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Archive for November, 2009

Skip the deli case, save $90

In my book, the  go-to noontime fare is a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, mayo and a slice of cheddar cheese.

Its virtues are endless. It has all four food groups.  I never arrive to work to find that a lid was knocked loose and half my lunch is now soaking the bottom of my tote bag. Best of all, it’s power-outage proof; I don’t need a microwave to enjoy it.

Turkey sandwiches represent everything that we hold dear at Home Cooking Well. Except, of course, the price per pound is pretty steep for that really nicely sliced, roasted turkey breast from the deli case. Those pale slices of meat do get pretty slimy and questionable in a matter of days. Not great value at six dollars a pound.

My husband found a great way to deliver us tons of tasty sandwiches that make good economic sense. He buys a whole frozen turkey breast, which usually runs about $2.50 per pound, roasts it, and we have plenty of lunch meat that keeps much better than the deli sliced breast.

And, because the National Day of Feast is upon us, this is prime time for turkey sandwiches. Turkey breasts abound in bigger packages with slashed price tags attached to their netted handles. This week, I lugged home twenty pounds’ worth at $1.52 a pound. Just do a bit of labor and I have a store of lunchmeat: Roast it, carve it into bread-sized, one-pound blocks and freeze it.

I’ll boil it down to a simple equation.

Twenty pounds of deli meat: $120.

Twenty pounds of Thanksgiving sale turkey breast: $30.

Savings: $90.

Not bad.

No need to thank me. I take checks!

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I have the Cadillac of ovens: a real Kitchen-Aid with a slick digital timer, a bread proofing button, and everything. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but it was part of the reason I bought my place. : ) It  has been sadly out of service for a month as the keyboard shorted out (the price of luxury) but I just got it fixed this week. Overjoyed hardly begins to describe it. For the new keypad’s maiden voyage I made an old favorite: vegetable lasagna.

Because I own the Cadillac of ovens, it has a special exhaust fan in the back that works to keep the temperature even. This has the effect of making the oven work a bit like a convection oven, which is both good and bad. It’s good because it speeds up cooking sometimes. It’s bad because it overbrowns. The solution to overbrowning, as you may know, is to put aluminum foil over your cookies, pie, cake, etc. You should do this anytime you feel they are starting to get too brown before they are truly done.

But I’ve encountered a big problem with foil — if you just stick it on some objects flat across the top, they stick. I’ve had problems with that with my lasagna, where the cheese bubbles up and sticks to the foil. That can be a good thing if there are just a few golden brown, crispy cheese spikelets for the cook to eat. But if it’s a significant portion of your cheese, that’s not so good. A few months ago, I ripped an entire chunk of sheet cake off a cake when it stuck to the foil — and because it was still gooey, there was no way to replace it. Here at altitude, our cakes tend to rise REALLY high before assuming their proper height, even if they’ve been properly altitude adjusted (which is a whole other problem).

So with this lasagna, I tried something I vaguely remembered reading or hearing about as the solution to the problem: folding the aluminum into a little tent and place that over the baking object. I just folded my foil in half at an obtuse angle and laid it on the rims of the pan. I’ve never been quite sure how aluminum foil prevents browning (is it just preventing the reflection of heat from the top of the oven? If so, wouldn’t heat get reflected under the foil?) and I half wondered if tenting it wouldn’t just bring the browning problem back. But it worked — perfectly. No sticking to the foil. No premature browning.

Magnifique! Give it a try next time you’re worried about browning *and* sticking.

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More HCW News

It turns out my sister won’t be joining us after all here at HCW . . . but my friend and fellow Coloradan Amy Simpkins will! She has experience with making homemade backpacking and mountaineering  meals using a home dehydrator, perfecting the recipes of Nigella Lawson and Cooking Light, and has all-round kitchen-fu. Look for her posts coming soon.

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Pork and cranberries

A couple of weeks ago, over coffee, my friend Sharon passed along this very elegant, simple and autumnal dinner idea: Empty half a bag of cranberries (rinsed and sorted, of course) into a baking dish, sprinkle a bunch of sugar on top of that, add a layer of 3-4 pork chops, and add remaining berries and another layer of sugar, cover dish with foil, bake at 350 for one hour.

Sounded like a champion weeknight dinner to me. I actually made it Saturday night, using thick boneless chops and it baked alongside a sunshine squash. Dubious, I did add a half-cup of water to pork and berry mixture.

On the positive side, by the time the baby was asleep in his crib, I had a beautiful crimson, steaming dish was ready to serve.

The berries added tremendous excitement to this simple dish, and here’s why: I used far less sugar than one would put in traditional cranberry compote — no more than a 1/3 cup, I guesstimate. It wasn’t sweet and that was actually a good thing. I experienced cranberries in a whole new way. Baking tempered the fruit’s’ aggressive, face scrunching tartness. Flavored with pork fat and juices, it became this a lovely dry but slightly savory sauce that just shouted of all things autumn.

As for the meat, it was well-cooked, but tough and tasteless as cardboard. My thoughts: I would brine the pork for an hour. Serving time for a weeknight meal would be later, but really no less inconvenient.

This dish could be a winner, folks. So, reader, I invite you to ponder, experiment and report back.

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