Thursday, October 21, 2010

Time for a little comfort smothered in gravy & a few tips

I guess that I can take my pleasant little life a little for granted at times, can't we all.

What I have learned: Never stop trying - ever. Even if you are trying - yep, most likely it isn't good enough and we can always do better. Always do your best. Our best is the greatest gift we have.

Feeling like a needed something more for both J and I, some time in the house, and a home cooked meal, I open the fridge, turned on the oven, pulled out the mixer and went to town (actually didn't got to town for a change....sorry...). I even turned down a bike ride in hopes that a good home cooked meal will have healing properties of its own.

One of the fondest dishes that my Grandma ever made was a pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions in the drippings, then smothered in pan gravy.  It is one of those country staples - meat and potatoes. It warms and satisfies from the inside out.
When I was still in school, my parents would often send me to spend a few days with Grandma. I would park it at her house, eating, sewing, doing anything new that she saw while watching Martha Stewart, drinking coffee, watching Golden Girls, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, and playing in the gardens. If only I could go back..... snapping my fingers...... clicking my heals.... still here... instead of trying other means of time travel, I decided to roast my own chicken, make some gravy and then bake some scones with both cheese and apple speckles.

These are all things that would tickle Carol and in turn this meal is already healing my heart and I can just hope that it works on J. The say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
Today's cooking lesson(s)! To be honest.... there are a few!

So in order to "get to a man's heart" he need not be poisoned! So if you are advert to cooking meat as much as I am you probably need a refresher on when meat is done. Do a little research before you start cooking. I would rather not eat meat that is dry and chewy but I kind of want to puke at the sight of raw chicken on the table.
When is a chicken fully cooked you might ask......

OK, you have gone through roasting the darn bird, basting, making sure it is up to the proper temperature, and the whole nine yards, it is on the table.... how the heck do you cut into the limp bird? Yeah - I really don't eat a lot of meat.... 

Gravy......hmmm..... I know I like it if it is done well. This will take practice.

I plan on sticking to things I understand better such as vegetable dishes and.....

On to something that I know a little better - BAKING!

Over at my favorite cooking blog, Smitten Kitchen, she just let the cat out of the bag about apple cheddar scones. Since I live in the midst of apple heaven and it is harvest season, I found myself with a box of apples. I can eat nearly my weight in fresh apples every couple of days, the box I got were not that inspiring for eating. I made a batch of ginger apple sauce and saved a few for scones.

At the time I made these I had a block of chili cheddar cheese and finely grated it. I think it worked out just fine, although white cheddar is more pleasing to the eyes and the palate. I also suggest cutting the apples into smaller pieces than what I have show, possibly the size of dice.

Since I am on a roll thinking that I know how to tweak recipes, I would make one final change! I would skip the scone wedge idea and go for a round biscuit shape instead. Next time I will once again plop the dough onto a very well floured surface pat the dough to about an inch and a half thick then tearing off three inch or so diameter pieces and form into disks.

There you have it! Take it or leave it. I will take baked goods, savory or sweet, over meat any day of the week!

Apple and Cheddar Scones

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Barely tweaked from The Perfect Finish

Makes 6 generous scones

2 firm tart apples (1 pound or 2 454 grams)
1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces or 195 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling (total of 2.2 ounces or 63 grams)
1/2 tablespoon (7 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (3 grams) plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons (3 ounces or 85 grams)unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes plus additional for baking sheet if not lining it with parchment
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces or 65 grams) sharp cheddar, shredded (white is recommended, I assume for aesthetics)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) heavy cream
2 large eggs

Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Peel and core apples, then cut them into one-sixteenths. (chunks, not slivers.) Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. They will be about half-baked. Let them cool completely. (You can speed this up in the fridge, as I did.) Leave oven on.


Generously flour your counter top and place the scone dough on top of it. Sprinkle with flour. Use a rolling pin to gently roll (or use your hands to pat) the dough into a 1 1/4-inch thick, 6-inch circle. Cut circle into 6 wedges. Transfer them to a baking sheet that has either been buttered or lined with a fresh sheet of parchment paper. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone.

Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle them with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. With a spatula, lift them to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Before you eat one, make sure you realize how addictive they might be. Once you’ve got that down, go for it anyway.

Do ahead: Scones are best the day they are baked. However, they can be made ahead of time and stored unbaked in the freezer until you need them. Simply brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle them with sugar, and bake them still frozen for just a couple extra minutes. This way they are always freshly baked when you want them. These scones were passable on day two and terrible on day three.

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