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I accomplished my second stab at cooking tonight! I decided to make Apple Chicken from my new cookbook and I invited my friend Jan over to give me feedback as to whether it was any good.


3 apples (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Macintosh or combination)
1/2 Lemon
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp sugar
2 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts (1.5-2.0 lbs total)
1 small onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt

I had gone to Trader Joes a few days ago to obtain ingredients and they did not have any of the apple varieties suggested so I bought Fuji apples. They also didn't have single lemons. I was able to get a lemon elsewhere and when I was over at Jan's the day before, he had given me some Granny Smith apples that he had left over, hence the inspiration to have him taste the final product. We agreed that if it wasn't any good, that we would throw it out and order pizza. Fortunately, we didn't need to resort to that.

1. Core the apples, peel them, and cut them into 1/4 inch thick slices. Rub them with lemon to prevent discoloration.

This was actually the hardest part of the recipe, as I lacked the correct tools and skills. I do know how to core an apple, but peeling it was a challenge! I started by trying to use a paring knife and realized that my skill with it was so poor that it was only a matter of time before I cut myself. So I looked for my potato peeler, but couldn't find it. Then I noticed that my cheese grater had a long knife slot opening and I was able to use that. It took me about half and hour to core and peel these three apples, but the lemon really did work to keep the slices from turning brown! I realized that I could probably have used lemon juice instead of a lemon, but it did smell nice and fresh. I put them in a bowl for the next step.

2. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a skillet and saute the apples over medium-low heat, 5-7 min. Sprinkle them with sugar, and cook over high heat until lightly browned. Set apples aside.

I found this pretty easy to do, and the apples began to smell good as they cooked, which was encouraging.

3. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Cut each chicken breast in half. Flatten each breast with a meat pounder until thin.

No problem, although I actually forgot to tenderize and flatten the chicken breast, but it worked out ok.

4. Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp butter in a large skillet. Raise the heat, add the chicken, and cook until lightly colored, 2 min on each side. Remove chicken and set aside.

Ok, done. It's not fully cooked yet, but I suspect that there is a plan here...

5. Add the onion to the skillet, cover, and cook until tender and slightly carmelized, 8-10 min. Uncover, raise heat to high, and add vinegar. Cook the mixture down to a syrup, 1 min. Then whisk in cream, stock, and salt.

Ok, I'm very glad that they reminded me to cover the onions, because I would not have known to do that. Oops, I added the vinegar and the stock together. I'm pouring it out and just adding the vinegar to the onions. Ok, now to add the cream, stock, and salt. Hmmm, the onions sucked up most of the liquid so there isn't enough to whisk. Let's see what happens next.

6. Return chicken to the skillet and simmer gently in the sauce, basting often, until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked, 3-5 min. Do not overcook.

Done. Actually, this took a bit longer because I had forgotten to flatten the chicken. But cooking chicken in a skillet is one of the things that I know I can do, so I was able to roll with this one. There wasn't a whole lot of sauce for basting, but there was some.

7. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and place on a serving platter. Add the apple slices to the skillet, cook over high heat until the sauce has reduced and the apples are thoroughly heated, 1 min.


8. Spoon the apples around the chicken, pour the sauce over, and serve immediately. Makes 4 portions.

Done and done. Actually, I think I used too much onion, which must be why there wasn't a lot of sauce, so I left a lot of the onion in the skillet. Jan and I enjoyed the apple chicken dish. I made some polenta (from a Trader Joes mix) to go with it and that also worked well. Jan noted that the chicken was perfectly cooked (whew!) and that the onions and apples went surprisingly well together. I liked it, but didn't love it. Then as I was describing what I had done to make the sauce, Jan asked if he could try something. He went to the kitchen and added more cream and stock to the onions and suddenly the sauce, which had indeed been sucked into the onion came out! We added it back to the chicken and this greatly enhanced the flavor of the dish! I knew that onions could suck up a lot of liquid, but I had no idea that one could make them give it back. Very cool. The mix of the tart apple, the sweetness of the apple saute, the vinegary onions, and the creamy stock sauce created several layers of flavor which really complimented the chicken. I'm very glad that Jan gave me the Granny Smiths, because I don't think the Fujis would have worked nearly as well.

I made another new dish and actually served it to someone. I accepted some helpful feedback on what I had done and learned something. And I cooked something yummy! I'm so proud of myself! Yay!!!
logisticslad: (Default)
One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to become more comfortable with cooking and to create occasions for me to cook for others. I had recently gotten a new set of KitchenAid cookware and a new set of dishes when I thought that I might be hosting Thanksgiving for my family. Since I didn’t actually do so, I realized that I haven’t even used them, yet. So to support me in this, [profile] puzzld1 gave me one of her favorite cookbooks, The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. This one has lots of recipes with explanations of how to execute various techniques and judge when things are done – just what I need! So I stopped at Trader Joes and bought the ingredients for my first attempt at cooking for the New Year. I decided to make Macaroni and Cheese, and here’s how it went.

