Archived entries for quick tips and shortcuts

Precious in Pink: Pickled Quail’s Egg in Beet Juice

Pickled eggs seem so nice and ol’ timey. I imagine some turn-of-the-century saloons where they were available at almost every bar. They’re so easy to make. Its just a matter of hard boiling and then soaking them in a brine. My brother-in-law, Jason, always has a jar of them in the fridge, and they do make a great snack; all that protein can really fill you up!


Pickled quails eggs, as garnish for the appetizer course from our Polynesian Meal.

Tiny things are always so precious. You could fit 3 or 4 quails egg inside the shell of an average chicken’s so of course, its hard not to adore them. Don’t judge them by their size though, although small, once cooked, these eggs are surprisingly tough. Their egg whites are not as soft as their larger counterparts which gives for a surprising texture when bursting into the center and finding a soft, delicate yolk. They are a bit exotic in our culture, but quite common in various Asian cuisines, so are not impossible to find pickled if not fresh in Chinese, Korean or Thai grocery stores.

So lets pull out our cauldron, and with a little of toil, toil, boil and bubble, we’ll mix together 1 part exotic, to two parts precious, a pinch of ol’ timey, and a bit of beet blood for pizzaz and we’ll concoct the perfect pickled quails eggs!

(oh come on, I don’t mean blood- its beet juice. Sheesh!)

PICKLED QUAIL EGGS

  • 3 dozen fresh Quail eggs, or 2 cans of preserved eggs*
  • 4-5 medium sized beets, washed and quartered
  • 2 c. vinegar (white wine, cider, rice, or any mixture of these)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • bay leaves
  • black peppercorn
  • whole cloves
  • fresh mint
  • 1 clean quart jar with lid

* I suggest getting fresh, as the canned eggs are a bit rubbery. However, the longer fresh eggs sit in a brine, the more they will become a bit rubbery as well. They are best eaten within two weeks. However if you plan to store yours for a while, it doesn’t matter if you start out with canned or fresh.

Make beet juice. We’ll add beet juice to the brine to give added flavor but most importantly a nice purple color. Clean and wash your beets. You don’t have to skin them if you don’t want just get all the yuck off. Quarter and place in a pot with water covering about 1″ above beets. Cover, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 30 minutes, until you see dark red liquid. Drain and reserve 2 c. of juice for your brine.

While beets are cooking, we’ll prepare the eggs. If you’re using canned eggs, you can skip to step 4. If using fresh eggs, we’ll need to hard boil them. Place a cloth napkin or towel at the bottom of a pot, place the fresh eggs on the cloth and fill the pot with water. Place the pot on a the stove. Cover and bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling, remove the pot from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes with pot still covered. While its sitting, prepare a bowl of ice water. Take eggs from hot water, and place into the ice water until they cool. This will make peeling them easier. Because they are so small, its easy to damage them while peeling. Peel eggs and set aside.

Create your brine. In your cualdron, I mean in a pot, mix all ingredients, including the beet blood, ahem…juice, but excluding the eye of newt. Ok, joke taken too far now! Excluding the eggs, put everying into a pot and bring to a boil. If you have a pickling spice mix, feel free to use that instead of the whole spices I listed above. Once the brine is boiling, remove from heat.

Assemble your jar of pickles. Place your eggs in your quart jar. Pour the hot brine over the eggs, whole spices and all. Fill jar with as much of the brine as possible, place lid on jar and allow to sit. Once cool, you can add in some fresh mint if you want and place in the refridgerator.

Your pickled eggs will be at full potency in about a week and will remain good indefinitely if kept chilled.

Don’t Do The Dishes: Banana Bread in Pork Roaster

Waste not, want not. I believe that. Also, I can be lazy. These are the pillars of this post.

I’ve been testing recipes for our Polynesian supper club coming up next weekend. As part of our soup course, I need to prepare a roast pork shoulder with a papaya seed rub. This past Monday, I was experimenting with my recipe. And I was left over with a glass baking dish with some delicious drippings and grease. I swear, although its horrible for you, there is almost nothing which smells and tastes as delicious as pork fat. You think there is…prove it!


Pork shoulder roast with papaya and sea salt rub. Soooo good!

Anyway, I also had two bananas going bad which I needed to use up. I decided to make banana bread. But…I only have one loaf sized pan and it was currently being used with the small test pork roast. Hmmm….


Yes, I had two bananas, but I already smashed one before I thought to take their pictures. Oh well.

To be lazy, I don’t like doing dishes. (WHO DOES??) To waste not, I wanted to use both the delicious pork flavor on the glass dish and the bananas which were going bad. Why not put them together!! I decided to make a banana bread and just put the batter right into the glass dish once the pork roast was done!


A detail of the caramelized pork drippings on the glass dish (left) and the batter in the pork fat (right).

