Monday, January 31, 2011

Dinner #3: Things Heat Up

Brandon is pushing me to try and cook the whole book in a year. In addition to being very un-original, I think the idea of this is insane. But, humoring him, I've charted out a year's worth of four course meals. In an excel spreadsheet, of course. Balanced to have the appropriate amount of pre-prep and a la minute prep. And delicious-sounding food with scarier food (ie if you eat oysters and soft-shell crabs, you get rewarded with chocolate molten cake and cinnamon ice cream). And purely pescatarian meals for my pescatarian friend. I've also charted out seasonal ingredients, special internet ordering, and super expensive items that may require a little savings/grocery scrimping. Because that's how I roll.

So, next up:

- parmigiano-reggiano crisps with goat cheese mousee

- Tomato tart with nicoise tapenade (while tomatoes aren't in season, we had a little hot spell here, so I'm hoping tomatoes are good… and this requires tapenade, which I am never making again if I can help it, so I wanted to make it while my first batch of tapenade was still good).

- black sea bass with arrowroot spinach, parsnip puree, and vanilla saffron sauce

- chocolate cake with red beets

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dinner #2: Butter Poached Lobster with Leeks and Pommes Maxim and Lemon Sabayon Tart

By this point, my scheduled "afternoon break" had come and gone, I still hadn't showered after taking Alex swimming in the morning, and I was starting to freak out a little. My heroic husband stepped in to help me with the lobsters. Possibly because he could sense I was about 15 seconds away from throwing myself on the floor and sobbing that I couldn't kill the lobsters and that we were getting three new pets.

We stuck them in my biggest pot, measured out the water, then had a moment of silence for the lobsters. Punctuated by Alex tackling the baby gate, falling down with it, and screaming like a banshee. Moment of silence over (and toddler checked and mollified), we poured boiling hot water on them. I tried not to cry as one banged on the side of the pot as it cooked. [sidenote: I've been watching a lot of Lie to Me, and I believe they would say that I was deflecting guilt by switching to passive voice and including my husband when describing the lobster-murder. They would probably be right].

Lobsters steeped, Brandon and I quickly went about butchering them. Strangely enough, once they were dead, I was totally cool with tearing them apart. Heartless, I am. Tails off, claws tossed in more water. One exacted its revenge on Brandon for NOT feeling guilty about killing it with a post-mortem finger-slicing on a spindly thing. Ha! Serves him right for making fun of me earlier.

[not pictured: deconstructed lobsters, since my hands were all gooey and I was in a hurry]

From here, things were a blur. Bacon sliced and quickly cooked, made some beurre monte, made the herb salad, quickly chopped chives and tomato "diamonds," tossed appropriate amounts of frozen brunoise into mis dishes, heated oil to fry capers, and fried the capers. Thank goodness for the frozen brunoise, although I realize that there is NO WAY I made enough to last the whole book.

First Course: "Bacon and Eggs"

Before I knew it, everyone had arrived! I quickly warmed the poached eggs and plated on large spoons. Still didn't break any! So I was able to serve seconds to three lucky people. The consensus: delicious! Even from me, the poached-egg-aphobe. I tasted more bacon than egg, but got a fantastic explosion of egg flavor in the back of my mouth. And it wasn't even that hard. Definitely going on the long-term keeper menu.

Second course: "Salad Nicoise"

Everything was done for the dish, so I was anticipating plating would be quick-ish. Except I had forgotten to take the shells off of the quail eggs. And I forgot to trim the ahi into circles earlier. @#&^! I quickly made the circles uniform, Brandon helped, and a friend and I painstakingly peeled the shells off (which: why are quail eggs so much harder to peel than regular eggs?).

[note: those dabs of random color are the pepper confetti that didn't really sprinkle]

This was everyone's favorite dish of the night. Except mine, probably because I was still bitter about deboning the anchovies. And I didn't really like the hard boiled egg. Or peeling it. But at least I tried it, so score for open mindedness! Admittedly, the rest of it was great, but it was just such a pain in the ass that I can't imagine making it again.

Third course: Butter Poached Lobster with pommes maxim, leeks, and red beet essence.

My beet juice had been reducing for hours and was finally at the right consistency! So I quickly whipped in beurre monte and the dash of vinegar. I simultaneously started warming the potatoes and leeks and arranged the lobster pieces in a pan, turned the pan on, and poured buerre monte over them. Except… it wasn't nearly enough. I read through the recipe again. I had read somehow gotten the buerre monte required for the leeks and the lobster confused, so I super-quick made two more sticks of buerre monte, tossed it in the lobster pan, and poached it.

