Monday, March 29, 2010

Sweet, Drunk Chicken

Here at the Brave Astronaut launchpad, we are always on the lookout for things to do with chicken. It is a staple (although LBA has developed an addiction for sausage sandwiches, which are easy, but get monotonous at times) and appears on the table with some frequency. It is also one of those things that we can all eat (and not have to have something else for the smaller, pickier appetited-ones).

Cheverly Chef Scott (once again) posted a recipe for Pineapple Rum Chicken (pineapple is also a big favorite of the boys and usually in the house). It is served over rice, which is also a good staple for the boys. He got the recipe from Rachel Ray, but I won't hold that against him - even if she is too darn perky sometimes. Enjoy!

This might even be a recipe where these might get used. If you have kids, you'll want to click on the link - you might even want a set for yourself (seen in the Food Section blog of the NYT).

Pineapple Rum Chicken
original recipe by Rachel Ray
  • 1 whole pineapple, peeled, cored and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 TB Olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup spiced rum
  • 1 TB freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 TB cilantro, chopped
  • Salt/Pepper
Season the chicken and saute in 1/2 the olive oil until browned and cooked through. Remove to a plate. Rinse your pan.

Heat the remaining olive oil until shimmering and hot. Add the onions, garlic, pinch of salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onions start to become translucent. At that point, add the pineapple and ginger and up to 1/2 cup of reserved pineapple juice. Stir to incorporate. Remove the pan away from the stove and add the rum. Carefully return the pan to the stove. Depending on how much liquid is in the pan before the rum, the pan may flambe! Stir gently and cautiously. Let the liquor cook for one minute. Add the chicken stock and simmer until reduced by half.

While simmering, cut the chicken breasts into slices or 1 inch pieces. Return to the pan with the pineapple and sauce and cook until warmed through. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the parsley and cilantro. Toss. Serve over rice.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mr. Jefferson Stands Alone AND He Does Not Dance

Of all the Presidents we have had, it's possible that Thomas Jefferson is my favorite. And the Jefferson Memorial is one of my favorite places here in DC. It is why I decided to propose to Mrs. BA on the steps of the Memorial. On that particular night, we walked around the Memorial, as we had done on several occasions. We took note of a sign posted by the Park Service listing a number of things that one could not do on the grounds. I remarked to Mrs. BA, "I wonder what they will think of this" and proceeded to get down on one knee and propose.

I was reminded of that (not that I really need reminding of that great night) not long ago when I read this article from the Washington Post (and also on We Love DC). It would appear that a woman was overcome with Jefferson aura and began to dance inside the rotunda of the Memorial. She was directed to stop and when she did not comply, she was charged with demonstrating without a permit. While the charges were later dropped, she filed a lawsuit wherein she accused the National Park Service of violating her rights to free expression. A judge threw that case out (the gist of the links in this paragraph).

In the "thick with irony" category, it seems weird for a woman to be charged with opposing restrictions in a place dedicated to the man who wrote those freedoms down on paper. But, oh well.

It has been 70 years since the laying of the cornerstone of the Memorial in East Potomac Park. There was a very good article in the Washington Post Magazine (imagine that - a good article in the Post Magazine!?). The article reveals something about the Memorial that I would have preferred not to know as it might restrict my visits to the inside. Under the dome is evidently home to hundreds of spiders.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Remembering Mom

Mom with LBA on his baptism and
her 75th birthday, March 2005

Today would have been my mother's 80th birthday. She was an OK cook, very basic, not very adventurous. There was the occasional flair (veal birds), or the joke, as in the time she made my siblings fried scallops and tater tots and mixed them together to get them to eat the scallops. It wasn't until I left home and learned that vegetables could have texture and that they didn't come from a can or the freezer and were even sometimes still green.

I've posted a number of recipes from my mother's kitchen and her cooking style has influenced my own food preparation. My father occasionally turned up in the kitchen as well, but he was the more adventurous cook, tending to cook without recipes and see what turned out. My brother and I are more like that, while my two sisters tend to stick to the book (or recipe card).

One recipe that my father liked were his mother's roasted potatoes. My grandmother cooked them in a big pot (usually with a roast) and when finishing them would shake them in the pot drippings and they would get all crispy and become roasted delicious nuggets. She took the secret to her grave with her - as my mother could never seem to get it right. My brother alleges that he can make them (as can my Aunt, but she's my grandmother's daughter) - so maybe it's a blood thing.

I found this recipe which proposes "Perfect Roasted Potatoes." It is a recipe that closely models my grandmother's one. I believe that in the afterlife, you get your own place and you get to have anyone you want over for dinner or coffee, or whatever. So, I am sure that my mother has been hosting people non-stop in the four years since she left us, including my grandmother. And I bet she's figured out the roasted potatoes thing. I love you, Mom. I miss you.

