Quote from Intro:

"Anyone can cook, and most everyone should. It's a sorry sign that many people consider cooking 'from scratch' an unusual and even rare talent.
In fact, it is a simple and rewarding craft, one that anyone can learn and even succeed at from the get-go."
-Bittman, HTCE

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Updated: What if I don't own a Bittman cook book....

but I want to try some of his recipes?

If that is a question you ask yourself as you read this blog please click the books found at the top right and you will see a whole list of sample recipes from each book. Some of them (like the Fried Chicken Made Easy) will even have some of the variations that the authors of this blog rave about.

**New: I've made a new label called "full recipes" where (when we can) we will link the recipe we review to the full recipe already posted online by Bittman. To see a full list of these posts just click on "Full Recipes" in the labels list over to the right.****

******New update:  I just found a preview of HTCEV on google books.  It doesn't have all the pages in the book (not even close), but it has helped me post some more "full recipes" for our friends out there who haven't yet bought this book. ******

Enjoy cooking!

Everyday Pancakes Revisited (Alton Brown's Variation)

So, as I mentioned before in my first review of this recipe my family didn't like this recipe at all, but we love Alton Brown's version.  Well this morning while I was making AB's tender, delicious pancakes I was struck by how similar the recipes were.  Here are the changes you can make to Mark's recipe to end up with Alton Brown's recipe:
  • Increase baking powder to 1 tsp.
  • Add 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • Increase sugar to 3 tbl.
  • Use 2 cups of yogurt or buttermilk instead of milk (I love to use yogurt here)
  • Increase melted butter to 4 tbl.
This is the second recipe where I have just noted the changes in my HTCE book so that I don't have to have two cookbooks out. The instructions are really similar with one important change (which you will want to note).  Mix the batter exactly as Bittman instructs, but then let the batter sit for 5 minutes. You'll see why this is important after 5 minutes.  This rest time allows the leavening to make a ton of little bubbles in your batter.  With yogurt this batter is thicker than normal pancake batter but I just spread it out with the back of whatever I'm pouring the batter with and it works out. One of the great things about the recipe is that it can easily be halved if you are just cooking for two people (or one adult and one toddler).

It's important to note that in the pancake variation table (HTCE p.813, HTCEV p.202) that buttermilk is the first one that Mark mentions.  That variation would be similar but not exactly like the one posted above.  If the batter is too thick for your personal preference you of course could add milk to the batter as Bittman suggests here.

I would have taken picture of these pancakes, but frankly they are all gone!!

HTCE p.811-812
HTCEV p.200
Full Recipe

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Corn Bread

I have long searched for the perfect corn bread recipe.  I have a very specific idea in my head of what cornbread should taste like.  To me it should be fluffy and moist and even though I would never dream of eating it without butter, it really shouldn't need it.

In this recipe Mark specifically says that you should use medium-grind cornmeal.  The cornmeal that I had in my pantry did not say what kind of grind it is, so I'm not sure if it was correct or not.  I do know it was white cornmeal that I used and that some recipes specify yellow, but Mark did not so I thought white would be fine.  The taste of this cornbread was okay, but this recipe isn't the "one" I have been searching for.  This one was a little more dense then I like and it was way too dry to become my go-to cornbread recipe.  It was good, don't get me wrong, just not the "one".  Philip complained that it did not have much flavor, but I attribute that to the type of cornmeal that I used, not necessarily the recipe.

The next time I make this recipe it will definitely be with "medium-grind" yellow cornmeal (and probably a cup of corn kernels for the "corny corn bread" variation).  On second thought maybe the "lighter, richer" variation is the version that will really give me the soft moist crumb that I have been searching for.  I'm sure I can still add corn and I'll just have "lighter, richer corny corn bread".

Even though this recipe is not the "one", I do have some additional comments on the method suggested here.  Mark asks you to use any 8-inch ovenproof skillet. I'm sure "any" skillet would be okay, but I used my 12" round cast iron skillet to make this recipe because frankly if you own a cast iron skillet, why would you make cornbread in any other vessel?  If you don't own a cast iron skillet, put it on your wish list now before you finish reading the rest of this post!  Since I am using a 12" and not an 8" my cooking time is a little bit faster and the bread was thinner then I like, but in the future I should just make a double batch if I want it to be thick (a 12" skillet has a little more than twice the volume of an 8" skillet).

In Step #2 Mark has you heat up your skillet on the stove top to melt your butter or warm your oil.  Are you kidding?  Your oven is already at 375° so please, don't follow his advice, and instead pre-heat your skillet in the oven.  If you are using just butter in this step you will have to watch the butter or else you can burn it.

Lastly, this recipe calls for buttermilk and if you are like me you don't keep buttermilk in your fridge.  Instead I use powdered buttermilk and according to Cook's Illustrated it works just fine in place of the real thing and lasts a whole lot longer.  Just add the powder in with the dry ingredients and add water instead of milk during the wet ingredients step.

HTCE p.831
HTCEV p.687

Since writing the post above I found this version posted by Mark.  It is the same one that is in HTCE except that is has another egg and way more sugar (1/4-1/2 cup instead of 1 T.).  If you don't have HTCE, our version is called the "Old-Fashioned Cornbread" variation at the bottom of the recipe. In this recipe he also just uses plain milk instead of buttermilk which I have never seen before in a cornbread recipe.  The instructions have also changed a bit in that they follow my advice and is preheating the cast-iron skillet in the oven.  Now I don't know which variation to try next!

************Update (12/2011): I have found THE ONE. **********

Monday, March 1, 2010

Crunchy Granola

I just finished reading Mark's book Food Matters and in it, he talks about the importance of eating enough grains. From there I decided to make my own granola to have as a breakfast staple and an easy snack throughout the day.

THIS IS SO GOOD! I'm eating it right now as I type! I usually think granola is too sweet and I am not the biggest fan of raisins so making my own, I got to decide how sweet to make it (using honey instead of sugar) and avoided raisins!

Here's what I put in mine (many variations are listed in the book, but I just bought what looked good): oats, shaved coconut, almonds, walnuts, cinnamon, honey, salt, craisins, and dried cherries.

I wish this picture came with smell:

HTCEV p. 573
HTCE p.821-22

Lentil Soup with Roasted Garlic (Variation of Lentil Soup)

This is the recipe I've been craving! I love the lentil soup at Athena's Restaurant in Lafayette and this really comes close. Easy and delicious. I used red lentils and followed the Roasted Garlic variation. Used 2 heads of garlic and also added 1/2 t. cumin.

HTCE p. 138-139
HTCEV p. 115-116 (Classic Lentil Soup)