1 pound penne
4 cups milk
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 Tbsp unbleached flour
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the penne and cook at a roiling boil until just tender. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again and set aside in a large bowl.

Ok – water is set to boil in my new pot. I decided to use filtered water since Philly water is choc full of minerals that can affect the taste of things. Ooh, my pot has insulated handles that should allow me to move it without hotpads! We’ll see…

2. Preheat the oven to 350 oF

Done. Even I can turn on an oven ☺

3. Bring the milk just to a boil in a heavy saucepan and set aside.

Okay, I’ve added the milk to my new large saucepan and turned on the flame (I’m using a gas stove, which is what I’m used to, BTW). Check the conversion table: 4 cups = 1 quart, which is what I bought. Good. I used nonfat Lactaid milk – will that matter? I guess we’ll see.

4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another heavy saucepan. Add the flour, and whisk over low heat for 5 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from heat.

Ok, that’s 3 things on the stove at the same time – I’m getting a bit nervous. Oops, the butter is frozen. Well, it will melt… Yes! It did. Now to add the flour and whisk. Yes, I actually do own a whisk, thank you. Ok… my wrists are hurting. Who the hell can whisk for 5 minutes? This is supposed to make it fluffy, right? Ow, it’s been 2 minutes and I’m tired. It looks mixed – I’m declaring it good enough. Oh look, the penne looks done – I’ll fish one out to taste it. Ok, that was harder than I thought – note to self, hot penne does not always stay on the fork. Done! Try the insulated handles – hey they work! Drain and rinse. Place in large bowl. Wait – check the milk. Ok, it’s just started boiling. Whew!

5. Add the hot milk to the flour mixture, and whisk well. Add paprika, salt, pepper and return pan to heat. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens. 5 minutes. Add to the penne, and toss well to coat completely.

Hold on – I used the large saucepan to the milk and the small one for the butter, so I’m going to add the butter to the milk instead. Whisk again! Crap! Ok, here goes… Whew, that’s a lot of whisking. Aren’t there machines to do this? Now to add it to the penne. Yum, that actually looks pretty good.

6. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 inch flameproof baking dish, and fill it evenly with penne and sauce.

It’s a good thing that they reminded me to use a flameproof dish, no really. But the one I have is square, not rectangular. Well, it looks like it’s about 12 or 13 inches long and wide, so that should be big enough. Cool, it all just fits!

7. Distribute the grated cheese over the top and add pepper and paprika.

Ok, now to grate the cheese. Crap, I only bought a wedge of it. It says it weighs 0.44 pounds – how much is that in ounces? Check the handy conversion tables – convert pounds to grams, then grams to ounces. Ok, I have about 7 ounces of cheese. Will that be enough? The recipe calls for 12 ounces. Wait, I’ve got some mozzarella in the fridge… oh good, it says that one can use that, too, and even mix it with the gruyere. Well, let’s see if I’ll need it…

Ok, found my cheese grater and it’s a bit rusted. Stop laughing! I’m scouring the rust off of one side. There, now to grate the cheese. Can one eat the rind of gruyere? Yes, I think so. Wow, grating is almost as tiring as whisking. Really, stop laughing!! There we go. There’s absolutely no more room to add extra cheese in this baking dish, so I’ll hold off on the mozzarella and hope for the best.

8. Place the dish on a baking sheet, and bake until hot, 20 to 25 minutes.

Why do I need a baking sheet? Is that in case it boils over? Well, it's right up to the top of the dish, so I’d better do it. It doesn’t say to cover it, so I won’t. In it goes. Now to feed the cats, who have been wondering why I’ve been spending all this time in the kitchen without giving them their food. Done. Now I had better clean up all the used posts and utensils. I know myself well enough to know that if I don’t do it now, then they’ll be sitting there all week. Done.

9. Place the dish under the broiler, 4 inches from the heat, until the top is slightly golden and bubbling, 3 to 4 minutes.

Broiler? Do I have a broiler? Ok, it must be this shelf at the bottom of the stove. Hmm, it’s not hot down here. Wait, there’s a broiler button on the controls. I can set it for Low or High. I’ll try Low.

10. Serve immediately. Makes 8 portions.

Wonder of wonders, it actually worked!!! It even looks like mac and cheese. And it tastes pretty good, too. I think next time, I will buy some fresh spices, since the ones that I had were pretty old. I may also try a different cheese or a blend. The gruyere works pretty well, but it doesn’t have that familiar comfort food flavor that I expect from mac and cheese. Although, I’ve got a lot of leftovers, so I may come to like it after I get more used to it. But I did it! I actually made something for dinner that I had never made before! I’m ridiculously proud of myself! Go me!


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June 2017

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