What a weird week! Anyone else having a weird week? Just a weird ol’ week. But I just opened the curtains and there was a bluebird sitting on roof of the shed. First one I’ve seen this year. Bluebirds are neat. They’re a little bit boisterous, but very graceful, and they are happy to hang around in gangs at the feeder, without chasing other birds away. Very decorative birds, always a welcome visitor.
Here’s a slow mo video I took last year:
Anyway, here’s what we had while boistrously hanging around our feeder:
Chicago style hot dogs, chips
These were not quite 100% authentic, which would require poppy seed buns, some kind of bright green relish, and sport peppers, but we did have tomatoes, pickled peppers, relish, mustard, pickle spears, chopped onion, and celery salt.
Really delicious. I got the idea for this from that meme that says the existence of a Chicago style hot dog implies the existence of an MLA style hot dog, which is a silly joke, but on the other hand, mmm, hot dogs.
Steak, pork dumplings, cheesecake, strawberry ice cream
Sunday was my favorite husband’s birthday, so we had some of his favorite foods. He cooked steaks for everyone, pan fried in butter with garlic
(sorry, I know it’s Friday, sorry!)
and I used the pork dumpling filling I had stashed in the freezer from New Year’s Eve which is this recipe. I had seen one of those amazing videos where someone’s twinkling fingers forms dumplings into all kinds of beguiling shapes with a few simple pinches and folds, and woop! You have a dahlia and a lotus and a pinwheel. So even though I had dumpling wrappers that were fairly stiff and paper-like, and the video showed dumpling dough that was soft and pliable, I thought, “I CAN DO THAT.”
Friends, I could not.
But I gave it the old college try, and I did get some raw pork on my phone. And then I went back to using my dumpling press, which works great. So everyone had steamed dumplings while waiting for their steaks. In fact, I had leftover filling after I used up all the wrappers, so I added some panko bread crumbs and made little meatballs
so some people had little birthday meatballs.
I also made a bunch of strawberry ice cream
following the Ben and Jerry recipe, which always turns out light and sweet and lovelyJump to Recipe
and I made a gigantic cheesecake. I have been sworn to secrecy about the particulars of this recipe, but LOOK AT MY CHEESECAKE
I think this is the first time I’ve achieved no cracks. I put all the ingredients out to come to room temperature the night before; I mixed it very lightly, so as to introduce as little air as possible, and scraped down the bowl often; and I baked it in a water bath, and then turned off the oven and let it sit in the cooling oven for a few hours before I took it out and started to chill it.
It was luscious.
I wish I had started 24 hours sooner, so I could have chilled it over night after baking it, but it was rich and smooth and lovely, and about a mile high.
One-pan garlic chicken thighs and roast veg
I used to make these one-pan chicken thigh meals a lot, and got kind of burnt out on them, so I backed off for a while. I guess it’s been long enough, because this was very popular.Jump to Recipe
You can add whatever vegetables you want. My advice is to think about how long they need to cook, and try to cut them to the appropriate thickness, so they end up done at the same time.
I used about three pounds of potatoes with the skin on and few zucchinis and half a large butternut squash in wedges. In this variation, you season the vegetables, then lay the chicken on top and brush them (well, really smear them, as it’s pretty thick) with a garlicky brown sugar sauce, and then just chunk it in the oven.
Quite tasty. The sugar runs down into the pan and caramelizes the bottom of the potatoes, giving them a nice little crunch, and the chicken is juicy and the vegetables are tender.
Meatball subs, fries
I wish I could remember what I did to these meatballs, because they were much better than my usual meatballs. Humph. I have become aware that I tend to underseason things, so possibly I just took a heavier hand with everything I sprinkled.
I briefly considered pan frying them, but then I remembered the shortness of life and just threw them on a broiler pan and baked them in a hot oven like I usually do, then transferred them to a crock pot with plenty of jarred sauce.
Good enough for the likes of us. O tempora, o meatballs.
