Tag Archives: Cook’s Illustrated

To fluff or not…

July 31, 2013
Cook’s Illustrated – March/April issue
Fluffy omelets

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The day I moved away from my parents’ at 19 was the day omelets became a regular staple in my diet.

As you all know by now, I am not a good cook, and for the most part, when it comes to savoury dishes I do not enjoy the kitchen. For years I had no desire to learn dinner-style meals; my dinners pretty much consisted of omelets. Every night. You’d think I’d get sick of them after awhile, right, goodness knows my housemates got sick of the smell, but nope, I loved my omelets then, and I love my omelets now.

When Big Ring and I started dating, I quickly discovered that he, too, loved omelets… just not every night. Every week, to this day, they’re on our meal plan. And every trip to France we’ve made (3 for me, 4 for him) the first meal is ALWAYS an omelet and a side baguette.

Knowing that, you’re probably now wondering why I’d even bother including an omelet into my 12 Months of Cooking challenge. Well folks, this was no ordinary omelet. This omelet required oven time. This omelet required fluffing up time. This omelet required attention to detail. This omelet required a cooperative child.

My gawd, did it ever!

Given that Little Ring had been struggling with a Jack-in-the-Gums tooth all day, we decided to wait on our dinner until after he went to bed. The kid was tired, you could see he was tired, his eyes were droopy, he was expressing Tyrannosaurus Rex yawns, and melting down at the littlest of things. But do you think the boy would give in to Mr. Sandman? No.

Halfway through prepping the omelet – after whipping up the egg whites into firm yet semi soft peaks, and then combining them with the rest of the omelet concoction ready for the oven – I stepped away to assist Big Ring in calming our boy. By the time I had come back, the fluffiness had semi deflated 😦

I knew its looks were already far from perfection, but I hoped to still score high on taste in the end, which I am relieved to say I did. The balsamic vinegar was sheer brilliance. I’ve done omelets with caramelized green onions and mushrooms, but I had never thought to include balsamic vinegar. It kicked the flavour up ten-fold!

But still, I didn’t really see the point in the soufflé style omelet. For the most part, it tasted just like any other omelet I’d made prior, it was just somewhat fluffier. Why put that work in, when you could do the same for far less time?

Will I be doing this recipe again? Probably not. The balsamic vinegar concoction will be incorporated into future omelets, but the fluff I can go without.

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Ingredients
4 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (a tsp of white vinegar or lemon juice can be used instead)
1 recipe filling (see related content)
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk egg yolks, melted butter, and salt together in bowl. Place egg whites in bowl of stand mixer and sprinkle cream of tartar over surface. Fit stand mixer with whisk and whip egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy, 2 to 2½ minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and whip until stiff peaks just start to form, 2 to 3 minutes. Fold egg yolk mixture into egg whites until no white streaks remain.
2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon butter in 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, swirling to coat bottom of pan. When butter foams, quickly add egg mixture, spreading into even layer with spatula. Remove pan from heat and gently sprinkle filling and Parmesan evenly over top of omelet. Transfer to oven and cook until center of omelet springs back when lightly pressed, 4½ minutes for slightly wet omelet and 5 minutes for dry omelet.
3. Run spatula around edges of omelet to loosen, shaking gently to release. Slide omelet onto cutting board and let stand for 30 seconds. Using spatula, fold omelet in half. Cut omelet in half crosswise and serve immediately.

Serves 2

Spanish Chorizo and Lentil Soup: cooking 101

May 29, 2013
Cook’s Illustrated – March/April 2013
Spanish Chorizo and Lentil Soup

130529soup“To achieve authentically deep, complex flavor in this hearty soup, we had to turn down the flame.” ~ David Paz

Sometimes you’ve just got to have faith… at least, that’s what I told myself when I gave Big Ring the keys to my 12 Months of Cooking Challenge. For May’s challenge, I plopped a stack of magazines in front of him and told him to choose my next recipe. The only perimeter I gave him was that it had to be a proper meal – no other limitations – and I was fully aware, and freaked out, of the consequences this could present. What if he picked pork? I do NOT eat piggies*

Big Ring, to his credit, took the challenge seriously. He told me he didn’t want to pick something super easy, or super hard for that matter, just the right recipe to hone my skills, give me a challenge, but not send me into a flurry of F bombs. The result: Spanish Lentil and Chorizo Soup.

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*I know what you’re all thinking: sausage, that’s pig. No it’s not, neither is ham 😉

Big Ring picked well; this recipe was full of Cooking 101 lessons. I learned NOT to stand so close to a pan of spitting, angry oil, but only AFTER having my arms, chest and cheeks painstakingly charred! I learned that unless I want eyeliner streaks staining my cheeks, I must invest in a pair of onion goggles. And I learned the definition of simmer, a term I’ve thought for years meant to cook over the lowest temperature. But nope, that’s not it at all.

Simmer [sim•mer]
verb (used without object)
To cook or cook in a liquid at or just below the boiling point

I only looked the definition up because I wasn’t 100 per cent confident in my understanding of the word, and because I want to follow these recipes to a tee, I felt it imperative to get out the dictionary 😀

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That’s a cup of tears right there!

I also learned a new technique – Sweating Out The Veggies – that’s not so 101, but maybe a wee bit more advanced dare I say 😀 Sweating out involves cooking the vegetables super slow to produce a “sweet, vegetal taste” that wouldn’t overpower the entire dish. Big Ring thought this technique would be the hardest  for me, probably because of my tendency towards impatience, but it was actually quite easy. I just had to keep an eye on it, and make sure it didn’t brown, or goodness forbid, BURN!

