What’s for supper? Vol. 176: Damien’s Amazing Interchangeable Cinderblock Meat Altar Situation

Oh Friday! I was whooping it up in Princeton, NJ for a big part of the week. Great trip, wonderful people, tiny airplane, glad to be home. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken quesadillas, tortilla chips, guacamole

Corrie is always trying to get me to watch food videos with her, and I kept saying “not now.” So, as she says: “I like food videos, so I may as wewll make my own!” This video will make you feel better about the cleanliness of your food preparation area, about your efficiency with avocados, and most of all, about your Spanish. But it may make you wish you had a cooking companion and videographer like I have.

I don’t want to hear and kvetching about the vertical camera! She’s four!

For the quesadillas, I drizzled the chicken with olive oil and sprinkled on plenty of chili lime powder, then roasted it. I think I either left the house or went to lie down at this point, because I don’t remember making quesadillas, but I do remember eating some. 

And very good they are, quesadillas that somebody else made.

SUNDAY
Grilled chicken, bratwurst, pork ribs, and shrimp with mango salsa; chips and guacamole; strawberries and ice cream

Damien’s mom came by to watch Into the Spiderverse with the kids, and Damien smoked up a feast.

Now, here is where you may begin to notice a certain theme: Mandatory Meat vs. Optional Meat. I like meat? I really do. But I can imagine a happy life without it, unlike some husbands. I am most certainly not complaining! It just wouldn’t occur to me to cook a meal featuring four different meats; and it wouldn’t occur to him to go to a restaurant and not order meat. I guess between the two of us, we even out. As with so many other things. 

He used the same rub for the ribs as he does for the chicken, but for the ribs, he put some mustard on first, before smoking it. (I think he seared it on the grill and then moved it to a smoker? His ways are mysterious.)

He boiled the brats in beer and onions before grilling them. The shrimp, he marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, chili powder, and a little salt and pepper, and skewered them on skewers that had been soaked in water, then grilled them. 

So good. That chicken is so juicy and the skin is so crisp.

Have I told you about Damien’s Amazing Interchangeable Cinderblock Meat Altar Situation? He wanted a really big grill, but we don’t especially care for, you know, paying for things. We keep buying cheap grills and then leaving them out in the rain to rust, and that’s no good.

So he got a bunch of cinderblocks and built up this giant monolith for the base. Then he has an assortment of little blocks and chunks, grates of various sizes, chimneys, tongs, different charcoals and whatnot, and he just builds to suit, depending on how much fire he wants, how high the grate and how much air circulations, how many different fires he needs at the same time, and so on.

He does want one big grill to go over the whole thing, for when we have a lot of guests. And today is the day I found out he’s too much of a fancy man to even consider stealing a shopping cart. 

Anyway, the mango salsa was pretty tasty. I did say I was interested in mangos! So pretty, too. 

I do like the taste, but I’d probably buy them just for how the peels look. 

I’ll put a recipe card at the end. Oh, it’s so good to eat outside again! Even the plates are happy. 

Oh, mangoes have not seen the last of me. 

And I do believe Corrie is firmly in the “carnem et carnem solum” camp. 

MONDAY
Creamy lemon sausage pasta

I saw this recipe in the New York Times and it looked easy enough, and everybody likes lemon and cheese. But I figured I better get some meat in there, for the more carnal amongst us. I also tweaked the proportions so there was more sauce per pasta.

So, you just cook pasta, then cook up the sausage, then mix it together with ricotta and parmesan, lemon juice and lemon zest, salt and pepper, and some of the pasta water to thin it out, and stir all that into the cooked pasta, and put some fresh basil and red pepper flakes on top. 

It was good? It was almost good. It was not great. It was filling, and a little odd, but definitely cheap and easy. I would have liked to have the lemon and cheese filling in ravioli, probably; but as a sauce, and with the sausage, I was not entranced. I don’t know if it was the combination of sausage and lemon, or if this just wasn’t the dish for us. Oh well, onward and upward. 

TUESDAY

I was gone, wasn’t I! On Tuesday I did a Theology on Tap with the beautiful and indefatigable Kait Mayer, who also took me out to eat beforehand at Triumph Brewing, where I had . . . 

