Monthly Archives: February 2013

How to make chicken stock

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I don’t know why I left that newspaper in there. To prove that I’m still alive?

Chicken stock is one of the most addicting things you can make, second only to roasting a chicken.  I make roast chicken at least once a week because it is cheap, easy, and so fricken good that you find yourself nibbling on the bones and licking the cutting board.  Perhaps if you’re very good, dear readers, I will show you a video that my friends and I made while drunk about how to make the most delicious roast chicken you will ever eat.

Actually I haven’t seen the video yet and I will have to screen it before bearing my drunken soul online.  It may be that I just end up writing out the recipe ;)

The other amazing thing about roasting a chicken is making stock.  SO simple.  SO many uses.  AND there’s no real wrong way to do it, which makes it practically idiot-proof.  All you really have to know is 1) how to boil liquid and 2) what good chicken broth tastes like.

First you need a chicken carcass, preferably fresh.  That being said, I’ve used the remains of one of those pre-roasted birds you get for $5 at the grocery store (don’t you judge me) and I’ve used a chicken carcass that I had sitting for in the fridge 3 or 4 days (seriously, stop with the judging).  You’re going to boil the hell out of it anyway, so don’t feel guilty if after three bottles of wine and a roast bird later, you’re not really in the mood to do more cooking.  I’ve also frozen a carcass for later and that has worked out pretty well.  Not QUITE as flavorful, but it works.

First you place the carcass in a stock pot.

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Cover the carcass (yes, I admit it, I like writing ‘carcass’) with just enough water to cover it.  Sometimes it floats, don’t worry about it.

If you happen to have some celery or carrots, throw those suckers in there too.  I like to keep my stock simple because I’m rarely sure of what I’m going to do with it, but if you want to get crazy with herbs and onions, please do.  Just remember that whatever you put in your stock, you’re going to be straining the bleached remains of it out, so don’t get too attached and be mindful if you’re using anything with a strong flavor.  Edit:  My new ingredient staple is about an inch cube of raw ginger.  FRICKEN AMAZING.

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Because of my particular roast chicken recipe, I don’t usually need to season my stock and I’d actually advise that you shouldn’t anyway — unless, again, you have some sort of divine master plan that requires salty stock. I also caution against garlic cloves (which I NEVER say) because, well . . . I dunno.  It kinda just ends up tasting like garlic juice to me.  Also lemon.  Please don’t put lemon in there or accidentally forget to take out whatever you stuffed the bird cavity with.  It sucks.

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Once it’s on the stove, I like to bring it to a boil and then turn it down to a healthy simmer.  I find that simmering for long periods of time doesn’t blanch the carcass ( :D ) quite so quickly and the simmering allows the flavors to really come out.  I also like to leave the lid off so that the water boils down — makes for a richer flavor, in my opinion.

Here is where my instructions will fail you if you need specifics.  Honestly, I don’t know how long you should let it simmer.  I’m thinking three to four hours-ish.  I usually just go about my daily business and check on it now and again to see if it tastes good yet.  If the water gets too low, I add more.  If I added too much and it now tastes like chicken water, I turn up the heat and let that sucker boil down some more.

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Heathily simmering

How I know it’s done is by one of two methods:

1) The carcass falls apart when you swirl it with the spoon, or

2) More telling, when the chicken and/or vegetables taste like nothing.  That’s when you know you’ve boiled the taste out of them (which is the plan, Stan).

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The cloudier the broth, the richer the flavor.  Avoid chicken water.  It’s really awful.

When you’re satisfied with the taste, strain all the tasteless crap out of it and then you can either use the stock immediately or freeze it and use it later.

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I have a little tiny lame strainer and so straining an entire steaming carcass is hard enough without also juggling a camera, so sorry

I like to freeze it in 1-2 cup increments (I write on my tuperware in sharpie, which amazingly comes off, but to be safe you might want to use a dry erase marker. . . or write on tape. You’re clever, you’ll figure it out).  Some people do it in ice cube trays, but who the hell only uses an ice cube of stock?

So there you go!  One Classy Dame Chicken Stock.  Get to work!

