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The Misadventures of Mrs. B

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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: 2009-09-27

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Dough Also Rises


I really, really want to post pictures of my vacation, including the FOOD pictures (of which there are many), but stupid Blogger is turning them all sideways.  It's evidently a problem for a lot of people, but there's no solution that I've found yet.  Sigh again.

Til I figure it out, I will tell you about my attempts at making bread.

The first time I made bread from scratch was several months ago.  I was feeling especially sassy that day, if I remember correctly.  I'd always been afraid of making anything involving yeast before - quick breads were always more my style.  You know, cornbread, banana bread, stuff like that.  But bread bread? Eh, I wasn't so sure.

Then came my sassy day when I decided to buy some yeast and get it over with.  And it went pretty well, all told.  I made two big loaves and Rob said it looked like a butt.  Which it did.  But it was a tasty butt.  There are pictures of this endeavor on my Facebook page under Cooking Projects.

I made more bread on the day I made the bouef bourguignon.  Yes, I was feeling rather ambitious that day.  So I got started again.

The first kneading is my least favorite part.  When it's all coming together into a dough and it's still all sticky...yuck.

But eventually it was more dough-like and smooth so I coated it in olive oil and set it in the bowl near the Crock Pot to rise...and rise...and rise...


It was like the Dough That Ate My Counter.  I took a picture and beat it into submission before it ate me or something.

The second rising was even bigger.  I divided it into three loaves, instead of two, and scored them.  Once they rose one more time, into the oven they went, along with hot water into a preheated pan underneath the cookie sheet to make it crustier.

And out they came! I was pretty happy with the outcome, and lord knows Rob ate it like there was no tomorrow.  But I noticed that there was a difference in taste from last time.  It tastes like a pretzel.  Marcie, if you're reading you know why it tastes like a pretzel? (I'm only asking Marcie because I know Marcie bakes a lot...if anyone else knows, feel free to speak up!) I mean, hey, pretzels are good.  But not when you're looking for italian bread.  Well, either way, there's still a loaf in the freezer and since the first one froze so well I'm sure the other one will be just as good the second time around!


Monday, September 28, 2009


I've been putting off the act of sitting down and writing about our vacation, but I think the time has come. Plus I need to get it out before I forget about it.

Let's start with the pre-vacation antics.

We spent the night before our flight at Rob's dad's house. It was not the most restful night but we did have a giggly time cutting into the top tier of our wedding cake. I lugged it into work in my carry-on (sucker was HEAVY!) and stored it in the fridge downstairs. It was risky to say the least. After all, I've seen people in that office stampede over things much less delicious than a pound cake from Stocks. But I figured with all the foil and plastic wrap around it, it was practically unrecognizable.

I managed to get the cake to a safe fridge later that day, namely my father-in-law's. We knew it would be chancyto carry the entire cake in my carry-on since according to the lovely woman Rob spoke with that morning, the icing counts as cream, and you can only have so much cream in your carry-on. Sigh. So I bought a piece of Tupperware and we decided to slice it up and take only as much as we planned to eat the day of our anniversary.

That night, after Rob's dad had gone to bed and we were looking forward to the prospect of sleeping on recliners, we unwrapped layer after layer...after layer...of plastic wrap from around our mummy of a cake. Until there it sat, unwrapped, in all its sugary glory.

Rob grabbed a large knife. We were both apprehensive. After all, it had sat in a freezer all year. And we heard recently from two newlyweds that their cake "smelled like feet". If you're reading this, you know who you are.

But we cut into it, my hand over his. I wish I had taken pictures. We cut two fairly sizeable pieces and put them in the tupperware. Then, well, I couldn't help myself. The cake looked so golden and wonderful, and had cut very well (not like that means anything, but I was looking for any rationalization I could get my hands around at that moment). I just had to take a paper-thin sliver and see how well the cake had held up. Rob saw me doing this and watched my face.

I couldn't believe it! It tasted incredible! I threw my arms over my head in triumph (still holding the knife, which in hindsight may have been really dangerous) and laughed joyfully. Of course Rob had to know just what was going on, so I let him in on it but giving him his own tiny piece. We both laughed and kept tasting it.

"Are we totally jinxing our marriage by eating this right now?" he wondered around a mouth full of deliciousness, crumbs falling from his lips.

"That would be lame," I answered, licking sugary icing from my fingers.

Then we had to rewrap the darn thing. It took a long time. We intended to retrieve it when we got home. Of course, we forgot. Not like we needed it after the week-long foodapalooza we participated in. Still, I will always remember giggling over our illicit cake tasting that night.

Several hours later our driver came to pick us up. It had not been an easy night (I ended up on the floor) and I woke up feeling stuffy and gross. But I felt the same way last year on the day we left and I wound up feeling great, so I tried to ignore it.

After a quick freshening up, we were on our way! At 4:00 in the morning! Hooray!...or something...

