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Chicken poached in milk May 26, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Chicken.
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While this dish may be too simple for Nero Wolfe, I can see him using this recipe when he is forced to travel, and wants to eat something that is simple but tasty. And chicken poached in milk is certainly tasty! This combination is perhaps not the most delectable-sounding, particularly when you learn that the recipe also calls for lemon – essentially creating a curdled milk sauce.

I have previously cooked fish in cream so was thinking that this recipe would be similar. I didn’t really follow a specific recipe as it seemed it was a simple preparation – brown the chicken, add the lemon, milk and spices (cinnamon, sage, bayleaves, salt and pepper), then cook in the oven for an hour and a half, or until the chicken was done.

Preparing the chicken for poaching

You can see that as soon as the lemon was added, the milk started to curdle. It doesn’t look the most appetising, I agree. Nevertheless I pressed on and put the chicken in the oven.

After an hour or so, the house smelled fantastic and the chicken was falling apart. The milk had reduced into a lovely sauce, and it was definitely time to eat.

The chicken out of the oven

I carved it as best I could (more like pulling it apart semi-neatly!) and served it with a vinegary salad to offset the richness of the milk sauce.

The final chicken with salad

What I really like about poaching things in milk or cream is that they become so soft but still rich. In this case, the sauce had fully permeated the chicken, and the flavours I’d added to the milk, particularly the bayleaves and the sage, had penetrated particularly well.

I can see Nero Wolfe preparing a dish like this when he is (regrettably) on the road, with no Fritz to assist. However, he would still want to impress any guests in attendance, and this recipe is both simple and impressive, which I think is why this dish works so well.


Relapse: Cucumber March 10, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Vegetables.
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Relapse: An occasional series where I discuss several ways of preparing an ingredient.

This summer I have been enjoying cucumbers in a number of ways. Of course, it’s easy to chuck one in a salad or even eat one plain, but for some reason I’ve never done much else with cucumbers. This has changed recently and I’m going through a ton of cucumbers and using them in a variety of ways. Here’s some of my favourite ways to prepare cucumbers.

Pickle them

This is a no-brainer, really. If I ever see gherkins or other pickling cucumbers for sale, I usually buy them all. And then spend the weekend making pickles! I usually make dill pickles because these are my absolute favourite – I much prefer them to the sweet variety.

You need a brine of vinegar, salt and water, plus whatever flavourings you want. For dill pickles, I use plenty of dill and garlic, plus peppercorns and general pickling spice.

It takes about 5-6 days for the cucumbers to pickle to the degree that I like them (I like them when they’re still a bit crunchy). I don’t bother canning them because I eat them so quickly it’s not worth the effort! The brine is also great to add to cocktails and other things.

Drink them

Cucumbers are pretty watery and lend themselves well to blending and pulverising. This makes them great for a variety of drinks – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. To get a perfectly smooth juice, blend pieces of cucumber with a couple of splashes of water (and other flavourings, such as lemon juice, if you like), then strain, pushing all the pulp through so you get all the juice out.

This juice can be used as a base to create a variety of drinks, including this pseudo-tiki cocktail I made (and then drank out of Cthulhu’s head, which of course made it more delicious). This cocktail contained light and dark rum, bitters, the cucumber juice and some pineapple juice. The cucumber juice also makes a great substitute in a bloody mary-type cocktail – and of course you can add some of the brine from the pickles, above.

Eat them (in a soup)

A variation on the juice above, this method ensures you use both the pulp and juice from the cucumbers. This time you probably want to take the time to peel the cucumbers, and again dice them and add them to your blender. Then add whatever flavourings you want: I added mint, coriander, spring onions, lemons, salt – and most importantly, soft avocados.

You could use cream as well as avocados but the avocados definitely provide enough creaminess on their own. You also need some cold water to help blend everything together. It’s best if you can leave the soup to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours so the flavours can mingle. I served mine with fried onions on the top – but of course you could also use more cucumbers.

