Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cultured Buttermilk & an Accidental Aspic

Life has a way of messing up even the best laid menu plans.  My grandfather-in-law passed away this past week and we now find ourselves driving to Wilkes Barre, PA to pay our respects.  Seriously, I’m typing in the car (thanks for the inverter mom!) while John Cleese tells us where to go.  Now, instead of a Superbowl Party, we’re going to be out of town today and Instead of having all day Monday to make French Onion Soup and prep Chicken’n’Biscuits for Tuesday, it all had to be done before we left. 

Friday night after dinner, while I was making French Onion Soup, I tossed a 1 lb. Chicken breast in a very small casserole covered in foil to bake.  When it had finished and I was sure it was cooked through, I tossed the chicken, juices and all, into the ‘fridge still hot and just as I had baked it (thank goodness for glass shelves!)  The Chicken’n’Biscuits called for cooked chicken.  It also called for homemade whole wheat buttermilk biscuits, which I can’t wait to try but I didn’t have time to make butter anymore so I had bought cultured buttermilk.  In my browsings on the interwebz, I learned that if you put a cup of cultured buttermilk in a jar and topped it off with regular milk you can make your own cultured buttermilk.  It’s way easier than making your own yogurt because, unlike yogurt, the bacteria in buttermilk can work at room temperature.  So, I pulled out a big jar (cleaned thoroughly), added a cup of buttermilk (still plenty in the carton for my biscuits if it doesn’t work out) and topped it off with skim milk from the springhouse.  I put my jar in a cupboard and left it there for 24 hours.  As I understand, if you do this with heavy cream instead of milk, you’ll get sour cream. 

Saturday after work, I pulled out my chicken breast to make the gravy part of Chicken’n’Biscuits.  To look at it, you wouldn’t have thought anything was up with it… until it jiggled.  I had in front of me an enormous Island of chicken floating in a perfect (and extremely clear, considering it was accidental) aspic.  What is an Aspic?  Basically, meat jello.  Wikipedia has this to say on Aspics:

"When cooled, stock that is made from meat congeals because of the natural gelatin found in the meat. The stock can be clarified with egg whites, and then filled and flavored just before the aspic sets. Almost any type of food can be set into aspics. Most common are meat pieces,fruits, or vegetables. Aspics are usually served on cold plates so that the gel will not melt before being eaten. A meat jelly that includes creamis called a chaud-froid."

What I didn’t realize about them, never having made one, is that you can make an aspic just with the meat.  I don’t have it with me in the car, but I’m pretty sure Julia Child’s aspic recipe calls for a cow foot or something of the like.  Sorry no pics, but it really would have just looked like a breast sitting in broth and I was in a hurry.  The gelatin wound its way into the gravy with the pre-made chicken stock.  Once my gravy & veggies were in their casserole dish, it was time to check on the buttermilk.  I shook it and opened it.  *sniff* It smelled like ketchup (the last occupant of the jar).  At least it didn’t smell foul.  I poured a small amount into a glass and poured some of the bought stuff into another.  Was mine supposed to be lumpy? *google* I think that’s ok.  After sipping both, they tasted pretty the same to me.  Sour, for certain, but similarly sour.  Nick swears mine is more sour.  The thing with buttermilk, yogurt, etc. is that you are in essence creating spoiled milk.  Controlled spoiled milk.  I made a quick orange smoothie with heavenly homemaker’s recipe.  Love her stuff.  It was still a little sour to my taste, but totally palatable and here I am the next day, having suffered no ill effects.  If we hadn’t been in such a hurry, I’d have made buttermilk pancakes this morning.  As it is, it’ll have to wait for Tuesday morning for me to try baking with it.  

I feel prepared for next week.  On Monday when we get home, I can pour soup into oven-proof bowls, top with croutons and cheese and bake while we unpack.  On Tuesday morning, I can make biscuits and Nick can toss the casserole in to bake while I’m at work.  Take that, unexpected happenings! I’m a kitchen boyscout (always prepared).  

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