Monthly Archives: February 2012

Ross Cooks! I swear I’m gonna get back to reviews at some point (Middle Eastern-Inspired Chicken and Asparagus)

Leah really liked this, though we both agreed that there was something missing. Not sure what.

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic-flavored vinegar
  • ½ tsp whole coriander seeds
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp fajiat seasoning (Note: Whatever google tells you, this is not a misspelling of “fajita”)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup pine seeds
  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 2 cups), bias-cut
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp tandoori spice
  • ¼ tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (ie chickpeas), drained
  • 1 3/4 cup yogurt
  • Salt
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream

Mix balsamic and olive oil with coriander, pepper and fajiat and marinade for 2 hours.

Put the pine seeds in a large skillet over high heat. Once they start to get toasty, add the chicken complete with the marinade, then add the onions. Sautee for 3-5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium. Add asparagus, spices and parsley, then chickpeas. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, then stir in 1 cup of the yogurt. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add remaining yogurt and salt to taste. Remove from heat and stir in cream.

Ross Cooks! It’s Chow-DAH CHOW-DAH (Cheesy Chicken and Corn Chowder)

I completely overlooked the fact that you’re supposed to run the corn through the food processor at some point. But it all worked out in the end. I also tossed in a few pinches of xanthan gum when it became clear that it wasn’t thickening up the way I wanted.

  • 4 pieces of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 oz Baby Portabello mushrooms, diced
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 6 oz queso dip
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cans whole kernel corn, with liquid
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ½ diced hot cherry peppers
  • ¼ tsp dill weed
  • ¼ tsp celery seed
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ paprika
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream

In oil, sautee, separately but in no particular order, the onion, mushroom, and chicken pieces, removing each and setting aside with the bacon. Retain any liquid that cooks out of anything.

Melt butter and whisk in the flour. Cook for about 3 minutes. I like to use an unbleached whole-wheat flour and a white truffle butter for this. The downside of unbleached flour is that it’s harder to gauge the right amount of cooking for the roux.

Stir in the queso, milk, and any liquids you got while cooking the other ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and add cheese, a little at a time. You’re going to reach your maximum thickness after this backs down from a boil, so keep that in mind as you add liquid later.

At this stage, I chucked everything in the fridge and waited until the next afternoon. I assume you can just push on. Add the corn, complete with the liquid, and stir it together. If, unlike me, you remember it, run one or both cans of corn through a food processor first. At this point, you can add all the ingredients I’ve been having you set aside (Bacon, chicken, mushrooms and onions). Add chicken broth until you reach the desired thickness. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.

Add the peppers, dill, celery seed, paprika, and cayenne and cook on low for at least an hour. Finish with some cream

Ross Cooks! It’s like a turduken of beef!

A few weeks ago, I read about The Original Bacon Explosion. Now, the impediments to me wanting to make one of these myself are threefold:

  1. It’s the dead of winter, and not good barbecue weather
  2. I don’t own a smoker
  3. Despite enjoying the magical texture of meats cooked low and slow, I do not especially like the sweet and smoky flavors of barbecue

But as I may or may not have mentioned, I’ve been on a quest to find a low-carb alternative that met my occasional desire for lasagna. And so, I decided to come up with a new application of this bacon-weaving and meat-rolling technology. I decided to create the world’s first rolled meatloaf-lasagna hybrid. And I call it Loafsagna (Okay. Actually I just call it “Lasagna Meat Roll”, but I thought I’d try to make it sound all dramatic.)

  • 2 lb bacon
  • 1 lb Lean Ground Beef
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (For a healthier choice, we used Original Flavor Fiber One cereal, pulverized in a food processor)
  • 12 oz spaghetti sauce
  • 1 Onion, minced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 cups Ricotta Cheese
  • 2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 lb bulk pork sausage
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • 1 cup Cremini (“Baby Portabello”) mushrooms, sliced

Weave about a pound of uncooked bacon into a sheet. Depending on how your bacon is cut, this should be something on the order of 6-8 slices by 5-6 slices, making a bacon checkerboard pattern. A tight weave is best, but having done this, I can assure you that’s not going to happen. If your bacon is cut like mine was, this will use up one pound of bacon plus two slices from the second pound. Fry the remaining bacon and set aside. Based on the cut of your bacon, it is probably safe for you to eat approximately 3 slices of the bacon while you are working, provided you wash your damned hands every time you touch raw meat.

