What’s for supper? Vol. 315: When in doubt, add butter

Another week! Nobody told me that Halloween was Monday, so now I’m scurrying around like a DIY rat, scouring the local stores for yellow duct tape and a green knit hat and other things that ought to be easy to find but aren’t. And it just now occurred to me I could spray paint a hat the right color, couldn’t I? And so I shall. Anyway, despite the scurrying, we had some pretty spectacular food this week, and that has made all the difference. Read on!

SATURDAY
Hot dogs, chips

Saturday we went to the local pumpkin festival, which they had carefully renamed “Gathering of the Gourds.” The festival has been a Whole Thing, because for several years they tried to beat the world record for greatest number of illuminated pumpkins. It was fun, but also very overwhelming and expensive for the town, as tons of people poured into town to see the giant towers of jack-o’-lanterns.

Then came October of 2014, and I think I was in . . . Georgia? I forget where, but definitely away from home giving a speech, and I came down to the hotel lobby to get my free continental breakfast and blearily became aware that the TV was saying there had been riot with tear gas and rubber bullets, fires in the street, and a car tipped over, and I recognized the street. Called home and established that, while Damien and the kids had indeed been at the festival, they had not personally torn a parking meter out of the ground or thrown a beer bottle at anyone’s head. So that was okay.

Anyway, the pumpkin festival has been pretty hit or miss since then, and Covid was really the kiss of death. This year it was basically some stores giving out candy, a pile of pumpkins you could carve if you wanted to, and a bunch of vendors in a parking lot — including Clara and Elijah, so that was cool.

So we did that, and Benny had a party to attend, and I think we worked on Halloween costumes and baked Alaska, and days like this is why they make hot dogs. We also had a Wolf Man movie to watch. We started with Frankenstein, then Bride of Frankenstein, then Son of Frankenstein, and then we had to watch The Wolf Man so we could watch Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. The kids keep saying, “Well, that has to be the last one, now, because he clearly died at the end” and then we explain once again the concept of a movie studio backing up a truckload of cash to one’s house. I think next is a movie that has Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and Dracula. And a truckload of cash. (I recommend all of these movies, by the way, especially the Frankenstein ones. They are gorgeous, they move right along, and their entire agenda is to be creepy and scare you with spookiness, which is very refreshing.)

SUNDAY
Bastardized jambalaya

Last week I heard myself say I didn’t really know what to do with kielbasa except make a sheet pan meal with potatoes, but then I immediately remembered: hark! you can make jambalaya. I told my husband that I was probably going to make some kind of bastardized version, but he said that was okay, because he was kind of a bastard himself. Who among us.

Jambalaya is one of those things people get a little huffy about, but I myself feel that you should cook what tastes good to you, and as long as you’re not running up to first generation immigrants and saying “try it like this, stupid! It’s so much better my way!” then THERE IS NO PROBLEM. It’s food, food is for eating, boom. 

So here is my quickie whatever jambalaya, made with kielbasa and shrimp.

Jump to Recipe

I was planning to throw some leftover chicken in there, but I did ask the kids to clean out the fridge really thoroughly, and I forgot to specify to save the chicken. Well, it was completely delicious, really filling, and it was done in about 45 minutes, start to finish. Obviously you can adjust the spices as you see fit. 

MONDAY
Chicken cutlet sandwiches, fries

Monday was supposed to be chicken burger day, but I can only find frozen chicken burgers half the time these days. I blame Hunter Biden, for some reason. So I had a sudden memory of the delicious chicken cutlets my mother used to make, and that became the plan. 

I don’t even really have a recipe. I sliced chicken breasts lengthwise, dunked them in beaten egg with a little milk and salt and pepper, then dredged them in panko crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Then I pan fried them in canola oil and melted butter. 

Much faster and tidier than whole pieces of fried chicken, like thighs or drumsticks. I easily could have served them as is, maybe with a lemon wedge, but I was already on a sandwich track, so I put out sliced cheese, sliced onions, and sliced tomatoes. I couldn’t find the aioli mayonnaise, so I just had regular, and it was scrumptious. 

I love things fried in panko crumbs. If you fried a socket wrench in panko crumbs, I would be like, “Ohh, it’s so fluffy and nice” and I would have seconds. The chicken stayed juicy, and it was just a tasty treat all around. I also bought some malt vinegar for the fries, and that was a hit. 

