Archive for the ‘Jace’ Category

Veal Stock Country Gravy

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Mandy and I love to cook, as you’ve no doubt noticed. But cooking 4 to 5 times a week in a relatively small town tends to mean that we go through the same few staple ingredients all the time. It’s really easy to fall into a rut of chicken and rice for every dinner, and I have definitely done that a bunch of times.

It’ll also come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of Monty Python. They’re zany, funny and a little different; but in the end they make me happy. It’s in the spirit of one of their least known stories I present:

And Now For Something Completely Different

And this time, the completely different ingredient will be veal stock. I understand some people may have some issues with veal, but I promise the second it touches your tongue, you’ll lose every last scruple. So go to that spot in your local mega-mart where you find chicken broth and grab a carton of veal stock instead. It’s totally worth it.

Confession time: gravy has been my kryptonite. It always tasted like flour or was lumpy or was too thick or too thin. Basically, I had a hard time with it and had pretty much given it up. I finally had some luck last Thanksgiving, and I think I’ve got it about figured out. Tonight we’re going to make it with veal stock and butter, but you can use a whole lot of different ingredients like chicken broth, milk, heavy cream, chocolate… It can get as weird as you want it.

A couple of quick tips:

  1. If you have a round-bottomed pan, it will suit you well. A saucier was pretty much made just for this.
  2. Have all your ingredients ready and within arm’s reach before the butter hits the pan, because once you get going you can’t stop.

The basis of any country gravy is what the French call a roux. It’s an equal part, by volume, of some melted fat and flour. We’re going to make a decent amount, so we’ll use two tablespoons each of butter and regular all-purpose flour. You’ll want to melt the butter over medium to medium high heat and add the flour just before the butter starts to brown.
flour + butter = the beginnings of awesome
Then whisk it all about till it’s all a whitish liquid. Then it’s time to let it cook a little while. The roux will start to darken, going from a honey blonde to a brick red and all the way to exhaust black if you don’t watch it. We’re going for my personal favorite: slightly dirty blonde.
Not <em>that</em> dirty
Of course, I’m a little partial.

Now that we’ve managed to get the roux right where we want it, we have to work quickly from here on out. We’re going to add a decent amount of our stock. You can start at half a cup if you just have to measure things, but it’s really better to just slowly add a few splashes until it’s thinned out to where you like it.
mmmmmmm.... veal
The butter in the roux really won’t want to mix with the stock you add, oil and water being the racists they are. The flour just wants everyone to get along, but it’s kinda lazy so you’re going to have to whisk a lot. It will come together eventually, and if it’s still lumpy, add another splash of stock.

Did I mention this is going to be a brownish gravy? Do you not like that idea? Add some milk, or heavy cream if you’re so inclined. You’ll have to whisk it all in pretty hard, too.

Now, you have to let it bubble away for at least a minute. This is the only way to cook out that flour taste, and to me, it’s the most important step. It’s during this time that you’ll need to go get a spoon anyway. You have to taste it now; probably a good three or forty times. You can add some salt, pepper, maybe even garlic powder if it’ll work with your dish. Just make sure it tastes good.

It’s time to put it on something. Like say freshly fried chicken nuggets, some biscuits or maybe some chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.

So, what have we learned? Gravy isn’t quite as hard as it seems–you know, after you figure it out. Hopefully we’ve illuminated some of the pitfalls I face-planted into the first few times I made gravy, so that you can avoid them: liquid roux at a pretty blonde, slowly add the stock or liquid, whisk it all together vigorously enough to combine (not vigorously enough to require extraneous cleaning), and let it boil away for a minute or so to cook out the bad.

Veal Stock Country Gravy
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
4+ fluid oz of veal stock
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a round bottomed pan over medium to medium-high heat. Whisk the flour into the butter and allow to darken just past blonde. Whisk the stock in and add more if it’s still too thick. Allow the gravy to cook for at least a minute before seasoning with salt and pepper.

Second Anniversary Dinner

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

On this, our second wedding anniversary, I took it upon myself to prepare a dinner of an almost Faincy variety. And to do dishes. Most of them at least.

So, the menu for this evening is a steak au poivre with fried zucchini. The steak uses a rather interesting method of preparation and this was the first time I’ve ever tried it, to great success, thankfully. The secret: salt — lots and lots of salt.

You have to coat the steaks in salt — like a tablespoon per steak — about half an hour before you’re ready to cook them, then wash the salt off, pat dry, dust with freshly cracked pepper, and sautée on medium high heat for 4 minutes per side for a perfect mid-rare.

The zucchini is cut in a large julienne, like french fried potatoes, coated in flour, egg wash and then, muched up tortilla chips. I ran several handfulls of chips through the food processor, but I think some cornmeal would work just as well.

The final plate looked a little something like this:
Do NOT USE A1 ON THIS STEAK.

The tao of steak
Step 1: Salt the steaks, use a lot of salt The Beef Is Encrusted In Salt For Around Half An Hour

Step 2: Rinse the salt from the steaks and pat them dry Rinse The Salt From The Steaks

Step 3: Put some pepper on the steak, freshly cracked is the way to go, and you can run some peppercorns through a coffee grinder if you like Steaks Dusted In Pepper
Ground Pepper

Step 4: Sautée with a little browned butter and oil. It smelled too good and I forgot to take a picture of it. I’m only sorta sorry about that.

Step 5: And this is one of the very most important steps of cooking a steak – let it rest. Put it on a plate and don’t touch it for at least 5 minutes and 10 if you can wait.

The zucchini files

Step 1: Forget to take pictures any of the prep work.

Step 2: Cut the zucchini in a large julienne, think Wendy’s French fries rather than McDonald’s.

