Monday, November 20, 2006


Look what I found last week in the supermarket!

I quickly did the math. About one litre (0.9L) of chicken stock is about $2.30 at my supermarket. This chicken was practically the same price! All I needed to do was get at least 0.9L of stock and I would be saving money. This chicken ended up yielding 6 cups of stock. (For those of you who aren't algebra TA's, I come out ahead.) Plus I saved some leeks tops from my leek and potato soup and used those too. I feel so thrifty.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


The two readers of this blog who do not know me in real life may be unaware of the fact that, well, I love jam. I started writing about my kitchen experiments after the great jam making of summer 2006 and thus you missed out of the heady days of jam experimentation and jar boiling.

So, when my parents went to Europe this fall, they of course brought me jam as a present. (It is delicious, natch.) Since then, I have been looking for inventive jam vectors - things that can be used to convey jam to ones mouth. When I came across this post for popovers by Orangette, I knew I would have to try it.

Overall, the popovers were shorter than expected and not full of large holes. But they were delicious with my pear, black currant and violet jam. I find the violet taste is overwhelmed by most breads, but I think I could still taste it with the popovers. I think I will be having some more experiments with popovers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Everybody's doing it

As soon as I saw the "no-knead bread" recipe I knew I was going to try it. It was easy, it seemed like a science experiment and required a dutch oven - all my favourite things. Plus there was a video showing how to do it.

So far two food blogs I read had tried it. The Wednesday Chef has a very good article on it. My mother, who is living the high life and gets a paper version of the New York Times, also mentioned it to me. I won't repeat the recipe here: you can download it from one of the above links. Instead I am going to list the ingredients and tell you about my experiences.

1 5/8 cups water
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt

Nothing too fancy

I made the dough last night. The recipe calls for 1 5/8 cups (5/8 is a little more than 1/2 a cup). The Wednesday Chef said her dough was too sticky, so I started by using 1 1/2 cups water and my dough was too dry and wouldn't come together. So I added some more water, not quite 1/4 cup. I think if you are making this, you should start with 1 1/2 cups and then add more water as needed.

Below is a photo of my dough, you can see it's ugly mess. But I didn't worry, it looked like that in the video too.

I let the dough rise overnight and all day while I was at school. When I came home it was dotted with bubbles, just as the recipe said it would be. It was very difficult to get it out of the bowl, it was sticky and I had to pour and pry it out - but again, I did not worry, it looked like that in the video too.

Next I folded it up like a dough envelope and let it sit. In the photo below you can see the fold at the bottom, and the dough dusted with cornmeal.

The bread is baked in a preheated pot, with the cover on for the first 30mins. I was worried that it would be stuck to the bottom of my dutch oven. But it popped right out. And it looked awesome.
And the taste was also excellent. Paul threatened to eat nothing but bread for dinner.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Chicken Pot Pie, Reworked

I really like chicken pie. When I was watching the Barefoot Contessa the other day she made hers with only the top crust. She suggested if you don't like making pastry you should use store bought puff pastry. I find homemade pastry is too much work for every day meals, and store bought puff pastry is not in the grad school budget. Instead, in a flash of either insight or laziness I made my chicken pot pie with zero crusts and served it over noodles. (I got the idea from turkey tetrazzini my mother made once.) It was good like this, but I missed the crunch. I ate the leftovers on top of toast. Also, the recipe is a little bland. Next time I will add garlic and thyme.

My first step was to scoot over to, hoping that the Barefoot Contessa recipe was still up. The Barefood Contessa's recipes are only posted for a limited time on the web after the show has been broadcast in America - I presume this is so you buy the books. If you happen to live in Canada, it is not a very convenient situation.

My next step was to scale down the recipe. Six chicken breasts is too much food for two people, and, well, six chicken breasts are out of the grad school budget.

The original recipe recommends home made chicken stock. In fact, I recommend cooking the chicken the day before and then making chicken stock with the bones and whatever other odds and ends you have in your freezer. This way the 3 cups of stock required for my scaled back recipe have no additional cost: total savings $1; deliciousness increase, very high.

After all my modifications, here is the process I followed.

Friday Night: Roast Chicken Breasts

2 chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cover chicken breaks with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 45mins.

Saturday Morning: Make Chicken Stock

2 roasted chicken breasts
1/2 large carrot coarsely chopped
1/2 onion coarsely chopped
bay leaf

1. Remove skin and bones from chicken breast. Reserve meat.
2. Cover skin bone, carrot, onion and bay leaf with water (I had to use about four cups) and follow your favourite stock making procedure.

