Cookin again

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Last weekend, I learned how easy it is to make your own peanut butter. I can never go back to store-bought.

(For those who didn't know: Roast 2 cups of peanuts at 350°F (175°C) for ~10 minutes, then run them through a food processor with a splash of peanut oil and a bit of salt. Process them until it's as chunky or as smooth as you like.)
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Last weekend, I learned how easy it is to make your own peanut butter. I can never go back to store-bought.

(For those who didn't know: Roast 2 cups of peanuts at 350°F (175°C) for ~10 minutes, then run them through a food processor with a splash of peanut oil and a bit of salt. Process them until it's as chunky or as smooth as you like.)
I’ve tried “premium” nut butters- peanut and almond, mostly- and I have to say...I prefer the store bought.
:oops:
it’s partly about the flavor. I like the sweeter overall flavor of Peter Pan and many of the generics. I know I could make homemade as sweet as I like, but...

There’s that convenience issue. I hate having to stir the oil back into the pureed nuts.

Still, props to you for going for the healthier option!

Have you experimented with any flavor variations? Different nuts? Unusual seasonings?
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Have you experimented with any flavor variations? Different nuts? Unusual seasonings?
I haven't, but a friend of mine does all the time. She sweetens her peanut butter with maple syrup. And according to her, two interesting things happen when you add it.

First, the butter will seize up a bit, turning more into a dough than a butter. To fix this, she says you have to add more peanut oil to make it spreadable again. The more maple syrup you add, the more oil you'll also need to add. I guess that explains why store-bought nut butters that contain sugar also contain added oil?

Second, the added sugar stabilizes the oil a bit, and keeps it from separating out as easily. She says that even if you don't like "sweet" peanut butter, it's still a good idea to add a spoonful of maple syrup or honey to it just to keep the oil mixed up. I guess this explains why some nut butters have to be stirred and others don't?
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
This has given me an idea for a savory, spicy peanut butter. I'm thinking something like Thai peanut sauce...some red pepper, some garlic, some coconut oil...I bet it would make a really good peanut butter sandwich.

Or a really bad one.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I have learned from many pros and various culinary traditions that sometimes a hint of the unfamiliar (to you) can often pay dividends.

For instance, over the summer, I started going to our local Farmers’ Market, by happenstance, one of the more highly regarded ones in the area. One of the vendors makes cookies. Extremely good cookies, some with unusual flavor combinations. A great example would be his line of snickerdoodles: he incorporates a little cayenne pepper into the traditional cinnamon, resulting in an unfamiliar but subtle burn in the finish.

I also had Burmese cuisine for the first time last month, and their take on mustard greens- a common food in southern & creole cuisine- includes a bit of carrot. The sweetness of the carrot tempers the bitterness that can be present in greens. So, VISUALLY, they looked odd. But the taste was quite good...so good, in fact, that it was an instant hit with my Mom. She’s ordered it both times we’ve gone there.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I’ve heard of congee, but never seen it. Tell me more...
Sure. For one of the simplest things around.. there was adventure! Well... there was cleanup. I you made a mess, there was adventure, right?

So, congee is rice porridge. If you take one cup of long grain rice, and two cups of water, and let it simmer and steam, in 15 to 20 minutes the water will be absorbed and you'll have... rice.

To get congee, you do the following:

Take 3/4 cup long grain white rice, rinse it until water runs clear.
Put it in a dutch oven with 1 cup of chicken stock, and 9 cups of water.
Add 3/4 teaspoon of salt.
Bring to a boil. Then, reduce to a lively simmer.
Let it simmer for 45 to 50 minutes. The liquid should reduce by about half.

The rice will nearly disintegrate, and you'll have a thick porridge. You top this with... just about anything. Soy sauce. Rice wine or black Chinese vinegar. Fried shallots. Chopped dry-roasted peanuts, Soft-boiled or poached egg. Scallions. Maybe some stir fried ground pork, or shredded chicken, or.. whatever.

Now, here's the very important bits the recipe didn't tell me...

As this stuff cooks, the liquid gets extremely rich and starchy, and holds bubbles well. And, as it cooks down, the amount of heat needed to keep it at a simmer decreases. If you forget these things, the pot will boil over... quietly. And then you'll turn down the heat when you discover this. And then it'll boil over again... also quietly...

If you are not in the kitchen for those 45 minutes... say you are trying to get caught up on Star Trek: Picard in the living room... the concavities in your stovetop that hold your burners will get filled up with thick, almost gelled starchy water.

The nice thing is, mess or not, the result still turns out okay, and your wife/spouse (who, due to migraine, is not on very good terms with food, and needs something super-gentle to eat) will still be pleased with you. If you clean it up yourself, that is.

