Friday, November 29, 2013

Chicken and Hominy Stew


I had something like this at a very fancy wedding reception. I was initially put off by the squash, because usually things with squash in them are made too sweet for my taste (except for pie, and sometimes even then). But I changed my mind, and here is my version.

1 butternut squash
salt, pepper, olive oil

1 onion
1 carrot
2 celery ribs
1 or 2 garlic cloves
1 large or 2 small chicken thighs

dash of salt & olive oil

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 pasilla pepper (less spicy) or 2 jalapeno peppers (more spicy)
1 chili in adobo

1 can hominy

More salt to taste

Peel, seed, and slice the squash into pieces about 1/2" thick. Toss with salt, pepper and olive oil, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 until a little brown around the edges. This will take a while, so in the meantime,

Chop the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Saute them on medium heat with a dash of oil and salt in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Mine is about a gallon size. When the onions are starting to go transparent, add the chicken. It's fine to use frozen, I always do. Poke the chicken to the bottom of the pan and let it brown a little, then fill the pot about 1/2 way up with water. Bring to a boil, then add the cumin, oregano, and chop the peppers and add them too. Cook until the chicken is done through, then drain and add the hominy. Boil gently until the chicken is starting to fall apart and you can mash it into bits with a wooden spoon.

By this time the squash is probably done. Take about 1/3 of the cooked squash and coarsely chop it. The rest can be used for something else. Add the chopped squash to the soup, taste for salt, and cook until the soup has thickened slightly and all the flavors have blended, about 15-20 minutes.

You should really eat this with tortillas and fresh cilantro, but I didn't have the energy to make tortillas today, and I was out of cilantro. More thoughts:

1. The original version of this used port rather than chicken, and I think I like that better. If you use pork, use a nice fatty cut.
2. You have to use enough salt. All the veggies add a lot of natural sugars, and the salt balances it out.
3. Skip the carrot? I ended up thinking it was unnecessary with the squash.
4. Consider using a different squash. Butternut is very easy to use, but it is quite sweet, which increases the need for salt. Kabocha or Hubbard squash might be a better fit.

I am still computerless, so I have no photos, but I got a message from Office Max saying my order has shipped, so I am excited.

*12/8/13 I now am have computer! So Excite. Picture enabled!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ok, ok, the hoopla is accurate.

I don't have a picture right now because my computer died and the process of trying to replace it so I can get a decent pic uploaded is unspeakably irritating.

But but but! It really is true that you can make amazing bread without kneading it. You stir it with a spoon for a minute then stick it in the fridge overnight. Recipe:

425 g bread flour
350 g water
4 g  yeast
7 g salt

Put everything in a biggish bowl and stir it up until all the flour is incorporated, maybe a minute. Cover bowl and stick it in the fridge until tomorrow some time. Or the next day or the next. It's not that important.

When you want to use it, pre-heat the oven to 465. Not a typo. That's about halfway between 450 and 475.

Dump a handful of flour onto a cutting board and spread it out a bit. Dump the dough out of the bowl onto the flour. Grab the edges of the sloppy dough puddle and fold them in to the middle in about 4 or 5 places, until it is vaguely loaf shaped. Should take 30 seconds. Grab the loaf and plop it onto a metal cookie sheet or a loaf pan with the folds on the bottom so they stay put. Wait about 45 minutes. Slash the top of the loaf if you feel fancy, bake it for 35 minutes.  Ta dah!

The internets are swarming with rave reviews of this recipe. I am always skeptical of anything that gets that much fuss, and I have encountered in person several purported 'no knead breads' that were not all that good. In fact they were pretty blah. Sheer laziness made me try this. I got my procedural advice from several  different sources. The one claiming it is easy enough that a 4 year old can do it gives me hope that I can make David do it, since he is the primary bread eater in the house at the moment.

I think all of the advice offered is valid, but I have some opinions of my own, of course.

1. Use bread flour. Duh. I have no idea why there are recipes out there that say to use all purpose.
2. You don't need a pizza stone, or anything else. Just use a thin metal pan. Not one of those insulated ones.
3. You don't need to put a pan of water in the oven to encourage the crust to get crispy either. If you really want crust, just leave it in 5 minutes longer.
4. Ignore all the fussy things about using parchment paper and pastry cloths, and damp towels and blah blah blah room temperature blah what. It just doesn't matter.
5. The only things that do seem to matter are that you need to make the dough very wet, almost like batter to start with, and then leave it to sit for a long time.
6. Don't bother washing the mixing bowl. You know you're going to want more bread in a couple days, just mix the next batch. So what if there's a little leftover dough in the bowl?
7. Ovens vary. If your bread is too dry, cook it 5 minutes less. If your bread is too gummy, cook it more. Simple!
8. I hate parchment paper. Totally unnecessary. Just another thing that gets thrown away.

But what does it taste like? It tastes like all those expensive $5.00 'artisan boules' you can get at 'boulangeries' and Whole Foods. But even fresher. No foolin'. Back when I was messing around with complicated procedures trying to get my baguettes to turn out like the ones that you buy from fancy bakeries, I should have been doing this instead. It's crunchy, and chewy, and the inside has the right amount of holes, and it's this beautiful slightly golden color.

I'm going to try mixing multiple batches of dough at once and keeping them in the fridge, apparently that's perfectly feasable.