Pretty meat-heavy week. When my imaginative powers run low, the default is just meat. I did end up altering a few recipes for the better, though (and utterly ruining a very familiar recipe for no reason at all). Here’s what we had (recipe cards at the end):
Grilled ham and cheese, cheezy weezies
Nothing to report. Damien and Dora were on a road trip to Maryland, Moe and Clara were helping their cousin with a theater fundraising auction (and come home with the revelation that rich people really, really care about two things: trees, and alcohol), and Elijah was volunteering at a haunted hay ride. And of course Lena is at college. Which meant that I was home with five children for a very long time.
Guess what? It turns out I haven’t become more patient or calm over the years; not at all. I have just gotten used to having another adult and five teenagers around to help me. Take them away, and it’s just all yelling all the time! Oh well. That’s an abnormal state anyway, to be the only adult caring for five kids. It’s a skill no one should have to develop.
Pork ribs, risotto, string beans
Oven roasted pork ribs still give the biggest return for the least amount of work. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper on a pan with drainage, put under a hot broiler, and turn once, and eat them with BBQ sauce while they’re sizzling hot. So good. We are fans of Carolina style BBQ sauce lately, which is lighter and tangier than the dark brown, thicker kind we usually get.
With the memory of arancini fresh in my head, I wanted risotto again. I made Instant Pot risotto, but changed the recipe a bit, and it came out great. Maybe not quite as good as stove-cooked risotto, but creamy and flavorful. Recipe card at the end.
The string beans, I just trimmed and steamed and served bare. I suppose I could have put butter or pepper on them, but hey, vegetable.
Ham, mashed potatoes, and peas
Benny has been begging for this, her ideal meal, for weeks now. We got home super late for some reason, but I had bought a pre-cooked ham, and I finally realized you can slice it first, then heat it up, and it gets hot much faster than the other way around.
Then I started peeling potatoes and chucking them in the Instant Pot for some quick mashed potatoes. But I somehow underestimated the time, and when I opened the lid, a few of the bigger potatoes were still half raw. This was so upsetting that I looked up whether you can cook milk in an Instant Pot, and I learned that you cannot, because it foams and spurts and curdles and burns. This was even more upsetting, so I put milk in, closed the lid, and set it to cook for a few more minutes. Then I got the “burn” message! This was very upsetting! So I opened the lid, put in some butter, and tried crushing the still-half-raw potatoes sitting in burned milk, which works even less well than you’d think.
Happily, it was extremely late by this time, and everyone was starving. So they ate the salvageable part of the potatoes, the overcooked peas, and the ham, which was really quite hot by this time, without complaint. Excelsior! I’d do it again, too.
French toast and sausages
Nothing to report. I bought frozen OJ, but forgot to make it.
Pork was on sale, but I’m awfully tired of the same old pork things. So this time, I put a pork shoulder in the slow cooker with salt, pepper, minced garlic, and beer in the morning and let it cook all day. It was super tender and shreddy by evening. I spread the shredded pork in a shallow pan with lots of cumin and chili lime seasoning and browned it under the broiler.
Then — this is the part that was different — I spread tortilla chips in a pan, spread the meat over than, and topped it with shredded cheese, and put it back in the warm oven to melt. I forgot sour cream, but we had a nice lime salsa, fresh cilantro, and more chili lime powder, and I thought it was fantastic. So much interesting than my regular nachos, with just ground beef, but barely any extra work.
Maybe the meat was a little overcooked, so next time I’ll either brown it while it’s on the chips, or brown it less before returning it to the oven to melt the cheese. But I would seriously accept these as fancy party snacks, if they were dished up separately as hors d’oeuvres.
I’m very grateful that I like cilantro, and I’m not one of those unfortunate souls who think it tastes soapy. How often can you spend $1 and ten seconds chopping, and turn a meal from fine to wonderful?
Cheesy chicken and red potatoes
All week, I was planning to make this slow cooker garlic parmesan chicken and potato dish. But this is the last full week before Halloween, and that means we don’t live at home anymore; we live at the Salvation Army and Walmart, and we come home feeling sad and panicked and most of all angry at your mother, who now gets to get dinner started at 5 pm. Not really the time to try out a new slow cooker recipe.
So I made up something, and I thought it was swell. I put the chicken and red potato wedges in a pan, drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned them, and then suddenly remembered I have a canister of fried shallots from Kyra’s magical bag of weird Canadian food. So I added a healthy layer of those, and then slud it into a hot oven for about an hour. When it was all browned, I suddenly remembered we had a wedge of sharp provolone, so we shredded that and sprinkled it on, then added a thick layer of grated parmesan
and put it back in the oven to melt. Then I suddenly remembered I had bought a little jar of fancy whole grain mustard, and plus I had some fresh parsley, I don’t even know why.
All together, it was wonderful. Again, it was extremely late by this time, so maybe it wasn’t as good as I thought; but the crunchy shallots, the sharp, snappy cheese, the mellow mustard, and the fresh parsley really played nicely together.
The skin was wonderfully crisp and the chicken was moist. If you have dried minced onions, that would be almost as good as the shallots.
Furthermore, I went to lie down for a while afterwards, and Corrie came in with a bowl of parsley and insisted on feeding me “eating flowers.” It was very cute, and I felt very privileged, but on the other hand, it’s easier than you might think to eat too much parsley.
So, this mustard. I grabbed up this little jar of whole grain mustard at Aldi a few weeks ago. It’s so good! More mild than I was expecting, and the texture is more like relish.
This will dress up sandwiches and cold meats nicely, and I can see serving it with kielbasa or even roast beef.
I believe we’ll just have rigatoni or something.
Yesterday was our actual anniversary (which we celebrated in style a few weeks ago) and after a week of school conferences, doctor appointments, unexpected car repairs, mysterious furnace issues, and miscellaneous adult bullshit, we were too wiped out to make a fuss, but we did force ourselves to drink at least some of our massive champagne stockpile. Resolved: We really just don’t like champagne. Some people take twenty-one years to figure this out, that’s all. The marriage, however, has been a good idea from the beginning.
Speaking of the best man of all men, I don’t think I mentioned the nice little snack Damien rustled up the other day. You have a little slice of crusty bread, then a slice of smoked salmon, then a dab of creme fraiche, and then, um, some caviar on top. If you have any lying around. Or you could use sour cream, and maybe a little sprig of dill. I know it’s hard to believe, but this tastes really, really good, and, um, we keep buying it. We feel that buying caviar and pouring champagne down the sink pairs well with a lifestyle that also includes massively overcooked ham, and I stand by that.
Instant Pot Risotto
Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups.
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground sage
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 cups rice, raw
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese
Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.
Add rice and butter and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque and butter is melted.
Press "cancel," add the broth and wine, and stir.
Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 9 minutes.
Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary.
Cheesy one-pan chicken thighs and red potatoes
An easy and tasty dish. Serve with whole grain mustard and fresh parsley.
- chicken thighs
- red potatoes, cut into wedges
- olive oil
- salt, pepper, oregano
- fried shallots or minced, dried onions
- parmesan cheese
- shredded sharp cheese
Serve with whole grain mustard and chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 450
Lay chicken thighs in pan, and add the potato wedges in between the chicken. Drizzle both with olive oil and season generously. Sprinkle on fried shallots (or dried onion)
Cook for 40 minutes or more until chicken is done and potatoes and chicken skins are crisp.
Sprinkle cheeses on chicken and potatoes and return to oven for a few minutes to melt cheese.
Serve with whole grain mustard and fresh parsley.