A cooking interlude…

On the heels of last week’s lost philosophical / political post, I am going to make a serious effort to recreate it, but in the meantime we’re taking a little break to talk about cooking. Normally Sunday would be a Market Day post, but thanks to Friday night shifts I haven’t made it to the market in a couple weeks. However, this weekend is the Feychild’s annual Valentine’s birthday dinner.

Her favourite foods have always been spagetti and chicken so her request for chicken parmesan for her celebratory dinner wasn’t much of a surprise.

Honestly, neither was her choice of a ‘store bought cake’ a surprise either. She’s still at that age (and having grown up in a asture household) where ‘home made’ still kinda feels ‘poor’ to her. I admit for a long time I too felt the same way, and then when we were a bit more flush I discovered that ‘store bought’ might be more middle class, but it doesn’t taste better. She’s also always been of the mind that those who get paid for stuff are ‘experts’, and she has a deep abiding faith in expertise. Ah to be 24 again.

Still it’s her cake. I was after a Red Velvet cake for her, it’s Valentine’s appropriate and one of her favourites. I couldn’t find one at work – so she ended up with home made anyway. She didn’t mind, and it turned out well.

Soooooooooo chicken parmesan, I made this one up as I was going along. We started with 3 good sized boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in half. Soak the chcken pieces in buttermilk for 30 min or so. Drain and dredge them with flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Dip the floured chicken in beaten egg, and then toss with crushed cracker crumbs – I season my 1.5 cups of cracker crumbs with 1 tsp italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp dry mustard. Deep fry the chicken pieces in hot oil – 365°F for 5-7 mins till they’re brown and crispy. Drain.

Cook 300 grams of spagetti to almost al dente, drain, toss with 1 tbsp of butter and a half cup of grated parmesan cheese. Layer in the bottom of a greased (I used bacon fat) casserole dish snuggle the chicken pieces into the pasta. Cover well with several cups of pasta sauce (I use my 1/1/1 sauce) and sprinkle liberally with a mix of mozzerella and parmesan cheeses. Bake at 350°F for 35 mins.

1/1/1 Sauce:
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 onion
1 sweet pepper
1 lb ground beef
1 bay leaf / 1 tsp italian seasoning / 1 tsp salt / 1/4 tsp pepper / 1 dried chili pepper (or season to taste)
I upsize or down size this as needed – the even ratios make that very simple. Catering size cans of tomatoes = 3 28 oz ones, and makes a month worth of pasta sauce in an 8 litre crock pot. I use this as the base of most of my pasta / red sauce dishes, from lasagna to stuffed shells to chicken parmesan and chili.

The last batch I made I added a bit of pancetta that was threatening to go off soon and that added a lovely smokey flavour to the chicken parmesan.
chicken parmesan

The cake was a red velvet cake from Joy of Baking’s recipe. I find their cream cheese frosting recipe one of the nicest I’ve had.

I admit, I’m always a bit flumoxed by the instruction to cut the cake into two layers each. Not the instruction itself, but that even using the correct sized pans it never seems to come out tall enough to get two nicely thick layers out of it. But assembled it seems ok and tall enough, still I think I’d like to try it with a double recipe batch sometime.

I admit my decorating hand skills still leave something to be desired – especially when I’m rushing a bit at 8pm because I slept in till 3 in the afternoon. (I did work the night before so I can be forgiven for that.)

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

Good food, an excellent and surprising (and touching) movie – The Box Trolls (highly recommended) and a little 7″ tablet (which has been an excellent little piece of kit for the price) so she doesn’t have to feel badly about borrowing my Kobo …. and I’d say birthday #24 can be counted as a success.

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