Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Kitchen-ween!

Since my amazing wedding guests (mostly my second cousins and beloved friends) blessed me with "flame" (read: bright orange) le creuset cookware for our wedding, I decided to celebrate halloween by using ALL OF IT. On one meal. Challenge: accepted!

As a side note, this burst of kitchen productivity is mostly due to the impact of getting a part time job. For one, I hate to cook after I've been on my feet at a retail job all day, so I save cooking for days off and then re-heat, re-heat, re-heat. The Grige doesn't do anything but re-heat at school these days anyhow, so it's no harm, no foul.  I like to make big dishes like stew, soup, pot-pie and casseroles. Then we can take them easily for lunch as well.  Secondly, having days that are "on" at a job, makes me appreciate off days so much more, and motivates me to take on big projects, in and out of the kitchen. This is one of my top arguments for getting a part time job in retail or at a restaurant while you're looking for something full time. It gives you a ridiculous amount of clarity on how to spend your down-time.

Pot Pie Filling... If I told you I don't lick the bowl after this goes into the casserole dish, I would be lying. 
So, back to my orange cookware challenge. Just one Halloween challenge wasn't enough, so I took on a second one from my life list: make the Grige a layer cake. It's a midterm cake - he's swamped right now and feeling pretty down, so hopefully this will pep him up. For those of you who know me well, I'm sure you're aware that desserts are not my thing. I gladly leave them out of event menus, I would have happily gotten married without cake or pie, if I ran the zoo. However, the Grige loves dessert, and one of my outside goals for our marriage was to make myself more "in tune" with his meal preferences, therefore learning to cook for both of us, instead of just myself +1. Since he hasn't been cooking at all lately, it's probably an opportune moment to work on dessert.

I chose the cake for "beginners" from the October 2012 Bon Appetit Mag. It's a chocolate-banana cake with peanut butter frosting. it has 2 layers, is square and involved way more cake-pertise than I personally possess. All things considered, I think it turned out pretty well, though I had to hide my uneven layers with frosting. If you want the recipe, either go buy the magazine or visit their website One of my biggest qualms with desserts is that I don't want to be tempted to eat food that is bad for me. This idea is brilliant, because the Grige is at studio all night with his classmates, so I can just bring the cake up there and be a hero while not having to deal with leftovers. BOOM! I listened to Cake (the band) while I made it and felt very cool. Even better, I listened to "I bombed Korea" off of Motorcade of Generosity while I bombed the cake with chocolate chips. Appropriate, no?

Frosting was definitely the major challenge for me, considering my lack of coordination. I highly recommend putting your frosting in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before attempting to put it on a cake. Also, definitely let your cakes cool for as long as you can leave them alone before stacking and frosting them. I'm sure these are basics for most people, but following those rules really made my life easier today.

In order to use the rest of my cookware, I tackled our favorite chicken pot pie, and switched the playlist to some vintage, angry Ben Fold Five. This recipe was in the October 2011 issue of Bon Appetit, and I took it on as a cooking challenge last winter. Every time I make it, I tell myself that I'm never making it again because it is so hard, and yet, I can't resist, because it is so freaking delicious. So good, that if I smelled it from a neighboring apartment, I would totally go knock on the door and invite myself to dinner. I prepared it using a skillet, a dutch oven, a large sauce pan, a tea kettle, a rubber scraper a ridiculous amount of mixing bowls. I get faster at making it every time, but it was still a four hour endeavor. I have to say that it was totally worth it - it's a one crust wonder and was absolutely delicious. It will also serve up about 5-6 meals for me and 3-4 meals for the Grige, so it's a lot of bang for your buck. I would post the recipe, but I don't want to violate the copyright, and it's very long, and I've spent a lot of time looking at it today already. If you'd like it, shoot me a message and I'll send it your way.

Cake & Pie
I'm hoping that my kitchen challenges will culminate in some killer additions to my Thanksgiving meal spreadsheet. Today's work taught me that I'm going to ask someone else to bring pie and gave me a brilliant plan for beefing up my gravy. We're hosting my parents and grandparents this year, which will be a blast. I already have a 3-sheet, color-coded excel document outlining what-when-where's of the meal. I can't wait!

So what does everyone else do with their days off? Tomorrow, I think I'm going to tackle homemade bagels, hanging the mirror over our dresser and cleaning out the front room to get ready for our new couch.

1 comment:

  1. It makes me so glad to know that someone else uses a spreadsheet to organize thanksgiving. :) I have to try that chicken pot pie! I love the idea of CPP, but I feel that most of the recipes I come across are the equivalent of dumping cream of chicken soup and frozen peas in a dish and topping with Bisquick. I want to eat some COMPLEX cpp.