What’s for supper? Vol. 303: We all scream for Joachim

All things shall be well, and all things shall be well, and all manner of things shall be, well, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Hot dogs, hot pretzels

I vaguely remember Saturday. 

SUNDAY
Thai food

The kids had chicken nuggets at home and Damien and I went to a party at the house of one of his editors. We had a really nice time! We took our time coming home and stopped for dinner at Siam Orchid Thai Bistro in Concord, which has a pleasant outdoor table area. Lovely meal. We had a plate of various appetizers, all very fresh and delicious, and then Damien had some kind of amazing crunchy duck arrangement on spicy noodles, and I had a spicy beef and vegetable situation, also scrumptious. My rice came in an adorable little basket. 

We felt like such hot shots, we even ordered dessert. Damien had mango fried ice cream and I had coconut ice cream with peanuts on sticky rice. 

This refreshed and enchanted me so much, I went home and starting mooching around for information about ice cream makers, and I ended up getting an excellent deal on a like-new Cuisinart ice cream maker on FB Marketplace. It should get here in a few days, so hold on to your butts. 

MONDAY
Blueberry almond chicken salad

Easy and pleasant. The blueberries are sweet and cheap this year. I roasted some chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper and garlic powder, sliced it, and set it out with mixed greens, blueberries, slivered almonds, thinly-sliced red onions, and some freshly-shredded parmesan cheese.

I had mine with red wine vinegar for a dressing, and stale crackers on the side. I didn’t toast the almonds, because it was already monstrously late, and sometimes you feel like you don’t even have two more minutes to spare. But here is my periodic reminder that you can easily toast nuts in the microwave, and it makes them crunchier and nuttier, and only takes two minutes.

TUESDAY
Chicken enchilada bowls

I keep making this meal and it keeps not being anything more than okay. Why do I keep trying? Nobody knows.

I made a big pot of rice in the Instant Pot, and roasted the chicken breasts with olive oil and lots of Tajin seasoning, and then shredded it. I mixed half the shredded chicken with red enchilada sauce and half with green enchilada sauce, from cans. And I served the rice and two saucy chicken varieties with some black beans, shredded cheddar cheese, corn chips, and sour cream.

It was fine. I guess I’m just going to have to break down and make actual enchiladas again, though. I guess the real problem with this dish is that it’s not actual enchiladas. 

Tuesday, or possibly Wednesday, was also the feast of Saints Anne and Joachim. The only reason I know that is because I was looking for something that rhymes with “ice cream” for the title, and I was like, hey; so I looked it up the date, and I was like, hey! Or should I say: “AIEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!” 

WEDNESDAY
Carnitas, guacamole and tortilla chips, corn on the cob

Now this meal turned out great. I made a large dish of guacamole, including one of the more successful tomatoes from our largely unsuccessful garden

Every year, I plant six tomato plants, and five of them are spindly, wizened, and blighted, and one of them is cheery, robust, and prolific. I water and fertilize them all exactly the same, and they all get the same amount of light. I know why this happens, though. It’s to drive me crazy.

I didn’t take a picture of the guacamole, but one must imagine guacamole. One must imagine Simcha happy. Guacamole makes Simcha happy. 

Jump to Recipe

For the carnitas, I followed John Herreid’s simple, delicious recipe, which I have finally made up into a card, because I altered it slightly.

Jump to Recipe

It turned out so lovely. You cook the seasoned meat up in oil and Coke with cinnamon sticks, orange quarters, and bay leaves,

 fish out the flavoring elements, continue cooking, and then scronch that meat.

I forgot to drain the fat out of the meat at the end, but there were zero complaints. I took my plate outside with the carnitas, some guacamole chips, and an ear of corn, and listened to Benny talk about how beautiful the world is.

And this is the best possible way to eat carnitas. 

THURSDAY
Burgers and ever so many raw vegetables

I’m vegcoring

I ate outside again and saw THREE hummingbirds. Here are two of them.  I think they were mad at each other:

I installed the Merlin app on my phone, and it’s very entertaining, but I can’t say it’s taught me anything. I’ve always had a hard time remembering all but a few bird calls, and now that my phone tells me what they are, I still can’t remember them unless I’m looking at my phone. Nicely designed app, though. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

Later today MY SISTER IS COMING OVER. I AM EXCITE!!!!! Get ready for lots of food, because that’s what I do when I am excite!!!!!!! She and several of her kids are staying the weekend, and we are also having lunch tomorrow with a priest who is passing through on his way home from seeing the pope. I hope the hummingbirds behave themselves. 

