Saturday, December 13, 2008

A brief sojourn to the country

Last weekend I finally escaped New York City and headed upstate to my friend Gideon's country house. As I detailed in this post, Gideon and I like to cook together and we tend to create some really delicious things. The past weekend was no exception. We arrived late at night and got right to work the next morning, making oatmeal griddle cakes for breakfast. The recipe, which we found in the classic Joy of Cooking, is dead simple; you basically just add the usual pancake ingredients (flour, leavening, eggs) to cooked oatmeal, mix, and fry. A great use for leftover oatmeal, they made a filling, hearty breakfast that fortified us for our hike in the frigid woods:

For dinner that night we roasted a chicken and some potatoes in exactly the same manner as I demonstrated in my recent post on roasted chicken. This one came out just as nicely:

On the side we enjoyed a refreshing salad of green leaf lettuce, sectioned grapefruits, sliced red onions and avocados dressed with olive oil and rice wine vinegar. The lightness of the salad was a perfect counterpoint the warm, rich and salty chicken and potatoes:

As good as that whole plate of food was, I think my favorite part of our meal was the little cooks' treat that we made at the beginning as we cleaned the chicken: chopped liver. Gideon happened to have some homemade chicken and matzoh ball soup that he had made with his grandmother, so as any good Jews would do we skimmed the top of its schmaltz (that's chicken fat, used for cooking, for you Goyim out there) and slow-cooked the one liver that came with the chicken, along with some chopped onions, in a small pan. We then seasoned it well with salt and pepper and whirred it up with some fresh parsley in a little electric chopper. Here it is spread on some olive bread and garnished with raw red onion:

The chicken was a large one and took a while to roast in the oven. As it did, Gideon and I decided that we wanted to bake something, so we made challah bread. For a yeast bread, it's very simple to make and doesn't take too much time. Here's what it looked like after we braided it and let it rise for a second time:

And here it is after being coated with an egg wash and baked:

And here it is after being converted to French toast the next morning:

Think we were done eating by that point? Well, not quite. Late on Sunday afternoon we threw together this chicken salad with parsley, tomatoes, red onion, olives, olive oil and vinegar and made to-go sandwiches to bring in the car:

Needless to say, after polishing those off I was quite full.

Oatmeal Griddle Cakes
Serves 2-3
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

1. Sift 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Re-sift with 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt.
2. Stir together 1 1/2 c. cooked oatmeal, 1/2 c. milk, and 2 tbsp. melted butter. Add one egg, beaten, and stir to combine.
3. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fry the cakes on a heated buttered griddle or cast-iron pan, about 3-4 minutes per side. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Challah Bread
Makes 1 loaf
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

1. In a small bowl, mix 1 packet of active dry yeast with 1/4 c. warm water and 1 1/2 tbsp. sugar. It should froth up; if it does not, discard and try again with different yeast.
2. Measure out 3/4 c. warm water and add a pinch of saffron to it.
3. Sift 3 c. flour with 1 1/2 tsp. salt into a large bowl. Create a well in the center and add 2 eggs, lightly beaten, 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, the saffron water, and the yeast mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir until combined. The dough will be very sticky.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead, with floured hands, until it becomes smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a large bowl that has been oiled and turn it over so that both sides are coated. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
5. Punch the dough down and knead it again, briefly, on the floured surface. Create three long, ropey strands of dough and place them on a greased and floured baking sheet. Braid the strands together and tuck the ends underneath. Allow the loaf to rise again, about 1/2 to 1 hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 400°. Make an egg wash of one egg yolk beaten with a little water. Brush it all over the loaf and bake it in the 400° oven for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350° and bake for another 15 minutes. The loaf is done when it is well browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Allow it to cool before you slice it.

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