What’s for supper? Vol. 357: Ich bin ein ludicrous display

Happy birthday to me! Today, for my birthday, I wish for you a very happy take your vitamins and drink some water, and many happy returns of the move your body and thank God for the day. 

Yesterday, we got some . . . medium-rotten financial news, which I delivered while Damien was replacing his brakes on his car, one of the kids called because their car had broken down, and while I was picking her up, my check engine light came on, and then we got home and one of the kids tested positive for Covid, which would explain a thing or two. We’re supposed to be getting ready for Benny’s birthday party, but of course we had to cancel. El bummer supremo.  

However, excelsior. Right? What is the other option? This year was better than last year, and I can only conclude that the coming year will be even better. I am 49 and I thank God for the day.

Hey, this is the year I finally got the hang of deep frying things without freaking out or trashing the kitchen. AS YOU WILL SEE. 

Here is what we ate this week!

SATURDAY
Chic-ken-bur-gers! [clap! clap! clap-clap-clap!]

And chips. 

SUNDAY
Ham, peas, and mashed potatoes

The supermarket Dora works for got a shipment of . . . mislabeled hams, or something? So everybody got hams. Some days, the two most beautiful words in the English language are “fully cooked.” 

On Sunday I decided it was time to finally get around to dealing with the rugelach dough I made last week or possibly the week before. If you are wondering, the dough is still good! It’s just butter and cream cheese and flour, so it’s hard to hurt, as long as you wrap it up good. 

Jump to Recipe

The dough becomes sweet, and it gets a lovely little fragile crisp outside, because you roll it out on drifts of sugar. It’s really surprisingly tender, considering how dense the ingredients are.

Then you spread your fillings over the circle you’ve rolled out, cut it into triangles with a pizza cutter, and roll them rugelachim up

Then you do it 4,000 more times, and bake them on sprayed baking racks. This was my big breakthrough with rugelach production, because the filling leaks out now matter what I do. This way, it leaks onto the pan below (which you have lined with parchment paper), and the rugelach stay above the fray.

Let the rugelach cool for about ten minutes before you try to remove them from the rack. The easiest way is to push up on them from underneath, to pop them off the rack in one piece. 

So I ended up making some Nutella, some apricot walnut, some strawberry jam, and some with honey, cinnamon, and pistachios.

These are unbaked, demonstrating that you can re-use the parchment paper and bake several batches without having to clean the pan. 

And here are the honey pistachio cinnamon ones, baked. I made some with the pistachios sprinkled over the dough, and some with the pistachios rolled right into the dough. I also drizzled more honey over the top of the second variety. 

And I could not taste the difference. They were all good! 

It’s always a little startling to see how few you come up with, after such a long time rolling and baking, but on the other hand, I think we still have a few leftover today, Friday (after giving away several tins of them), so I guess it was the right number. 

You can save time by rolling the dough into a rectangle, rather than a circle, and spreading the filling on and then rolling it up in a log, like you would cinnamon buns; and then you just slice it into a bunch of little pastries all at once. Much faster. But then you get spirals/rosettes, rather than these sort of snail-shaped treats, and I just like them better this way. Why can’t more things be snail shaped? 

Tonight is the last night of Chanukah, but I am here to tell you that you can still make rugelach all through December and beyond, because nobody says “no” to rugelach. 

MONDAY
Muffaletta sandwiches and raw veg

I started (I mean years ago) trying to make these sandwiches as close to the authentic originals as possible, but now we just do whatever. This time it was baguettes for the bread, ham, turkey, salami, pepperoni, and I think some Italian speck, and provolone, and I used the food processor to make an olive salad with black and green olives, banana peppers, and red onion, with olive oil and wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

Maybe not authentic muffaletta sandwiches, but they were good. 

I made a big platter of raw vegetables

and I’ve been snacking on it all week. There is a time of day, every day, when I’m really not hungry in any meaningful way, but I cannot seem to convince my mouth that it doesn’t need to be chomping on something, so it’s helpful to have some pre-cut vegetables. Easy to transport, easy to grab.

So I snack on these, and THEN I start gobbling leftover cookies and whatnot. Follow me for more strategies on putting a ton of energy into not losing weight. 

TUESDAY
Chicken biryani, pomegranates

Been thinking about biryani for several weeks now. I use this basic recipe and adjust the seasoning as I see fit. It’s not hard at all. You just have to brown up the chicken, which you have opened up by slicing it along the bone

and then cook up your onion and ginger and spices in the hot oil, and then add in the rest of your stuff. It’s a little more involved than that, but it’s all in one big pan.

I didn’t have golden raisins, so I chopped up some apricots

So I cook it all up as early in the day as I can, and then transfer it to the slow cooker and keep it warm all day. This almost always makes the rice/liquid proportions come out even, and you don’t end up with soupy biryani or chompy rice

I accidentally threw the cilantro in with the chicken when I was cooking it, so I just added more fresh on top, along with some toasted almonds. Yum. We also had pomegranates. 

Oh, the apricots kind of turned to mush, which was disappointing. I didn’t think of it, but I guess raisins are better because they cook inside their little skins. It wasn’t bad, but the apricots didn’t really add anything. 

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

I was informed that one cheese, one olive, and one pepperoni pizza would “do numbers,” so that’s what I made. 