The assembled dish:

It was ok. I overcooked the lobster a little, I think because I started it, turned it off, and then cooked again. Oh, yeah, and have I mentioned that I don't really like lobster? (good lord, I sound like the pickiest person alive this dinner) The other elements, especially the leeks, were yummy, and I would totally do them again. As long as I can hold the lobster.

Dessert: Lemon Sabayon Pine Nut Tart with Whipped Mascarpone Cream

The tart was already cooked, so all I had to do was prep the cream quickly. I whisked for the mandated two minutes. It wasn't nearly whipped-cream enough, but honestly, by this point I didn't care. I just wanted to sit and enjoy a glass of wine. We ate it runny, it was still delicious (although the tart shell was a little dry – I think I'll press it thinner in the pan next time).

[yeah, that's the same picture I showed from before. deal.]

People hung around a little after dinner, then left after about 20 minutes. As much as I love socializing, I was ready for everyone to go – I was exhausted, my feet hurt, my back hurt, and I was generally cranky from how not-smoothly things went. Bah-humbug.


Lobster: Hardshell Lobster Co, off of Mission Gorge (note: they don't take walk-ins, but will sell to the public by appointment!)

Applewood-smoked Bacon: Whole Foods

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dinner #2: Bacon and Eggs and Salad Nicoise

So, obviously, between the lost olives, no motivation, and beet sludge-glaze, things haven't been going well for dinner numero dos. I got through everything today… but can't say it went much better.

I started the morning by running to two health food stores looking for beet juice. No dice. No nicoise olives at the grocery store, and I didn't have time to go out to Whole Foods. Oh, and my renewed search for salt-packed anchovies struck out too.

I finally started cooking, two hours behind schedule, starting with my tapenade.

First, I deboned (olive-oil packed) anchovies. I had intended to do 8, since they were small, but at 6 said 'screw it.' Deboning took over an HOUR. Putting me another hour behind schedule (because for some reason I thought my anchovies were already deboned. Again: read the packaging self!) While I was doing this, I also clarified my butter. I forgot about the melting butter, and kept hearing this almost lapping noise. Thinking it was my dog, I turned around to say 'enough!'…. then ran over and barely saved the butter from boiling over. Whoops again. After going through the arduous deboning process, I rinsed and put in milk to soak while I went about other prep.

Next: pommes maxim. Things started to pick up here, as I (quickly) peeled the potatoes, sliced them on the mandoline, tossed them in clarified butter, and arranged them on the silpat. I've never bothered clarifying butter before, and was amazed at how easily it washed off my hands – no greasy residue, even before I used soap!

Next: everything egg! Water for poaching, water for hard-boiling, I SUCCESSFULLY! cut the tops off of the quail eggs. Poaching didn't go as well. I think about half of the eggs were more medium than soft-poached, and they barely had any white on them… but I didn't break any. That counts for something, right?

I also (uneventfully) hard boiled the other eggs. I found three broken eggs in the container, so luckily I managed to not break any of the hard boiled ones too. Yay me!

I also blanched the leeks.

One of my favorite things about TFL is the little sidenotes about why things should be done a particular way, such as including a crapload of salt when blanching. I've noticed my veggies look so much brighter and more appealing since I've started "generously" salting the water.

I had been alternating all of these tasks with soaking anchovies in milk, they were finally done, so I quickly made the tapenade, tossing in (kalamata not nicoise) olives, mustard, the (olive oil not salt-packed) anchovies, olive oil, and some other things. It doesn't look quite right – too oily, I think – but whatever. It's still tapenade. Ish.

I also cut the tuna for the salad nicoise, took out all of my ingredients, checked my schedule, made croutons, and generally ran around the kitchen trying to get things done.

I also peeled more beets, discovered that my mother in law was not going to be home, so I food-processed the beets into shreds, then used the cutter thing, watched the blender fail to extract more than a tablespoon of juice. At a loss, I wrapped it in cheesecloth and decided "hand-squeezing" was the way to go. Brandon literally wrung a cup of juice from beet shreds with his bare hands. Studly. I poured it in a pan and prayed it would reduce in time.


Brioche - Bread and Cie in Hillcrest, only available Friday morning

Nicoise Olives - only to be found at Whole Foods

Tuna - Point Loma Seafoods

Quail Eggs - 99 Ranch (or is it Ranch 99? Still haven't figured that out)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Beet Juice and (almost) Tapenade

Friday night. Plan was to make the tapenade, croutons, and beet juice. I did not manage to do any of these successfully.

