Tonight’s Chicken and Rice

This was done in my three-quart Instant Pot. It turned out real nice. Here’s how I did that tonight. This is more for me to keep track of what I did, but if it gives you ideas for preparing a meal, mazel tov.

I had two pounds of chicken breast. I cubed them. I browned them in a hot cast iron skillet, pouring a bit of kosher salt on each batch. This is real browning, by the way, not throwing all two pounds of meat in the pan and hoping some of it will turn GBD. It won’t. Treat each cube like a little steak you’re trying to get rare in the middle.

I set the meat aside and set the cast iron skillet off to cool a bit. Into my three-quart Instant Pot I put one cup of chicken broth (reduced sodium) and 1/3 cup of water. I stirred in 1 and 1/3 cup of long grain white rice. I threw in the browned chicken. I stirred it up a little.

Then I used the rest of the can of the broth to deglaze the cast iron skillet. I took this yummy soup and set it aside, and then I put my cast iron skillet in a warm oven to dry.

I got out a saucepan and made a roux. A roux is when you cook a tablespoon of all-purpose flour in a tablespoon of butter until the flour seems a bit cooked and the mixture is a nice yellow. Then I let the saucepan cool for a bit, then threw in the yummy soup and went to work with a whisk. But before I did that, I turned on the Instant Pot to pressure, five minutes.

Then I made a gravy by whisking the stuff in the saucepan up.

When the Instant Pot counted down to 0, I released the pressure immediately. I opened the cooker and stirred the contents. I stirred in a cup of frozen peas. I stirred in the gravy. I also threw in about 1/4 cup of half and half I happened to have so that the half and half wouldn’t go bad and would actually get used.

It’s not a dump and go recipe, though it could be if you forgo the steps of browning the meat first and sopping up that nice fond in the pan to make a yummy gravy. But why in the wide wide world of sports would you do that?

Chicken and rice can be prepared in many different ways. Aside from my oven method, this here is my favorite. I might take the IP time down by a minute next time as I am always nervous about overcooking chicken breast, especially when they’re cubed, though they came out okay. Also, I have this groovy jerk seasoning I got at Niblacks that I’m fond of, but I try not to overuse it.

My IP recipe book grows. Slowly, but working on it.

(I read the recipe at I Don’t Have Time For That before I did this.)

Egg to Go

I don’t need big breakfasts, but I need breakfast, and I generally need to break fast about an hour or so into my shift. I don’t wake up famished. My appetite generally takes some time to kick in. Plus, that first hour? That’s for coffee.

So I’ve been playing with ways to take single-egg dishes to the job. The latest iteration:

First you get one of these

Then you poach an egg, let it cool a bit, and put it in there.

Then you get one of these

and cut it in half and throw it in there.

LITTLE TINY BREAKFAST

Try The Reuben

The bar stool upon which I sat today at lunch was crooked, and it wobbled. Either that or I kept encountering a divot in the floor. I am not certain which was the case. Regardless, my seat had a wobble.

This is not the kind of thing one experiences at the newest latest pub. I did not have a wobbly bar stool when I had lunch at Bar Louie Saturday because I took my car in because the front tires were regularly losing up to 10PSI, and when the mechanics perched her up on the rack, they discovered my brakes were nearly gone and offered to replace them, so I ended up having a meal at Bar Louie next-door, and I can assure you that my bar stool did not wobble there.

No, that wobbly bar stool is a well-earned scar at a joint called J.B. Quimby’s Public House, which is an old-shitters’ joint and one of the finest pubs in western New York and certainly in all the land. Quimby’s has dings and pock marks, and it has earned them and wears them with swagger. And today I had the pleasure of lunch there with my Dad and my brother, and it was really good. I had the reuben melt, and it was delicious. Dad had the Cuban with these cheesy potatoes that must be experienced because they were delicious. My brother had a quesadilla.

During this excursion, we took in a football game on the television. We watched the Buffalo Bills play the New Orleans Saints right here in Buffalo.

The team from the Big Easy ended up besting the Bills 47-10. As quoted in the Democrat and Chronicle today, linebacker Preston Brown said “We weren’t good.”

Having discussed my really nice Sunday today, I share this. For reasons. From the book Illusions, by Richard Bach:

Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river.

The current of the river swept silently over them all—young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.

Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth.

But one creature said at last, “I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.”

The other creatures laughed and said, “Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!”

But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.

Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.

And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, “See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!”

And the one carried in the current said, “I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.”

But they cried the more, “Savior!” all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Savior.

A Secret Magic Trick, re: Sous Vide Circulator

So I shall start by indicating first how lovely it is to be wrong regarding the fate of my Democrats in elections on yesterday. We did well. It gives me new heart. Perhaps Democrats are as energized as they think they are. That would be nice.

Locally, here in Henrietta, N.Y., the vote went pretty well. We fired the town supervisor, a Republican, who had been accused of making controversial comments; that is all I need to say about that. We fired the Republican sheriff for some reason. I voted for the incumbent, a Republican. Yes, I voted for a Republican. Get over it. Mainly because I do not recall any major controversy or horror coming out of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and I do not think of it as a political office. But congratulations to Todd Baxter. There’s a new sheriff in town. Rochester re-elected Lovely Warren as mayor. I didn’t see that one coming. Just kidding.

