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)