Archive for the ‘Technique’ Category

It’s very easy to make your own chicken stock. I’m as guilty as every one else in that I just don’t want to be troubled. You have to buy the ingredients, simmer for hours upon hours, and in the end, you still have to put the stock into containers and freeze them. This is not nearly as easy as picking up a box at the supermarket that you can keep in your pantry until you open it.

But in the spirit of healthier living, I wanted to experiment with making my own stock. The results were astonishing and I don’t think I can ever really go back to the boxed version unless I’m in a pinch. The flavor is much more rich and if you have a particular palette, you can tailor the stock to your exact specifications. Have a low sodium diet? This would work wonderfully for you too.

To speed up the process, I’ve used my pressure cooker here which cuts the entire experience and saved me more than 3 hours.

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 lbs chicken legs or thighs
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 8 peppercorns

1. Place the chicken in bottom of your pressure cooker. Cover with the vegetables, pepper corns, and 2 tbsp salt. Pour in 2 quarts of water (it should cover everything). Close the lid of the cooker and bring up to high pressure. When the pressure cooker is steaming, lower the heat to the lowest setting and allow to cook for 45 minutes.

2. After releasing the steam safely, line a colander with cheese cloth and place over another large pot or container. Pour the contents of the pressure cooker into the colander and let strain for 5 minutes. Keep the chicken for a future meal. Or, if you are making soup or chicken and dumplings perhaps, these vegetables are wonderful additions.

3. If you want to remove a large portion of the fat, let the chicken stock cool and place in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, the fat will have hardened which you can remove easily.

4. Stock will keep refrigerated for up to a week or freeze up to 6 months.

How to Dice an Onion

Posted: September 16, 2011 in Technique
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Don’t be confused, this is still a food blog. But I only use the figure on the right to remind us all of high school geometry (ugh) and how your teacher always told you how important it was to learn without ever telling you exactly how you’ll use it. You see a set of axes (yes, that is the correct plural for axis – I looked it up) labeled X, Y, and Z for both right and left handed individuals. I’ll refer to these axes when discussing the technique behind dicing an onion because I end the terms horizontal, vertical, and across rather vague.

Step 1: Peel the onion and cut in half. Leave the root end attached and cut the other end off slightly. Lay one half cut side down on a cutting board.

Step Two: Lay your palm on top of the onion keeping your fingers extended straight. Very carefully cut the onion horizontally along the X-Axis two or three times (depending on the size of the onion).

Step Three: Now cut the onion on the Y-Axis as small as you would like the dice. Some chunks may come off. Just set these aside and dice them later.

Step Four: Lastly, cut the onion across the Z-Axis and the dice is complete.

Homemade pasta is not nearly as hard as it seems. Essentially, it’s two ingredients: Flour and Eggs. That’s it. But, before you decide if making homemade pasta is right for you, there are three things to consider:

1) Do I have time?

Making pasta at home will not take eons of time. Making the dough will take roughly 20 minutes, but filling ravioli, tortellini, or pressing and drying other kinds of pasta does require a time committment. On a good note, if you are a parent, this is a fantastic project to do with children as it requires no knives, dangerous machinery, or the stove.

2) What kind of pasta should I make?

There are many accessories that will help you make perfectly uniform cuts. If you don’t want to make a big investment in these, I would stick with ravioli or tortelinni. Strand shaped pasta like spaghetti, linguine, and fettuccine requires uniform sized noodles so they all cook at the same speed. Otherwise, some will be al dente and the rest will be mush.

3) How much should I make?

While you are putting in the effort, make lots. Filled pastas will freeze and strand pasta will dry the same way you buy it in your grocery store.. This requires some additional time and steps, but this is a much healthier alternative to ingesting the sodium riddled frozen pasta we have all come to love.

Once you try homemade pasta, it will be difficult for you to go back to the boxed stuff.

Making Pasta

Ingredients

  • Flour
  • Eggs

Before I start, I want to note that I am using the ratio method of cooking here. Pasta dough uses a 3:2 flour to egg ratio. The reason for this is because each egg weighs something different. To simply say, use 1 egg, would be inaccurate. However, if you don’t have a kitchen scale (and if you are going to cook alot, I would recommend getting one), I have included approximations as well.

1) Measure out eggs first. You will need one egg for each serving. I am making 6 servings, so six eggs are cracked and weighed. This amounts to 324g.

2) Measure out the flour. Remember, we need a 3:2 ratio. I’ve shown the math below. You can use this method to figure out how much flour you need by solving for X. This also proves that your math teacher was right and this stuff can be used in real life. (3 1/4 cups of flour — ish)

3) Now make a well in the flour. You’ve probably seen on the Food Network that they tend to dump the flour on the counter. This is a terrible idea. You are going to pour the eggs into the well. If your walls break, you are going to have egg everywhere. This will make you sad. My method is to keep the flour is a large mixing bowl and use a glass to make a well. Then pour the eggs into the middle. You can see from the picture below that if you do it right, the eggs will smile at you.

4) Now the fun part! Take a fork and begin to scramble the eggs. As you move around, flour with become incorporated into the egg mixture. Make your circles bigger until you get a solid mixture. I’ve taken the liberty to attach my YouTube video demonstration below.

I removed the soundtrack from the video due in part to the noxious egg mixing sound. I replaced it with “Help, I’m Alive” by Metric. And yes, I realize I”m a dork.

5) When you get the pasta to look like the video, stop there and use your hands to finish the task. Keep kneading the dough until the flour has incorporated itself into the mixture and the dough is smooth and elastic. This can take anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes. This also counts as your strength training work out for the day. The dough will still be slightly sticky. DO NOT ADD EXTRA FLOUR. You will want to. Hold in the impulses.

6) Lay out some saran wrap on your counter and spray it with cooking spray. Then put the disc of dough in the middle, wrap it, and chill it in your refrigerator for at least 4 hours. You can make this up to 24 hours ahead of time, but I don’t recommend leaving it too long. Dough will absorb all the odors in your fridge and you may not want your ravioli to taste like last weeks leftovers. 
That’s it folks. You’ve made pasta dough. From here, you can roll it out, put it through a pasta press, use a pasta machine, whatever you want. Need some inspiration? Tomorrow, I’ll be posting the recipe for my Mushroom Ravioli.