I left some of the pork grease in the bottom and put my banana bread batter right into the dish to bake and fuse with the caramelized porky yum.

The result: banana bread with a slight hint of the savory salty sweet flavor of pork. I also added a lemon glaze. Delish!

Here’s the basic banana bread I used:

Basic Banana Bread

  • 2 brown bananas
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt*
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 3/4 c. sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp whiskey

Lemon Glaze

  • 1 c. confectioners sugar
  • 2-3 tbs lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mash bananas in a bowl.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together with a stand or hand mixer until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs 1 at a time to butter and sugar and mix.
  5. Mix dry ingredients together.
  6. Add to butter/sugar/eggs and mix together.
  7. Add bananas, sour cream, vanilla and whiskey.
  8. Pour into your pan greased loaf pan (the pork fat is not manditory).
  9. Bake until tests clean with knife or skewer test. About 45 – 60 minutes.
  10. Prepare glaze by mixing together two ingredients.
  11. Spread glaze over cooled loaf.
  12. Eat it, obviously!

Questions From the Readers: Can You Save Chicken Drippings?


Breakfast fried in chicken drippings.

Andrea, I just roasted my first chicken and I have a pan full of drippings. Can I save them for future use? What can I use them for? Can I freeze them? -Katie

Awesome! I love chicken grease! Its almost the best part of the chicken. Your question was well timed in that, although I didn’t roast a chicken this weekend, I did need to finish up some chicken thighs we were BBQing in the oven when it started to rain on us friday night. Boo hoo about the rain, but we ended up with a small pan of chicken drippings which I used Saturday morning to make us a decadent and delicious breakfast!

Using the chicken grease in my cast iron pan, I first fried up a pan of potatoes to golden crispy deliciousness. Then I threw in some eggs and fried them up in the same grease. This grease puts the chicken back in the egg. (hmm that sounds sort of weird, but its true!) The whole house smelled deliciously chickeny and we had a breakfast which will definitely put meat on your bones.

Now in answer to your question, if you don’t plan on using the drippings to make a gravy, I would still save them for sure. This stuff looks and tastes like liquid gold. Besides using the grease for frying up deliciousness, its also a great way to punch up a quick soup or sauce if you don’t have time to make a chicken stock. Depending on the amount of grease, you may want to separate the two so you don’t make your soup or sauce too fatty.

In terms of saving it, you can definitely freeze the drippings in a jar or Tupperware container until you need to use it. I prefer glass since I can easily throw it into the microwave to quickly defrost it when I want to use it. Some people like to separate the grease from the drippings when freezing, but again, depending on what you want to use it for, you may not need to.


Delicious pan fried breakfast in chicken drippings

In short, Chicken drippings are great to use in soups, sauces, stocks or for pan frying and can be frozen to keep for future use.

  • separate the grease from the juice if you plan to use the juice in a quick soup or sauce.
  • don’t waste time separating the grease for stocks because you’ll have to skim grease from your bones off the surface anyway.
  • use separated chicken grease for pan frying or deep frying (if you collect enough!)

“Healthy” Camp Cobbler With Double Acting Alka Seltzer

Imagine this: While vacationing with a bunch of friends, you’ve snagged a bunch of cherries from a ripe cherry tree. You really want to show-off by whipping up an awesome cherry cobbler on the fly. You’ve got just the recipe in mind, but you soon realize your friend’s cabin does not stock baking powder? Is this the end of your grandstanding dreams?

If you say yes, turn to page 5, where you will die a gruesome death.

If you say no, continue to read on.
_______________________________________

Congratulations, you said “no”, this isn’t the end to your grandstanding dreams. You will live on to be the obnoxious braggart that you are. But first, you need to put your money where your mouth is and figure out a way of this no-baking-powder-pickle. Think about what you can use instead. What does baking powder do for the recipe and what else might create the same effect.

Okay, you know baking powder reacts while baking, creating bubbles which lighten baked goods and make then fluffy. Baking soda can be mixed with vinegar (similar to the volcano science fair project) for the same results.

Sorry, you don’t have baking soda either, but thinking on this reminded you of the packets of alka seltzer you always carry in your bag to counteract your nightly binge drinking.

Cobbler with alka seltzer? This is brilliant you think! What a way to cure all your aches and pains. What a tasty treatment. Practice your swagger; its time to self medicate while baking!


crushed alka seltzer to substitute for baking powder.

Here’s the recipe I came up with when faced with the exact same situation last weekend at my friend’s cabin. We all ate it, and many people burped to show their appreciation and gratitude!

