Girl + Fire = Food



Monday, March 28, 2011

Liz Taylor's Chicken

Last week, we lost Elizabeth Taylor. She of the acid wit displayed in cinematic classics Cleopatra, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Taming of the Shrew. She was force to be reckoned with, an enigmatic movie star of the highest caliber, and a foodie.

Immediately the food sites all posted and reposted a recipe called Elizabeth Taylor's Chicken Steamed In Wine. None could verify it was actually created by the silver screen queen. It is hard to imagine the glamorous Cleopatra in the kitchen whipping up chicken recipes, but it sounded good. I want to believe she cooked while wearing her signature white diamonds. "These have always brought me luck…"

You might expect a dish linked to a woman with Liz Taylor's reputation to follow suit: strong flavored, exotic, with a hint of spice. Maybe even a little unforgiving. You won't find that here. It's simple chicken-in-white-wine-sauce fare. And it's super easy.

The recipe calls for a whole chicken. If you're a busy girl like me, cooking for one, there's no need to suffer an hour of simmering an entire chicken. One breast or thighor better yet, cutletscut the time significantly. A nice dry white (a $10 Bordeaux from Trader Joe's made it into this dish and into a glass for the cook. I was thirsty...), some garlic, onions, bay leaves and other aromatics, salt and pepper, and you're done.

I even whipped up a little white wine reduction, and threw some rice in it. DELICIOUS.

A note about the wine: Sauternes wine is from a specific blend of French grapes (similar to Bordeaux wines, but in a different ratio). Sauterne (no S on the end) wine refers to any number of California whites. More about the difference between the two can be found here. Note the recipe calls for a dry white, not a dessert wine. The 2009 Mouton-Cadet Bordeaux I found at Trader Joe's was inexpensive, dry, and excellent on its own.  

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Liz Taylor's White Wine Chicken,
Based on the unverified Elizabeth Taylor's Chicken Steamed in Wine recipe.

1 chicken thigh, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried crushed mint
1 tablespoon dried crushed oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 dashes black pepper
1 cup dry sauterne wine (or other dry white)
1. In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over high heat until shimmering and quickly sear the chicken.

2. Combine all the other ingredients and pour over the chicken.

3. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked through.

4. Remove chicken mixture to plate and discard the bay leaves. Return the pan to low heat, add about 1/4 cup of wine. Scrape up any chicken bits from the bottom of the pan and simmer until reduced by half. Pour reduction over chicken.

Yield: 2 servings

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Greek Lemon Soup

I found this great recipe for Greek avgolemono soup via The Smithsonian's food blog, Food & Write. Avgolemono refers to sauces and soups made with lemon, egg, and broth, and popular in the Mediterranean.

Even though there were a bunch of steps (you have to make brothso time-consuming!), there are easy ways to cheat. Which means I probably cheated myself out of some richness, but I was both hungry and curious, and hungry won out.

I simply simmered a chicken thigh (not a whole chicken) as suggested by the recipe, instead of putting it in the crockpot for hours. Day old rice is also good to have, which cuts out about half an hour of cooking right there! But the real intrigue lay in the egg foam.

The recipe calls for the eggs to be separated, beaten, then brought back together with some lemon juice. Which means the eggs remain raw. Though I'm guessing the lemon juice "cooks" the eggs much like it would in ceviche. Rest assured there were no ill effects from consuming said egg foam.

Plus, it was really pretty floating on top of the plate. Foamy!

The recipe I borrowed comes with a sweet story by writer Christie Zgourides. She first made this for her boyfriend's birthday (he later became her husband) and the rest is history.

My soup was lacking something, and it wasn't merely all the cheating I did. I'm used to a bit more bite in my food, and I was tempted to put spices in this. Maybe it just needed more salt...I'm not sure. I'm going to revisit it one day. Maybe add the harissa I finally procured. Mmm.

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Greek Lemon Soup
Adapted from Food & Write
1 bone-in chicken thigh
Salt, pepper
1 tablespoons butter
1 celery ribs, chopped
1 cup rice (may be made a day ahead)
1 egg, separated
1 large lemon, juiced
1. Place chicken in a Dutch oven with salt, pepper, butter, celery, and water to cover. Simmer for an hour or two. Remove chicken, strain broth, use same day. (Recipe author note: This short-cut method is good, but broth is not as rich and will have more fat.)

2. Cool. Remove chicken. Drain. Pour drained broth back into slow cooker. Let stand overnight in refrigerator. Skim off fat next day. Strain broth. This process should make about 2-3 cups of broth. [G+F note: cool the broth, then put in the freezer for about 30 minutes. The fat will freeze but the broth will still be liquid at this point, allowing for quick skimming.]

3. Cook rice. Bring broth to a low boil in a heavy Dutch oven. [G+F note: if using day-old rice, simply throw it in the broth to warm up.]

