Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hambone Soup out of a Measuring Cup

Yes, that's Hambone Soup in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring glass. And yes, it's on my dinette floor for maximum sun. For the image, not because I think soup likes to sunbathe.

I'm sick and lazy. Every bowl in the joint is dirty and the soup was in a big bowl. I needed to divide the quantity and improvised. While this measuring glass is almost certainly oven-safe, I nuked the soup in the microwave.

Note the lack of cheese. Hambone Soup really is better without it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hambone Soup reheated

Timing for soup couldn't have been better. I'm sick.

After reheating it on the stovetop in a small saucepan,

I topped the soup with some shredded cheddar.

Believe it or not, the soup is better without cheese!

Coming from a cheese-a-holic, that's impressive.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hambone Soup

Hambone from Thanksgiving in hand, I needed a recipe. I searched and browsed and perused and honed-in before finding the perfect selection: the Ham-Bone Soup recipe posted over there on Drick's Rambling Cafe's site. The part that cinched it for me was the Creole seasoning requirement. If you'll remember, I have a ton of Creole Seasoning Blend.

What I didn't know was that Drick had his own Creole Seasoning until I prepared this post. As Drick is specialized in southern food, including Creole, I'd certainly give his seasoning a spin.

Hambone Soup
adapted from Drick's Rambling Cafe
click to print

1 1/2 lbs mixed dried beans including navy, green split pea, and lentils
3 quarts water
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp + 2 tsp Creole Seasoning Blend, divided
1 left-over hambone
1 c chopped ham
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 large onion, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley or freeze-dried (I used the dry stuff)
Pinch of thyme
8 c chicken broth (from Better Than Bouillon)
1 14.5 oz can corn
2 -14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Day 1
Rinse beans in a deep bowl several times.

I measured my beans by mass, going over by a smidge, before rinsing them well in the same 8 cup vessel.

Transfer beans into a slow cooker; add the water. Remove any unwanted beans -- I assumed the floating ones were bad ones.
There appears to be a piece of white plastic up there between 11:00 and 12:00 in the photo above-right. I hope I saw that back then and removed it!

Add the vinegar and 2 tbsp Creole Seasoning Blend. Cover and cook on warm heat overnight.

Meanwhile, do mise-en-place for dry ingredients (hambone, chopped ham, garlic, onion, potato, carrots, celery, pepper, parsley and thyme, plus the 2 remaining tsp of Creole Seasoning Blend), cover and stow it in the fridge.

Day 2
Transfer the mise-en-place ingredients into an 8-quart or greater saucepan/stockpot and stir in the chicken broth. Bring to a low boil and reduce to a slow simmer for a couple of hours.
It took about 10 minutes for my pot to get to a boil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, I opened the lid to the Crock Pot, still set on warm, and took a look at the beans.

Hmm, pretty scummy looking. Digging around in there, I found that the lentils and split-peas were tender while navy beans were still hard after more than 12 hours on warm. I kept the heat on.

Skim any grease and scum from the top of the soup broth.

Remove the bone(s) and let cool if necessary before pulling meat from the bone(s) and shredding the resulting meat.

Transfer the drained beans and ham to pot, bring to just under a boil and then simmer on low until beans are done and mixture has thickened just a bit, about an hour.

Stir in the corn and tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. If your beans are still firm like mine, hold off on the tomatoes. Continue cooking the soup on low another hour or until beans are softened.

An hour and 20 minutes later, my navy beans weren't the softest, but somewhat softened. I stirred in the tomatoes. And then, 30 minutes later, I remembered the salt and pepper. If your beans were soft enough that you'd added your tomatoes, salt, and pepper with the corn, dish it up and chow!

My soup was allowed to simmer another 30 minutes to let the tomatoes, salt and pepper to become infused with the entire mixture.

Serve with a crusty bread.

While it took a lot longer than I'd expected to complete this soup due to my navy beans staying firm, the soup was just as good as I'd anticipated! I think that if I'd stuck more closely to Drick's recipe, the results would've been even better. Everything was cooked well (my navy beans could've been cooked a little longer) and the soup was thicker than soupy, which is my preference.

