Here it is Friday again! What do you know about that.
Here’s what we ate this week:
Grilled ham and cheese, veg and dip
Damien made these, and they were yummy. Nothing much else to report, except look at the pretty dish Clara made.
Bacon was on sale and we had leftover parmesan in the house, so I was powerless. Carbonara was calling and would not be denied.
Here’s my easy peasy nicely greasy recipe:Jump to Recipe
And very good it was, pasta carbonara.
Ham, peas, mashed potatoes
The meal for when ham is on sale for Easter and you’re planning to make a big Passover meal the day before Easter so you don’t need ham for that, but despoiling the Egyptians is always in season. Or something. Anyway, the kids like ham.
I don’t know why there is a marble on my plate.
On Monday, despite being full of potatoes, I was already getting excited about Tuesday’s meal, when I would finally get to use my little bottle of hing.
Hing is the Hindi word for asafoetida, which means “stinky ass.” Not really, but kinda really. It is made from the resin of giant fennel plants and whoever smelled it and thought, “boy, I bet this is just the thing to make my food taste really excellent!” must have been super high. It smells like . . . did you ever have a kid who got really really attached to a pair of green rubber boots with frogs on the toe, and he insists on wearing them all summer long, but won’t wear socks? And then finally takes them off and fills them with hot shrimp ramen? Hing kind of smells like the ramen that comes out of those boots.
So naturally I was quite excited about adding this ingredient to my family’s menu. I decided to test the waters with another ingredient I also haven’t tried before: Flattened rice.
Look at those guys! Look at them dance!
I cannot possibly miss when I have poha and hing on my side!
The recipe I landed on described itself as “mild,” and “easy” and “quick” and “for complete dumbasses” so I thought it would be a good first foray.
Benny and Corrie had never seen a fresh coconut before, so we had fun stabbing it in the eyes and beating it over its hairy head with a hammer. Then I sent them off to bed and shredded the meat, which I was was the boring part, but really I wanted to keep all the end pieces for myself to gnaw on.
Then I bagged it for the next day, pretty excited about the poha to come.
Indian roast chicken, coconut poha, mango
First let me tell you about the main dish, which was roast chicken. As I have mentioned, I get kind of crabby when I have to roast a whole chicken, but mixing together a bunch of pungent Indian spices did cheer me up. I followed this easy recipe from Aarthi at YummyTummy, and it turned out great. I quadrupled the recipe and it made more than enough marinade paste for two six-pound chickens.
You just stab the chickens all over, rub the marinade in, including inside cavity, and roast it covered, and then uncovered. You do have to change the temperature once, and baste it toward the end.
It was juicy and delicious. I didn’t have every last ingredient, but it had a little fiery burst at the first bite, which mellowed out quickly and just became warm and cheering and lively. The kids are very quickly acclimating to Indian flavors, and most of them ate the chicken happily, including the rather spicy skin, which was very crisp and packed with flavor.
Definitely going to make this again. I may keep it covered a bit longe, just to avoid blackening the marinade quite so much. That being said, several people went back to the kitchen to scrape pieces of said blackened marinade off the pan after dinner, so the color clearly wasn’t a deterrent.
And now for the poha. I more or less followed this recipe from SharmisPassions , except I had peanuts instead of cashews, dried ground mustard instead of mustard seeds, and I didn’t have any jeera. I also misread the directions and left the nuts in the pan when I was tempering the peppers and curry leaves and spices, so the nuts got a little burned.
THAT BEING SAID, I had hing, darn it! I had been led to believe (possibly by myself) that if you have hing, the magic of umami is going to grab you by the taste buds and drag you straight to flavortown.
This . . . did not happen. I swear I used plenty of it, and I had so many fresh ingredients, fresh curry leaves, fresh coconut, and did I mention hing, and I let it splutter and everything like the recipe said! But the whole dish just tasted like hot wet shredded paper with burned peanuts in it.
Oh well. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t taste like much of anything, and was more baffling than anything else. I don’t know, maybe I got confused somehow and messed up the proportions when I was sizing it up. I have lots more poha, and I’m definitely going to try again! Just . . . not that particular recipe. (I don’t blame the recipe, but it’s cursed now, and I have to move along.)
The chicken was great, the poha was at least hot, and the fresh mango was nice. Still a pretty good meal, just weird.
