In which there is much pain (Jamaican Jerk Paste)

So this is one of the recipes I’d written up but lost in the break-in – thus no idea how many recipes were left after this one and no photos 😦 I do know it was the last one in the queue for the Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades section (huzzah!)  I’ll try to recreate it as best I can.

I’d say something stupid about this being a 5 pepper spicy recipe, but there’s 10 habañero peppers in this one.

I know, I cut them up myself.

This is a spicy recipe – have milk at the ready to drink, starts with a quick burst spicy pain, and it just lingers, spicy. Check the skin under your lower lip where the paste touched to see if it’s turning colors ’cause it’s still tingling hours later spicy. So much so that I’m not even going to recommend ways to make it milder for those that don’t like all the spicy – it would just be a futile endeavor. Don’t like spicy? Please, please, skip making this one. Adam and I like the spicy food.  Originally, i.e. when we started dating, I had a much higher tolerance for spicy pain goodness then Adam.  Annnnnd then he went to Peace Corp. Yeah, when Adam ‘I’ve been in the Peace Corp in the Caribbean’ thinks a recipe is bordering on too spicy, you know it’s spicy.

Adam’s Peace Corp post was in Suriname. Live in the jungle on the Caribbean coast, food traditions from Hindustani, Javanese, and African-creole, Peace Corp. His tolerance for spicy food is much, much higher than mine now. One time while down there, he chopped up some mystery peppers from the bush in his front yard. Washed the knife, washed the cutting board, washed his hands. And then did what he always did after washing his hands. Ran his palms down his face, from forehead to chin.

He says the burning in his eyes stopped after about 36 hours.

Yeah, I did something similar the night of making this paste.

Let’s just say it wasn’t my eyes. Somewhere a lot more intimate. The second after I did that, Adam and I look at each other in this sort of half horrified, half amused ‘did I/you really just do that’ kind of way and I spent the next ten minutes alternating between crying from laughing at my own stupidity and from owie while pouring milk over my skin to try and wash off the capsaicin.

When the universe uses that large a clue bat, even I notice, Captain Obliviousness me.

This recipe is getting recycled out of spite.

Ow.

(Adam: Aw, I liked this one! And do recommend it for anyone who likes really spicy food.)

(Laura: Fine, fine… we can keep it.)

(Adam: Glee!)

Jamaican Jerk Paste

adapted from Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition
1 1/4 cups

Originally the recipe calls for fresh lime juice – I used the bottled lemon juice we have in the house. I don’t think it decreased the spicy level.
I also omitted the optional orange juice, because, well, orange juice gives me migraines.

  • 1/3 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 10 habañero peppers
  • 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 bunch green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Purèe all the ingredients together in a food processor or blender until the mixture has the consistency of thick tomato sauce. If necessary, thin with additional lemon juice or vinegar.

I used it to top grilled chicken and it was tasty. You could also use it on a pork chop.

One more warning: this is “Not-for-the-faint-of-heart” spicy. If you do not enjoy fire-hot spicy food, DO NOT EAT THIS. Please, you will regret your actions.

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In which we Feastly

So Adam and I joined Feastly (http://eatfeastly.com/) and hosted our first dinner on Saturday.  The idea behind Feastly is for people to get together over dinner at each other’s homes. Some members sign up as cooks (like Adam and I) if they want to host – there are amateurs, professional cooks, and every thing in between. Other members sign up as ‘feasters’. Cooks host dinners, parties, brunches, cooking lessons, or whatever they choose to – they set the menu, the house rules, the number of seats available, price per head, etc. Some use the site to drum up business or as another source of income, others try to just cover the cost of the meal, and, again, everything in between.

Adam is so busy these days at work that all he really wants to do after work is eat dinner and recharge, so we made a deal: this is completely my thing – I take care of the planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning up, advertising, write up on Feastly; Adam knows the date and time and does his hosting/interacting with new people thing. Which let me tell you, makes dinner parties a success – he’s got a gift for getting conversation going and keeping it going. Trust me, I’ve tried dinner parties on my own, I need Adam and his hosting thing – it must be his southern charm.

