Monday, January 31, 2011

Recipe 3: Provencal Roasted Chicken with Honey and Thyme

*SPOILER ALERT* I realize that I am trying two chicken dishes back to back, however the pork and beef dishes in this cookbook were either too expensive or actually didn't appeal to me, so stay with me here!

Anyway, this dish really caught my eye as what I call, a "pretentious pleaser" dish- a dish that sounds classy but doesn't require a high amount of skill. The term "Provencal" simply refers to the use of thyme, lemon and shallot which lends a French vibe to the meal. That is about the most I can say for this meal.

I thought the recipe fell short, to say the least. The chicken was slightly moist alright, however I didn't get much in the flavor department. This dish has well over an hour of prep work and cook time, but doesn't yield a high amount of flavor. The honey helped to create a bit of crispiness on the skin, but I found the lemon and shallot sauce to be too overpowering for the chicken.

This dish is a definite let down. If you are looking for an ok tasting dish that requires a lot of time, then by all meas you have found it! I am keeping hope for the pancakes that I have yet to try. Maybe they will lift my lame chicken blues.

Later, non-chicken posts!


PS. Since the dish was a let down, I figured I would include something fun-- my kitties with my cookbooks!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Recipe 2: Chicken Ragu with Farfalle

Next up is Chicken Ragu with farfalle. I chose this recipe because I love farfalle (bow tie pasta for those of us who don't want to sound pretentious!) I also chose this recipe because it seemed to be accessible and features one of my favorite ingredients-white wine!

The shopping list was rather easy with this one, since the recipe calls for pretty basic ingredients-- celery, carrots, garlic etc. I found it interesting that it called for a red onion instead of a normal white or yellow. This is simply because the sauce comes out sweet and the onion helps carry the sweet flavor. It is also nice that the recipe features the use of easy to find dried and fresh herbs. Flat leaf parsley can be found in even the most "non-foodie" of grocery stores or "markets" and sage, thyme and rosemary can be found in any spice rack.

My favorite part of the meal, aside from the wine, was the use of chicken legs. To me, chicken can be overpriced and under flavored, but this is not true of chicken legs. You have to be a bit more committed to the time it takes to fully cook them, however the flavor and moisture of the overall product is more than a simple reward. I was able to pick up a package of chicken legs from Kroger for about $2.09 since they were on sale that week (Gotta love Kroger!)

All in all, the meal took about an hour and a half to make. Let's face it, we aren't all Rachel Ray and we don't have a staff to prep our vegetables for our so called "Thirty Minute Meals." With chopping, peeling, dicing and mincing the prep work took a bit of time, although I do have to say it was well worth the time. The chicken was tender and moist juicy, the sauce was thick and chocked full o'vegetables, and all in all the meal was satisfying. If I had to make one critique, I would choose a different noodle. Although I have a certain infatuation with bow tie pasta (being a former Buckeye and the President E. Gordon Gee's love of bow ties.... it brings me back). The sauce remains very full bodied, while the noodle is not. I would pair it with a wider pasta such as fettuccine or pappardelle in the future.

I would certainly recommend this recipe to someone who wants a culinary challenge. The time investment is worth it to test your culinary fortitude and the outcome is nothing short of classic comfort food. To those following this, you might have realized I am not following the order in which I said these recipes would be tried, but one night I realized that chicken just didn't sound good so Andy and I went out! It happens ya know! But I do promise I will get to those recipes just as my schedule allows it!

Much love in the cold weather....


Monday, January 17, 2011

Recipe 1: Parmesan, Pepper and Lemon Biscuits

The only reason I chose this recipe was because of a terrible title. Parmesan, pepper and lemon biscuits. For those of you who know me, I hate three things in this world-- alliteration, the word moist, and the word biscuit. As much as it pained me to read through this recipe, it turned out to be a pretty fun bake.

At first glance, the ingredients are accessible, easy to come by, and for the most part, on hand. I did make one adjustment to the ingredient list. The recipe calls for diced and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, however, I used only shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. As is common knowledge, the use of very cold butter and even milk is key for this type of baking. I mixed my dry ingredients first, then cut in the butter and finished them up. The recipe itself is written in a difficult way, since you have to refer back to the recipe before it; however, if you read carefully, it all comes out in the end.

