Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quiche Lorraine

When I was taking French in middle school and learning about French culture, one question on a test concerned the ingredients in quiche. I remember drawing on my knowledge from my mom’s famous tuna quiche and selected ingredients from a bank. My teacher marked it wrong because she said that tuna doesn’t go in quiche. Obviously she’d never had tuna quiche made by my mom. Oh, the injustice.


Much, much later, I decided to look into making a quiche that my French teacher would approve of. I’m pretty sure we learned about Quiche Lorraine so that’s what I went with.

When I made this last week, I started with leftover glazed ham 


and chopped it up.


I made a homemade pie crust and covered the bottom of it with the ham.


At this point, you’re supposed to cover it with Gruyere cheese, but Mexican-blend is all that I had. Totally not the same thing, but go with it.


Next, I turned to the onions. First, mince it up.


Then put it in a pan and work on caramelizing it.


The recipe said to go until they’re soft, but I went a bit farther and got some color in them. I wanted a nice, sweet flavor from caramelization and none of that oniony flavor or texture from undercooking them.

(When I was a child, I hated the flavor and texture of onions. I still don’t like raw onions, but my hatred of them then was extreme. My dad tried to open me up to them by explaining that when cooked, onions get soft and sweet. I knew, however, with the wisdom that children have, that he was just trying to trick me into eating them and I certainly wasn’t fooled. It wasn’t until much, much, much later that I realized that he wasn’t lying to me.)

Anyway, once that’s done, spread the onions on top of the cheese.


While the onions were cooking, I started the custard with some beaten eggs.


And added some salt and nutmeg.


And stirred it all up.


Put it on the stove and add hot milk. If you’re naughty like me, sneak in a little half-and-half (Okay, okay, so we were just about out of milk and I topped it off with half-and-half. Just a little bit naughty, then).


And keep heating and stirring until it thickens up a bit.


When you’re satisfied with the creaminess, pour it carefully into the pie shell on top of everything else.


If I remember correctly, this was too much liquid for a store-bought crust, but it was just about perfect for my homemade one.


I decided to crimp the edges after all. Totally not too late.


Pop it in the oven for wayyy longer than the 30 minutes that the recipe claims, and you’re good to go.




Great for dinner, even better for breakfast.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Maple and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham

Hubby and I were lucky enough to receive some goodies from Omaha Steaks for Christmas, all wrapped up and frozen and waiting for a time for us to be ready for them. That time would have come earlier if I hadn’t forgotten about them, but it did eventually come.


One of the goodies was a big ol’ boneless chunk of ham. I’m sure that cut probably has a legitimate name, but I don’t know what it is. Rather than simply heating according to the directions on the package, I decided to attempt to make a glaze for it. A quick search online and I found a decent recipe. I quartered it, since it was intended for a full-size holiday feast. I knew that it would still be a lot, but dividing the quantities by 4 was about the extent of my willingness to do math.

First, I melted one and a half tablespoons of butter. In retrospect, I am an idiot and that should have been one and a half teaspoons. I could do the math (I wrote it down correctly), but I just couldn’t get beyond that, apparently. Okay, here’s more butter than I needed.


I added a quarter cup of maple syrup. God, I love maple syrup.


Then 1 1/2 teaspoons (yes, teaspoons this time) of honey and a tablespoon of brown sugar. I know it looks like I put two in there, but that’s because my measuring spoon was 1/2 tbsp. The 1 tbsp one was dirty. Boo yah.


Anyway, heat it up a bit and let the sugars melt together.


Okay, here’s the thawed ham, chilling out in a greased dish.


I poured the sauce over the ham and baked it, according to the directions on the package. I think the recipe for the glaze recommended basting, and that probably would have been great, but I just wasn’t willing to be that involved. I did put some aluminum foil over top, though, as per the recipe.

And this is what it looked like at the end:


Sliced up all nice and paired with some rice and a salad.


My salad included a sliced avocado just because I could and I wanted to indulge. I whipped up a batch of that maple-dijon salad dressing, and that pairing was divine. The sweetness of the ham glaze with the sweetness of the salad was perfect.


I tried to balance the sweetness with a bit of saltiness by putting soy sauce on some rice. The effect was bizarre and not nearly as pleasant as I would have expected. The soy sauce was a bad choice, though it wasn’t horrible.


And that was dinner!


The glaze was really nice. It was more watery than I expected or really wanted, but I suppose that could have had something to do with putting three times as much butter as I was supposed to. But it was sweet and yummy, and the ham was juicy.

I followed up with a 100-calorie Skinny Cow vanilla ice cream with caramel, from our freezer. I wasn’t the only one who thought it looked delicious.



Saturday, March 17, 2012

Indian Butter Chicken

I know it’s been a while since my last post. I don’t normally go so long without posting, but sometimes you just need to take a breather. I’m taking a course right now that has a much heavier course load than I am used to, and by the time I get home from work and do my homework, I don’t tend to have much energy left over for much else. I’ll be glad in 13 weeks when this course is done and I can get back to living. I’ll be even more glad when this degree is done! Take my advice, if you’re going to go to grad school, do the correct program the first time so that you don't have to go back a few years later and do another master’s while you’re working full time. My consolation is that I know I’m doing the right thing this time. And when I start thinking that my last degree was a waste of time, I remind myself that I would never have met hubby if I hadn’t been living in a sleepy rural Pennsylvania town a few hours away from where he was stationed because of school. Things work out the way they’re supposed to. I just wish I could fast-forward this degree program.