First, the beet juice: I ran down to my mother in law's house to juice the beets.

(I love how pretty peeled beets are, with the swirly pattern)

She is impatient and insisted I must be doing something wrong or that the beets should be cooked because it was taking FOR-E-VER to juice them. She microwaved them. They juiced quickly, but only gave me half of the juice I needed. Oh, well, I figured I'd just reduce that slightly less and not add quite as much butter to the glaze the next day.

Second, the tapenade: I went to take out the special nicoise olives I had actually found at Whole Foods (LOVE the olive bar!) But… they were no where to be seen. I realized that, after my disastrous toddler-trip on Wednesday, that I didn't really recall seeing them when I put the groceries away. Whole Foods was closing in 10 minutes and takes 15 minutes to get to. So, I guess the tapenade would wait. (in hindsight, I'm glad this happened – because I may have uninvited Friday night then if I had discovered how much I hate deboning anchovies).

After this, I lost all motivation to do anything, so I crashed in front of the tv with Brandon. He got up to get a drink, so I asked him to swirl the reducing beets. Which, by the way, have NO "suggested" time for how long it should take to reduce them. I then promptly forgot about them for another hour, ran over to check on them, and found… a small pile of sludge-like beet "glaze." Whoops.

Resources: well, I think we all know this is a big fail... no salt-packed anchovies to be found, and left Nicoise olives at Whole Foods!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lemon Sabayon Tart

One of the great thing about the current menu is that there are two entire dishes I can 90+% prepare ahead of time. Dessert I could really really prep ahead of time, so I decided to make it tonight, two nights before dinner.

The whole recipe wasn't too hard or time consuming, which was great since I was wiped out from a serious workday. I think I spent maybe an hour and a half making the tart, but it would have taken half the time if I had just paid attention to the directions.

For the pine nut crust, I just measured out my pine nuts, then tossed them in the food processor with… oh, damn, softened butter. I had not taken my butter out ahead of time, so I spent about 20 minutes rotating it on my stove to heat it up enough to soften but not melt. After 20 minutes, I decided a little low power nuking was in order, so to the microwave I went (which did the trick). 20 minutes wasted from not reading directions.

Continuing on, I quickly tossed all of the crust ingredients in the food processor, blended, wrapped it in plastic in thirds, and tossed it in the fridge.

In the meantime, I juiced my lemons, separated eggs, and read the directions again so I didn't screw it up. I grabbed the appropriate measuring cups… damn! Mistake #2: I realized that I had accidentally used the ¼ cup instead of the 1/3 of cup required for the crust. So I grabbed the dough, mixed in some more sugar, then put it back in the fridge to chill again. The directions said to put a mixing bowl over hot water for the sabayon – but I have an actual double boiler, which is much easier to use without accidentally burning your hands (voice of experience), so I decided to just use that. It worked fine.

After I mixed the tart ingredients, I started whisking in the lemon juice. By about 4 minutes of whisking – not even halfway through – I felt like my arms were going to fall off. So I called in reinforcement and made Brandon whisk while I attended to the tart shell.

After pouring in the sabayon, I broiled the tart to brown on top. It did not brown nearly instantly like the directions said. Instead, it sat for two minutes and was barely browning. I realized that maybe this was because I had it too far down from the broiler… then almost lost the whole tart trying to move the rack. Guess I'm not slick enough to be able to handle that. After moving it (successfully… just barely), it did brown really quickly – like 30-40 seconds. And look at how pretty it is, even with all of the things I tried to screw up!

I must admit I feel a black cloud forming over me… if I can screw up something this easy – and trust me, it was easy – then how on earth am I going to saw a pig's head in half?

Resources: Henry's for Pine Nuts. Literally half the price of grocery store pine nuts. I also saw them in The People's Co-Op in OB a couple of days later for $25 or so a pound, which was the cheapest i've seen pine nuts in years!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Calm before the Storm

Good news for me: there is not nearly as many pre-prep oils, glazes, etc. Bad news: this means that there will be a lot more work for me the actual day of. I've been swamped with work, plus Brandon has been gone almost every night this week, so preparation has been harder. Its impossible to go to the store with a sleeping toddler when there is no parent to stay home. And going to the store with a wanting-to-go-to-sleep toddler, like I did today, was terrible. Terrible. We'll see how this goes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Basics: Pepper Confetti

Pepper confetti makes an appearance in several recipes. I'm not so sure this is going to happen in my house, but we'll see.