Saturday Night: Chicken Pot Pie Rework

meat from two chicken breasts
3 tbsp butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups chicken stock
1.5 onions
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup frozen peas
6 sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup whipping cream

1. Melt butter in a dutch oven and add onions. Cook until translucent. While you are doing this steam the carrots until they are almost as soft as you like.
2. Add flour. Cook one minute.
3. Add stock. If you do this a bit at time it is easier to keep the sauce smooth. Add carrots, mushrooms, and peas and bring to a simmer for about 10 mins.
4. Add cream and salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ice-Cream: Five Kinds

One of Paul's coworkers, Yannick, is a dessert fiend. He runs a spiffy little site about where to get desserts in Toronto: Yummy Baguette. All summer, Paul has been raving about the delicious ice-creams Yannick brought into the office for the coffee club at his office to try.

Today Yannick had a few select coffee club members, and their girlfriends, over for ice-cream. We had (along with some crackers and cheese)
- white wine - yellow kiwi sorbet
- raspberry-rose ice cream
- chocolate gelato with a hint of rosemary
- chestnut-rum gelato
- poached apple ice cream topped with poaching red wine sorbet

I liked the raspberry-rose and the chocolate best. Some of the recipes are up on his site. All and all, a delicious and nutritious dinner.

Update: Yannick has a page on his Yummy Baguette site for gourmet ice-cream recipes and a separate site for recettes de glaces (ice-cream recipes in French). I am going to assume that the recipes in French are much better - as that tends to be the way of French things.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Back for more

After the squash challenge, I went back to some old favourites: creamy tomato shrimp pasta, quiche with a hash brown crust, and one night Paul ran the show and made breaded chicken and potatoes, all easy-peasy quick things, safe stand-by meals.

But I was ready to get back to experimenting. And I was ready to take on my nemesis squash again. This time things would be different. This time I would make soup. For several reasons, first it's pretty hard to screw up, and second, I like to make soup for my Dooda, my grandfather, and I will be seeing him later this weekend.

I started my squash rematch with the pregame chicken stock production. If you are playing "laura dot cooks, the home game", you may wish to skip this step. But I had a couple of frozen barbecue chicken carcasses in my freezer. Sometimes, Paul and I have one of the supermarket barbecue chickens with homemade garlic bread for dinner if we are feeling lazy. By the second day I am usually sick of chicken sandwiches, but there is usually some meat left on the bones, so I just freeze them. Thus, I have essentially free bones to use to make stock. And free food is always in the grad school budget. In fact, according to some authorities, free food may be the corner stone of grad school nutrition, (see [1] and [2]).

Some caveats on using frozen barbecue chicken carcasses: the stock will take forever to come to a simmer, because you have essentially put in two chicken shaped ice-cubes in the pot, and (this is the scary one) the fat that rises will be orangish. Think fluorescent. The stock I made this time turned out really well, with a strong chicken flavour and very thick consistancy after it cooled.

One last note, celery is often an ingredient in chicken stock, but I don't like celery or celery leftovers and since making stock doesn't use the whole bunch, I leave it out. If you have celery, by all means add it. But I still think it is gross.

Chicken Stock

2 chicken carcasses with meat left on the bones (frozen or unfrozen)
1 bay leaf
1 carrot coarsely chopped
1 onion coarsely chopped

1. Place chickens in large pot and cover with water. (I used 8 cups.)
2. Add carrot, onion and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Skim off any foamy weird stuff that rises to the top.
3. Simmer about 3 hours. If you taste a small piece of meat and it tastes like nothing (kind of gross and newspapery) then you are done. Strain stock and chill overnight.
4. Once the stock is chilled skim off any fat.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash
4 cups chicken stock
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp butter
vegetable oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Oil a baking sheet and put the squash cut side down. Cook for 30-40 mins until tender and let cool.
2. Melt butter in a large pot and add onions. Cook to translucent and add the ginger.
3. Add stock to onions. Scoop squash out of the skin and add to onions and stock. Simmer for 30-40 mins.
4. Puree and add salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, November 03, 2006

All about the Joy

The Joy of Cooking has been in the New York times a lot recently. First in the magazine and then this week in the food section, supposedly the cookbook issue.

In both articles, the 1997 edition, the one I have copy of, got a slagged a lot. In fact, my Joy was referred to as the new Coke of cookbooks. And, well, that really hurt. I think people are being unfair to my Joy. I have found it to be a great reference.

There are a few things I miss from my mom's copy. First, there is no squirrel recipe. As a child my mother would often read us the passage on squirrel much to our delight and amusement. Second, there is no jam chapter. The first jam I made was an apple butter from the Joy when I was in high school, so I was a little disappointed that they left out the jam. But otherwise the 1997 version is the tops. It doesn't use a lot of short cuts and is very informative. I check it everytime I am going to cook something new. Although, if I ever have to cook a squirrel I am going to be in trouble.