What’s for supper? Vol. 275: It’s “tah-ZHEEN”

Happy Friday! Or whatever! Tell me it’s any day at all, and I’ll believe you. Tell me it’s the 34th Throosday in Blorgvent and I’ll believe you. It’s been the kind of week where I’m literally dreaming about sleeping. I seem to have two weeks of What’s For Suppers to catch up on, so I’ll just hit the highlights of last week: 

Two Fridays ago was ramen with shrimp, broccoli, and soft boiled eggs. I’m sharing a pic because I so infrequently manage to actually soft boil eggs. I always go hard. 

The shrimp was tasty. I think Damien sauteed it in sesame oil and garlic and then squeezed lemon over it, or something along those lines. 

Another fine meal was toward the end of Chanukah, when we had
Potato latkes and homemade applesauce, smoked chicken thighs and homemade barbecue sauce

Latkes are easy to make,

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but when you’re making a lot of them, it’s a problem to know how to manage all those potato shreds ahead of time. Normally, peeled potatoes discolor very quickly, and I usually solve this by keeping them in water until I’m ready to use them; but if you’re going to fry several batches of them, it’s a hassle to get all the water off first so the hot oil doesn’t spatter. This year, I tried something new: I shredded the potatoes in the food processor, and then I just rinsed the shreds thoroughly in very cold water, left them in the colander, and covered them with plastic wrap. Guess what happened? THEY STAYED WHITE. 

Amazing. 

Now, the absolute truth is that, when I added the eggs and flour and salt and pepper, the potatoes ended up giving up so much water, they were pretty wet anyway, and I still ended up having to squeeze the mixture pretty vigorously before putting the latkes in the oil. But I still got a little thrill because at least they weren’t brownish purple. 

The latkes turned out well, crisp on the outside and tender and mealy inside. It’s dark as heck and after all these years, I haven’t figure out how to rig up some good indoor lighting to take good food pictures during winter, so here you go:

We had them with sour cream and homemade applesauce, which I made in the Instant Pot. I peeled and cored a few dozen apples and put them in the IP with about a cup of water and cooked them on high for maybe eight minutes, twelve minutes, I don’t know. Then I drained off what turned out to be too much water and added some butter, vanilla, and cinnamon, and gave it a little stir, and that was it. Hot damn, homemade apple sauce is just the best thing in the world. 

I was astonished at what a lovely rose color I got even without the peels. 

I don’t think I added sugar, because these are still local, in-season apples and the flavor shouldn’t be tampered with much.  I used Cortland, Macintosh, and Granny Smith, which are all on the tart end of the scale. 

Damien made his wonderful sugar smoked chicken thighs out on the grill, and he used the same spices to made a homemade barbecue sauce which turned out a little spicier than expected, so he served it for dipping, rather than brushing it on. 

Man, it smelled good in the house, with the smoked chicken, the warm apple sauce, and whatnot. A strange meal, but hearty and tasty. I never know what to make with latkes! The only thing I can think of is chicken soup, which we have at other times, and brisket, which I remember from my childhood with loathing. 

Then I squeaked in a bit batch of rugelach on the very last day of Chanukah. I do love rugelach, and I give you my blessing to make them for Christmas, because they are delicious and not hard to make and they’re adorable. (And you can take advantage of my brilliant ooze rescue method.)

I ended up with four varieties this year: Cinnamon honey walnut, ginger walnut, cherry, and blueberry. Lovely, lovely. They ended up a little fluffier and less flaky than normal this year, for reasons unknown, but I did not mind.  

Last Wednesday was Benny’s birthday and she requested Damien’s delectable basil chicken cutlets with homemade red sauce and provolone. He uses this Deadspin recipe and it has never been anything but excellent. Juicy chicken in a fluffy breading with a basil leaf tucked under a slice of provolone, served with a scoop of hot red sauce over it, so the cheese melts and melds the whole thing together. 

He made so much, we had it the second day, layered into a casserole dish and heated up like a giant chicken lasagna. So good. 

