What’s for supper? Vol. 273: Bread in every language, straight from the heart

I almost forgot to do a food post! And that would be a shame, because I have so many carbs to tell you about. Plus rat on a stick. 

SATURDAY
Burgers and fries

Saturday was forty-three years ago. 

SUNDAY
Pasta  with red sauce and sausages, garlic bread

Damien made this and it was deliciouso. He didn’t write anything down, but he said it was basically like in Godfather. 

from Godfather GIFs via Gfycat

No, sadly, not that part. The Clemenza part with the little sugar and the little wine.

 

via Gfycat

And that’s my secret. 

It really was highly delicious, and I don’t just mean the sight of my husband in an apron. 

I don’t know how we got along all these years without cheap parmesan wedges from Aldi, to be shaved directly over one’s steaming plate of pasta. 

MONDAY
Ham, mashed potatoes, string beans with caramelized pecans

The children were jonesing for their favorite meal, ham, peas, and mashed potatoes. I’m not crazy about ham, but it sure is easy, especially if you buy a fully-cooked one and cut it up first, then heat it up. And that’s my secret. Oh, and I had some of that amazing stone ground mustard with the ham.

It’s sweet and tasty and makes ham much more interesting. It has these weird little popping bits in it that I guess are mustard seeds? I don’t know, but it’s super fun to eat. 

I thought we had frozen peas, but it turned out I only had some bag of fresh string beans, alas.

Right before dinner, I got the idea to spiff them up a little bit. (It was a lot of steps, but they were all fast, easy steps.) You boil the string beans in salty water and then dunk them in ice water to stop the cooking, and dry them off. Melt a bunch of butter and brown sugar in a pan, toast the nuts in the oven, then caramelize the nuts in the butter and sugar. Then put the string beans into the butter-sugar-nut mixture and heat it all up. There’s a recipe, but that’s basically all it is (I assume. I skimmed, I skimmed.) 

 

Everyone liked them, and they ate a lot more vegetables than they would have if I hadn’t essentially made them into candy, let me assure you [nods wisely with sugar trickling out of ears].

 

TUESDAY
French onion soup and cheesy ranch pull-apart bread with bacon

This is where the week really started to get away from me. And honestly, I’m thinking back to the conversation I was having with my husband about how my weight loss just isn’t coming along at the pace I would like, and, well, okay, I hear it. Anyway, you fry up three pounds of bacon, set them aside to cool, melt two sticks of butter and add a packet or two of Ranch dressing seasoning and mix well. Cut up three sturdy loaves of bread in a criss-cross pattern, leaving the bottom intact so it holds together. Shred two or three 8-ounce blocks of cheddar cheese. Stuff the cheese and bacon down into the cuts in the bread, and then pour the ranch butter all over the loaves. 

Preheat the oven, wrap the loaves in tin foil, and bake for 15 minutes or so. Then unwrap them and bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the bread is a little toasted. Serve immediately, before you come to your senses. 

I also made a nice pot of simple french onion soup using this very basic recipe.

Jump to Recipe

I think I actually increased the onions and butter, decreased the water, and increased the wine, because, I don’t know, it was raining. I had my soup with plenty of fresh parmesan on top. I don’t bother baking the parmesan on, because I’m hungry. 

A very fine meal. Possibly more butter than is strictly recommended for a single human to consume in one sitting. Better lie down. 

WEDNESDAY
Nachos

Not gonna lie, these were fairly lousy nachos. I was just very distracted. One pan was chips, plain ground beef, and cheese, and one pan was chips, ground beef with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper, and cheese. I hurled some sour cream and salsa at the table and went to lie down. 

THURSDAY
Khachapuri and sausages

On Thursday, I got my mojo back and was ready to start carbing it up again. We had khachapuri — Georgian boat-shaped bread stuffed with cheese, with an egg baked into it — once, back in the spring, and they were delicious, but very labor intensive. This time I bought some pizza dough, and that sped things up tremendously. I made four boats with each ball of dough. 

You roll or stretch the dough into a round about 10 inches wide, then roll the two ends toward the middle, like a scroll. Pinch the rolled ends together on each side to make a gondola shape, then stuff the inside with a cheese mixture (I used ricotta, mozzarella, and feta). Brush with egg wash, bake for a while, then make a little well, crack an egg into it, and bake a little longer until the white is set but the yolk is still a little loose.

Mmmmm.

Top with fresh parsley and some red pepper flakes and freshly-ground sea salt.

Mother of pearl, these were tasty. The cheese stuffing is fluffy and mild and the whole thing is just so fragrant and eggy and cozy.  I fried up a bunch of breakfast sausage to go with it, and it was a delightfully filling meal. Probably the perfect November food.

FRIDAY
Domino’s

Supposed to be homemade pizza, which I felt a little sheepish about since we’d already had so many bread and cheese meals already, but I forgot to take the dough out in time. I was feeling fairly floppy anyway, and fell asleep in the adoration chapel, and we’re going to see a kid in a play tonight, so Damien made the call to Domino’s, and lo, it was a good call. 