TUESDAY
Korean fried chicken, roast broccoli, rice, baked Alaska

This was our anniversary meal!  The baked Alaska, I already wrote about in excruciating detail yesterday Now we must talk about the meal we had, that Damien made. It was magnificent. 

He took a chance with a new recipe, and I think it was the best chicken I’ve ever had. It was one of those twice-fried recipes, with a sauce that dances around in your taste buds in three distinct phases. It has a crackly, crunchy skin and is coated in a sticky, sweet, gingery sauce that is just TRANSPORTATIVE. I can confidently say that it was totally worth all the time and energy Damien put into it.

Didn’t hurt my feelings at all that he spent the afternoon cooking and wearing the kilt I got him, either. Ahem.

The chicken recipe is from delish.com, and it also has a recommended side dish of large pieces of grilled broccoli in a hot garlicky sauce with parmesan, which Damien also made, and which was also fantastic.

I made a big pot of plain rice in the Instant Pot and man, what a feast.

It was really hard to stop eating. 

WEDNESDAY
Zuppa Toscana, french bread

Wednesday was supposed to be nacho day, but it was rainy and chilly and just begging for soup, so I complied. I made a big pot of Zuppa Toscana, which only has nine or ten ingredients (which is not a lot for soup) and is absolutely the soul of comfort and coziness. Mild sausage, red potatoes, cream, and kale.

Jump to Recipe

I had heavy cream left over from all the ice cream making, so I used that along with the half and half, and wow, it was rich. 

I was in a rush, so you can see I ended up putting the soup out before the kale was completely soft. It was cooked all the way, but it wasn’t noodle-soft. It wasn’t bad, just different! 

I also made four loaves of French bread. I was literally running around trying to get stuff done, and was trying to sell emergency raffle tickets that it suddenly turned out we had to unload twenty of before tomorrow, and we had to get to a soccer game, and I kept forgetting I was making bread, so it’s a miracle it turned out at all. This should be a testament to how easy this recipe is!

Jump to Recipe

The loaves were not terribly photogenic, and I suspect someone squonched one of them before I put it in the oven, and if I were on the Great British Baking Show and they really wanted me to produce four completely identical loaves, I would not have gotten a handshake

but man they tasted good! Piping hot from the oven, so perfect with the rich, creamy soup. 

I did run a little butter over the tops when they came out of the oven. The purpose of this is to make them more buttery. Look, I’m working on building up my neck fold. For winter. 

I also did the trick of throwing a few ice cubes into the oven along with the unbaked loaves, which is supposed to produce a cloud of steam, giving the bread a thin, fragile crust. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This time it worked great. The inside was pillowy soft, and the crust absolutely shattered when I cut it.

Couldn’t be more pleased.

THURSDAY
Pork nachos

Didn’t have a super solid plan for this. I had a big bone-in pork shoulder, and put it in a shallow pan with a bunch of cider vinegar, then rubbed it with mustard and rubbed in a bunch of salt, garlic powder, a little chili powder, and lots of cumin, covered it loosely with tinfoil, and cooked it at 325 for several hours. 

Usually I will shred the meat and distribute it over the chips and melt cheese over it for nachos, but this time I made the chips and cheese separately (one pan with jalapeños, one without), and let people make their own choices about pork, which they appreciated. 

The best thing about this picture is that I labelled it “nacho table” and my phone was like, uh, no, ‘scuse me, that a macho navel.

FRIDAY
Kids are making tuna noodle, Damien and I are scooting away for a little day trip to round out anniversary week. Smell ya later! 

Oh, here’s some recipe cards for the week: 

bastardized jambalaya

completely inauthentic, just things that seem tasty to me

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 rope jambalaya, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 5 stalks celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp cajun seasoning
  • raw shrimp
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 5 cups raw brown or long grain rice
  • 10-oz can diced tomatoes with chilies

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, heat up the oil. Brown up the kielbasa. Add in the onions, celery, and green pepper and continue stirring and cooking over medium heat until the vegetables are somewhat soft.