Over the weekend was her birthday party, which we managed to have almost entirely outdoors, because NH is all ate up with Covid again. We had a pallet bonfire, and the kids whooped it up on the trampoline in the dark with glow sticks, and then we came in for presents, went outside to set off fireworks, and came in for cake. Some party photos on Facebook here and here

We decided to make bonfire cupcakes, which are very easy to make, but are pretty impressive. Chocolate frosting, broken hazelnut Pirouline wafers for the logs, shredded coconut with green food coloring for the grass. We put a bunch of Jolly Ranchers in a bag and smashed it with a hammer, then spread the chunks in a parchment paper-lined pan in a low oven for a few minutes until the candy melted. Then we let it harden into a sheet, then cracked it into little “flames.” Stick a few in between the logs, sprinkle on some gold sugar for embers, and you have little cupcake campfires. 

 

Top each one with a mini marshmallow on a toothpick, and it’s just cute.

I did toast each one with a butane lighter because my life was ruined anyway.

And that was last week! This week, let’s see. 

MONDAY
Carbonara 

A sweet Facebook friend sent me three pounds of most excellent smoked bacon from Tennessee, with a warning not to attempt to eat it straight like breakfast bacon, because it’s powerful stuff.  My dears, I’ve never had such bacon. Such an intense, earthy, smoky flavor. It was really exciting! I really get the best mail and have the nicest readers. I didn’t get very good pictures because I was in a bit of a hurry to start gobbling it up.

If you’re not familiar with carbonara, it may be the most cheering, flavorful dish you can make with the fewest number of ingredients. Just pasta, bacon, eggs, pepper, and parm. Well, I guess that’s five, and maybe not so surprising that it tastes so good, but it really is wonderful, and you should make it soon. 

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TUESDAY
Vaguely Mediterranean chicken on pita with yogurt sauce; Greek vegetable salad

Not exactly shawarma, but I did throw together several of the ingredients for the marinade

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and put some chicken thighs in it for several hours. Then I broiled it, turning once

and served it with pita pockets and yogurt sauce, and a little salad. Pretty tasty with very little effort. 

I served it with grape tomatoes, baby cucumbers, black olives, red onion, fresh parsley and dill, kosher salt, and olive oil.

We also had some kalamata olives, which I ended up serving on the side, thinking they had pits in them, but they did not, oops. And some hunks of feta cheese. 

It was a really good meal, and I liked it a lot. Fresh squeezed lemon juice in the marinade on a Tuesday! Freshly pressed garlic in the yogurt sauce! Two kinds of fresh herbs! I’m making a fuss because NOBODY ELSE DID, which for some reason still bothers me even at this late date after all these years. Oh well. 

WEDNESDAY
My birthday!

The kids had chicken nuggets and Damien and I ran away to Luca’s, where we haven’t been for many a year. I went ahead and ordered the garlicky escargot, because I’ve never had escargot, and if not when your husband has offered to take you to a Rather Expensive Restaurant, then when? 

They were . . . fine. I don’t know why you would have escargot if you could have seafood, though. They were just kind of chewy and muddy, kind of like if someone was trying to somehow reconstitute mussels or oysters from scratch but had only heard them described. So now I know! 

Then, after surreptitiously looking up how to pronounce “tagine,” I ordered the Moroccan lamb tagine, and that was a good idea.

The lamb was braised tenderly in a lovely, slightly spicy broth, and it had carrots, fingerling potatoes, apricots, and pistachios, and I forget what else, served with a yogurt sauce. Very  pretty, warming, and interesting to eat. I also had a couple of delicious cocktails made with pear vodka, ginger liqueur, and nutmeg on the rim, and the whole meal was extremely pleasant and autumnal. 

Then we saw West Side Story, which Damien and I both loved. The older kids and Damien got me excellent, thoughtful gifts, and the younger kids made me wonderful cards. (The middle kids acted like I was some sort of vaguely familiar insect who was late picking them up, but what are you gonna do.) 