:p
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker
I'm curious, @Umbran, because my copy came today: Are you working from or at least inspired by the latest issue of Cook's Illustrated? (Spoiler: There's a recipe for congee in it.)
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I love congee. My wife makes it whenever I have a cold...it's a comfort food in her family, sort of like how chicken noodle soup is in mine. She makes it with chicken stock, and tops it with a soft poached egg, some green onions, a little chili oil, grated ginger, and soy sauce.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I'm curious, @Umbran, because my copy came today: Are you working from or at least inspired by the latest issue of Cook's Illustrated? (Spoiler: There's a recipe for congee in it.)
I got a subscription to their website a few years ago. It gives you access to all the recipes, videos, gear reviews, etc. from the magazines AND the TV shows.*

* Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, America’s Test Kitchen and...one whose name escapes me,
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker
I got a subscription to their website a few years ago. It gives you access to all the recipes, videos, gear reviews, etc. from the magazines AND the TV shows.*

* Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, America’s Test Kitchen and...one whose name escapes me,
I have a similar Subscription to Everything at their site. I find their recipes work well, and make excellent starting places if I want to explore something more deeply.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I love congee. My wife makes it whenever I have a cold...it's a comfort food in her family, sort of like how chicken noodle soup is in mine. She makes it with chicken stock, and tops it with a soft poached egg, some green onions, a little chili oil, grated ginger, and soy sauce.
With my wife not feeling well, back on Friday I went out and got a rotisserie chicken - ripped all the meat off and set it aside, and made broth out of the bones (and the usual carrots, onion, celery, and herbs). I am not above using mass-produced broth when I am cooking, but when the goal is to get nutrition and hydration into someone, home made is a ton better. I used some of my broth to make the congee last night.

I got a subscription to their website a few years ago.
Back many years ago, as a wedding present someone got us a physical, bound collection of Cook's Illustrated back issues, like a decade's worth. I had not really looked at the magazine before, in large part because the person who gave it to us... was a real snob. So I had assumed that, if he liked the magazine, it was targeting food snobs - the high end French and Italian restaurant kind of people. But, since we had a decade of the things, we started reading...

I was incredibly wrong. Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country are solid staples for anyone who likes to cook. The key, of course, is in the name of the organization. America's TEST Kitchen. A great many cookbooks and magazines don't actually test out the recipes - they just assume the writer knows what they are doing. ATK tests up, down, sideways, and with variations to find the best, and usually most practical, way to get cooking done.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Thai-spiced peanut butter sandwich update:

I mixed about 2 tablespoons of peanut butter with a hefty squirt of sriracha, a drop of fish sauce (seriously, just a single drop), a few drops of sesame oil, a squeeze of lime, and a bit of soy sauce. It seized up a bit, as predicted, so I added a little coconut oil. I kept tasting and stirring and adjusting everything until I liked the look and taste of it.

Then I fried up 4 strips of bacon until they were done but not crisp. I made a sandwich out of the peanut butter, the bacon, and a slice of red onion. It was incredible. I wanted to eat fifteen more.

Next time: lose the onion and add a few sprigs of fresh cilantro instead. Consider replacing the bacon with leftover pulled pork.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Thai-spiced peanut butter sandwich update:

I mixed about 2 tablespoons of peanut butter with a hefty squirt of sriracha, a drop of fish sauce (seriously, just a single drop), a few drops of sesame oil, a squeeze of lime, and a bit of soy sauce. It seized up a bit, as predicted, so I added a little coconut oil. I kept tasting and stirring and adjusting everything until I liked the look and taste of it.

Then I fried up 4 strips of bacon until they were done but not crisp. I made a sandwich out of the peanut butter, the bacon, and a slice of red onion. It was incredible. I wanted to eat fifteen more.

Next time: lose the onion and add a few sprigs of fresh cilantro instead. Consider replacing the bacon with leftover pulled pork.
You need to post that in the Unusual Sandwiches thread (link is in my sig)!
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker
Back many years ago, as a wedding present someone got us a physical, bound collection of Cook's Illustrated back issues, like a decade's worth. I had not really looked at the magazine before, in large part because the person who gave it to us... was a real snob. So I had assumed that, if he liked the magazine, it was targeting food snobs - the high end French and Italian restaurant kind of people. But, since we had a decade of the things, we started reading...

