Category Archives: recipes

Food, my other love

For years I have used cooking as a means of therapy. After a long day in the lab dealing with all sorts of science shit I would stop by the market on the way home and head straight to the kitchen to make whatever I felt like making. Results were often mixed, but I have figured out I’m actually a decent cook and should follow my instincts rather than the recipe more often than not.

This was exactly the case with the dish I made for my parents yesterday. It sounded simple and delicious, and that should have tipped me off to the inherent faults of the recipe but it did not. Overall, it was a tasty dish, but the only reason it was a success was due to the way my Midwestern parents were raised. This makes sense if you grew up in the Midwest in the last 60 years, but if you haven’t then you may not know: pork must be cooked somewhere between well-done and hockey puck. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing wrong with hockey pucks; played hockey my entire childhood and love the sport. I do not love my meat to have the same consistency.

There were two striking problems with the recipe: overcooked meat, and a thin, underseasoned sauce.

Simple remedies I will make next time will be to cook the pork chops no more than 8 min. total if brought to room temp before frying. Less depending on the thickness, but use your own judgement. The second problem is slightly more difficult since it means using a little more experience-based judgement, but it should still work fine. Eyeball the fat left in the pan from frying the pork, add an equivalent volume of flour to make a quick pan roux, cook until slightly brown, then add the apple cider/cream/thyme/salt/pepper, bring to the correct consistency and seasoning and then serve.

Cooking is identical to science in that recipes (protocols) are great as a means of general information flow, but it really comes down to experience and empirical evidence to mold the recipe to a useful series of steps.

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Dijon braised chicken thighs

Dijon Braised Chicken Thighs

This is easy, I swear. The only problem is that I don’t really use recipes, so writing one poses some problems. I’m also still trying to polish this dish so there’s still some issues I’m working out (like seasoning). However, it’s still a simple, delicious, and cheap dish that can absorb some blows and is easily adjustable to suit your taste. So keep it my way or change it, I don’t care, just enjoy it!

Reagents:
1T dijon
3-4c chicken stock (HOMEMADE, I take no responsibility if this dish sucks because you used canned or boxed stuff)
0.5 onion (or equivalent of shallots) – small dice
1 large carrot – small dice
3 cloves garlic – minced
1tsp thyme
(maybe a little cream)
2 slices thick cut bacon – small-medium dice
4-6 bone-in chicken thighs brought to ~room temp. (I deskinned them, but that’s just me)
1c dry white wine

Equipment:
Large frying pan
2.5-3 qt. dutch oven

Protocol:
1. Put the frying pan over medium-low heat
2. Add the bacon and render as much fat as possible
3. When rendered, remove the cooked bacon and reserve
4. Add the diced onion and carrot to the rendered fat
5. Cook ~5min and preheat the oven to 400deg.

6. While the onion and carrot are cooking add the dijon to the stock pot
7. Whisk in a very small amount of chicken stock (note: don’t add more than two tablespoons of stock to mix in with the mustard or it won’t mix in smoothly, trust me)
8. Add the rest of the chicken stock, the thyme, the reserved bacon (and the cream if you chose to add it)
9. Bring to a simmer
10. Add the minced garlic to the onion and carrot mixture in the frying pan and cook until just fragrant
11. Put the cooked onion, carrot, garlic mixture into the chicken stock mixture

12. Quickly season the chicken with salt and pepper then sear them ~2 min. each side just to get some nice color on them (may have to do in two batches)
13. Add the chicken to the dutch oven
14. Deglaze the frying pan with the wine – make sure to scrape up ALL the fond – and add it to the dutch oven
15. (at this point the chicken should be mostly submerged in the stock mixture, but since I don’t measure anything and you don’t have the same equipment I do you can add more stock to the pot to get the right volume. don’t worry, it’ll still taste good in the end)
16. Add the top and throw in the preheated oven for 1 hour

Serve as is, with a side of mashed potatoes, pasta, or whatever you like. Personally, I removed the chicken into a covered bowl and strained the braising liquid. Then, I took the solids, put them into the food processor and processed them until smooth then added them back to the braising liquid. I then cooked that for a few minutes over medium heat and strained it yet again so I was left with a luxurious and slightly thickened sauce. I then served the whole dish over egg noodles. Classy.

I’m gonna use this dish to bag me a new woman.

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By request – a simple dinner

I needed a good kick in the ass to put this up.  Thanks, New Girl.

In my typical fashion, this shall be done in the style of a scientific protocol.

IMPORTANT: every oven is different, so use a test run first to determine if everything cooks at the rate you want and make the necessary adjustments to the temperature – try to keep the cooking time to what I specify.

