Tuesday, January 31, 2012

For Alcohol Week, Getting Poultry Plastered AKA Drunken Chicken.


Drunken chicken has a great chew and intriguing flavor.

It’s week 5 of 52 Weeks of cooking, and the theme is alcohol! Awesome! Hard to believe it is 5 weeks already, that means that the year is almost a tenth of the way over. This challenge makes the year feel like it’s going pretty fast…

Now, I am no stranger to alcohol, and no stranger to cooking with alcohol either; beer marinades, wine reductions, beer batters, are all excellent ways to make use of alcohol to enhance the taste of food.

But one obvious recipe that I never got around to making was Drunken Chicken. At the heart of it, it is simply chicken prepared gently by steaming or poaching, and then allowed to marinate after cooking in a mixture of stock and rice wine.

This strikes me as a pretty good warm weather food given that it is served chilled, and the sweetness and chewiness of the dish is very nice as well. I’ve added some my own adjustments to correct the original recipe a bit.

As always, full recipe at the end.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Take Time to Fritter Away the Day.

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Week 4 of 52 weeks of cooking, and the theme is pan frying. In case you’re wondering what happened in week three, it’s best not to dwell on it. Actually, maybe you can if you like. I’m going to take two birds our with one stone here by also using one of the formula’s from Michael Ruhlman's Ratio, fritter batter. Another down, maybe 27 more to go.

Fritter batter’s ratio is a pretty simple one, and very versatile to use. Two parts flour, two parts liquid, one part egg. A little bit of baking powder to help with leavening, a bit of salt to bring out the flavor. This is the foundation through which a huge array of garnishes can be pulled together with different flavor combinations for an easy snack.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Post-Apocalyptic Dining: Creative Use of Rations for Improving Morale and Vitality, Celebration Combination Designation #23.

Foreword: Now, some of you might be wondering to yourself what on earth this post is about. Since when did Cast Iron Therapy become a post apocalyptic survival themed blog? For those of you who are thinking to yourself, thank goodness, it’s about time he cracked and started writing something really interesting, I’ve got bad news for you, this is probably just a one shot deal (unless response is strangely huge and outspoken in favor of spots like this).

The good news is that this post is dedicated to Filamena Young and David Hill’s latest project, desktop roleplaying game Flatpack: Fix the Future with a unique “Optimistic Apocalyptic” theme. The beta looks great and I can’t wait to see the final product.

David and Filamena are currently raising funds on Kickstarter right now, and I’m recommending you go check it out. I’ve contributed, not only because it looks like a worthy and awesome game, but also because you get some AWESOME SWAG too. I know they’ve raised what they needed, but if we can get to the next milestone we’ll get even more stuff!

Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, prepare yourself (perhaps with alcohol) for my first foray into an “in character” post. With luck it won’t make you want to bash your head in. Now, please forget all this and enjoy the post.

Special credit to Jeremy Kostiew of Mighty Nightgaunt for his splendid illustration.


On Xenta Gotida’s night table a small bound sheaf of papers greeted her eyes in the dim light. Flicking on her headlamp, she sighed as she picked it up and read the note tacked beside it. Her father, already off on his journey. Smirking ruefully at his expected disappearance before her journey, she glanced quickly at the cover, titled “A Senior Pot Slinger’s Notes to a Wayward Daughter.”


With a carefulness that betrayed her fondness for her father, she opened the makeshift booklet and began to read the first few pages…

Monday, January 16, 2012

MasterChef Tryouts Submission and Cast Iron Therapy Original Recipe: The Winston.


Yesterday I promised that my next post would be something to knock your socks off. Well here it is, my latest original recipe, the Winston. I’m not going to say this is a quick thing to do, and there’s a few different recipes involved in the making of this.

I’ll just lay out what the Winston is before I get too far into storytelling mode.

It’s an open faced sandwich with a buttered and grilled French roll, slathered with an aioli, which is topped with slices of grilled country style rib glazed with root beer barbecue sauce, slather with even more root beer barbecue sauce, and top all that with a generous pile of light and tangy honey mustard barbecue sauce.

