Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Turn-based strategy games require advanced planning and pinpoint execution. It also requires a bit of creativity when those plans go sideways. Believe me, I’ve played enough “Civilization” and “XCOM” games to know when sideways happens, it happens quickly.

So it is with cooking. Knowledge and recipes can only go so far, but when the cream you were planning on is curdled or you got red peppers instead of green ones, craftiness and ingenuity are in order.

Recently, I felt adventurous and decided to make chowder and biscuits from scratch. Both were new recipes to me and I don’t usually try to juggle too many new things at the same time.

However, I chose a corn chowder and bacon-cheddar biscuits because … well, they both have bacon in them and I can’t go wrong with that, right?

First, the ingredients for the chowder:

* 4 ears of fresh shucked corn
* 4 sliced of bacon (I like the smoked bacon, but pick your favorite)
* 1 T minced onion
* 1 T minced garlic
* 1 Yukon Gold potato, diced
* 4 C chicken stock
* 6 T butter
* 6 T flour
* 2 C heavy cream
* 8 oz pulled chicken meat
* Salt, pepper, hot sauce to taste

Now, the ingredients for the biscuits:

* 2 C flour
* 2 T baking powder
* ½ t salt
* ¼ t cayenne pepper
* 3 oz. chilled lard, cut into small cubes
* 8 slices of bacon
* 8 oz. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
* 1 C milk

You’ll see some long cooking times in this method, but you will be active throughout.

Since I’m cooking a lot of bacon, I like to use the oven method for this. Lay the bacon out on a wire rack over a rimmed cookie sheet. I also line my cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

Place the bacon in a cold oven, turn your oven on for 350 degrees and set your timer for 25 minutes. The slow buildup of heat in the oven helps to render out a lot of the fat from the bacon.

Once the bacon is done, remove it and leave your oven on 350 degrees. We’re not done in there.

Set the bacon aside for the time being and grab the ears of corn. Wrap each in foil and place in the now heated oven. Let those go for about another 25 minutes.

While the ears are turning into magic, take a paper towel and dab off any excess fat that might still be lingering on the bacon. Dice or cut into very narrow strips all of the bacon. You’ll want to set aside about 2 slices worth to use as garnish at the end, 2 slices for the soup and the rest for the biscuits.

Your corn should be about done (unless you have really awesome knife skills).  Let the corn cool down enough to handle and remove the kernels into a bowl. Also, bump up the oven temperature to 425 degrees.

You might be wondering why did I put foil under the bacon? To catch the bacon fat, of course!

Take about 1 T of the fat and heat it up in a medium pot over medium heat. Add 2 slices worth of the diced bacon plus the garlic and onion; sauté about 5 minutes.  Add the corn, potato and stock, and bring to a simmer.

In a smaller pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth (yep, it’s a roux).  Let that cook for an addition 3 minutes, then cool for an additional 2 minutes.

Add the roux to the broth and mix well.  You want to let this simmer for about another 30-40 minutes, stirring often so things don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

While the soup is simmering, it’s time to make the dough.

Using a food processor, mix to
gether the flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne. Give it about 5 good pulses to blend everything together.

Add the cubed up lard and pulse another 3 to 4 times. You are looking for the consistency of wet sand, but not drippy. Dump all that into a large bowl.

Add the rest of the bacon (not the 2 slices for garnish), the cheese and the milk. Stir until the dry ingredients are moistened and stop.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead 3 or 4 times. More than that will result in tough biscuits.

Gently, pat the dough into a disc about ½-inch thick. Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut as many biscuits as you can as tightly as you can. Gather up the remaining dough and gently pat into a disc again. Do not  knead it.

Arrange the biscuits on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Keep them about ½-inch apart.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown (and delicious).

If you’ve timed everything right, your soup will be good to go as your biscuits are ready to come out of the oven. Serve everything warm.

Soup and biscuits is good food when ruminating over your next strategic move. You can much and think as you plan your neighboring country’s downfall or how you are going to fend off an alien attack.

Either way, there is no need to go hungry, and your perfect planning and execution of these two dishes will make sure you don’t.

Happy gaming!


Post a Comment