August 25, 2009

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

You can not surpasses the flavor of home grown tomato, I mean the stuff at your local mega mart tastes like cardboard compared to ones you can grow yourself (or find at a nicely stocked farmer's market).

Last year we started a garden on a whim. We planted late and went into it blind just doing whatever we felt like and by the time October rolled around we were left with little to show. So this year we planned, kind of.

I bought plants right after Mother's Day, we decided on not having a set list and just bought what we felt like. It took me a week to plant them, just got distracted. Then I watched them grow, flower, and produce like rabbits.

You can see what we ended up with tomato wise. That is only a third of what I have picked off the vines. I still have a lot more to go. I know I am going to sun roast many of them but other then that I can't figure out what to do with all of these. It is just insane what we got this year. Hmm I guess only time will tell.

August 18, 2009

The (Boneless) Wing and I

There are few things I, and many people, love more than Buffalo wings. I mean who could resist the crunchy deep fried goodness coated in a spicy buttery sauce and dipped into the tangy richness of blue cheese dressing. My brother especially loves them and tends to use me as his own Buffalo Wild Wings warehouse and emporium.

Don't get me wrong, I love cooking but my brother tends to ask me when I really don't feel in the mood, such as, after work when I smell like the grease trap and industrial chemicals. So surprise surprise when I walk in the house, my bro informs me a gift is waiting in the fridge for me. Hurray! Chicken tenderloins and blue cheese dressing, what I always wanted. How did he know.

If you think about it the star of buffalo wings is the sauce. I mean if it wasn't for the sauce it would be nothing more than fried chicken or chicken tenders but seriously there are hundreds if not thousands of recipes for sauces. Just go to your local wing joint of choice and just see how many styles and variations there are to choose from, it can be daunting. So which one to choose?

I tend to stick with the traditional standby mild sauce but it's I mean you get a lot of heat but not much else, I wanted something that had a kick but also depth and character, flavor but not overly complicated. So I worked on it, with all the opportunities my brother gave me it wouldn't be hard to figure something out.

The sauce I make with it now was produced by accident. Just bored one day. Added some homemade barbecue sauce with buffalo sauce and used it as a dip. It was what I had been looking for, the smokiness and vinegary tang from the barbecue sauce gave the boring old buffalo sauce some much needed life. The next time I served wings I made it for my brother and his friends, and they were raving about it for weeks. It had depth, complexity, character and was easy to make. Now whenever my brother has friends over this is what I am forced to make this, no peace for this cook. So here it is...

Buffalo Sauce a la empty belly

1/2 cup of Franks Red Hot
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
10 Tablespoons or 1 1/4 sticks of butter

Place Franks Red Hot and barbecue sauce in a sauce pan and heat to medium high. Wait for it to come to a simmer turn heat to medium and slowly whisk in butter a little at a time. Remove from heat and let cool just a bit, then coat onto boneless or traditional wings.

(Three posts that have vinegar in the recipe, this one was in the barbecue sauce. I swear I am on a vinegar kick this month or something)

August 09, 2009

Good Alcohol Gone Bad

Being out of work for the last 8 months has given me plenty of time to do some pretty crazy things I would normally have avoided due to a 'regular' work schedule. Some of them were fun and brought me back to my days in college (sour dough starter, dying my hair green), while others made me scream for ever thinking it was a good idea in the first place (sour dough starter, dying my hair green). So what was I, a kid with a short attention span, to do with a limitless amount of time?

Hey how about making my own wine! Yeah, no, wait that costs money and I was broke. What could I do that was cheap and had plenty of. Being a former college student I had a surplus of alcohol and wine. Why not make vinegar? Okay so that wasn't my first idea but you get the point.

So out of boredom I started making a hodgepodge of what I thought would be a good idea. Blueberry wine, tequila, Guinness, whiskey, port, and maple syrup (inspired by Ideas in Food). Crazy, yes. Bound to fail, more than likely but I liked those odds. How hard could it be, instructions were mix unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with alcohol and toss into a dark place and forget it for 4 weeks. Not hard, right?

