Interview 2009 is a blog project organized by A Free Man (a Missouri alumnus now living in Australia). He assigned bloggers to come up with questions for other bloggers who would then post their answers on their own site. It’s a way for bloggers to get to know each other a little better. Our questions come from Alice, of 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera.
To get us started, I’ll ask a few questions for those who might be new to your blog, and then move on to talking about food. Where are you and why are you there?
Michael and I are in a town called Columbia, studying journalism at the University of Missouri.
Why do you blog?
Blogging is great for expressing a passion and building relationships with people who are passionate about the same thing. Plus, we’re journalists. We like to learn, and we feel compelled to share that information. When we find a great recipe, learn a new technique or talk to someone really interesting, we want to tell others about it.
Fun story about how I acquired my ice cream maker: bored in class one day, I decided to peruse the classified section of the Columbia Missourian, where I work for school. Well just my luck, someone happened to be selling a 4-quart electric ice cream maker for $15. It definitely seemed too good to be true, but I called the woman up, and two days later I had 15 less dollars, but endless homemade ice cream possibilities.
The brainstorming began. I thought of Sparky’s, the Columbia ice cream shop with flavors like Carrot Cake and Red Wine with Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips. I thought of Scoops, the Los Angeles shop where I had Strawberry Lemongrass and Banana Oreo. My mind went wild with ideas: Thai iced tea, peanut butter jelly, ginger coconut, Mexican chocolate, mojito sorbet…
I christened my ice cream maker with a 60-percent cocoa Ghirardelli chocolate ice cream. Rich and delicious, but not without some issues. First problem, it took FOR.EVER. to freeze. And then the next day it was rock hard!
Since then we’ve been reading about homemade ice cream and tried several methods. All of the flavors have been good, but the texture has been a lot of trial and a lot of error. A custard base makes the ice cream creamier, but takes awhile to do, then requires another stage of chilling. Lucky for us, our friend Kat loves standing by the stove stirring for extended periods of time.
So far the best ice creams have involved extra cream. We typically use half and half in our base because full cream would mean I’d have to get my butt to the rec center a lot more often than I do, and regular milk just wouldn’t be worth the hours of effort. But berry lemon cheesecake ice cream (with sour cream and cream cheese) and dulce de leche (made from sweetened condensed milk) have been the creamiest and didn’t involve making a custard first.
Another tip we’ve been experimenting with is the addition of alcohol to keep the ice cream from freezing so hard. It took us a while to learn that alcohol should be added late in the process, otherwise you go mad waiting for the base to even begin to freeze. Lesson learned. Now we add a shot after the base has thickened in the ice cream maker, just before we transfer it to a shallower container in the freezer.
If you have a fancier ice cream maker, you don’t have to worry about ice and salt, but to those with the bucket style like we do, these two things are critical. The first few times we didn’t use crushed ice or rock salt. Using crushed ice and de-ice-your-driveway-sized salt crystals has made all the difference because the metal canister can get much colder.
As spring approaches, I’m looking forward to many more experiments with the ice cream maker. We’re still trying to find our favorite base recipe. We haven’t tried sorbets or sherbets yet, but I like the idea of not making custard.
Anyone have any ice cream tips and tricks? I have plenty of flavor ideas.
If you’ve read some of my other posts, you’d start to get the idea that patience is a virtue I just don’t have. Truth is, I just don’t have patience when I’m hungry. I’ll spend hours cooking something if I’ve mentally and physically prepared myself for it. If I haven’t, that’s when I look for shortcuts…and snacks.
Caramelized onions, however, don’t have any shortcuts. Oh sure, you can get some tasty soft onions in a lot less time, but to get this marmalade texture and complex taste, you will let them cook for four hours and you will like it.
I took the advice of Russ Parsons and spent the good part of a Saturday transforming crisp, pungent onions into a sweet and savory paste. The reward goes a long way. Caramelized onions are great on steaks, and they make some of the best sandwiches. (I happened to have La Brea Bakery bread and smoked gouda that same week, and oh wow, did I lunch like a queen for a few days.)
