What’s for supper? Vol. 245: Pugsy

Did you read the CNN article about What it says about us when we want a cook’s recipe but not their humanity? You have to get through quite a few paragraphs before they get to the punchline, which is that, when you just skip to to the recipe and don’t read all the chit chat and cultural background and tips about the best way to deflower a butternut squash, you are at risk of treating food like a commodity

Ope, that wasn’t supposed to be a joke? All right.

Anyway, as a more or less bona fide albeit very small time food blogger, I will tell you a secret: The reason food bloggers write so much extra stuff is because that makes people stay on the page longer, and then they get paid more. That’s it. That’s the reason. Many people, me included, also enjoy talking about food; but the main driving force behind chatty food blogs is that the person who did the work needs to get paid, and that means ads, which means eyeballs, which means words and pictures.

There is nothing nefarious about this. Some of these bloggers work their absolute tails off developing recipes, producing and editing videos, taking dozens of process shots, formatting everything, and promoting it all, and it’s not a volunteer situation! They have to get paid for their work. On food blogger message boards, they’re constantly agonizing over how to keep people there longer without annoying them so much that they leave.  Of course its tiresome when the best they can come up with is very obvious padding, like,  “Do you like corn? I do. Corn is just the best. When I see corn in the supermarket, I always think, ‘Gotta get some!’ and I load my cart right up! It just feels like summer. Summer in every bite. I will show you how to get that good old summer-in-every-bite feeling with this simple recipe that shows you how to cook corn, because corn is just the best” stuff. But the recipe is free, so.

There is also nothing wrong or dehumanizing, as the CNN article suggests, with a reader deciding they don’t care about all the extries and they just want the recipe card. Sometimes it’s 5:12 PM and you just need the recipe card. It’s just something to keep in mind: Food bloggers are not ravening egomaniacs who think the world is desperate to hear their opinions on copycat Southwest Chicken Irresist-a-bowl. They’re just trying to get paid in exchange for a service, just like everyone else. (I’m different, of course. I have a weird set up and unusually supportive readers who are nonetheless probably just about done hearing my thoughts on this topic.)

WELL, now that I’ve dragged you through 424 pointless words about words about food, I guess we can talk about food. Sorry. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, fries, birthday cake

Elijah’s birthday! Following her magnificent performance with Corrie’s Teen Titans cookie cake a few weeks ago, she volunteered to do Elijah’s cake as well. This was a Sonic the Hedgehog cake

and it included Sonic, some other colorful characters that I have strenuously avoiding familiarity with, and also, if you look closely at what is lurking in the background, something called Pugsy

which is a character Elijah made up for the sole purpose of annoying his sisters. 

We intend to let Clara leave the house at some point, but not yet. Not when birthday season is just getting started. 

SUNDAY
Aldi pizza

There was some kind of hullabloo, I forget what, so we just had Aldi pizza. 

MONDAY
Blueberry chicken salad

Always popular. I drizzled a bunch of boneless chicken breasts with olive oil and seasoned them heavy with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, and broiled and sliced them up. 

We had acres and acres of leftover buns and rolls in the house, so I made a ton of croutons. Ended up burning half of them, but nobody complained. And that is the magic of using a ludicrous amount of butter on your croutons. 

We also had diced red onion, blueberries of course, and toasted almonds. I had my salad with red wine vinegar. 

Nut note: You can easily toast almonds and other nuts by spreading them on a plate and microwaving them for two minutes or so. They come out much more even than with toasting in the oven, and it’s harder to burn them. Some of us are always on the lookout for opportunities to burn things.

TUESDAY
Eggplant parmesan sandwiches on unfortunately multigrain bread

My car was in the shop, so Damien did all the driving for most of the week, which meant I had an unbroken swath of time in the kitchen. I decided to try eggplant parmesan over spaghetti. Then I thought I’d made some french bread for a side, too. Then, I decided I’d made eggplant parm sandwiches on homemade bread, instead.

So I’m making the dough with this very reliable recipe,

Jump to Recipe

and what should randomly and unpredictably occur with no possible way of being warned? I ran out of flour. Facebook friends suggested I could actually use it, wet as it was

and just give it much longer to rise, and then bake it in a hot dutch oven, and I’d get a nice crusty loaf. I didn’t have the extra time, though. So I put some oats in the blender and ground them up pretty fine. I added a bunch of this, but it still looked too wet, so I uhh dumped in some pancake mix. 