Still, everything went really well getting through security, and off we went! Well, to our gate. Where we stared out the window at the dark sky. It was only 5:00 and our flight was at 7. It was cool, though, because Air Tran starts boarding super early so at least we felt like we were doing something.

After a seemingly endless flight surrounded by children in meltdown mode (including one with a suspiciously stinky diaper sitting somewhere in our general vicinity), we were there! In Florida! So close to the Mouse!

Cooking Project: Boeuf Bourguignon

Yesterday I decided to tackle a recipe I've been wanting to try for quite some time: Boeuf Bourguignon, aka Beef Burgundy. I'd read Julia Child's recipe before and I couldn't get it out of my head. I love me some beef stew, but this looked really delicious and I love a challenge. And it definitely looked at least slightly time-consuming, so I figured I'd give it a shot once I convinced Rob that we should try it. He is a beef stew fan as well so it wasn't too hard to convince him.

The first thing I did was prep my meat. I got about 2 1/2 pounds of stew meat (yes, I cook in bulk!) and dried it all as thoroughly as possible - the drier the meat, the better it browns.

Next I cut up 8 oz of bacon into pieces and slowly sauteed it until it started to brown and the fat was rendered. The recipe calls for 6 oz, and for it to be bought in one big hunk and cut into sticks...but that wasn't happening at the local Giant, so I improvised. And really, more bacon = more yumminess, right?

While the bacon was sauteeing I diced up a few carrots and thinkly sliced two medium-sized onions.

Once the bacon was done I removed it with a slotted spoon and put it off to the side. I heated up the fat until it was almost smoking and browned the meat in the fat, 5 or 6 pieces at a time so as to allow the meat to brown well as opposed to steaming. This took for-ever. Plus the fat was sputtering everywhere and I had to use tongs to turn the meat so I could stay as far away as possible. Still I ended up with spots on my shirt...luckily it was my old WCU tee that's got holes in it and not something I cared about! Anyway, the meat was placed off to the side with the bacon.

The recipe calls for the stew to be cooked in a casserole in the oven, but I don't have an oven-proof casserole so I intended to cook it all in the Crock Pot. Ordinarily the next step would be performed right in the casserole but I used a Pyrex baking dish instead. Toss the meat with 2 tbs of flour and some salt and pepper and place in a preheated 450 degree oven for 4 minutes, then toss it again and put in for another 4. This browns the flour and makes a crust on the meat - not to mention making it smell heavenly! I should have made sure the meat juices didn't end up in the pan but I wasn't thinking. The flour got pasty in all the juices. When it was all done I emptied the meat into the crock and deglazed the pan with some of the beef stock over a burner to scrape up the bits of flour that had hardened on the pan.

While the meat was in the oven I browned the veggies in the put that the meat had browned in.

After the meat went into the crock, the veggies went on top.

Over all of this I poured 3 cups of red wine, the remaining beef stock that I didn't use to deglaze (starting with 2 cups), a tbs of tomato paste, 2 pressed garlic cloves, and some dried thyme. And it sat and sat in that crock for 4 hours.

In the meantime, I peeled some small onions (I wanted to get really small ones but couldn't find any) and browned them lightly in a tbs of butter and olive oil. Once they were browned I poured a little more than a cup of beef stock in the pan along with thyme, parsley, salt and pepper and let them braise for 40 minutes. The liquid didn't evaporate or anything, so I added it to the stew.

Then I sliced up and dried half a pound of mushrooms, and sauteed them in butter and olive oil. Another thing I learned was how to saute mushrooms. I've been doing it forever but I haven't been doing it correctly! As it turns out, the mushrooms shouldn't release their liquid when they're sauteeing. They should be done in small batches, much like the meat, in order to prevent steaming. The fat gets absorbed and then comes back out a bit, but the liquid shouldn't come out as they brown. It was very interesting to taste the difference in them - and I eat a lot of mushrooms so I could tell!

Once the stew was finished I veeeery carefully took the crock out and poured it out into a strainer which I placed over a big bowl. I'm kinda clumsy but it worked out ok. The meat and veggies went back into the crock on warm (I was supposed to wipe it out but forgot!) and the sauce went into a big pan in order to reduce. I was careful to skim off as much fat as possible as I went along - and there was a lot. But it wasn't reducing the way I wanted it to. It was taking forever, in fact, and we had already waited forever to eat. The noodles were done and buttered and ready to go as well. So I mixed some stock and cornstarch and poured that in. It worked, thankfully, because we were starved and it smelled so good! I poured the sauce back over the meat and veggies and served it up along with the onions and mushrooms I'd prepared earlier.

It was delicious! But I like lots of things, so Rob's opinion was the one I was counting on. His first comment was that it looked "decadent", since the gravy was so rich and dark, and the meat had turned so dark from the wine. As he ate he said that it was a more "refined" and "bold" taste than the usual beef stew. He loved it, and so did I. So it was well worth the effort, and I plan to make it again...and again...and again! Regular beef stew just can't measure up to this, and I already made a pretty good stew in the first place. Bravo, Julia! And bravo, me! ;-)