And don’t forget to tell me about your homemade ice cream! I want to make ridiculous delicious flavors. We still have a few weeks of vacation left, and we are most definitely open to all kinds of ideas. 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

 

Carnitas (very slightly altered from John Herreid's recipe)

Ingredients

  • large hunk pork (butt or shoulder, but can get away with loin)
  • 2 oranges, quartered
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • salt, pepper, oregano
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 can Coke

Instructions

  1. Cut the pork into chunks and season them heavily with salt, pepper, and oregano.

  2. Put them in a heavy pot with the cup of oil, the Coke, the quartered orange, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves

  3. Simmer, uncovered, for at least two hours

  4. Remove the orange peels, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves

  5. Turn up the heat and continue cooking the meat until it darkens and becomes very tender and crisp on the outside

  6. Remove the meat and shred it. Serve on tortillas.

How to make chocolate caramel almonds without panicking

When we manage to make treats for Christmas, we usually make fudge and buckeyes, sometimes rum balls or peanut brittle, and of course rugelach. Last year, looking for something a little more decorative, I tried chocolate caramelized almonds from Smitten Kitchen. You don’t need a candy thermometer to make them, and you can use whatever kind of sugar or sprinkles you like, so they are adaptable gifts for just about any holiday.

Here’s the ingredients list from Smitten Kitchen:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky salt
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • Approximately 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sanding or coarse sugar, or sprinkles to coat

You will want a good, heavy pot and some parchment paper or silicone pads for this, too.

I’m trying very hard not to run afoul of recipe copyright laws here, so I’m going to send you right to her page to get the detailed directions. Basically you put sugar and water in a pot and bring it to a simmer, add the almonds and simmer them until they’re caramelized, stir in the salt, and then spread the almonds out on a pan covered with parchment paper.

Put the pan in the freezer for a few minutes until they are set. Then break them up and dip them in melted chocolate; then roll the chocolate-coated almonds in various fancy coatings. Let them set again, and then you can store them for quite a long time at room temperature.

Here’s my reason for writing a whole post about it: In the detailed instructions for caramelizing the almonds, she says,

“Once the liquid has fully evaporated, it will become sandy and you will think something has gone wrong; it has not. Continue stirring and the sandiness will dissolve into a bronzed but clear liquid; this is the caramel.”

I was glad of the reassurance, and prepared myself not to freak out. But then! I freaked out anyway! Weird stuff happens in that pot!!! So I’m sharing the photos of the caramelization process here, so you can see how it goes and maybe not panic like I did.

Here we are simmering, fine, very good:

then it got thicker, and yes, there are soap-like bubbles forming:

the the liquid was just about evaporated, and all was well:

then, sure enough, it started to get dry and a little bit cakey, and I was like, “Wow, she was right! That is sandy.”

Then it got dry and even more sandy, and I thought, “Good thing she warned me, because this does not look normal at all. I would definitely be worrying right now.”

Then this happened. And it went on and on. Just kept on being sandy. I didn’t stop stirring, but it was the stirring of futility. I assumed the candy gods were onto me, and knew I had no business in any kitchen, smitten or otherwise. Look at this!

Yeah, these are totally ruined. Great, now they’re clumping. No one said anything about clumping. Dammit. Almonds are expensive! Dammit!

But wait! Down there in the center of the pot, under all the nuts, there’s a little, kind of syrupy patch!

Well, hallelujah! Those little bastiches are caramelizing after all, aren’t they.

And there they were, coated with caramel, just like Smitten Kitchen said. So I put them on parchment paper, slid them in the freezer, and went to sit down for a bit.

I was so emotionally spent by this time that I left them in the freezer for a few days, rather than the suggested five minutes, until I did the next step. I don’t recommend this, as they got a little soggy; but you will be the best judge of what kind of load you can carry at this point in the evening. It still worked, but they weren’t as crunchy as they might have been.

Now I’ll send you back to Smitten Kitchen for the rest of the directions. You’re going to pour the nuts into melted chocolate, stir to coat, and then pick out the almonds and roll them around in your sugars or sprinkles or whatever. It’s messy and time-consuming, especially if you’re making a large batch, so don’t think you can just zoop-zoop-zoop (as my mother used to say) and be done with it.

The good news is, you can make them ahead of time and then store them at room temperature for a long time. Here’s the finished product:

I wish I had a brighter picture of the finished product. They were so pretty, especially the sugar-coated ones! They looked like little Christmas gems. (I buy up expensive seasonal-themed sugars and sprinkles after holidays, when they are marked way down. This doesn’t work, as the kids tend to develop an unconquerable hunger for tiny little bats in May, but it’s a good theory.)

I think these almonds make nice treats on their own, or they would make lovely accents to a package of fudge or cookies. Just keep telling yourself, “It’s supposed to look this way,” and you’ll probably be right.