What brought about the Winston? It was actually the dish I came up with to serve to the professional taster for the MasterChef casting call a few months back. While I haven’t been selected to be on the show (at least I don’t think so!) I can state this one awesome fact.

The taster went for seconds. Not trying to brag too much, but he didn’t do that for anyone else on my row! Ok, maybe I’m bragging just a little bit. But there you have it, not just from my opinion, or even my friends’ opinions, but also the actions of a professional taster.

Why the Winston? I wanted to showcase the ribs which has been a friend favorite, but in a way that mitigates the lack of impact of it coming straight off the grill, and I didn’t really trust the tasters to completely remove the last of good temperature from their calculations of how good a dish is. An open faced sandwich sounded like a good idea to me, and was met with hearty approval from my chums on Google+. I’d say the results show that their faith was not ill placed!

For those of you who are curious about the MasterChef tryout process, here’s a handy picture to get you started. This laminated piece of paper highlights what all the preparation, hard work and waiting comes down to in the end.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Light and Tangy Honey Mustard Coleslaw

I’m going to be honest here; growing up, I actually somewhat liked Kentucky Fried Chicken’s coleslaw. My mother seemed to have a bit of a fondness to it, and I could handle small bites of it from time to time when I wasn’t focused on the mashed potatoes and gravy, further proof of my lack of good taste in youth.

It wasn’t until later (much, much later) that I realized that coleslaw could be elevated to something far beyond a very sweet mayonnaise laden mass of limp vegetables.

After a bit of research and tinkering, this is my version of a slightly sweet and tangy coleslaw. Clear measurements at the end of the post.

First thing you need for coleslaw are the vegetables. Cabbage, onion, celery and a carrot are required. Green bell pepper (not pictured) is not, but a welcome addition. Unless you have a friend who is highly allergic to it. Which I do.

I’m just making a modest batch of coleslaw this time, so I only needed about a third of that cabbage and half the onion pictured.

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Beyond the vegetables, you need flavor of course. Paprika, apple cider vinegar, honey mustard, olive oil and ground white pepper are what I use to bind everything together, along with an optional certain something. More on that later.

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Yes, my family keeps white pepper in the black pepper container. We’re very frugal around here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Inn at the Crossroads Tribute Post - Lemon Curd


Late last year an acquaintance of mine recommended that I check out the cooking blog Inn at the Crossroads, given its admirable combination of the nerdy, fantastical and culinary; to be specific, Inn at the Crossroads is a blog dedicated to the dishes featured in George R.R. Martin’s epic series A Song of Ice and Fire, and when possible, comparing modern and medieval versions of those dishes. Having such a cohesive theme to such an awesome subject appeals to me greatly, and it’s something I aspire to be able to do with greater frequency in upcoming months.

That said, this blog definitely deserves a hearty plug from my own humble blog, and what better way to do that than to shamelessly use one of their recipes as inspiration for one of my postings? I’m sure you can list several, but don’t answer, that was a rhetorical question.

As for the recipe of the day, I opted to use their lemon curd recipe. Rich, buttery, slightly tart and wonderfully sweet, this amazing spread is fantastic on biscuits, scones, vanilla ice cream, sugar cookies or as a filling for any number of baked goods, including lemon meringue pies. Come to think of it, that might be a good way to use the extra egg whites that are are a byproduct of this recipe. In the near term, I think I shall use some of it on pancakes this coming weekend. Or maybe waffles.

The ingredients are simple, the technique straightforward.

For the recipe in quicker form I’ll direct you back towards Inn at the Crossroads.

Sugar, butter, lemon and the yolks of five eggs are what is required.

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First thing is to deal with the butter, a stick of it. Preferably well refrigerated as this will make it easier to cut up.

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The aim is to make several pats of butter, which is then chilled while assembling everything else.

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Then fill up a saucepan partway with water and bring to a simmer. The saucepan needs to be able to support a mixing bowl on top of it without the mixing bowl contacting the water, so keep that in mind.