I also felt a sudden urge to make sufganiyot before Chanukah was over. I used this recipe from Once Upon a Chef. I made the dough in the early afternoon and set it to rise while I did my afternoon errands. When I got back, I rolled it out and cut it into 48 squares

and then you just fry them in a few inches of oil, about six at a time, and they puff up.

I always have a larf when I get out my candy thermometer. I can’t remember if I’ve told this story before, but when Irene was little, we were making caramel for something, and she said, while stirring: “We don’t want it to get too hot. Not hard ball. Or hard crack. Or . . . [peering at thermometer] fish donut.” 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Little kids are heroes. They are so willing to accept so much NONSENSE from the adult world. They’re just like, “Welp, I guess fish donut is a thing, and I just have to deal with it,” and off they go. 

We just made donuts, though. No fish involved. 

When the donuts are cool enough to handle, you cut a little slit in the side and get some filling in there. I used pastry bags and did half raspberry jelly

and half vanilla pudding.

Then you dust them with powdered sugar and eat them up. They were nice! They didn’t inflate as nicely as the ones in the recipe picture, so they stayed pretty square-ish, which was a little odd; but they were cooked all the way through, and had a nice crisp exterior and fluffy interior. I’ll probably use this recipe in the future. Everyone was very impressed, and 48 turned out to be the right number. (They’re smaller than, say, Dunkin’ Donut donuts, but bigger than Munchkins or whatever they’re called.)

THURSDAY
Roast turkey, cranberry sauce, brussels sprouts and squash, potato latkes

I had bought an extra turkey while they were still on sale for Thanksgiving, and Damien roasted it slowly with lemon halves and an entire head of garlic shoved inside, and salt, pepper, and garlic powder outside. Delicious and moist. 

I roasted a pan of Brussels sprouts and butter nut squash wedges along with, I don’t know, olive oil and honey, salt and pepper, and shoved that in the oven while I was frying up the potato latkes. 

Jump to Recipe

Every year I think I’m going to try some interesting variation on the recipe, or at least some onion or something, but every year, Chanukah comes right when I’m barely keeping my head above water with a million other projects. So basically just potatoes, eggs, flour, and little salt and pepper it is! And lots of oil, of course, which is what makes it a Chanukah food. 

They turned out pretty good. 

I served them with sour cream and mashed-up whole berry cranberry sauce, which turned out to be not really a great companion for latkes. So now I know! But it was a nice meal. 

We also discovered our dreidels are all missing, so I made one out of a paper plate and a matchstick,

annnnd then drew the letters on upside down by mistake. 

But it spun fine and fairly, and that’s what matters. I had bought chocolate coins back when everyone else was getting ready for St. Nicholas day, so that was set, anyway. The kids had a surprisingly good time playing dreidel. 

 

We have been doing okay keeping up with Chanukah candles and Advent candles and the Jesse tree. By “okay,” I mean we mostly didn’t skip it, and when we did do it, nobody got into a fist fight. Mehr licht

Thursday was the day I put up my annual Ludicrous Display (this began years ago, when I nailed a giant garbage bag spider on the shed for Halloween, and I kind of thought Hurricane Irene would take care of it after Halloween, but it didn’t, because I used so many nails; so we just put a Santa hat on it and let it stay. Thus began a tradition of putting up Halloween decorations with an eye toward longevity, so if there are skeletons, they put on bunny ears for Easter, and so on.

This is less funny than it used to be, because lots of people now have permanent skeletons; so I was looking for something a little different this year, and for some reason I got it into my head that we needed a Sacred Heart. So I made one out of foam and zip ties.

and added some lights and gold whatnot. Then I took the Groucho glasses and bats and whatnot off our front skeletons and made them look like they were paying impressed, and I put the heart up, and 

ehhh, I thought maybe it would look better in the dark

but it still looks kinda dumb! I guess it needs some work. Or whatever. I was okay with weird, but this is just confusing. Anyway, I took the bats down. 

The mailbox looks pretty good

and we haven’t gotten one of those chiding postcards from the post office yet. 

FRIDAY
??

I don’t know, I got tuna and fries for the kids, thinking Damien and I could go out for my birthday, but I think I’ve done enough plague superspreading for one week, going to the store 5,000 times and not realizing we all had Covid. (This year’s Covid seems to look like feeling kinda low and yucky for a few days and then throwing up one time, and then feeling much better, but sneezing.)

Oh, speaking of feeling better, I started a 30-day plank challenge group on Facebook, if anyone wants to join. We’re on day 4 today. No pressure, and nobody’s a super athlete or anything. It’s just easier to get this kind of thing going if you’re not alone! 

And that’s my story.  Next year, I’m gonna make blintzes. Blintzes with blueberry and pot cheese. Then we’ll see a ludicrous display. 

Rugelach

These are tender little pastries for Chanukah or any time. Use whatever kind of filling you like: Jams, preserves, cinnamon sugar, nutella, etc. These are time consuming, but don't take much skill, and they freeze well, so they make pretty little gifts.

Servings 80 rugelach

Ingredients

dough

  • half pound butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup or more sugar, for rolling

filling

  • 1/4-1/2 cup preserves or other filling
  • 1/4-1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add in the flour and keep mixing until smooth. You can do this by hand, but it will take a while! The dough should be fairly stiff and not sticky when it's done.