All in all, I kind of liked this recipe. Even though it was time consuming as hell chopping and measuring all those dang vegetables and sweating them out, and prepping the lentils, and sauteing the spices into a “fragrant bloom,” etc., etc., when it finally came together, it was a thing of beauty in my mouth. (Who ever thought I’d say that about my cooking!!!) The melding of the flavours, the stick-to-your-bones lentils, the juiciness of the sausage, it warmed my belly with pure happiness. And the next day, oh man, the flavours were so much more intensified. It was not only Princess approved, it was Big AND Little Ring approved too!

There were a couple challenges however. We couldn’t find proper Spanish chorizo, so we used kielbasa instead, which the recipe said would be fine, but I think the intensity of chorizo would have been better. The second issue was my blood sugars. They did NOT like this recipe at all! Because there was no real way of measuring the carbs in the lentils, given it was combined with the veggies and sausage, I pretty much had to guesstimate my insulin dose – to which I failed miserably 😦

Ingredients:
1 pound (2 1/4  cups) lentils, picked over and rinsed
Salt and pepper
1 large onion
5T extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Spanish-style chorizo sausage, pricked with fork several times
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3T minced fresh parsley
7 cups water, plus extra as needed
3T sherry vinegar, plus extra for seasoning
2 bay leaves
1/8t ground cloves
2T sweet smoked paprika
3 garlic cloves, minced
1T all-purpose flour

1. Place lentils and 2 teaspoons salt in heatproof container. Cover with 4 cups boiling water and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain well.
2. Meanwhile, finely chop three quarters of onion (you should have about 1 cup) and grate remaining quarter (you should have about 3 tablespoons). Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add chorizo and cook until browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer chorizo to plate. Reduce heat to low and add chopped onion, carrots, 1 tablespoon parsley, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft but not brown, 25 to 30 minutes. If vegetables begin to brown, add 1 tablespoon water to pot.
3. Add lentils and sherry vinegar to vegetables; increase heat to medium-high; and cook, stirring frequently until vinegar starts to evaporate, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 7 cups water, chorizo, bay leaves, and cloves; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low; cover; and cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
4. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add paprika, grated onion, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute longer. Remove chorizo and bay leaves from lentils. Stir paprika mixture into lentils and continue to cook until flavours have blended and soup has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. When chorizo is cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 1/4 inch thick slices. Return chorizo to soup along with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and heat through, about 1 minute. Season with salt, pepper, and up to 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar to taste, and serve. (Soup can be made up to 2 days in advance.)

Serves 6 to 8

Previous 12 Months of Challenge Recipes:
• February 1, 2013: “Impossible” Ham and Cheese Pie
• March 20, 2013: Easy Asparagus Tart
• April 17, 2013: Chicken and Rice Soup
• April 20, 2013: Braciole

New Challenge: the chef’s hat

I’ve run marathons, ridden my bike up the seemingly never-ending hills to Horseshoe Bay, competitively hiked the Grouse Grind, have raced dragon boats, and now I have set forth a new challenge – in the kitchen!

This past Christmas, my pops (who drew my name for the family gift exchange) got me a subscription to Cooks Illustrated and Cook’s Country – both products of America’s Test Kitchen. Some of you familiar with my blog might be wondering why the heck he would do such a thing. It’s no secret that while I love to bake, I don’t like cooking, I’m no good at cooking, I cook but once a year, and frankly I’m much happier out of the kitchen than in.

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Yup, I can pretty much count how many times I’ve cooked on one hand!

But the thing is, I love cooking shows and cooking magazines. Whenever I go to my parents’ house, I drool over my pops’ cooking magazines, salivating at the pictures, reading them from front to back, not daring to miss one page, even if a recipe initially doesn’t appeal to me. It’s like cooking porn!

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Now this is the kind of porn I can get behind 😉

And when I do get into the kitchen for that once-a-year Big Ring birthday feast, despite the cavalcade of curse words exiting my mouth and stress beads streaming down my forehead, I do enjoy the planning of the event, the shopping for supplies, the challenge of not poisoning us, and the reward when if it turns out tasty.

With all that in mind, my pops figured I should have subscriptions of my own to enjoy, and he hoped that  maybe, just maybe, I’d find my way into the kitchen more than once a year (he’s a pretty fricken kick-ass chef himself, which most definitely was not passed down to me!). Shockingly, I am happy to report his plan – so far – has worked!

I have embarked on a new challenge, my friends – a cooking challenge. With each magazine I receive (12 in total for the year) I will set out to make at least one recipe from that issue. It may not be 42.2 km, or 8 hours through the Cinque Terre, but it will be grueling, it will be stressful, it will be time consuming, there will be curse words, there may even be tears, and my gawd, there may very well be moments where I want to throw myself in front of a moving train like I did for the Portland Marathon. But always one for a challenge, I promise you this, I will be sinking my teeth into this one 100 per cent!

And already, I’m two for two 🙂

On Feb. 1, I made the Impossible Ham and Cheese pie Quiche, which was super easy and super tasty. The parmesan crust was brilliant, and the smell that hung low in the loft for hours after was delectable! I’ve since made the quiche a few times more, and have even been so brave as to make my own alterations to the recipe.

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And yesterday, in honour of the first day of spring, I made the Easy Asparagus Tart. Big Ring, who was unsure if he’d like the black kalamata olives in the recipe, raved about the tart practically with every bite he took. And while I too thought it was tasty, I think it would have been much better as an appetizer cut up into smaller squares. Me and the, uhm, goat cheese, it seems, don’t really get along, not at all… let’s just leave it at that 😉

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And so, with this new challenge, I will be starting a new page on the blog that will include each recipe I try. Stay tuned for the next cooking adventure.

Ps. this is NOT the big announcement I had teased you all with a couple weeks ago; that will hopefully be revealed in just a couple weeks. Patience, they say, is a virtue 😉