Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rancho De Chimayo Flan

Ali nagging me for flan fired me up to give it a try. Having recently tried crème brûlée, it'd be neat to see the difference. Initially thinking I'd do a pumpkin flan, I didn't plan far enough in advance. With the pumpkin still frozen, I turned to The Border Cookbook and opted to try one of the three flan recipes found, aiming for the one that appeared most "classic".

I didn't make any adaptations to the ingredients (unless eyeballing the vanilla extract quantity counts) or to the method, though I wrote the method to reflect what I did specifically. I like to minimize my movements and streamline things a bit.

Rancho De Chimayo Flan
adapted from The Border Cookbook and found here, though slightly different than the book
click to print

2 1/4 c evaporated milk
1 3/4 c sugar, divided
3/4 c water
6 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Set 8 6-oz custard cups in a baking dish or broiling pan large enough to accommodate all the cups, with a little room for air circulation, within easy reach of the stove.

To prepare the custard, combine the evaporated milk, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, water, eggs, and vanilla extract in the top of a double-boiler. Beat with a whisk for about 1 minute or until the mixture is well blended and begins to froth.

Insert the pan over its water bath and heat the mixture over medium-low heat until it is warm throughout, reducing the heat to very low, if necessary, to prevent the custard from boiling while preparing the caramel.

To prepare the caramel, place the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in a small, heavy saucepan and cook over low heat.

Watch as the sugar melts into a golden-brown syrup. There is no need to stir unless the sugar is melting unevenly. Once a rich medium-brown, immediately remove the pan from heat.

These images were collected over 9 minutes, beginning 10 minutes after the sugar was placed on the burner. 
Top row: sugar beginning to melt, melting further, and just a little bit of granules still present.
Bottom row: the pan was swirled so that I'd be better able to tell if the sugar was completely melted, sugar completely melted (and "rich medium brown" or amber), sugar removed from the burner a little too late as I had wondered if it was really done in the image before. "Rich medium brown" is too vague for me!

Pour about 1 teaspoon of caramel into the bottom of each custard cup; the poured syrup will harden almost immediately.

Don't bother trying to measure the sugar or spread it evenly in the cups. Simply work quickly pouring the sugar equally. The sugar will harden quite literally, "almost immediately". Attempts to spread the sugar will result in fine hair-like strands of hardened sugar between the cups.

To assemble the flan, pour the warmed custard mixture equally into the cups.

That orange egg chunk was removed from the custard before I began dispensing it among the cups. Rather than pour directly from the spout-less bowl and risk sloshing the custard all over the stove or get water into the custard, I used a 1/3 cup measure.

Add enough warm water to the pan to cover the bottom third of the cups.

Bake 1 hour and 45 minutes. Check to see if the custard is firm and its top has just begun to color a light brown; if not, bake for up to 10 minutes more.

Done in 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Remove the cups from the oven and let them cool for 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature. Cover the cups and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Serve as is or for a nicer presentation, unmold. Just prior to serving, take the cups from the refrigerator and uncover them. Unmold by running a knife between the custard and the cup. Invert onto a serving plate. Repeat with each flan.

The recipe linked above itemizes "6 eggs, slightly beaten", and I'll do just that next time. I found that my whisk merely chased the yolks around in the pool of watery, milky, egg whites. Once pressing each yolk against the bowl with the whisk, they readily went into solution.

I don't have a double boiler (and likely never will unless my future kitchen is so cavernous that I have to fill it with unnecessary gadgetry). To accommodate such a volume of custard without allowing the bottom of the bowl to touch the water meant I had to use the pot I use to cook pasta, an 8-quart mofo. That's big. I didn't have any worry about the custard boiling, but quite the opposite: I didn't think it'd even get warm since I was extremely reserved about the heat. The timing and heat ended up working out perfectly as the custard was just warm to the touch, guessing about 110°F, when I was done dispensing with the syrup.

