Geek. Pirate. Mom

The Life and Times of Whitney Drake

Archive for September, 2009

Sometimes, things just go wrong.

I will not pretend to be perfect in the kitchen. I have burnt bread, made rubbery shrimp, and have a tendency to get powdered sugar all over the kitchen.

I made a cheesecake just last week and when turning on my mixer, wound up splashing the filling all over my kitchen table and onto my husband’s jacket which I thought might be out of the splash zone.

But yesterday, takes the cake. Without even thinking about the oven, I turned it on so that I could make white chocolate chip cookies. I quickly whipped up the cookie dough and started to prep my cookie sheets when… I started to smell smoke. So I opened the oven to see a cloud of smoke quickly fill the kitchen.

The broiler pan was smoking. I’m not sure what dripped on it, or how (since the last thing we’d used the oven for was the cheesecake, and I know that nothing dripped from that). But whatever it was smelled like oil or fat that was burning, not sugar. My best guess is that something had spilled from the stovetop and through the oven. So now I know, double check the broiler pan. Even if you haven’t used it in ages.

Hopefully today will be better. I have the cookie dough warming out on the counter (I refrigerated it, but it’s rock hard, and hard to dollop onto the cookie sheets) and the broiler pan is out of the oven and soaking so that I can clean it. (Update: The broiler pan is clean, the cookies have been made – and I discovered that I should have tried the white chocolate chips before following this recipe. They were much too sweet, and so are my cookies!)

What’s your favorite story of kitchens gone wrong?

The Easiest Sauce You’ve Never Made

I am a fan of quick and easy meals from scratch. I think it’s genetic. My mom, the queen of Chopped style cuisine (“What can I make for dinner using a can of tomatoes, a can of black beans and some pasta?”), is as well. Okay, it probably isn’t genetic- but I know that since we were/are both stay at home moms, you run into situations where it’s suddenly lunchtime, you’re starving and don’t have the time to make something elaborate.

But it doesn’t mean you have to skimp on flavor. I’ve mastered the quick tomato sauce, which has a bit of a raw taste to it. While my pasta cooks, I heat a small skillet and saute some onions and garlic in olive oil. Then I throw in a can of drained crushed tomatoes and cook until it smells right- I usually just season with a bit of oregano, some fresh basil and salt and pepper.

This is my staple go-to sauce, but sometimes you just want something more luxurious. On my last shopping trip I’d bought more heavy cream (now a staple since I’ve started baking regularly) and some Parmesan Reggiano. So when yesterday rolled around (a beautiful overcast fall-like day in Southern California), I wanted something a little more luxurious.

So I made alfredo sauce, and discovered that it’s even easier than my tomato sauce and just as fast to make.

Ingredients

Heavy cream
Butter
Parmesan Cheese, grated
Salt & Pepper

You’ll note that I haven’t listed measurements. Mostly because I only made the sauce for myself, and not a family sized portion. But from the recipe I made, I can tell you this… for every 1/2 cup of cream, you’ll need an equal amount of parmesan. And 1 T of butter. So you can just expand as necessary.

While my pasta cooked, I put the heavy cream and butter in a small saucepan, heating it over low heat. (This is the only thing you have to pay attention to – while you can heat it over a slightly higher heat, you don’t want the cream to boil. So low makes it fool-proof) When the butter’s melted, and they’ve thoroughly combined, pull off the heat.

Grate your parmesan cheese. (Or use the pre-grated stuff you can buy in tubs, but try not to use the stuff in plastic bags or in a can. They use stabilizers to make them shelf-friendly, which makes it not melt) When the pasta is nearly done, put the saucepan back on the burner. Add in the cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Toss with your pasta, and enjoy! Honestly, it’s just that easy!

Note – this is for the Americanized version of alfredo. The true Italian alfredo sauce is basically butter and parmesan, tossed together over warm pasta. Equally easy, and just as good. :)

Recipe: Homemade potato chips!

One of my favorite ingredients to use is the potato. I’ll have them mashed, french fried, turned into potato chips. They’re just wonderfully versatile, and typically quick to prepare!

Now, I’ve come to realize that people are divided into two types of snackers. Those who crave sweet foods and those who crave salty foods. I fall squarely into the latter category, and will eat just about anything that’s been fried.

Recently I’ve started frying things on my own. For a family party last month I made onion rings, and had said that potato chips were next on my list. I was making some potatoes for my son for breakfast and realized that I’d cut too many potatoes in half, and set aside two of them to make chips with.

Required equipment:
Heavy bottomed pot for frying
Fry thermometer
Spider/Skimmer

Ingredients:
An appropriate oil for frying (vegetable, canola or peanut)
Idaho potatoes (the number is up to you)

To start off, fill a non-reactive bowl with cold water. Potatoes oxidize quickly, so if you don’t want them turning brown, have a decent sized bowl ready. (I’d put the left over potatoes in cold water and they kept all day) When you’ve finished washing and peeling each potato, put it right into the water.

Making your own potato chips!Slicing. You can go one of two routes – use a knife, or invest in a mandoline! You can get pretty decent ones (just get one with a hand guard) for not much, and then you know you’ll have uniform slices and won’t have to worry about rolling potatoes. Just make sure that if you’re using a knife that you slice them as evenly as possible to ensure an even cook time- aim for about 1/8″. As you slice, put the slices back into the bowl of cold water.

Now, in your large heavy bottomed pan, get some oil heating up. You’re going to want to have at least 4-5″ of oil in the pan, so that the chips have enough room to flip as they fry. Using your handy dandy fry thermometer (not an expensive piece of equipment either), get the oil up to the 325-350 range. If you go too high, the chips will burn, and too low, they’ll just suck up oil and get soggy.

While it heats, set up your drain station. I used a cooling rack on a baking sheet with some newspaper underneath to help minimize mess.

Making your own potato chips!Potato time! Take out a batch of potatoes – about 6-9 slices depending on how large the slices are. Pat them thoroughly dry in paper towels or a dish towel, and add all at once to the oil. Now, these do cook fairly quickly, but you can’t leave them unattended. Gently stir the potatoes with your spider/skimmer to keep the potatoes from sticking and to make sure they cook evenly. Keep going for about 3-4 minutes or until they’re golden brown.

Making your own potato chips! Remove the chips from the oil and put on the sheet rack to drain. Once some of the oil has drained off, season them with whatever spice blend you like (I used just salt). And repeat until you’ve finished the batches.

Making your own potato chips!Obviously, this isn’t as speedy as opening a bag of Lays- but the chips were wonderfully crispy and delicious. As a matter of fact, I wish I’d made more!

Final thoughts: Making these in front of small children is not a good idea. Not because of the frying (my kids are well trained to stay away when I’m cooking on the stovetop), but because now my son knows that all I need are potatoes to make potato chips!

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