I will be honest, I was starting to unravel a tiny bit at this point. I already knew people were not going to be thrilled at having a meatless meal in the middle of the week, so I was really counting on the promise of lovely fresh bread to make it seem appealing. And now I had a bunch of fricken oats in there. 

One smart thing I did was proof the dough in the Instant Pot. I just sprayed the pot with cooking spray and chucked the dough in there, sealed the top, and pressed “yogurt.” An hour later it was more than doubled, and zero cats had trod in it, which is by no means a given when I proof dough anywhere else in the house. 

Then I divided the dough into twelve lumps and set them to rise again. They didn’t rise terribly well, but by this time it was getting close to dinner, so I baked those mofos. They came out . . .  okay. They would have been fine with soup or something, but really not what you want for sandwich rolls. 

They were kind of tired-looking, and very grainy and crumbly inside, and they tasted like oats for some unknown reason. 

The eggplant turned out perfect. I salted, rinsed, dried, breaded, and fried the slices, then layered them with sauce and mozzarella cheese, and baked the whole thing, then carved it up so everyone got a nice stack of cheesy saucy eggplant on their roll, plus a scoop of sauce on top. 

It still tasted like eggplant, though. I always forget this about eggplant. Eggplants have wasted all their splendor in how they look when they’re fresh off the vine, and by the time you eat them, they have very little left to offer, other than a faint muskiness. The mild sauce, mild cheese, and crumbly oaty bread together with eggplant was . . . well, my husband described it as “filling,” and it was that. 

The only eggplant recipe I’ve ever loved is this one for spicy, crisp fried eggplant with yogurt sauce. 

I wish I had some right now. *sob*

WEDNESDAY
Gochujang pork chops, rice, sesame carrot slaw

I had twelve unexciting pork chops and just slathered them with this spicy Korean marinade

Jump to Recipe

for about an hour before shoving them under the broiler, turning once. Voila, exciting! Great flavor, no skill required. I ordered another little tub gochujang while it cooked. 

I really wanted gochujang bulgoki with the carrots and onions and nori and everything, but I was in a rush, and had the wrong kind of pork. So I cribbed the carrot slaw recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod and made some modifications (I made it a little simpler and quite a bit sweeter). I’ll put my recipe card at the end. 

Pretty popular. It’s sweet and bright and spicy and crunchy, and made a very nice accompaniment to the somewhat heavy and sticky marinade on the meat. So, hooray, another side possibility! I’m always hunting for more sides. If I never bake another potato in my whole life, I will be content. 

THURSDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Nothing to report. Well, I usually say that my secret is I apply a little skim of mayonnaise on the outside of the bread before frying the sandwich in butter. The truth is, I apply the mayo with a spatula, and it’s considerably more than a skim. What, you want to make a skinny corpse someday? Have some mayo.

FRIDAY
Khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread)

Another new recipe that’s been haunting me for a few years now, so I’m finally trying it today. It’s little kayak-shaped bread bowls full of three kinds of cheese, with an egg cooked into it. Eh? Eh? We’ll see if I screw up the breadPROBABLY but it sounds very promising.

I also grabbed some asparagus, which I will probably sauté, and some cans of tomato soup. Sounds like dinner to me. 

5 from 2 votes
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Fried eggplant

You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

1/2 cup veg oil for frying

2 cups flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp veg oil
  • optional: kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice it into one-inch slices.
    Salt them thoroughly on both sides and lay on paper towels on a tray (layering if necessary). Let sit for half an hour (or as long as overnight) to draw out some of the moisture. 

  2. Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming. 

  3. Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.

  4. Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.

  5. Remove eggplant slices to tray with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt if you like.. You can keep them warm in the oven for a short time.  

  6. Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.

5 from 2 votes
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French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Give each loaf several deep, diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give the bread a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Sesame carrot slaw

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 2 lbs carrots, shredded
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced thin

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup veg oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup lime juice (about three large limes' worth)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 Tbsp powdered ginger
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Mix dressing ingredients together. Combine in bowl with carrots and peppers.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 109: When bad things happen to good pots

After years of training, self-discipline, and habit of forcing my will do to things that make no sense, are utterly uncalled-for, and should be shot in the face, I went shopping for more food on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Then I cooked it. But I didn’t like it!

