Grant McWilliams

Last pumpkin of the season

Regular readers of the Man, the Myth, the Legend will know that I'm a big fan of pumpkins. See my previous pumpkin articles as proof. This year I did a Pumpkin Smackdown article on the best pumpkin varieties and tested based on flavor, texture, cookability, longevity and availability.  As you may recall I rated the Rouge vif d'Etampes (Cinderella) pumpkin the winner. Most other pumpkins even if they have decent flavor fall down in one way or another. Since I refuse to use "pumpkin" from a can my pumpkin buying season is fairly limited to October and possibly some of November due to the popularity of pumpkins at Halloween for the humans and the somewhat related popularity of pumpkins as food for farm animals in November. I put quotes around the word pumpkin in the previous sentence because what's in the can is listed simply as pumpkin alone in the ingredients list and yet it's BROWN. Pumpkin is NOT brown as you'll see in the photo in this article and in fact it's very very orange. I'm not sure why a can of nothing but pumpkin ends up being brown but I'm skeptical that they found some unknown variety of pumpkin with brown flesh. Until that mystery is solved by Scooby and the gang I'll stick to fresh pumpkin that happens to be bright orange. 

With that in mind you may recall from my Pumpkin Smackdown article that the Cinderella excelled on longevity. If left alone and their skin is not broken in any way they'll last up to 6 months. My daughter Natalya brought me several Cinderella pumpkins in late October. I cooked my last one tonight - 5 whole months later. A lot of people tell you that pumpkins need to be stored in dark cool places etc. but these pumpkins were stored in the front room under my Chippendale era Buffet at room temperature for 5 months. The trick is for the air to be dry (no garages) and to never break the skin. If you nick the pumpkin's skin you have to cook it within a day or two or it will rot. If the pumpkin is stored in a damp location it will rot. The longest I've ever kept pumpkins has been inside the house in a warm dry environment where they didn't get damaged. 

This pumpkin was a very large one which is why I waited until the very last moment to cook it. Because of it's size it wouldn't fit on my half sheet pans thus I had to cut it across the poles (instead of around the equator) and cook one half at a time taking nearly 6 hours. The meat I was able to retrieve from it will probably get me another 6 loaves of pumpkin bread and maybe another pan of Pumpkin Lasagna.

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Honey Barbecue Chicken Pasta

We have some meals around our house that we cook often but there's no recipes attached to them. This is in part because it's all by taste and also because I haven't gotten serious enough to focus on making them recipes. One of those meals is Barbecue Chicken Pasta. This might seem out of left field until you realize that most people have no problem eating Barbecue Chicken Pizza. For the pasta rendition we substitute noodles for the pizza dough and add in some nice caramelized veggies. We're not exactly forging new trails here with grilled chicken, boiled noodles and sauce. However, what makes this meal a bit more complex and the reason I don't have a proper recipe for it is the sauce. There's a million jarred BBQ sauces on the store shelves but the problem is that none of them fit this dish. Most are too smokey, too hot, have too much vinegar bite or are too sweet. Since I just knocked out the four dominant flavors of BBQ sauce you may wonder what my vision is. I want a sauce with no smokiness, no heat, a touch of sweetness to complement the caramelized onions and peppers, a touch of zippiness and a whole lot of tomato flavor. What I want is a BBQ flavored tomato based sauce that's bright and lively but not overpowering. You'd think that with 30 million jarred bbq sauces that someone would have that combination but so far I've not found it.

Following is the very rough recipe. I'm not happy enough with it to put it in the recipebook on this site. Later when I get the sauce dialed in I will but for now it's just a blog post. Forgive me for being just a bit vague on things.