Making caramel or sugar syrup is so simple! I used to be afraid of this but having done it a couple times now, have no fear at all. And actually I'm now wondering whether I'd be able to spin sugar. When transferring the syrup to the cups, I used a teaspoon and tried using it to spread the cooling syrup in the bottom of the cups. As I moved from cup to saucepan, I found that fine wisps of sugar were trailing. Interesting. Oh, and it turns out while the custards bake the sugar becomes evenly dispersed across the bottom of the custard cups so there really is no point in worrying about spreading it anyway. It's sort of magical how it works.

As for the flans, I took them to work and they went over very well. Ali ate 3 or 4. I learned that I should've trusted my sugar melting judgment and took the sugar off the burner as soon as the sugar was completely melted rather than watching to see if it would turn the magical brown I was expecting. The sugar turned out a little bit bitter but was still edible.

  • evaporated milk: $1.88
  • sugar: $0.37
  • eggs: $1.82
  • vanilla extract: $0.11
Total: $4.18 or about $0.52 per flan.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sun Dried Tomato and Shrimp Pasta with Artichokes & Mushrooms

Or should I call this Sun Dried Tomato and Shrimp Pasta with Artichokes and Bad Mushrooms? I can't believe I used them. They were picked out before I ate the pasta, yet it caused me to consider how not-perfect mushrooms were used and thus there was not-perfect mushroom juice all over the pretty shrimp and noodles and artichokes. Oy!

Anyway, now that I have about 2 lbs of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, I haven't found a second recipe to use them in. And that's where the manufacturer's website came in handy. Use fresh ingredients.

Sun Dried Tomato and Shrimp Pasta with Artichokes & Mushrooms
adapted from Bella Sun Luci
click to print

12 oz spaghetti
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 large shallot, chopped
2 tsp garlic, minced
3/4 c Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil & Herbs, julienne
13 oz marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
1-2 tbsp butter
1/2 c dry white wine
1 lb. shrimp (medium)
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated

Bring water to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions and drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, coat large deep sauté pan with oil and heat on medium.

Add garlic and chopped shallots and sauté until tender (approx 5 minutes).

Stir in sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, and butter.

Add wine and allow it to reduce by about half over 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in shrimp and cook until shrimp is cooked, approximately 5 minutes.

Add pinch of crushed red pepper to taste, drained pasta, and pasta water; combine well.

Top with a portion of grated cheese; serve with remaining cheese.

Great flavor combinations in this dish - and so fast to prepare once the mise en place is done! I was really hating that I used older mushrooms and got all weird about it. I really like sun-dried tomatoes a lot and wonder why I haven't used them in everything, replacing fresh tomatoes.

What's the story with my gradually becoming anti-tomato?

TOTAL: $17.13 or about $4.28 for each of four servings.

Stella Parmesan Cheese

Not too long ago I played a round of golf and the dude worked for a company that sold Stella cheeses. I didn't know what he was talking about.

Now I know.

It's the same company that makes Frigo, which makes sense considering the wedge. The nutrition facts and ingredients are identical.

Stella Parmesan Cheese available in the dairy section of Stater Bros. in a 5-oz wedge for $3.49.

Maria Marinated Artichoke Hearts

I thought these marinated artichoke heart quarters would be elusive, something I'd wind up using regular artichokes in place of because I wouldn't want to drive to three different stores.

Ingredients because it's tiny on the jar: artichoke quarters, water, vinegar, vegetable oil (sunflower or soybean), salt, spices, citric and ascorbic acid to preserve the color.

Nope, these little, expensive jars were right there among the cans of hearts.

They better be worth the money. They aren't even in olive oil, which might have justified some of the expense.

Maria artichokes available in the canned vegetable aisle of Stater Bros. for $2.59 a 6.5-oz jar.

Funny, when I tried to go to like it says on the label, I wind up at Go Daddy.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 012513

Monday: Deemer's for two: $19.76
Tuesday: El Cortez for two: $29.25
Wednesday: Smashburger on a coworker
Thursday: Jack in the Box on a coworker
Friday: TK Burgers on a coworker

Total: $ 49.01
Total for the year: $158.58

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oatmeal Apple Crisp

So it seems the method I'd been using to core and slice apples my whole life could be done much more quickly. And that completely blew me away since this apple thing is so simple and logical, yet I never saw it. The time savings and improved uniformity of the end product! Just goes to show that what one has always known isn't always the best.

