Tag Archives: bittman

Waffling

One of the joys of a holiday weekend is actually having enough time to do everything one wants to do and still have time to relax. (Note – this statement mostly applies to childless, non-holiday hosts like myself – results may vary.) This weekend I managed to bake two pies, make snacks, clean the house, spend time with family, go out to dinner, play board games – and still have time to lounge around the house aimlessly. Even aimless lounging requires some energy, however, and so a decadent Sunday breakfast is necessary before getting down to the serious business of nothing much.

Lately Mr. Menace and I have been taking advantage of our waffle iron for said Sunday breakfasts, which is a very good thing indeed if we are going to allow it to take up valuable pantry real estate. Over the years I’ve played with various waffle recipes and techniques and I’ve finally found the keeper – right in my old standby cookbook, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. For too many years I stuck with the super easy, most basic recipe in the book, but recently I decided to try the Rich Buttermilk Waffles variation. They weren’t even so much more work than easy version – you just need to have buttermilk on hand, although that can even be faked with the old “white vinegar in milk” routine. That said, I’ve now done it both ways and the actual buttermilk variation seems to be a bit fluffier and richer than the fake-out.

It starts, like all waffle/pancake/muffin recipes, with the dry ingredients:

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Mmm…powdery.

Just some flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. This was a double batch, because Mr. Menace likes to have extra to toast up later. Bittman would consider this sacrilege – he calls waffles “delicate creatures” in the book – but luckily he hasn’t been around to complain.

Next the wet ingredients. First you’re gonna separate some eggs. This is the most time-consuming step of the whole process (not so much the separation but WHY you are separating, which you will see in a moment) but I promise that it’s worth it.

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Sent to separate bowls until they learn to behave!

The yolks will get added to the buttermilk and the largish amount of butter that you have previously melted. Don’t freak out too much about the butter. These are rich waffles, after all. Add some vanilla extract if you’re into that, which I am.

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Just some buttermilk, butter and egg yolks, hanging out in a bowl.

Now you need to beat the whites until the hold soft peaks. If you’re a masochist, you can do this by hand, as I did the first time, or if you’re sane, you can do it with your stand mixer like I did this time. Maybe that’s REALLY why they were fluffier this time around.

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This is what a soft peak looks like.

Now you should turn on your waffle iron and brush it with oil, to get it ready.

Then, you’re going to put the wet bits into the dry bits:

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Gloppy!

and fold your egg whites into THAT mess:

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Gently folding.

 

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Complete integration achieved! See how fluffy the batter is?

Now you’re ready to cook those waffles! Bittman tells you to put a “ladleful” of batter on that iron – for the one I have, 1/2 cup seems to be the perfect amount. Cook it for 3-5 minutes – I found 4 minutes on the highest heat setting yielded the best results, but again, irons vary. It should be delightfully golden brown and come out of your waffle iron without a fight.  The first one might be a little ugly:

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This is what 2/3rds of a cup of batter looks like in my waffle iron. TOO MUCH.

But the next one should be lovely:

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Near perfection!

The first one is always funky. Such is the nature of wafflehood. Now eat them, with plenty of butter and just a bit of syrup, or however you prefer your waffles to be adorned. If you’d like the complete recipe with amounts and so forth you can find it here.

What’s your favorite Sunday breakfast treat?

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Changing It Up

I adore roasted chicken – there are few things more delicious than moist, perfumed chicken meat covered in crispy, salty skin. And yet, in a certain sense, roasting lets me down a bit in this last regard. Sure, the skin on the TOP of the chicken is a crispy delight, but what of the rest of it? Well, sitting under the bird like that, juices pooling all around it, that skin is NOT crispy. It’s wet and floppy and while it still tastes okay, it leaves a lot to be desired in the way of texture. Surely, you say, surely there is a way to make that bird crispy all around!

I’m here to tell you, my friends, that there IS such a method, a fabulous way to enjoy crackling skin and moist tender meat all around the bird, and that method is called spatchcocking.

Say what? Yes, spatchcock is a hilarious word and a marvelous one to say, but it’s also a real method of preparing birds that allows for cooking ALL of the skin and, in addition, cooks the entire bird evenly, solving the problem that often arises in roasting of overcooked breasts and undercooked thighs. And what is the secret to this magical method? Easy – flatten the bird!

In order to make a flat chicken the first thing you need to do is cut out the backbone. This is made much, much easier if you have a good sharp knife, obviously.

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Just cut down either side of the backbone from neck to tail and remove – personally I put the backbone into my bag of scraps in the freezer for later stock-making purposes.
Spatchcocked!