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Hedwig O’Hara

Still Beautiful

I saw a live production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch a few weekends ago.  If you’ve never seen the movie, you really should because it’s amazing.  Since I posted my review of the stage show on teh internetz in a somewhat official capacity, I couldn’t really delve into how much Hedwig’s story really means to me on a personal level because it would have devolved into emotional dribble.  But here I can do whatever the hell I want, so HA.  The review I wrote is pasted at the bottom.

When I first saw Hedwig in college at a midnight movie theater (said everyone who’s ever seen the movie), I pretty much became instantly obsessed.  I love Hedwig.  I feel her.  I know her in my core.  I’ve really had to overcome my shyness at admitting to be the soul sister of a transsexual woman who was coerced into having a sex change operation that was completely botched, especially considering I am a heterosexual ciswoman.  But my GOD, I gaze into John Cameron Mitchell’s wet, aching blue eyes on screen and, as the poetic lyric goes, I could tell by her expression that the pain down in her soul was the same as the one down in mine.

To be honest, in my projected imaginary mirrorland, I like to think of myself as a mixture of:

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The glorious Hedwig

And:

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The equally glorious Scarlett

There is something about Scarlett’s spoiled and impetuous (and, dare I say, feminist) nature that just charms the hell out of me.  And I completely empathize with what it’s like to chase after the dream of Ashley only to find that he’s a total wiener. (Side note: Yes, I am aware that the novel Gone with the Wind is sentimentally racist.  The film, which thankfully cut a lot of that out, did give Hattie McDaniels a chance to win her well-deserved Oscar, so I’d like to think it helped pay back at least a little karma.)

Anyway, back to Hedwig. I realize that I have not undergone anything tremendously horrific as, say, having my sexual organs permanently disfigured, but I recognize the fear of loneliness and pain of being rejected.  I thought I found my soulmate in every poor sap I ever dated.  If there was a book on my dating life before M Fox, the title would either be You Probably Should Have Joined a Nunnery, subtitled At Least Jesus Would Love You  or Sex Doesn’t Equal Love, You Freaking Idiot. (Spoiler: I am the freaking idiot.)

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I do love me a good mocking

In case you didn’t read my last post heralding author Jenny Trout, a quick recap.  Jenny Trout is a prolific erotica writer who recently made a splash on the internet doing a chapter-by-chapter recap take-down of the 50 Shades of Grey series.  And they are HILARIOUS.  If you haven’t already, you simply must read these. Go ahead, trust me.  It also blows a big hole in “feminists don’t have a sense of humor theory” while also pointing out how these books glorify abusive relationships and misrepresent the BDSM community.

(You know you wanted it.)

Jenny has also decided to write her own 50 Shades-inspired erotica entitled The Boss, done in a way that doesn’t insult women, BDSM, and uses real grown-up words for genitalia instead of “*gasp!* He touched me down THERE!!! Tee hee!”  This free (free!) novel is available online only here.  There are three chapters live and it’s pretty good so far!  I would say that my only real nitpicky thing is that I feel like I’ve been through a few cliff-hangers already, but I don’t read very much erotica so it might be a stylistic thing.  But the characters are really fun, the writing is witty, and the main guy is pretty hot, so disco!  I also appreciate that the main character Sophie is a distinct personality, not one of those stupid faceless protagonists who just happens to be around when something interesting happens.  Sophie is a real person with opinions — AND she’s a girl, weird, right?

In celebration of The Boss and intelligent mockery, I had to draw everyone’s attention to another clever and hilarious spoof done by someone completely unaffiliated with Jenny Trout, but who is also doing the Lord’s work.  Enjoy!

Neopolitan Cheesecake Ice Cream Cake

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Our tradition for M Fox’s birthday is that I make him whatever kind of cake he wants.  This sounds really boring except that M Fox has the cake taste of an eleven-year-old.  Usually the cake comes with a lesson for me.  One year it was chocolate chip cake with Oreo frosting: the lesson was if you don’t want all the chocolate chips to sink to the bottom of the cake, drudge them in flour before adding to the batter (also works for raisins, I’m told).  The next year it was a double layer cheesecake, one chocolate, one vanilla: the lesson of this cake was that Alton Brown’s cheesecake (the vanilla) is way more delicious than Martha Stewart’s (the chocolate).  Also, stacking cheesecakes is fricken scary business and also makes one slice so humongous that you want to die after eating it.