Well one month of fermentation later and what do we have...failure, failure on an epic level but not completely. (I'm not sure how wine to vinegar goes wrong but I actually grew mold on one of them) Out of everything that went bad the only two that survived were the blueberry wine and maple syrup. I learned a lot with this little pet project though I want to review it later to get it down pat.

If you want to make your own vinegar here are things you should know...
-Alcohol content should be around 10 percent by volume. Less will not give enough food to the acetic acid, the bacteria that turns alcohol into vinegar, more will cause the bacteria to over produce.
-Store in a dry dark place around 60 to 80 degrees.
-Place it so that you won't have to move it for 1 month or more. It needs time to ferment and if you move it the cellulose on top will sink.
-Buy unpasteurized, unfiltered cider vinegar or vinegar mother.

Maple Syrup Vinegar
8 1/2 oz. Maple syrup (not the stuff in the log cabin at your local mega mart, the real stuff)
7 oz. unpasturized, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 oz. light rum or vodka
2 oz. filtered water

The instructions are pretty easy, just get a glass jar large enough to hold everything and put all ingredients inside. Cover with just one layer of cheesecloth and put a rubber band over to hold it in place. Place in a cool dark place for a month and wait.
Once a month is over give it a smell, if it tickles your nose and does not smell like alcohol it's ready. Filter using a coffee filter and place in mason jars and cover.
At this point your vinegar is still pretty harsh so let it age for a few more months in the jars to allow the flavors to mellow. Or if you wish, filter into a nonreactive pan and let simmer for a few seconds, this will 'pasteurize' your vinegar and just place in jars.
It won't age like it's brother (or sister, how ever you see it) but I have found that people freak out when you tell them it is still alive.

I just realized my first 2 posts involved vinegar in some way. Good times, Goooood times.

August 03, 2009

This Pickles for You

"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." Julia Child

I must say, I agree with Julia on this one. Cooking should be about the imaginative and making great food more fantastic and whimsical. Could you imagine if chefs and cooks were afraid of failing, where would food be right now? We'd still be eating meat without salt, that's where.

So for my first blog post ever I figured I'd go with something out there in the land of why not, pickled cherries. Though I wish I could say I came up with this recipe myself I didn't, I garnered it from Kari, a.k.a the Stockpot Ballerina, over at Anticiplate but added my own twists.

I figured I'd cut the white balsamic vinegar and replace the missing portion with a little red wine vinegar, to highlight the cherries already sour fruitiness with a little added crisp. I threw in some rose water as well, to be honest I'm not sure why. I kind of knew the rose water would pair with the lemon zest nicely but I was unsure if it would go with the rest of it. I mean, what could possible go wrong with something that smells like your grandmother's house?

Oh, and salt. Salt makes things go from blah to blam. So don't forget it.

Pickled Cherries w/ Vanilla and Rosewater

(Use 3 half-pint mason jars to store them in)
3/4 lb. Bing cherries, keep the pits and stems to help keep their shape
1 vanilla bean, cut down the middle
1 lemon, zest and 1/2 the juice
1 3/4 teaspoons black peppercorns
3/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoons rose water
1/2 teaspoons salt

Combine everything except the cherries into a medium sauce pan and turn to medium-high and wait to come to a boil. Let simmer for 3 minutes. While the pickling liquid is cooking, make sure mason jars and cherries are clean. Place cherries in bowl. After 3 minutes remove sauce pan from heat and add to cherries. Let them sit for 10 minutes. Place cherries in mason jars (be warned the cherries will be extra sticky) and pour liquid into jars. Cover and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours. I haven't really figured out what they would go out with because I never get past eating them.

I love the sweetness of the cherries with the lip puckering of the vinegar, I swear I can eat these everyday. Though if we can pickle cherries who's to stop us from pickling other fruits. Pickled raspberries? Pickled boysenberries? Heck maybe even a sweetened version of preserved lemons, the sky is the limit my friend.

Come to think of it, didn't I just get my blog cherry popped? And the hits just keep on coming.