticks

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Around the house bread making

So I've posted a few bread recipes here, but this post is more about my technique, since I've gotten it down to enough of a science that it makes less mess than most bread recipes, and the results are always really good. 

I personally do not find "no-knead" recipes to be any less work than "kneaded" recipes - you usually have some step that involves scattering corn meal across half the kitchen, and dish clothes covered in bits of dough. This recipe requires very little kneading, but a lot of time (really, benevolent neglect). However, if you're gonna be home anyway, it doesn't require much effort, so I often make this on a Saturday while grading. I got the basic idea for this approach from a couple books on bread baking. The main thing is that everyone seems to agree that a wetter dough tastes better, has a nicer crumb, etc in the end, and so my approach aims to make a wet bread dough with almost no interaction with it using my hands, and to minimize the amount of counter space that gets covered with flour.

Here's the basic recipe I use to make a really nice, hearty sandwich bread, but hold in mind I mostly eyeball these quantities. This makes 2 two-pound loaves of sandwich bread.


4 cups white flour
3 cups wheat flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
(I also add some flax meal)

1.5 tsp yeast
2 Tbsp molasses
3.5-4.5 cups warm water (approx.)
2 Tbsp oil

2-3 Tbsp salt

2 big bowls
1 strong spatula
More oil for greasing things.

Step 1: Mix
First mix the dry ingredients. If you're worried about the viability of your yeast, proof it with 2 c. water and the molasses. Start by mixing in ca. 3 cups of the wet ingredients (incl. oil) with the dry using a strong, preferably silicone, spatula, stirring really well or else you'll get dry chunks in your final bread.The dough should still be a bit dry at that point - keep adding water until the dough is pretty moist, much wetter than you'd normally let the bread get if you were going to mix it with your hands - it will get drier. Do not add salt at this point. I've tried to take a picture of that here to give you a sense of how wet I normally make it:
Step 2: "Autolyse" 

In theory, 'autolyse' is letting the flour sit mixed just with water, so enzymes start to break things down. In practice, the internets seems to suggest that it works just fine if you mix everything except the salt, and then let the bread sit. Supposedly in blind taste tests, this improves the flavor of the bread, but most importantly for me, the dough absorbs the excess moisture, AND it basically gains the cohesiveness you'd otherwise get from kneading. 

So after mixing the bread, go do something else for 20 minutes. Eat breakfast, whatever. 

Step 3: "Kneading"

Once 20 minutes have passed, sprinkle the salt across the dough and mix it in using just the spatula. I normally leave the salt container next to the bread during the autolyse phase to keep myself from forgetting to add it. To mix, I use a sort of 'folding' motion, and normally it doesn't take more than about a couple minutes before the dough is really pretty cohesive and holds together. 

Can we really be kneaded enough?

Once the bread is decently cohesive, grease up another bowl and move the bread into that bowl, trying to get as much of the dough out of the first mixing bowl as possible. Cover with a wet cloth or a greased piece of saran wrap, or if your wife is awesome and got you a giant tupperware, use that. Soak the used mixing bowl in cold water, since hot makes the dough stickier. Use the spatula to clean it as much as possible - avoid dish sponges for cleaning, since the dough can get stuck in them, especially the scratchy side.

Giant tupperware!

Step 4: Fogeddaboutit

In the books on breadmaking that I read, when talking about whole wheat breads, they say that instead of worrying about getting the dough really kneaded at first, they just let the rising develop the gluten connections in the bread. So I've taken that to heart, and it works just fine. Let the bread rise as many times as you want until you get around to baking it. When it rises about double its volume, smack it around a bit with a spatula, and then go about your business until it rises again. I usually end up letting it rise 3 times or so. I haven't tried letting it rise only once, cause the whole idea of this setup is benevolent neglect - it's not for if you're in a hurry.

Step 5: Shape and bake
This last step is the only one that requires getting flour over everything. If you're REALLY slick, you could avoid that too, but it's more pain than it's worth I find. 

Get a 1/2 cup of white flour in a measuring cup. Use the spatula to knead the dough a bit and remove some air bubbles. If you're going for sandwich bread, getting those air bubbles out is important, but if you are going for a more 'rustic' style you can leave more in there. 

Grease/corn meal/etc whatever thing you're going to put the shaped loaves into. I use two metal loaf pans, so I grease them. 

Put a bit of flour on the countertop, flip the dough onto the counter, add more flour on top. Knead briefly to reduce air bubbles. I then cut the bread in half using a sharp knife, and shape it into two loaves, adding flour as necessary. I find that it's best to scrape up excess flour with the spatula before wiping up with water. 

At this point, I set the oven to preheat to 425. Our oven takes almost exactly as long to preheat as it takes for the shaped loaves to approx. double in size, so as soon as the oven dings I put them in - if your oven is faster, wait till the loaves are about doubled in size, preferably a little less. I bake them about 30-40 minutes, or until tapping on the loaves gives a very hollow sound. 

I cool the bread on a rack, and once it's sufficiently cool I usually freeze one of the loaves in a plastic bag. This way, I only really do this once every 2-3 weeks. 

This recipe always turns out well, and I think it's a bit easier than the standard 'flour a counter and knead' recipe that you often find. I also find this recipe less work than 'no-knead' recipes.

Final product

Saving chicken broth

This is a really just a tiny useful technique thing, but we find it really helpful in our house.

Whenever I used to make chicken broth, I would wait till it cooled, then find old tupperware, jars, etc to put the broth in. The problem is, I mostly use broth in small quantities, so it was a pain to thaw just some of that broth for use.

What I do now instead is to pour the broth into a muffin pan, clear some space in the freezer, and then leave it to freeze overnight (got the idea from lifehacker or somewhere online). In the morning, I put about an inch of hot water in the sink, set the muffin pan in the hot water until the broth chunks are loose, and then use a chopstick or butter knife to remove the chunks, which I store in a plastic bag in the freezer. For my muffin tin, they're almost exactly 1/2 cup of broth, perfect for use in sauces and similar recipes.

Here's a fuzzy picture of some of my broth muffins: