“the modern-day rotisserie renaissance—cheap birds in take-home containers at supermarkets and big-box stores—can be traced back to the early ‘90s”.
Now wait a minute. I remember salivating over rotisserie chicken at Monty’s Inn in Kingston, Jamaica in the early 70’s. My mother refused to buy it, saying that it was tasteless and overpriced. That never stopped me from sniffing and wishing for it.
And what about Swiss Chalet chicken?! In Toronto, it’s the family friendly food chain restaurant that’s been the favorite of every kid growing up since 1954. It serves luscious rotisserie baked chicken with perfect fries and dunk-addictive ‘chalet sauce.’ There’s nothing remotely Swiss on the menu but no one even questions that anymore. Swiss Chalet is just is.
But maybe the salient word is ‘cheap.‘ In Costco (the #1 seller of rotisserie chicken) a cooked 1.2kg bird is $7.99 CAD ($4.99 for my US neighbors.)
Silly me, I thought the Costco chicken was my personal bargain budget find. Who knew that it was just a ploy and that the extra large, 2L bucket of potato salad and 1kg of Cesar salad was what Mr Costco actually wanted me to buy!
The zucchini looked big in Cody’s box. It looked even bigger on its own. I weighed the monster on my Iron Man scale (so called because … isn’t it obvious?)
Big Bro Zuke
Little Bro Zucci
What do you do with a 1.675 kg Zuke and his 536g younger brother? It’s going to take many meals to find out.
King Arthur had some interesting ideas. Roasted veggie pizza for instance. Actually, the King suggested a galette but I had pizza dough in the fridge. The recipe said to roast sliced zucchini and tomatoes in a 425F oven for 15-20 minutes. It also talked about making a ricotta cheese base but I don’t like fresh cheese.
For the pizza which should have been a galette – I rolled out the dough, dressed it with olive oil and fresh basil and layered it with a scant topping of roasted tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms and onions. To maintain it’s integrity as pizza, I sprinkled on a bit of cheese. It was very good.
For dessert, King Arthur had an eye catching suggestion: Chocolate Zucchini Bread. Now that’s a puzzle. Are vegetables allowed in dessert?
Based on stuff on hand and personal preference, I made a few adjustments to King Arthur’s recipe. The bread came out nice except it didn’t taste like bread. It tasted like a lovely moist chocolate cake. It was not too sweet and was excellent with a cup of tea.
I’m going whole hog with the West Coast lifestyle thing.
Well, maybe not ‘whole hog’, that’s not vegan. But I may be going ‘loco.’
I’m buying local anyways. I joined the Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild (TUCG) which provides locally sourced food and vegetables to Vancouver Island’s restaurants and foodies.
Aside from ordering a la carte, I can buy a Food Lovers box featuring the best veg and fruits of the week. Sometimes it’ll include an unusual but not too weird item. Exactly what’s in the box is a mystery until pickup.
Here’s what my first box looked like.
Fruits included raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries and first of the season peaches.
Veggies were french beans, fresh picked bib lettuce, cauliflower and purple kale. The kale was the not too weird vegetable. And carrots – lots and lots of carrots – a whole layer of them was hidden beneath the kale. An additional bonus was a swag of fresh sage and bay leaves, complements of a nearby restaurateur.
Cherries are my favorite summer fruit, so I started into those as soon as I got home. Peaches are my second favorite but I had to wait a day for them to ripen. They were juicy and flavorful.
Kale was the challenge item. I’d signed up for the box because I wanted to try at least one new item a week; something I’d never cooked before. This week it was kale.
I decided to start small. I picked a few leaves from the bunch, discarded the hard spines and chopped them into bite size pieces. In a medium hot saute pan I browned sliced garlic then added the kale. I expected it to cook down like spinach but apparently this leafy veg is different. Unlike spinach which breaks down into a soft mess of greens, kale renders no water and goes crispy in the pan. The leaves tasted a bit bitter, so I decided to chopped them finely, season it heartily and add to eggs and Parmesan cheese for an omelette.
The kale omelette didn’t taste awful. I felt nutritionally virtuous eating it. Honestly though, I think it was much improved by the accompanying baked beans and crusty hearth bread.
Problem is … I used only one tenth of the bunch of kale received.
What am I going to do with the rest of it?
I guess that’s the challenge for the rest of the week.
I am settling in to a new home on the Pacific West Coast of British Columbia.