Knowing this, I just had to try it. Some 2-month-old but yet (amazingly) non-wrinkly Granny Smith's in the fridge and a recipe for Apple Crisp on a bag of Coach's Oats offered me the prompt opportunity. It's all about the simple things, eh?

Oatmeal Apple Crisp
adapted from the back of a bag of Coach's Oats
click to print

5 c sliced, peeled apples
1/3 c butter, softened
2/3 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c Coach's Oats

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Spread apples evenly in 8" square baking dish.

Mix butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and Oats until crumbly.

Sprinkle evenly over apples.

Bake 30-40 minutes until the topping is golden brown.

Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream if you have it.

It's like any other apple crisp except the Coach's Oats offers a little bit of a nutty flavor without having any nuts in it. I bet Coach's Oats would be a fabulous stand-in for the regular rolled oats in that Apple Crisp Pie.

Coring the apples this way, wow, definitely going to use this method forever.

  • apples: $2, SWAG
  • butter, softened: $0.36 
  • brown sugar: $0.21
  • all purpose flour: $0.08
  • Coach's Oats: $0.19
Total: $2.84 or about $0.47 for each of six servings.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Grocery List, 012013

Well, the folks have left for MI and I've been eating junk all week long. After dicking around all weekend, I didn't have any idea what to make and no list from which to shop.

Eureka, I shall prepare a dish comprising some sun-dried tomatoes!

Stater Bros.:
  • 51-60 shrimp: $9.99/2 lb
  • Stella parmesan: $3.49
  • Maria artichokes: $2.59
  • Maria artichokes: $2.59
  • La Brea French baguette: $1.99
  • brown onion (charged incorrectly for a shallot): $0.13/0.13 lb
  • sliced mushrooms: $1.99/8 oz
Total: $22.77

Arriving home, I realized I forgot wine.

Worked late, HR bought dinner. Gonna buy wine tomorrow.
Bought the wine but am burned out. Cooking tomorrow. Hope the mushrooms are still good then.

Stater Bros.:
  • Barefoot Sauvignon blanc: $6.99/750 mL
Total: $7.55 (what? I was charged normal price when it was on sale!)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 011813

Monday: Rockin' B's Burrito Bandito for two: $16.42
Tuesday: Bravo Burger on a coworker
Wednesday: Jack in the Box on a coworker
Thursday: Jack in the Box on a coworker
Friday: Carl's Jr on a coworker

Total: $16.42
Total for the year: $109.57

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 011113

Monday: Carl's Jr: $4.85
Tuesday: Deemer's for three: $29.97
Wednesday: Bravo Burger on a coworker
Thursday: BJ's for the crew: $51.58
Friday: NY Upper Crust Pizza combo 1: $6.75

Total: $93.15

Well, what a way to start the year of lunches.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Corn Tortillas and Slow-Roasted Pork Tacos

Those fresh corn tortillas were loaded with chopped, reheated Slow-Roasted Pork and topped with black beans, rough-chopped fresh cilantro, chopped onions, and a few splashes of Chipotle Tabasco resulting in lip-smacking, tail-wagging tacos.

Making the corn tortillas was incredibly easy.

Corn Tortillas
adapted from the back of the Maseca bag
click to print

2 c masa harina, loosely measured
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 c water

Mix ingredients about 2 minutes or until a soft dough (masa) forms.

Divide dough into 16 equal balls.

I made a big ball, then divided that into four balls, and then divided each of those into four balls (which I neglected to image).

Place each ball between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out into a 5 or 6-inch round of even thickness. Peel from parchment.

Heat dry skillet over medium-high heat.

Cook each tortilla about 50 seconds per side.

It'll take about 7 minutes total before your first tortilla is hot off the skillet.

The top and bottom of the first tortilla, evenly cooked.

I can't believe I just now tried this.

  • Maseca: $0.32

Total: $0.32 or about $0.02 a tortilla.