Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010: New Cooking Techniques and Dishes I've Added to my Repertoire

This is an odd grouping, with types of food and techniques combined.  But the new foods are a result of a different technique used on an old favorite, so they are included here.  I know that none of these are new in the world of cooking, but they are things I hadn't tried until recently.

Combo of dry and moist heat for Chicken Breasts:  I had tried searing, baking, broiling, poaching, but never really like boneless chicken breast, because it seemed so difficult to keep moist...Until I saw this technique demonstrated on an America's Test Kitchen or a Cook's Country tv show.  
I heat a small amount of oil in a skillet on a medium-high heat, then add the boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces, which have been patted dry with paper towel and seasoned with salt and pepper.  The breasts are left alone for a few minutes to sear.  If they're sticking to the pan, they're not ready to turn.  

When they are nicely browned and easy to lift from the pan, they are turned, and I add 1/2 cup of water or chicken stock.  Then cover the pan and cook for 10 - 15 minutes, until the internal temperature of the breast is 165 degrees.

Flat bread:  For this I was inspired by Steven Raichlen on the Barbecue-U cooking show, which Hubby loves.  I used my Pizza Crust Recipe and divided it into several pieces, forming each into approx 2 1/2 inch balls, then rolling to just under 1/4" thick.  (If the dough fights back, let the balls rest for 10 minutes or so before rolling.)  I transferred the rolled flatbreads onto a greased or wax paper covered cookie sheet to take them out to the outdoor gas grill.  With the barbecue preheated to 400 - 450 degrees, we put the flatbreads directly on the grill, keeping the heat underneath low, or using an indirect method to keep them from burning.  When each got good and bubbly, we turned them just to brown the other side.  I continued to roll dough as Hubby grilled, because I found that if I did all the dough first, and some were allowed to rise too much before grilling, they became too soft and very difficult to handle.  We love eating them with strips of grilled chicken and/or veggies, and condiments like hummus, pesto, tzatziki, or some just liked mayo and fixing them like any other sandwich.
I tried these on the rangetop while the electricity was out, and got a much less satisfactory result.  They didn't get as bubbly and burned...I think this method lacked the surrounding heat, and had the problem of the heat source being too close.
Another time I tried baking them on the pizza stone at about 450 degrees, and got nicely puffed pitas.

Barbecue-grilled Pizza:  We had about one week of temperatures around 100 this summer, when heating the ovens for our customary Friday Pizza Night didn't seem like a good idea.  We decided to try baking pizzas on the gas barbecue grill.  I placed the stone on the rack and heated the barbecue to 500.  It was a fun adventure and the pizzas had a more smokey taste.  Some of the family liked it better or as well, others didn't like the difference at all.  For me there was a lot of running back and forth, as I have no counter outside.  It was also HOT for the cook to tend pizzas over the grill instead of sliding them into the oven and keep an eye on them from a distance through the glass.  My overall assessment:  This makes a decent pizza if using the oven is impossible or inadvisable.  I wouldn't go to the extra effort required if using the oven was a reasonable option.

Shish Kabobs: I am now noticing a trend with this post...A lot of new things we tried this year were on the barbecue grill!  For Father's Day we wanted to try something fun, and with meat-loving Hubby and our vegetarian Princess Bossy, we wanted something we could all enjoy.  Shish kabobs not only provided a way to meet everyone's wishes, but made for a fun family project as we cut and loaded a variety of foods onto the wooden kabob skewers, which we'd soaked in water for 20 minutes first.  (Steel skewers work, too, but they get hot and cook things from the inside.  This is good for meats, but can make fruits and veggies cook so fast that they loosen and fall off.) This is a great way to include colorful fruits and vegetables in a way the kids find fun and interesting to eat.  We used combos with chunks of shrimp, beef, chicken, tomato, bell pepper, sweet onion, mushrooms, and pineapple.  Grape tomatoes were not the right choice, since with their small size, they cooked through too quickly, getting shriveled and too soft, sometimes to the point of falling off.

Stock/broth:  I always bought chicken broth at the store.  But I started to use more and more of it as I preferred it to water for cooking rice, quinoa, etc.  During a month I was feeling particularly short on grocery funds, I realized I was finding it on my shopping list all too often, so decided to try making my own.  I bought 2 whole chickens at Costco, roasted them, and after we enjoyed the chicken dinner, I saved the carcass, skin, and all bones for the stock.  I added sage, salt, and pepper, a few bay leaves, a quartered onion or two, and chunks of aging veggies I had in the fridge, which were carrots and cabbage.  I also cut just the tops off the cloves on a head of garlic and dropped in the whole thing. I added enough water to cover all and brought to a boil.  I turned it to low and kept it cooking for several hours, adding water as needed to keep the contents covered.  
I took out the garlic head and squeezed out the softened cloves to use as a spread, then strained the rest of the broth (3 - 4 quarts).  I sprayed muffin tins and small Tupperware type containers with Pam and filled them for freezing.  After they were solid, I popped out the 'stock-sicles' and put them in ZipLoc bags to store in the freezer.  The broth was so much richer and more flavorful than the canned kind...I was hooked. And it's another thing that makes me feel like an old-fashioned 'Suzy Homemaker,' going a bit of an extra mile to make something wonderful to feed my family.

Home-rolled Oatmeal and Home-milled Cracked Grains, and Granola:  I have covered these in prior posts (linked below), but all are new this year, so worth the mention here.  I love doing all of these for my family.  The tasty and healthier results are worth any of the effort.  Definitely things I'll continue to do.
Rolling Oatmeal
My Other By-Hand Milling
...Cracking grains
Granola Recipe
(using the rolled oats)


  1. We love grilled pizza, that's one of our faves. I love your idea of freezing the stock in muffin pans for individual stocksicles. Great tip!

  2. Thanks. I could probably learn more about grilling pizza, but my hubby and kids are good sports about appreciating new adventures in cooking. Re: the stock-sicles: Desperation is sometimes the mother of invention!


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