Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Will it Bread Machine? Rich bread with eggs and milk

I'll confess. I use my bread machine a lot more than most folks would imagine.

As much as I love the process of making bread, I don't always have time, and there are days when there are so many other things going on in the kitchen that there's just no way to find an unused swath of kitchen counter space to make the process pleasant.

I have a few basic recipes that I know will work, and I even wrote some recipes a bread machine (this Gourmia bread machine), so I'm comfortable with creating recipes. But the one thing I learned from my long association with bread machines is that not every traditional bread recipe will work in a bread machine.

But sometimes I throw caution to the wind, like with this recipe from a cookbook. Once again I'm making recipes from a cookbook that's being passed around in a cookbook group I belong to. The book is Small Victories by Julia Turshen.

The recipe, as written was for raspberry jam buns, but the last thing I needed was a batch of sweet buns. There were variations (called spin-offs in the book) for cinnamon rolls, garlic buns, herb goat cheese buns, monkey bread, salami or prosciutto bread, and buttery dinner rolls.

I considered making the dinner rolls, but still didn't want to fuss that much, so I decided to just toss all the ingredients in the machine and let 'er rip. I didn't warm the milk, as the instructions said, and the butter was straight from the refrigerator rather than at room temperature. It all went in, as is.

I used Red Star Platinum Yeast rather than regular active dry, but otherwise I used all the ingredients suggested. If you're using a different brand of active dry yeast than Red Star, you might need to soften the yeast in liquid before kneading since some of the active dry yeasts from other brands have a larger granule size that won't dissolve if it's put directly into the dough. If you use Platinum, Red Star Active Dry or any rapid or bread machine yeast, you don't need to soften the yeast before proceeding.

Bread Machine Egg and Milk Loaf
Inspired by Small Victories by Julia Turshen

3/4 cup whole milk
2 1/4 teaspoons Red Star Platinum Yeast*
2 eggs
3 1/4 cups (390 grams) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I suggest 1 1/4 teaspoons)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss it all in the bread machine. I'd suggest cutting the butter into at least 4 pieces so it kneads into the dough easier. If you don't have Platinum yeast, that's fine - just use whatever yeast you like to use in your bread machine.

I used the basic bread setting, 2 1/2 pound loaf, and a medium crust. When I make this again, I'll use a light crust setting so the crust doesn't get quite as dark on the bottom and sides. It wasn't bad, and it wasn't burned, but is was a little darker and thicker that it needed to be.

And that's it. Set the machine, wait until it's done, and remove the loaf when it's done.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Chicken and Mushrooms

When I got the book Stacy Lyn's Harvest Cookbook, I saw a lot of recipes I wanted to make. But, like many books that celebrate harvests, it called for a lot of fresh ingredients that aren't particularly wonderful at the grocery store in February. While I probably could have bought strawberries, I know they would have been sub-par, and that's not fair to the recipe or to the rest of the ingredients.

I paged through the book until I saw the Chicken and Mushrooms over Cheesy Grits. It sounded good, and the ingredients all made sense at this time of year. But the grits. Sigh. I adore grits, but I had just made a batch of rice with saffron. So I skipped the grits (waaaah, I love grits) and I served the chicken with the rice.

I followed the recipe pretty closely except that when I grabbed the chicken stock, it was actually turkey stock. Oops.

Oh! And I used all crimini (aka baby bella) mushrooms. I'm not fond of shitaki mushrooms enough to want to buy them. So, instead of 1/2 pound of crimini, 1/4 of button, and 1/4 pound of shitaki, I used all crimini.

The other adjustment I made was that after the chicken was done, I thought the sauce was too thin, so I removed the chicken, removed the lid, and continued cooking the rest until the sauce was reduced and it had thickened more. The instructions called for cooking it "partially covered" which is open to interpretation. I guess mine was more covered than it should have been.

I think if I make it again, I'll cook uncovered at first and cover it if I think it needs to be covered. While it didn't look like it was going to be too liquidy when I first assembled it, the mushrooms exuded a lot of liquid during cooking. But some folks might prefer more liquid, so it's not a fault with the recipe, it's just a preference.

Chicken and Mushrooms
Adapted from Stacy Lyn's Harvest Cookbook by Stacy Lyn Harris

4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 large carrots cut into 1-inch pieces (I had small carrots, so I used 4)
1 pound crimini mushrooms
1 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish, then coat the chicken with the flour. Save about 1 tablespoon of the flour remaining in the plate.

Put the oil in a large pot and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken and cook until brown on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions, and cook for 2 minutes (I cooked mine a bit longer, until the onions were softened a bit). Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add the flour and cook for one more minute, stirring.

Add the broth, carrots, mushrooms, and rosemary. Return the chicken to the pan, along with any juices that came out of the chicken. Bring the liquid to a boil, then partially cover the pot and lower the heat so it simmers. Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle and the vegetables are tender.

At this point, I removed the chicken so it wouldn't overcook, and I removed the lid and increased the heat to thicken and reduce the sauce. You might or might not need to do this.

Serve over rice, grits, or whatever you prefer.

About the book: There are a lot of recipes here that I'll try when there are more fresh fruits and vegetables in season. My one quibble about the book isn't the recipes, but the printing. It's a pretty book, no doubt, but a lot of the recipes are printed on pages that have colored, patterned backgrounds. It's certainly lovely to look at, but it makes the text harder to read. Not impossible, but not as easy to read at a glance as if the page had black ink on plain white paper.

I received the book from the publisher at no cost to me.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sous Vide Rack of Lamb

While rack of lamb isn't something I make often, it sure as heck doesn't need to be saved for special occasions. I mean, everything goes on sale once in a while, and when that happens, I take advantage.

As far as cooking it, of course I cooked it sous vide. It's my favorite way to cook a lot of different kinds of meats, and it's particularly good when you want an exact doneness.

And, unlike when you're roasting, you get the same doneness all the way through. You don't end up overcooking the thinner parts or the outside edges. and you don't have to watch it like a hawk. If it cooks a little longer because you didn't hear the alarm, it's not going to get ruined.

This was insanely easy, and it was done pretty quickly, too. While this was a "just for me" splurge, this would be a great main dish for company. To make it even easier, you could cook the meat sous vide the day before, then sear it right before serving, to get that nice crust and to warm the inside.

Sous Vide Rack of Lamb
Depending on the size of the rack and what else you're serving, figure on 2-4 chops per person.

1 8-bone rack of lamb
Salt and pepper, to taste
Greek seasoning mix*
Olive oil

Heat the sous vide water to 135 degrees.

Sprinkle the rack of lamb with the salt, pepper, and seasoning, to taste. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to moisten, and rub the seasoning onto the meat.

Place the meat in a sous vide bag, vacuum, and seal.

Place the bagged lamb in the water and cook at 135 degrees for 1 hour.

Remove the bag from the water. Remove the lamb from the bag and pat dry.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan until it's just about smoking. Sear the lamb, fat side down, until it's brown and crispy, then sear on the other sides.

Let the lamb rest for a few minutes before slicing into individual chops.

*Or use any spices or any spice mix you like. With lamb, I like oregano or rosemary with lemon, but feel free to use anything you like.