Archive for November, 2013

Seared Steaks

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

On a whim, we picked up a couple of small filets at the grocery store, and I pan seared them for us. The last time I tried cooking steak this way, it ended up burned on the outside and raw on the inside, so I looked up a recipe this time. Turns out that my main mistake was that I didn’t fill the pan with a quarter cup of oil. I found a description of how to go about steak searing, and it included a more detailed recipe as well.

The basic method is simple, just heat the oil on high until it starts smoking, then cook the steaks, flipping and basting regularly until they’re about 5 degrees cooler than you want, and then rest them for a few minutes. The recipe also included details like salting the meat beforehand, and adding aromatics and butter to the oil. But really, the copious amounts of hot oil covering all sides of the meat are the important part.

The steak was delicious, and I’ll definitely be using this method again.

Crusty Bread (First Attempt)

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Misshapen crusty bread loaves

Misshapen crusty bread loaves

Emboldened by our recent home-cooking successes, I decided to try my hand at baking a yeast bread. Now, I’m a huge fan of down-to-earth old fashioned European crusty bread, so that’s what I set out to find. I ended up choosing this recipe, not really paying attention to how many steps it was and how long the preparation takes. This bread basically needs a day and a half of your time to make.


The pre-ferment went pretty smoothly.

  • 1 lb. bread flour (3 1/2 cups)
  • 9.5 oz. water (1 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

I had all the ingredients, and this part went smoothly. I substituted active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, but some confusing and inconsistent internet searching eventually convinced me that I would be fine with equal or slightly generous measures. Basically you just combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and then let it sit overnight. I put it in the fridge the following morning, as I wasn’t going to be able to bake until the evening, and that’s what the recipe says to do if you go beyond 16 hours between stages.

Final Dough

This is where things got messy. Here are the ingredients for this part:

  • 10 oz. bread flour (2 1/2 cups)
  • 6 oz. whole wheat or rye flour or a mixture of them (around 1 1/2 cups)
  • 12.5 oz. water (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • all of the pre-ferment

It was after I was already grabbing ingredients and getting ready to go that I noticed that it called for a portion of whole-wheat flour. Lacking that, I just did a whole pounds of bread flour again. You are instructed to mix up all the ingredients except the pre-ferment, which I did. There were no comments about what the mixture was to look like, but I clearly used too much water. I carried on, however, not realizing that I had just made batter instead of dough.

The next step is to chop the pre-ferment into small pieces and use a mixer to knead the two doughs together. This is supposed to be a difficult process, which leaves visible streaks of color where the two doughs don’t combine fully. My over-saturated batter just swallowed the pre-ferment right up. When I was trying to transfer it to a bowl to rise again I was finally forced to concede that my dough was too wet and added more flour until it was more or less handleable.

The dough was then allowed to rise for another few hours, with a punch or two to control the air bubbles. I ended up letting it rise for an hour longer than I was supposed to, and I decided to skip the hour of resting after shaping the (still sticky) dough into loaves. So into the 450 degree oven they went! The recipe suggests that it should take around 30 minutes to bake, but I needed more like an hour before the center was done at 200 degrees.

Sliced crusty bread

Sliced crusty bread

The bread turned out weirdly misshapen and slightly chewy, but it is dense, crusty and delicious. I’ll call this a qualified success, and will probably go with a simpler recipe next time.

Chicken Stroganoff

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

We were originally going to make a chicken-stuffed pumpkin, but didn’t end up having any bread ready in time. Rather than put dinner off until about 10:00 at night, I improvised a chicken stroganoff based on my family’s beef stroganoff recipe. I had a previously-cooked chicken in the fridge (using this recipe), so I used the wings and leg quarters, saving the breast meat for Sarah’s sandwiches.

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb mushrooms (I used a mix of several fresh mushrooms, but any will work)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 lb pre-cooked chicken
  • 1/2 pound egg noodles
  • ground pepper
  • 1 cup pan drippings (or chicken stock)
  • 1/4 cup white wine (or water)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream

Heat butter in a large pot on med-high heat.
Once butter is sizzling hot, add mushrooms and onions.
Cook until mushrooms are have started releasing their delicious liquids, about 5 minutes.
Crack on some pepper, and add egg noodles, pan drippings/stock, and wine.
Lower heat to medium-low and cover.
Cook until noodles are soft and liquids are absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
Remove from heat, then add sour cream and stir until creamy.

No-Rise Herbed Dinner Bread

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

This is a bread recipe we’ve used a few times when we want to bake a loaf while the rest of dinner cooks. It’s very amenable to substitiutions and flavor alterations, and it comes out dense, moist, and flavorful.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or milk or water)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • fresh rosemary leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix all dry ingredients.
Add all liquids, and stir to combine.
Shape into a loaf, place on a baking sheet, and score the top.
Bake for 40 minutes.
10 minutes before the bread is done, spread some butter on top to help it brown.