Pepper confetti sounds easy in theory: red, yellow, and green bell peppers. Peel, julienne, and microwave until they are dried out little suckers.

(sidenote: the last part totally reminds me of one of the childhood stories i've heard a million times about how my brother in law liked to microwave his hot dogs for like 10 minutes, until they were completely dried out hot dog jerky. So I had no doubt about the microwaving working. Silly, naive me)

Admittedly, I didn't julienne the bell peppers in perfect strips. But, I swear, they were a little better than this picture indicates:

After julienning, I arranged in layers on my perfectly smooth (and very clean) microwave plate and zapped away.

The result: not what I think it was supposed to look like.

The peppers didn't dry out entirely, and I had those weird burn marks on the ribs (hey, but the fact that the burn marks are SO even supports my claim that I julienned them pretty well!) I tried more microwaving, and they just started sticking to the plate, so I decided that was enough. The pepper confetti was definitely not dry enough to store; it really wasn't even dry enough to sprinkle. (and looking ahead, i'm really not sure what it added to the dish... so not sure if it will be reappearing. its times like this I kick myself for getting rid of Brandon's dehydrator when we last moved)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dinner #2: Redux

Well, I realized that I can't find salsify anywhere in San Diego right now. And that I need veal stock for "surf and turf" and that I don't have any yet. Nor do I have any way of prepping any... before this next weekend. Because that's when i'm doing a second dinner party. Crazy.

After changing my mind approximately 2 billion and 10 times, I finally decided on Butter Poached Maine Lobster with leks, pommes maxim, and red beet essence. I also decided on a fourth course - the "Salad Nicoise." Now... on to prep!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dinner #2

We have a menu for our next dinner!

Starter: "bacon and eggs" – poached quail egg and bacon

Main: "surf and turf" – monkfish and oxtail

Dessert: lemon sabayon pine-nut tart with mascarpone cheese

I still haven't decided if i'll do a fourth course. The starter and dessert can both be prepped well ahead of time, so this won't be too stressful of a menu. But on the other hand, i'm going to be SUPER busy throughout the month, so I don't know if i'll have time to plan, shop for, and prepare more than this. We'll see.

And I'm scared of poached eggs. Not really cooking them, i'm sure that will be fine. Eating them. But I'm going to try one. I think.

Note two: where on earth am I going to find salsify in San Diego?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dinner for Real! - Whipped Brie de Meaux, Fruitwood Smoked Salmon and Gnocchi, and Cream of Walnut Soup

Promptly at 5, I started with the "real" dinner prep.

(our pretty set table)

First up, walnut cream soup.

I basically dumped everything in the pan and simmered for about 45 minutes, then strained out all of the walnuts.

Meanwhile, I prepared the poaching liquid.

Basically, I just boiled the wine, added sugar and water, boiled some more, added a peeled, cored, and sliced pear, and then boiled. The parchment lid was a little tricky – but luckily Brandon came in for some reinforcement on that.

[pictured: the jerry-rigged "parchment lid." Yeah, that's in quotes for a reason]

Then I pureed the poached pear and a little of the poaching liquid, added the walnut cream, and it was done! Simple stuff, took me less about an hour total.

I then (quickly) trimmed the brie and whipped the heck out of it and prepped the croutons.

Then, time to fill the cornets! I quickly realized my onion cream wasn't thick enough, so I threw it in the mixer and whisked the hell out of it for a couple of minutes. That, along with some cornet crumbs to stop the filling from leaking, and I was in business. Check it:

Oh, and did I mention that I managed to make Alex dinner while doing all of this? Yeah, I rock.

Our guests arrived right about then, just in time to watch me brown the croutons in hot oil, stack the quenelles, and toss some baby mache and balsamic glaze on the plate.

We started with some champagne and the cornets. All I have to say is mmmmmm….. SO MUCH better than I could have imagined. And the presentation was gorgeous.

Next, I brought out the cheese plate. Brandon opened a bottle of Moulin a Vent, which was fabulous. A perfect clean finish. The balsamic glaze was amazing. And cheese and croutons are always delicious.

[not pictured: whipped brie en fuillette. Because it was gone before I could take a picture. Or I forgot. You choose which.]

