Saturday, December 26, 2009

Clam Chowder

Hubby made clam chowder tonight. In the excitement of someone else cooking, I forgot to take a picture (sorry). Oh, and if you're looking for that abomination with tomatoes in it, you're not going to find it here.

Here's what he did:

Peel and dice 2 large Russet potatoes, along with some onion and celery. Saute everything for a while in a soup pot in some canola oil (I would've used olive), then dump it into a holding vessel. Make a roux with butter and flour in the soup pot (maybe 6T each, I wasn't really watching), then add 2 bottles of strained clam juice and about 1 quart of non-fat milk. Bring to a simmer very slowly, stirring constantly.

When it's simmering gently, add in 3 cans of rinsed chopped clams (liquid saved to add later if you want). Simmer for about 30 minutes, until it's thickened nicely and the potatoes are cooked to the point of almost falling apart. Salt and pepper to taste. We like a lot of pepper.

If it's too thin, add a little more roux. If it's too thick, add some of the reserved clam liquid.

Serve, topped with oyster crackers and crumbled bacon (my contribution - you didn't think I could stay out of the kitchen, did you?).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Non-Food Post - Let There Be Light!

OK, this may indirectly be food-related. Because now that there's light in my kitchen, I may actually be able to take better pictures. Or not.

The lights in my kitchen had been buzzing for quite some time. At first I thought it was the bulbs, since two of them would flicker or not come on at all. So I borrowed a couple bulbs from work to check. Well, guess what? I've probably got the only kitchen in town with 6 foot fluorescent bulbs, instead of 4 foot. So off to Home Depot to buy 6 footers. Apparently 6 foot bulbs are pretty rare, because they had about 10 boxes each of 4 and 8 foot bulbs, and one lonely box of 6 foot ones. Got my bulbs home, got the stupid plastic grates out (what a pain!), new bulbs in, and....still buzzed.

OK, so it was probably the ballast. Bulbs out. Metal cover off (poor fingers). Bulbs in. Switch on. Buzz. Coming from the ballast. Yup. OK, get a new ballast. Easy, right? Nope. This one's 30 years old. Find an equivalent. Not so easy. Find an equivalent of an equivalent and pray it works.

So the "equivalent" shows up, and I'm immediately worried. It's shorter. That's going to be a problem. And the current rating on the new one says 0.91A, the old one says 1.45A. Hmm...And what's this? The new one has 2 blue wires. The old one only has one. Oh well, what's the worst that could happen?

So, armed with wire nuts, wire cutters, pliers, a drill, a screwdriver, and a couple screws, I got to work. Cut the old wires, stripped them back 1/4". Red to red, blue to blue (well, one of them, anyway).

Black to...crap. Can't reach. Black and white weren't long enough to test the new ballast without removing the old one from the fixture and putting up the new one. I grabbed the pliers and removed the screw holding the old ballast to the fixture. Slipped the new one into the metal tabs, marked the points where I had to drill, drilled a couple primer holes through the fixture and into the ceiling, slid the new ballast in, screwed in the screws.

Black to black, white to white.

Bulbs in. The moment of truth...


Hubby came home and said "you're in charge of all electrical stuff from now on."


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Split Pea Soup, Revisited

Every time I cook a ham, I make split pea soup. Which means I make it about twice a year, once after Easter, and once after Thanksgiving and/or Christmas (or both, if I'm lucky!).

With the crappy rainy weather we've been having, yesterday was the perfect day for pulling Thanksgiving's ham bone out of the freezer. Split pea soup couldn't be simpler. You can saute your veggies if you want, but you don't have to. Don't have a carrot? Leave it out. Let it get too thick? Add some water. Not a lot of meat leftover on the bone? Chop up a ham steak, or some kielbasa like I did this time. Easy peas-y. (Sorry)

My "secret" is to add about 1/4 to 1/2 of a teaspoon of curry powder to the soup. Not enough to really taste it, but just enough to give the soup a little something. I also add a little thyme. But shh, don't tell my husband, or he won't eat it.

I have a problem photographing split pea soup in its finished state. So here it is mid-simmer. Pretty colors, huh? It's amazing what a few new light bulbs in your kitchen will do.

Split Pea Soup, version 12/12/09

1 leftover ham bone
1 carrot, diced fine
1 stalk celery, diced fine
1/2 onion, diced fine
1 clove garlic, diced fine
1/2 t curry powder
1/4 t thyme
black pepper
1 bag of split peas, rinsed
1/2 link kielbasa sausage, chopped into small pieces
a handful of parsley, chopped
a handful of celery leaves, chopped

Place the ham bone in a large pot and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer slightly aggressively for about 30 minutes, skimming any nastiness. Remove the bone, let it sit until it's cool enough to handle, then remove any meat and chop into little pieces. Return the bone to the pot and continue to boil while you prepare the vegetables.

Saute the veggies in a little olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the curry powder and thyme and a lot of black pepper. Scrape the veggies into the pot of water, and add the peas. Bring back to a boil, cover mostly, and simmer gently until the peas are about half-cooked. At this point, add the chopped up ham and sausage, and the parsley and celery leaves, and continue to simmer until the peas are completely cooked and have fallen apart, and your soup is the proper split pea soup consistency.

Taste, add more black pepper if you want (I did), and salt if necessary (it wasn't because of the sausage). Serve with crusty bread or oyster crackers. Or those large gumball-shaped hard crackers you can break a crown on, I think they're called wine crackers - love them in soup.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I finally made Vietnamese Spring Rolls, or Goi Cuon!

I used Youki brand rice paper wrappers, and since this was my first experience with rice paper, I have no idea if that's a good brand or not.  All the recipes I read online said soak the wrappers in water for 2-5 seconds. I did that, and said, "Huh, it doesn't seem soft enough." (As if I had any idea what I was doing.) So I soaked it longer. The wrapper then proceeded to tear, stick, and be otherwise ornery. So then I tried 5 seconds.  Worked like a charm after that, just like making a burrito.

I stuffed them with shrimp, green leaf lettuce (not iceberg!), bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, green onion, cilantro and mint. I also threw in some cooked Mai Fun rice sticks because I couldn't find bean threads. I would've loved some roast pork, but no deli around here has it, and I wasn't about to roast some pork on a Tuesday night after working my ass off all day. More herbs would've been nice, like basil (but my plant died, I'm the only person in the world who can kill basil), or Vietnamese coriander (good luck finding that in a 30 mile radius!).

For a dipping sauce, I made hoisin peanut dipping sauce, courtesy of Todd and Diane from White on Rice Couple.

And who would've thought of this but a 14-year old obsessed with pasta, but leftover Mai Fun is pretty good with garlic, butter and parmesan.