I have become a big fan of this soup and have been making it frequently during the hot weather we’ve been having. It’s super simple to make and is delicious and refreshing.

All of these methods of preparing cucumbers have definitely made me eat more of them, and I am enjoying their refreshing qualities as well as the great flavours that these vegetables provide.

Kangaroo pie February 17, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Game.
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Apparently Australians are one of the few nations to eat the animals on their coat of arms. I admit I haven’t done any investigation to find out if this is true or not, but it certainly provides a colourful story. The animal in question is of course the kangaroo (although the emu – the other animal on the coat of arms – is also edible and served at some restaurants, although I have not personally seen it for sale) which is a great meat. It’s lean, nutritious and very tasty.

Normally when I cook kangaroo, I sear it on a high heat for a few minutes, so that it gets a nice crust on the surface and is still almost raw inside. Kangaroo has very little fat, so benefits from either very fast or very long cooking. Since I was used to cooking it very quickly, I decided a slow, long cook was in order – and just for fun, I decided to turn it into a pie.

I started by browning the kangaroo in the pressure cooker – I know I have mentioned many times how useful the pressure cooker is, and this time I used the sautee option to brown the meat, and then the onions.

I then added a mixture of spices – cumin, salt, pepper, mustard seeds – and when they were nicely toasted, added carrots and potatoes. Once they had softened slightly, I added the meat and onions back in, then added some tomato paste.

Next I added some previously made beef stock, a very healthy glug of red wine, sage and lots and lots of rosemary. Then it was just a matter of putting the lid on the pressure cooker and letting the machine do its work. In the meantime, I made some pastry and let it chill in the fridge while the kangaroo cooked.

After about 30 minutes, the kangaroo mixture was cooked and the meat was falling apart. I shaped the pie base pastry and blind-baked it for about 15 minutes until it was firm. Then I filled the pastry shell with the kangaroo filling and put the remaining pastry on top. I’ll admit: it wasn’t the prettiest pie ever. There wasn’t quite enough pastry for the top of the pie, so it was slightly misshapen. Nevertheless, I persisted and baked the pie for a further 15 minutes, until the top was starting to brown.

And the end result: not the prettiest but certainly delicious. I did enjoy the combination of the kangaroo and rosemary, and it was nice to have the kangaroo cooked this way for a change. The bonus for me was that there was some filling left over, so I had this the next day for lunch.

Although I can find no evidence of Nero Wolfe ever eating kangaroo, I do think he’d approve. He certainly delighted in eating dishes native to his adopted United States, and I hope he would be equally delighted with the culinary possibilities of kangaroo.

Christmas 2012: What we ate January 6, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Game, Vegetables.
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A slightly belated post about what we ate for Christmas in what is now considered last year! I had ordered a goose with the thought of doing a roast goose (very traditional, in an A Christmas Carol sort of way), but then an article by Mrs Wheelbarrow started me thinking about doing bits of goose instead.

I admit I didn’t follow the recipes suggested in the article, but instead decided to do a similar ‘beak to tail’ serving of goose for Christmas dinner. The day before, I made both apple and red currant jellies, and left them overnight to firm up in the fridge. Then the day of Christmas, once the important business of opening presents had been finished and a breakfast of smoked salmon and ham had been consumed, I got down to the job of breaking down the goose.

While I have broken down poultry before, I did follow Hank Shaw’s guide for breaking down game birds – I wanted the pieces to look nice for Christmas! I was quite happy with the job I did, which took about 20 minutes. I was left with the legs and breasts and a bunch of other meat, including the wings – and a pile of offcuts to render down for their fat.

