Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chicken, Shrimp, Udon, Tofu, and Vegetables... MMmmmmm

I wish I'd gotten pictures of tonight's dinner but when I was putting it together I wasn't thinking of a blog post.
I wish I had been because, wow, did it ever turn out good!
I had a family pack of chicken thighs ($ .79lb at the new local Jon's Market, woohoo!) that needed to be addressed before they went bad.
I put five of the thighs in a pot of water and set it to boiling lightly. I also added a small peeled and quartered onion to the pot.
As I boned out the rest of the chicken thighs to ready them for the freezer I added the bones to the boiling pot.
After getting the meat into the freezer I cut up a few vegetables into thin slices: a carrot, a couple florettes of broccali, one yellow squash, and a small handful of snow peas (not cut). One at a time I put these vegetables into the simmering stock and pulled them out with a slotted spoon when they were cooked. I set them all aside in a bowl.
Somewhere along the way I pulled out the whole chicken thighs that were in the boiling stock. I wanted them to cook through but not loose all their "chicken" to the pot. Once these pieces were cool enough to handle I pulled off the meat, set it aside, and tossed the bones back into the pot to boil a bit longer.
I had pulled out a few shrimp from the freezer and set them aside to defrost. Once they had I peeled the shells off and put the shells in with the boiling stock. The shrimp were cooked in the stock just like the vegetables had been. Once cooked I set them aside with the vegetables.  
After the liquid in the pot had reduced a bit and it seemed as if all the flavor was out of everything I ran a strainer through the pot and discarded the chicken bones, shrimp shells, onion, and anything else the strainer caught. 
Keeping the stock boiling I put in two packages of Japanese udon noodles and cooked them per the package directions, about two minutes, adding the sauce packets at the end of the cooking.
All the cooked vegetables, the chicken, shrimp, and a handful of cubed tofu were in a big bowl and I poured the noodles and broth over it all. Ready to eat.
Holy cow, was tonight's dinner ever good. I was actually a little surprised it turned out so well.
While the process sounds as if it was somewhat complicated, it really wasn't. It turned out to be a great way to use the chicken bones and get use from what I may normally have discarded.
For some reason all this reminds me of why I took a cooking class in high school. I figured that if I wanted to eat good food it wasn't fair to rely on a girlfriend or wife to make it for me. I should learn how to make it myself.
30 some years later, I'm damn glad I had that foresight. Now, if only I'd thought about saving more money...
Happy eating!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Horror of a Magazine Recipe

During a recent visit to my Mom's she gave us a couple magazines that she was finished with.
One was a cooking magazine and reading the cover got me a little excited: Step by Step to Authentic Paella.
I don't know what it is about paella. I've never cooked it, never even eaten it. But any dish with paella's ingredients just has to be wonderful and I'm absolutely fascinated by it. I imagine I'll have to try making it pretty soon.
You'll notice that I haven't mentioned the name of the magazine. There's a reason for that.
Reading the article I saw a section on "making the shrimp-mussel broth." In this section the shrimp shells and some mussels are used to make... you guessed it... a broth. Here's an excerpt: 
Add the remaining mussels to the boiling water. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the broth into a 2-quart liquid measure, discarding the shells and mussels.
Wait... do what? Discard the mussels?
I was horrified!
Mussels aren't cheap and I'm supposed to throw these away? This author is nuts!
I do my best to not waste food. If I've got chopped pieces of something in a container so I can introduce them into a pan, they all go in. There isn't a chunk of carrot or sliver of chicken thigh that gets washed down the drain. To simply throw these mussels away with callous abandon is a sin against Mother Nature and goes completely against my principles (and wallet).
You want a seafood-type stock or broth for the dish, use fish scraps. Don't have any? Get some clam juice and make it work. But don't waste food.
You want a good recipe for paella? Don't get it from this magazine. Get it from a site like The Spanish Table. While you're there check out their paella pans. I'm lusting after one of their carbon steel models.
You know what would be even better? Make up your own recipe. Take a look at a recipe like the one linked above and then have fun from there. Paella is a country dish that should use what you've got available. Have clams but not mussels? Ok! Have rabbit but not a shred of chicken? Ok!
Sorry, Nike. I have to do this...
Just make it!