Regarding things I should not have adjusted is the quantity of ham and dice of tomatoes. I didn't have quite as much chopped ham as Drick's recipe called for (I ate the majority of ham as leftovers before prepping the soup!) and it showed, even though I pulled quite a lot of meat from the bones -- it is essentially a ham soup, right? Secondly, Drick's recipe called for petite-diced tomatoes. As I had regular diced tomatoes on hand, I rolled with them. Mistake. Trust me, you want to go with the petite unless you like glaring hunks of hot tomato in your ham soup.

Would I do this soup again? Bet your ass I would. Next time I'll heed the above paragraph plus I'd use more of the beans Drick's had listed as possibilities. This first time, I used just what I had on hand. Best of all, this soup freezes very well*.

  • navy beans: $0.50
  • green split peas: $0.50
  • lentils: $1.10
  • garlic: $0.10
  • onion: $0.25
  • potato: $0.77
  • carrots: $0.54
  • celery: $0.50
  • broth: $0.23
  • corn: $1.50
  • diced tomatoes: $0.32
Total: $6.31, assuming your hambone and ham were free. That makes each of nine 1.5 cup servings $0.70. Yep, 70 cents.

FYI: I opted to bake a batch of Cheddar-Zucchini Biscuits (using regular sharp cheddar found anywhere for less than $24/lb) and let me tell you right now, while they are awesome, they won't go quite as well with the soup as the corn or French bread Drick suggested would.

*Here's the soup I didn't eat. That's about 24 cups of soup dished into various bowls. Those in the left, uh, column are 4-cup bowls, the three in the center column are 2-cup bowls and the big bowl on the right handles 6-cups. I'll freeze a bunch, but leave some of the soup in the fridge for dinners this week.
Here's a perfect example of when the Anchor Hocking (or Pyrex) bowls come into play at my apartment. The soup is dispersed across multiple bowls expediting cooling. Once cool, the lids are snapped on and placed in freezer/fridge. That they stack nicely is great, saving space. Note: when putting a bunch of dishes into the fridge or freezer, don't stack them immediately as they'll only retain each others heat. Spread 'em out, let 'em chill/freeze, then stack.

Better Than Bouillon Organic Lower Sodium Chicken Base

I found this jar of Better Than Bouillon reduced sodium (and organic) chicken base when I was browsing in the soup aisle of a local store.

Like the other Better Than Bouillon bases I've purchased before, the first ingredient in this jar is actually meat.

Organic and lower in sodium, there was not a visual or olfactory difference between this and the regular chicken base.

While I don't show it here, the lid has equivalences on it, just like the other jars, which makes it really convenient.

Unfortunately, I don't have pricing or availability. I think I picked it up when I was at Smart & Final a while ago, but cannot confirm. Guessing, it was $6 for this 1 lb jar.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Food Plan and Grocery List, 112611

Thanksgiving Day was spent at my brother's house where I broke bread with him, my former sister-in-law, and my nephew. I came home with a giant container of leftovers, including the hambone. That means I'm gonna be making a hambone soup.

Stater Bros.:
  • cage-free eggs: $3.79/dozen
  • whole milk: $1.19/pint
  • sliced bacon: $3.99/lb
  • Italian squash: $0.68/0.53 lb
  • garlic bulbs: $1.29/2 each
  • Russet potatoes: $1.53/1.55 lb (2)
Total: $12.47

I forgot corn and because I can see into the future on this blog, I know I'll get a can of Goya corn from the little Mexican store around the corner for about $1.50 tomorrow.

Oh yeah, and since I didn't have a food plan last week, the only shopping I did was for my contribution for Thanksgiving dinner, which wasn't much:

  • Farmer John center-cut ham: $16.85 @1.69/lb
  • Good Cook meat thermometer: $4.19 on sale

Total: $35.01
Total for the year: $1411.54

The ham was just one part of the meal which my SIL essentially planned and executed single-handedly: ham, roast beef, shoepeg corn casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls with bacon and cheese built in. Everything was awesome though Lauren would remind me the beef came out too well-done and we didn't do the yams (my fault as she'd put me in charge of them and I totally spaced out, forgetting them entirely).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 112511

Monday: Chipotle Carnitas Burrito: $6.84
Tuesday: Corner Bakery Chicken Pomodori half and Corn Chowder: $9
Wednesday: Buffalo Wild Wings Traditional Wings combo: $8.07 + $2 toke: $10.07
Thursday: HOLIDAY!
Friday: HOLIDAY!

