The theme for the week is YOUR FRIEND BUTTER. Butter is your friend. Don’t listen to your doctor. Your doctor is DOO-DOO. You need more butter!
And you also need my pal Fannie Farmer. This week, what with the cold and the colored leaves and the swirling mists and the ennui, I found myself turning again and again to this cookbook I’ve been using for over twenty years now. Good old Fannie taught me how to roast pork ribs, how to make pie crust and pie filling, how to wait for the onions in onion soup, and so much more.
Fun fact: The author, Marion Cunningham, was briefly married to a then-unknown Thurgood Marshall when they were both teenagers. The couple broke up within days of the wedding, apparently after a bitter all-night dispute over rigatoni.
That’s . . . that’s not true. I’m sorry.
Short version of what we had this week: Butter.
Chicken burgers, chips, carrots and hummus
I have no memory of Saturday.
Chicken pecan salad; apple pie
They keep asking for this dish, so I keep making it.
Coat chicken breasts in oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them in the oven, then cube the meat. Serve over greens with dried cranberries, toasted pecans (or almonds or walnuts), crumbled blue cheese or feta cheese, diced red onions, and some kind of sweet vinaigrette. This time we had pomegranate. I burned the nuts, but they were still good.
I finally got around to making a pie, long after we ate up all the apples we picked at the orchard. I used the Fannie Farmer pie crust, but used butter instead of shortening. I also did the trick of freezing the sticks of butter for half an hour and then shredding them with a cheese grater. This does 90% of the work of incorporating the fat into the flour without overworking it, and this crust turned out light and supple without sacrificing taste. It won’t work on Thanksgiving, though. It only works if I make a pie for no particular reason. On Thanksgiving, my pie crust will be doo-doo.
I rolled out the dough for the top crust and turned it over to the kids, who used Halloween cookie cutters to make a pie of great spooooookiness.
They used kind of a lot of them, so it has sort of an indeterminate “well of souls” look, I guess. I wet the crust a bit and sprinkled sugar on the top, also spooky. You could also brush on a little beaten egg white to give it some gloss, if you’re into that.
Oven roasted pork ribs, rice, mashed butternut squash, apple pie
A very fine autumn meal
and still the best way to prepare pork ribs indoors. Just plenty of salt and pepper and a very hot oven and turn the ribs once, until they are browned. So juicy and easy. Be a meat hero!
For the squash, I cut them in half, scooped out the pulp and seeds, and just cooked them as-is in a medium oven until they were soft, maybe 30 minutes or so. Peeled off the skin and mashed the squash up with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cozy.
The kids were by far most excited by the rice, which I cooked in beef broth instead of water. This is their idea of Ultimate Fanciness.
We had an entire leftover pie from Sunday! I don’t understand what is happening to our family. “Leftover pie.” Clarification?
Taco Tuesday! and corn chips
I learned from previous weeks that too much cumin can make your taco meat taste like angry dirt, so I eased up on the cumin and added plenty of salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder.
The iceberg lettuce I was saving turned out to be cabbage. So I shredded that, and it was fine. Our fridge has a trick of freezing everything in back, and it turns out sour cream does not recover from being frozen. It gets separated and mealy, bleh. But we did have tomatoes and plenty of cheese, plus jarred jalapeno rings. Good enough for the likes of us.
Onion soup, Italian sausages, beer bread
Just sausages! I really wanted onion soup, but a significant faction in the family needs to have meat. A few pounds of sweet Italian sausages in the pan, and there it was: Supper.
I absolutely love this simple onion soup recipe. I used about 6-7 pounds of yellow onions and just acres and acres of butter. I used beef broth instead of water (skip the salt if you use broth), and tons of pepper and Parmesan cheese at the end. Nothing to it, and it doesn’t look like much, but it’s so good.
Beer bread is another recipe I won’t shut up about. It’s so easy, a . . . a . . . I don’t know, a naked toddler could make it.
You don’t need quite as much butter as the recipe says (and it’s not strictly necessary to bathe in the flour, either), but as long as you don’t be a big lazy baby and you take the time to sift, this bread comes up fluffy and golden and moist every time, with a gorgeous cobbled crust.
It’s much less crumbly and cake-like and more chewy and bread-like than most quick breads. And you can make it all in one bowl. Mix up the dry, add the beer, stir it up and chunk it in the pan. It says to bake an hour, but start checking at 40 minutes or so. It has an earthy, slightly honeyed taste. (This varies with the beer, of course. I used Narragansett.)
Grilled cheese with ham and apple
Extremely popular here. They didn’t even ask if there were chips coming. (There were not.)
I put a layer of cheddar cheese top and bottom, with the ham and apples in the middle, and then put the sandwiches in the oven for a bit after grilling, to make sure it’s all melted. I have been using this wonderful sourdough bread from Aldi lately. It’s perfect for grilled sandwiches.
We make our grilled sandwiches with a thin layer of mayo on the outside. It doesn’t give it a mayonnaise taste, but it adds a sort of thin, crunchy crust to the entire sandwich. (Yes, you still use butter on the pan after spreading mayo on the bread. Yes, this is why we’re fat. WORTH IT.)
I really wanted some leftover onion soup, but the sandwich was completely filling, and I had to admit, I was truly stuffed. So I just ate the sandwiches the kids didn’t eat. Whatever, I went running this morning. Whatever!
Giant pancake with chocolate chips, scrambled eggs
I felt guilty about something last week, I forget what, so I bought a bag of chocolate chips.
Giant pancake, if you don’t know, is this: You take an entire box of pancake mix and add enough water to make thick batter. Butter a pan, spread the batter in, and bake at 350 for ten minutes or so. Serve in wedges and go lie down. Bring a stick of butter with you, just in case.