Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Post-due Post-Thanksgiving Post

To be honest, I've never really understood the fuss about Thanksgiving. I am a fairly recent convert to mashed potatoes, turkey's never done much of anything for me, and it was always just a lot of fuss and family... usually right before finals.

This year, while calmer in terms of family (my folks flew out to visit, so it was just the four of us) was a blur of work and baking and kitchen heat. Admittedly with some very tasty results. This, however, was probably the best part of Thanksgiving dinner:

This was one of Chuck's later attempts to make friends with the turkey, actually. On his first attempt he got a few good bites off of one wing - I was preoccupied with gravy, I can't be held responsible. That, and it was really cute.

But even setting feline cuteness aside, this was a good year. I was working every day but Thanksgiving, so my folks got to take care of the shopping and prep. 

Dad made his Porcini and Cornbread Dressing which is, in all honesty, to die for. I don't even like dressing and I fought for the scraps. I promise I'll post the recipe soon. We have no idea where it comes from - a newspaper somewhere, some year, someone claims. Origins aside, it's fantastic.
But with ingredients like these, can you go wrong?

Add enough mushrooms to anything and I'll be happy as a clam, that's for sure.

The final spread also included mashed potatoes, broccolini, cranberry sauce and gravy... and landed on my desk.

Our dining room table is miniscule, so there was barely enough room for our plates and the champagne (because what is Thanksgiving without champagne?)

The only drawback to the desk-as-sidetable was Chuck learning a nifty trick of standing up on his hind paws and swiping turkey from the platter with his front paws. Unfortunately, all of my pictures of said trick are blurry, so it will just have to live on in memory....

My major contribution was dessert.

I made two pies that morning - apple and pumpkin - which was only faintly nerve-wracking as my mom is usually the pie maker. I've done a few pies since Matt and I moved out here, (how could I not, with all of the Northwestern berries?) but I knew my work would be measured against my mom's legendary pie-making skills. It stood up favourably, if I say so myself.

The apple pie you may actually recognize from my pretty new title up top - that was the project for the evening. Before anyone actually got to taste either pie, we spent hours photographing a single slice on a red plate, experimenting with countless angles, backgrounds and pairs of chopsticks. The end result makes me feel like a legitimate blogger, if nothing else. (Look! A picture at the top!)

Legitimate blogger or otherwise, I apologize for my recent absence - between holiday retail and finals I'm a bit frazzled. I'm cooking, I just can't think to write about it - we eat watching Top Chef and Grey's Anatomy and I speculate about life as a line cook and tall food and feeling a bit homely and, well, short. But after my Japanese final next Tuesday, the cookbook section at Powell's is calling my name, so hopefully I'll find a little more energy and inspiration.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ulterior Motives

Company for dinner is often little more than a cover, here at Itadakimasu. I know, we look sweet and innocent, but you have no idea what's lurking once you're ensconced in a chair and well fed.... Because once you're wined and dined and unsuspecting, we pull out the big red box of Scattergories and dig in properly.

Matt introduced me to the game shortly after we got together, and I'm an unashamed convert.

That said, tonight's dinner was a pretty tasty cover for a few rounds of Scattergories with some excellent company.

We prefaced the game with what I've termed "Cheater's Chicken Mole" - a dish with the flavour of its far more complex ancestor, and an appealingly short list of ingredients, for those of us on a student budgets and jam-packed schedules. The recipe is one I tasted first at a dinner party at another friend's house, and then found in the Epicurious archives. My (current) version goes something as follows.

Cheater's Chicken Mole
adapted from Bon Appetit

2 chicken legs/thighs and 1 breast, all skinless and boneless (what I had on hand - thigh meat is best, as the original calls for)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
olive oil
1 1/2 yellow onions, one thinly sliced, the last half coarsely chopped (reserve for serving)
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons minced chipotle chiles
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (I had chipotles in adobo, which worked perfectly)
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
salt to taste
large handful cilantro, coarsely chopped
steamed rice (for serving)

Cut the chicken into large pieces (about six per piece, depending on the size, really - perhaps three-bite-sized?) and sprinkle generously with cumin.

In a large pan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until it shimmers and then add the chicken, browning on all sides. Add (only!) the sliced onion and saute until just softened. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, chipotle, adobo sauce and chocolate and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let simmer until the chicken is done.The original recipe calls for 20 minutes. I probably let mine go for closer to 45 - until we were too hungry to wait any longer. I also took the chicken pieces out to shred with a fork about halfway through. This isn't necessary, but it's how I like the dish.

Spoon the chicken and sauce over steamed rice and top with chopped onion and cilantro. Serve with warm corn tortillas, if you are a tortilla person.

We followed it up with a batch of these cookies from Orangette. They are, in a word, killer. Mine are not nearly so pretty as the originals, but I daresay they taste almost as good.

Oh, and do yourself a favour and pull out the box of Scattergories afterwards. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On a non-food note...

Itadakimasu now has a handy recipe index - look to your right!

The index will be growing as the site does, but I thought I'd get started on it early, just so as to make things easier in the long run. Go peruse - and find something to cook and eat!

One more thing to do with apples

I swear I've been trying to post for the last week. First real life ate me, and then blogger ate my post twice in one night, and I decided that was probably a sign that I should go study or something like that. Anyway.

I made this Apple Kuchen shortly after my last post, when we still had apples and were wondering what to do with them. And then I took the name to work and got one of my co-workers to teach me how to pronounce it.

The recipe itself I found on Baking Bites, a blog I have frequented ever since I discovered it via the ReadyMade blog. It was then called Bakingsheet, and the post that caught my eye was a recipe for homemade graham crackers, which were then supposed to be incorporated into homemade s'mores. I was still in my occasional-batch-of-cookies-and-brownies stage of cooking, so needless to say I never got around to either the crackers or the s'mores... but I still read the blog.

Origins aside, this is a nice, not-terribly-sweet cake that goes excellently with tea. I plan to omit the apples in an upcoming version and try it as a loaf cake - I'll let you know how it goes.

And a gratuitous kitty pictures never hurts - it's been too long.

Chuck has this thing for being cute in boxes - I can't help myself.