my first post!

Day of of my blog, and i’m 99% sure i’ll forget all about this within a week and completely lose interest.  HOWEVER, i spent so much time today messing around in the kitchen and i really feel like i’ve learned a lot from it!  since i have experience with experimenting, learning, and promptly forgetting, why not try to keep track this time!  and, not in archived gmail folders with so many titles that it would be impossible to remember.  at least this way (presumably) ill be able to track my lessons-learned based on tags!  (thanks twitter – my three months of fun with you have taught me nothing other than how to use hashtags #really?)

anyways, today, since i woke up feeling pretty hungry and my english muffin didn’t exactly satisfy things…i made the chicken breast i started marinating last night.

Mexican Chicken Marinade (although really, what about this makes it mexican???):

I mixed together a handful of chopped parsley (beautiful, but did it add flavor? who knows?!), a squeeze of my already-minced garlic-in-a-bottle, a heavy (and equally sized) splash of both olive oil and cider vinegar, a few squeezes of lime juice from that wonderful bottle in my fridge, a dose of pre-made curry spicy that i bought and never opened before from target (this turned out to be SO key – i thought i disliked curry for the longest time and really, its what gives my chicken a nice fajita taste!!), a healthy punch of salt, as much black pepper as was in the end of my container, and a nice sprinkle of onion powder.  were there more ingredients involved? i have NO idea. honestly, i got the hankering after my third bud light lime. so is life!

I added the chicken to a bag and let it chill and mellow.  the piece of chicken i ate from this marinade yesterday was fabulous – i just cut it up into the strips i wanted for my “fajita” and put it straight into a hot pan (without the non-stick coating so i could get that nice sear).  they chicken was probably in the pan less than 8 minutes and man was it juicy and hot and delish! i melted a line of pre-shredded mexican cheese down the center (the 2% kind – really, remind me to NEVER buy this again. i just use more cheese anyways, since i don’t get that yummy cheese oil taste), and dolloped SUCH a ridiculous mound of sour cream on top that i’m glad my only photos have been snapped AFTER making/eating – otherwise i’d be super embarrassed. not that people will read this though! (and for the record, mixing “light” and “fat free” sour cream (the kind in the red container) is my favorite way to enjoy sour cream now.  the regular fat free has become unacceptable to me. 😦   mom…i blame this sour cream snobbery on you!).  okay…unnecessarily long story made longer: rolled that all up with my strips of chicken and WOW. i barely even noticed what was going on with jersey shore.  WOW! SUDDEN REVELATION: the chicken i ate last night was so yummy and delicious, and the second one, from this morning, just wasn’t as good. differences: i added a few drops of LIQUID SMOKE!!! to the first chicken, and made it in a pan on the stove. second chicken: FORGOT liquid smoke, and baked it in the oven! i used my fancy schmancy thermometer to let me know when it was at 155 degrees at the thickest part of the chicken and 3/4 of the chicken was mega overcooked.

Lessons learned:

1. i should use curry more often, and not be afraid of it. it gives this nice smokey flavor that i equate with yummy mexican restaurants. if i had the capability to make things at home, i’d probably save a ton of money!

2. buy cumin. i bet thats really good too!

3. dont hesitate to use liquid smoke! literally – it makes things taste grilled. its easy. and even if Chef (brian patterson) from my cooking class thinks is gross and unnatural…i took organic chemistry and i won’t forget! its just literally: smoke, condensed in a glass tube! it literally IS liquidized, smoke!

4 pound the chicken out. yeah, its super annoying, but is it more annoying than half of it being overcooked? i guess it depends on the day.  otherwise, cook on top of the stove! that way i can at least get the little end off the direct heat. thats what the stove is for! temperature control! ovens just suck.

Okay, so after this, i tried the chicken but put the rest in the fridge for later. THEN i decided that i needed to use up my ground chicken in the fridge.  after making sure i coudln’t have to actually EAT a pound of ground chicken today, i decided to make 2 kinds of meatballs and freeze them all for my eating pleasure later. i considered doing the normal italian style, and am regretting that i didn’t make any. after all, what can i eat buffalo chicken meatballs with? not pasta and tomato sauce!  so, the two flavors i decided on: buffalo chicken and thai green curry.

First, Buffalo Chicken Meatballs: i made these for the superbowl, but with some variations.  that recipe had me using a stick of butter in the sauce and baking the meatballs in the oven with all that butter and sauce.  i thought they were slightly overcooked, kindof mushy (no texture) and all in all unimpressive. this is the recipe i followed that day.

in this version, since i was splitting 1lb chicken for 2 types of meatballs, i added a skant 3/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs, the whole package of ground chicken (1 lb), 1 egg, a nice bit of salt, and 1/4 of a yellow onion to 1 bowl.  mixed everything up, and then divided the mixture in half, putting the other half into the bowl for the thai flavor.  to the buffalo flavor, i also added a good handful of fresh chopped parsley (pretty, and because i had it!), a squeeze of garlic from my pre-chopped tube, a sprinkle of onion powder, pepper (not as much as i wanted to but i ran out – seriously, this never happens!), a half-rib of celery, minced, and probably close to 1/4 cup of hot sauce.  i mixed all that up, rolled into 1 inch balls, and put onto my baking sheet (sprayed with pam – not sure why i got paranoid!), and drizzled more hot sauce on top.

then i moved on to the thai flavor (below), and eventually put the balls into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, upping the temperature to “broil” for 5 at the end.  for the record, this did not work. next time, i will absolutely just spray a non-stick pan with pam and give the meatballs a sear first. mushy meatballs with no crust…yeck.  at least i was making these to freeze, so ill be able to heat them/give them texture at the same time.

