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Cookin again

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
A bunch of family basically invited themselves over for Easter dinner, so I'm doing prep work for cooking most of a big meal for 12-20 people. At least a couple of them have volunteered to bring stuff besides their appetites- my maternal aunt is cooking a huge ham and some sweet potatoes...that we bought, but hey! I don't have to cook them.

Besides that, I'm doing turnip greens, a brisket in a mushroom gravy, a pasta & cheese casserole, a raw veg mix tossed in salad dressing*, a fruit salad, an Apple pie blitz, and making a cheese board- possibly with some diced sausage cubes.









* broccoli, carrots & cauliflower- a.k.a. California mix or what you'd find on a veggie appetizer tray from your local grocery- probably with ranch dressing. I have enough veg mix that I might make 2 different ones, though.
 

Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
We're busy preparing lamb shoulder with aubergine and courgette. As our children will be getting some kind of carnard d'orange instead, we can use all the spices we love, prominently featuring but not limited to garlic and ginger.

The 2006 Rijoa has already been dectanded. I'm very much looking forward to dinner tonight!
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Usually, when we plan a shindig, we end up getting fewer guests than expected. And when an event just materializes at our house, we get MORE attendees.

Well, this spontaneous Easter dinner is shaping up to be the flipside of that. One guy has a virus, so isn't showing. But at least 4 people we expected to show still haven't.

Bonus: my paternal aunt brought a roast and several tubs of beans.
 

Scott DeWar

Prof. Emeritus-Supernatural Events/Countermeasure
I sat at home all day with a stomach bug. Even missed church service.
 
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Dioltach

Adventurer
We just had our Easter dinner: rack of lamb with a mint and pea risotto.

Speaking of risotto, my store of safron is running low. I bought about half a pound in a small town in Egypt years ago for next to nothing, both regular safron and Nubian safron. I've got used to having an enormous stash of it, and now all of a sudden I'm having to ration it or else start paying European prices.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
We just had our Easter dinner: rack of lamb with a mint and pea risotto.

Speaking of risotto, my store of safron is running low. I bought about half a pound in a small town in Egypt years ago for next to nothing, both regular safron and Nubian safron. I've got used to having an enormous stash of it, and now all of a sudden I'm having to ration it or else start paying European prices.
The Netherlands is a pretty cosmopolitan & diverse country, so I'd suggest you find a good store catering to African and/or Indian customers. Saffron isn't cheap in most of the northern hemisphere, but I find that African/Indian ethnic groceries tend to have the best prices and availability.

You might also check Pensey's Spices They're a company that has physical locations AND an online store. They may do business in your country.

That said...

My mushroom & onion brisket went over pretty well- about 2 1/2 pounds (about 50%) of it disappeared.

...and I'm STILL jealous of your lamb!

Easter (along with Thanksgiving) was one of the holidays we'd routinely go to one of the big holliday buffets and just have a nice meal, but we haven't been able to do that since Hurricane Katrina. While most of our family got out of its way, they wound up relocating here- good news, bad news. That means that every big holliday, they expect to have a family celebration, and if we went to a buffet, we'd probably be the ones paying for everyone.

And since Mom hates lamb, there's not much point in my learning how to cook it just for me & Dad.
 
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Scott DeWar

Prof. Emeritus-Supernatural Events/Countermeasure
We just had our Easter dinner: rack of lamb with a mint and pea risotto.

Speaking of risotto, my store of saffron is running low. I bought about half a pound in a small town in Egypt years ago for next to nothing, both regular saffron and Nubian saffron. I've got used to having an enormous stash of it, and now all of a sudden I'm having to ration it or else start paying European prices.
Strangely, I would have thought that the Indonesian populace might have created a steady and inexpensive supply. I seem to remember in a letter from my father in the village of Swalmen, there was a large number of Dutch/Indonesian peoples.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
So I was shopping for groceries- anticipating that some relatives would be coming to town soon (they decided not to travel)- and pork shoulders were $0.99/lb... I bought 2, each over 9lbs. One immediately went in the freezer, the other got cooked.

I decided to make a pork pot roast, something I hadn't done in more than a year- odd, since our family really digs the pig!

I got out the 14qt Dutch oven and started by slowly sautéing my yellow onions* in unsalted butter. Then I took the shoulder- liberally dusted with black pepper, red pepper, garlic and onion powder- and seared it a bit. After a bit of browning, I deglazed the pan with a large box of low-sodium chicken broth, added fresh parsley, some diced green onion, minced garlic, sliced button and portobello mushrooms, and 2 large bay leaves. I added another half-box of broth, reserving the rest. I let it cook ofpver medium-low heat for a while simmering more than boiling. Then, I added a stick of unsalted butter, 2 cans of reduced-sodium cream of celery soup**, and used the remainder of the chicken stock to rinse the soup cans into the pot. Turning the heat down to low and allowing the pot to simmer a while to reduce some more took another 40 minutes or so. By this point, the pork was starting to fall off the bone- which I accelerated with tongs and a good knife.