Little did I know, the post-Thanksgiving malaise was a mere nothing compared to the stark onslaught of tragedy ahead. [The following post contains images that may be disturbing to some viewers.]

Here’s what happened:

SATURDAY
Pepperoncini beef sandwiches and chips

A delicious meal, and so fast. If you are on the fence about buying an Instant Pot for Christmas, listen to this:

I got home from shopping at 5:00. About seven minutes later, I had chopped a four-pound round roast in half, put it in the pot, and dumped in a jar of pepperoncini with the juice, and set it to cook. By 6:28, the meat was tender and ready to shred with forks.

I served it on crusty rolls with sliced provolone and horseradish sauce. No dishes except the one pot. Didn’t turn on the oven or the stove. Pressed some buttons and went to lie down until supper was ready. Everyone liked it. I was practically wriggling in delight to be using my IP again! It had been out of commission for a few weeks because I lost the steam release handle, and the replacement took forever to come. But it finally came!

Little did I know how quickly that spicy beef would turn bittersweet in my memories. Or something. You see, my friends, I didn’t put my Instant Pot away. I left it, in fact, on the stovetop. The child who cleaned the stove somehow bumped the stove dial. It turned on. We all wondered what that burning smell was. We thought maybe it was the lamp in the living room.

It was not.

Yep, that’s the base of my beloved Instant Pot. I know it’s real life, but I haven’t processed it yet. Meat cooks quickly, but grief comes slow.

But I know you’re not gonna say, “That’s why you should never leave appliances on the stove top.” I know you’re not gonna say it.

***

SUNDAY
Hamburgers and chips

Damien made the burgers. They were good.

***

MONDAY
Mismatched chicken salad

Without my Instant Pot, I was forced to roast the chicken in the oven like a brute cave-dweller. I had some pomegranates I forgot to serve at Thanksgiving, so I thought they’d make a nice salad topping, along with the leftover walnuts I’d been hoarding. But then I got some overripe tomatoes involved, so I don’t know what kind of salad this was.

We had cucumbers and some kind of raspberry vinaigrette dressing, which gave me a mild allergic reaction, much to the kid’s amusement. Well, I guess they were partly laughing at me for going ahead and finishing the salad anyway. There were walnuts at the bottom!

***

TUESDAY
Bagel, egg, and sausage sandwiches

Always a crowd pleaser. Fried eggs, round sausages, everything bagels, and cheese if you can find it. I didn’t burn the bagels, either, which means that Cardinal Burke was right.

***

WEDNESDAY
Filipino pork adobo on rice; roasted balsamic Brussels sprouts and carrots

Two new recipes on Wednesday; two!! One was a bit of a disappointment, one was a pleasant surprise. The punch line is, even if they had both turned out well, they didn’t belong in the same meal together. Oh, well.

I tried this Filipino pork adobo recipe from Salu Salo. It was certainly easy, fast, and cheap, but the sauce turned out gray and soupy, rather than a rich, glossy chestnut, like in the picture; and the flavor was a mite harsh. I might actually make it again, but maybe adding vegetables in to mitigate the strong flavor of the sauce. I ended up cooking the meat in the slow cooker at the end, it was quite tender.

Oh, I happened to grab some sriracha-flavored toasted sesame seeds (I’m just linking because I’m an Amazon hound. I did not pay $11.99 for 3.5 oz. of sesame seeds!) so I sprinkled those on top of the meat and rice. I’m not crazy about sriracha in general, but these little crunchy kicks of heat were a nice addition to the meal, and would do a lot to perk up, say, plain steamed broccoli.

My post-Thanksgiving funk prevented me from planning a suitable side dish. Brussels sprouts were on sale, and we had a lot of baby carrots which I keep buying so I will eat them instead of fruit snacks. So I did a quick ingredient search and found this recipe from Damn Delicious. It was so good! Sweet, with tons of flavor. I didn’t have cranberries, but I may buy some to make this recipe again. It would definitely make a better side dish for something not southeast asian.

Not a ravishing photo, but you get the idea. Sweet, charred veggies with a little crunch left in them. Mmwah.

***

THURSDAY
Pizza

And we had to cut it with scissors. Everybody’s against me.

***

FRIDAY
I guess pasta. 

Now tell me something good.

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)