01.30.08

I welcome your pity

Posted in personal at 1:02 am by wingerz

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When I go out with friends, they tell me that it seems like Jen is always gone – and they’re right! Tonight I came to the realization that between her summer internship in California and her G-Lab project in South America, she’s been gone for nearly four of the past seven months, which strikes me as completely absurd. One week to go until she gets back – I’d better get cleaning.

In other pitiful news my laptop is currently broken, which means no new photos and recipes until I get it fixed – hopefully in the next few days.

01.24.08

News-worthy

Posted in family, personal at 2:23 am by wingerz

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While I am here braving yet another Boston winter, the wife is off in South America, making the news.

01.19.08

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Posted in food, home cooking at 2:21 pm by wingerz

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My rendition of this turned out to be two chickens with 60 cloves of garlic. This was a fantastic, pungent meal. I spared my work buddies by buying lunch for two days instead of bringing the leftovers in.

This was the first time I cut up a whole raw chicken. I feel like a more competent home chef now that I’ve done it. I had some trouble finding a few of the joints and working around them with my cleaver – maybe that’s enough of an excuse to buy a boning knife.

The only mistake I made while preparing this was trying to cram too many pieces of chicken into the dutch oven while browning, not leaving enough room for steam to escape. The piece shown here was prepared in a much smaller batch so it’s got a beautiful golden hue.

Served with a baguette, roast potatoes, and asparagus.

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

From America’s Test Kitchen‘s The New Best Recipe

table salt
1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (4 breast pieces, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks) and trimmed of excess fat.
Ground black pepper
3 large heads garlic (about 8 ounces), outer papery skins removed, cloves separated and unpeeled
2 medium shallots , peeled and quartered pole to pole
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Dissolve 1/4-cup salt in 2 quarts cold tap water in large container or bowl; submerge chicken pieces in brine and refrigerate until fully seasoned, about 30 minutes. Rinse chicken pieces under running water and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides of chicken pieces with pepper.
2. Meanwhile, toss garlic and shallots with 2 teaspoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in 9-inch pie plate; cover tightly with foil and roast until softened and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes, shaking pan once to toss contents after 15 minutes (foil can be left on during tossing). Uncover, stir, and continue to roast, uncovered, until browned and fully tender, 10 minutes longer, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven and increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.
3. Using kitchen twine, tie together thyme, rosemary, and bay; set aside. Heat remaining 1-teaspoon oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to smoke; swirl to coat pan with oil. Brown chicken pieces skin-side down until deep golden, about 5 minutes; using tongs, turn chicken pieces and brown until golden on second side, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to large plate and discard fat; off heat, add vermouth, chicken broth, and herbs, scraping bottom of skillet with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Set skillet over medium heat, add garlic/shallot mixture to pan, then return chicken, skin-side up, to pan, nestling pieces on top of and between garlic cloves.
4. Place skillet in oven and roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast registers about 160 degrees, 10 to 12 minutes. If desired, increase heat to broil and broil to crisp skin, 3 to 5 minutes. Using potholders or oven mitts, remove skillet from oven and transfer chicken to serving dish. Remove 10 to 12 garlic cloves to mesh sieve and reserve; using slotted spoon, scatter remaining garlic cloves and shallots around chicken and discard herbs. With rubber spatula push reserved garlic cloves through sieve and into bowl; discard skins. Add garlic paste to skillet. Bring liquid to simmer over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally to incorporate garlic; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in butter; pour sauce into sauceboat and serve.

01.13.08

Snowy winter

Posted in photos at 11:33 pm by wingerz

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Looks like another big snowstorm is about to hit Boston. Here are a handful of photos from a walk to Harvard Square in mid-December, after two other storms had hit. I ended up walking to work several days that week, may have to do the same tomorrow morning…

Dutch oven fun

Posted in equipment, food, home cooking at 10:59 pm by wingerz

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Several of my friends got dutch ovens over the holidays. We’ve had ours for nearly three years, and it has produced many tasty braises and stews. A few other accessories that can help a lot:
Wooden spatula: With a flat edge, for scraping up the bits from the bottom of the dutch oven after the meat has been browned.
Splatter screen: Hot oil can splatter everywhere, so protect yourself and everything around the stove.
Tongs: Makes flipping things over a lot easier.
Two oven mitts: The handles can get really hot.

