What’s for supper? Vol. 216: Okay by me in America

Eek, I missed a week again! My weekly menu is such a mess, because I’m still shopping on Tuesdays, both to avoid unmasked weekend crowds and to leave the weekend free for other stuff. It turns out the Saturday Shopping Trip was the cornerstone of everyone’s existence, and when I shop on Tuesday, the family’s sense of time and place becomes a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives, but not in the good way! 

Anyway, last last week, the most exciting thing we had was on Father’s Day, when we had steak, four honest to goodness bloomin’ onions, and oysters. 

We like our oysters with a squeeze of lemon, a dab of horseradish, and/or a spot of Tabasco sauce. If you’re wondering how one procures fresh oysters in NH, the answer is we have eighteen whole miles of coast, that’s how. Actually these were from Massachusetts, though, which is right next door. Gosh, I love oysters. I think part of the allure is that tingly “I’m not sure I should be putting this in my mouth!” feeling, like when you would forage edible weeds from a parking lot as a kid. 

Okay, now for the bloomin’ onion. I will never understand why restaurants stopped serving these magnificent, community-building appetizers. These days, you can order a loose heap of “onion petals” at some places, which is so feeble and pointless, it makes me want to wreck the place up. 

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Behold:

Sometimes it takes the perspective of a foreigner to help you appreciate your own culture. 

THEN, one of these turned up for $3 at the Salvation Army.

I was skeptical that it should call itself a “machine,” but once I went through the whole process, I was convinced that there was so way you could replicate this thing with clever knife work, so, machine it is. 

I posted this on my local plant identification group, but it was promptly deleted. They didn’t throw me out, though, which I thought was sporting.

So you slice the top off and peel the skin off, then you hollow out the middle, and place it on the cutter and slam the top down. Then, as Spike says, you have to let it soak in ice water for an hour so it keeps its shape. Looks rather mystical bobbing around with the ice.

Then you coat it with seasoned flour, and then you have to carefully work the beer batter in between all the petals. Then you deep fry it. You have to kind of smoosh it up side down to get the petals to separate and fry separately. I had a video, but I seem to have deleted it. It’s on Instagram, though. You can follow me on Instagram if you want. I’m just as annoying there as I am everywhere else. 

My oil wasn’t quite hot enough, and I think I was supposed to do one final snipping of the base after frying, so the petals come off more easily. We ended up having to wrestle with them a bit. But it was pretty, pretty, pretty good. 

I’m not gonna lie, it was a ton of work. But I can see making a few of these once a year or so. (I made four.)

The kids liked it, and I found a good snappy dipping sauce that replicates the restaurant sauce. I can find the batter and seasoned flour recipes for you if you want, but only if you want!

Oh, and the steak was fantastic. They had something called “underblade steak” on sale, and wow, it was great. Damien made one of his miscellaneous spice rubs and grilled them rare. Perfection. 

I don’t know what the recipe is. The recipe is “have a man who knows how to cook a steak and will do it for you on father’s day.”

Okay, on to this week! or last week! Whatever!

Actually I’m in such a rush today. So I’ll do another highlights reel, based on my camera roll:

At some point we had grilled pork chops and rice.

It was supposed to be gochujang pork (just the sauce slathered on the pork, skipping the carrots and onions)

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but I think I got lazy and asked Damien to take over, and he used one of his nice sugar rubs.

 

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The secret ingredient was FIRE.

I don’t think we had a single damn vegetable all week. Except four onions. 

Looks like our old friend banh mi made an appearance.

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This surely is the queen of all sandwiches.

Actually I always think whichever sandwich I’m currently eating is the best, but pork banh mi on a toasted baguette with pickled carrots, cucumbers, lots of cilantro, and some sriracha mayo, with pineapple on the side, is truly spectacular. 

Then at some point I tried a new recipe from Kathy Gunst this week: Grilled chicken with a minty cilantro marinade.

Jump to Recipe

The marinade is mint, scallions, cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. I love stuffing the food processor with leaves the kids brought in from outside.

So I just slathered it on some thighs and drumsticks and let it marinate a few hours, and Damien grilled it, and you squeeze a little lemon over it when it’s cooked. Clara made a few pans of oven roasted potatoes, and I sliced up a watermelon. Lovely summery meal. 

Let’s see, what else? We had a string of very, very late nights and my brain really started to disintegrate toward the end of the week. First we had some of this action:

A few months ago, we tried to trap this  bastard that keeps strewing our garbage everywhere. He is very clever and always managed to swipe the bait without getting trapped. So we gave up, and the trap was just lying there for weeks.

Until last week. Suddenly, around 2 a.m. I start hearing this horrendous distress call but about eleven times louder, interspersed with yelps and screams, right under my window. I didn’t know what the hell was going on, so, like any red blooded American woman, I woke up my husband, who graciously charged outside shirtless and armed with a flashlight and a BB gun. There was a lot of clattering and growling and general noises of man vs. nature, and then I heard him say, “Ohhh, I see.” Which was when he discovered that our favorite raccoon had become a parent, and one of those raccoon children had not inherited the family brains, but had gotten caught in the unbaited trap for no reason at all, and the distress calls had summoned about four valiant siblings who panicked and started knocking stuff over and charging around in confusion. Eventually Damien released the one in the trap and they all went away for the night.