Cherry Camp Cobbler
in a 9″ x 12″ pan, 16 – 20 servings

  • 2-3 c. bing cherries, pitted
  • 1 c. butter, melted
  • 2 c. flour
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 2 c. milk
  • 3 packets of alka selter (6 tablets)
  • 9″ x 12″ baking dish


pitting the cherries by pulling the stems.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Rinse cherries and pit them. To pit these, fresh from the orchard, I was able to extract the pit by pulling the stem while squeezing the cherry. The pit stayed attached to the stem and I could basically pull the cherry off the pit.
  3. In a sauce pan, place the cherrys with 1 cup of sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for a couple of minutes and then remove from heat. Drain cherries and reserve Bing cherries are very tart so we need to precook them with a bit of sugar to infuse some sweetness into the fruit. This will also help cook some of the juice out of the fruit so the cobbler won’t be too soupy.
  4. Drain cherries, reserving 1/4 c. of juice. Set aside cherries and 1/4 c. juice. Use the rest of the juice to make a kick-ass old fashioned. (although it may appear to be, this drink is not optional.)
  5. Melt the butter on the stove top or in a microwave if you have one. Pour melted butter into the bottom of your 9″x12″ baking dish or pan.
  6. Crush alka seltzer tablets in a bowl or cup until they are a fine powder, set aside.

  7. Measure all your dry ingredients: Mix dry ingredients together including the crushed alka seltzer. Mix your milk and reserved 1/4 c. cherry juice. Have your cherries in a bowl along with all your other mixed ingredients ready to go along with your baking dish with the melted butter. Because we’re using alka seltzer instead of baking powder, its going to react immediately so we want to mix it at the last possible minute and pop it into the stove as soon as possible.
  8. Quickly assemble your cobbler: Mix the dry and wet ingredients and pour them into the pan with the butter. Spoon the cherries into the batter. Try to distrubute evenly.
  9. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until toothpic/knife can be poked into cobbler and come out clean.


A delicioulsy fluffy cobbler ready to eat.

This cobbler recipe is always delicious but the addition of the alka seltzer only makes it better! I would say this qualifies as a healthy snack. Though its definitely not low-fat, it does make you feel way better after eating (it has aspirin in it)!

**Sorry the pictures are not as good as usual, they were taken by Ira’s iPhone while we were on vacation.

Cooking Questions: Can Cheese Be Frozen?

After our wedding, I had a bunch of food left over. I hate waste. My most hated job would have to be a garbage man, not because of the grossness and stink, but because I would be horrified by the amount of waste we produce. Don’t get me started. As absolutely exhausted as I was after our wedding, the last thing I felt like doing was using up the 5-10 lbs of sliced cheese I had stacked in my fridge. Since it was already in zip lock bags, I just threw all of them into the freezer and went to bed. This begs the question: Can cheese be frozen?

There’s a lot of debate about freezing cheese. Some say hard cheeses freeze better, some say you should only freeze soft cheese. It seems everyone has a slightly different take on the issue. In a good article from the TheNest.com, author, Nest Colleen, describes what happens to cheese as it freezes:

“Because of the moisture content or vein-y, open texture of most cheeses, ice crystals develop inside as cheese freezes. (Hey, that rhymes!) The ice “breaks” the curds in the cheese apart, which alters the texture of the cheese from creamy and smooth to crumbly or grainy when it thaws.”

This change in texture is only apparent when you eat the cheese raw. However, once its cooked , the texture of the melted cheese is relatively indistinguishable from fresh cheese. So the answer is, yes, most cheeses can be frozen, but only if you plan to use it in a heated dish like a casserole or enchiladas.

Colleens final stance urges us never to freeze fancy cheese and although it is possible to freeze cheese of a lesser quality it shouldn’t be taken on as one would freeze bulk bread or meat because unlike these examples, the quality of the defrosted cheese is so much less then the quality of the original. While I sort of agree with her, I have to take a different take on this matter.

In terms of buying in bulk, if you see a great sale on the pre-shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheeses which you would probably melt on pizza or nachos anyways, I say GO FOR IT! Buy a bunch and freeze it. In my experience once melting frozen cheese, it tastes great and I’ve never had any complaints.

Sometimes, like in my case after my wedding, you may find yourself with a lot of cheese you don’t have time to deal with, I think it’s way better to throw cheese in the freezer then throw it in the trash. I think Colleen would agree here since my cheese was basic provolone and swiss.

I think, however, this holds true for fancy cheeses too. I totally agree they should be enjoyed in their best possible quality and should never be purchased with the intent on freezing. But when dealing with left overs, waste not, want not. Even in the worst case scenario, if the cheese is totally destroyed in the freezing, at least then you have that knowledge from experience and you haven’t lost anything since it would have probably been tossed anyway.

Because there’s so much back and forth between which cheeses freeze well and which don’t, my opinion is everyone should try things out for themselves and learn by trial and error what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to try something just because random voices on the internet which present themselves as “experts” tell you not to.

Once melted, I defy anyone to tell the difference between Kraft cheese which was fresh or frozen. Its not that high quality to begin with. If they can, send them packing to go hang out with that stupid pretentious bow-tie dude from America’s Test Kitchen. You don’t want to be around that type anyway!