And a few cooking tips:
Pick the right cut of meat. Some (with high collagen content) are better for braising than others.
Salt liberally before browning. This draws moisture to the surface, giving you a better crust.
Leave space. When browning smaller pieces of meat, be sure to leave space in between. Do an extra batch if you need to.
Monitor heat. Especially when you’re working with multiple batches don’t it get too hot or else you may get some charring. There shouldn’t be too much smoke when you’re browning meat.
Be careful. The pot is really heavy and gets very hot.

01.12.08

Cuddling cats

Posted in personal, pets, photos at 1:56 am by wingerz

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I arrived home after dinner to find my bed invaded by cats. Sheamus had burrowed his way under the comforter while Annabelle was napping above. He came out and they decided to take a nap together. Usually they keep out of each other’s way and sometimes get into loud catfights, so this was quite a cute surprise. Several hours later they were back to their old tricks – I heard some growling and hissing and saw Annabelle leaving the room.

01.04.08

Photo resolutions for 2008

Posted in photos at 10:38 pm by wingerz

Had a lot of fun with my Rebel XT in 2007. I got it about a year ago and I feel quite comfortable using it in manual mode and tweaking settings. I’ve got a (very) basic understanding of post-processing and looking back I can tell that I had a lot of trouble with white balance and brightness early on. I kept my spending under control, not really splurging (or allowing others to splurge on my behalf) until the end of the year. Most importantly, I had a lot of fun and I think that even though my loved ones kept thinking “What? More pictures?” they secretly enjoyed being photographed.

This year I’d like to focus (pun totally unintended, but it goes nicely with ‘resolutions’, also unintended) on the following:

  1. Get better at post-processing. I’ve barely scratched the surface here. This is main thing I’d like to work on this year. Would be happy to take any recommendations on books and resources.
  2. Work on composition. Random things (light posts, people) still sometimes pop into my photos when I go to edit them; I should spend more time composing shots.
  3. Be more creative. I have a feeling that pictures of flowers will start boring others.
  4. Shoot more photos. I’ve definitely passed up good opportunities because I didn’t think I’d be able to get my camera out quickly enough or I was feeling self-conscious.
  5. Be in more pictures. The tripod should help out with this. Maybe I can start teaching Jen how to use the camera as well.

Took advantage of the rainy day to give raindrop-shooting a try. The photo isn’t that sharp, but I like it.

01.02.08

Pasta with chicken, broccoli, and sun-dried tomatoes

Posted in food, home cooking at 3:50 am by wingerz

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Jen, Wing Ning, and I made this for my parents last night for our New Year’s Eve dinner. It’s hearty, though not overly heavy (but Jen discovered one of the secrets to cooking when she spied the small block of butter being melted into the sauce at the very end). The pasta was also great at lunch today. Served with salad and garlic bread.

Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli, and Sun-dried Tomatoes
from America’s Test Kitchen

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts , trimmed of fat and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1 small onion , chopped fine (about 2/3 cup)
Table salt
6 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bunch broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds), florets trimmed into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups), stems discarded
1/2 pound penne pasta , ziti, cavatappi, or campanelle
2 ounces grated Asiago cheese (1 cup), plus extra for serving
1 jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (7 to 8 1/2 ounces), rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 1/4-inch strips (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
Ground black pepper
1 lemon , cut into wedges (optional)

1. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil, covered, in stockpot.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add chicken in single layer; cook for 1 minute without stirring, then stir chicken and continue to cook until most, but not all, of pink color has disappeared and chicken is lightly browned around the edges, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to clean bowl; set aside.
3. Return skillet to high heat and add 1 tablespoon butter; add onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned about edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, and flour; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and chicken broth; bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened slightly and reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 15 minutes.
4. While sauce simmers, add 1 tablespoon salt and broccoli to boiling water; cook until broccoli is tender but still crisp at center, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to large paper towel-lined plate. Return water to boil; stir in pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water; return pasta to pot.
5. Stir remaining 2 tablespoons butter, Asiago, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, and chicken into sauce in skillet; cook until chicken is hot and cooked through, about 1 minute. Off heat, season to taste with pepper. Pour chicken/sauce mixture over pasta and add broccoli; toss gently to combine, adding pasta cooking water as needed to adjust sauce consistency. Serve immediately, passing additional Asiago and the lemon wedges (if using) separately.