The trek from middle Ontario was a long and eventful, even if by air rather than wagon trail. Just like the old time pioneers, I packed my sourdough starter in my trunk. Unlike the pioneers, liquids are not allowed in carry-on and I had to figure out how to store my starter for travel.
King Arthur had the recommendation to dehydrate and pulverize it into SD starter shards.
However, now I’m trying to bring the starter back to life.
That is not going so well.
Three days after re-hydration and two feedings later, this is what my Toronto starter looks like.
I’m going to give it a few more feedings and a couple more days.
But if it doesn’t liven up soon, I’ll have to give up and catch some wild Pacific yeasties to make a brand new, West Coast starter.
In the meantime, I’ve been missing my bread.
One cannot survive on store ‘boughten’ loaves alone.
I don’t have all of my bread making gear in place but I decided to give my kitchen oven a try. These are my First Breads. They are poolish based, made with Western Canada AP flour, whole wheat and rye.
There was a pretty nice bloom from my un-trained oven. As to be expected, regulating the temperature was a problem but it’ll figure itself out. The bread itself tasted lovely and it had a good, hearty chew. Yum. Nothing says Home like a slice of warm bread and a slash of cold melting butter.
I realize I’d made a promise to do weekly posts on Breads. What was I thinking? That’s insane. Good thing all my faithful viewers are not bread-heads. Y’all still reading ’bout Ham Choy. Well, I still don’t have anything new to say about Ham Choy.
But I will give you a glimpse of what I have been baking.
Bread Pudding, Panna Cotta with Rasberry couli, Creme Caramel
I’m learning how to make breads at the George Brown culinary school. Last week’s class was French croissants. It was my introduction to laminated breads i.e. breads made with layers and layers of butter.
Through a series of missteps and happenstance I ended up making over six kilos of dough.
If you’re familiar with the lamination process, you will appreciate the magnitude of that effort. Suffice to say it took twelve hours of kneading, rolling and folding to produce these three batches of dough.
I cut and baked the first batch at school. This first set I called my ‘learning batch’. They were less than perfect. I’d cut them too big, shaped them wrong and had not left enough time for proofing. While they tasted ok, there was obvious room for improvement. I took the remaining batches home for practice.
Two batches (4 kg) of dough make a lot croissants. The good news is that raw croissant dough can be frozen. The bad news? I didn’t have enough freezer space.
What to do with all that dough?
Have a Croissant party!
After spending all day Saturday prepping the dough, I spent all day Sunday making pastries. I’d learned a lesson or two in school. My pastries there had been large and under-proofed. At home, I was extra careful in cutting and shaping, aiming for smaller and consistent sizing. Altogether I made about seven or eight dozen croissants. Pain au chocolats, Croissants Almondine. Cinnamon Raisin. Croissant Beurre. Baking trays lined up around my kitchen and everything smelled wonderful.
Croissants must be eaten on the day they’re made. Preferably within two hours from the oven when they’re warm, flaky crisp, soft and redolent with the smell and taste of butter.
Even with seven hungry friends and take-home party bags, I had left over croissant dough. These were the rolling bits and ends that couldn’t be re-rolled into pastry (a big NO-No with laminated dough.)
What to do with all this dough?
Improvise and make Crois-Bits!
I slashed the remnants into to smaller pieces, tossed them with sugar and leftover frangipane and baked them up into into crunchy little bites. They were light and crisp and perfect with my morning coffee.
But still there was more. All the coffee in the world, couldn’t make me finish two dozen Crois-Bits.
What to do with all these croissants?
Make Bread Pudding, of course!
And because these are croissants and not plain old bread, they’re called Diplomate au Bavarois.
Finally, after a week of croissants, I am out of dough. At least, I’m done with the batch that wasn’t frozen.
This Saturday though, is another class. We are making Danishes!
It’s been a while since I last posted. Months actually. The funny thing is, my Stats page tells me this site has been getting regular hits every day. Without exception every day someone views Ham Choy is Kiam Chye is Hum Choy. If I was a Views hound, I’d rename the blog to The Ham Choy Chronicles and post exclusively about this Hakka staple.
Too bad I am not a hound. I blog about what I like and I have a new obsession: Bread.
Encouraged by my limited success I continued to make more bread. That was two years ago. Fast forward to November 2017 when I signed up for an advanced workshop on Artisan Bread at the King Arthur School @ The Bread Lab in Washington State.
For four days I learned how to make bread. Straight dough, enriched doughs, biga, poolish, sourdoughs, ryes. We covered all the basics of handmade, long rise bread. Some of it went over my head but I grasped the fundamentals and relished the fruits loaves of my learning.