Next, I quickly poached the smoked salmon (I precut the salmon and I had heated and left the milk at the correct temperature right before people arrived) and sautéed the gnocchi with the stock, brunoise, and chives.

I plated by putting a ring of chive oil around the plate, then put 6 gnocchi, some sauce, and a salmon piece on top. I tried to just put a dot of balsamic glaze, but realized it was a little drippy… so I just made dots connected by a little line. Everyone loved the glaze anyways, so I was sure it would be fine. I topped it all with some baby mache (the recipe called for argula but I wasn't buying two kinds of fancy microgreens; the mache was fine).

[I managed to keep the baby mache on top of everyone else's salmon, except mine... figures. They were pretty, I swear! One of my guests even took a picture of her plate and showed it to everyone at work]

The verdict? Amazing. We had a pinot with the salmon. The oakiness of the pinot combined perfectly with the smoky salmon, the gnocchi sauce was ah-ma-zing. Again, I will say it. Amazing.

Finally, I heated the walnut soup and poured in demitasse cups. I forgot to put walnut oil on top… whoops. But it was delicious regardless. Brandon paired it with a sherry, which I was really skeptical about. Everyone agreed that the nuttiness from the soup went really well with the sherry, so I guess he really does know better than me.

Altogether, my guests left happy (and a little tipsy), I cleaned up happy (and also a little tipsy). And I can't wait until the next dinner!


Fruitwood smoked salmon - Mainely Smoked Salmon (I paid a FORTUNE to have it shipped to me, but it was pretty darned good)

Brie de Meaux - Venissimo Cheese, downtown SD. Best cheeseshop ever!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The First Dinner: Salmon Cornets

Whenever I've had parties or people over, I've always made a list of what needed to be done, ordered it, and created a timeline. People [Brandon, uh-hum] may mock it, but it came in super handy for the first dinner.
While Alex was eating lunch/napping, I made the brunoise, chopped all veggies and garnishes, pulled out ingredients, and made the onion cream and the salmon tartare. I thought that I would have lots of time left after I started making the brunoise… but then realized that there was a lot more to it than cutting turnips, leeks, and carrots into itty-bitty pieces.

So, as I said, I chopped the leek, carrots, and turnips into microscopic dice. Then I had to blanch each separately. Then plunge into cold water. Then drain each on paper towels. After I had done this with each separate vegetable, I mixed them all in a bowl, spread the mixture on a cookie sheet, and froze it.
This better be enough brunoise to get me through the book, because it was a serious pain in the arse. And it took half of my allotted afternoon prep time.
Next up: Red onion cream

For the red onion cream, I minced some red onions, ran them under cold water, whisked the crème fraiche in a bowl for a minute, then folded the red onions, shallots, and spices in. I tasted it – delicious!
Next: Salmon Tartare

Basically the easiest thing in the world to make – dice the fish and combine everything! I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but I've never had raw salmon in my life. I don't like cooked salmon much, so I always thought I'd hate it. I (gingerly) took a bite when tasting for seasoning… and discovered it was delicious. Yay!
Even with the insane brunoise work, I still finished in the allotted time. Double yay!
And then not. Brandon came in to help me clean up… and somehow knocked over a butternut squash that knocked over the container with my cornets. My heart fell as I opened the container of pieces. Luckily, upon inspection, only three shattered, and another three lost some pieces… but manageable considering there were 22 (and I was only having two guests).
Salmon for the tartare - Point Loma Seafoods (ok, that's not hard to find, but the fish and service were great, so wanted to recognize them!)

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I felt like the cornets were going to be my first really big challenge. I mean, I had to read the instructions for the stencil like 10 times, and I still didn't understand (then I read an article on Get Rich Slowly about reusing plastic packaging containers and the lightbulb went off – that's the kind of container lid the instructions were talking about!). No joke, even with the lightbulb moment, I still think it took an hour to make the stencil. Luckily, the dough was easier.

My butter wasn't really cold enough, even after whisking it in my mixer for ages, so I had the brilliant idea to throw the whole mixer bowl on the stove for a couple of minutes. Worked like a charm, giving me the perfect mayonnaise-like butter consistency.

Hmmm…. I still had the sesame seeds left. And the instructions didn't say to sprinkle them before spreading the batter over the stencil. I read the instructions over and over, then realized I was supposed to sprinkle them over the batter after I had spread it. But wouldn't that make the sesame seeds inside the cone? Then it finally dawned on me: I had to turn the tuiles over before I rolled them. With my bare fingers. On a hot cookie sheet. Sitting on the oven door. Gulp. A little more trepidation about making these things.