Well, look, now we’re back to the difference between me and Damien. I ordered the tempura mushroom banh mi, and I stand by it. The mushroom had a lovely, crisp coating, the bun was soft and giving, and the shredded vegetables were copious, flattered winsomely with a spicy mayo just as the gods ordained. It was delicious. 

WEDNESDAY

I had lunch at EFES Mediterranean Grill with my Aunt Joan and Uncle Lloyd. Lovely little place! Athough I wanted to want lamb dumplings or something along those lines, it was tremendously hot and humid, so I just ordered an appetizer, which was plenty. Homemade yogurt with spinach and walnuts with a basket of pita, and there were also little cups of sauce — something orange and very warming, and something minty and cooling. I got a very clear message that I need more mint in my life.

Then we did a mini-tour of Princeton campus, and then I mooched around the Princeton Art Museum. I only had time for the ancient art gallery, which was, as the kids say, extremely my jam. I posted a bunch of photos on Instagram. What a gorgeous place, and free admission. 

Then the gracious Claire Gmachl and the monsignor took me out for dinner at the Blue Point Grill, where I had arctic char and wild rice. I had to ask what arctic char is, since I am a bumpkin. It turns out it’s like salmon, but more salmony. And I fully expected to see a wiggly red line appear under “salmony” as I typed, but it turns out salmony is so a word. Then I thought maybe it was some obscure legal term, like simony, only more salmony. Oh, you want it in a sentence? Then how about The Sporting Review’s observation:

“This stream, which forms the Cascade de Con, abounds with a delicious little trout, the best flavoured and the most salmony I ever ate.”

Or perhaps this 1906 entry in Horticulture by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society will satisfy you:

“The color is pretty much the shade seen in Queen Alexandra, a salmony bronze, one of the kinds commonly called off-colors…”

This seems interesting to me. But I did not sleep a lot this week. I did go ahead and look up “arctic char” to see if the internet would rush to offer the information that it’s rather salmony, but all I learned was that its distribution is circumpolar. I feel that same way myself. 

After my talk, I got to hang out with Tom and Elizabeth McDonald, who are SO MUCH FUN. And I have a photo which I am currently saving in case I ever need to blackmail Tom. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Damien insisted on making dinner while I lay down. Benny brought me dinner in bed:

Then they went to the beach while I lay down some more! I hope my current life isn’t the opposite of working out your purgatory on earth so you don’t have to do it after you die, because I feel like I’m racking up a lot of rewards that I haven’t quite earned.

FRIDAY

It says on the blackboard “giant choc chip pancake – eggs” and I don’t feel like I can argue with that, even though I’m sitting here smelling the pancakes they are making themselves for brunch. 

Coming up: our giant family July 4th cookout and mostly-legal fireworks display! We’ll be having, you guessed it, lots of kinds of meat, plus all the usual summer foods — potato salad, corn on the cob, watermelon, and a variety of refreshing beverages. What should we do for dessert? The kids want a cake in the shape of a flag, with red and blue berries, but I’m fairly anti-cake in the summer. I think we have done ice cream cups and a giant mountain of cookies in the past. That may be perfect; but I’d love to hear other ideas, too. Whatcha got?

Mango salsa

Good for shrimp, pork, chicken, or just tortilla chips

Ingredients

  • 6 mangoes, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 med red onion, diced
  • 1 large jalapeño, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced or sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • chili powder to taste
  • lime juice to taste

Instructions

  1. That's it, dude.

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. 

 

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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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 88: Ach du lieber clafoutis

Alles ist weg. 

SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

On Saturday afternoon, I put Coke, onions, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and a nice fatty pork shoulder in the Instant Pot, only to discover that someone had made off with the valve cap. Why? Probably in revenge for all those countless nights I lay awake feeding them with my own body and expending the last few ounces of my strength singing them lullabys.

So I put the pork and stuff in a ziplock bag — well, first I yelled a little, and then I bagged it up and put it in the fridge, and we had chicken burgers.

