Monday, October 29, 2012

Hunkered Down

Whoa, Sally!

Preparations for this storm resulted in some surprise goodness at our place.  While clearing out our garage freezer to make room for ice, I happened upon five chicken carcasses.  Seriously, who finds five forgotten chicken carcasses?   I know I've saved a couple over time with the intention of making stock.  But five was a surprising volume to have amassed in the last year or so since we lost power -- and all the contents of our fridge and freezer -- with the last hurricane.   Well, at any rate, no time like the present to put the 'carcai' (Is that a word?  If not, shouldn't it be?) to work.

Homemade Chicken Stock (click here for recipe)

My major adjustment to the recipe was to use the bones I had instead of three whole chickens.  I also omitted dill because I forgot to buy it.

There was something very snuggly about a pot on the stove simmering away all afternoon, and the aroma in the house was deliciously inviting.   But the best part, for sure, was tasting the result the next day.   After freezing three quarters of the stock (yeah, loading up the freezer is precisely the opposite measure to take in the wake of a hurricane, but I didn't appreciate the HUGE quantity of stock this recipe would yield), I made chicken rice soup.  This gorgeous, rich stock made all the scrumptious difference.

I didn't really use a recipe here.  My dad used to make chicken and rice soup with random leftovers from the fridge and I always loved it, so I figured I'd attempt my own version.

I started by rubbing two boneless, skinless chicken breasts (further efforts to clean out the freezer) with olive oil and sprinkling them with kosher salt and black pepper before throwing them into a 375 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes.  While they were cooking, I got a small pot of brown rice going, which was simply 1 cup of long grain brown rice, cooked according to the package directions.  Next, I chopped and sauteed half a large onion in a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large pot.  I medium-diced 4 carrots and 3 stalks of celery and added them to the pot to soften.  After 10ish minutes, I added the stock -- about 3-4 quarts, I think -- to the pot.  When the chicken was done in the oven, I chopped it and added it to the pot, along with the rice and a handful (about 1/4 cup) of chopped flat leaf parsley.  After a quick dash of salt and pepper to taste, it was ready! 

A bowl of soup and a crusty baguette is perfect storm weather in my book. 

Be safe, everyone!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bye Bye Lulu's

Hub and I eagerly anticipated a rare, quiet date night out together to celebrate his birthday, only to find that our destination restaurant was CLOSED.  I mean, after lining up a baby sitter, getting ourselves dressed, downtown and parked only to be greeted by a little sign sending us the other direction for all hours other than brunch was a big, fat whomp whomp whomp. 

I'll clarify that we'd never let this - or anything for that matter - spoil a jewel of a night together, so we zipped to Zeus Gallery, another cozy food establishment on our go-to list, without skipping a beat.

Retrospectively, the thought of no more Lulu's dinners has been depressing me.  We've had some tasty dinners there, which I (of course, nerdily) had pictures of, so I'm sharing them in a goodbye tribute.

This is a grilled Caesar salad that didn't photograph well (slimy anchovies, anyone?) but tasted afreakinmazing.  The charred lettuce was the perfect backdrop to the rich egg, briny anchovies, nutty Parmesan, and crunchy house made croutons, all blanketed in Caesar dressing screaming of garlic and lemon.  (I just reread that.  If you're a Caesar person, you might be salivating.  If you're not, this may actually sound heinous and for that, I apologize.)  This was the dish I actually hoped to order the fateful night we found it closed!  RIP grilled Caesar salad.

Grilled mahi mahi over pancetta and sweet potato garnished kale resting in a blanket of celery root and apple puree.  Every bite was heaven, but I think my favorite part was the kale.  Have I mentioned my kale obsession?  I've got about a dozen recipes featuring on top of my pile, and I can't WAIT to try one or five.

Ahhh, classic shrimp and grits.  (I'm not sure who I think I am attempting to identify a classic southern anything with my Pennsyltucky roots.  I'd like to think I have a teeny bit of street cred after experiencing a few divine versions in Charleston, being a Richmonder for a whopping 3 years now, and my general inclination to stuff my face.  But I'd clearly be an impostor if I claimed to be an aficionado of southern cuisine.)  I'll just tell you the facts; this grits were buttery and rich, the shrimp were cooked to tender perfection, and the spicy, chorizo-speckled sauce was to die for.  Big fan.

With dinner out of the equation, I'd love to try the brunch here (who wouldn't find herself beckoned by a red velvet waffle with pecan cream cheese?!).  The typical weekend chaos doesn't often afford the luxury of brunch, but I'll put it on the Some Day list.

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Slow Cooker Resolution # 37

Why hello there, neglected blog friends!  Thanks for checking back despite the infrequency of my entries as of late.  Speaking of neglected, I pulled this guy out of the cabinet after way too long, and I just loooved the result tonight.

It's ridiculous to turn down help when I could seriously use an extra hand or four to get things done. It seems that I'm making repeated resolutions to employ the slow cooker more, since it could free up precious moments to accomplish the almost stupid volume of tasks requiring attention each evening.  But the truth is, I'm not super jazzed by a lot of slow cooker recipes I see.  They can often seem, well, boring...and I also know that I miss the scrumptious flavor imparted by the searing/grilling/browning process left out of this cooking technique.  What I DO love about using the slow cooker is being welcomed by savory aromas when I open my door, as well as the brilliant fact that dinner is ready to go!

When I recently happened upon a slow cooker version of beef stroganoff by my girl Marth, it sparked a desire to give this contraption another whirl.  I get a hankering for beef stroganoff about once a year, and the thought has been nestled in the back of my brain since the onset of the fall.  If you're, too, a fan of this dish, this slow cooker version does not disappoint!  The beef is tender, the onions are scrumptiously caramelized, and the mushrooms add earthy flavor and textural interest.  The  combination of these ingredients unified with this rich and creamy sauce over a bed of toothy egg noodles is satisfying and warms your belly the whole way through. 

I probably should have taken more care to photograph the final product. But the messy rustic approach is kind of part of this food experience.  Oh, and I was also dying to dig in!  

Beef Stroganoff (click here for recipe)

One note on the recipe: it instructs to thicken the cooking liquid at the end. I was left with very little cooking liquid to speak of, so I just used a cup of chicken stock instead.  It worked like a charm!

My faith in this kitchen gadget just might be restored.  I hereby pronounce (yet another) resolution to be more intentional about incorporating it into my weekly menu planning.  If anyone has any great recipes to share, please do!