Saturday, June 11, 2011

Burner Deficit

This weekend's adventure brought to you by my poor learning curve. Once again, I neglected to read the recipes thoroughly enough to notice a few crucial steps ... like, oh, say, soaking the rice for 20 - 30 minutes before putting it in the skillet.

To my credit, however, I realized - last night, after shopping - that I had three dishes that needed large oven burners and only two burners of sufficient size such that I could arrange pans on them. I decided to do the chicken first and reheat after getting the other two off, as Nigella was quite specific about how easy it was to make the dish the day before. First, however - dessert!

I went to get the appropriate pans for the bread pudding and stopped dead. A loaf pan? Who makes bread pudding in a loaf pan? Already irrationally dubious of this recipe, I forged onwards and got it into the pan pronto. I have an awful lot of French bread left - about half a loaf.

Then I discovered that my poor roasting pan was going to have an identity crisis again, for this was another water bath recipe. However, either my bananas were too big (entirely possible, for local produce seems to be mutant) or I overdid the bread a bit, for the mixture was right up to the brim of the loaf pan. I thought some of it would escape in cooking, and I was correct.

There needs to be another doneness indicator for this recipe: it's extremely hard to get a knife to come out "clean" with anything containing chocolate chips. I finally worked it, out though.

Final verdict (bread pudding): This was ... okay. It's easy, so I might check it out if you like this combination of flavors, but it's not particularly sweet or exceptional in any way. I, personally, am not going to keep the recipe.

Next up, the mughlai chicken. I decided not to use flaked almonds and found I didn't have quite enough Greek yogurt, so substituted regular yogurt for the rest of the full cup - be advised. Ran into my first problem here when I discovered the chicken thighs I had bought were bone-in. I managed to butcher them with some fumbling, but a confidence that would have left me gibbering mere months ago. It was a good thing, however, that I ended up with a net of over 3.5lbs, since I needed more meat to make up for the stealth bones.

I can't tell if there's a typo in this recipe or not: it says to "seal" the chicken, which as far as I can tell isn't a cooking term, and I could swear Nigella said sear - but if you interpret seal to mean until it forms a smooth surface, that seemed to work perfectly for me. I thought this would need more pan than it did: I could have used a much smaller one, but then I wouldn't have had the entertainment of using my wok lid as a makeshift cover.

As aforementioned, this came off the heat for about forty-five minutes once cooked through, then went back on for about five minutes, and was perfectly warm at that.

Final verdict (chicken): Oh ... so good. Delightfully creamy and tangy, an Indian dish with zest, but not enough spice to burn even a timid diner's mouth. Probably would be even better with cardamom pods rather than dried. By the recipe, you just leave the whole spices in, and I didn't have any trouble with them.

I knew the carrot rolls would take a bit to make and that they would need to go into the pan right after the rice did to keep things flowing smoothly, so I decided to make the rolls up through the frying. I made the brilliant discovery that I could use my French bread for the day old bread rather than sacrificing my sandwich bread, and also that dang, three tablespoons is really a lot of pine nuts.

Couldn't find a red chili at my store, so substituted a poblano. (Which stumped the poor girl who was helping me find produce codes at the U-Scan.) Though that would be better than a jalapeno, which would be distinctly spicy, and I don't have any experience with anaheims ... and I didn't have any other choices, really.

Another roadblock in this recipe: it does not specific how much "a bunch" of fresh dill, basil or mint is supposed to be, and since the only way I can get these fresh herbs is in the chintzy little packages, not bunches, I just guessed at how much looked good to me. Your mileage may vary.

The carrot and apricot rolls were idiot-proof, by which I mean I had no trouble with them, and they fried up more smoothly than anything I've fried before. It suggests wetting your hands if the dough sticks, and unlike so many other quick-fix-for-sticking suggestions I've seen in recipes, this actually worked.

However, I did manage to drop one roll, pick it up as soon as it hit the floor, and then drop it again on my foot. I nearly burnt myself.

Final verdict (carrot rolls): Mmm ... tasty. They're sweet without being overpowering (part of that is the pine nuts - they really are a sweet nut), tangy ... though I think they're missing something, which the accompanying mint yogurt largely provides.

After prepping the rolls, but before frying them - we're time traveling now! - I put together the nut pilau. Got to use my uber-grater to add the carrot into this one, and - oh, right! Another subtitution: regular mustard seeds for black mustard seeds. First up, frying the onion, garlic and carrot, then on the rices and spices.

This is the first time I've seen a rice recipe that requires you to take it off the heat and let it set for five minutes before checking to see if it's done. This seemed all sorts of backwards to me, so I hovered nervously before checking it, but sure enough: steam holes on the surface of the rice.

Another moment of absurdity here: I'm left-handed, so the pan handle was on the left side, of course, but I had made the mistake of using the left side burner, which meant the handle was trapped behind my knives. Lifting it just enough to clear the knives, while not spilling rice all over the stovetop, was an interesting exercise.

This is the point I realize that a) I didn't defrost my nuts and b) I don't want a full 3/4ths cup, even if this is a nut pilau. They warmed up well enough in the mixture. Realized I forgot fresh cilantro, but considering I had bought half the produce section already ...

Final verdict (pilau): This is a decent rice - I get a generalized sense of heat more than specific spices. It's worth doing again just because it's simple, and I do like the nuts. It also works wonderfully with the mughlai chicken; the rice and the sauce together is fantastic. So ... I'd recommend this for the combination, if nothing else.

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