So in this new installment of the occasional advice column known as “Hints from Abelard,” I want to give another perspective of the art of cooking sous vide. This is when you cook food low and slow in a strictly controlled temperature water bath with slow circulation to promote convection. I some time ago purchased an Anova soux vides circulator and was convinced for a week or so that it was the next great hope of cooking techniques.

I imagined that cooking sous vide would be a boon for a bachelor; that one could simply season some meat, vacuum seal it, freeze it, then drop it into the bath upon arriving home, allowing it to cook for an hour or several, then sitting down to gnaw on a perfectly cooked steak or salmon or chicken thigh.

The problem with this notion is that, in fact, cooking sous vide requires a great deal mise en place. First one must season the food, then one must vacuum seal the food. Then, one must draw the water and assemble the pot with the circulator. Then, one must immerse the food and may need to insulate the pot with some foil and a towel to avoid a loss of thermal energy. Then, when the food is cooked, one must open the pouch, allow the food to rest, and then throw it in a scalding pan or zap it with a torch to get that nice maillard action going on.

The fact, my friends, is that cooking sous vide is only sensible if you are preparing a feast for more then two human beings.

Because if you’re just preparing a single steak, or maybe two, you can easily prepare it to perfection if you are willing to use a cast iron skillet and to open a lot of windows and turn on a lot of fans. 500-degree oven. Cast iron skillet. Meat. Kosher salt and Rochester Pepper (Yes, Dad, Rochester Pepper is quite a dandy spicy yummy thing, thank you) (or at least fresh-ground pepper). Two minutes a side. That is a perfect steak. Please watch episode one of season one of Good Eats because it is the best one. Watch it once per year at least. This should be mandatory for every American person. Because I think it’s fair to say that John Wayne ate steak.

Now if you’re cooking for more than two, say you have a hungry crowd of eight, sous vide makes sense. Because if you’re just pan-frying that many steaks? You’re going to mess at least one of them up on a pan. Probably overcook it or burn it severely. That’s just too much meat to babysit on a scorching pan. With sous vide, you cook all of those steaks to even and consistent quality. You sear it on a scorching pan for like 45 seconds. You rest the meat and carve. And you serve.

But for a single guy bachelor type who just wants to serve himself up a nice steak or a pork chop? Honestly, I can get better results with the scorching hot cast iron skillet.

Still. The sous vide circulator does one thing better than anything else, whether you are cooking for one or a million. The sous vide circulator thaws frozen meat. Quickly. Safely. And more naturally and better than any tool you can ever apply to the job. Just put cold water from your faucet into the pan and align and anchor your circulator. Set it to 70 degrees and start it spinning. And throw in your frozen meat in its original wrapping.

You will have thawed meat in 15-20 minutes, without the danger of prematurely cooking it (like, say, thawing it in the microwave), without the danger of it going into the red zone because you left it out too long, and without running gallons of water over it in the sink because it actually circulates the water. This is the best reason to buy a sous vide circulator, period: It is the superior method for thawing frozen food. It will do it safely and faster than any other method.

You can also mess around with you know, using it to cook stuff. But, I’m telling you. This thing is most useful as a frozen food magic food thawer thingie, and that is reason enough for a person to go buy one all on its own.

That is today’s Hint from Abelard.

*

So today I heard an old guy have to explain to a young guy that Get Smart was a TV show before it was a movie. I would have felt bad for the older guy except that he began this thread of conversation by taking off his shoe and holding it up to his face and saying “You remember the TV show? Get Smart? Remember?” The dude was standing at his work place holding his own shoe to his face like it was a telephone. I was just glad there are no dogs near where he lives.

*

A Groovy Oatmeal Recipe

Here it is in text. If you don’t want to sit through this guy’s weird video like I did.

1/2 Cup Oats
A small handfull of dried fruit.
1/2 to 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon cinammon
a pinch of allspice
chopped nuts (I like pecans)
A bit of whey protein (his add-in, not mine, though I might try it)

Other add-ins
Grape Nuts
Wheat Germ
Sesame Seed Nut Things
Nutmeg (fresh. What other kind is there?)
Whatever

All’s you do is mix all this stuff into a cup or bowl (I like this one) and pour hot water in there later. Let it sit for 10 – 20 minutes, stir, and eat it. It’s really good. Don’t skimp on the nuts. It travels well, too, if you have a decent vial to take hot water with you (I like this one).

Taco Potion #20

The following is Alton Brown’s recipe for something he calls Taco Potion #19. And it is the best recipe he has ever offered in my opinion, and from here on out, you may throw away that taco stuff you bought at the grocery and use this instead:

2 Tablesoons Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1.5 teaspoons hot smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

That’s it. Mix it up. Good for one pound or so of ground beef.