Chinese pork, chopped salad, pineapple
Now this was a bit of a triumph, and made me feel better about my cooking. I had this big lump of pork and only the very vaguest of plans. I had bought a little red cabbage, and a bag of kale on clearance — sale kale, if you will — and some crunchy noodles, and that was as far as I got. It seemed like we’ve been having a lot of rice lately, so I wanted to make something different. And it was kind of late in the day to start char siu.
So I mooched around some recipes, and decided to try something that I thought should work. Famous last words, right?
I put together some classic Chinese roast pork ingredients — soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, white pepper, and five spice — and I just mixed it together and hucked it all in the Instant Pot with the meat for 22 minutes. It came out undercooked, which was okay, because I was planning to finish it on the stovetop.
I put the sliced meat in a big pan with all the sauce and just simmered it slowly
stirring it occasionally, to make sure all the sides of the pieces of meat got coated. And I’ll be darned if it didn’t reduce way down until it was sticky and glossy and dark reddish-brown, and truly delicious.
It took about half an hour, maybe forty minutes, and it really, really tasted like restaurant roast Chinese pork. I was so pleased. Very little effort. I was afraid the pork would be tough with all that cooking, but it was not.
I chopped up the red cabbage and kale and just served the meat on top of it with the crunchy noodles, and it was fab. I bought some bottled sesame dressing, but ended up not using it, because the meat had such an intense flavor. I served pineapple on the side just to round the meal out.
Extremely pleased with this. I was so nervous about serving meat without rice, but I think it worked so well. The meat has a very potent flavor and is very sticky, so it was good to have the fresh crunchy vegetables for texture contrast, and the extra snap of the thin noodles made it perfect.
Here’s the recipe with the exact directions:Jump to Recipe
You could really taste the white pepper in the sauce, too. I highly recommend getting a canister of white pepper to keep around, even if you only use it every once in a while. There really is no substitute for that strange little sizzle it adds. (Warning: It smells like horse manure for some reason.)
Burgers and chips
When I tell you how relieved I was to look at the menu and see it was just burgers and chips. I know I’m the one who makes these stupid complicated menus, but still! Why do I do this to myself! Because I like good food, that’s why. But still, I was relieved. And burgers are good food, too.
I was determined to take a more interesting picture of a burger, and the only thing I could think of was to deliberately stick my finger in the frame.
This struck me as hilarious at the time. Then I took a two-hour nap.
In other food news, on Thursday morning we did try poha again, this time as a sweet breakfast dish. I soaked the poha in water for about five minutes, squeezed it out, doused it in milk, and heated it in the microwave for two minutes, then put honey on top.
(It occurred to me too late that I could have just soaked it in milk and saved myself a step, and also made it taste richer.) The little kids liked it. I tried a bit and it was nice, reminiscent (understandably) of rice pudding. My kids like hot cereals — oatmeal, cornmeal mush — and this is along those lines, although the grains of rice don’t meld together into porridge but stay separate and sort of fluffy. Neat stuff!
Sabanekh bil hummus for adults, tuna for kids
We had this stew just a few weeks ago, but we’re headed toward spring and I only have a little bit of soup season left. It’s been blustery and nippy out, so a nice pot of this earthy, nourishing Palestinian spinach and chickpea soup with a lemony twist while the predicted rain washes away the last of the snow is going to be just the thing.
And if you don’t like it, you can have tuna! Sprinkle some hing on it, see if I care.
An easy, delicious meal.
- 3 lbs bacon
- 3 lbs spaghetti
- 1 to 1-1/2 sticks butter
- 6 eggs, beaten
- lots of pepper
- 6-8 oz grated parmesan cheese
Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.
Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.
Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add the butter, pieces of bacon, parmesan cheese, and pepper and mix it up until the butter is melted.
Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.
Quick Chinese "Roast" Pork Strips
If you have a hankering for those intensely flavorful strips of sweet, sticky Chinese roast pork but you don't want to use the oven for some reason, this works well, and you can have it in about an hour and a half, start to finish. You will need to use a pressure cooker and then finish it on the stovetop.
- 4+ lbs pork roast
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup oyster sauce
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2 tsp Chinese five spice
Blend all sauce ingredients together. Put the pork in the Instant Pot, pour the sauce over it, close the lid, close the valve, and set to high pressure for 22 minutes.
When pork is done, vent. Remove pork and cut into strips, saving the sauce.
Put the pork in a large sauté pan with the sauce and heat on medium high, stirring frequently, for half an hour or more, until sauce reduces and becomes thick and glossy and coats the meat.