4. While broth is heating, beat egg whites stiff in a small bowl.

5. In a separate, larger bowl, beat the egg yolks till foamy.

6. Add lemon juice to egg yolks and beat until mixed. Add rice to broth (if you didn't use the G+F tip above...)

7. Combine stiff egg whites with yolks. Mix together slowly, using the low setting on mixer.

8. Add some hot broth to the egg mixture (to prevent curdling) and continue beating slowing

9. Add mixture to broth and rice mixture, and barely stir into soup. There should be foam on top of the soup.

10. Remove from heat and serve with crackers, de-boned chicken, and Greek salad.

Yield: 2-3 cups

I liked the foam just resting on top of the soup. Add the shredded chicken to the soup, and enjoy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Truffled Egg Salad

This Cheese Fast thing is getting ridiculous. I feel like the universe is mocking me. The other day I drove past a NEW grilled cheese truck right next to the office.

Not fair!!

So I've turned to my other food love: truffles. Not those chocolate things, since I don't have much a sweet tooth, but the supremely expensive subterranean delights from distant lands. The easiest way to experience them without going broke is either truffle salt or truffle oil. And thanks to dear food blogger friend Erika Kerekes, from whom I borrow lots of recipes, today I had BOTH!

So decadent.

Surfas has teeny tiny bottles of both white and black truffle oil for only $12. For 2 ounces. Yup, 2 teeny tiny ounces. But compared to paying $300 per pound of the actual mushrooms, it's a steal. And the Spice Station has salt for $10 an ounce (only 1/3 the price of saffron!). I've had both the oils and salt in the pantry forever, so this was just waiting for me to hard boil some eggs.

(Thankfully my random allergy to eggs has disappeared. Yay!)

I used white truffle oil because that's the type of salt I had and figured they would pair well. The black truffle oil is a bit more earthy, and I like it in green salads. This would taste just as deliciously with the black truffle oil, I'm sure. They're both excellent.

And since I was cooking for just one person, I cut the recipe significantly. I was out of my typical mayo substitute (Greek yogurt), so I went without. It was still creamy and delicious. I also mashed this together in my mini chopper because I love that thing, though you could do as Erika suggests and simply mash them with a potato masher. But I like to save my elbow grease for tennis and/or sipping scotch.

Not necessarily in that order.

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Truffled Egg Salad
Adapted from In Erika's Kitchen. This is quick, delicious, and just a tad decadent. Use a mini chopper to whirl it together quickly and with minimal elbow grease.
4 eggs, hard boiled
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
1/8 teaspoon white truffle salt

1-2 tablespoons sour cream
1. Peel the eggs and crumble them into the bowl of the mini chopper.

2. Add the sour cream, salt, oil, and blend away.

3. If the consistency isn't creamy enough, add more sour cream a little at a time.

Spread on crackers, in tortillas, or simply eat straight out of the bowl. Don't try to control yourself, you will lose that battle.

Yield: approx 1.5 cups

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Good-bye Cheese

Cheese. Delicious, yummy cheese. There are few things I love more than this wonderful offering from the goats, cows, and sheep of the world.

Well, there are truffles, mmm truffles. Yes, but those are prohibitively expensive.

Oh, and scotch. Yes, scotch. Especially with bacon. I do love a fine glass single-malt. Though it, too, gets pricey.

Ah, but cheese. It's rich in flavor, but not necessarily in price. Oh, I have enjoyed some sinfully delicious and radically expensive ash-covered goat cheese, but most of the time a few bucks' worth satisfies the palate.

So why am I giving up cheese? Why, if I swore I would never become a vegan because of my love of this delicious animal by-product, am I walking away?

Here's a little story: when I was four years old, my parents found me lying in the middle of our (thankfully) quiet residental street. After they finished freaking out and scooping me out of harm's way, they asked WHY ON EARTH WOULD I DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT???? My answer: just to see what would happen.

(That story started off the essay that got me into college.)

So yeah, I have no other reason to give up my entire raison d'ĂȘtre than my own curiosity as to whether I even can. It's a battle of will. Discipline.

And also, given the amount of cheese I eat, I might very well be an addict. If cheese were heroin, this is what you might call "the intervention" stage. Therefore I'm taking a bit of a break, and it seemed like today, being the day a bunch of other people around the world are sacrificing something in their lives, was a good day.

So good-bye cheese. I'll see you again in 40 days.

Unless your attraction proves too tempting. But I think I can handle this.

*fingers crossed*

And so begins the great Cheese Fast of 2011.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

CalTech Olive Oil

Last fall, my nephew, mom, and I went a-pickin' at the Caltech Olive Harvest. It was fun. There was escargot.

About a month later, we got the word that the olive oil was in stock. $13 for an 8-ounce bottle! But I'd done the labor, and was curious enough so I bought two bottles (gifted one to my parents, since mom had done the laboring too).

We opened the bottle immediately upon arriving home and wow, was I surprised. You could say I'm an olive oil noviceI'd never had something so fresh and olive-y! It tasted exactly olives. Yes I could almost literally taste the greeness. It was a bit much.

Because it's only 8 ounces and has such a strong flavor, I've been hesitant to use it to cook with. But I decided to fool with the Foodista Olive Muffins this weekend, and ran out of the "regular" olive oil in the pantry, so I had to use some of my super green oil. The muffins were a bit of a disaster. They were too dry, like scones. But when dipped in the olive oil, mmm. Goodness.

Once I perfect the muffins, I'll post the recipe. Till then, I have to figure out other ways to use this oil. The Fire is open to suggestions!