Just for public service, here is that recipe x8:

1 cup chili powder
1/2 cup ground cumin
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup hot smoked paprika
3 Tablespoons ground coriander
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper

So I’m making a mess of meat with it tonight, and I realize: Why is there salt in it?

I am not likely to just throw a pound of ground beef into a pan and steam it. When I brown ground beef I treat that stuff like it’s little steaks. Hot pan. Little morsels of meat thrown down. Kosher salt. I wait until they’re GBD and then I throw it into a bowl. So I’m adding salt.

And I’m probably not likely to use water. Especially if like tonight I have a half carton of chicken stock hanging out.

No. I propose a new iteration: Taco Potion #20.

Omit the salt.

The original proportions (now sans salt, a.k.a. Taco Potion #20):

2 Tablesoons Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1.5 teaspoons hot smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

And the x8 version because that is the only logical way to make it since your girlfriend and your Dad are both begging you to make it (now sans salt, a.k.a. Taco Potion #20)

1 cup chili powder
1/2 cup ground cumin
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup hot smoked paprika
3 Tablespoons ground coriander
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper

I will always endeavor to label correctly. But from now on in my kitchen, Taco Potion #20 requires that you salt your own.

A perfectly reasonable modification. I hope Alton Brown approves.

House Burger

The House Burger here:

Just under a cup of meat. Barely handled, rolled into a ball and salted. Then refrigerated. The metal spatula goes into the freezer. Hot cast iron pan. The meatball goes down and is smashed with the cold spatula. Three minutes for the first side. Flip. One round slice of brie goes down. Three more minutes.

A lightly toasted whole wheat bun is slightly gooed with mayo, then applied with fresh-cracked pepper. Burger goes down. Please note, I do not let burgers “rest.” Condiments include pickled red onions. Mustard. And a dollop of Crystal hot sauce in the center.

That would be the house burger in my restaurant. And my burgers would not be huge. Normal sized burgers. $3. Sides extra. I’d probably go out of business in a month.

Method notes:

Burgers should not rest. They should go right on the bun. The purpose of resting is to allow the meat to readjust its pressure so that juice doesn’t run all out when you carve. This is a burger. JUICE RUNNING OUT OF THE BURGER AND ALL OVER MY BEAUTIFUL BEARD IS THE ENTIRE POINT. I do not rest burgers. I bun and dress them immediately and gobble them.

I do not weigh the beef. Weighing means you have to handle the meat more. I measure by volume so I am handling it as little as possible.

Burger presses are delicous burger death. Burgers should be packed loosely with as little interaction with hands or tools as possible. I want the bites falling into my mouth, and I want the yummy juicy fat to be able to travel as it cooks. You do not get that effect by packing the meat tightly into a mold.

I want the meat cold and the things touching the meat to be cold. This is how you create a juicy juicy burger. Cold meat. Hot skillet. Do not allow the meat to get up to room temp. Warm meat means more of the the yummy fatty juicy leaves the burger. Cook it cold. You deserve it.

Palmer’s sells 75 – 25 meat. Can you believe it? If you can find that, buy it. I wouldn’t use it in chili, but for burgers, it’s beyond perfect. This debunks the notion that you have to grind your own. You sure don’t. Find a good product from a local provider you trust and buy that.

Hungry yet?

Cedar Mediterranean Restaurant

I must talk to you about the Cedar Mediterranean Restaurant. At 746 Monroe Ave. In Rochester.

You know. Next to Hollywood Wine & Spirits. That place.

I see many of you have heard of it. I was in there Saturday with my folks, and I must say, business has picked up.

Do you like felafel?

Hummus?

A really good gyro?

This place.

The first time I went, I got the gyro. It’s not like any gyro you’ve had. For starters, it’s on a freshly-made pita.

That’s right. Cedar Mediterranean Restaurant makes its own pita.

The gyro is handily built. The lettuce. The veggies. The meat. The tzedziki! It is a beautiful sandwich and when you have one the only regret you might have is that maybe you should have tried the felafel.

Your intuition regarding that issue is correct.

The way I see it, felafel is like a hand of blackjack. Undercooked, it may be mooshy and gross (I have had felafel prepared this way at a chain restaurant here that rhymes with Feeta Fit). If it is overcooked, it may be dry and mealy. So, felafel is pretty unforgiving.

The fine chefs at Cedar Mediterranean Restaurant understand this. And, therefore, they land it perfectly.

I have never had such a good felafel pita. Again, it is a solidly-built sandwich with a melange of vegetables and sauce that will win your allegiance. It sure did mine. Sucker has me itching to get back and eat another one.

But don’t miss the hummus. It’s made the right way, unlike that junk you’re buying at Tops. They don’t skip on the sesame nor the lemon nor the fragrant olive oil. If you don’t get enough pita to go with this platter, that’s okay.

You’ll just have to lick the plate.

(Do a fork test before downing the olive garnish. It’s likely not pitted.)

I am here to tell you that Cedar Mediterranean Restaurant is my new favorite thing.

Did I mention the baklava to go?

No?


In related news, look what I found. America’s Test Kitchen. Cast iron. Oh yeah.