Friday, January 21, 2011

Adventures in the Kitchen

I have fallen behind on my feline documentation recently as I have spent the past few evenings in the kitchen making:
  • chicken stock
  • chicken salad
  • chai concentrate
  • ginger ale
  • ginger muffins
So instead of containing cat pictures, today's post is a very wordy one about food.

Chicken Stock & Salad

This was my first time making stock, so it was something of an adventure (the salad was pretty straight forward). I used the carcasses of two roast chickens, one of which still had to be stripped of its meat, and I spent a whole evening pretty much up to my elbows in chicken parts. Of course this was of great interest to the cats - Melly sat on top of the kitchen garbage can the whole time I was cooking, and Scarlett skulked about doing her best to look hungry. Given that the entire apartment - and possibly the whole building - smelled of their favorite food, it really was only fair that they be allowed to partake, so I gave them some plain chicken for their dinners.

Now on to the fun stuff!

Chai Concentrate

Chai lattes are one of my favorite beverages, but a lot of coffee shops make them way too sweet or too spicy (and the chai at one local shop tastes oddly of apple). I've experimented a bit with making my own chai mix but didn't have much luck until yesterday, when I tried this recipe, found on the Tasty Kitchen blog. Next time I will double up on the cinnamon and cut the ginger and vanilla (I already halved the sugar), but even without those modifications, the batch I made is so good. I will never go back to store-bought chai!

Ginger Ale

I got a big piece of ginger root since I was using it for both the muffins and the chai, and ended up with just enough left over to make a single glass of homemade ginger ale. First, I made a ginger syrup, then after cooling it, mixed it in a glass with some ice and club soda. I am a big fan of ginger sodas, from Canada Dry to those fancy organic ginger beers, but this is the best one I've ever had. Next time I'll make a bigger batch!

Here's how to make the syrup:
Mince a bulb of fresh ginger (leave the peel on), either by hand or in a food processor. In a saucepan, combine the minced ginger with granulated sugar and water in a 1:1:3 ratio. Bring it to a boil, then allow it to simmer for an hour. Strain out the solids, and let it cool.
Ginger Muffins

This recipe sounds a little strange since it involves fresh ginger with the peel left on, but since the blogger herself admitted the peculiarity of this and still insisted the muffins were worth trying, I decided to go for it. I am glad I did! They are seriously tasty.

Here's the recipe:
Marion Cunningham’s Fresh Ginger Muffins
Adapted from Orangette, who adapted it from The Breakfast Book

Before you get started, make sure your ginger is washed very thoroughly. I used the scrubbing brush I normally use for potatoes to make sure I got all the dirt off.

One piece of unpeeled ginger root, a little less than 3 ounces
¾ cup plus 3 Tbsp. sugar
Zest from two large lemons (~2 Tbsp)
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a muffin tin.

Cut the unpeeled ginger root into large chunks. If you have a food processor, process the ginger until it is in tiny pieces; alternatively, mince by hand. Measure out ¼ cup – or a little more, if you like. It’s better to have too much than too little. Put the ginger and ¼ cup sugar in a small skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has melted and the mixture is hot. Don’t walk away from the pan: this takes only a couple of minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Add to the ginger mixture.

In a large bowl, beat the butter slightly to break it up, then add the remaining ½ cup sugar, and beat until smooth. Add the eggs, and beat well. Add the buttermilk, and beat until blended. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda, and beat just until smooth. Add the ginger-lemon mixture, and beat to mix well. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 muffins


Laura47 said...

The ginger muffins sound seriously delicious. Thanks for the recipe -- I suspect they'd be a huge hit around our house, too!

Katnip Lounge said...

Well, I am now a quivering puddle of dribble.

Princess Jasmine said...

Yummy yum yum, I just love cake prrrrrrrrrrrrr

meowmeowmans said...

Those ginger muffins sound awesome! I love that they are called "Marion Cunningham's Fresh Ginger Muffins." As the Fonz would say, "That Mrs. C is the coolest!" :)

Have a great weekend, friends.

Sylvestermiasmomma said...

Wow, you are an adventureous cook! All sounds both interesting and delicious. The muffins sound yummy!! I use to love ginger ale but they changed Vernors when it got bought out by one of the big soda companies. It has gotten even sweeter than it use to be. Not a big soda drinker anymore so would be willing to try making my own if I ever get adventurous enough to do so.

ABBY said...

Oh we might have to make that chai!
Thanks for sharing!!


BeadedTail said...

Lots of great things going on in your kitchen!

Cat Chat With Caren And Cody said...

ok now I REALLY love you! lol. My TWO FAVORITE THINGS....COOKING AND CATS!! What could be better?

I never knew that ginger ale could be made at home...I must be sooo stupid! Canada Dry is my have me really hungry now...thanks for such an informative and interesting post!

Sparkle said...

My human thinks those ginger muffins sound yummy. I stopped reading after the chicken part.

Ayla and Iza, said...

The Big Thing - Chicken stock is a wonderful thing to use in so many dishes. Stewing chickens leaves a decent stock on its own (after de-fatting). Sometimes, I roast the large bones (cracked) and add them back to the liquid for more flavor. Sometimes I simmer the carcasses of roasted chickens with some veggies added.