Total: $25.91
Total for the year: $1709.28

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 111811

Monday: Carl's Jr. for two: $17.72
Tuesday: Sushi Plantation, lunch for three: $41.21 including toke minus boss's contribution
Wednesday: El Cortez Discovery Burrito: on a coworker
Thursday: Giving Thanks lunch at work
Friday: In-N-Out Cheeseburger combo: $5.55

Total: $75.48
Total for the year: $1683.37

Sunday, November 13, 2011

One-Pot Sticky Chicken Wings

Have you heard of Andrew Zimmern? He's the guy who eats bizarre food from around the world. Turns out, his family isn't quite as daring and so Zimmern's recreated a few bizarre dishes he found particularly enjoyable into those his kid might even eat. This recipe below is one of those available on the Food & Wine website. A friend of mine, who, like Zimmern, will eat anything, turned me onto it.

Before I go on, let me tell you up front that I have made subtle changes. I subbed an ingredient (crushed red pepper instead of chiles) and reorganized the ingredients from random to sequential. Food & Wine testers must've been perfecting the dish in the kitchen beyond print deadline and thus it wasn't quite complete upon submission.

One-Pot Sticky Chicken Wings
adapted from Food & Wine
click to print

3 lb chicken wings, wing tips removed and wings cut into 2 pieces (or Party Wings)
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 whole star anise
1/3 c soy sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp aji-mirin
3 tbsp sugar
2 scallions, thinly sliced
lime wedges, optional

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the chicken wings over moderate heat in batches, turning once, until golden, about 8 minutes. Combine batches.

Batches one and two browned before all dumped into the skillet together.

Add the ginger, crushed red pepper, star anise, and cinnamon and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

I broke one of my Costco-sized cinnamon sticks in half, resulting in a weapon-like sharp end.

Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, aji-mirin, and sugar; bring to a simmer over moderate heat.

Cover and simmer for 10 minutes; uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wings are cooked through and the sauce has reduced to a thick glaze covering the chicken.

That glaze part will take about 20-30 minutes.

Discard the star anise and cinnamon stick. Transfer the chicken wings to a platter, scatter the scallions on top and serve. Serve with lime wedges if you like.

Rather than doing the platter thing with lime wedges, I served up a portion with steamed white rice. FYI, you'll need a few napkins. Better yet, a warm damp towel.

I've gotta tell you, these wings are great! The fat from the skin is rendered during browning and becomes part of the sticky sauce, which makes the sauce very smooth and almost velvety. Using crushed red pepper, the heat is evenly distributed but can be adjusted to suit your tastes. If you are serving the kids, keep the volume low; if you are a heat-freak, crank it up. I found a 1/2 tsp to be fairly mellow and will certainly kick it up to a full tsp next time. The cinnamon and star anise add a nice flavor without either being overwhelming.

Most amazing is how the flesh wasn't rock hard or dry as a bone. We're talking white meat taking some punishing heat and still having texture you wouldn't dare compare to sawdust (unlike some holiday white meats at grandma's)! You're making a mistake if you avoid trying this one.

  • party wings: $10.47
  • ginger: $0.72
  • star anise: $0.20 (swag)
  • cinnamon stick: $0.09
  • soy sauce: $0.25
  • oyster sauce: $0.36
  • aji-mirin: $0.47
  • sugar: $0.10 (swag)
  • scallions: $0.09
Total: $12.75 or $2.13 for each of six small-ish servings.

Morton and Bassett Star Anise

Never in my life have I purchased star anise, held them, smelled them, or used them. Fortunately, I finally had a recipe to try that requires star anise. Look at how neat they look. And man, they are aromatic.

Each one looks different! Like snowflakes, but hard, brown, odorous (in a good way), and solid in your hand for more than 0.2 seconds. Much longer than M&M's even, though I doubt these would ever melt in your mouth.

Available in a 0.6 oz jar at Von's for $7.19.

