Magical Mystery Sauce

You know how sometimes 1+1 = 4? Yes? Sometimes the combination of two recipes is way better than the original individual ones. That’s when a recipe is a keeper.

I was planning to invite family friends over for Easter. Normally we spend Easter together in their garden, hiding Easter gifts for each other, with the kiddos running around and a cookout if the weather permits. Well, most people weren’t in town, mostly because they were on vacation in Asia, so we were trying to come up with an alternate plan. I was hoping to invite the remaining contingent over for Easter Sunday or Monday, but if I’m preparing new to me recipes then I really want to try them out. My plan was to make something with chicken so I was browsing through Epicurious, looking for recipes that sounded interesting.

I found a very interesting recipe for chicken with radicchio and fennel mustard butter. Hmm. I didn’t have any radicchio, but I had sweet potatoes. Now, I am on a mission to make good sweet potato fries. I’ve tried various versions, and I haven’t been happy with any of them. Saint Ex in DC used to make these awesome sweet potato fries – my goal was to reach that standard. Btw, Saint Ex ended up with a new cook, so the sweet potato fries are permanently off the table. Boo.

I could share my sweet potato fries adventures with you but this post is about chicken. (Bock bock bock bogoooooock – just for you, V!). Let’s return to the chicken with fennel mustard butter. The fennel mustard butter sounded interesting. I have a French mustard with herbs, which, thanks to the herbs is green. That, plus butter and fennel made a for a really pretty, very green, and very tasty fennel mustard butter.

On to the chicken part of the menu. Chicken marinated in olive oil and lemon juice. But I was feeling more adventurous. And then I remembered this magic sauce recipe from 101 cookbooks. I’d made this magic sauce before, and used it in a version of aglio e oglio, or with buffalo burgers. I brushed it both on the burgers and on the toasted rolls. De-licious.

magic sauce in the making – note the fennel mustard butter in the background

Now, I could make the Italianesque version of the magic sauce as in the recipe. Or I could tinker with it. Guess which option I chose. Yeah. I decided to make an Indianized version, and substitute ingredients. Here’s my magic sauce a la India:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp roasted fennel, ground into a powder
1 1/2 tsp roasted cumin, ground into a powder
2 large garlic cloves, smashed into a paste
1 bay leaf, well crumbled
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I ground the herbs in a mortar but you can just chop them)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

lamb knuckles in a Römertopf (clay pot)

I used the entire sauce, plus some extra olive oil, lemon juice and salt and marinated the chicken breasts in the sauce in a ziploc and everything was good. And then the plans were turned upside down. The menu was revised to lamb knuckles, marinated provencal style with lots of caramelized red onions, steamed potatoes and salad with spring herbs fresh from our friends’ garden. Oh and some of that fennel mustard butter. This isn’t the best picture, but you get the idea.

The marinated chicken had to stay in the fridge an extra day. This is the first time I marinated chicken more than 24 hours. I wasn’t sure if it would be ok, but some googling showed that it should be ok. Since there was acid in the dressing, I was hoping that the chicken wouldn’t be tough. But au contraire. The extra marinade time had made the chicken delicious. I used a cast iron pan and fried the chicken in butter, 4 minutes on each side, letting them brown nicely, and then I finished it in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, for 10 minutes. The marinade was added to the pan and made for awesome pan drippings. I ate some of the remaining drippings with bread – so good.

I don’t think I can convey in words how juicy and tasty the chicken was. Chicken breasts tend to dry out, but this, this was great. The chicken breasts weren’t to thin so they wouldn’t have dried out quickly, but the marinade made the dish. It outshone the sweet potato fries by leaps and bounds. Since that dish was so awesome, I remade it for Mom. First I thought I’d make a quick salsa and then some beans, probably beans almondine. Easy peasy, right? But then I made that pomegranate black bean feta mandarin and mint salad. This time I once again marinated the chicken for two days – why mess with a good thing. I urge you to go out and make your own. Really. You won’t regret it.

As you might have guessed, the post title is inspired by the Beatles ‘Magical Mystery Tour

Olympic Days are here

The 2012 Olympic Games have started! I always get a kick out of the watching the games, especially the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. It’s just a big spectacle, it’s always fun to see what the countries come up with. Plus, it’s always a kind of family event for us, where we gather and watch and comment on the ceremonies together, especially the Opening Ceremonies, where all the athletes are so hopeful and motivated to give their best. Let’s just hope that there isn’t much doping…

Watching the Olympic Games also means prime TV watching time, and so it’s only logical that I multitask and use that time constructively – and knit. After all, I learned to knit during the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. IMG_3320That was when I tackled my first knitting project – a sampler scarf that I used as a practice project to learn how to knit and purl properly. I did have the advantage that I knew how to crochet a bit, which definitely helped.

Since the athletes challenge themselves, it’s the perfect time to challenge myself as a knitter. And Ravelry helps out, too! Ravelry used to run the Ravelympics, an knitting/crocheting event taking place simultaneously with the Olympics. I didn’t know about the Ravelympics in 2008, so I just plodded along on my own, and I didn’t really get much knitting in during the 2010 Winter Games. So this was going to be my chance to really participate.