  2. Divide the dough into 8 balls. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat the oven to 400.

  4. Prepare a pan by lining it with parchment paper, then spraying a baking rack and putting the rack on the parchment paper. Line a second pan with parchment paper, to which you will remove the rugelach when they come out of the oven.

  5. Use the sugar to cover your work space, and use a rolling pin to roll a ball of dough into a round shape the size of a large plate. It should be thin enough to flap a bit when you give it a shake. If your rolling pin sticks, sprinkle more sugar on. You can turn the dough over to make sure both sides get sugared. It doesn't have to be perfectly round, as it will be cut into pieces.

  6. Spread the jam or other filling over the dough, leaving an open space in the middle. If you're adding nuts, sprinkle them over the filling.

  7. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 16-20 triangles.

  8. Roll each triangle up from the outside in. Place each rolled rugelach on the sprayed baking rack on the pan, with the skinny point down. They puff up a bit, so leave the space of one rugelach in between.

  9. Repeat for each ball of dough.

  10. Bake for ten minutes. If the dough isn't golden brown, give it another two minutes. These go from perfect to burnt very quickly, so be alert.

  11. When they bake, the filling will ooze out and pool and burn on the parchment paper, but the rugelach will not burn.

  12. When the rugelach come out of the oven, immediately use a butter knife to transfer them to another pan or rack to cool.

  13. Once they are cool, they can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the freezer for weeks without harm.

Potato latkes

Serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce for Hanukkah or ANY TIME. Makes about 25+ latkes

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs potatoes, peeled
  • 6 eggs beaten
  • 6 Tbsp flour (substitute matzoh meal for Passover)
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Grate the potatoes. Let them sit in a colander for a while, if you can, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. 

  2. Mix together the eggs, salt and pepper, and flour. Stir into the potato mixture and mix well. 

  3. Turn the oven on to 350 and put a paper-lined pan in the oven to receive the latkes and keep them warm while you're frying. 

  4. Put 1/4 to 1/2 and inch of oil in your frying pan and heat it up until a drop of batter will bubble.  

  5. Take a handful of the potato mixture, flatten it slightly, and lay it in the pan, leaving room between latkes. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, making several batches to leave room in between latkes. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Eat right away or keep warm in oven, but not too long. 

  6. Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce or apple slices. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 237: Creative naan compliance

Look up! I just flew by! No, not in the Chinese spy balloon. I’m in an airplane, off for a quick visit to a very dear friend, and I’ll be back late Monday. Whee!

Meanwhile, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Tacos

Or really tostadas without beans, because something happened that I honestly never thought would happen: We ran out of tortillas. We’ve had a ludicrous tortilla backlog for so long, I had truly forgotten that it was something you need to buy at some point. So I did not, and so a few people had soft tortillas with stale edges, and a few people had rather elderly crunchy tostada shells. 

They were fine. We were hungry. And that has made all the difference. 

SUNDAY
Chicken sorta-caprese sandwiches, chips

Chicken breasts were on sale, so I broiled them with olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper, sliced them, and served them on baguettes with tomato and basil and miscellaneous cheese. The miscellaneous cheese part was tolerable, but then it turned out we were out of balsamic vinegar, which caused a stir. I had mine with olive oil and red wine vinegar.  

It was fine. Honestly, I will eat just about anything on a baguette. I would eat a baguette sandwich, like bread on bread. Serve it in a bread bowl, I don’t care. 

MONDAY
Monday, Damien and I had to go to a meeting at 5:30, so I set the kids up with lots of ramen and leftover chicken, crunchy noodles and a few vegetables and eggs and things, and told them to have what they wanted. We two went to Wendy’s, and I had some kind of burger with crunchy fried onions on it. My word, it was delicious. I rarely have a burger and fries at a fast food place, but every once in a while, yes. 

TUESDAY
Chicken biryani and naan

Oh, now here we go. I’m thinking a lot about Indian food, but I wanted to get started with a recipe I’ve tried before, so I made this mild chicken biryani. As I remarked on Facebook, of all the cuisines I have attempted to cook, Indian food is the most straight up fun. All the colors, and of course all the smells. It’s just a good time. 

So in this recipe, you sear the chicken thighs in oil, then cook up your onion and ginger, then turmeric and cardamom in the oil, then add the jasmine rice in, put the chicken back in, and add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, golden raisins, and chicken broth. Cover it up and let all those beautiful flavors meld together as the rice cooks. 

I know from experience that the rice is always still a little chompy at the end, so I make it in the morning and then move it to the slow cooker and keep it warm all day. (Full disclosure, I managed to slop a lot of the chicken broth out onto the floor, so there wasn’t really enough liquid in it and it turned out chompy anyway. But still delicious!) 

I also really wanted to make naan, and I had pretty good luck with the King Arthur recipe last time.  My bread flour had mysteriously disappeared, and I also mysteriously got it into my head that I wanted to knead it by hand, rather than using the stand mixer. I don’t know why, and I don’t know why I didn’t change my mind when it became apparent that it wasn’t going well, but that is what I did. I kneaded that dough forehhhhhhhver and it just didn’t get any smoother, but stayed all knobbly and mottled. 