Now you have a chicken that can lie completely flush against the cutting board, like so:
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The actual recipe I used the prepare the now-spatchcocked chicken is one popular in both Italian and Russian cooking (co-evolution of a recipe or weird crossover? Perhaps a future research project…)and is known by the elegant moniker “chicken under a brick.” This is not a metaphor. Ideally, one would quite literally cook the chicken in a skillet, first on top of the stove and then in the oven, with bricks or rocks on top of it. This allows for the most completely even cooking of the chicken since it’s held as flat as a three-dimensional object can get.

However we were notably lacking in spare bricks in the Menace household, so I went with an equally acceptable and (possibly superior?) method – another, smaller skillet, weighted down with beach rocks (which are in far greater supply around here due my beach bum tendencies.)

First I gave the chicken a good massage with olive oil, garlic, and herbs:
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Then under its blanket of iron and rocks it went!
The "Brick"

The end results were absolute gorgeous:
Chicken Under a Brick

I served it up with an assortment of root veggies:
Roasted Veggies

Put some crusty bread on the side of that and you’ve got a meal! This was seriously some of the best chicken I’ve ever made.
Chicken Dinner

I realize this is a rather wintry recipe – I’ve been meaning to post it for a while. But fear not, I have some great news – spatchcocking is an absolutely fantastic way to cook a whole chicken on the grill! Here’s a recipe for adobo chicken on the grill – sounds outstanding and has even more thorough instructions on spatchcocking the chicken if you’re still a little nervous about it. If you try it let me know – or better yet, invite me over!

A Bit Corny

Late summer in Massachusetts means two important things, vegetable-wise (even though both are technically fruit!) – tomatoes and corn. Both are truly amazing coming from the garden, farmstand, or farmer’s market! Today I’m focusing on the corn, but look out for a tomato post soon!

Corn is one of those vegetables that no one really hates – it’s sweet, if a wee bit bland, and usually used primarily as a vehicle for butter. Unfortunately, because of this it’s gotten a bit of a reputation for being unhealthy. Our associations with are of high fructose corn syrup and canned products soaked in butter and cream, and granted, these are not high on most people’s nutritional check list. But in its native form, corn is high in B vitamins and antioxidants – its no super food, but it can be part of a healthy diet, particularly when eaten as a whole grain, in the form of cornmeal and all of its permutations. It’s still reasonable healthy raw or lightly cooked, providing Vitamin C and those antioxidants, but the Vitamin B takes a bit of work.

You see, when Europeans first started growing and consuming what the Native Americans called maize (corn is actually a generic name for grain that somehow stuck to this one in particular!), they quickly fell ill from malnutrition – in particular, a rather nasty disease called pellagra (don’t click that link if you are squeamish!). Pellagra is caused by a lack of Vitamin B in the diet, which was initially quite the mystery since the Native Americans ate quite a bit of corn and were just fine! As it turned out, the Europeans had missed a crucial step in the way the Native Americans processed the corn – before grinding it up, they soaked it in water filled with ashes or lime – both of which make the water alkali. This releases the Vitamin B in the corn, allowing a human to make use of the vitamins when the cornmeal is eaten. The process is known as nixtamalization, and now used, in more high-tech form, whenever corn is made into corn meal. This, along with a somewhat more balanced diet, halted the pellagra, and made corn into a fantastic whole grain to put into your diet!

There are many ways to enjoy cornmeal – I make a mean cornbread, if I do say so myself, and I have a to-die-for polenta recipe from Barbara Lynch that I may share with you all another time. But today I want to give you the recipe for one of my very favorite cornmeal dishes, the one that inspired this post. This recipe is extra-fantastic because you can utilize fresh, wonderful farmer’s market corn along with corn meal, for a side dish that is sweet, salty, nutty and cheesy all at once. I give you – arepas!
Arepas!

More specifically, these are arepas as interpreted by Mark Bittman as interpreted by me. Are you confused yet?

Arepas are a sort of corn cake or bread that are popular in Venezuela and Colombia. They’re sort of like English muffins, if English muffins were made of corn, and are often used in the same way, to make sandwiches or simply toasted. Here’s a link to a recipe for the more traditional Venezuelan arepas. You can see from the picture on that site that they’re fluffier and paler than mine.

What Mr. Bittman did is to imagine them with some of the traditional toppings and fillings right inside the pancake. He also uses whole-grain, stone ground corn flour – hence the somewhat coarser texture of these arepas. He works in cheese, and the fresh corn kernels, and jalapenos. Here is his recipe, and if you followed that to a T, you’d be very happy!

My variations are quite simple – Mr. Menace likes neither jalapenos nor cilantro, so I just leave them out. However, I think your imagination could run wild with these! You could chop up bits of bacon or ham, if meat is your thing, and add them to the batter. If you’re not a meat eater, you could grate in some zucchini, or some chopped tomato (hey, I worked it in here!), or a bit of garlic.

What would you add?