Pascale's Perfect Roasted Potatoes
  • 1.2 kilos (2 1/2 pounds) potatoes (waxy or floury -- both types will work equally well)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or duck fat
  • sea salt
Serves 4 generously.

Preheat the oven to 210°C (410°F).

If your potatoes are smooth-skinned, scrub them well and peel them in alternative stripes so that strips of skin remain. If, on the other hand, the skin of your potatoes is rugged and grainy, peel it off completely (no need to scrub) then rinse the potatoes well in cold water.

Cut the potatoes into even chunks, about the size of a bite. Place them in a saucepan large enough to accommodate them, cover with cold water, and add a teaspoon coarse salt. Set over high heat, cover, bring to a low boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes.

As soon as the water boils, pour the fat into a rimmed baking sheet, and place the sheet in the oven, so the fat and baking sheet will heat up.

After the 5 minutes of boiling, drain the potatoes -- they will not be cooked at that point -- and return them to the saucepan. Place a lid on the saucepan. Holding the lid firmly shut with both hands (the saucepan will be hot, so wear oven mitts or use dish towels), shake the saucepan vigorously for a few seconds, until the surface of the potato chunks is fuzzy; this will help the formation of a crust.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven, pour the potatoes onto the sheet, sprinkle with sea salt, and stir well to coat with the fat.

Return to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes halfway through, until cooked through (when you insert the tip of a knife in one of the pieces, it should meet no resistance), crusty, and golden. If you want a little more color on them, you can switch to grill mode for the final few minutes.

Serve immediately.

Friday, March 19, 2010

God, I Need a Drink

Mrs. BA has been immersed for the past several months in an endeavor that will come to a head tomorrow night - an auction to benefit the daycare where both of our sons attend. She has lost many nights sleep and if she developed an ulcer, I wouldn't be surprised. But regardless of whatever it has done to her, I am proud of her (I love her, too) and I am absolutely positive that tomorrow night is going to be an awesome event.

Tomorrow night, we will head off to the event to enjoy the fruits of her labors. I will be sure to have a little bit to drink (but I will do so in moderation - I've had some difficulty with that recently). Mrs. BA doesn't drink - it's not that she doesn't like it, she just doesn't. It has always been to my benefit - as I have had a built-in designated driver. And tomorrow night will be even better - as our children will be cared for by my MIL, at her home, not ours. So we can sleep in on Sunday.

Sitting in my Google Reader for some time was this article from The Atlantic (July/August 2009 issue) on how colleges and universities (and high schools) might choose to "Teach Drinking" and perhaps amend the "you must be 21 to drink" laws. I remember turning 21 - I went out at midnight to buy beer. I didn't get carded. It was a huge letdown.

I have often maintained that college life is not reality. The drinking is everywhere and I am a little ashamed to admit that I did not do as well in college partly because of that. But then again, I did a fair amount of my drinking before I turned 21. Would this have helped? Maybe.

John McCardell, the author of the article, maintains:
"Clearly, state laws mandating a minimum drinking age of 21 haven’t eliminated drinking by young adults—they’ve simply driven it underground, where life and health are at greater risk."
McCardell's point is that drinking by underage teens has not been squashed by the federal drinking age. But would the states have a better shot at it?
"They might license 18-year-olds—adults in the eyes of the law—to drink, provided they’ve completed high school, attended an alcohol-education course (that consists of more than temperance lectures and scare tactics), and kept a clean record. They might even mandate alcohol education at a young age. And they might also adopt zero-tolerance laws for drunk drivers of all ages, and require ignition interlocks on their cars. Such initiatives, modeled on driver’s education, might finally reverse the trend of consumption by young people at ever earlier ages."
Then again, who else saw Foxes in high school health class? Wasn't that an attempt to keep us from drinking? Yeah, that didn't work either.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hi, Remember Me?

This blog was becoming a recipe only blog. I have been away too long. But [some things I have been thinking about and just not getting around to blogging about],
  • Like my beard, which I have been growing since the February snowstorms, I'm still here and would like to stay around for a while (I hope to have photos soon)
  • Like Punxsutawney Phil, I have emerged from winter slumber (although I would have liked one more good snow storm - and wouldn't be surprised if it snowed this weekend, as it would have been my mother's 80th birthday)
  • Like a good American in the Decennial Census, I am ready to be counted (hey make some notes in the margin of the form, the government is keeping the paper!)
  • Like David Paterson (D-NY), I'm not resigning (although he really should)
  • Like Tiger Woods, I am going to try and return to your "public eye" (but I haven't been doing any of the stuff he has).
  • Like the New York Yankees, I would like to get out on the field and defend that World Series title right away.
  • Unlike the Washington Nationals, I will attempt to show up for some baseball games (although I am likely going to miss Opening Day for the first time - I'll be in the dentist chair)
  • Like the New York Rangers, I am making a last push to make the season last a little longer (you want me to keep blogging, yes?)
  • Unlike Alexander Ovechkin, I will not be sitting on the sidelines for the rest of the week (sorry ADR and OC)
  • Like Versus, I am back [on DirecTV as they have settled their squabble] (although I am switching to FIOS at the end of this week - I could no longer ignore the siren call of the multi-room DVR)
  • Like the Smithsonian, I will not be accepting O. J.'s suit - but I will spend this year working on organizing the family archives and scanning some pictures
So dear reader, are you still with me? Come on back. I'll do my best to keep you entertained.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Remember, if it's Green Don't Eat It