So eventually I gave up and set it to rise, and did this and that, and came back and cut it into 24 pieces, and decided I really didn’t have time to fry it before it was time to go. 

And that was probably the first good decision I made with this naan, because waiting until just before dinner to cook it meant that Corrie was home, and she wanted to help. Guess what? She was genuinely helpful. 

Naan cooks up really quickly, in less than two minutes, so you want to be rolling out one piece to get it ready while the first piece is frying. You throw it on a very hot, dry pan and watch for it to start forming these bubbles 

and then flip it over and cook it for an even shorter time, and that’s how naan gets those characteristic brown circles. They are fried bubbles. 

Anyway, Corrie was great at it. She has a wonderful feel for cooking, and doesn’t get flustered, and immediately figured out what to watch for and how to time it. 

She brushed each piece of naan with melted butter as it came off the pan, and we had piping hot bread to go with the biryani, which we topped with toasted silvered almonds and chopped cilantro.

Splendid meal. Delightful. 

What next for Indian food? I need more ideas! I get overwhelmed and I never know what to do next. 

WEDNESDAY
Korean beef bowl 

Wednesday was busy-busy-busy, and I didn’t have a chance to start dinner until it was evening. Korean beef bowl to the rescue.

Jump to Recipe

Even with fresh ginger and fresh garlic, it comes together super fast, all in one pot, and it’s just tasty and satisfying. 

I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot and chopped up some scallions, and there it was. It actually came together so fast that it was done by 5:00, and suddenly realized I could actually get a yoga workout in before dinner. Which I did, very grudgingly and wobbly-ly. 

The worst part was, fresh off a workout, I only felt like eating one reasonable portion of food, and then I was completely satiated. Which is baloney. It’s propaganda, that’s what it is. 

THURSDAY
Pork gyros

First of all, I would like to say that if I were a grocery store selling fresh SAGE, and some lady who has already been to two stores came in looking for fresh OREGANO, this is NOT HOW I WOULD PACKAGE IT. 

Humph. Anyway, if anyone needs some sage, come see me. I don’t even like sage. Wanted oregano. Don’t care if it’s organic. 

Nevertheless, I forged ahead and made a nice marinade

Jump to Recipe

with fresh garlic, fresh rosemary, DRIED oregano, red onion, honey, and olive oil, and got the pork sliced and marinating by 10:30. Sliced up some more red onions, cubed a bunch of feta cheese, made some yogurt sauce with garlic and fresh lemon juice,

Jump to Recipe

chopped up some mint leaves, and cut up a bunch of cucumbers. I briefly considered prepping some eggplant to fry, but that seemed like a bridge too far. 

Dinner time hove around and I pan-fried the meat in batches

and cooked a few pans of seasoned fries, and set out the meat and fries and all my prepped toppings with pita bread. And some hot sauce. 

SO GOOD. So tender and juicy. This particular recipe is a lot more herby and sweet than spicy, but you can add as much heat as you want with the hot sauce, and be generous with the garlicky yogurt sauce, and it’s fab. When I was done eating, I had to wipe off not only my phone but my glasses. 

FRIDAY
Pasta with Marcella Hazan’s red sauce

At least I think so!

Jump to Recipe

Damien is shopping and cooking this weekend as I flit and float away like a giant balloon, but please do not shoot at me. I mean no harm. I promise to come home again. 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

 

honey garlic marinade for gyros

Marinate thin strips of pork for several hours, then grill or broil. This is a mild, somewhat sweet marinade that makes the meat quite tender.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs pork shoulder or butt, sliced into thin strips
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • small bunch fresh rosemary, chopped
  • small bunch fresh oregano, chopped

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

What’s for supper? Vol. 310: Back on my biryani

GOOD
MORN-ING
GIRLS-AND-BOYS!

{Good morn-ing, Miss El-lis!}

Sweet, sweet Miss Ellis, our music teacher who seemed to have descended from another era and remained untouched by all the very small town 1980’s public schooliness that swirled around her modestly clad ankles. She died relatively young, and so she still remains in my mind as a tall, gentle, slightly stooped, slightly pained-looking woman with a feathered bob, still wearing the plaid jumpers, clogs, and clunky folk jewelry that looked right to her while the rest of the world succumbed to Cyndi Lauper. She had us tootling into our recorders and scraping away at our lummi sticks while she labored away on her autoharp, teaching us folk songs from around the world against our will. And I still remember them, dozens of them. What a lovely woman. Good morning, Miss Ellis!

I guess it’s just fall, remembering time. It’s also cool weather, drizzly weather, and time to really start leaning into things that smell lovely and warm you up from the inside out. It helped that I didn’t have a car all week, so I was home to cook and take my time at it. Here’s what we had: 

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Damien made this meal while I sweated and slaved over a hot computer, putting together an Instacart order. Nobody’s tired of Italian sandwiches yet. I’ll tell you, this has not been a great year for tomatoes, though. They look okay, but they just don’t taste like much. The basil is fine, though. 

Sandwiches are a fine time to practice your pepper grinding skills. Also don’t be afraid to really bend that elbow when you’re pouring the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Tips!

MONDAY
Carnitas, guacamole

Just another manic Monday, that’s my carnita day. You start out with some hunks of pork sprinkled heavily with salt, pepper, and oregano, and simmer them nicely in a ton of oil and some Coke, a few quartered oranges, some cinnamon sticks, and a few bay leaves.

