Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chicken and Rice (Arroz con Pollo) - adventure

Wow, you'd think this wouldn't be so difficult.

Sunday night I thought I'd make Chicken and Rice with some boneless chicken thighs I had in the freezer. I've never made it before but figured it couldn't be that difficult. I searched through some cookbooks and then online and surprisingly enough could not find a recipe for Spanish Chicken and Rice. And I note Spanish here because I did find plenty of South/Central American recipes but not a one from Spain. How can you tell? Well, there are two easy give aways. Rice in Spain is a medium grain variety. Now granted, I don't expect anyone to go to the expense/effort of importing rice from Spain but there are substitutes and short grain rice is easy enough to find (and much closer than long). So if the recipe called for long grain rice it was out. Secondly, Chicken and Rice does not include tomato sauce. It's referred to as "pasta" sauce for a reason - namely it doesn't belong on rice!

Anyhow, armed with some bits of ideas from different recipes and having watched my cousin make Paella a number of times I gave it a shot . . . and missed. In hindsight I made a number of missteps:

1) I cooked the garlic and onions first, then browned the chicken. When I started I figured I would get the flavor of the onion and garlic in the chicken if I cooked them first. In practice, I had to remove them from the pan to keep them from burning while the chicken browned. I added them back in with the rice but by that point I think I missed infusing the flavor into the rice. Oops.

2) I added the saffron to cold water. I used to add boiling water to saffron strands and then use the liquid (removing the strands). I've since found one can grind the saffron in a mortar and pestle for the same effect, however it looks like you still have to use hot water for that bright yellow color. I added it with the water immediately after the rice. I used more than I would have with the strands method but the dish was fairly tan in the end.

3) I skipped the beer and Rioja my cousin usually adds to his paellas (I've got some Bards Tale). Not sure how much this was missed but the dish lacked a bit of flavor.

So, I'll have to try this again sometime. Next time I'll be sure to have some green pepper on hand to add with the onion and garlic. I'll also look to correct my three gaffes above.

Overall it wasn't a bad meal, it just wasn't what I set out to prepare when I started!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pigs-in-a-Blanket (Disaster)

Back over Super Bowl weekend I had contemplated making Pigs-in-a-Blanket to take to a Super Bowl party my cousin was throwing. I searched the internet for a suitable gluten and dairy free recipe and came up with nothing. I did manage to find one dairy free recipe and was going to try it with a 1-to-1 substitution of a GF flour blend. Well anyhow, after making Guacamole and some Bob's Red Mill brownies, I just ran short on time and decided to skip them especially since the party's hosts were making regular Pigs-in-a-Blanket.

I finally got around to trying to make them this weekend and boy am I glad I didn't try them Super Bowl Sunday! For starters, I hadn't really read the recipe and this one, while claiming to take 25 minutes of prep time (at the top), actually require 25 minutes of prep time spread out over two hours as the dough was proofed and proofed again!

Finally, I was ready to start and rolled out the dough between two sheets of wax paper. I quickly realized I had not added enough flour when the dough stuck to both the top and bottom sheets. I ended up scraping it off the wax paper, then rolling it around the little cocktail franks in my hands constantly adding more GF flour mix to keep it from sticking (too much). As you can see from the photo, some of my earlier ones (on the left) had too much dough and (due to forgetting to add Xanthan gum) sagged a bit around the franks. Most of the later ones (on the right) ended up having pretty narrow bands of dough.

Overall, they tasted ok although the 'blanket' portion was a bit hard. I suspect this hardness could have been due to me cooking them in a toaster oven instead of a regular oven but I'm not sure. I had some as a snack late Sunday night and ate the rest (reheated in the microwave) for lunch on Monday. The dough was softer after being reheated.

I debated calling these an adventure rather than a disaster but after all the trouble I don't think I can even begin to save the recipe, but will instead have to start from scratch trying to put one together. It was certainly a nice treat after 3 years without, but at this point not worth the effort!

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