***

SUNDAY
Carnitas, tortilla chips, watermelon, clafoutis

On Sunday, the family pulled together and found not one but three small, heavy, metal and black plastic machine components floating around the house. They all looked important. I have no idea what any of them were, except that they were definitely not pressure cooker valve caps. I filed them away in a box marked “The whole world is covered with buttons.”

I dredged out the old slow cooker and got that pork going in the morning. By dinner, it was shreddy and wonderful — and then, my friends, we spread it out in a thin layer on a baking pan and tucked it up under the broiler on high, till it was crisp. Fantastico.

We served it on tortillas with sour cream, salsa, and cheese, with the first watermelon of the year on the side.

For dessert, we some some clafoutis using this recipe from Epicurious. Clafoutis is a kind of baked custard with fruit in it, and you can use just about any kind of fruit, and you can serve warm or cold, with or without powdered sugar, or cream, or whatever you like. In the past, we’ve used cherries, and once I made a chocolate plum clafoutis with cardamom.

Clafoutis is really, truly easy. You just lay the fruit in a dish, mix up the custard and pour it over, and slide it in the oven. (I got good results by sifting the flour into the other ingredients, so it’s less lumpy.) I’m on the prowl for another six ramekins so I can make individual servings for everyone — partly just for nice, but mostly because no one will know if the custard holds together or not.

You know what’s not easy? Finding a photo you took of clafoutis, a photo which is either on your phone, your husband’s phone, your son’s phone, or your iPad, and which you actually emailed to yourself several days ago so you wouldn’t lose it, but which you have whimsically titled “claw fruity,” because that’s what Benny calls it.

Anyway, I found it.

Ain’t it purty? I don’t recommend using silicone pans like I did, though, unless you want to custardize the inside of your oven.

***

MONDAY
Omelettes with havarti, mushrooms, and salami

Or bacon for adults! The kids made their own dinner while we went for an evening run, and when we got back we rewarded ourselves with leftover father’s day bacon, plus bagels and cocktails. I lost three more pounds, so I don’t want to hear about it.

***

TUESDAY
Cobb salad

I had high hopes for this meal. It was a huge hit last time

and so pretty; but things were already in chaos by Tuesday, so we had a more chaotic version of the above, and I can’t find the photo anyway.

Basic Cobb salad is bacon, lettuce, avocados, grilled chicken, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, chives, and bleu cheese dressing. I still hadn’t found the ratzer fratzin’ Instant Pot valve cover, so I was reduced to cooking the eggs in the pot and the chicken in the oven like some kind of farmer. It was awful. We also had no chives, and the avocados had gone slimy.

***

WEDNESDAY
Fish tacos with spicy cabbage slaw, corn chips

We usually have fish tacos with sour cream, salsa, avocados, lime, and shredded cabbage, but I thought to dress it up with this recipe from The Kitchn for “Quick Cabbage Slaw,” which includes jalapenos, garlic, and lime juice along with more typical coleslaw ingredients. I have a bone to pick with that name, but it’s not a very big bone. The slaw was tasty and spicy.

Hey, see my pretty new plates? One of the kids complimented me on them. I said, “Thanks! I got them at the Salvation Army!” And Benny, who is five, said, “It looks like you got this food at the Salvation Army.”

This is what happens when you have five teenagers in the house along with little guys who are just learning how to think and express themselves. You get six teenagers.

***

THURSDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, raw string beans

Always a hit, especially when supper is an hour and a half late. They gobbled up every speck, even though I had to make the rice on the stovetop like a peasant, because I still can’t find the duck plucking valve cover.

Here’s the recipe from Six Sisters Stuff. If you think the photo shows broccoli but I distinctly mentioned eating string beans, that’s on you. I can’t find my valve cover! Haven’t I suffered enough?

***

FRIDAY
Shakshuka! and pita

from Epicurious. You make a slightly spicy tomato sauce with peppers, then cook some eggs into the top. Szo naice.

Photo above is the ghost of shakshuka past. I don’t know why I feel compelled to admit this. I could rob a bank run by orphans, but I’d feel guilty about not wiping my feet on the mat as I left.