May 13, 2004

Totally baseless

I've been recently experimenting with Minor's stock base. I picked up a tub (about the size of a yogurt container) each of chicken and beef from the local Costco.

These are very concentrated bases with a minimum of salt added. You probably use 1/4 of a spoonful to make 2-3 cups of stock. The results aren't nearly as good as using homemade, obviously, but they are much better than one normally would expect. I find them useful for weeknight rice making where I'd like something more flavorful of water.

Made a mushroom gravy with a very brown roux and some of the beef base -- I was surprised how well it turned out, in a mid-west cheap steakhouse kind of way. But I'll admit that before it was done I did toss in a few cubes of my oxtail glace to give it that extra mouthfeel.

Maybe that was cheating.

Posted by dowdy at 03:30 PM

May 08, 2004

Alton! Alton!

Went to go see Alton Brown talk/demo at a book signing today.

He was every bit as entertaining in person as he is on his show -- probably more so because he ad-libs more, and also had one or two risque comments, always a plus.

The demo was nominally about making gaspacho, but he really used it as an excuse to talk about knives, cutting, knife skills, safety, butcher blocks, and men's inability to measure things.

The crowd was pretty thick, but managable. Alton was very friendly, showing up about an hour ahead of time to get the lay of the land and ask the crowd where to get some coffee. We recommended Peet's, and he could be seen wandering about the mall trying to find the shop, until a very burly man in a skull t-shirt ran after him and pointed him in the exact direction.

He popped up a few minutes before the demo and answered the crowd's questions. And then got down to the demo. He's also currently the spokesperson for a small line of Japanese knives -- but didn't really push the issue. Of course, he does have two models coming out later this year with his picture on the blades and I'm sure they will be a major source of income for him.

The demo itself was very informative. My knife skills are pretty well along at this point, obviously, but it's always interesting to hear someone explain them from the get go. Alton strives to make the reasons behind the message clear, and this alone make his take worth listening to. Plus, he's a natural ham in front of people which makes the demo entertaining even if you aren't interested in learning something -- although I'll bet anyone would pick up at least some of the points.

In any case, if Alton is swinging through your area, it's well worth the effort to catch him live.

Posted by dowdy at 02:59 PM

May 02, 2004

2nd day Indian

To "properly" make Chicken Tikka Masala, you need two day. At least, the way I make it, you probably need two days.

The basic idea is simple: chicken cooked in a tandorri style, then cut up and simmered in a cream-based sauce. There are lots of recipes for Chicken Tikka Masala and you can follow just about any of them -- but you are missing out if you don't do the initial cooking of the chicken over a real charcoal grill.

For for me, Tikka Masala has always been the utilimate Sunday leftover meal. I've made a tandorri chicken the previous day, and saved some of it. Cut it up and simmered it in the sauce. Comfort food in 48 hours -- not exactly the way most Americans approach the problem.

This weekend I cooked of the chicken on Saturday. Rather that yougurt (traditional in most tandorris) I used wine and some oil. I cooked the chicken over very very heavy smoke from tabasco chips -- quite acrid smoke from these. Fresh off the grill on naan bread, it was great. But part of me was Jonesing for the next day, when I knew I would put the remainder of the chicken to service.

For the sauce base, I usually use a fairly decent jarred paste from Patak's. Yeah yeah, I know, I should make it myself. I usually doctor up the sauce with additional flavors -- I tend to want more cumin, corridander, and fenugreek than most mixes have in them. But, boy, it is a wonder how easy these prepared pastes make it -- just add lots of heavy cream.

Once the sauce is made, I like to simmer the cut-up chicken for at least 30 minutes -- this way the flavors from the chicken (smokey) and those from the sauce (creamy) mingle much better.

Some fresh cillantro (from my own garden, I might add as a way of balancing my use of a jarred product) over a base of basmatti rice and you've got some good mid-afternoon Sunday eats.

Posted by dowdy at 12:01 PM