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Pumpkin and Mascarpone Lasagna

It's been a while since I put up any recipes but I recently hosted the end of the quarter potluck for my classes and so in doing that spent most of a day cooking. On occasion I have a vegetarian student and I pull out the old favorite - Pumpkin and Mascarpone Lasagna. It also just so happened that I had just enough pumpkin left from my second to last pumpkin of the season. The recipe calls for 2 lbs which is quite a lot and I had exactly that.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it's nice, light and a bit exciting. The reaction you have after eating this is the same as the reaction from Butternut Squash Ravioli - you wonder why people limit themselves to boring meat/cheese and red sauce noodles. The flavors are bright and exciting, meat or cheese lasagna is boring and drab. Maybe it's not for everyone but so far every person I've fed it to really liked it and in addition it's good for most vegetarians (has dairy and eggs) and like many non-meat foods, it's cheap. In fact as I made it the cost is roughly $1 per slice of lasagna and half that cost comes from cheese. Shop around and you may be able to make it for less. 

The Recipe: Pumpkin and Mascarpone Lasagna

Note for anyone not willing to eat eggs they can just leave them out of the Bechamel. It will be less fluffy but still very nice.

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the Man, the Myth, the Legend asleep?

There's been a long drought of articles here at The Man, The Myth, The Legend and for that I apologize. The only thing I can say is life has gotten more complex and very busy. I started a new relationship and the school quarter is ending thus most of my time/energy/motivation has gone into those things. As I find balance I should be able to get back to posting more often.

A note to my readers though, looks like we'll push past 2 MILLION unique visitors this month. It took 4 years to get the first million and only since September to get the second. This is a huge milestone and I hope the increased traffic continues. I'd like to see more commenting of course though.

Another announcement is that I'll be pushing the Recession Chef articles out to a new website - recessionchef.com. Don't get too excited yet as I'm still working on it but you can wander over there and tell me what you think if you'd like. I'll still post general food blog posts here and I'll repost Recession Chef articles here (or at least promote them) but all articles having to do with "Eating well on a recession budget" will be posted there. That content will go toward the book. If you'd like to follow the Recession Chef on Google+ (where all the cool kids hang out -  Oh my gosh, Facebook is sooo MySpace!) you can circle the Recession Chef Google+ page.

Confusing consumers isn't good

I was in a grocery store last week and I saw that they were carrying both El Monterey Chili and Picante burritos. I've never seen both in one store and have in fact bought Chili thinking I was getting Picante only to get home and spit them back out. I'm not a fan of my frozen burritos tasting like Chili powder. If I wanted chili powder in my mouth I'd combine it with tomatoes  and make chili with it. The Picante burritos though I like and after that unfortunate incident I've had to be very careful to read the package to make sure I was in fact getting Picante and not Chili flavored burritos. 

This display though accentuates the problem - El Monterey has two products that look nearly identical. Yes the shade of red is slightly different and there are a few words that are not identical but I feel these two products need to be more unique. So let's think about having two products nearly the same, most stores won't carry both because the number of people grabbing the wrong one and then returning them probably goes up. I don't know the protocol for returned goods but I bet it's a write off. So by only being able to sell one OR the other in each store you're cutting your market in half. It would seem that by making the packages drastically different they could put another product out there and increase sales. Just an observation.

 

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Phad Thai - it's what's for dinner

Phad Thai is a very easy meal to make at home if you have the right ingredients. There are several brands of Phad Thai sauce on the market and frankly I'm not entirely happy with any of them alone. However upon buying several and inspecting the ingredients list and tasting them I've found an alternative to making my own Phad Thai sauce - speedball them! Mae Ploy one of my favorite Asian product makers focuses on fewer ingredients in their jarred Phad Thai sauce and only lists 11 items. Ingredients include palm sugar, shallot, water, fish sauce, soy bean oil, vinegar, tamarind, red chili, salted radish, dried shrimp and salt.  Por Kwan, another popular company has 14 ingredients so in exchange for the shallots in Mae Ploy's sauce they have onion and garlic, tartaric acid, citric acid and sodium metabisulphate. From the ingredients list the Mae Ploy definitely sounds like the better product but the overall effect is a sweeter sauce. After experimenting I've found the best combination is a 50/50 mix of both sauces.  I use one large jar of Mae Ploy and two small jars of Por Kwan.

