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    Entries in fancy schmancy (12)

    Tuesday
    Jan082013

    Sweet Emotion

    It's a new year and we're Back in the Saddle and I'm Livin' on the Edge with my crock pot.

    For some reason I've had one line from an Aerosmith song popping into my head for the last week. One line. One. Over and over. At all times of the day for no reason. Strangely it's somewhat appropriate to this post. I mean caramelized onions are delciously sweet in a savoury way. And you'll be Cryin'. A lot.

    But they're really easy to make. Especially in a crock pot. Really, it's the perfect way. Caramelized onions require long slow heat, no crisping, and butter. Lots of butter.

    Crock Pot Caramelized Onions

    • 8 smallish onions
    • 6 - 8 tbsp butter

    No More No More. I suppose you could add a bit of Uncle Salty, but the butter is salted, and that was enough for me to Draw the Line.

    Okay, okay, I'll Stop Messin Around.

    Slicing the onions is the only hard part. You're going to feel totally Crazy (sorry, had to) for slicing eight onions in a row, but it's totally worth it. There are a few little things that can make life a bit easier for the 15 minutes or so it takes.

    First, don't cut the onion until you absolutely have to. Peel the outer layers off by hand under running water,

    and dump them into a sink full of water.

    There are sulphur compounds in onions that are extreme eye irritants, but diluting them with water will minimize the effect. (Seriously, do you have any idea how many Aerosmith songs are about crying?)

    Once the onion is peeled, slice a small amount off the side to make a flat side for it to sit on. You'll do less actual slicing of the onion this way than you will if you cut it in half first.

    When you start slicing, toss the end in the water filled sink with the peels.

    And use a wet paper towel to wipe off the knife and to cover the slices while you do other things. 

    Like drop in small blobs of butter between each onion layer.

    One onion, one tablespoon of butter.

    Pack as many layers into the pot as you can

    because the onions will reduce in volume dramatically.

    If you set the heat to low, they'll need about 18 hours to get that lovely dark mohogany colour.

    If you're impatient, you can use high heat and they'll only take 12. Yes, it sounds like a long time, but you get to ignore them entirely while they're in there. If you do these on the stove, you're looking at 45 to 60 minutes of standing and staring at a pan. I will happily ignore most things for 12 hours.

    I imagine you're wondering why the hell I'd make a whole crock pot full of caramelized onions...

    Well, for one thing, they take 12 to 18 hours to cook, and starting dinner that far in advance? Fucking hilarious. I'm lucky if I can plan dinner that far ahead.

    Besides, they freeze beautifully.

    And then you can have them on a steak, or as a starter for some kind of fabulous sauce, or for French onion soup on a whim.

    Or, you could eat them with a spoon. They really are that good.

    What's the craziest thing you've made in your crock pot?

     

    Friday
    Dec212012

    Chocolate Perfection

    As you probably know by now, laziness plays a fairly big role in my decision making process.  Because of this, I’ve never really bothered to temper my chocolate before using it for dipping.  Tempering is a process of heating and cooling chocolate in a specific way so that the cocoa butter crystals will… ok, getting too technical.  Basically, it makes it so that chocolate will be like it is when you buy it from the store.  It’s firm, doesn’t melt quickly when you touch it, and it has a nice snap.  Well, this week, I had to make lots of chocolates for hubby to take to work.  That meant not only would they be being sampled by lots of people but needed to be able to be at room temperature, and be handled, and still have a crisp snap when bitten. 

    So I went on the internet machine and did some research on the specifics of chocolate tempering.  Then, because all the methods I found involved the use of a thermometer and being ridiculously finicky, that I would follow the same idea, but do it my way.  As little fuss as possible, and no thermometer other than my fingers and/or eyes.  I guess even when I’m not being lazy, I’m lazy.  To be honest, I’m not really sure why I even own a thermometer.  Ok, so here is my method for tempering chocolate. 

    Chop your chocolate into small pieces.  Shaving it finely I actually found to work best, but didn’t get any pictures of it that way.  Set aside about 40% of the total. 

    Using a double boiler to melt the chocolate will give you the most control.  Basically that just means placing a bowl over a pan that has an inch or so of simmering water in it. 

    If you prefer, you can heat the chocolate in a microwave.  Either way, just be sure to stir frequently.  It’ll be a lumpy mess at first. 

    But eventually it will become nice and smooth.  You want it to become fairly thin, but be careful not to let it get too hot.  Using the ol’ finger thermometer, (no that’s not some sort of euphemism, or if it is, I’m unaware of it.) it should never be uncomfortably warm.  Think hot tub temperature.

    When it gets to that point, remove it from the heat.  Set the bowl on a towel to absorb the water from the outside.  Just one drop of water can ruin your whole batch of chocolate, so be careful not to get any in there.  Add ¾ of your reserved chocolate and gently stir it in. 

    It should slowly melt into the warm chocolate.  When it has, test for temperature again.  The goal is for it to become cool enough that you can’t really feel a temperature difference when your finger touches it.  If it still feels even slightly warm, add more chocolate.  At this point, finely shaved is really the best option.  Continue to stir in chocolate until you have reached the proper temperature and then it’s time for a test.  Drizzle a little of the chocolate onto a piece of parchment. 

    Within 3-5 minutes, it should set.  You should be able to touch it without leaving a noticeable fingerprint and it should break cleanly.  It won’t be all that snappy yet, but as it sits it will become increasingly firm.  When you’ve reached this stage, you’re ready to start dipping. 

    So is it worth it?  Well, it does take a fair bit of extra time to get the chocolate ready, but yes, it’s worth it… even for me, laziness and all.  I will never dip anything without tempering again.     

    What’s your favorite thing to dip in chocolate?