kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
[personal profile] kindkit
Something I've cooked recently: Yesterday I made a big delicious pot of red beans and rice. I didn't use a recipe, but under the cut is a recipe-ish description of what I did.

2 small smoked ham hocks or 1 large one
1 pound red beans
1 yellow onion
2 ribs celery
1 green pepper (capsicum)
2 teaspoons Cajun/Creole seasoning
Garlic powder or, preferably, several cloves of fresh garlic
8 ounces Polish sausage or other smoky, garlicky cooked sausage; obviously a Louisiana type sausage is best if you can get it
Tabasco or other vinegary hot sauce, to serve
Cooked white rice

On Wednesday evening I put the ham hocks in the slow cooker with water to cover, brought them to a boil, then turned the cooker to "warm" and left it overnight. The "warm" setting of my slow cooker, at the altitude where I live, will keep whatever's in the pot to a very slow simmer; YMMV on this.

I also washed the beans, covered them with plenty of water in a big bowl, and refrigerated them overnight to soak.

The next morning I removed the ham hocks, which were cooked to the point that the meat literally fell off the bones. I added the beans the the ham stock in the slow cooker and brought the heat back up to a boil, then turned it back to "warm."

When the ham hocks were cool, I separated the meat from the bones, reserved the meat, and threw the bones and skin away. Normally I keep bones for stock, but I figured these bones had already given their all.

I had thought the beans would take all day to cook, but they surprised me by becoming tender within about two hours. So the next time I cook this, I'll add the onion etc. right away rather than waiting because I didn't want the veggies cooked to death. But it didn't do the beans any harm to cook longer--this is the kind of dish where it's perfectly fine if the beans are mushy.

Anyway, when the beans were almost tender, I cooked the chopped onion, celery, and green bell pepper in a bit of oil, and added the Cajun/Creole spice mix right at the end, then added the mixture to the slow cooker along with the reserved meat from the ham hocks, and cooked for another hour or so. Halfway through this, I realized I had forgotten the garlic! So I added some garlic powder, but next time I will use real garlic, chopped and added to the onion etc. about a minute before adding the spices.

When the flavors were nicely melded and the beans very tender, I used a potato masher to mash some of the beans and thicken the texture. Everything still came out a bit soupy, because I had used a little too much water with the ham hocks, but it tasted delicious anyway.

Then I sliced the sausage--I just had a regular supermarket Polish sausage--and browned it in oil, then added the sausage to the cooker (leaving behind as much of the oil as possible, because the ham hock broth is already full of pork fat goodness). Then I ladled the beans over white rice in a bowl and devoured them with lots of hot sauce. Leftovers are in the freezer, awaiting those nights when I don't want to cook.

Last week's bread (County Fair White Bread) was not a huge success. It wasn't bad by any means, but the flavor was a bit boring. Partly that's because it uses white flour only, but that can't be the only reason, because the white bread pot loaf recipe from the same book gives more flavorful results. I think the other part of the problem was that, because eggs are added after the long first rise, more flour has to be added then too, which means that there's quite a bit of flour in the final product that hasn't gone through the pre-fermentation and first rise and so doesn't taste like anything but flour. The bread did remind me of the homemade white yeast bread of my childhood, which I loved at the time. But back then I was comparing the flavor to cheap supermarket white bread, while now I'm comparing it to slow-risen multigrain breads; my standards have changed.

I'm starting to think that it's actually more difficult to make soft sandwich-style breads at home than it is to make crusty European-style breads. Supermarket breads use all kinds of funky additives to create a loaf that is soft but can be sliced thin and will hold together well, but so far no recipe I've tried has done this. I can either make soft, light sandwich loaves that tend to fall apart, or dense sandwich loaves that can be sliced more thinly and will hold together. Maybe I should try a rye or whole wheat loaf that's supposed to be dense.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: Later today I will cook a potato, sausage, and corn soup using the rest of the Polish sausage. Mmm, soup.

This week's bread is currently engaged in its second rise. It's an experiment: I modified this four-grain bread recipe by replacing 1 1/4 cups of the bread flour with semolina. Hopefully it will work. It's behaving a little differently than the usual recipe does; its gluten didn't develop as well in the first rise so I kneaded it a bit before starting the second rise.

And I'm finally going to bake the lemon loaf cake I've been wanting for ages (not the lemon polenta cake, but a simpler recipe that doesn't call for almond meal). I'm going to start that as soon as I'm done with this post, in fact.

Something I idly plan to cook someday: For the next week I mostly plan to use my accumulated leftovers, although I did buy some asparagus (on sale for $1 a pound) that needs using. Tomorrow I'm going to cook some in a Thai-ish stir fry with some pork loin, and the rest I'll probably use in a pasta on Sunday. I think I have a cold coming on, so I may not feel much like cooking anyway and will be glad to have things in the freezer that only need warming up.

In more distant plans, I have one ham hock left that should be used in something (split pea soup, maybe? suggestions welcome). And I want to try this cardamom semolina cake with rosewater. I actually have all the ingredients on hand, because pantry, but I want to bake the lemon cake first.

Date: 2014-02-22 11:45 am (UTC)
st_aurafina: Rainbow DNA (Default)
From: [personal profile] st_aurafina
The red beans and rice sound so good! Ham hocks are great.

I'm starting to think that it's actually more difficult to make soft sandwich-style breads at home than it is to make crusty European-style breads.

I agree! I don't usually make bread for sandwiches these days - I pack my lunch with a hunk of crusty bread.


kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Default)

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