Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bread Baker's Apprentice: 20/43: multigrain bread extraordinaire

Multigrain bread extraordinaire!

Such a name deserves an exclamation point. I think all breads should have such names: casatiello magnifique! Kaiser rolls eleganza! English muffins especial! However, sadly, in his excellent The Bread Baker's Apprentice, bread enthusiast and expert baker Peter Reinhart opts for the more sensible, straightforward names: casatiello. Kaiser rolls. English muffins.

Until you get to page 187, where for some reason Reinhart was moved to title his multigrain loaf, "Multigrain bread extraordinaire." It seemed a little randomly enthusiastic, especially for a nutritious bread that might not otherwise inspire such joie de vivre. Speaking for myself, I tend to get a little more excited by, say, a brioche made with enough butter to fill the business end of a dump truck. Brioche extraordinaire! That, I could expect.

But then I made the dough for the extraordinary multigrain bread. And in its bountiful rustic healthful glory, it rose so high atop its pan as to make me blush a little.

I baked it, and witnessed its surprisingly soft crumb flake away from its delicate crisp crust. I then took Reinhart's advice: "This bread...makes the best toast in the world." I browned a few slices in the trusty toaster oven, anointed them with an "appropriate" amount of salted Irish butter, and promptly enjoyed the best toast in the world.



The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge asks that we do not share Peter Reinhart's recipes, no matter how extraordinary or pedestrian. But you have the book. So turn to page 187 already!


Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:

One year ago: crispy chicken tacos
Two years ago: mustard chicken in phyllo
Three years ago: cream of mushroom soup

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Turns out

So OK, I have these little rules. I don't have obsessive-compulsive disorder or anything, I just like certain things to be certain ways. Because these certain ways of mine make good sense. To me.

Like, if I'm going to sprinkle grated Pecorino as a garnish over a dish of baked pasta, I turn the pasta over with my fork first, moving the cheesy baked topping to the bottom of the dish. That way, you don't have a layer of cheese (grated Pecorino) over a layer of cheese (crusty mozzarella). The salty goodness of the cheeses are therefore evenly distributed throughout the dish, instead of piled atop one another where you might eat them in one bite and then be left with cheese-less pasta on the bottom of the dish (the horror).

Or, if I'm untacking a horse, I must put the bridle back in the tack room first, before removing the saddle. I can't let the bridle just hang there on the hook, reasonably, while I alleviate the unceasing pressure of the cinch from the horsie's belly. No, the poor horse must stand there, looking around, continuing to suck in and wonder if that cinch makes her look fat, while I deliberately return the bridle to its appointed hook. I do this because if I don't, I forget to put the bridle away because I get too involved with talking to the goats and dodging the errant barn cats.

And just as a for-instance, even though we have a dishwasher, I insist that certain dishes be hand-washed. I have decided that my sea foam Fiestaware, for example, cannot withstand the horrific rigors of the dishwasher. I think I decided this because one piece got discolored on the edge from leaning up against a cookie sheet while it dried, leaving a teeny rust stain. Why I blamed this on the dishwasher is anyone's guess, but so it is. They are my favorite dishes and they are treated specially as a result. The sunflower coffee cups that we bought in Ecuador must also be hand-washed, mostly because I don't want the fragile "CUENCA" mark on their bases to be scrubbed away. The pots have to be washed by hand, and not on the perfectly capable "pots and pans" cycle, because they are big and take up too much space in the dishwasher, leaving no room for anything else. (Appropriate question: "Anything else? It would seem that you don't allow any dishes in your dishwasher, Dianne.") And the knives! The knives must be washed immediately, dried and returned to the blocks. They are not permitted to sit in the sink awaiting cleaning. But that's just good safety sense.

So anyway, it turns out that I am a little OCD, apparently. Except for that knife-safety bit. A knife is in your hand, on your board, or in your block. Or at the local cookware shop, getting sharpened on the first Monday of the month.

And because I like things just so, I insist that this delicious dinner of delicate angel hair pasta mixed with a sharp melange of artichoke hearts and capers be topped with toasted panko instead of my usual favored grated Pecorino. There are enough salty elements to the dish to render it just perfect. Pecorino would gild the lily, and not in a good way. I have my reasons, and they are sound.

Unlike when I gently and rationally and repeatedly remind Husband why the dish towel should stay by the sink, and not all the way across the room by the basement door.*

*What use is it way over there? When my hands are wet, at the sink, the towel should be waiting.



For the toasted panko:
3 T. olive oil
1/2 c. panko
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste

For the rest of the dish:
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
Pinch sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
3 T. olive oil
1 c. chicken stock
1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts packed in water, drained, rinsed and quartered
2 T. capers, drained and rinsed
3 T. unsalted butter
1 lb. angel hair pasta
1/2 c. fresh parsley leaves, chopped

First, make the toasted panko crumblies. Place the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the panko, parsley, salt and pepper and toast, stirring occasionally, until the panko is toasty and browned. Set aside, off the heat.

Then, get to making the rest of the dish. Set a large pot of salted water to boil. In a shallow dish, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in batches, adding a little more oil if the pan gets too dry, until the chicken is a pleasing light golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Set aside.

Add the chicken stock to the empty skillet, scraping the skillet with a wooden spoon to loosen the crusty tasty bits. Bring the stock to a boil; cook until reduced by half. Add the artichokes, capers and chicken and juices to the pan. Gently swirl to combine, and bring just to the boil. Remove skillet from the heat and stir in butter; cover to keep warm.

Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet, mixing it with the chicken, artichokes and sauce. Top with parsley and serve sprinkled with the reserved toasted panko.

Serves 4.


Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:

One year ago: guacamole
Two years ago: honey biscuits
Three years ago: chocolate crinkles

Monday, May 9, 2011

Men Who Cook!

Today I'm taking a teeny little step outside the realm of what I normally do around here, that is to say, cook things at home, in an amateur fashion, and then tell you about them.

Today I'll tell you about some other amateur cooks, all of them men, who are gathering this Friday to pit their best dishes against one another to benefit Akron's Summa Health System's Palliative Care and Hospice Services. Viva La Flavor, Summa's 11th Annual Men Who Cook event, will be held Friday, May 13, at the St. Joseph Family Center in Akron, from 5:00-9:00 p.m. This year's Las Vegas theme provides the setting for some of Akron's most talented amateur male chefs to work their culinary magic for the judges -- a panel of esteemed Akron women. (Summa's Web site has complete lists of the cooking men and judging women.)

In celebration of the home cook, Summa has graciously given me two tickets to this Friday's event to give away to a lucky reader. If you'd like to enter to win the tickets:

(1) Leave me a comment, below, and tell me about a man who cooks in your life.

(2) Follow me on Twitter and tweet me with the following message: I just entered to win tickets to @SummaHealth's Men Who Cook!

One winner will be chosen at random at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11. Tickets will be left at the event will call under the winner's name. And for more details on the event, be sure to follow Summa Health System on Twitter and Facebook!

Good luck to you, and to the cooking men on Friday night! May we all enjoy the food and raise lots of money for Summa's Palliative Care and Hospice Services.