If you’re a knitter, and somewhat familiar with Ravelry, you probably know what happened next: The USOC decided that the Ravelympics ‘denigrate’ the Olympic brand. Yup, they did:

We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

What? Uhm, doesn’t the USOC have better things to do? It’s all about the brand, and the money involving the brand and brand licensing. Remember ‘All the President’s Men‘? According to Deep Throat: “Follow the money.” (If you want to know more about that upheaval and the media and blog coverage, just google Ravelympics).

So instead I’ll be participating in the Ravellenic Games. That’s just fine with me 🙂

Now the question is just what to knit? As always, I’m just ‘slightly’ overly ambitious. My original plan was to frog my Fiore di Melanzane shawl and reknit it, making it broader. I already frogged it, getting myself ready to cast on during the Opening Ceremony. But, really, knitting a broad and long stole in just over two weeks? I just don’t think I can manage that. I can keep it as a backup project, in case I really manage to finish my alternate project.

Yeah, so what’s my actual project? It’s the Rockefeller shawl by Stephen West, subject of a current KAL on Ravelry. The first three clues are already out there, and the last one will be up next Friday, so all the pattern will be there in time. The question is just if I can finish the project in time. I think that’s way more realistic than a whole stole.

And if I get that done in time, then I can always continue working on the pea soup blanket as part of the work-in-progress category, or I can actually cast on again for the stole.

Let the knitting begin!

sugar apricots

I came back with a bunch of Turkish sugar apricots from my latest grocery expedition. They looked so cute and delicious, and they’re quite a bit smaller than regular apricots. And yes, they live up to the expectation of the name – they really are sweeter.

So what to make with them? This nectarine galette came immediately to my mind – rustic and flaky, and perfect for fresh seasonal fruit. It’s easy enough to make – I used a bit too much water while bringing the dough together, so it was a bit sticky, but sticking it in the fridge helped . I forgot to take it out in time to roll it out, and since I didn’t want a finished tart that was done around 11pm, I placed the rolled out dough in the freezer, just long enough for the dough to firm up, but not long enough to freeze. If you’re doing the same thing, make sure you check on your dough frequently and that you don’t get side tracked, otherwise you have a frozen dough with lovely cracks. Which defeats the whole no-tear concept and the juices will run out.

I used up every single apricot – sadness, since I wanted to eat at least one. But it sure did look pretty, with all those apricots arranged. I placed the tart on a pizza stone, which was great, and the tart came out really nicely. It’s easy peasey to make (God, I sound like one of those Food Network Chefs – I can’t remember who says that), and the crust is lovely and flaky and delicious. I made one with plums, and it’s just as good.

fruit tart
apricot tart, plum tart – baked on a pizza stone

Ch-ch-changes

It’s been an interesting six weeks around here. Life has been rather crazy, with family and visitors, everyday occurrences and rare events. Some were great, some weren’t, and some of that was just pure fun. But, life has been the priority, with blogging falling somewhat to the wayside.

Over the past few months of blogging, I’ve returned to a regular blogging schedule. I had fun joining up with this year’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, and I continued that challenge to join up with the WordPress postaday goal – a post a day for every day of 2012. Most of my posts were knitting or food posts, with some photography and pop culture in there (Star Wars anyone?). Some of those posts were longer commentaries on topics that are interesting or move me. I’ve always tried to be mindful of what I put up – I definitely think about what I’m posting, and I also try to respond to you on a timely basis. I guess my approach to blogging is to blog in a way that I as a reader would find interesting. And I hope that in that way, it’ll be interesting to you guys too.

The scheduling function has been my friend over the past few weeks. I just haven’t had the time to draft a new post everyday, instead I’ve prepped a bunch of the photograph heavy posts – the knitting and food posts – beforehand. But scheduling posts also means that I’m not online as frequently as I’d like to, and my response to your comments wasn’t as fast as I wanted.

So – now I’m back on track. I actually have a bit more time now, so I’ll have time to write some of the more commentary style posts. Plus, I’ll actually have time to participate in Wednesday’s Yarn Along, and I’m also hoping to participate in more blog hops, too. I’m planning to implement some changes, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you. A lot of those changes will be changes to the blog which I’ll think will be for the better. I’m still tinkering around, so it’ll take two to three weeks until you’ll see them. If you have any changes you like to see, or any ideas, please share them! I want to make this blog fun for both you and me.

And then there are some of the changes in my life that I’m planning on – most of them will take some time to implement, but I’m already excited about them. I’m looking forward to shaking things up a bit. I often say that “I want to happen to life, and not for life to happen to me.” So, in the spirit of changes, I share some David Bowie wisdom with you:

Not quite Key Lime

I love Key lime pie. Lime and creaminess, and a flakey crust, what more could you want? I mean apple pie is great as well, and there are many other great pie recipes out there, but I really love lemon tarts, key lime pie, lemon curd, and so on. I think I also like lemony […]