This year?  He wanted a Neopolitan cheesecake ice cream cake.  Bring it, said I.  It actually turned out pretty good, believe it or not.  I did a vanilla cheesecake bottom (thank you again, Alton), chocolate ganache middle, and strawberry ice cream layer on top, with an Oreo (or whatever the Trader Joe equivalent is) cookie crust.  The moral for this one?  Ganache freezes into rock.  If I were ever to make this again, I’d probably do a simple brownie recipe so that you could actually cut it (shout out to my Facebook baking friends for the great advice!)

So here is the recipe for this ridiculous cake I made.  What’s great about this cake is that because you have to freeze it, you don’t have to eat it all in one week — you can draw it out for as long as you want!

Warning: I am not a precise baker/cook/photographer/person/anything.  I’m just not.  I kinda just go with it until either I like the look of it or I ruin it.  That being said, I think this cake turned out pretty damn good and I can only imagine what it might be if someone who actually read all the directions first gave it a go!  Also, none of these photos are pretty.  I’ll leave that to the food bloggers.

The Cookie Crust

It’s pretty simple.  I food-processed the hell out of about 25 cookies, mixed in about 3 tablespoons of melted butter and pressed it to the bottom of a wax paper-lined pan.  The wax paper is important — when you freeze this baby, it will make it easier to actually get it out.  If you want more cookie, use more cookie.  If you need more spackle (butter), add more spackle.  Then I baked it in a 350 degree oven until it was more solid — not burned, but the butter wasn’t so wet.

Science, people.

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Layer 1: Cheesecake

I pretty much followed Alton’s recipe because the man is a genius (if you haven’t ever brined a turkey Alton-style, you really really really should).  The only thing different is that I made the cake in a regular brownie pan instead of a spring-form because it would be easier to deal with and would make the portions less insane.  Because of this, I obviously didn’t use any of the graham cracker crumbles for the sides or the crust.

Alton Brown’s Cheesecake Recipe

Filling:
20 ounces cream cheese
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 yolks
1/3 cup heavy cream
Directions:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Brush some of the melted butter around a 9 by 3-inch cake pan. Adhere parchment to the bottom and the sides. (Didn’t do this in cake or spring-form pan, just a brownie pan)

In a mixer with a paddle attachment (I don’t have a mixer, so I just did this in my food processor), beat sour cream for 10 seconds. Add the cream cheese and sugar and mix on low for 30 seconds and then turn up to medium. Scrape the bowl. In a separate container, combine vanilla, eggs, yolks, and heavy cream. With the mixer on medium, slowly pour the liquid mixture in. When half of it is incorporated, stop and scrape. Continue adding the mixture until the rest of the ingredients are incorporated.

Once completely combined, pour into the cooled crust.  Lower oven temperature to 250 degrees F. Place cheesecake into a preheated water bath, in the oven for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and open the door for one minute.

Close the door for one more hour. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and place in the refrigerator for 6 hours to completely cool before serving.

No, but seriously:  Watch his video about the bath thingie — it’s on the recipe link.  It’s totally worth it.  It seems stupid, but just do it.  You can’t tell in the photo below, but there is water in that bottom pan.