I was incredibly wrong. Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country are solid staples for anyone who likes to cook. The key, of course, is in the name of the organization. America's TEST Kitchen. A great many cookbooks and magazines don't actually test out the recipes - they just assume the writer knows what they are doing. ATK tests up, down, sideways, and with variations to find the best, and usually most practical, way to get cooking done.
I have at times in the past (not here) gronked to various degrees about one recipe or another in Cook's Illustrated or Cook's Country (for example, I am surprised they didn't mention the texture/boilover thing you experienced), but they pretty emphatically are not snobs. For my food snob needs, the current iteration of Bon Appetit suffices me amply. ;-)
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
With my wife not feeling well, back on Friday I went out and got a rotisserie chicken - ripped all the meat off and set it aside, and made broth out of the bones (and the usual carrots, onion, celery, and herbs). I am not above using mass-produced broth when I am cooking, but when the goal is to get nutrition and hydration into someone, home made is a ton better. I used some of my broth to make the congee last night.



Back many years ago, as a wedding present someone got us a physical, bound collection of Cook's Illustrated back issues, like a decade's worth. I had not really looked at the magazine before, in large part because the person who gave it to us... was a real snob. So I had assumed that, if he liked the magazine, it was targeting food snobs - the high end French and Italian restaurant kind of people. But, since we had a decade of the things, we started reading...

I was incredibly wrong. Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country are solid staples for anyone who likes to cook. The key, of course, is in the name of the organization. America's TEST Kitchen. A great many cookbooks and magazines don't actually test out the recipes - they just assume the writer knows what they are doing. ATK tests up, down, sideways, and with variations to find the best, and usually most practical, way to get cooking done.
I use both store bought and homemade stocks. Ain‘t no shame in my game!

The stock that changed my kitchen was turkey/poultry stock. Because we’re usually the hosts for the big holidays, I usually had 1-4 bird carcasses* to work with. I’d put them in my 20qt stock pot, covered with water, and bring to a simmer while I’m cleaning up. Between the cooking of the stock, reducing it, and cooling, though, that added several hours to the end of my long day in the kitchen.

Then, in a fit of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS), I bought a 30qt stock pot, and it revolutionized my holidays. As is probably evident to you as a physicist, water takes a lot of energy- and time- to heat. When I was making stock in the 20qt pot with all those carcasses, I needed a lot of water to cover them, because they went all the way to the top. But in the 30qt pot, they don’t even go halfway up, so I need less water to properly cover the bones. Less water = less heat = less time. That one change shaved HOURS off my holiday stock making.

As for ATK and the rest, I started off watching a couple of episodes on PBS, and my Mom coincidentally got a subscription to CI for my Dad’s medical practice waiting room. I was hooked: I asked for- and got- the website subscription for a Christmas gift.

So far, one of the best recipes I’ve gotten from them was their duck-fat oven roasted potatoes. I had been trying for YEARS to perfect a roasted potato recip, and theirs showed me where my efforts were going wrong. I even made a discovery of my own: while the recipe called for duck fat, they also point out bacon fat worked almost as well. Great for me, because I can’t find duck fat, but bacon fat is easy to come by. But I have tried other fats besides.

I often have rendered beef fat from cooking ground meat for my dogs (longish story) and I tried THAT one day. It, too, worked quite well. Vegetable oils. OTOH, just...didn’t. I have no idea why, but the potatoes never came out anywhere near as good as when I used animal fats. I mean, they were still decent enough to serve, so you COULD do a vegetarian/vegan version of the recipe, but it just wouldn’t be the same.

I also used the fats left over from cooking the potatoes to do a quick oven roast- or pan fry- of San Marzano tomatoes, and it was so good that my tomato-hating cousin was asking me what I did to the tomatoes while he was popping them in his mouth like grapes.



* the big one is always from my steamed turkey but we also usually have a fried one as well. And occasionally we get chicken, duck or goose to work with from the other attendees.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Thai-spiced peanut butter sandwich update:

I mixed about 2 tablespoons of peanut butter with a hefty squirt of sriracha, a drop of fish sauce (seriously, just a single drop), a few drops of sesame oil, a squeeze of lime, and a bit of soy sauce. It seized up a bit, as predicted, so I added a little coconut oil. I kept tasting and stirring and adjusting everything until I liked the look and taste of it.

Then I fried up 4 strips of bacon until they were done but not crisp. I made a sandwich out of the peanut butter, the bacon, and a slice of red onion. It was incredible. I wanted to eat fifteen more.

Next time: lose the onion and add a few sprigs of fresh cilantro instead. Consider replacing the bacon with leftover pulled pork.
The more I think about this, the more I think it could be a commercially viable recipe. A Thai-themed sandwich screams American fusion ethnic street food. A cosmopolitan city with a taste for the exotic would chow the hell down on those.
 

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