What can I say, I like the team we make. Good thing too, since I married him 🙂

So what did we actually, you know, cook?

Well, having pulled together a menu, I spent about 10 minutes staring at the screen trying to come up with something to fill in my nemesis on forms.

The title.

Let’s just say I’m not confident about my naming abilities. Among other things, this is how a male child of ours will end up with the initials REBL. Took me months to notice Adam had snuck that past me. And he had to be the one to point it out. Bloody [expletive], this northern Jewish white girl is not too comfortable with her male child by a gentleman from the state that kicked off the Civil War having initials spelling out ‘rebel’. Bloody promises…

ANYRATE – I named our Feastly ‘Steak and Chocolate’

(I am looking forward to when Adam has the brain-space to do naming work, again.)

The menu:
Steak à la Alton Brown’s method
Tagine of Butternut Squash, Shallots, Cranberries, and Almonds
Stir-fried Broccoli
Homemade Challah
and
Deep-Dish Chocolate Chip Cookies

Quick run down on the ones I’m not talking much about:
the tagine – I need a new tagine. The one we got for our wedding (because that came up while I was on a Moroccan kick) is this beautiful, hand painted, lovely, small, 1 or 2 cup tagine – basically big enough for a side dish for 2 people. I was serving 4. Also, I have eventually figured out that this is one of the tagines intended to be a pretty serving dish, rather than a cooking dish that you pull off the stove and place on the table as, ta-da!, now it’s a serving dish. So, yeah, I’ve managed to do bad things to this one, namely a crack in the ceramic in the bottom portion that goes all the way through, as evidenced by the drippy, drips along the crack after cooking. This, Le Creuset Moroccan Tagine, is the one I’m lusting after, these days.
Stir-fried broccoli – mostly like steamed broccoli in a wok. Cut the broccoli into florets, heat oil in a wok, stir-fry as much minced garlic as you like, add the broccoli, sprinkle with a teeny-tiny bit of sugar, pour in some water, cover the wok and cook until bright green and tender.

I’ll get to the dishes I do want to talk about more in a second, but I’m gonna plug Feastly for a second. Click here if you rather skip the plug.

So Feastly – yeah, my reaction that evening (after our guests left) was ‘I totally want to start planning the next one’. I got to meet two new people who were interested in food and interesting dinner companions, while having a good meal with good conversation. The Feastly team was awesome – quick to contact us in response to our original application to be cooks, fun to talk to, honest in where the site is, who they are, what info they have and what they hadn’t thought about until we asked, and really good about advertising my dinner in their email and on twitter. The tools to set up a ‘feast’ on the site were clean and easy to use, as well as giving me as much control as I wanted plus, prompted me to add in info about a couple things I hadn’t thought of, like if I wanted shoes on or off in our house and dress code (either way and casual. this time. 🙂 ). The tool to manage the feasts I’m hosting is good and allows you to re-use menus if you want. They also let feasters tell you they’re ‘craving’ a particular past menu, so you know what was popular. It’s like a ‘like’ button, but for food. Also, it’s now the Tuesday after the Feastly and we’ve been paid – 3 days (2 business) after the event. Check them out if you’d like to eat out some nights, but rather not deal with a full-fledged restaurant experience. They’re mostly in the Washington DC area but open in the New York and San Francisco areas and looking to expand. I’d love to host some of y’all over for dinner.
Plug over.

Normally, when I cook, especially multiple recipes at one, attempting to time them to come out together, an end result is a mountain of dishes in the sink. This time not so much. My secret? The challah and the cookies were mostly made the day before. As the two real ‘baking’ recipes (and thus my main source of dishes), I could then wash the dishes the day before.

Challah (at least the recipe from the Joy of Cooking I use) just has a step ‘allow to rise in the refrigerator, covered, for 4-12 hours until doubled in size’. Yeah, that’s gonna happen overnight. It’s been years since I made a challah though, so the next day, I had to watch a Youtube video on how to braid 4-strand challah. ::shrugs:: I found one, it produced a pretty loaf.

