Thursday, September 23, 2010

Week of Food - A bit fancier, or "What the hell are chicken marylands?"

What is this that resembles a bruise on a plate?

On Monday, which is now Cooking Day, I tried out three dinner/lunch recipes and one bread recipe.

1. Bread. I bought a bread machine (on sale). It seemed silly to wait to get one when it would cost more money; the one I got cost $50 less than the bread machines at Fred Meyer. I didn't realize that bread machine bread is a lot different from regular bread, using different yeasts and flours and "vital wheat gluten." So I'm learning to use it in steps, rather than trying to jump right into whole-grain non-wheat flour recipes. First, I tried a multigrain bread mix from Bob's Red Mill. Next, I moved on to an easy, basic whole wheat bread. On the one hand, it's not as interesting or tasty as some of the homemade breads I've done; on the other hand, those breads were terrible for holding together sandwiches, and this bread is perfect for that. So, as far as having a basic sandwich bread I can make myself, I've finally found it.

2. Tomato Tarte Tatin I tried to make this New York Times recipe a couple of years ago without a tarte tatin pan. It was a mess. But I didn't have a stovetop/oven-safe pan; now I have a special tarte tatin pan. Instead of cherry tomatoes, I cut up plum tomatoes and other tomatoes very small and drained them to avoid a soggy tarte. I didn't have puff pastry, so I made a very simple rustic tart crust using a stick of butter (minus whatever was used to caramelize the onions in the tarte recipe) 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (which I use interchangeably with all purpose flour) and 1/2 cup corn flour. Both come from a stand I really like at the farmers' market, a New York transplant who sells fresh fruit and vegetables (including tetragon as well as various flours, cereals, and mixes (like pancake mix.) For anyone who thinks this was overambitious, I can tell you it was really simple. I just mixed these things together, rolled the dough into a ball, wrapped it in plastic wrap and squooshed it down into a flattened disk, and refrigerated it until I was ready to bake the tart. The tart baked up nicely, although it could have used a little more crust.

3. Lentil and Use-Up-Whatever's-in-the-Fridge Salad With the use-up-what's-in-the-kitchen spirit of Clotilde's recipe for apple and cumin lentil salad, I improvised this creation. The apples and onion were fried in butter, with the stems and leaves of the beets (used in last week's roast chicken) added at the end. I found a jar of vinaigrette I'd made for a different salad in the back of the fridge, so I used that instead of Clotilde's balsamic vinegar dressing. This salad's okay. I would try it again, but with less deviations from the recipe.

4. Roast Chicken of the Week Month - M'sakhan M'sakhan is chicken with lemon, sumac, and za'atar. Za'atar is a blend of thyme (or oregano), sesame seeds, sumac powder, and sometimes other spices. Sumac powder is not powdered poison sumac, but it is the powdered dried berries of a relative of poison sumac. After trying Trader Joe's Organic Free Range Chicken and Draper Valley Natural Chicken, I moved on to the considerably pricier pasture-raised chicken from the farmers' market. I can't remember the name of the stand, but I can tell you it's the same one that sells pasture-raised elk and yak. I can also tell you that the chicken was $5.00/lb. Trader Joe's is $2.69/lb and Draper Valley's is $1.29/lb. But every time I reach for one of those chickens at the store, I imagine debeaked chickens, although cage-free, poking around a garage with a tiny door leading to the outside, which they don't walk through because they are afraid of the sun. (I may have been reading some vegan propaganda recently....) I didn't quite follow the M'sakahn recipe to the letter; I kind of read the ingredient list but not the actual recipe, and then made up my own directions. The result was that I had way too much chicken stock. I learned three valuable lessons from this experience.
a. What the hell are chicken marylands, and I don't mean Chicken Maryland! Perhaps someone will come to this blog post from Googling, as I did, "What are chicken marylands?" , after coming across the perplexing term in an Australian recipe (m'sakhan, linked above, is from an Australian food blog) and only being able to find definitions of a fried chicken specific to Maryland. It is a cut of chicken including the leg and the thigh. [ed: The market I go to now calls them "chicken leg quarters."]
b. When things get hot, they expand. This applies to liquids, too. Like chicken stock. I suppose I momentarily forgot the laws of physics when I filled my cast iron skillet (not roasting pan) with chicken stock. In the oven, it got hot (of course), boiled (not surprisingly), and boiled over onto the bottom of the oven where it smoked. Oops!
c. Pasture-raised chicken is great! Worth every penny! Although the other two chickens were also very good, this one was exceptionally tasty. At least I think so. Partly because of the taste, and partly because I feel less guilty eating chickens that are really free range. My new plan is to only buy that chicken. I will buy it once a month and eat tempeh the rest of the month.

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