Jump to Recipe

Give it plenty of time. 

Pull the extries out and keep cooking it until the meat just gives up. 

and then maybe cook it a little longer just to give it a little more texture and color. 

I like carnitas with pico de gallo and sometimes beans and rice, but this time I just made a bowl of guacamole. 

Jump to Recipe

It wasn’t the greatest, and I’m not sure why. I forgot to order tomatoes, so that was missing, but it also just had a kind of harsh taste. Maybe the onions were a little old? Not sure. I mean don’t get me wrong, I ate plenty. It just wasn’t the greatest. 

The carnitas were good. Sweet and a little smoky or something. Not smoky, I don’t know. I had plenty. 

TUESDAY
Chicken biryani, coconut mango sorta-sorbet

A new recipe! I could not have been more pleased with how this turned out. This is from Simply Recipes and I followed it exactly, except for extending the cooking time, which I was prepared for, because last time I made biryani, the rice was so underdone. Oh, I also used chicken broth instead of water, and I skipped the golden raisins, because I knew it would prejudice the kids against this meal. 

I started cooking in the morning. First I gathered the spices. Salt and pepper for the chicken, and then onion, fresh ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves. 

Next, I accidentally dumped about 1/4 cup cardamom down the heating vent. This is not a bad way to begin the heating season, and I may sell this idea to Martha Stewart. I did manage to get the rest into the mortar and pestle and grind it up.

The next step is to prep your rice (I just used regular shorty rice, no fancy basmati or anything) and set that aside; and then slice the chicken thighs up along the bone, then season and fry them in oil. 

At this point, I realized that my almost lifelong horror of frying chicken is probably outdated and unnecessary. When I think of frying chicken, I think of a miserable, stressful catastrophe with hot oil spattered all over the place, billowing clouds of smoke, people screaming, the earth cracking open like a giant egg, species going extinct, I don’t know. Just a bad chicken scene in general. 

But that’s probably because last time I tried to fry chicken, I had a ton of little kids in the kitchen literally hanging off my legs, if not my boobies, while I fried. I probably had a terrible, thin, warped pan to cook with, and not enough oil, and no tongs, and maybe a broken stove, and I was probably in the habit of constantly telling myself what a rotten cook I was while I cooked; and supper was probably late, and everyone was upset, and the earth was probably cracking open like a giant egg. The odds, in short, were against me at the time. A bad chicken scene indeed. 

But things are different now! I have better equipment, I’m a much more confident and skilled cook, and I almost always cook alone. Or if someone comes in, I tell them to go away, and they do. 

What I’m saying is, I’m going to fry some chicken next week. I will probably still tell myself I’m a rotten cook, but, per my therapist, I will catch myself saying this. 

Anyway, back to the biryani. The next thing is to take the chicken out of the pan and fry up the onions and ginger in the oil. Lovely, lovely. Then you add in the turmeric and cardamom and it gets even better. Turmeric, as you know, is this deep golden hue, and you wonder if it’s going to stay so golden when you mix it in to other things, or if it will become diluted. And you will not be disappointed! Oh, I enjoyed myself so much.

Cook a bit more and then add your rinsed rice into the pan

and then add in the chicken, the broth, and the bay leaves and cinnamon. 

My friends, I had to physically force myself to put a lid on the pan. The aroma was straight from paradise and I did not want to be separated from it. 

So it just simmered for about 20 minutes, and when I took the lid off, this magic had occurred:

I don’t know what I expected, but I was just thrilled. Look at it! It’s biryani! 

According to the recipe, the biryani is now cooked. As I expected, though, it was cooked unevenly, and much of the rice was still crunchy. This is a very common issue with biryani, apparently. This is why I started in the morning. So I transferred the whole thing to the slow cooker and set it on low, and let it steam itself for the rest of the day. 

By dinner time, it was piping hot and thoroughly cooked, but not mushy or anything. 

I served it up with some toasted almonds and some chopped cilantro. 

They liked it! Just about everybody liked it. This dish has plenty of depth and cozy layers of flavor, but it’s not spicy at all. This recipe is most certainly going into the rotation, and I may even sneak some golden raisins in next time. So delicious. 

I love that I was able to make it all in the morning. It would make a great party dish. Tasted even better the next day. Wonderful stuff. 

Now for the sorta-sorbet. As I mentioned the other week, the Concord grape sorbet I made turned out so well, I thought a mango sorbet would be great to go with Indian food. The mangoes I ordered were nowhere near ripe, though, so I asked Damien to bring home some frozen mango chunks, and then quickly chose this recipe, which looked simple but promising enough. 

Foolish Simcha, ignoring the biggest red flag at all. She calls it a “sorbet dessert,” rather than just sorbet. This is classic recipe vacillation language, when you come out with something kind of gloppy and you don’t really know what it is, so you just straight up lie about it, and then call it “dessert” to cover your butt. 

Or maybe I screwed up, who knows. Anyway, you’re supposed to blend the mango, coconut milk, lime juice, honey, vanilla, and a little salt in a blender, and …. that’s it. 

In her world, this comes out of her blender the consistency of thick, creamy soft serve ice cream, and she scoops it into an adorable coconut-shaped ramekin and boops a mint leaf on top for the photo. 