Feastly Challah

Adam and I have been buying our flour from the bulk section of Glut (it’s a food co-op in Mt. Rainer, MD) where they have everything I can think of – except all-purpose flour. Well, they do, it’s bags of Red Mill all-purpose emptied into a bulk bin; not doing that. So we’ve been using whole wheat pastry flour at a one-to-one substitution for white flour all-purpose – the extra grinding to produce pastry flour seems to balance out the extra bindiness (that’s totally a scientific term there) of whole wheat and the 1-to-1 substitution is working for us. I also don’t sprinkle the loaf with poppy or sesame seeds like Joy calls for – other wise, follow the straight up recipe from Joy of Cooking and you too shall have challah. Yummy, yummy, eggy challah.

Steak à la Alton Brown
Alton Brown is a cookbook author who should work perfectly for me – science based, good explanation of why he does what he does, and so on.  I think I just hit him at the wrong point in my learning career. If he’d been one of the first authors I’d read, I’m sure my whole method of cooking would be different – totally would have learned to substitute ingredients much earlier. Maybe even have reached a point where I feel confident enough about what I’m doing to start experimenting sooner. But as it is, I didn’t. And I have no idea how to copy his recipes out succinctly.
Be that as it may, for this dinner, I got two NY strip steaks (about 1.25 lb) from Harvey’s Meats in Union Market the morning(ish) of. Countered them around 5pm to bring them closer to room temp, lightly misted with the oil we keep in a spray bottle (per Alton’s suggestion), rubbed it over the meat to distribute, salted and peppered each side, and heated our cast iron griddle pan on high heat. Luckily Adam remembered to turn on the vent in our microwave at this point. So looking forward to somewhere (anywhere) we can have an actual hood. Put the meat in the pan, waited three minutes, stuck my fingers in my ears as I flip the steaks and Adam takes the batteries out of the smoke alarms and opens some windows. Wait three minutes (produces rare to medium-rare steak; cook to your tastes), pull off heat, put on resting rack (i.e. a dinner plate with enough chop sticks laid across it to hold up the meat) and plop a bowl over the plate. Slice on the diagonal upon arrival of guests and serve.

And now for the recipe you’ve been waiting for:
Deep-dish Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, I may have mentioned in ‘Things you should know about Laura’ that I’m allergic to chocolate. Adam, on the other hand, loves chocolate and totally doesn’t get it as often as he’d like since he thinks it’s just silly to have it available when I can’t eat it. … Yeah I’m not sure about that logic either. He might just be telling himself that in order to keep from having it every dayFrom my perspective, chocolate is a staple of baking and something most people absolutely love. So, unless I can bake the chocolaty goodness, I am not a good baker. … Yeah, I’m not too sure about that logic either. Too? In addition? So, if we have an ‘event’ (good dinner party, someone’s birthday, other celebrations…) I like to bust out the baked desserts because randomly keeping them in the house is a recipe for bad things (mostly eating all of them within two days).  And I like to use try out the chocolate desserts at these events since I can get more feedback that way – not being able to taste test them myself.

Ramekins came out of oven.
Ramekins go on table.

1 minute later, ramekins are empty.

I think everyone liked them. 😀

Recipe count: 44 left to try
Section count: Desserts – 11 left
originating source: TheKitchn

yields 3 ramekins/servings

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup/2oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup/4 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/6 cup/2.5 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg (medium or small is fine)
  • scant 1/2 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. If the chocolate chips are large (à la Ghirardelli 60% coco dark chocolate chips), chop into smaller pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy but not whipped. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy (and pale), about 2 minutes. Or less if you turn the stand mixer up. Add the vanilla extract and egg; beat for about a minute.
  3. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, mix the chips into the batter.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between 3 ramekins; use a spatula or the back of a spoon to push batter to the edges of the ramekins and smooth down evenly. Place ramekins on a baking sheet (for ease of taking in and out of the oven) and bake for 18 minutes, or until gold-brown on the edges and still a little golden and soft in the middle. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving with or without a scoop of ice cream.

Variation: (and what I did) Cover the ramekins of unbaked cookie dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 1 day ahead; cook for 20 minutes.
Originating recipe claims you can freeze these bad boys for up to 3 months and bake without thawing (although will need more time in the oven) – I haven’t tried it, but thought I’d let y’all know. Drop me a line in the comments if you try it – let me know how it went.