Confession:  I wasn’t paying attention to the directions and I ended up leaving the oven door open for the first 20 minutes or so after turning the oven off.  Oops.  It still seems fine, but probably only because the layer isn’t very thick.
While the cheesecake was in the fridge for the allotted time, I prepared the other two layers.
Layer 2: Chocolate Ganache
As I mentioned, I would highly suggest doing a brownie layer instead unless you like chiseling chocolate through ice cream and cheesecake.  I ended up just eating around it.  That being said, I’m not really a dark chocolate person to begin with and I also avoid chocolate chip ice cream because I hate eating chocolate ice rocks in the middle of my sweet, sweet creamy goodness.  I think a brownie layer would be better, although getting it out of the pan might prove a little more difficult.  Anyway, here is what I did.
Ingredients:
-One of those big honking 1 poundTrader Joe’s chocolate bars.  I used very dark chocolate to counter balance the sweet
-Butter
-Milk or Heavy Cream (I think I used heavy cream)
Directions:
1) Chop up chocolate so that it’s in smaller pieces and put it in a metal bowl.  I’m sure there’s a perfect size, but I just hacked at it.
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2) Put the metal bowl with the chocolate over a sauce pot of water and let the water boil.  Add butter and a couple splashes of milk/cream until the mixture is melty enough to spread.
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Did I mention science?  I think I did. . .
I poured the chocolate into a wax paper-lined cookie sheet of the same size as the brownie pan I used for the cheese cake.  I let that mutha cool in the fridge.  IMG_0993
Once it was a solid item, I took it out of the pan, peeled off the wax paper, and just let it hang out on the counter for awhile.  I used the same cookie sheet for the ice cream.
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Layer 3: Strawberry Ice Cream
Obviously you can use whatever ice cream you want, I just grabbed Haagen Das because it’s a pretty dense ice cream.  I let it melt in its little canister to make for easier spreading and then started spreading into my cookie sheet.
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And then I realized that I had not put down a layer of wax paper.
And I dug it all out, washed the pan, lined the stupid thing, and started over.
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LINE IT WITH WAX PAPER, for God’s sakes.
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While the ice cream was soft, I put the layer of chocolate on top and then returned it to the freezer so they would meld together.
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Construction

I literally just put on layer on top of the other.  You can think of a better way to do this, go nuts.

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I put the whole thing back in the freezer and took it out about 15 minutes before I wanted to serve it.  The first piece looked like a horrible accident, but after that it cut very nicely!  I was going to experiment with putting popsicle sticks in the top so that they could be little pops, but, meh.  Next time :)

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Happy birthday, M Fox!

Marion of the Lists

Here is my second writing assignment!  The theme was “First Day.”  This character is from an old D&D campaign, but I like her so I’ll keep reusing her!  Ten points if you spot my very obvious Tamora Pierce reference (although, I guess Marion, by virtue of being a red-haired lady knight, is sort of an homage all of her own. . .)  Enjoy :)

~~

“Damn him and his toasted arse!  If it’s not the slags, it’s the swill!”

Gilder hurled his cap to the ground and did a war dance on top of it, cursing gloriously.  The nervous page shifted on his feet while the short man finished his tirade.  The boy had had the unfortunate duty of reporting to Gilder that one of his jousters was passed out at The Mutton Chop, and the keeper wouldn’t let him leave until his debt was paid.  While he wasn’t unused to delivering bad news, sometimes the receiver got a little carried away.  Gilder, who ran the jousting in town, was mostly the good sort, but any man could get mean when someone messed with his coin and the page preferred to leave without a black eye.

“How much does that red-faced bilge drinker owe?!”

“Not sure, Mister Gil,” said the boy.  “But prolly lots, seeing how the keeper’s got him locked in the back.”

“More than his bout in bets, then.  Curse his soaked hide!  You get out of here now, I’ve got some thinking to do.”

After the grateful boy left, Gil turned to his three other partners in the tiltyard — the armorer, the weapon master, and the head of the stables.  They stared back at him in tired resignation.  Sir Duncan was a disgraced knight, but he had been a damn decent jouster once.  Or at least he won more than he lost, which was all that was needed of him.  These last few months had been particularly irregular, though.  It used to be that paying your tilters was enough to keep them on time and sober enough to ride.  Not with Duncan.

“That bastard’s cost us three bouts this week already, Gil,” said the head of the stables.

“Yeah, when’re we going to cut him loose?”

“When you figure out a way to end the wars and keep the young men around, then we’ll talk about cutting tilters,” sneered Gil, unfairly.  He knew the armorer was right.

“I can do it.”

Gil turned around.  A female wearing breeches and a smock stood in the opening of the tent.  She was tall for a girl and dirty, like she didn’t sleep inside.  Her red hair was completely untethered.  She looked him straight in the eye.