In my world, it looked like someone ate a mango and then their stomachs changed their mind. 

I tried freezing it in separate little cups and everything. No dice. I mean it was fine. It tasted fine. It wasn’t any damn sorbet, though. I probably should have put it through my ice cream maker, but by this time, I was kind of mad, and decided not to, on principle. I comforted myself with more biryani. 

WEDNESDAY
Bacon, brussels sprouts, and eggs

Second dark, rainy day in a row. This is a most excellent, one-pan meal that comes together pretty quickly, and that just about everybody likes. I kifed this recipe from Damn Delicious, and I like Chungah, but she calls for four pieces of bacon, and what is that. I used four pounds of bacon, plus three pounds of brussels sprouts, and about fifteen eggs. It was too much bacon, but on the other hand, it was dark and rainy out

You make a nice little sauce with balsamic vinegar, honey, fresh garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and you cook the bacon and brussels sprouts with this on a sheet pan

Then you crack some raw eggs carefully over the pan, sprinkle some red pepper flakes and freshly-grated parmesan cheese over that, and some more salt and pepper, and cook it several minutes longer, just until the whites set but the yolks are still wobbly.

And that’s it. So easy. Gosh, it’s delicious. The bacon and brussels sprouts soak up the sweet vingary garlicky sauce, and you can pick up forkfuls of this and dip it in the hot egg yolk and just have a wonderful time. 

Would have been great with some hot crusty bread or some hot pretzels. I think I served tortilla chips. 

THURSDAY
Chicken soup with matzoh balls, rolls, pizza rolls, cake

Thursday was Clara’s birthday! I still owe her a decent cake and a real present, because the whole entire day was eaten up with the worthy project of BUYING A CAR. 

There is a whole long agonizing story about the old car, which is still unresolved, but I did miraculously find this lovely 2010 Honda Odyssey and now it’s mine. Well, I guess technically it belongs to the Service Credit Union, but in five short years it will be mine! I truly love it. I haven’t heard a single bad thing about Honda Odysseys, and this one has heated seats and a sunroof and it only smells a little bit weird, and only in a cat way, not in an automotive way.

Clara modestly asked for chicken soup with matzoh balls for her birthday, and I had the foresight to get the soup going the night before. The soup could not be simpler. It’s really a broth with a few garnishes, more than a soup. A big pot of water with chicken parts with bones, big pieces of carrots, onion, and celery, salt and pepper, and a big handful of fresh dill and fresh parsley. Simmer all day, then strain. Put back as much of the solid bits of chicken and vegetables as you like, but understand that it’s mostly for texture and looks, as the taste has gone into the broth. Let the broth cool and skim off the fat if there’s too much. Then reheat and use as you wish. (I wish to use it to cook matzoh balls.)

So on Thursday I got the matzoh ball dough going when I got home (it needs to chill for at least half an hour), then strained the soup, heated it up, and started cooking some pizza rolls I bought in a panic because what if there’s not enough food? Then I made about 50 matzoh balls and let them simmer and steam for about half an hour.

Served with some soft rolls because what if there’s not enough etc etc
I threw a little fresh dill and parsley on top of the soup, and it was very nice.

I don’t know if all of the matzoh balls were cooked properly, but all the ones I got were!

And then we had a STORE-BOUGHT CAKE. Because I may be an idiot, but even I know that if you get home after 6 PM, it is too late to start baking a cake. I still owe Clara a real cake. Maybe this weekend. 

FRIDAY
Land, I don’t know. I think we are having spaghetti. 

 

John Herreid's Carnitas

Very easy recipe transforms pork into something heavenly. Carnitas are basically pulled pork tacos with the meat crisped up. Serve with whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • pork butt/shoulder, cut into chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • oregano
  • oranges, quartered
  • cinnamon sticks
  • bay leaves
  • 1 can Coke or Mexican Coke
  • 1 cup or less vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the chunks of pork with salt, pepper, and oregano.

  2. Put them in a heavy pot with the oil and Coke, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.

  3. Simmer, uncovered, for at least two hours. The oranges will start to get mushy and the liquid will begin to thicken.

  4. When the meat is tender, remove the oranges, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Turn the heat up and continue cooking, stirring often, until the meat has a dark crust. Be careful not to let it burn.

  5. Remove the meat and drain off any remaining liquid. Shred the meat. It it's not as crisp as you like, you can brown it under the oven broiler, or return it to the pot without the liquid and fry it up a bit.

  6. Serve on warm tortillas with whatever you like.

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. 

Bacon, eggs, and brussels sprouts in honey garlic balsamic sauce

Adapted from Damn Delicious.  An easy and tasty one-pan meal that would work for any meal. Great with a hearty bread like challah. 

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 lbs uncooked bacon, cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces
  • 18 eggs
  • oil for greasing pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed

Garnish (optional):

  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease two large oven sheets. 


  2. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Mix Brussels sprouts and bacon together, spread evenly in pans, and pour sauce all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Cook until bacon is almost done (almost as crisp as you like it) and Brussels sprouts are very slightly browned, 18-20 minutes.