It took me FOR-E-VER to spread the dough over the stencil. I kept having holes, the batter was too thick, too thin, too uneven, etc etc. And I still had to turn over burning hot butter-filled batter.

Brandon came over to watch (maybe to laugh) at me as I mentally prepared myself to flip the tuiles and roll them onto the molds. The joke was on him… because it didn't hurt at all! I guess the last year of trying to "sterilize" baby bottles/sippies/etc by using burning hot water has made my fingers impervious to the effects of burning-hot butter. Ha!

And I was left with these: Not quite perfect, but not too bad!


Cornet Molds: Amazon

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gnocchi and Chive Oil

The amount of prep work I've put into the first dinner is crazy… but at the same time, I love having a little something to do each night when I get home from work. Upon my arrival home today, I discovered my potato ricer came (along with the cornet molds I ordered). I have loved all of the excuses to buy new kitchen stuff :) So, with having a potato ricer, I decided it was time to make the gnocchi.

The ingredients were super simple:

I baked the massive potatoes while I cooked dinner for the baby and got him ready for bread. I attempted to scoop out the potato after it was cooked (per instructions), but quickly realized it was much more efficient to just peel the skin off. I was also a little concerned about using the ricer… but it turned out to be SUPER simple.

After quickly combining everything, making the ball of dough, then a mini snake from a piece of the dough and chopping the gnocchi, I thought I would even have time to sit and watch tv for a while with Brandon.

And then. And then I realized that I had to roll each of the gnocchi over a fork. And there were like a billion of them. Seriously, I realized it made 20 dozen, but I didn't really wrap my head around how many that was until I had to make the little grooves. And that I had to cook them. And freeze them.

2 hours and an extreme backache later, I had this:

Notice how they got bigger as I went along? I'm glad I sucked it up and made all of them, though, since Alex LOVES them and it’s super easy to just toss a dozen (or two – kids got a big appetite) frozen gnocchi in a pan and heat them. Yum.

While mentally psyching myself out about making the gnocchi, I also made the chive oil started. First I ran a packed of chopped up chives under burning hot water. Then I blended with oil and stuck it in the fridge. Easy-peasy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chicken Stock and Balsamic Glaze

In preparation for the first dinner party, I made my first TWO recipe accountrements. Both seemed pretty easy. Both took an absurdly long amount of time.

First, chicken stock. Being the genius I am, I figured I could find chicken bones somewhere. I was right! Apparently they are common in asian markets (something San Diego has a decent number). My lovely husband has a 99 Ranch a couple of blocks away from his work, so he stopped by and got 5 pounds of chicken bones and a pound of chicken feet. Much easier than buying 20 pounds of chicken and butchering them.

I've never actually seen uncooked chicken feet before. They looked like little 4-fingered hands. With fingernails and all. Freaky.

I rinsed the chicken pieces, removing skin and blood and anything that would come off easily, then simmer and skimmed and skimmed and skimmed. While skimming and skimming, I cut up leeks and onions and carrots for mirepoix.

I added the mirepoix to the simmering mess of chicken bones attempting to crawl out of the pot (seriously, a chicken foot would occasionally pop up and look like a hand trying to claw its way out, freaked me out every time), and simmered and skimmed and skimmed and skimmed some more. Seriously, my arms were DEAD when I was done with this.

After that simmering, I strained it twice, ladling the stock through the strainer. Do we see how big that pot is? [insert picture] It was a lot of ladling. A LOT. More dead arms. But the stock was good. Clear. Clean tasting. I think I like my stock a little more chicken-y, though, so next time I will use a little less water.

While I was skimming, I made balsamic glaze. My mis en place.

To make glaze, dump in pot and let it reduce slowly. MUCH less work than the stock. But by the time two hours had elapsed, I had only reduced it by half (its supposed to reduce to about ½ a cup, a quarter of what I started with). So I reduced another hour. Then I decided I HAD to go to sleep, even though it was almost twice the amount I SHOULD have had, so I cooled it and put it in a squeeze bottle. Then the next morning, I decided it was still too thin, so I would dump it in and reduce more. Two hours later, I finally had around a half of a cup. I think maybe it needed more heat to reduce properly, but I was scared of bringing it to a simmer and making it too vinegary. In any event, I tasted it, it seems fine, hopefully it works fine.

Next up: actual prep work for dinner!

Resources: 99 Ranch for chicken bones and chicken feet.