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Moussaka recipe is up

After a great deal of time I've put the Moussaka recipe up. The negative to posting photos of really nice meals is that it's inevitable that someone will want the recipe. An interesting story though - I lost my Moussaka recipe. So the one I just posted is a work in progress that's a result of taking some other online Moussaka recipes and twisting them to match my memory. I'm sure I'll have to modify it as time goes on to get it tasting the way I originally had it. However, for now this one is pretty good. 

In the future I'll be playing with pealing the Eggplant, breading and baking it. Primarily because the part of the Moussaka my kids like the least is the Eggplant skin. I'll also be playing with the spices, potatoes and wine. I've given hints about the Bechamel and I'll be playing with that more to decide exactly how I want it. I've folded in beaten egg whites and added grated cheese to it for added bulk and have liked the results. 

Continue to my Moussaka Recipe.

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Chimichangas Smothered in Heavy Cream

La Raza a small taqueria near Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood Washington that makes cream smothered Chimichanga. Let me just say that I'm aware that Chimichangas are no more Mexican than French toast is French. However, there's something very nice about deep fried tortilla with a heavy dose of cream. I think you could deep fry a Taco Bell burrito and smother it in cream and it would be edible (about the only way). Even though I like going to La Raza to pick up a Chimi at lunch I don't always like paying $10 per meal. Although the Chimichanga is large enough to share with someone else I don't always have someone there to share with.

So instead of spending $20 to take my family out for Chimichangas we make them ourselves. For $6.00 I made 7 Cream smothered Chimichangas or roughly 85 cents each. I get my 40% heavy cream from Cash and Carry, tortillas from anywhere, chicken on sale and the rice is dirt cheap no matter what. 

Loose instructions for Chimichangas. There's no real recipe because it's largely done by taste.

Rice

  • Roast 2 cloves of garlic and two Jalapenos on a comal
  • Combine garlic and peppers in a food processor with a bit of salt to make a paste
  • Add half lb of tomatoes and pulse
  • Heat a little oil in a dutch oven and when hot add 1 cup of medium grain rice and cook 5 minutes
  • Add tomato salsa from food processor and cook for 5 minutes
  • Add 3/4 cup of water or broth and place in oven for 25 minutes

Everything else

  • Grill small strips of chicken breast pieces
  • Pour 2 cups of heavy cream in fry pan on medium heat
  • Add enough sour cream to thicken
  • Add enough sugar to sweeten
  • Combine refried beans on large tortilla with rice, chicken and shredded cheese and close with toothpicks
  • Fry in deep fryer at 350 degrees until brown, turn over and repeat
  • Place Chimichanga on plate and pour cream over
  • Sprinkle paprika over cream

That's it really. Making the rice is the most work. If you double the rice recipe you can make these several times in a row or just eat the rice. For me this recipe made about 7 Chimichangas.

 

 {gallery labels=filename}Gallerys/Chimichanga{/gallery}  

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Nine hour smoked Brisket

 

Seattle temperatures nearly reached 60 degrees yesterday so I felt it time to fire up the smoker red hot and burn the living organic matter from it that accumulated during the wet winter. Once the inside was nice and clean and my bricks had lost their green fungus overtones I loaded the offset chamber with mesquite lump charcoal and brought the temp to 250. Once the temp

 had stabilized I loaded it with a heavily rubbed point beef brisket and smoked it with hickory fairly heavy for about 4 hrs at between 250-225 degrees which is longer than I usually do but I felt adventurous. To be honest after this winter I think I just missed the smell of the smoker running in the back yard. The Brisket was then double wrapped and put in the oven at 225. I probably should have pulled it at 8 hrs but it still turned out really great. The fat cap was mostly gone, the texture like melted butter and after resting very little juices ran off.  It has a great layer of bark and the flavor nice and smokey.

The photo to the right is cut against the grain. You can see the substantial bark and the looseness of the muscle fiber.

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