Then the next night, we had a kid in the ER until 3 a.m. She is fine, but 3 a.m. is what we forty-five-year-olds like to call BULLSHIT. It’s just bullshit! But you know, that doesn’t stop blood sugar alarms from going off, and it doesn’t stop the cat from worming his way through a loose screen in the middle of the night and then yarping and yowling to be let in at, you guessed it, 3 a.m. He did this five nights in a row and he was soaking wet and in need of comfort each time. And I had to drive an hour to the pediatric endocrinologist in a pounding rain storm, and I had to admit that we got juice on her insulin pump receiver and I don’t know how to reset it because I am stupid, and even though I’ve made this trip a dozen times, I made a total of FOUR wrong turns. You know, I am very grateful we have a world class hospital only an hour away, but the trip has some kinda not-my-favorite associations with it. Friggin’ place where my grandmother died slowly and my father almost died several times and my daughter almost died, and the place where they thought I might have cancer and the place where we thought Corrie had Trisomy 13 and I guess when I’m driving there, my brain is just like, no, we will go this other way, instead. But, we did get home eventually, and this time nobody died. Just the opposite, in fact: Everybody is still alive! Hooray!

I forget what I was talking about. Oh, food. 

Well, Benny had her heart set on making “buried treasure muffins” from the cookbook she got for her birthday, and my life was ruined anyway, so that happened. It is just a basic muffin recipe, but you spoon in half the batter, then put in a “treasure,” then spoon more batter top, before baking. Very nice.

She made them almost all by herself, except for working out the math of a triple recipe.

And she let Corrie help and didn’t lose her temper, which earns her a medal. We decided to use fresh cherries instead of jelly as the buried treasure. Here is my Benny Rabbit explaining how to get the pit out of a cherry. There is supposed to be a video here. I hope it shows up. 

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Oh yeah, and I cut Benny’s hair. She is eight, and this was her first haircut. I’M FINE.

Clara also did tons of baking this week. She made buns and scones and cookies and I forget what else. It’s a miracle I didn’t gain a hundred pounds during this lockdown. 

Yesterday, I ended up being out so late, I asked the kids to scrounge up something for supper, and Lena made scrambled eggs in tortillas with hot sauce, which I happen to find delicious. Damien was out taking pictures of Ghislaine Maxwell’s house and interview locals for a story he was doing for . . . The Miami Herald? And he found out he has to testify in a right to know lawsuit, and I won an award from the Catholic Press Association for my marriage and family column. It was a weird day. And I found out the liquor store is still closing early, but I squeaked in. 

Okay, so now it’s July 3 and we decided to cancel our giant annual Independence Day family reunion party. This was one of my dad’s favorite days. When he died in April and we couldn’t have a family funeral or wake, we thought that surely by July, everything would be back to normal and we’d have the greatest July 4th party ever in his memory. Ho ho ho. Ah well. Next year. I am missing him a lot. Sorry, this isn’t a very good food blog this week.

But here is what we have on the menu for July 4th. Yes, this is just for our family. It’s America, dammit, and you can’t make us stop eating.

Grilled brats with onions three ways
Cheeseburgers
Sugar rub chicken thighs
Some kind of shrimp skewers, possibly Mexican
Potato salad
Grilled corn on the cob
Every kind of chip known to mankind
Watermelon boats filled with fruit salad, possible in pirate ship (patriotic pirate ship) form 
Red, white, and blue jello cups with berries
Chocolate and vanilla frozen pudding cups with whipped cream
Ice cream
Dark and stormies

And we have fireworks with ludicrous names, and no end of sparklers. And as soon as I’m done writing this, I’m going to move all the furniture out of the kitchen because I’m going to put new linoleum down, which we want to get done before next week, BECAUSE . . . . we’re getting a boxer puppy next Saturday.

Not entirely to put the cat in his place, but it couldn’t hurt.

***

Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

 

Pork banh mi


Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 12 Tbs sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 4 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1.5 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sale, preferably kosher

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

 

Kathy Gunst's cilantro mint chicken

Ingredients

  • 12-18 chicken pieces with skin on
  • lemon wedges (optional)

for marinade:

  • 1 bunch scallions, greens and white, chopped
  • 2 bunches cilantro
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh mint (about 80 leaves)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • juice of four lemons
  • cloves of garlic
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Blend all marinade ingredients together in food processor to make a lumpy marinade. Slather all over the chicken and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

  2. Grill or broil the chicken.

  3. Serve with lemon slices to squeeze over the cooked chicken.

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10 thoughts on “What’s for supper? Vol. 216: Okay by me in America”

  1. A puppy? Oh gosh. We just got a puppy. And it has increased family joy. It’s also making my husband feel that there is a baby in the house making it so he can’t sleep a whole night. Haha. Why not add to the fun and crazy, right? It has increased family joy. That’s the important part of the story.

  2. Grief sucks so much, and I’m so sorry your family isn’t able to get together to remember your dad (even though that’s obviously the right call, that sounds so hard). Grief is just so hard, and then to be in a pandemic and continuing to write and facilitate that discussion earlier this week and care for your family — that is an awful lot to deal with. I’m praying for you and your family.

    And on a totally different note, I tried your or Damien’s sugar rub on chicken thighs this week, and it was amazing. I tried it a couple weeks ago on pork tenderloin that my husband grilled, and it was the absolute best pork tenderloin we’ve ever had! And now I really want an awesome blossom.

    1. thank you so much, Rebecca.
      I’m so delighted you liked the sugar rub! It’s so versatile and it really elevates a meal!

  3. What’s the title of Benny’s cookbook, if you please? I have a 5 year old who keeps telling me he needs to learn to cook for when he has children.

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