Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole with Stuffing

According to the December 12, 2011 issue of Time magazine, “The cost of a home-cooked meal is rising faster than eating out.”  Does this mean that at some point it will be cheaper to eat out than to eat at home?  I’ve got to say I certainly hope so.  All of this cooking dinners every day is starting to wear me out.

In the meantime, I made a special treat for last night’s dinner, and it involves chicken, broccoli and stuffing in a casserole.  If somehow you’ve already divined this information, don’t get too full of yourself.  You’re not the only person who knows more than me.

To start my dinner I am going to cook the chicken.  I am using boneless chicken breasts, which cost a little more than split chicken breasts with the bones, but when you’re lazy and in a hurry as I usually am, boneless chicken saves a lot of effort.

So first I drizzle, which I’m pretty sure is Italian for “spill some”, olive oil in a pan, arrange the chicken breasts in the pan, sprinkle with salt and drizzle more olive oil onto the breasts.  Next I cut up some broccoli and put it on to steam.

While those are cooking can get started on the sauce portion of this casserole.  This amazing concoction consists of cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder and shredded cheddar cheese.  I won’t bore you here with the exact measurements, but I’ll just tell you that when I get done mixing it all together I have a bowl full of sinful deliciousness with just a slight kick to it.  This is what makes the whole dish so yummy.

I want to be careful not to over-steam the broccoli because it will just get mushy once t goes into the casserole.  The same goes for the chicken.  I want to take it out while it is slightly undercooked.  The chicken gets cut up into bite-sized pieces and goes into the casserole pan.  The cut up broccoli pieces go on top of the chicken so they mix together and when I eat it I get a bit of chicken, a bite of broccoli, or sometimes if I’m feeling dangerous, a bite of chicken and broccoli.

From the mixing bowl, I pour the sauce mixture over the chicken and broccoli and the whole casserole begins to take shape.  But there is one thing missing, and those of you who skipped to the end because you can’t stand the suspense have already figured it out.  There is stuffing to go on top.

This is ordinary turkey stuffing and it comes out of a box, so don’t be too surprised because everything up to this point has been made from scratch.  I’m still just a guy and I wouldn’t let you down.  For some of us, the best things come out of a box.

Here is the finished casserole when it comes out of the oven.  This was the only picture I was able to get.  Once it is ready to eat, it vanishes in a hurry.

However, let me add a picture of the guys working on a couple of throws at the last Scrivens Academy seminar.  Howard has a lot of good stuff to teach and I especially want to thank the guys for coming in to The Dungeon and taking part.  We’ll see you at the next seminar.

A good picture of Howard, with Jimmy Woo over his right shoulder and Bruce Lee over his left.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Intro to Kung Fu at HFCC

For those of you in the Detroit area who wish to learn some basics of self-defense and begin your training in Kung Fu, I will be teaching a class at the Henry Ford Community College Dearborn Heights campus.

This will be a good course for beginners who have had no experience in Kung Fu or any other martial art, and I will also tailor the class for those with more training and experience.

The first class will be Saturday, January 28, 2012 from 12:00 to 1:00 pm.  Use this link to download the HFCC Center for Lifelong Learning Catalog.  Sign up now to get your spot in class and learn Kung Fu.

If you would like more information, please feel free to contact HFCC at (313) 317-1500, or me at burpingfrogbooks@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Smoked Sausage and Alfredo Noodles

Today’s dish  is one of my wife’s delicious creations, seen here in a slightly modified form, dumbed down if you will, for the Kung Fu Cooking Guy and my average skills.

Some of you will notice an uncanny resemblance between this dish and the immensely popular macaroni and cheese with hot dogs. (Note: the Kung Fu Cooking Guy refuses to use the term “wiener”.)  Your undeniable powers of observation are not without merit.  Our dinner of Smoked Sausage and Alfredo Noodles takes as its foundation the concept of combining a tasty sausage product with a familiar pasta dish.  Call it unsophisticated if you must but such things have no effect on the overall yumminess of our dinner or the speed with which it vanishes from the pot.

Tonight, or I should say a few nights ago because I have fallen a little behind on this story, our weapon of choice is the cast iron skillet.  The one I am using has a nice wooden handle to keep me from burning my hands half the time, weighs about as much as the engine block from a ’73 Buick, and proudly wears the residue inside and outside of the many meats and vegetables that have been cooked in it.  In polite circles this is referred to as seasoning.  I call it the stuff that keeps the pan from rusting.

It is the sausage that I will be cooking in the cast iron skillet.  I take my trusty knife and my trusty cutting board and cut the smoked sausage into 1/8 - 1/4 inch slices.  When I am done I have a pile of meat discs which I dump into the skillet and cook on low.  There is nothing fancy going on with this dish, so if you were looking for something insightful here, I have sad news for you.

While the smoked sausage discs are sautéing nicely in their own juices, I am going to get to work on the second half of my two-part dish, the Alfredo noodles.

Now before we go any further, I feel I should give you a little word of caution.  This is a cooking story by a guy, which I’m sure most of you have probably figured out by now.  Being a guy, I take a pretty simple approach.  There isn’t going to be any mixing of flour and eggs to make past dough, or blending of cheeses and cream to make the sauce.  This is not to say that making pasta from flour and eggs may not ever happen because I have done that in the past, but tonight my Alfredo noodles are coming out of a package.