THURSDAY
Korean beef bowl on rice; sugar snap peas

Always tasty, even when you run out of brown sugar and have to use honey, and don’t have red pepper flakes and have to use chili powder. I did put red pepper flakes on the list right away, though. We felt that loss more keenly than the brown sugar part. Although it was a bit dry, because we didn’t have the sugar melting into a sauce. Being hungry helped. Write that down. 

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FRIDAY
Omelettes and hash browns

But I have to buy more eggs! The kids have been doing distance school all week, and apparently that means Egg Time. 

Potato latkes

Serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce for Hanukkah or ANY TIME. Makes about 25+ latkes

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs potatoes, peeled
  • 6 eggs beaten
  • 6 Tbsp flour (substitute matzoh meal for Passover)
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Grate the potatoes. Let them sit in a colander for a while, if you can, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. 

  2. Mix together the eggs, salt and pepper, and flour. Stir into the potato mixture and mix well. 

  3. Turn the oven on to 350 and put a paper-lined pan in the oven to receive the latkes and keep them warm while you're frying. 

  4. Put 1/4 to 1/2 and inch of oil in your frying pan and heat it up until a drop of batter will bubble.  

  5. Take a handful of the potato mixture, flatten it slightly, and lay it in the pan, leaving room between latkes. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, making several batches to leave room in between latkes. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Eat right away or keep warm in oven, but not too long. 

  6. Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce or apple slices. 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

Rugelach

These are tender little pastries for Chanukah or any time. Use whatever kind of filling you like: Jams, preserves, cinnamon sugar, nutella, etc. These are time consuming, but don't take much skill, and they freeze well, so they make pretty little gifts.

Servings 80 rugelach

Ingredients

dough

  • half pound butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup or more sugar, for rolling

filling

  • 1/4-1/2 cup preserves or other filling
  • 1/4-1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add in the flour and keep mixing until smooth. You can do this by hand, but it will take a while! The dough should be fairly stiff and not sticky when it's done.

  2. Divide the dough into 8 balls. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat the oven to 400.

  4. Prepare a pan by lining it with parchment paper, then spraying a baking rack and putting the rack on the parchment paper. Line a second pan with parchment paper, to which you will remove the rugelach when they come out of the oven.

  5. Use the sugar to cover your work space, and use a rolling pin to roll a ball of dough into a round shape the size of a large plate. It should be thin enough to flap a bit when you give it a shake. If your rolling pin sticks, sprinkle more sugar on. You can turn the dough over to make sure both sides get sugared. It doesn't have to be perfectly round, as it will be cut into pieces.

  6. Spread the jam or other filling over the dough, leaving an open space in the middle. If you're adding nuts, sprinkle them over the filling.

  7. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 16-20 triangles.

  8. Roll each triangle up from the outside in. Place each rolled rugelach on the sprayed baking rack on the pan, with the skinny point down. They puff up a bit, so leave the space of one rugelach in between.

  9. Repeat for each ball of dough.

  10. Bake for ten minutes. If the dough isn't golden brown, give it another two minutes. These go from perfect to burnt very quickly, so be alert.

  11. When they bake, the filling will ooze out and pool and burn on the parchment paper, but the rugelach will not burn.

  12. When the rugelach come out of the oven, immediately use a butter knife to transfer them to another pan or rack to cool.

  13. Once they are cool, they can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the freezer for weeks without harm.

 

Spaghetti carbonara

An easy, delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.

  2. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.

  3. 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.

  4. Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.

 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can improve the flavor by using fresh garlic and fresh ginger, but powdered works fine, too. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking. 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil (you can skip this, really, or use olive oil, but it adds flavor)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (or 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed (or 3/4 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the sesame or other oil in a skillet. Lightly cook then garlic, then add the ground beef and cook, breaking into bits, until the meat is all browned. Drain most of the fat. 

  2. Mix together the brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and pepper flakes, and add to the ground beef. Or you can actually just chuck everything in the pan and stir it up right there. Cook a little longer until everything is combined and hot. 

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.