Thai Chicken Meatballs: i’d been meaning to make thai chicken curry over rice ALL WEEK! but, the mexican chicken just turned out so good i didnt save any for this.  so, with my ground chicken/egg/breadcrumb/salt/onion mixture in a new (non-hot-saucy) bowl, i added in maybe a tsp of lemongrass in the tube (i had been meaning to pick this up at the store – in the produce isle – for the longest time.  how convenient!! i wish i had gotten 1 of every herb offered! not only is this more likely to put it last minute into a meal, but seriously – where do you get fresh lemongrass from?? not wegmans. and certainly not harris teeter! plus, its so fibrous and tough, i mean how finicky. at least, i assume food network is right when they talk about lemongrass in this way – funny how they jam things into your brain so when you remember nothing else about lemongrass, you know you have to knock it with your knife first to loosen up the fibers!  okay, tangent finished.)

i also added about a 1st of green curry paste (from that little jar), 1 green onion, chopped up into little bits, 1 tsp chopped ginger, and maybe that was it? i mixed everything together and put a bit of it in the pan to cook it so i could try it.  super flavorful! almost TOO much flavor!!!  once i rolled it into balls and put it onto the baking sheet, i drizzled some light, unsweetened coconut milk over the top.  (although i made a green curry sauce for later, when i eat my meatballs with rice! that was taken and adapted from this recipe: i used the rest of the can of coconut milk, 2 squeezes (maybe 1 1/2 tsp) lemongrass, 2 tsp fish sauce, 1 tsp brown sugar, 1 ts minced ginger (oh i love the convenience of ginger pre-minced in the jar, just like garlic! its changed my palate!), 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp green curry paste from that jar again.  i whisked that all together, added in another sliced green onion for color and fun and come on – because i had it, and then moved to a glad container to save in the fridge until i was ready for it. i think i added in a splash of water from the faucet too – because the recipe i adapted this from called for it, and i guess thinking it over, once i heat it up, i’m sure some of it will evaporate and concentrate the flavors. and boy are those intense!    now in all fairness, i dont know how this turned out. hopefully once i try it with my bowl of jasmine rice and sauce and meatballs, ill remember about this and report back so i can record my lessons learned! for now, those were

Lessons Learned:

1. always brown the meatballs first even if i’m going to bake it. the broiler just didnt do the job and i don’t like mushy meatballs!

2. the onions, green onions, and celery were really inportant in their respective meatballs. the onion give moistness and would probably cover any over-cooking mistake, and they all give important texture. mushy meatballs? eh. maybe thats how they’re supposed to be but ground meat is new to me! so there!

3. the butter in the buffalo meatballs wasn’t really necessary. i’m sure it adds flavor. i would say if anything, add butter to a pan to brown first. its not necessary in the sauce and just makes it more unhealthy!

and finally, the last new thing i made today were:

Ricotta Donuts

i thought these would be fabulous becuase 1 i love vanilla, 2 i love ricotta, and 3 i had these AMAZING ricotta filled donuts at Rustico in november that i’ve been thinking about recreating, and 3, i haven’t really ever had experience in frying things.  so, the recipe told me to heat 2 inches of oil up. i DO have a fryer that i wanted to try to make some hanukkah donuts and frickles in, but never did.  so instead, obviously (what??? haha) i heated up ONE inch of oil in my normal spaghetti pot.  i turned on the heat in the back burner and attached my meat thermometer (not the fancy digital one, but the normal kind, has a clip) to the side of the pot.  obviously, i didn’t check to see whether my thermometer even went UP to 375 degrees (it didnt) and even more obviously, the plastic coating completely melted around the thermometer in the hot oil. imagine that…plastic melting…oie vey. so, i guestimated at the temperature through no discernable practice, and dropped 2 fritters into the oil, set my timer to 3 minutes, and waited, flipping the donuts over once things looked dark.  i drained over paper towels and a cookie cooling rack, and sprinkled with powdered sugar, and then ate with a fork.

the results were…..disappointing. maybe it was the ricotta just not being a good enough quality? but really, the better the quality, the less you can taste ricotta! these just tasted bland, and not sweet at all. i’m sure adding a drizzle of honey would have been great, but it would’ve still needed cinnamon or something. jelly maybe? lemon curd would have been delicious for SURE. i might make that in a little bit. boy is my cooking-light lemon curd recipe amazing!  anyways, i went back and added a full tsp of lemon zest to the batter (which was REALLY really key and made a huge difference), and also a least 2 extra Tbsp of sugar.  i guess at this point in time its important to mention that i only made 1/3 of the batter.  1 egg, etc.

so at this point, rather than heating the oil back up and deep frying things aka giving myself a heart attack, i just poured a few Tbsp into the bottom of my 6 inch skillet and let that heat up. then i dumped the entirety of the batter into the pan to cook, pancake style. of course, when the bottom got browned, i flipped the pancake and promptly splashed hot oil onto my neck and face. fun! anyways, i took teh panacke off and sprinkled powdered sugar on top. ate with a fork. it was okay.

i think this would be better if it were made into a lemon ricotta pancake? however, i like that tangy pancake taste better than this fritter taste. maybe if it were butter and not oil in the pan? i think i just like butter better than a gross fried taste! unsuccessful!

Lessons Learned:

1. in the past two recipes, doing a test-cook-and-taste trial was key! the thai meatballs i cooked and tasted and found out 1 that i liked that texture of searing on the stove, but also that i DIDNT need to add more flavor! i will usually cumulatively add and add and add, and won’t necessarily haev enough at the end. this was just overboard! for the donuts, i needed a TON of flavor to add! i would have been VERY upset to fry up a full batch of fritters that were barely sweet or edible.

2. THIS is why testing recipes is key! how disappointing would it be if i just made this for company?! or for an occasion?! ew!

3. not all recipes work. i did not like this and won’t make it again!