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Next, zest four lemons. Having a zester really makes this job easier. A grater can work as well, and in a pinch, a paring knife will do too, but will require a good technique to avoid taking too much of the pith with it.

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With the lovely pile of lemon zest before  your eyes, it’s almost a shame to…

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Slice it into tiny little pieces. Almost. The rewards are worth it though, so don’t feel too bad.

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Now let’s get cracking.. on some eggs. I like to have two bowls so I can crack the whites into one and separate the yolks into another. Easier for quality control that way.

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Yolks done, we return to the neglected zested lemons.

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Juice the lemons by whatever means you have available. Normally I don’t use a juicer, but with four lemons rather than just one I feel rather justified in utilizing the handy tool.

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Even the leftovers are pretty in this recipe.

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A third of a cup of liquid is needed. In my case, I didn’t need to add any cold water to the lemon juice, but if you do need it, go for it.

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Now to get to the meat of the assembly now that preps over. Into a  mixing bowl (not a plastic one)  add the egg yolks.

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Then add a cup of sugar and whisk until smooth, about a minute.

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A nice bright yellow is what we’re going for.

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Then add the juice and lemon zest and whisk thoroughly.

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Then place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan of simmering water and whisk until it gets thick enough about 8 minutes.

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The mixture is properly thickened when  you can coat the back of a spoon with it and draw a line through it. Remove the mixing bowl from the saucepan, and don’t forget to turn off your stove.

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And now the pats of butter.

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Whisk them into the mixture, one by one, making use of the residual heat to melt them.

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It helps if you aren’t taking pictures, or have someone to take them for you.

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When you’re done incorporating the butter, take a breath of relief.

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Put your zest into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap and chill.

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While you impatiently wait for it to chill, now’s a good time to clean the mixing bowl with your fingers. Imagine the rest.

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When you’re good and ready, think of whatever sinful ideals you have to use the lemon curd. I think a sugar cookie and a dab of vanilla ice cream would be quite lovely.

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Lovely indeed. The smooth creaminess of the pleasantly tart curd marries sinfully with the vanilla ice cream, and makes the plain sugar cookie anything but.

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Thanks for reading and remember again to check out Inn at the Crossroads if you really want to get your fill of fantasy inspired cooking.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Guest Post #2, Angela’s Gram’s Gumbo

2012 is going very well so far. In addition to some very good personal developments in my life, the blog is getting off to a rapid start. This momentum continues to build thanks to my dear friend, Angela McComb, who I’ve mentioned in an earlier post under her moniker Maully Millions (check out her blog, Creativity in Captivity!)

Today, she contributes even further by gracing the blog in guest post format with her wit, salty language, and a treasured family recipe for gumbo, something I am convinced I must do on my own at some point in the near future.

Without further ado, I’ll let her words and pictures speak on her behalf!*

*The following words, photos and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of Cast Iron Therapy. But they probably do.

My paternal grandmother was the best cook in the world.  She made the most amazing food, and taught me how to measure ingredients in the palm of my hand.  Gram originally hailed from an unpronounceable and unspellable city in northern Louisiana, and the area definitely influenced her cooking.  She liked things spicy.  And hot.  Or preferably spicy and hot.  When my parents were still together, she taught my mom how to make this fabulous gumbo recipe.  We’re pretty sure she pulled it out of a magazine sometime in the 1970’s, hence the demands for margarine (actually, “Oleo”), not butter.  She passed away when I was 10, and my mom and I started cooking her gumbo for family holidays when I was a teenager, as a way of honoring her.  And because her gumbo is freaking delicious.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Stomach Roaring? Roar back with Lion’s Head Meatballs!


No, it’s not some bizarre exotic and illegal headcheese, it’s actually just a pork and vegetable dish with a pretty great name. I guess this is an unofficial bonus dish to 52 weeks of cooking to follow up my last post on Ma-Po Tofu.