I had to look star anise up in my Larousse Gastronomique:
star anise BADIANE
The fruit of a shurb native to the Far East. It is shaped like an eight-pointed star and contains seeds with a slightly hot aniseed flavour. It was first imported into Europe by the English during the Renaissance, and is used most commenly in infusions and in the preparation of liqueurs (anisette). In Scandinavian countries it is also used in pastry- and biscuit-making. Star anise is a spice commonly used in oriental cuisine. In China it is used as a seasoning for fatty meats (pork and duck) and sometimes as an ingredient of scented tea. In India it is used in all ground spice mixtures and is chewed as a breath freshener.

Kikkoman Aji-Mirin

Shopping in the ethnic aisle at Von's, I could only find this Kikkoman Aji-Mirin. Mirin, as an FYI, is a sweetened rice wine or sake but with lower alcohol content. Briefly looking it up, it seems Aji-Mirin is loaded with salt and corn syrup while regular (ahi-mirin) is not.

Here's the ingredient statement of the Kikkoman Aji-Mirin:
glucose syrup, water, alcohol, rice, corn syrup, salt

Turns out I bought the overly-sweetened kind of mirin. I'm now obligated to get some homework done on this stuff.

Aji-mirin available in a 10-oz bottle at Von's for $5.29.

McCormick Cinnamon Sticks

These cinnamon sticks are about 6" long. If you buy cinnamon sticks from your local grocery, they'll likely come in 3" lengths, in a much smaller container.

Available at Costco for $5.79/half-pound.

Looking up cinnamon in my copy of Larousse Gastronomique, I found:
A spice obtained from the bark of several tropical trees (cinnamon trees). The bark is removed, dried, and rolled up to make a tube (cannella in Italian), light fawn or dark grey in colour, depending on the species. The most popular varieties of cinnamon are from Sri Lanka and China. Cinnamon gives off a sweet penetrating aroma and has a hot spicy flavour. It can also be found in the form of a powder and an extract. It is one of the oldest spices, mentioned in Sanskrit texts and the Bible and used by the ancients to flavour wine. In the Middle Ages it was widely used in stews, soups, custards, and poultry fricassees. In France it is mainly used in compotes and desserts, and to flavour mulled wine. In eastern Europe and Asia its uses are much more numerous, in patisserie, soups, and meats.
Note that you can also buy cinnamon sticks from your supermercado for very reasonable prices. And today (012112), I found you can buy loose cinnamon sticks at Ralph's in the produce section. I'm not certain how trusty those at Ralph's would be as they are subject to regular misting. But then, it's bark, how bad could it get?

Foster Farms Party Wings

Party Wings are essentially drumettes and flat-wings. The meatless wing tips have been removed for your convenience. Don't worry, you won't find hunks of chicken breast attached to the drumettes. Neat and trim, they are ready to boogie.

Available at Stater Bros. for $3.49/lb.

Anchor Hocking Bowls and Lids

I like bowls such as these Anchor Hocking 2-cup bowls for a few reasons:
  1. holding 2 cups of food, each is adequate  for single-servings of soups or fresh fruit;
  2. they come with lids, which is great for storage;
  3. oven, dishwasher, and freezer safe, they are versatile;
  4. essentially the same as Pyrex, they're generally less expensive.
Available at Big Lots in a pack of three for $6 (plus tax)!

Food Plan and Grocery List, 111311

As I suffered a birthday recently, my weekend was busy; the line-up is simply a quick chicken dish.

  • Kikkoman aji-mirin: $5.29
  • star anise: $7.19
  • Foster Farms party pak wings: $10.47/3 lbs
  • green onions: $0.99/bunch
  • ginger root: $0.72/0.18 lb
  • butternut squash: $3.03/2.35 lb
  • TOTAL: $27.69

Stater Bros., 111511
  • russet potato: $0.75/0.76 lb

Total for the year: $1376.53

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 111111

Monday: Subway 6" Club on wheat with all the veggies on a co-worker
Tuesday: leftover Baja Fish Tacos Baja Bowl
Wednesday: Sango Sushi Combo A on a coworker
Thursday: Subway 6" Club on Wheat just like Mondays: $4.50
Friday: Thai at a new place on the gang

Total: $4.50 but I owe a few
Total for the year: $1607.89

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Korean-Style Oven-Browned Short Ribs, Leftovers Reheated

    The really great thing about preparing six servings of kick-ass food on a single day is that I get to eat a seriously awesome dish for dinner the next five days with nearly zero prep. Tonight, I had leftover Korean-Style Oven-Browned Short Ribs, complete with steamed white rice, steamed broccoli, and a pile of kimchi.