Simple Roasted Chicken with Brussel Sprouts and Zucchini for Two

Equipment: oven-ready pan that would comfortably fit a ~3 lb. chicken, tongs, spatula, butcher’s twine, paring knife, cutting board, baking dish.

Reagents:
1 ~3lb. chicken at room temperature
1lb. brussel sprouts
3-4 small zucchini
0.5″ slices of enough stale bread to cover the bottom of the pan (the crustier the better)
olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves
0.5 onion
0.5 lemon
few fresh sprigs of thyme or rosemary (whichever you prefer)

Protocol:
1. preheat oven to 400deg.F (if you have gas you may have to use 375 or so)
2. cut the garlic, onion, lemon, and thyme/rosemary into pieces that could fit into the cavity of the chicken
3. remove anything from the inside of the chicken (the more the better – get your hands dirty)
4. wash the bird with cold water inside and out
5. pat the bird dry with paper towels
6. stuff the bird with the ingredients prepped in step 2
7. truss the bird
8. place the bread in the bottom of the pan and drizzle with a little olive oil
9. coat the bird with olive oil
10. salt and pepper both the bird and the bread in the pan
11. place the bird directly on the bread and put it into the oven
12. set the timer for 45 min.

13. prep the brussel sprouts by cutting off the bottom so at least 2 outer leaves come off (if more come off it’s fine)
14. toss them with a small amount of olive oil in the roasting pan
15. sprinkle with salt and pepper
16. cut zucchini into pieces roughly the size of the brussel sprouts and set them aside
17. coat them with a small amount of oil

18. when the chicken has roasted 45 min. rotate the pan in the oven
19. place the brussel sprouts in the oven with the chicken
20. set timer for 20 min.
21. when timer goes off take out the brussel sprouts and add the zucchini to the roasting pan
22. put the pan back in and set the timer for 20 min.

The chicken should look as it does in the last post, and the brussel sprouts and zucchini should look something like this:
brussel sprouts and zucchini

Puncture the thickest part of the thigh with a paring knife, if the juices run clear then it’s cooked through (don’t worry if juices from the cavity of the bird aren’t clear, they aren’t supposed to be). Let the bird rest for 5 min. before serving with the veggies and the delicious, chicken soaked croutons that lined the pan (in my opinion the best part of the dish).

Good luck!

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Recipe – Science style!

Now that I’m unemployed I find a lot of time to cook, so I think I may begin sharing my favorite recipes.  They will be given in the standard scientific protocol format: reagents (ingredients) and protocol (instructions).  Why?  Because that’s just the way I am.

This first dish is a Latin American style chicken and rice, meaning it will turn out like a very wet risotto.  A delicious, very wet risotto.  Warning: this makes a lot of food, easily enough for four people (it takes me a few days to polish off by myself).

Arroz con Pollo Cubano

Reagents:
1.5 c short/medium grain rice
1 c warm water
pinch saffron threads (at least a dozen)
1 t paprika (sweet, hot, smoked, doesn’t matter – use your taste)

2 slices thick sliced bacon
5 cloves garlic
0.5 – 1 green bell pepper
0.5 – 1 red/orange/yellow bell pepper
1 spanish onion
2 t cumin
1 T paprika (same as above)
salt

0.25 c tomato paste
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs – 1″ chunks

1 pilsner-style beer (12 oz)
2 c chicken stock
juice of 0.5 lime

Protocol:
1. Place the rice in a medium-sized bowl
2. Stir the saffron threads and paprika into the warm water
3. Add the water to the rice and give it a quick stir. Set aside.

4. Cut bacon into a small dice (freezing makes this easier)
5. Add bacon to large pot over med-low heat and begin to render
6. Cut garlic, bell peppers, and onion into a small dice.
7. When bacon has rendered increase the temp to medium to crisp it up
8. When bacon is to your level of crispiness add the diced veggies from step 6
9. Add a big pinch of salt and cook your sofrito for 10 min
10. Add cumin and paprika and cook for another 2 min

11. Incorporate tomato paste into the sofrito
12. Add chicken to the pot and reduce heat to med-low
13. Cover and cook for 15 min, turning chicken twice

14. Add beer, chicken stock, and lime juice to pot
15. Taste and adjust salt content
16. Raise heat to high
17. When pot begins to boil add the entire contents of the rice bowl
18. Stir and wait for the pot to boil again
19. When it reaches a boil reduce heat to low and cover
20. Cook 15 min, then remove from heat

21. Serve in bowls with a crusty bread
22. Eat

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