I understand if this sounds anathema to you, but right now I see a lot of other guys out there nodding their heads and thinking “Yeah, I’m totally down with that.”  So let’s keep going with it because as soon as I’m done with the cooking I’m going to get into the eating.

For this dish I’m using two packages of Knorr Alfredo Pasta Sides.  First, I bring some water, milk and butter to boil, then I insert the noodles and sauce mix and turn it down to simmer.  It is so easy to forget to turn down the heat and keep stirring the sauce.  More than once I have wound up with burned cheese soup.  So when it says “Stir constantly” on the package, that’s what I do.

Ok, so it doesn’t have to be constant, but it does have to be frequent, and it has to be for the next eight to ten minutes.  The noodles in the pan, they bubble in the sauce and it makes the whole house smell good.  If you like, and I do, add a bit of garlic powder to make the noodles taste even better.  When it’s done I let it stand for a few minutes so that it can “thicken upon standing”.  I find that I usually thicken upon standing, but that’s another story.

Now comes the next important step, where I bring the two separate portions of my meal together into a single entity that becomes dinner.  And the strategy I will use to bring about this finale?  The care, the discipline, the practiced ease?  None of that, of course, because I’m a guy.  I pick up the skillet and dump the sausage into the noodles.

And so I have finally achieved the miracle of Smoked Sausage and Alfredo Noodles.  Now I just apply fork, insert into mouth and repeat until the plate is empty.  If, like me, you’ve made this dinner for your wife and a house full of boys but the boys haven’t come downstairs to find out what smells so good, then you might have a chance to go back for more.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Scrambled Eggs by Jack Allen

What better way to start this online magazine than with a simple plate of scrambled eggs for my son before school on a Monday morning?

Normally when I make eggs for John’s breakfast he likes his eggs sunny side up.  That way he can poke the yolks with the pointy ends of the toast, and from that we get the name pokin’-yolkin’ eggs.

On another day we’ll take the opportunity to examine the local phenomenon that is pokin’-yolkin’ eggs because today we are out of bread, which makes the whole toast process a challenge.

Let’s start our culinary adventure at the start, which is near the beginning, which I have found makes most cooking tasks far easier than when I start them at the middle.  I am using a ten inch non-stick pan by Chefology, one that I chose because of the thickness of the metal.  I am presuming the thickness works to distribute heat more evenly.  Whether that’s true or I’m making it up is hard to tell, but what is easy to tell is how well this pan makes eggs.  Since I bought this pan specifically for making eggs, that’s handy.

Even though this is a non-stick pan, I like to melt a little butter to coat the surface for a little extra lubrication and a little flavor.  Who doesn’t love the taste of butter?  Ok, those of you who object, please line up to the right to fill out questionnaires.

I heat the pan just enough to melt the butter, not so hot that the butter burns.  Who likes the taste of burned butter?

When the butter is melted I shut off the heat.  Some people like to mix their eggs in a bowl.  That’s great, but I like to put them right in the pan and I don’t want the eggs to start cooking before I’m ready for them to start cooking.  I’m a little slow and when things get ahead of me I have a hard time keeping up.

I could go over the proper technique for cracking eggs, but I think that is best left to the experts.  I’m just a guy and I break my eggs over the closest suitable device, and in this case it is the edge of the grill over the burner.

With my eggs appropriately disbursed in the pan, I proceed to add a tiny bit of water, maybe a teaspoon for two eggs.  This is difficult to measure precisely because being a guy, I just hold the pan under the faucet and turn on the water for a second.  That’s accurate, right?

There is some debate about the necessity of water to make scrambled eggs, but I have found that a little bit of water makes the eggs fluffier and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Now that I have my eggs in the pan with a bit of water, it’s time to re-engage the burners and apply heat, which tends to have a positive effect on the cooking of our breakfast.  But it doesn’t take a lot of heat.  We want the eggs fluffy and tender, not tough and burned.  How many of you have kids who are going to eat tough, burned eggs?  I’ll eat a lot of questionable things but even I don’t want my eggs tough and burned.

So we use a wooden spoon or a plastic spoon to stir the eggs over low heat because after all, this is a non-stick pan and I kind of want it to stay that way.  It takes only a few minutes for the eggs to cook, with a little help from the low-impact rotational motivator device, or wooden spoon for those of you who prefer more technical descriptions.  Then the eggs go right onto the plate, or horizontal ceramic-surface support device.

A little salt and a dash of pepper and it’s ready to go for your eight year old, or for you if you’re going to be selfish and not share with anyone.  It’s important not to use too much salt, but another thing I have learned is that a little bit of salt can really bring out the flavor in most foods.

So there you have your scrambled eggs, done the Kung Fu San Soo way.  Dinner might be kind of fun and maybe tomorrow we’ll find out what happens with that.  We’ll come back to eggs another day, maybe for those pokin’-yolkin’ eggs or a good old-fashioned omelet.  In the meantime, take a look at the Scrivens Academy of Martial Arts website.