Wednesday is St. Patrick's Day. People all over will dive into green beer, green bagels and other items that are not normally green. My sister, whose birthday is also St. Patrick's Day can tell you of years of traumatic birthday parties, where she suffered with green cakes. My father (100% French) will surely seek out corned beef and cabbage, for reasons that continue to baffle me.

But if you wish to partake, here's a recipe from the Costco Connection magazine (March 2010) for an Irish Stew.

Irish Stew
  • 2 lbs. lamb or beef stew meat
  • 1 1/2 lbs. potatoes
  • 5 medium onions
  • Chopped parsley and thyme to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups water
Trim the meat and cut into fairly large pieces. Peel and slice the potatoes and onions. Put layers of meat, potatoes, onions and herbs and seasoning into a pot, finishing with a layer of potatoes.

Pour the water over the meat and vegetables, and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for about 2 hours or bake in a slow oven at 300 degrees F. Check during cooking, adding more liquid if necessary. Makes 4 servings.

Tips: Lamb is traditionally used in Irish stew, but beef stew meat is a tasty option. Carrots and pearl barley can be added for extra color and interest. A good Irish stew should be thick and creamy, not swimming in juice.

[Recipe is courtesy of Discover Ireland]

Monday, March 8, 2010

Carmelized Apple Skillet Cake

I'll never turn down a good apple tart / skillet cake. But my wife's apple cake still takes the cake, so to speak. This recipe comes from the Amateur Gourmet.

Caramelized-Apple Skillet Cake
from Karen DeMasco's "The Craft of Baking"

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 2 tart baking apples, such as Mutsu or Granny Smith
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal or fine polenta
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In an 8-inch ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, combine 1/4 cup of the sugar with 2 tablespoons water, stirring to make sure all of the sugar is damp.

Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar turns a golden brown caramel, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons of the butter.

Peel, core, and using a mandoline or a sharp knife, cut the apples crosswise into 1/8-inch thick rings. Tightly shingle all of the apple rings over the caramel, starting around the outside of the skillet and working toward the center, overlapping the slices.

[Note from Adam: that step may've been where I messed up, I only had one apple. But would that have made the cake less likely to detach?]

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, the remaining 6 tablespoons butter, and the vanilla. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg yolks, one at a time.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In three additions, add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, to the butter mixture. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into a large bowl.

Clean and dry the bowl of the electric mixer well. Add the egg whites and, using the whisk attachment on medium speed, beat to soft peaks, about 4 minutes. In three additions, fold the whites into the batter.

Spread the batter evenly over the apples in the skillet.

Bake, rotating the skillet halfway through, until the cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, 45 to 50 minutes. Place the skillet on a wire rack and let it cool just until the cake is warm, about 30 minutes. Then run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert it onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The cake is best eaten the day it is baked but can be kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Best Meatloaf Ever?

Meatloaf for me is a reminder of my youth. As I have said before, my mother's meatloaf was a very easy concoction of meat, bread crumbs, ketchup, some onion mashed all together and then a few bacon slices on top. It's always better as sandwiches the next day - cold, on white bread, with mayonnaise. Stop that - it's really good.

I've made my mother's meatloaf before and the kids seem to enjoy it. Here's a recipe that I found recently, which might need to make an appearance (from the Amateur Gourmet).

Damon’s Favorite Meatloaf
by Chef Damon Wise
serves 6
  • 1 ¾ lbs ground beef
  • ¾ lbs ground pork
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup dark soffrito [Note: cook red onions, carrots and celery in lots of olive oil on low heat until it's all a deep, golden brown: 45 minutes to 1 hour. Whatever you don't use, you can keep in olive oil and use in soups, dressings, sandwiches, etc.]
  • ½ cup toasted bread crumbs, soaked in milk
  • 1 ½ shiitake mushrooms, sautéed
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 t soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 T dry mustard
  • 2 t fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T honey
  • 2 T smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne
350° for 45 minutes ( 160° internally )