Mix the beef, half the onion, 2 tbsp of the spaghetti sauce, the garlic powder, and 2 eggs, kneading thoroughly. Press the beef into a thin patty over top of the bacon. You should end up with a contiguous layer of beef that almost-but-not-quite covers the bacon. Keep it thin, but you need something with structural integrity.

Mix the 2 cups of the ricotta, mozzarella, 3/4 cup Parmesan, garlic, basil and oregano. Take 1/2 cup of the mixture and add milk or cream until it forms a thin, spreadable paste. Spread this thin onto the beef layer. Lay four strips of cooked bacon across this, oriented along the longer dimension. Set the rest of the cheese mixture aside for now.

Mix the sausage with the remaining bread crumbs and form a second patty atop the last layer. The sausage will have somewhat less mass than the beef, so keep that in mind when forming this layer. This one can be a bit smaller than the one below it and should be thin. Spread the remaining spaghetti sauce over the sausage, like saucing a pizza. Break up the remaining bacon and sprinkle the pieces over the top.

Add 1 egg, the remaining onions, and the mushrooms to the remaining cheese mixture. Spoon that onto the top layer toward the middle along the long dimension. Think “burrito filling”.

Now comes the part that is going to blow your mind. VERY carefully, roll the whole thing up as if that beef and pork and bacon was all just a tortilla. If you can pull it off, leave the woven bacon behind as you roll the meat layers, then go back and roll the bacon weave in the opposite direction so that the seams aren’t in the same place. But if your layer thicknesses came out like mine did, you’re going to have a hard enough time just keeping the insides from falling out.

Roll this monstrosity into a large oven-safe pan. I was going to use the broiler pan, but that proved far too small, and I ended up using the lasagna pan instead.

Finally, take what’s left of the ricotta, Parmesan and egg and mix them together. Add cream and milk until you have something of a sort of spackle consistency — thicker than what we did for the inter-meat layer. Press this over the outside of the bacon log. Now, this step I’m not quite committed to. I think it was good in general, but it stopped the outer bacon layer from getting crispy. If it’s not too much work, I’d try putting the log in the broiler for a while first, maybe turning it over after a few minutes. That would let the outer bacon crisp up before we sealed in all the meaty goodness with a layer of cheese.

Bake at 350°F until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F. This took me somewhere between 2 and 3 hours. You may or may not want to baste the log as fat liquefies and drains out. Leah thought the meat was too dry, but on the other hand, I thought the the outer cheese coat browned up and gave it a nice texture. In any case, it’s best to find some way to avoid letting it sit in a bath of its own fat for the entire cooking time. I doubt it would have held up if I’d put a rack underneath it, but maybe I could have devised something.

Extrapolating from our current usage rates, this should make somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-12 servings. Do not attempt to eat the whole thing in one sitting. Or you will die. Oh, this thing is like 4 pounds of meat and another two pounds of cheese, so for the love of God have some green vegetables with it.

Ross Codes! Sorting Human-Readable Numbers

I’ve been running linux at home for a few years now. One of the things I like best about it is that things tend to be built up from lots of little command line component programs instead of big GUI programs. This may seem like it makes it harder to use, but that’s only true for things you only plan on doing once. If I want to, say, resize the 500 pictures I took of my little boy over the weekend (He is darned cute), I can do it with some big GUI tool where I load each picture, click resize, move some sliders, hit OK, click Save Aa, type in a new file name. Five hundred times. Or I can write this:
for x in *.jpg; do convert -geometry 1280x1024 "$x" output/"$x"; done
Having a rich command line available to me lets me do operations on large sets of data in batches, and that’s a good thing because that’s what computers are good at.
But that’s a bit of a tangent. When I am working in linux, I often find myself dealing with big numbers. File sizes. Free memory. Free disk space.
Because I rip all my DVDs to the hard drive, I’m very concerned about free disk space. So I’ll run “df“:

Filesystem 1K-blocks Used Available Use% Mounted on
torchwood:/mnt/store0 4326436544 3654545536 671891008 85% /mnt/store0
saxon:/mnt/store1 2130562560 1073968640 1056593920 51% /mnt/store1
saxon:/mnt/store2 2145245184 467011584 1678233600 22% /mnt/store2
badwolf:/mnt/store3 5768575488 4445833216 1322742272 78% /mnt/store3

But those numbers start to get blurry after a while. Fortunately, df has an option that makes its output “human readable”, “-h”:

Filesystem 1K-blocks Used Available Use% Mounted on
torchwood:/mnt/store0 4.1T 3.5T 641G 85% /mnt/store0
saxon:/mnt/store1 2.0T 1.1T 1008G 51% /mnt/store1
saxon:/mnt/store2 2.0T 446G 1.6T 22% /mnt/store2
badwolf:/mnt/store3 5.4T 4.2T 1.3T 78% /mnt/store3

A lot easier to read. Several of the standard linux commands have a “-h” option — ls, du, free has a similar “-m” option.
The disadvantage to using the human readable numbers flag is sorting. The standard command for sorting output, sort, has a flag (-n) that will make it handle numbers correctly. But if the numbers have been mangled into ugly human-readable form, this breaks, and suddenly 1G sorts below 10k.
So I wrote this quick-and-dirty little perl script which sorts the lines in a document, properly ordering numbers which have been converted into “human readable” format in the style done by df and du.
In case anyone finds it handy, This is hsort.

Ross Cooks! Seems like we’ve had Spinach a lot recently

We have, it being one of the few vegetables Leah and I both like which aren’t counterindicated for breastfeeding mothers whose babies are prone to bad gas.
Two nights in a row last week, I made a simple casserole by layering left-over baked Macaroni and Cheese with chicken patties, spaghetti sauce, and shredded mozzarella (On night 1, I added meat balls and sun-dried tomatoes. Neither of us cared for the flavor of the tomatoes, though I liked the mouthfeel, and the meat balls didn’t really mesh with the other ingredients). On the second night, I decided we needed a green vegetable dish as well, so I made this. Leah loved it, requesting all the leftovers over the next couple of days.
I started on this while giving my son a tour of the kitchen (“This is where food comes from. It’s basically like a breast for grownups.”), as you only need one hand for the first few steps if you’ve got the onion diced ahead of time (“If you’re ever cooking, son, and you don’t know what to make, start by dicing up an onion and sauteeing it in a skillet with some butter. Doesn’t really matter what you end up making, some sauteed onions never go amiss.”)

  • 1 tbsp butter (I used a white truffle butter, but anything’s fine)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 8 oz sliced green and red bell peppers (Half a bag frozen)
  • 2 oz balsamic vinegar (Use the cheap stuff, or mix a teaspoon of the good stuff with red wine vinegar)
  • 1 lb spinach, drained (I used half a bag of frozen plus a can because it was what I had on hand)
  • 4 oz artichoke hearts (As per usual, I got a jar of marinated ones from Costco and rinsed them)

  • 3 oz goat cheese (This came in 300g packages and I used a bit less than a third)
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp hummus (Optional. I happened to have a little bit of leftover hummus that I wanted to use before it went bad)
  • 2 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 tbsp milk

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Cook onions to translucency then add peppers. Deglaze the pan with vinegar. Mix in the spinach and artichokes. In a separate vessel, mix the cream and goat cheese — your goal here is just to keep the goat cheese from all staying together in a big lump. Add this to the skillet and stir in. Add the hummus and cheese. At this point, between the cheese and the hummus and the solids, you’ll be close to having a solid unworkable mess in the skillet. Add milk (and maybe a bit more cream if you like) until you get a thick and creamy but workable consistency. If you taste it now, it will be pretty sour. Cover and cook on low heat for 20-30 minutes. The peppers will release a lot of sweetness that should balance out the flavors. If it’s still too sour, stir in some (real) balsamic or madiera.