Mom was complaining the whole time I was cooking the roast that I was doing it wrong. When she tasted it? Instant change of tune. :D

Simultaneously, I also made some mustard greens. Like the pork roast, sautéing the same kind of yellow onions was step #1 (using a 16qt stock pot). After that, I browned 2.5lbs of smoked sausage (a pork & beef mix) that had been sliced into medallions. I used 1/2 a can of chicken stock to deglaze the pot, then dumped in the greens, which were overflowing the pot. Adding some salt-free bullion and black pepper, I stirred the pot constantly while the greens began to wilt and fit the pot, then reduced the heat. I took the remainder of the chicken stock and added @2 heaping tablespoons of flour into it to make a slurry- this was added to the greens near the end. This thickens the liquid in the pot so that it glazes the greens. This means any and all flavor- and nutrition- that escaped your ingredients into the broth will instead be retained and more easily consumed.

It wasn't all victories, though- I made a whole bunch of 7-grain rice: used too much water, and it came out a flavorless mass that congealed into a multigrain mushloaf. Had to use boil-in-bag rice instead. Gotsta sharpen my rice-cooking skills, I guess. :erm:








* be very careful you get the plain old yellow onions, and not the sweet yellow onions that are so popular today. The sweet ones will ruin the flavor.

** this recipe also works just fine if you exchange the cream of celery soup for cream of mushroom while subbing fresh celery for the fresh mushrooms. ALSO, dried mushrooms, onions and parsley can help you thicken the sauce because they absorb liquid during the cooking process.
 
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Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
It wasn't all victories, though- I made a whole bunch of 7-grain rice: used too much water, and it came out a flavorless mass that congealed into a multigrain mushloaf. Had to use boil-in-bag rice instead. Gotsta sharpen my rice-cooking skills, I guess. :erm:
For how many people did you cook? Even the simple stuff like rice gets difficult when you find yourself in a different weight class.

Fun fact regarding boil-in-bag rice: two weeks ago we had a boy's evening where our son (13 years old) was cooking for me. I did some last minute shopping and had to buy some rice because our good basmati was gone. So I had to buy some boil-in-bag basmati. Guess what my son did. He unceremoniously cut open the bags and prepared the rice in the usual way. When I asked him about it he thought I'd play a trick on him. He couldn't fathom that rice could be cooked in a bag.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
In all honesty, though I was cooking in large portions to feed multiple people and/or to have leftovers, that wasn't the issue. I RARELY cook rice that isn't bagged. (A sin, i know.) So instead of being even semi-precise, I eyeballed it.

What compounded it was that I was using the method in which you're using juuuuust enough water so that when the water is gone- fully absorbed by the cooked rice- it is done...and BECAUSE there was too much water, I just kept cooking it. So it was overcooked as well.

Usually, when I cook regular, unbagged rice, I'm baking it. Which is to say that it is in a baking dish below some kind of meat. The juices from the meat combine with other liquids in the pan- usually some kind of lemon juice, wine, broth, oil/fats, etc.- mixed and pre-seasoned with nuts and/or veggies, herbs & spices to make for a nice, 1-pot dish.

Hilariously, the last time I did THAT, I overcrowded my pan, and some of the rice was above the liquid line. That meant it had almost no liquid to absorb, and thus, some of the pan contained hard little baked rice discs... Worse still- I didn't notice until after I had removed it from the pot and placed it into a Tupperware container, which let the good & bad rice get mixed together. (Had I noticed, I'd have been able to salvage things by merely shaving off the top layer of rice where the problem existed.

Aaaaaand Mom seemed to get most of the poorly done rice. Not amused.
 

Dioltach

Adventurer
I once had some friends round to play D&D and decided to make a biryani for them. Followed my usual recipe, stuck the dish in the oven -- and forgot to put the lid on. The water in the sauce evaporated and the rice was inedible.

My gran gave me a teflon-coated sauce pan in the mid-1990s, and it was wonderful for cooking rice. It looked hideous, mind: a browny beige, very typically early 1980s. Sadly the handle came off about ten years ago, and for the longest time I never succeeded in cooking proper rice. In the end I gave up and just bought a rice cooker. Makes perfect rice every time.

(Additional anecdote: My mother is an absolutely fantastic cook, loves nothing better than spending three days in the kitchen to prepare a single lunch. I told her about my rice cooker and she decided to buy the same one. Called me a few days later to complain that it was a terrible thing, the rice came out soggy and mushy. Turned out she'd added two cups of water for every cup of rice, instead of 1:1.)
 

Dioltach

Adventurer
Coming back to my story about the saffron above: yes, I can get hold of it fairly easily here in the Netherlands, even in a regular supermarket. It's just that the price is prohibitive to use it in the quantities I've become used to. It probably would be cheaper to go back to Egypt, as Scott DeWar suggests, and buy a new stash. And of course have the added advantage of travelling down the Nile on a luxury boat.
 

Scott DeWar

Prof. Emeritus-Supernatural Events/Countermeasure
I use a simple 2:1 ratio. 2 cups water, 1 cup rice, some butter or olive oil, a table spoon of salt if using unsalted butter or olive oil. works every time for me.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Mmmmmmm...below is pictured 12qt of Crawfish _____________, a dish still unnamed because I'm still sussing it out.



The first time I made this, I served it with a side of slices of smoked Gouda. This went over well, but everyone at the table except me started chucking the cheese into the mix, and uttering bleats of joy. So this time around I did what they did, and mixed the cheese in during the cooking process.

It was a nice idea: the sauce became creamier and stuck to the pasta better. But even though I used a good, flavorful smoked Gouda, it didn't quite stack up, IMHO. So NEXT time, I'm going to go with a stronger flavored cheese like Parrano, or perhaps a mix of the two.
 

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