News for September 2011

Quiche.

I made a quiche. My inspiration? the prepackaged square hunk of egg and cheese I see at least biweekly in the B&N cafe. If they can ship something across the country, nuke it and serve it and it still looks and smells edible I think I can do something, at least equally as good if not better. A quiche is by its very nature a dish best  prepared with whatever is left. It has a very forgiving nature- and I took that to heart, using just what I had around the house. The only purchased ingredients were some cream and a pie crust. Yes, I bought a crust- I was making a comfort food from scraps, not something you find in a small well admired cafe off the Champs-Élysées. The web adress you typed or clicked was that of the incopetentcook, and I promise I will not let you down on that fact.

My recipe list was simple:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 6 ounces of cheese total (2 parts swiss to one part mozzarella)
  • Random “fixin’s”- a couple slices of deli ham, some sundried tomatoes, and some basil
  • fresh ground pepper and kosher salt to taste, a pinch of hot smoked paprica(why not)

It looks a little like this:

The prep was beyond easy. Shred some cheese to equal roughly 1 unpacked cup of cheese (I have no scale 6 ounces had to be guestimated), chiffonade the basil and roughly chop the tomatoes. In a large bowl I combined the eggs and h&h, beat them(with whisk or handheld mixer) until the mixture becomes slightly airy. You aren’t going to whisk for too long- we don’t want the cream to become butter. 3-4 minutes is what I ended up at. Loosely place all dry ingredients into your pie pan(you can blind bake this if you want a crispier crust- 15 minutes at 400). Slowly pour the egg/cream mixture over the cheese, ham/goodies until you are about 1/2 an inch from the top of the pie crust. Mine looked like this:

Bake that guy for 15-20 minutes at 425(which I didn’t mention to preheat, but you should have known to!) and then lower the heat to 350 until the quiche is stiff with only a little giggle when you shake the pan. It took about 30-35 minutes in my oven. Let it cool for at least half an hour before diving in.

 

 

The best part about a quiche is that what you put in it is infinite. I made a savory tasting quiche that wasn’t half bad. If i were to do it again I wouldn’t recommend the sun dried tomatoes. Overall, it is delicious. I made this three days ago, and I still have half of it left. The best part is that all I needed to go buy was the h&h, a total investment of $5(less than that hunk sold at B&N) for a meal that will last me for days. Exactingly simple, without any arrogance about it, I really do like my quiche. Any food that is based out of necessity, and odd parts seems to be more fulfilling. My barely improved Neanderthal brain finds joy in using all available resources instead of wasting.

Speaking of, I still have half that cream left up next I’ll be taking a torch to some cream. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again- I love
Crème brûlée.

Posted: September 12th, 2011
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Cooking and Incompetence.

Hello, and welcome to my newest site! I think the goal of this page is understood- it’s a cooking blog. If we manage to dive a little deeper, or read the web address you will notice that this involves a level of incompetence. Yes, I am a bad cook. I try my hardest to make food that is at least enjoyable, but that usually ends in a ‘meh’ emanating from my own tastebuds. This blog will be following my attempts to make some good food on the budget of a poor-ish college student.

That means that you will not be seeing any of the culinary buzz words that are jammed down your ears. No free-range, grass fed sirloin, family-owned farm raised chicken, and certainly no organic. I understand the merits of each of these titles affixed to foods, but for years organic has become synonymous with better- for consumer, animal and environment. While it is of course true that organic is better for the consumer as it is purchased it loses much of its value when you dive a little deeper. That organic strawberry you use to make your glaze on your mouth watering cheesecake probably traveled across the country from California. Even here in Florida where we have a nationally appreciated festival to celebrate this spurious fruit you can go into any of the local grocery stores and find California, or Argentinian strawberries. You can only find Florida berries for a few weeks, or not at all.

If you are reading this you are probably a friend of  mine or a family member. The grand majority of my friends are as well versed as I am, and my immediate family members may be moreso inclined to understand how bad the international transport of these foods is for all involved. Gallons of diesel(or jet fuel) are needed for that $6 pint of organic strawberries you have in front of you. It is worthless. Free range chicken? Think warehouse with a door so small a chicken can barely fit through, and a range no bigger than your first dorm room(and somehow more crowded than mine was). The chickens are so prone to disease that they aren’t even allowed out of that warehouse until they are more mature, and by that time they are days away from slaughter- and have only ever existed inside their four walls. There is no motivation to use that range.

If I can I will head up to Dade City for some of my foods. They have a few farms and a few markets selling locally grown produce I would adore having, but work and school full time make the trip cumbersome. Normal supermarket faire will have to do.

I will also be posting some of my gastronomical excursions here as well. I know that I am a poor cook because I go out of my way to find good ones. I will repost my Cafe Provence entry here on this site as an introduction to my thoughts about food if you hadn’t read it. 

Posted: September 7th, 2011
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Cafe Provence!