  4. Pull the pans out of the oven and carefully crack the eggs onto the Brussels sprouts and bacon, here and there.

  5. Return pan to the oven and cook a few minutes longer, just enough to set the eggs. The yolks will get a little film over the top, but don't let them cook all the way through, or you'll have something resembled hard boiled eggs, which isn't as good. You want the yolks to be liquid so you can dip forkfuls of fod into it.

  6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes and serve. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 284: Ghee! Your chicken smells terrific

Gotta quick get this food post in before Lent starts! It was February vacation this past week, and we were pretty busy doing this and that (especially that. OH, the that we did) including Corrie’s birthday party and my first foray into Indian cooking. Let’s begin!

SATURDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, chips

Damien made supper

while I did a gazillion errands, including checking out a wonderful little store in the area, Keene International Market. It’s not huge but it has an impressive variety of goods, including frozen foods and fresh produce. I had very little in the way of Southeast Asian spices in the house, so I stocked up

I actually made two trips, and the second time I got some saffron and coriander and I forget what else. Always wanted to buy saffron. 

Damien and I were both so excited about the Indian meal we had a few weeks ago. The first great thing about Indian food is, of course, how ridiculously delicious it is. The second great thing, though, is how excited Indian people get when you tell them you’re trying Indian cooking. What a delight! I got so much profuse encouragement and enthusiasm from so many people, including the cashier at the store. Lovely. 

I started marinating the chicken for the main dish, chicken biryani, on Saturday night. The marinade tasted pretty exciting, and we both thought that, if I just added more yogurt to dial down the intensity a little, it would make a fantastic dip. 

SUNDAY
Pakora with tamarind sauce, chicken biryani, naan

Okay. So I started out knowing this was going to be a learning curve. But even so, I had SO MUCH FUN cooking this food. I really took to it, and it felt very natural and enjoyable. That being said, nothing I made turned out exactly right, and some of it turned out . . . pretty wrong. The flavors were all great, but everything needed improvement of some kind or other. But we all liked it so much, I’m definitely going to try again. It was just a super fun meal to make and eat, and somehow seemed to produce family happiness. This may have been because I was so upbeat about it, and my good cheer rubbed off on the kids, but that does not automatically happen by any means, so I think it’s just Indian food magic. 

First, the pakora. I went a little bit rogue and just started stuffing all kinds of vegetables into the food processor. I used spinach, string beans, carrots, red onions, and cabbage.

I ended up chopping everything a little bit too fine, so I ended up with small, fluffy wads of fried vegetable, rather than spiky bundles. (You let it sit, squeeze out the excess liquid, mix it with spices and chickpea flour, and then deep fry it.) Just didn’t have enough substance.

But as I said, the flavor was great (I added salt, coriander, garam masala, and ginger paste), and I liked the tender, vegetable-y inside with the lightly crisp fried outside.  Next time, I will just cut everything more like matchsticks than shreds. 

Next, the naan. I planned to make this recipe, which my friend Tom recommended, but I started too late, so I defaulted to King Arthur. It calls for both regular flour and bread flour, and yogurt, but it’s quite simple, and I thought it turned out well enough, if a little tough. I forgot to brush ghee on at the end, and they definitely could have been more tender, but heck, they looked and tasted like naan, so, thumbs up, white girl! I made sixteen of them.

Where I really stumbled was the biryani. Here’s the recipe again. The chicken part came out divine. In this recipe, you start — well, first you start by marinating the chicken well in advance, as I mentioned above; but when you’re ready to cook, you start by by roasting a bunch of whole spices in ghee

then fry up some onions in it, then add in the chicken that’s been marinating in yogurt and a bunch of spices overnight, and let that cook for a while.

At this point, your house smells like heaven.

Then you add more yogurt and more spices, and then you have to spread your raw basmati rice, add the liquid, and cook the rice on top of the cooked chicken, with salted water and coconut cream infused with saffron and whatnot.

Here I got confused, and I ran out of room in the pot, and I started making substitutions and panicking a tiny bit, because I realized the rice was cooking very unevenly, so I transferred everything to the Instant Pot; but I still didn’t use enough liquid, so it started to burn, and it was just not gonna work out, so I just served it as it was. So the rice was rahther crunchy, which is a shame, because it was expensive!

But all those delightful ingredients and all that layering of flavor was not in vain, because the chicken and sauce part was so delicious that everybody ate the biryani anyway, crunchy basmati rice and all. It was just . . . creamy and fragrant and a little earthy and warming, with lots of layers of flavor. I dialed down the spiciness quite a bit to make it as accessible as possible, because it was already very different from what the kids are used to eating. It was not bland! Just not spicy. 

I also attempted to make some tamarind sauce using a slab of tamarind paste. I more or less followed this recipe, but it juuuuust didn’t turn into something I was excited about eating.

Damien liked it, but I thought it was too tart and too chunky, even after lots of extra honey and some time in the food processor. I’ll just buy a jar of readymade sauce next time, because I’m cuckoo for tamarind. I did buy some mango chutney and some mint chutney and we used all three sauces and just dipped everything in everything.

I believe that’s how you’re supposed to do it. 

Oh, and I also grabbed something called Soan cakes, 

which turned out to come sealed in little plastic cups like fruit cups, and they were so strange! They tasted somewhat like halvah, but sweeter and fruitier, and the texture was kind of . . . splintery? And it sort of melted in your mouth. Several of the kids mentioned that it was like they always imagined pink insulation tasting. 