While looking for alternatives to Ma-Po tofu (which is delicious) my cousin offered up Lion’s Head as an option. The name itself is enough to give one pause. Just why is it called that?

Probably because the size of these quarter pound pork meatballs is evocative of a Lion’s head, particularly when surrounded by Bok Choy which might seem like a mane. Actually that’s exactly why according to the recipe I used.

Ingredients are chicken broth, black pepper, soy sauce, salt, cooking wine, sesame oil, an egg, starch (corn or potato works), ground pork, ginger and scallions.


Week 2 of 52 Weeks of Cooking: Chinese Week, Mapo Tofu.


Note: The end result was actually much saucier and a bit redder, but my cousin’s camera died.

We’re going at a steady clip here! Week 2 of 52 weeks of cooking. At this rate the year will be over before it starts. This week’s theme is Chinese.

Ma-po Tofu, or possibly Mai-po Tofu according to one of my friends, has been one of the most heavily pushed recipes upon me to try by friends and family alike. This was a multiple front war where I was attacked from many sides before relenting and saying, fine, I’ll make the tofu dish!

It’s not as though I dislike dishes with tofu in them. It’s actually a pretty regular part of my diet. But for some reason I wanted to try something different for Chinese week. The immediacy with which so many people suggested it made me think many others would be trying the recipe. I see that bassposaune has beaten me to the punch.

I try to strive for the obscure and original when possible, but given how great this dish is, I think it is worth repeating..

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Week One of 52 Weeks of Cooking! Theme? Eggs! Dish? Pannukakku!

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Happy new years again everyone!

 We're well into the middle of the first week of a Reddit challenge, 52 Weeks of Cooking, so I thought I'd buckle down and bang out this post. This week's theme is eggs, a fantastic ingredient in its uses, taste and texture. I just love eggs, and the first thing I ever cooked was the scrambled egg at the age of 14. Or maybe it was 13.

The versatility of the egg lends itself to many different preparations. If I were to list the things that it is essential for but not a major player in, it would take an enormous amount of time, so I won't even try. To list the dishes that focus primarily on eggs alone takes a bit of time, with the immediate things being boiled eggs of varying degrees, fried eggs of many styles, omelets of many fashions, poached eggs and preserved eggs for starters.

It was probably a bit of serendipity that led me to this recipe in time for this week's challenge. One morning when I found myself with a bit of free time to devote to breakfast, my dear friend Virginia suggested that I make pannukakku, also known as a Finnish pancake, or perhaps a Finnish Oven Pancake. Immediately intrigued, I set upon making use of her great grandmother's recipe.

Observe the mise en place: salt, water/milk or some combination of the two (milk preferred, I ran out) butter, flour and of course eggs. Virginia admits to making a slight error in relaying the recipe to me, advising me later that two tablespoons of sugar were optional but recommended. According to her sister, the sugar is mandatory, and I can see how it would lead to a different end product. That said, I still greatly enjoyed the end result!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year for Cast Iron Therapy

2011 was a memorable year for me on a personal level. So many of my friends reached major milestones in their lives, getting engaged or married, finding new jobs, and so many other good things. There have been many trials and tribulations as well, for them and for me. It was a very memorable year, and I am hoping that 2012 will be even better.

So for now, I am going to make some public Cast Iron Therapy specific New Years Resolutions:

  1. Learn more healthy recipes.
  2. Do more to pick up Vietnamese cooking at home.
  3. Blog at least 8 times a month (But ideally 12+)
  4. Read all of my food related books cover to cover.
  5. Stick it out through all of the 52 weeks of cooking challenge on reddit.
There are some other things I want to do, but I think they fall more under goals than actual resolutions given the relative straightforwardness of the tasks.
  1. Brew up a batch of beer.
  2. Learn how to butcher a pig.
  3. Try out every formula in Michael Ruhlman's Ratio.

Sorry about not making this a recipe post, I am in the process of applying for a rather exciting sounding position, and this is all the time I can spare for a few days.

Look for exciting things coming toward the end of the week though!