Since I am a recovering college student who is new to the job world, I don't have modern conveniences like biscuit cutters. I put on my thinking cap and came up with the use of a well floured juice cup (this idea was also shown in the cookbook, but I didn't realize it until after I had my epiphany!)

Overall, the biscuits didn't turn out too bad. As it goes for biscuits, they tend to be a bit too dry; however, these were rather moist delicious. My only advice would be to measure out the lemon zest and to use fresh ground pepper to give you the best results. These would be the perfect addition to meals such as steaks in the summer, a nice salad in the winter, chicken ragout (like the one I am testing out later) in the fall or a fish dish in the spring.

I hope this inspires you to try a few biscuit recipes out for yourself. I will be checking out the chicken ragout next!

Check ya later!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The First Crack Down! Food Network Kitchens Cookbook

For the first crack down, I chose Food Network Kitchens Cookbook. I thought this cookbook would be a good purchase because it's not inflated with TV personalities, but rather the real chefs who make the food so the TV personalities can present it.

I have had this book for a while now and just got around to really take a hard look at it. The book costs about $20 dollars, but you can find it all over. I personally bought it at Kohl's on sale and with an additional coupon (gotta love Kohl's!)  The book has a lot of great pictures, good tips and interesting information. I decided to try five different recipes in the book. I tried to get a breakfast recipe, followed by a meal in one pan, a meal with a side dish in the book, and one recipe just for fun!

First off, I will try out the cornmeal pancakes with blueberry maple syrup. I chose this because Andy loves blueberries and I have never had a cornmeal pancake. After that, I will test out a few chicken dishes since everyone loves chicken (chicken ragu with farfalle and Provencal roasted chicken with honey and thyme) followed by parmesan, pepper and lemon biscuits (to accompany the Provencal roasted chicken) and finally Mory's honey challah.

At first glance, the book is set up nicely and offers a lot of different dishes and side dishes. The book offers a list of master recipes, such as homemade chicken stock and parslied egg noodles, in the back of the book. There is also a nice list of gadgets you should keep in your kitchen, although the information kind of comes as an afterthought.

At times, the book can also be a bit hokey and even condescending.One such sentence reads, "Homemade chicken stock in the freezer is like gold in the bank". I know, awkward right? Although the book is a bit silly, I have yet to actually test it out.

As for the recipes, I will decide how they work after I give them a spin. I will try them out and post my thoughts later. If you would like, you can grab the book from the library and cook along with me and then decide what you think for yourself!


Monday, January 3, 2011

The Low Down of the Crack Down

So I have bought tons of cookbooks, get them home and realize that they aren't all they're cracked up to be. There is nothing less satisfying than buying a book, trying a recipe and realizing that it is awful. That is what inspired me to create this site. I wanted to give people a leg up before they decide to spend, the usually $20 minimum, and give them a bit of insight to what the cookbook has to offer.

In order to do this, I thought it would be smart to create a criteria by which I can judge the worth of the cookbook. The criteria are as follows:

1. Cost of ingredients- Since I am 23 and living pretty frugally, I like to keep overall cost between $15-30 for the meals I will be making. Spices, condiments and pantry staples are not included in the price estimates since they should be on hand.

2. Time and Effort- How labor intensive is the dish? Can I bank on this recipe to get me out of a bind or do I need to start it, pop in Julie and Julia, then finish before bed. A good meal can take 15 minutes, but a great meal shouldn't take more than an hour that is, unless it is snuggled safely in a crockpot : ).

3. Hello... Taste!- We all know that just because a recipe is featured in a cookbook doesn't mean that it is good. I will try to be pretty open minded about this, however I do have a picky fiance who doesn't have the most open pallet.

4. Overall qualities of the book- Does the book feature pictures that accompany the recipe? Does the book give advice or useful tips? Is the book filled with anecdotes from the chef? Does the book sport awkward and hilarious pictures of Bobby Flay? (One book I will review most certainly does!) This will tell you whether you should buy the book or look it up at the local library (Yes the library is still around)!

I hope this site will give you a bit of motivation to try new things and keep an eye out for great cookbooks!

Look for my next post later this week!