MONDAY
Pizza

Homemade pizza, but nothing special, just a bunch of pepperoni and olive and whatnot. I was still kind of in a daze from all the cooking I had done on Sunday, and was drained of creativity. 

TUESDAY
Pork ribs, suppli

Lucy wanted to try her hand at making suppli, and after I warned her that it was a fairly complex recipe with several steps,

Jump to Recipe

especially if you’re planning to make the risotto on the stovetop and all, darn it if she didn’t go ahead and make the best suppli I’ve ever had. 

Look how lovely they turned out, outside:

and in:

Great savory, creamy risotto inside, and I did spring for some good fresh mozzarella, so that melted very well. 

For the meat, I threw some salt and pepper on some pork ribs and roasted them, and we just had the pork ribs and suppli for supper, that’s it. A slightly barbaric meal, somehow, but very tasty.  

WEDNESDAY
Chicken fajita bowls

I’m just going to go ahead and quote my Facebook status for the day:

Today after I got some writing done, I had to drop Benny off at her friend’s house and take Sophia for a haircut and pick up a few party things, so I decided to take Corrie with me for fun (????), and we got some groceries and I ran in for a final birthday present and we had to get some fireworks, and then I guess that was too many errands, because she got EXTREMELY ANGRY ABOUT HOW THE REVOLVING DOOR WAS BEHAVING, and had a bit of a meltdown. And this continued for several miles until I realized the shortcut I was taking brought up right past a farm, so we stopped to visit some horses and cows, which calmed Corrie down, but I myself leaned on the electric fence, which was not ideal! Then we picked up Benny and went home, and I got pulled over for various reasons, and made supper, and finally got my boots off, and I was reading to the girls when I heard Corrie quietly say, “oopth.” I turn around and she has . . . a mouth full of broken glass???? Because I guess she found a Christmas ornament and decided to put it in her mouth, and then accidentally bit it? Anyway nobody died and we finished the chapter, and I just

But oopth nothwithstanding, I was fairly proud of the dinner I got on the table, just in terms of sheer minutes-per-raw-food-to-hot-food-ness; and it was pretty tasty, too, if not luxe. I cut up some chicken breast with green peppers and onions and fried it up in oil with plenty of chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and — not cumin, because I used that all up in the Indian food. 

I set some rice cooking in the Instant Pot and heated up some black beans, chopped up some cilantro and scallions, and put out sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, lime wedges, salsa, hot sauce, and corn chips, and forty minutes after we got home, there was a happy little dinner ready. 

The only thing we didn’t have, besides cumin, was bowls. Nobody knows what happened to all the bowls. So we had chicken fajita plates. 

THURSDAY 
Pizza

Thursday was the day we All Got Out Of the House. We tried something new: The Fitchburg Art Museum, which is small but worth driving an hour to see. They have an immersive Ancient Egypt exhibit that was very effective and memorable. I made the kids pray for the mummies, because a dead old man is a dead old man, even if his organs are in a jar.  You can see some of my photos on Facebook. Then we went back to town and did some thrifting/antiquing and picked out some silly stuff (and the owner sized up Benny and Corrie and pointed out the giant basket full of used dance costumes, whoa-ho-ho-ho-ho!), and then, because it was vacation, we stayed out got pizza. 

FRIDAY
Calzones

Yes, after pizza on Monday and then pizza on Thursday, we had calzones on Friday, which was Corrie’s request for her birthday dinner. I ended up asking Elijah to make them

Jump to Recipe

while I finished making the cupcakes for her party on Saturday. She wanted cupcakes decorated with ancient Greek motifs, and filled with Nerds (just like our house, har har har). I sliced the cupcake tops off, used a vegetable peeler with a digging end to gouge out a little hole, poured the Nerds in, and stuck the top back on with icing. My hands have not gotten less shaky over the years, but she was happy with her cupcakes. 

Which is pretty remarkable, considering that she also asked Clara to make her a Greek god cookie birthday cake, so obviously Clara made her one. 

The cupcakes were for her party on Saturday, but the cake was just for the family on Friday.

I know you want to see those cookie gods close up, so here they are:

Everybody says “They are too beautiful to eat!” and that’s probably true, but we ate them anyway, because we are monsters! And Clara just keeps making more outstanding cookies, so we never learn.

Okay, that’s it! I usually keep doing food posts throughout Lent because, as previously discussed, I’m a monster. Happy Fat Monday!

Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

Calzones

This is the basic recipe for cheese calzones. You can add whatever you'd like, just like with pizza. Warm up some marinara sauce and serve it on the side for dipping. 

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

  • 3 balls pizza dough
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 egg yolks for brushing on top
  • any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

  3. Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. 

  4. Put a 1/2 cup or so of filling into the middle of each circle of dough circle. (You can add other things in at this point - pepperoni, olives, etc. - if you haven't already added them to the filling) Fold the dough circle in half and pinch the edges together tightly to make a wedge-shaped calzone. 

  5. Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends. 

  6. Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones. 

  7. Grease and flour a large pan (or use corn meal or bread crumbs instead of flour). Lay the calzones on the pan, leaving some room for them to expand a bit. 

  8. Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.