Recipe Insanity

(Or: How Laura cooks from recipes in the kitchen)
(Also known as: the last thing you ought to know about Laura before she finally starts posting some frackin’ recipe reviews)

So, one of my first cookbooks, back during the summer after freshman year of college was the Joy of Cooking. Actually these days we have 3 copies of the Joy of Cooking on our shelves – the 1997 edition I brought to the marriage, the 1974 edition Adam swipped from his parents and brought to the marriage, and the 75th Anniversary edition we bought because it was on the shelves of a used book store, $15 and gosh darn it, we needed a better version than the 1997 edition.

Loved ones do not give or use the 1997 edition of the Joy of Cooking. Not when there are better editions in the universe.

Any rate, so there I am in my parents’ kitchen trying to learn something about cooking. But… but… the ingredients aren’t at the front of the recipe? Shouldn’t you get everything together on the counter before you start? What if you don’t have something? Or not enough of something else?

Apparently, I had imprinted on my snickerdoodle recipe’s method of presentation. Because my brain just would not process the double column, ingredients (with measurements) embedded format from the Joy of Cooking.

So, I leafed through the book (yes, the entire book), noting what looked interesting, and then copied out/rewrote the recipes I wanted to try, moving the ingredients to the head.

I wasn’t stupid, I used a computer and typed (luckily, my high school wouldn’t let you pass computer class without a 40 wpm typing speed).

Except, I still couldn’t process the recipe while I was cooking. Didn’t matter that I had read it over twice before starting. Didn’t matter that the ingredients were sitting out, ready to be measured. I just could not keep what I was supposed to do in my brain long enough to actually do it. Led to quite a few burnt and overcooked dishes.

So I copied the recipes out again. By hand. Yes, I wrote out the recipes in cursive (do schools even still teach that anymore?) And I’ve been doing it ever since.

I’m up to three binders – main entrees, desserts, and everything else (appetizers, side dishes, vegetables, bread, etc.). Well, plus the binder of random cooking and food related information. Oh, and the one of Great-Grandma Helen’s collection of recipes from her friends. One of these days, I really need to start working through that binder, figuring out cooking times and/or temperatures. Great-Grandma would record the ingredients and either oven temperature or cooking time, never both. And no instructions on how to combine the ingredients. Because why would you need those?

Any rate, 3 binders in regular use, each divided into various sections. The Entree binder is divided by protein type, mostly: Vegetarian, Beef, Pork & Lamb, Poultyr, Pasta, Fish, Agnostic, and finally Sauces, Rubs & Marinades. The desserts are by end result type: Cookies, Cupcakes & Brownies, Dessert Breads, Cakes, Pies, Frosting, and Custards. The Miscellania binder, otherwise known as the black binder, has, well, everything else: Breakfast, Appetizers, Side dishes, Drinks, Vegetables, Pantry staples, Condiments, Snack Food, Dinner Bread, and Sandwich Bread. Yes, I have enough bread recipes that I separated them out by purpose.

I still copy out new recipes I’d like to try by hand – from new cookbooks, random ones off the internet, etc. I tend to build up a backlog of recipes waiting to be copied, work through those over a couple months and then let the backlog build back up while I try to cook my way through the untried, newly copied recipes. New recipes go in the front of their section, with the oldest on top. Every time I use a recipe it goes to the back of the section, allowing the things I haven’t made in a while to work their way to the front of the section, where I am more likely to choose them while meal planning. Or admit that I don’t particularly like that one and recycle it. I do have a rule – if I haven’t tried a new recipe within one year of copying it out (two years for desserts), into the recycling it goes. Rule two – I am allowed, at any point, to look at a recipe and toss it upon thinking ‘what was I smoking?’ – usual prompts for that: 2 hours in the oven, random ingredient I will never use in any other recipe, allow bread to rise for 24 hours, and such like.

So, how many recipes do I have to try, you ask? (You totally should, you know. Not as much fun around here without the call-and-response. )

67

Excuse me, I’m… I’m gonna go weed that a bit…