“‘Ere, what’s this!” Cried the weapon master.

“Yeah, throw the baggage out,” said the armorer.  “We got a problem to figger out!”

“I know you,” said Gil, engaging her against his better judgment.  He motioned for the others to be quiet and they obeyed.  Although they each helmed a vitally important part of the operation, there was no doubt that Gil was the head of the snake.  “You’re the one the men have been complaining about, the girl hanging around the yard trying to have a go with the lances.  Don’t you have a husband or something?”

“Duncan’s always half-drunk for these bouts,” she said, unphased.  “Everyone knows it!  He’s the laughing stock of this yard.”

“You think I don’t know that?”

“I can ride ten times as good as him.  And I can win.”

Gil sighed.  He blamed those modern scribes, always writing those damn romances about swordmaidens.  Now every slip of a girl fancied herself the next Lioness Rampant.

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No. . . no. . . NOOOOOOO!!!

Okay, I am way behind on several posts that I had planned to write.  I need to tell you all about the Neopolitan ice cream cheesecake I concocted for M Fox’s birthday, I wanted to do a how-to on making chicken stock (because it’s not as scary as it sounds), I had planned an opus on why Hedwig is my soulmate (and I don’t mean Harry Potter’s owl), AND I really need to finish polishing this month’s writing assignment (theme: First Day).

But I had to vent my spleen about something so heinous that it would have been a sin against humanity to keep quiet about it any longer.  I had to reach out to the sane and just world and hope that someone, somewhere would look me in the eye and say, “Yes.  You’re right.”

I found out from Publisher’s Weekly that they are re-publishing the first three books of Lucy Montgomery’s hallowed Anne of Green Gables series in one volume.  Which is wonderful.  But this.  THIS is the cover:

There are no words for this.

There are no words for this.

What.

The.

Bloody.

Fuck.

And I really think the use of the f-bomb is totally appropriate considering the magnitude of this outrage.

Why is she blonde?  Why is she making sexy eyes at the reader?  WHO IS THIS?!  Because this is NOT Anne-with-an-E.  This is NOT my bosom friend.  Hell, this isn’t even in the correct time period!  A plaid shirt?!  Hair just falling all over like spaghetti?!  And LEANING AGAINST A HAY BALE?!  Alright, that might have happened in that era, but SERIOUSLY?!  I mean,  I know they’re trying to sex-ify everything for tweens and little girls so that they will know how to be proper consenting sex kitteny women when they grow up (ie turn 15), but this is ridiculous.  How much do you want to bet that the people who sat around to discuss the cover had never read the book?  Or knew anything other than “Pre-teen Anne gets into trouble with her BFF Diana. And she likes a BOY! Tee hee!”

Anne Shirley isn’t a Bratz doll.  She’s a reader, a dreamer, a writer, a teacher, an intelligent woman ahead of her time.   How could do they do this?  They’ve turned Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Brite into skinny little fembots, MUST they go after our literary heroines, too?!  What’s next?

Little Women Cover

*shudder*

Being sexy is okay.  I’m not against sex or sexiness.  But I am an adult.  Little girls should not feel pressured by their favorite characters to look alluring or cool.  I don’t want my kids learning how to make pouty lips from Anne Shirley.  The fact that they would try and pervert Anne, who is SUPPOSED to be the overlooked girl that no one wanted, but who shone brightest because she had inner strength and beauty, and was valued because of her intelligence, is just disgusting to me.   If I have daughters, I am going to fight so hard to make sure they know that sex is not the only or most powerful thing they have to offer this world and when marketing jerks make these choices, it just makes my job, and our job as a society, harder.  I pray that my voice among the thousands of photos of these super kyute nymphs can make a difference because otherwise we are hosed.  Sorry to sound so fatalistic about it, but it just kills me inside.

***

Update:  The “good” news is that this is just some schmuck who reformatted it, slapped a CreateSpace cover on it, and is selling it on Amazon.  So it’s not Penguin Books or a real publisher, thank God. Also customers are giving this person hell in the comments. But still. Just the un-ironic existence of this upsets me.  I take my sheroes VERY seriously!