Chili verde, chips and pico de gallo, cornbread, pineapple, vanilla and peach-mango ice cream
On Wednesday, our friend Fr. Matt from Louisiana came for supper! My chili verde recipeJump to Recipe
is reasonably spicy, and calls for specific peppers. Well, the supermarket didn’t have those specific peppers. It just had bags of mixed peppers called “hot pepper combo” or something, and the label was one of those “may contain one or more of the following.” This is what I got:
I liked the looks of that, so I roasted them. I also tweaked my recipe a bit and roasted the onions and garlic along with them, rather than putting them onions and garlic into the food processor raw
then I puréed it all up with some cilantro, browned up a good amount of fatty, salted and peppered pork chunks in oil, and —
here is the point where I was already several hours behind schedule, because the school called to say that Benny had bruised her eyeball, and what should they do??? I had no idea, so I spent the new few hours calling various doctors and trying to get an appointment with the right person, and sending a kid to the store with a list of stuff I forgot to buy, and making other kids clean up the hideous house because we are really still in shock from Christmas and the house was looking PRETTY ROUGH, and by the time I got back to my chili, it was laaate. So I threw it in the Instant Pot, because it could tenderize the meat faster.
Unless, of course, the Instant Pot float valve is mysteriously missing. Which it was. So I put everything back in the regular non-instant pot, hoped it would cook fast enough, whizzed through making some corn bread (I just used the recipe on the package, which is fine)
and some pico de galloJump to Recipe
and rescued the kitchen from complete squalor, and then one kid went to pick up some of the kids, and I called the school to tell them to tell Benny to wait for me to pick her up, and we went to the eye doctor and her eye is fine, thank God, just a little creepy; and when I got home, the chili was, if I may say so, perfect. The pork shredded readily with a wooden spoon
and when Fr. Matt got here, we had a lovely meal.
I made two kinds of ice cream: Plain vanilla, which is just two eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 cups milk, one cup heavy cream, and a dash of vanilla; and then I wanted to make mango, which I made for our anniversary baked alaska, but I couldn’t find mango pulp anywhere. (Here’s the recipe anyway, in case you can.)Jump to Recipe
In theory, you can use your big brain and make mango pulp by pureeing mango, but I was being smart (even bigger brain time), and I knew that was a bridge too far. Just altogether too much work, and I definitely didn’t have time for that. So instead (tiny brain time) I went to the other store and bought some canned peaches, and pureed those, and also bought some fresh mangos and cut them up and macerated them in sugar with (possible big brain?) a little ground cloves.
The ice cream was . . . fine. I think peach and mango would have been fine, and peach and mango and cloves might possibly have worked, but peach, mango, cloves, and onion . . . now that really is a bridge too far. Yep, everyone was too polite to mention it, but I had cut the mangos up on the wooden cutting board and they had picked up an undeniable onion flavor (very tiny brain). Oh well! That’s why I made vanilla (big brain, with vanilla ice cream on top).
Old Bay drumsticks, risotto, leftover cornbread
On Thursday I collapsed like a bunch of broccoli. I did something I almost never do: I got the kids to school (which took two trips, because one kid promised twice that she was awake, but then when it was time to go, she was just stumbling out of bed, so I had to come back for her) and then just went back to bed and conked out for another three hours. And then when I did get up, I was so dang dopey. Really the only thing I accomplished all day was to make risotto.
BUT WHAT RISOTTO. I was planning a butternut squash instant pot risotto, because I still had half the squash in the fridge left over from the chicken thigh meal; but oops, the instant pot pin was still missing. So I was tragically forced to spend a good amount of time slowly stirring ladles of chicken broth into the creamy rice and dreamily stirring it around, smelling the fragrant, buttery clouds of steam, and occasionally tasting it to make sure it was still, uh, I don’t know, I was just eating it.
Toward the end I threw in a giant mound of freshly-grated parmesan cheese and a big fistful of chopped parsley. You know what, no one complained that it didn’t have butternut squash in it.
The drumsticks were fine. I just roasted them in melted butter with plenty of Old Bay seasoning, and I set out the leftover corn bread.
We had to run off and get to an art show that the two high school girls had pieces in. Arty kids! We met the art teacher and warned her about the kid who’s coming next year. The general principle is that, if you’ve met one Fisher kid, you’ve met one Fisher kid, but this is especially true with Irene.
Seafood lo mein
And finally Friday. Man.
I haven’t made lo mein for a while. It’s easy, and Damien and Lena and I and maybe one other person really like it, but no one else does.Jump to Recipe
When I made the chili verde, I got some cup o’ noodle for the kids who wouldn’t want it, so I expect they’ll be returning to that well for this meal. I don’t insist that people eat what I make. They’re welcome to fix themselves something else, as long as they’re not rude about it and don’t make a huge mess. I aim to make foods that most of the family will enjoy for about five days a week, and then one or two meals can be things that people with more cultivated palates will enjoy. I have found that this no-pressure constant exposure to different foods is as good a way as any to introduce kids to a variety of foods, and pretty often, they start venturing into new territory of their own volition, just out of curiosity. But if they don’t (and some kids don’t), that’s okay, too. Because it’s just food. There are plenty of other things to fight about! I do care about food, a lot, but I care more about not making anyone miserable over food.