I drove my sister back up north last week, and although the 1400 mile drive wasn’t anything to scoff at I was ready to go. After the countless hours on I-95 and the hell that is the New Jersey Turnpike there was Vermont. Ahh… Vermont, I have talked about the Green Mountain State before(and with multiple posts on this blog no less) with all due revelry and aplum. So it was I drove. I drove for a scant six hours the first day, and managed to survive eleven hours the next.  It was an experience I felt I needed to conquer, perhaps a manly accomplishment to prove my testosterone-ly-ness(sounds good, right?). I survived my harrowing tale with a few battle scars(a backache that was taken care of by a few tylenol) and enjoyed the few days away before school and before work I had while in the brilliantly vibrant Maple forests of Vermont.

First step was to replace my mug from Bennington Potters. On my spring break trip to Vermont I had bought a tea cup that since it’s purchase I had used nearly daily. With my delicately tuned and precise nerdy hands I somehow knocked it off a table, causing my hunk of fired mud to bifurcate. I had bought a factory second from the potters the first time around, and planned to do the same this time. My cup had a few small imperfections that were noticeable only if you were looking for them, but my replacement was not a discounted cup. It had passed the muster of the potter who had made it, and it seems…different because of it. It clearly says something about my character I think- I found the details of the first to make it unique, not wrong. My replacement is wonderful and it is marvelous but it seems too pristine. This is some pretty blunt percolation I know, and I would delve deeper but I have a much more interesting focus.

The next day was supposed to end my stay in Vermont(ask me about my flight back…) but I had the entire day to explore before my flight left at 9. I nearly demanded that we go to Cafe Provence. The spring break trip previously mentioned was supposed to initiate me to the small cafe in Brandon, VT. Without proper planning the first time around I missed any service and felt nearly bitter. I remedied that this time around. You may want some background of this little restaurant- it is a French cafe with the proprietors coming right from Provence (decidedly straight-forward). I had heard wonderful things about this place from everyone I had met which only fueled my nearly rabid exigency.

We get there and it is a cafe. Small tables scarce wait staff and a simple menu. We are seated and presented menus. We aren’t asked instantaneously for our drink orders, instead the waitress leaves allowing us to enjoy the menu: I am already impressed. Throughout the entire meal we are never pressured to leave quickly or to add a side, it is whatever looks good to us. It is a very casual experience with a kitchen wholly open to the entire establishment. The only complaint with this lassiez-faire attitude is that there are a few New Yorker tourists in biker shorts. I never want to have a sweaty man walk past me in spandex while I’m eating. Or when I’m not eating. Still, I’m not deterred.

I started my meal simply, with a tomato pie with goat cheese and greens as an appetizer. It was…unfathomably, unequivocally, insatiably phenomenal. With every bite I was humbled. I took one small bite and for a fraction of a second my mouth exploded, mind expanded, and I could truly understand all was well with the universe. The fact that a simple piece of dough with a few tomatoes, greens and cheese could be combined so simply into something that was so god-like made me sit in silence for minutes. My lunch companions could tell you, I was in a nearly trance-like state as I savored. It may seem melodramatic- but I can’t emphasize how beautiful this little plate was.

Alas, as is the nature of matter and energy, the food was consumed and there was no more. I had a Chicken Nicoise for my lunch. It was a simple meal of pan-fried chicken lightly seasoned served with a similar arrangement of vegetables as my tomato pie, on top of some well prepared garlic mashed potatoes. I hate how clunky the English language is when it comes to describing foods, you can only say succulent, delicious, wonderful etc. so many times before you feel like a broken record. The mashed potatoes were piped from a pastry bag, it was the first time I had seen that before, it wasn’t the most original idea ever, but it made its effect on the presentation.

We finished our meal and we sat and waited. We conversed, and were a little confused when the waitress walked past us many times without stopping, or if she did she only refilled our water and left without asking if we wanted the check. It was so very refreshing. Not once were we pressured to move, to stop enjoying our gastronomic enjoyment. Our plates were cleared and we were politely brought a small dessert menu which we looked over half-heartedly. Our table had seen quiches that were so silken you would think there were whipped cream, a simple sandwich made devine with only simple ingredients in a baguette resembling, I’m told, a genuine french loaf, and of course my little pie that caused a thousand epiphanies for me- we were in no need for a dessert as well. Still, we looked and were convinced to share their sampler of a chocolate cake, cheesecake and a creme brulee. I have made my own brulees before I thought well, but it was no comparison. The brulee was a different texture and color, I think the direct result of using some local eggs and creme, and the cheesecake was perfection, highlighted notes of maple syrup well integrated. The cake was simple, it was French afterall, containing chocolate, flour, and enough butter cause a hundred heart attacks.

It was an experience I was glad to finally have. I consider myself a technically proficient creator of some simple things to eat, but to be some throughly humbled in such an enjoyable way was mesmerizing. I hope to again be baffled by what others create, regardless of medium. If I could find a restaurant with such food and without the high brow atmosphere that usually accompanies such places here in Florida I would gain 40 pounds and go broke over-tipping. I like that others’ diversions have this effect on me. I love that there is profundity even in a small bite of food, there is a whole world, mesmerizingly beautiful just over the next hill, around the next bend.

Posted: September 6th, 2011
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