Ever since I’ve been making hearth style breads regularly. I don’t buy grocery bread anymore. And I’m still learning. There are vast libraries of knowledge on breads and legions of bread enthusiasts in the blogosphere. I’m joining them. Every week I’ll be posting something about bread.
Sorry, Ham Choy readers.
But who knows, maybe someday I’ll experiment and create an new type of bread: Ham Choy buns. You’ll be the first to know.
Without context this is an unusual bread name to remember. It is a regional US specialty with a tender soft crumb and subtle molasses flavor. The context behind the name? It’s a story of course …
Once upon time, a long time ago when men were Men and Women worked in the Kitchen, John and Ana were a newly married couple in New England. Ana was a lovely woman, beautiful and smart. She was gifted in many things but had absolutely no talent in the kitchen. In today’s world she’d probably be a fast tracker in corporate HQ or an apprentice to a $10B (or not) bigoted CEO. Anyways, Ana could cook only one thing, cornmeal mush. She cooked it every day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After eating mush for 15 days straight, John decided he could do better. He threw together Ana’s cornmeal mush with some yeast and flour, kneaded it himself, all the while muttering “Ana, damn her!”
This is a good dough to make with a KitchenAid mixer. It is fairly wet initially but with 4 minutes of mixing will pull together around the dough hook and away from the mixing bowl walls. Use a rubber spatula to scrape dough on to a lightly floured surface. The outside of the dough will be dryer than the inside, but after a couple minutes of kneading will have a smooth tackiness throughout.
I like to add raisins and/or walnuts, to add a bit of sweetness and texture to the bread. If using, add to the dough when rolling into the loaf’s form, just before the second rise.
Recipe derived from Better Homes and Gardens’ New Baking Book.
1 cup cornmeal
2 cup water
½ cup molasses
1/3 cup butter
2 tsp salt
4 ½ to 5 cups flour (all purpose is fine)
4 ½ tsp active dry yeast (2 packages)
¾ cup raisins or walnuts (optional)
2 8x4x2 loaf pans, greased and floured
Mix cornmeal and water in large bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir cornmeal and water and microwave again until you have a cornmeal mush. Cube butter and mix in to cornmeal mixture until melted. Add molasses and sugar. Cool liquid mixture until it is just warm (115 to 120 F).
Stir eggs into the cornmeal mixture and add to flour & yeast. Beat with mixer on low speed for 30 seconds and then on high speed for 3 minutes.
Turn dough on to lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic. Place in lightly oiled bowl and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.
After an hour, remove the dough and cut into 2. Press out into rectangle and add raisins & walnuts, if using. Tightly roll into a loaf shape and place into loaf pans to raise again for 1 hour, or until nearly doubled.
Bake in preheated 375 oven for 20 minutes. Remove & cover with foil to prevent burning. Bake for another 20 minutes.
Remove from oven. Rest for 5 minutes before removing from pans to cool on a wire rack.
It’s back to school time and one of the things I remember is lunch bags. Actually, I remember not having to prepare lunch bags. That was done by Hubby for Kid1 and Kid2. Aside from inventive wraps and chopped veggie things, he prepared some delicious snack bars.
I recently discovered his secret – a dog-eared recipe book called “Brown Bag Success” by Sandra K. Nissenberg and Barbara N. Pearl. I skipped past the pages on Healthy Lunches and Sandwich Staples and zoned in on “Snacks, Treats and Finishing Touches.” There I found what I’d been looking for. The chewy, nutty, butterscotch flavored Coconut Nut Bars.
It was deceptively easy to make. I whipped up a batch in less than ten minutes, baked it for 20 and waited for it to cool. Kid2 who is now twelve years older and two feet taller, hovered around the kitchen. Unwisely, I left the bars unguarded. When I returned to store them away, I found the supply woefully diminished.
Challenged, Kid2’s only response was “Huh? Humph…(swallow)..nuhme!”
Coconut Nut Bars
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (add 1 cup if you’re nut crazy like me)
Grease and flour a 8×8 pan
Preheat oven to 350
Measure flour and baking powder in a bowl
Melt butter in microwave.Stir in brown sugar. Add egg and vanilla.
Mix in to flour mixture. Add coconut and nuts. Batter will be stiff.
Spread into pan. If it doesn’t look it has enough nuts, shove some more into the batter.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.
Cool for 15 before removing from pan. Use a long serrated knife to slice into bars.