But I’m done with my weekly paper and have the rest of the afternoon to relax. It’s sunny and 73 degrees, so I’m sitting outside on the balcony with my feet up and with my puppy next to me. We’re listening to Lady Antebellum and she’s keeping a close eye on everyone that walks by. She loves the mailman in particular. She’s a sucker for anyone who calls her pretty and gives her treats. I’ve had to turn up the brightness on my laptop because of my transition lenses, so I don’t know how long my battery will last, but I’ll do what I can until it does die.

Last night, I found myself wanting to cook something that I have had bookmarked for well over a year. I have held off because I knew it would be sinfully full of fat, but yesterday I didn’t care about that as much as I normally do. I just wanted to make it. Hubby was napping so I knew I had time and went about making it in a very relaxed and happy mood. I wasn’t even drinking wine.

Here’s what made my Indian meal possible: Garam Marsala (a Christmas gift from mom) and Tandoori Spice (birthday present from brother and sister-in-law). It was my first time using either of them and I didn’t know what to expect, but my recipe called for them so I was ready to go. I’ve had them both for a while so it was nice to get them out and experiment.


Since I already had to go to the store for chicken, I picked up some naan, too. I don’t know much about Indian cuisine but I know that you eat nann with dinner. Well, Americans eat Indian food that way, at least.


Turned on the Pandora app on my Kindle Fire and set it to some classical piano music.


I started by measuring out some rice and putting into my rice cooker. I figured we’d have leftover food so I made more rice than I normally do for two of us.



Next up, mince an onion.


I’m not sure what the puppy thought I was doing when I was peeling the onion, but the papery sound made her come running! She left, disappointed, when she learned that I was just cutting up onions.


The recipe said to melt “a few tablespoons” of butter in a skillet. I interpreted that as 2 tablespoons.


Add a tablespoon of minced garlic.


And then the onions. You’re going to cook them on medium heat until they’ve caramelized and turned a dark brown. It takes about 15 minutes.





In a separate pot, melt a cup of butter (minus however much you melted in the skillet for the onions).


Add a can of tomato sauce. So weird looking. I don’t think I’ve ever combined those ingredients before.


Add heavy cream. A lot of it. Three cups of it.


Sinful, didn’t I say? Look at the legs on that.


Add salt.


And cayenne pepper.


And garam masala, whatever that is.


Stir it all in.


Basically, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for a half hour.


Easier said than done. It boiled over. I caught it just before it happened and reacted by saying “Oh shit, stop! Stop!” and turning the burner off. I have electric burners, so this did pretty much nothing and it boiled over. Luckily I was able to move it off the active burner just before it happened, so at least my kitchen didn’t smell like burned food.


All cleaned up, see? I thought I was in the clear. I was so naïve.


Okay, on to the chicken. Cut up some boneless breasts into bite-size chunks. My version of “bite size” is usually much smaller than other people, but when I’m cooking, I get to be the boss.


Drizzle a few tablespoons of vegetable oil over it. Normally I use olive oil and I don’t really know enough to say which is better for this, so I went with what the recipe said and used vegetable oil. That grammar structure was odd and I’m too worn out from my paper for school to even care about fixing it.


The recipe asked for tandoori masala to be sprinkled over it. I had “tandoori spice.” Don’t ask me the difference, I have no idea. One word was correct and that was enough for me.


I sprinkled it over the chicken and used my hand to combine it evenly before turning the chicken out onto a greased aluminum-foil-lined cookie sheet. I think I took this picture so that you would admire the left-handed photography, which is actually a lot harder than it sounds. The button is on the wrong side of the camera. You’re impressed, right?


Okay, here’s the chicken without my weird-looking hand.


Ooops. I was so wrapped up in preparing the chicken and taking left-handed pictures that I let the sauce boil over again. This is so complicated.


The chicken needs to be baked for 12 minutes. I waited until I had 12 minutes left on my simmering sauce before putting it in the oven so that they could be done together. Looking good!


When the chicken came out, I added my caramelized onions to the sauce.


Then I used tongs to put the chicken in the sauce, too. I didn’t just dump it because there was a lot of oil on the foil and the sauce was oily enough from the butter already.


I cranked the heat on the oven up to 400 degrees and put the naan on the baking sheet (which was still clean since I used foil for the chicken). It only needed 2-3 minutes in the oven to get nice and hot.

Now, to serve.

Spoon some rice into a bowl.


And serve the chicken and sauce directly on top. I’m not sure if this would be the “correct” or classy way to serve. After all, in restaurants the rice is always served separately, but I spoon the entrée on top of the rice anyway, so that’s what I did for us here. Voila!


Then I remembered my naan. It was piping hot and fresh out of the oven. I just ripped off a chunk and put it on top, having no better place to put it. Should I have used a plate instead? Ah well.


Verdict? I LOVED THIS. It reminded me so much of a dish that I had in a little Indian restaurant in Georgetown a few years ago. I’m no expert on Indian food (obviously), but to me this seemed like the way it was supposed to taste. It was spicy from that cayenne, yet the flavor was deep and smoky and even a bit sweet. I really, really enjoyed this. I suppose that next time I’ll experiment with much less heavy cream and butter, but I really wanted to try the recipe the way it was intended at least once. There is a modification on from the original submitter, using evaporated milk and less butter, and maybe I’ll try that someday. But I sure liked the full-fat version. Nom nom nom. I’m still full from lunch today but writing about last night’s dinner makes me want to go heat up the leftovers.

Here's the recipe. If you make it, let me know what you think!