Four Easy Steps To Freezing Berries

Berries are expensive, especially out of season. Freezing them is so easy its ridiculous. So save money, buy berries when they’re in season and on sale, and freeze those bad boys for later.

A few weekends ago, I bought all these pints of blueberries and raspberries for $1 (the 1/2 pints of raspberries were 50 cents). Besides being in season, the reason they were so cheap was because they were on the verge of going bad. I had to pick and choose through the containers to make sure I didn’t grab any moldy ones.

So I ended up with 16 pints of berries about ready to go bad. The day after I bought them, I made the blueberry and raspberry rhubarb pies I just posted about, but that still left me with about 12 pints of berries on the brink of destruction. The weather was super nice, and I didn’t want to waste any more time in the kitchen. No problem! I quickly and easily froze the rest. Here’s how.

Berries are super easy to freeze, requiring just these four steps:

  1. Wash the berries to remove any dirt and/or nastiness.

  2. Lay berries out on a baking sheet.

  3. Place trays in the freezer for a day or two until the berries are frozen.

  4. Scoop the frozen berries into plastic freezer bags and throw those bad boys back in the deep freeze.

Easy! Next time someone comes over unexpectedly, impress them by whipping up some quick blueberry muffins or cobbler. Frozen berries are good for frozen fruit smoothies or as a replacement for ice in a fancy cocktail.

Tips:

  • You may want to measure the berries when putting them in your freezer bag so you’ll know the exact amount of cups you have for future recipes.

  • I also suggest writing the date you froze them and the amount on the bag so you don’t forget how long they’ve been stuck under that frozen pizza.

Scrap Dough Pie

Don’t you always have scrap dough left over when making a pie? I do. I hate throwing anything away, so I’ll put it in the fridge, only to forget about it and have to throw it away later. Don’t do that either. Make a scrap pie!



Scrap Pie

(Yes, this is obvious, but I don’t care. I’m going to blog about it anyway.)

  1. Just set aside some extra fruit to use as a pie filling. When you’re done with your other pies, combine all your scraps and roll them out.

  2. Mix your fruit filling (I like to do something a little different with it then the other pies so it is more special) and place in the center of the dough.
  3. Fold the dough up and around the pie filling to form a little rustic tartlet.
  4. Brush with egg. milk, oil, or whatever you use and drizzle with sugar.
  5. Throw that bad boy into the oven with your other pies.

Bam! A delicious little treat. Kids love them!

What Do You Do With Wine Thats Gone Bad?

OK, if you don’t want to watch the video, the short answer is: Use it as a marinade. To find out why, you have to watch the video. Sorry.

Forkable Tips: The Best Method for Defrosting Chicken Breast

Quick and Fruity Breakfast Pastries

The best way to get everyone to like you is to fill them up with sweet treats. A Sunday brunch seems like the perfect opportunity for bribing people with some sort of delicious breakfast bites except for one thing: I hate getting up early. HATE IT. I also like to go out on Saturday night, so if I am going to make it the day before, it has to be fast and easy.


Black currant and cherry pastries with lemon zest sugar topping.

I’ve been obsessed with whipping up these quick danishes by stuffing puff pastry with a berry filling. Pre-made puff pastry is a shortcut we approve of, as making puff pastry from scratch is putzy and time consuming. Fresh or frozen berries can be thickened with sugar and cornstarch to create the filling or if you are really pressed for time, you can just open up a can of pre-made pie filling.

Quick Fruit Pastries

  • fruit filling
  • 1 package of puff pastry
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • citrus zest.

To make your own Fruit filling:

  • 2 cups berries or chopped fruit, frozen, canned or fresh (doesn’t matter)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 heaping Tbs cornstarch
  • 1/2 c. fruit juice (you can just use water if you don’t have juice)

Mix in a sauce pan, bring to a boil and continue to stir until the sauce is nice and thick. You can add some added flavoring to the filling depending on your fruit. Almond extract goes great with berries. Citrus zest can give be fun, but a little goes a long way.

Puff pastry usually comes in a box with two sheets. Defrost dough and roll out each sheet into 12″ squares. Cut the squares into quarters and quarter again so you have 16 small squares. Spoon 1 tsp of fruit filling into the center of each square. Brush raw egg along all edges of each square.

Assemble the small pastries by pinching the corners together at the center. Then pinch together the open corners so there are no places where filling can leak out. Pinch tightly with fingers to seal, if the dough is giving you trouble you can twist the dough.

Brush with raw egg and top with sugar. I like to add some fresh lemon or orange zest into the sugar to give some added pep!

Bake little guys for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from oven when the dough is nice and golden. Allow to cool completely before placing in air tight containers.

The next morning, these pastries are little light crispy bites of fruity friendship. Everyone will like you and you will be happy.



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