Saturday, October 1, 2011

Failure of Timing

I had a distinct failure of timing today: didn't get dinner in quite as early as I might have liked for slow-cookery, then in trying to compensate, ended up starting the rest of the courses too late, too. It was about 7 o'clock at night before I finally ate. Not a habit I enjoy!

I seem to have a slow learning curve: every time I've made something that needs to be stuffed, particularly a meat product, it goes disastrously wrong ... and while I would like to report otherwise, today is no exception. I just haven't developed the knack of cutting into a piece of meat to form a straight pocket. It sloshes around in one's grip, and all of sudden, I'm out the back. Moreover, there always seems to be far more filling than pocket. In this case, this might be said to be partly due to the fact that I had three chicken breasts, not four - but I could not have fit four in the slow cooker.

The recipe doesn't say to cut the apricots, which still seems odd to me despite the pretty picture with whole apricots. The mixture itself - couscous, toasted almonds, tarragon, bound with an egg - is very tasty, and it adheres to itself well.

After everything plops into the slow cooker, I go away for a while. A bit too long of a while.

Next step, corn pudding - a very easy preparation, my main pitfall being that I had to check about to be sure that I used the right sized baking dish. The ricotta was a bit hard to whisk in - the recipe says to do it slowly, and it means it. Of course, I completely forgot to grate the cheddar ahead of time, so I had to zing through that with a land speed record.

Final verdict (corn pudding): Subtly sweet and satisfying, with a nice, herbal tang from the basil. It was easy enough I'd make it again. Warning: makes lots.

While I waited for the corn pudding to come out, I started work on the muffins. This is another recipe where proportions were a bit questionable - don't think I had quite enough filling, both because I didn't have enough left over to top the muffins and because I didn't think they were quite sticky-gooey enough to be baklava muffins. Still, quite easy and, despite the admonishments of the recipe ("anything more than the gentlest handling makes for heavy muffins"), I found it was simple to reach the right batter consistency.

While the muffins cooked, I reduced the sauce from the slow cooker to pour over the chicken. A tasty addition, but not really a necessary one - and doesn't make enough, in my opinion.

Once the muffins came out ... oh, wait, I'd already sliced the meat and watched it fall apart, with maybe a third of it coming out in the tidy, apricot-stuffed slices advertised. Ah well - some is better than none. Let's eat!

Final verdict (muffins): Despite not being what I would call baklava, these are quite tasty. Their main problem is they stick to the paper - a lot. It makes it very difficult to get a clean bite. It's not because of the sticky filling, either - the main sticking point (ahem) is the bottom.

Final verdict (chicken): This may not have been artistic or properly stuffed, but it was thoroughly tasty. The combination of orange and apricot offers a strong but balanced flavor, and the couscous makes an excellent filling texture-wise.

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