cooking with whine: shrimp scampi

If I created an evolutionary line of cooking instructional videos, somewhere on the Mars Rover side would be Bruno Albouze (French private chef; expects his viewers to have knife skills), and somewhere on the knuckle-dragging side would be Kathy Maister (American Home Ec Instructor; teaches knife skills).

Which is not a dig, but an acknowledgement that we all have to start somewhere, and that’s where I found myself when reading about cooking (Alton) was not. quite. translating. into. edible. food.  Great production values, great animations, soothing background music, focus on basic techniques and the mise en place.  Kathy has it all, and is well-worth a visit for the recipes long after the need to learn technique has waned.

One of my favorites is her Shrimp Scampi, which I will not recount here but will make tonight (and add a photo, maybe).  Two Buck Chuck is usually the wine of choice, but tonight I will use some of the Fume Blanc, which should be as delightful with shrimp swimming in it as it is straight from the bottle like a damn wino in the glass.

I was going to whine about delayed logistics spoiling dreams of a lovely view and bergamot & grapefuit scented bath bubbles, but the thought of making scampi tonight has brought with it indelible cheer.  Plus, I’m freezing my ass off on the back deck – the now-working furnace beckons.


dirty rice (my daddy would not approve)

I’ve been noodling over The Food Stamp Challenge, again.  Nope, still not taking it; looking at it from a home ec perspective, though.  For a family of three in Los Angeles County, the maximum monthly SNAP benefit is $511/month.  The Hillbilly Housewife has two meal plans that could take the challenge – one devoid of meat (but with eggs) and the other with a bit more variety.

The last time the author updated the meal plans was in 2009, but the core items in the lowest-cost plan can be purchased from Amazon Fresh, in most of the quantities indicated, and come in at the $511 price point for the month.  (My basket for the week was $96.81 – $20 to spend for the last two days would be pretty slim pickings).  So, in theory, one could buy through Amazon Fresh on a food stamp budget without starving.   But I think I could do better, for my specific situation, with that monthly allotment.

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home ec for the spoiled brat

Giving a bare nod to The Food Stamp Challenge whilst waxing profane about Megachain shopping got me thinking.  Not so much about taking that challenge – again, BTDT, couldn’t afford the t-shirt.  But the relativity of Home Economics – it’s a value proposition.

You have a general idea of what you want to eat; what you want to spend over the course of a week (or month); a tipping point between the cost and quality of items; and the lengths to which you will go in pursuit of obtaining those items.  From that point, home economics is about maximizing value, so as to best balance the use of finite resources (time, money).

I use grocery delivery because I want to save time for other things more than I want to save money.  That choice isn’t available to a large part of the population of the United States, and certainly not available to 97% plus of the inhabitants on earth.  I recognize that, so when I talk about some facets of home economics, mentally appending “for the spoiled brat” is absolutely appropriate.

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in the meantime: Amazon Fresh, Marconda’s Meats

Before the announcement that Fresh & Easy will be liquidated, I was contemplating whether to start trekking out to Lazy Acres or subsist on the local Ralphs/Vons/etc. chain stores.

Mind you, I can afford quality ingredients.  I hate those huge chain stores.  I am a lazy bitch.  But F & E lost much of its mojo after Tesco sold the chain to Wild Oats, and the recent and absolute demise of F & E was not surprising.  I loved the small format, limited (but quality) selection, plethora of wholesome nuke/bake & serve options (see: lazy bitch) and absolute convenience – and I wish more people had equally loved it back in the Tesco days.  Alas and alack.

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achievement unlocked: breakdown queen

I enjoy brining and roasting whole birds, but there are times when I want to keep the backbone and wings for stock and I don’t want to roast those parts before boiling them. There are two ways to get to where I want to go:

1) Spatchcock the chicken and separate the wings.

2) Break the chicken down completely. The best video I have seen (both in terms of production value and home replicability) on how to break down a chicken is provided courtesy the New York Times. Continue reading

le pain perdu and braided brioche

Diva Oven won Round 1 yesterday: 25 minutes of shielded baking at 450 was perfect; 15 minutes unshielded baking at 450 was…not. The brioche came out slightly burnt deeply caramelized. It mattered little: that loaf is now resting within the tummies of my children, in the form of toast, le pain perdu and plain slices off the loaf. This morning, I won Round 2, this time trying the braid I spoke of previously. Given that the braid was longer than my loaf pan, I baked it (shielded) on a pizza pan for 20 minutes at 450, then unshielded at 350 for 10 minutes. Musings and a foolproof custard for French toast after the jump.
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crème pâtissiére: oo la la!

The cronut dough is resting in the fridge, waiting for tomorrow’s gluttonous fry-fest. In the meantime, I pondered whether to take my cronuts full Monty, and fill them with the prescribed pastry cream. Since I won’t be eating these little parcels of diabetic deliciousness, I voted a hearty “Aye!” – which then posed a problem. There is no recipe given for pastry cream, which means (a) try to find some in a store or (b) make some at home. This is a food blog, not a grocery store blog; you know what I chose. Lovely vanilla custard and anal-retentive scaling notes after the jump.

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