    FYI, for those paranoid about bugs and germs and bacteria, if you handle your food as well as your utensils appropriately, it can last quite awhile, worry-free. I put it to the test regularly and wouldn't steer you wrong.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Korean-Style Oven-Browned Short Ribs

    While I'm a huge fan of Chef Bruce Aidells, I admit I was skeptical about the Korean-based recipes in The Complete Meat Cookbook. Of course, I had to give one of them a try. Which one to choose? Well, Aidells knows big beefy pieces in stew, so I had to see how he'd handle beef ribs.

    Korean-Style Oven-Browned Short Ribs
    from The Complete Meat Cookbook can be found here and here
    click to print

    10 garlic cloves, peeled
    1/4 c light brown sugar
    3 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
    6 whole green onions
    2 tbsp rice vinegar
    2 c water
    3 lbs English-style bone-in beef short ribs, trimmed of external fat
    2-3 tbsp sesame oil

    If you haven't yet, get your short ribs out of their packages and trim the excess fat.
    That's two packages of bone-in ribs, weighing in at a combined total of 4.48 lbs, taken out of the packages and then trimmed of excess fat. Why did I get two packs? I have no idea. And my fat-trimming needs some work -- the beef looks like it has scabs!

    Put all but the sesame oil in a Dutch oven, ensuring liquid covers the ribs. Add water and soy sauce as necessary to cover the ribs.

    I added the liquids, then the solids, putting the garlic, ginger and onions over the beef. Then I remember a rule about adding things in order they're listed in the ingredients list. So I moved things around so the beef was on top before adding additional soy sauce:water in relative ratios.

    Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer; skim any foam from the surface. Cook, uncovered, 1.5-2 hours or until the ribs are tender.
    Beef brought to boil and then simmered 1.5 hours skimming foam occasionally; while quite tender, the beef was allowed to simmer another 30 minutes. By then, bones had fallen from the meat.

    Preheat the oven to 450° F. Remove the ribs from the pot and liquid, reserve liquid; drain ribs well, patting them dry if necessary.
    My ribs sat in the colander 10 minutes. Over that time, gravity as well as heat from the ribs themselves yielded pretty dry bones and meat.

    Lay the ribs bone-side down on a broiler rack over the pan. Brush the ribs with sesame oil.
    Pieces of meat that had lost their bones during simmering above were simply placed atop their bones. I don't think it mattered, except to maybe help prevent the meat from sticking to the broiler pan.

    Roast in middle of oven until rib edges become crispy, 10-15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, skim fat from the braising liquid surface. Taste the liquid. If it does not have a rich, beefy flavor, boil the liquid to reduce volume and concentrate flavors. The sauce should remain soupy. Ladle sauce into shallow bowls and put a rib or two in each. Serve beef over rice with vegetables, such as steamed spinach and kimchi.

    Well, I'll be! These ribs were quite good, distinctly reminiscent of Korean Braised Short Ribs, Take 2, adapted from my first take of the Week of Menus's recipe. I wondered back when I did the Korean Braised Short Ribs what all of that soaking and rinsing of the beef would do -- looks like it eliminated the need to skim foam.

    During the simmering portion, the aroma was heart- and apartment-warming. Once the simmering session was complete, I was a little disappointed about the meat losing their bones, but it turned out that had little effect in the outcome, so don't worry if you didn't set the timer.

    The beef was certainly flavored like Korean-style beef should be and so very tender under a very slight crust. I particularly enjoyed just the hint of sesame oil flavor. I guessed the beef would be so tender that the soy sauce reduction would only wet my rice, not necessarily adding to the dish (but a spoon requirement). I was correct in that prediction and simply enjoyed the juices from the meat itself.

    Bruce Aidells hit another one out of the park, one I'd certainly do again. Next time, for a house-hold of one, I'll stick to one pack of ribs.

    • garlic cloves: $0.26
    • soy sauce: $1.20
    • ginger: $0.13
    • green onions: $0.45
    • vinegar: $0.15
    • bone-in beef short-ribs: $16.53

    Total: $18.72 or $3.12 for each of six servings.