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if you've known me for more than a minute you may have heard my expression for what it feels like when i get an idea that just makes sense: 'it's like a white hot hammer of inspiration to the back of the head'

Sunday, April 26, 2009

not technically on topic

a friend remarked this week that i make cooking look easy. who knows, maybe i do. obviously i often put too much salt in things.

but yeah, i guess the simple rules i keep in mind make some cooking look easy. sauces at least!

sauces and gravies: flour into fat, cornstarch into water bases. [non fat liquids]
yep, wheat and rice flours dissolve into fats: butter, oils, lard but get lumpy in water. cornstarch gets lumpy in fat and dissolves in water.
with fat and flour you add water based liquids after you get a smooth base. with cornstarch you mix the sauce and add the cornstarch/liquid mix as you heat and stir constantly. conrstarch sauces come out clearer.

heavy cream thickens dairy based sauces and soups [cream of chicken, bearnaise] and potato starch thickens stews. [seriously, throw some instant potato flakes in your beef stew next time. mmmm]

a couple of quick cheating recipes that look difficult but are super easy:

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instant cream of potato soup [i make this in the microwave at work in under three minutes]

[all ingredients in the proportions you desire, experiment with it]

chicken broth
instant potato flakes
vegetable base 'better than boullion'
heavy cream

make hot, stir, serve

i like mine topped with a little shredded cheese and some fresh ground black pepper

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beef in buttered wine -

slice beef thin
preheat the pan with butter
montreal/canadian steak seasoning
add beef to pan, brown lightly
add red wine [i like a nice merlot or burgundy]
remove beef, simmer liquid for a few minutes until a little thicker

serve over rice or potatoes with extra sauce


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tomato chicken -

canned or jar tomato based sauce of choice
frozen chicken breast tenderloins or half breasts
optional: cheese, olives, mushrooms, etc

place chicken in single layer in somewhat deep baking dish
add optional veggies/olives/mushrooms
pour sauce on thick enough that it covers chicken
if desired top with grated parmesan or romano or slices of SHARP provolone

put in oven at 350 for 50-60 minutes
walk away and don't mess with it until the timer goes off

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cheatin' chicken pot pie

canned or leftover pre cooked chicken
any mixed frozen or canned veggies you like - peas, corn, carrots, etc.
cooked chunks of potato [i use canned]
canned cream of chicken or other cream soup of choice [mushroom, broccoli, celery, whatever you like] straight from the can, still condensed
biscuit dough - canned, defrosted pre-made or fresh made from your favorite recipe

press 2/3 of biscuit dough into and up sides of baking dish. no more than 1/2 inch thick
throw in other ingredients
crumble remainder of biscuit dough on top
bake at 350 for about 15-25 minutes depending on dough recipe instructions

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teriyaki sauce

equal parts soy sauce, sugar and white wine [substitute white grape juice, sprite or ginger ale for the wine and sugar if you prefer to avoid alcohol]

white wine and sugar, boil until sugar dissolves
add soy sauce

to thicken: add a tablespoon of cornstarch to the soy sauce [cold] before adding to the mix, add it slowly to the wine with constant stirring

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yeah, there's a lot of guesswork. but except for adding too much boullion to the potato soup, it's nearly impossible to mess any of these up. sauce too thick? add more of whatever liquid. too salty? add potato flakes, or water or cream.

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