Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stock...and why I haven't bought it in years.

Does it anger you to throw out the ends of onions (see previous onion posts)? Do you over-buy on green beans and only realize this when you're tired of cutting the ends off of them? Do you feel like you paid more for the stem of broccoli than the actual florets? I do!

We keep several bags in our freezer and collect everything from onions and celery to asparagus, broccoli stems and peppers. Once we have about two large bags worth, I dump them all in a pot, cover them with water and make some stock. I will also add a couple of bay leaves if I have them, along with any fresh herbs on their way out. I used to put them all in a large stock pot and simmer covered for at least 3 hours. Now I've discovered I can do this all much more quickly and get more than twice the flavor by using my pressure cooker. Just lock the lid, turn the burner to high and begin to steam. Turn down the temp to low for about 20-30 minutes and let slowly cool until you can open the steamer. Once it cools, I strain it into another large pot and then portion it out into different-sized containers so I have anywhere from a cup to a quart to use for recipes. I let it cool on the counter, move to the frig and then the freezer once cold. It's exciting to taste the variation each time since it's different depending on the veggies you had in the bag. The best part is that there is no added anything and, if you buy organic veggies (or at least the dirty dozen ones) then you can pronounce everything in your stock.

*Variations we've made: Add chicken bones to your freezer bag.
For chicken soup, add 2 skinless, split chicken breasts (bones on). Remove the chicken breasts once you can open the pressure cooker and let cool. Take meat off the bone and shred into strained stock.
Veggie soup: chop onions, celery, carrots and add to simmering stock. Add spices (thyme is my favorite) and lentils, brown rice or Bob's Red Mill veggie soup mix
Just be sure and cook these separate first so they don't soak up all of your stock.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


What I love most about quiche is that you can take the basic recipe of mil or cream and eggs and experiment with the rest. Ham, bacon, steak, spinach, onion, tomato, pepper, cheddar, colby, swiss, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, chives, cayenne.... I usually make large quiches in the pre-made shells but used my batch of pastry crust to make individual quiches in muffin tins.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mustard Sauce (and scallops)

I've been to several cooking classes taught by Top Chef contestants, one of which was Harold Dieterle. He made this fabulous mustard sauce and served it over seared tuna. I couldn't wait to replicate the sauce. I took home the recipe sheet and it only sat a day or two before I gathered the ingredients for my first attempt. First ingredient: 1 bottle of rice vinegar. Huh. Note to self: read the measurements first. It was quickly obvious that the recipe was originally for a restaurant-sized portion and some ingredients had been adjusted, but not all. I did my best at this point and, while I used nowhere close to the entire bottle of vinegar, the finished product ended up in the trash. I spent the next year often reminiscing about the elusive mustard sauce until I finally decided to give it another go. Fan-freaking-tastic. I served it over seared scallops and challenge you to serve this and not lick your plate (or the spoon or the pot...).
1/8 c rice vinegar
1/4 onion minced or small dice (less if you aren't as big of an onion fan as I am (see previous post)
1 1/4 c cream (I mixed cream and half and half to cut some fat/calories)
1/2 stick of butter
2 T dry mustard (mix with a little water before adding to get lumps out)
1 t soy
1 t sugar
1 T chives, minced

  • In a saucepan cook the rice vinegar and onions down on medium heat until almost all of the vinegar is cooked out

  • Turn the heat down to low, add the cream and reduce by half

  • Slowly whisk in butter

  • Add the soy and mustard, whisk until smooth

  • Add chives and serve over chicken, fish or shellfish

  • My seared scallops with mustard sauce 
    Harold's Nori crusted Tuna with mustard sauce
    Harold, me and Ilan 

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Onion Tarts

    The dish that won Jeff over to the dark side when he finally discovered onions really are the most awesome food ever... I made standard savory pastry dough, par-cooked it in muffin tins, added the onions from the previous recipe and baked. Recipe to follow...

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011


    If I run out of thoughts for this blog, my next one might be an all-onion blog. I have yet to taste an onion I didn't like and have often eaten a meal of just sauteed onions. A typical night at our house involves me finding some way to incorporate onions into a dish. Sunday's meal prep began as such.
    Amy: "Jeff, I'm going to make onion tarts tonight." Jeff: "You will really like that." 
    Unfortunately the camera was not at hand to capture the look of dread on his face.

    I've made Julia Child's Brown Braised Onions many times, but only as garnish on steak, chicken, burgers and similar meats. Jeff's skepticism was at the thought of an onion as the main ingredient in a dish standing next to his chicken. (My next post will be about my first attempt at pastry dough since college). 

    Jeff is a truly perfect audience for my cooking since he'll try anything I make with a completely open mind. It took just a bit over 10 minutes before the aroma of browning butter and onions filled the room and made Jeff a believer. I could have served the onions in old shoes and he would have tried them, but fortunately for him I had pastry in mind...

    As with most cooking (not baking--yet!) I add my own twist to each recipe. I also find that many dishes can be improved or enhanced with beer, wine or sherry/brandy. My version of Julia's recipe is below. I'm hoping to get some mad props from my mom for finally writing these down.

    Amy's Brown Braised Onions

    1 large onion
    1 1/2 T butter
    1/2  T canola or olive oil
    1/8 cup Sherry
    1/4 c brown stock or beef bouillon
    2T heavy cream (optional but delicious if adding to a tart shell)
    1/2 t Thyme
    salt and pepper to taste
    Slice the onions into slivers and heat butter and oil in 9-10 inch sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and sauté for about 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently so they will brown as evenly as possible.
    When browned, pour in the liquids (except the cream), season to taste, and add the thyme. Cover and simmer slowly for 20-25 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender, stirring occasionally. If using cream, add and simmer 2 more minutes. Serve over most grilled meats.

    Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies!

    I haven't made cookies from scratch in at least twenty years. The last time I made them was with mom when I lived at home. I rarely eat cookies so it went well with my aversion to baking and ongoing attempt at healthy eating habits. This weekend, with the help of The Best Recipe (see my description below), I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Success! I split the batch with half large, half smaller-sized to experiment with texture and cooking times and both are quite tasty (the larger ones are crunchier and therefore slightly favored), eliciting a trip to the grocery store from Jeff for the milk accompaniment.

    The Best Recipe: A gift from my sister and a truly fascinating book to learn more about the ways a variety of ingredients and cooking techniques make foods better or worse. It is written from those in the test kitchens of Cooks Illustrated. The cookie section reviews the effects of changing up the amounts of granulated vs. brown sugar, butter and more. Apparently there is an updated book:

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Why I want to write about cooking

    I love to talk about food and cooking so why not write about it? I have often spent the better part of a day cooking up various dishes to see what I can invent. I own at least 50 cookbooks, have several hundred recipes saved on my laptop or written on recipe cards, yet I rarely follow any of them. If I am going to cook a new dish (or one I haven't made for awhile), I spend a couple of hours looking through my books and online for similar recipes. I then take what I think to be the best pieces of those recipes and that's where the fun really begins...

    Because I don't follow recipes, I rarely have a written record of my inventions so I'm going to start writing about them here. I have also challenged myself to begin baking. This is something I have always detested since following a recipe is vital to the process, but I want to be a better cook so it is all about taking my skills out of my comfort zone.