The only other thing I have to add is that I turned my back for one minute and somebody did this to my menu planning board.

I want it on the record that not once, not even during Lent, did I serve rat on a stick. Gruel, maybe. 

Simple French onion soup

Serve with a piece of toasted baguette at the bottom of each bowl. Finish with cheese on top.

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cups onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 4-6 cups beef broth (can also use chicken broth or a combination of water and white wine)
  • pepper
  • parmesan or mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, melt the butter and then add the onions. Cook very slowly over a low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and somewhat darkened.

  2. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Stir in the flour and mix to coat.

  3. Add the broth (or water and wine). Add pepper to taste and simmer for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer.

  4. Serve with a hunk of toasted bread in the bottom of each bowl. Sprinkle cheese on top, and if you have oven-safe dishes, brown under the broiler to form a skin on top of the soup.

5 cooking terms that no longer frighten me

There are only so many amusing anecdotes you can squeeze out of hot dogs, chicken burgers, tacos, and pizza; and if cooking the same things every week is tedious, then writing about cooking them is enough to make you want to hurl yourself into a cooking pot.

Thus, my weekly “What’s for Supper?” posts (see sidebar), which are hurtling toward Vol. 100 in a matter of months, have propelled me to learn more about cooking than I picked up in the first fifteen+ years of marriage.

To my delight, lots of cooking terminology that seemed so complicated and sophisticated is pretty basic stuff, and well within my grasp– as long as I look it up ahead of time, and don’t attempt to learn a new technique on the fly. Here are a few:

1. Braising

 I was under the impression that braising required leaping flames, arcane implements made out of brass or copper, and possibly some shouting. Turns out I have been braising all my life. It’s is a two-step process for cooking flavorful meat, where you use high, dry heat first (searing), then low, moist heat (stewing). For more details, see “Four Simple Rules for Braising Anything” from Bon Appetit.

2.  Deglazing

In my head, deglazing could only be accomplished by a subtle but masterful motion of the wrist and split-second timing. Actually, it just means you’re done cooking something up in a pan, and you don’t want to waste all those yummy little blackened scraps and flavorful gunk that’s stuck to the bottom. So you dump in a cup of broth or wine or whatever, and scrape it up, incorporating all the good stuff. That’s it. Adds tons of flavor and makes the pan easier to wash, too.

3. Caramelizing

  I always thought this involved some kind of sugar syrup, because, duh, “caramel.” I was half right. Caramelization is an irreversible chemical process wherein water is released and sugar is broken down, producing a characteristic flavor. Sometimes you do add sugar, as when you’re caramelizing carrots or nuts; but onions already have sugar in them. (Many vegetables have sugar in them, actually, but wonderful things happen when you call it forth from onions in particular.)

The only thing you need to know about caramelizing onions is that it takes forehhhhhhhver. I always figure on 40 minutes. If you see an article titled “How to caramelize onions quickly,” spit bitterly upon the floor and turn away, because it’s a dirty lie. More tips for caramelizing onions well from Bon Appetit. More grousing about the fog of deceit surrounding the issue from Slate.

4. Chiffonade

Not, it turns out, a term for those weird paper booties they put on the turkey in Amelia Bedelia. Nope, a chiffonade is just what you get when you take a bunch of edible leaves, roll them up, and then slice them into thin ribbons. Pretty important if you still have Instagram friends who won’t blacklist you on account of your wantonly frequent photos of soup. WANTON soup, get it?

But seriously, adding a garnish of greens on top of a dish isn’t just to make it pretty. Fresh herbs have a different taste from the ones cooked in, and they will give the finished dish lovely boost in flavor.

5. Pickling

This one doesn’t quite belong in this list, oh well. Everyone knows what pickling is (and I tried it once. Only once. Mold, salt, broken glass, crushed dreams, and a cabinet that will never smell the same. So now I buy my pickles), but did you know you can quick pickle stuff? Like, you can pickle in the morning and eat it for dinner?

Take some carrots, radishes, cucumbers, daikon, or whatever, and slice it thin, and chuck it in a jar with some vinegar (any kind) and a little water, and stir in some sugar or honey. By meal time, they will be exciting, and you can make a boring sandwich feisty and fun.

How about you? Have you gotten past some intimidating technical terms?
And how do we feel about that pig eating the wolf who ate his brothers, anyway? Can we assume that, since the three of them went their separate ways and had such widely divergent worldviews vis a vis homebuilding and security, maybe the third pig actually derived some brutal satisfaction from knowing what that wolf’s flesh was made of? Or did he just boil him EXECUTION SYTLE but not eat him? Or what?

***
Pig and wolf picture by Leonard Leslie Brooke (1862-1940) (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/15661) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
F
ood images:
Caramelized onions: Stacy Spensley via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/7376763436 (Creative Commons)
Chiffonade: Stacy Spensley via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/7376763436 (Creative Commons)
Deglazing: Scott Feldstein via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/scottfeldstein/5635765929 (Creative Commons)
Braising: via Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/red-meat-dish-25273/
Pickled veg: ih via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/irisphotos/14680773562 (Creative Commons)