Step 3: Dredge in flour seasoned with salt, garlic powder and whatever else might sound good; then a little dunk in egg; lastly put some of the chip crumbs on ’em.

Step 4: Fry in oil at somewhere around 350° F for a couple of minutes and dig them out. Hot oil can hurt your hands so use a spider. Spiders Save Hands. Use Them.

Chicken and Waffles

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Last year I went on business to Detroit where I happened to have one of the strangest combinations of food I can remember having: Waffles and fried chicken. It felt wrong but, at the same time, so good. I’ve told Mandy about it several times since then, and, after seeing it on Food Network recently, we decided to try it on Monday night.

The waffles were the out-of-the-jug shake and pour kind. Yes, we know they’re supposed to be for pancakes: The wife and I happen to like cakey waffles.
Delicious Cakey Waffle
For the chicken, we had a few chicken breasts that we double breaded in egg and flour, seasoning both with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.
Breading station
Then we pan-fried them until they were golden brown and delicious then ground some salt over them just after pulling them out of the pan.
frying chicken
We put the chicken on the syrup’ed waffle, grabbed knife and fork and ate.
Finalised Chicken and Waffles
And it was good. For next time: Try a raspberry or strawberry syrup for that extra weird yumminess.

Valentine’s Day

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Well Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and we’ve determined that there is entirely too much stuff to do packed into this short month. First, there’s all the birthdays: Dad’s on the 13th (Happy 50th, geezer), Justin’s on the 14th and Mom’s Birthday is just around the corner on the 24th. Then there’s all the added pressure of Valentine’s day.

Few words can strike such fear and regret into the hearts of men (and the hearts of their wallets, for that matter) as these: “Valentine’s Day”. This year wasn’t too bad in the fear department. Mandy and I spent most of our evening at the Garlic Press, aka the only place in Midland to get decent American cuisine. She had a steak, I had a duck breast and they were both quite excellent. Then we went home like the old people we are and watched TV. It was a fantastic evening, the 13th.

The 14th we spent at church evangelizing the gospel (that the only way to make french fries is to fry them twice), and teaching of the dangers of over used frying oil. Which brings me to my new-found, all-time favorite hobby: cooking.

Our church youth group put on a fund-raising dinner that Mandy and I cooked for. We cooked chicken provençal with lemon-herb rice, spicy steaks with mashed potatoes and a southwest squash and zucchini medley. It was actually pretty good, and it was a whole lot of fun. I’m sure Mandy wanted to kill me at least 39 times during the whole process. We cook together a lot, and I can’t wait to see what we cook up in the years to come.

How We Started

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

It all started, over eight years ago, in a tiny private school in Midland, Texas. I was in 7th grade, she was in 8th. I had been talking to a friend of mine at the time, saying that I kinda liked this girl. I left him with strict instructions not to tell anyone, so of course he promptly told his girlfriend who happened to be said girl’s best friend. Naturally, said girl found out about my secret crush.

We went to a few parties together around Christmas time, spent a lot of time around each other, but not a whole lot of time in a way that would accommodate a shy boy like myself with opportunity to ask a hot girl like her out. After a few months, she and her talkative friends thought I had given up hope. To their shock and bewilderment, I put together a WordArt sign that read “will u go out w/me?” one Wednesday evening before church, found some alligator clips, hung the sign around my neck while she was on stage playing piano, and waited for her to nod yes from across the room. I know it’s cheesy. I know it’s dumb. I don’t know what possessed her to agree, but it’s been a lot of fun since.

We spent the next almost year learning a lot about each other. Learning how to hold hands, how to kiss, how to really make her mad with all my insecurities. We learned that an improperly handled series of events at a rodeo can almost ruin a relationship. This is a part of our history that not a lot of people know: I screwed up one night, at a rodeo, and she decided to break up with me. It was a hard time for both of us. I know I felt like I’d been ripped apart. Heartbreak at 14 is a weird sensation. You think your life is over, that you’ll never love again, that you’d be better off moving to the mountains and panning for gold only to find out that there’s bears in them thar hills who really dig the smell of fear. I didn’t know what to do. She had left me, but her talkative friend told me to ask her out again. I said no at first, but a few weeks later I decided to reforge my sign.

I don’t remember the day, but it was during algebra class one morning that she got up to leave the class for some reason. I saw my opportunity and I jumped on it. I put my sign folded up into her open book, closed the book, and waited for her to come back. It was at this time that her talkative friend decided to inform me of her current state. “She’s totally over you, you know. She will not say yes.” My hopes were dashed, but a fear came over me. My insides were screaming, Get the sign, THE SIGN, YOU FOOL! So I grabbed the book, tried to shake the sign loose when I heard the footsteps coming down the hall. I had no choice. I would put the book back on her desk, suffer her wrath and rejection and take it like a man.

She got back to her desk. My heart was racing; could I jump through that window? She opened the book. If I run through the wall, will it leave a silhouette of body like road runner’s? She saw the folded sign. All hope was lost, here comes the cold. She read it. My heart was in my seat. She smiled. She leaned over and kissed me. In front of God and all the eighth graders.

It’s been about 7 years since then, and we’ve had so much fun. She’s learned to deal with my temperaments (and how to control them, which is weird for me since I still haven’t figured that out). I’ve learned when to just say, “Yes, ma’am,” and shut up. OK, so I’m still working on that; but I really am getting better. We’ve struggled through the long-distance relationship, and battled through some of the close-quarter stuff, too. And she’s always been there for me. Last October I asked her to marry me. I didn’t have a sign (would have been GREAT, though), but she still said, “Yes.” I can’t believe I’m this lucky, and I can’t wait to start the rest of my life with my best friend and childhood sweetheart.

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