Day to day, onions aren’t too glamorous. But give them four hours to get ready, and they can be downright elegant.
Michael and I cooked some impressive dinners for his parents and Kat’s parents, but we had to up the ante a bit for my family this winter. I’ve been cooking magazine meals with my parents for as long as I can remember. (I got my first subscription to Gourmet before I lost my first baby tooth. Not kidding.) So we decided to make a North African feast with lots of lamb, chicken and couscous.
I’ll say two words about this chicken: spice butter. Ok, I want to give you more words: Butter, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne and cinnamon.Rubbed all over. Now, I’m not normally a glutton for chicken skin, but spice butter. I ate everything but the bones.
And the dates and apricots in chicken jus? I didn’t even think I liked dates. (I tried one from the box the next day, and they’re nothing without being roasted in spice-buttered chicken jus. Just sayin.)
The stew was also great, even though we totally rushed the process. The Darwell family has too high of metabolism for slow food. Luckily the stew didn’t suffer. The broth was full of flavor and just barely spicy, even with a whole habanero. Though, I have to give credit to the Los Angeles grocery store and the country of Australia for the lamb, which managed to be fork-tender even though we lumped off probably an hour of cooking time.
We served the dishes with piles of couscous and a side of
Most of the recipes we offer on He Cooks She Cooks are more like guidelines. We know we don’t have the authority to tell you how exactly to make something. We barely listen to the great chefs whose recipes we look at. The way we see it, there are infinite ways to make great food. As long as you have an idea how you want something to taste in the end, you can keep adding till you get there — or somewhere close.
This chili, for instance, is unbelievably forgiving. Beans, vegetables, meat (or not) and spices. Throw varying amounts of those in a pot, simmer for a while, then serve.
We had ours with homemade cornbread. I finally made the New York Times recipe I’d been wanting to try all year: Brown Butter Cornbread with Thyme and Farmer Cheese. How could you go wrong with those ingredients, right? Well the result wasn’t bad. It just…wasn’t how I like my cornbread. I guess I, like Deb in the Smitten Kitchen, like my cornbread on the sweeter side, but didn’t know it until I had this much more savory version. If you’re in the camp that would prefer something like this, then by all means, go thyme and brown butter crazy.
weeks, I was going to have a beer with every lunch and dinner. It was as expensive as water sometimes, and tasted waaay better. Also, what better place to start drinking beer with seriousness than Belgium,
Austria, and Germany? I tried as many as I could and when I came back, despite still only being 20, I knew I must continue to try different beers at school. I found friends who liked me enough to listen to exact and strange orders for beer runs. One girl kept asking me if I was sure it was called an Oatmeal Stout, “Oatmeal? Really? Oatmeal?”. ::sigh::
I quickly exhausted Walmart and Gerbes’ selections, and found myself going with my mom to Binny’s, Sam’s, Cost Plus World Market and Trader Joes when I was home and Arena and Hyvee at school.
A consistent goal of mine has been to “complete” a brewery. I’ve only done this a few times, as good breweries keep releasing new seasonals or testing new beers entirely. My stipulation is not to include trying beers available on tap only, though that would be ideal, it’s not really feasible as my beer wall relies on cutting out the box. For bottled beers, I’ve only finished Leinenkugel, New Belgium, and Goose Island. I am really close on Schlafly and Boulevard (just missing some seasonals). Of course, some breweries don’t make that many styles, so for example, Berghoff is much easier to get through than Schlafly.
I have incredible pride in my hometown, Chicago, and consequently, one of my favorite breweries is Goose Island. I hold many great memories of those boxes. The first time I drank Honker’s Ale in a keg at a friends party in Wrigleyville, the refreshing sips of 312 had outside Cloud Gate at Millenium Park, and many more.