Guys, I’m trying so hard to bring this back around to bluebirds, but it’s just not working, so I’ll just say goodbye.
Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Ice Cream
For the strawberries
- 1 pint fresh strawberries
- 1-1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
For the ice cream base
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
- 1 cup milk
Hull and slice the strawberries. Mix them with the sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.
Make the ice cream base:
In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for two minutes until fluffy.
Add in the sugar gradually and whisk another minute.
Pour in the milk and cream and continue whisking to blend.
Put it together:
Mash the strawberries well, or puree them in a food processor. Stir into the ice cream base.
Add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a container, cover it, and put it in the freezer.)
One pan honey garlic chicken thighs with fall veg
Adapted from Damn Delicious
- 18 chicken thighs
- 2 lbs broccoli in spears
- 4-5 lbs potatoes in wedges, skin on if you like
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1/3+ cup honey
- 1/3+ cup brown sugar
- 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
- 9 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp dried basil
- salt and pepper
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- olive oil for drizzing
Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sauce.
In a large, greased sheet pan, spread the potatoes and squash. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Lay the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes and squash. Brush the sauce over the chicken skins.
Roast the chicken for thirty minutes or more until they are almost cooked.
Add the broccoli, arranging it on top of the potatoes and in between the chicken. Return the pan to the oven and let it finish cooking another 10 -20 minutes so you don't die. The skins should be golden and the broccoli should be a little charred.
Mango ice cream
- 30 oz (about 3 cups) mango pulp
- 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 mango, chopped into bits
In a bowl, whisk the milk, sugar, and salt until blended.
Add in the mango pulp and cream and stir with a spoon until blended.
Cover and refrigerate two hours.
Stir and transfer to ice cream maker. Follow instructions to make ice cream. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes.)
After ice cream is churned, stir in fresh mango bits, then transfer to a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for several hours.
Spicy Chili Verde
You can decrease the heat by seeding the peppers, using fewer habañeros, or substituting some milder pepper. It does get less spicy as it cooks, so don't be alarmed if you make the salsa and it's overwhelming!
- 5 lbs pork shoulder
- salt and pepper
- oil for cooking
- 2 cups chicken broth or beer (optional)
For the salsa verde:
- 4 Anaheim peppers
- 2 habañero peppers
- 4 jalapeño peppers
- 4 medium onions
- 12 tomatillos
- 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
- 1 bunch cilantro
- lime wedges
- sour cream
- additional cilantro for topping
Preheat the broiler.
Pull the husks and stems off the tomatillos and rinse them. Cut the ends off all the peppers. Grease a large pan and put the tomatillos and peppers on it. Broil five minutes, turn, and broil five minutes more, until they are slightly charred.
Take the pan out and cover the peppers and tomatillos with plastic wrap or tin foil for ten minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, pull the skins off the peppers and tomatillos. At this point, you can remove the seeds from the peppers to decrease the spiciness if you want.
Put the skinned tomatillos and peppers in a food processor or blender with the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Purée.
In a heavy pot, heat some oil. Salt and pepper the pork chunks and brown them in the oil. You will need to do it in shifts so the pork has enough room and browns rather than simmering.
When all the meat is browned, put it all in the pot and add the puréed ingredients.
Simmer at a low heat for at least three hours until the meat is tender. If you want thinner chili verde, you can add chicken broth or beer. At some point, if you don't want the pork in large chunks, press the meat with the back of a spoon to make it collapse into shreds.
Spoon the chili verde into bowls, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and top with sour cream and fresh cilantro.
Pico De Gallo
quick and easy fresh dip or topping for tacos, etc.
- 2 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced OR 1/2 serrano pepper
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1/8 cup lime juice
- dash kosher salt
Mix ingredients together and serve with your favorite Mexican food
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.
- 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:
- 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)
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.
This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!
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.
basic lo mein
for the sauce
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 5 tsp sesame oil
- 5 tsp sugar
for the rest
- 32 oz uncooked noodles
- sesame oil for cooking
- add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
- 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)
Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.
Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.
Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.
Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.