I began by melting some existing duck fat and submerged the legs to confit them. I also put all the offcuts of meat and wings in a pot of water to simmer and cook the meat. I salted the breasts and vacuum packed them with pepper, sage and thyme in preparation for sous-videing them. I put the large pile of skin and fat pieces in a pot with some water to begin the fat rendering process. Then it was just a matter of waiting. Incidentally I felt like this was the calmest Christmas I’d had in the kitchen for quite a while – no mad running around or piling up of dishes!

When the meat offcuts were cooked, I shredded them finely and pounded them in my mortar and pestle while adding duck fat. Ta-daa! Goose rillettes. I added some parsley and sage and packed the rillettes into a serving dish. Now, I know it’s better to cover the rillettes with fat and leave them in the fridge at least overnight, but they were still very good to eat on the day. I served the rillettes as a starter along with some homemade Christmas ham, and the apple and red currant jellies.

Goose rillettes with Christmas ham, apple jelly and red currant jelly

I melted yet more duck fat (actually, the end of my supplies, but luckily I was replenishing them rapidly with the goose fat rendering on the stove) and, after parboiling some potatoes, added the potatoes, carrots, parsnips and onion to the duck fat, and left them in the oven to roast. At this time I also made a bitter salad of radicchio, shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, capers and lots of lemon juice and vinegar. I figured we needed something to cut through the richness of the goose!

Next I set the goose breasts to cook sous-vide for about 40 minutes at 60ÂșC, and took the legs out of the confit. I finished both the legs and the breasts by searing them in a frying pan – in the case of the legs, this made them go super crispy on the outside.

Christmas 2012: Sous vide goose breast, confit goose leg, vegetables roasted in duck fat, radicchio salad

So to summarise, from one goose I got:

  • Rillettes
  • Sous vide goose breasts
  • Confit goose legs
  • A giant jar of goose fat
  • Delicious and rich goose stock, which I made from the offcuts of vegetables and the goose bones once the dinner was over

I really do like the taste of goose, and it was great to experience so many variations on that flavour in the same meal. While it’s probably not as impressive as presenting a roast goose to the table, it was much more interesting and I was very happy to be able to use the whole goose up so well.

Corned tongue November 25, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Innards, Pork.
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It’s been well established that I’m a fan of tongue. I’m also a huge fan of corned beef. So it made sense to combine the two and finally make corned tongue. I was all excited to get going – it was going to take a week to brine the tongue so I wanted to get started right away!

To make the brine, I basically used the same brine I’d previously when making corned beef. I added sugar, salt, pink salt, juniper berries, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice and some chili to boiling water, and stirred until the sugar and salt was dissolved. When it was cool, I put the tongue in the brine and weighed it down with a plate. I set this in the fridge to await the brining process.

When the week was up, I removed the tongue from the brine and gave it a rinse. Then I transferred it to the pressure cooker and added various aromatics such as garlic, onion, parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns. I added some water and then put the pressure cooker on for about an hour.

Another great use of the pressure cooker! To have tongue ready in about an hour is just great. I was so happy to have the tongue ready so quickly!

Once it had cooked and cooled, I began the process of peeling the skin away and then chopping the meat up.

I was very happy to see that that brine had apparently penetrated all the way into the tongue. The tongue was very tender and seemed softer than previously when I’ve boiled tongue on the stove.

Once I’d peeled it and chopped it up, I made some quick sides to go with the tongue: some salad of rocket and pickles, and some silverbeet with garlic and lemon. While I generally prefer my corned meats with horseradish (the super spicy kind), I decided this time to go with some French mustard, as I thought the herbs would pair well with the tongue.

As you can see, the brine didn’t actually penetrate all the way to the centre of the tongue. While the corned flavour permeated throughout the meat, I would have preferred if it was uniformly coloured all the way through too. I suppose this means a longer brine period next time – perhaps a week and a half or even two weeks.

Corned tongue is definitely something I’ll do again as it combines many of my favourite food elements and is a lovely meal. While I’ll be very impatient next time waiting the extra time for the brine to properly permeate throughout the meat, hopefully the results will be worth it.