  2. Add in the garlic and spices and cook a few minutes more. Add in the raw shrimp and stir.

  3. Pour in the chicken broth, rice, and tomatoes with any juice. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. sweet Italian sausages
  • 1-2 red onion(s), diced
  • 4 medium red potatoes, sliced thin with skin on
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 9 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • olive oil for cooking
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour

Instructions

  1. Squeeze the sausage out of the casings. Saute it up in a little olive oil, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. When it's almost done, add the minced garlic, diced onion, and sliced potatoes. Drain off excess olive oil.

  2. When onions and potatoes are soft, add flour, stir to coat, and cook for another five minutes. 

  3. Add chicken broth and half and half. Let soup simmer all day, or keep warm in slow cooker or Instant Pot. 

  4. Before serving, add chopped kale (and sliced mushrooms, optional) and cook for another ten minutes (or set Instant Pot for three minutes) until kale and mushrooms are soft. Add pepper. Add salt if necessary, but the sausage and broth contribute salt already. 

  5. This makes a creamy soup. If you want it thicker, you can add a flour or cornstarch roux at the end and cook a little longer. 

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
  • 5 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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 314: The sound of stroganoff

Happy Friday! Before we go any further, I have to show you last Friday’s lo mein. I posted the WFS post before I made dinner, so there was no photo, but it turned out so good. I made the basic recipe but added shrimp, zucchini, yellow bell pepper, and matchstick ginger. 

Fabulous. Here’s the recipe in case you need it.

Jump to Recipe

Very easy and fast. I usually use fettuccine for the noodles, and that makes it cheap, too. I think I got everything at Aldi except the rice vinegar.

Okay, on to this week! Here’s what we had. 

SATURDAY
Burgers, chips

Not tired of burgers and chips yet. Especially when Damien cooks them outside. 

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries 

On Sunday we went apple picking, and then stopped at my parents’ graves to say a decade and plant a bunch of crocuses. Very glad to see the two rose bushes and the lilac tree I planted in the summer are still alive! 

Here’s a little album from Facebook because I’m lazy. 


 

Then we came home and had Italian sandwiches. I had mine with plenty of red pesto, yum yum.

Damien got an extra package of prosciutto for later in the week, as you shall see. I flubbed dessert (I had bought some Halloween-shaped rice krispie treat kits that you had to make and decorate spookily, which not even the kids felt like doing after a couple of hours in the car), but Damien had had the foresight to buy a sack of cider donuts at the orchard, which he put in the microwave for dessert, and they were delightful. I was feeling the teensiest bit emotionally bruised after the cemetery visit, and a hot sugary donut definitely helped. 

MONDAY
Oven fried chicken, roast butternut squash, apple hand pies

The fried chicken I made a few weeks ago was so very tasty, but such a pain in the pants, so I took the advice of my friend Patti and tried oven frying it. It was quite good, and so much easier. 

Early in a day, I let the chicken (drumsticks and thighs) soak in milk and eggs with salt and pepper. Then at dinner time, I put a few inches of melted butter and canola oil (half and half) in a couple of roasting pans in a 425-degree oven. While it was heating up, I rolled the chicken parts in flour seasoned with lots of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. I put the chicken in the pans, skin side down, and let it cook for about half an hour, then turned it and let it finish cooking for another fifteen minutes or so. 

Not quite as spectacularly crackly-crisp as pan fried chicken, but still crunchy and delicious, and moist and tasty inside. Will definitely do it this way again. 

I wasn’t able to fit all the chicken in the oven pans, so I pan fried the extras, got distracted, and burned the ever loving hell out it. Completely black. Then I turned it over and, just to be fair, did the same thing to the other side. Then I threw it away. 

I also made hand pies. Corrie loved the pumpkin empanadas from last week so much, and it made mornings so much easier when she had something tasty and homemade to grab for a car breakfast, so I decided to make pineapple empanadas with the rest of the Goya dough discs I bought. I’ll spare you the details, but I managed to ruin quite a lot of pineapple, and then light dawned on blockhead, and I realized we had 9,000 apples in the house. So I pulled out my lovely old fashioned apple peeler-corer-slicer and made apple empanadas, or really just little pies at this point. See my pies! See my pies!

Chicken and pies, Mr. Tweedy. 

The pie filling was apple sliced and dusted with flour and sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and a little butter. I forgot salt. I folded them into the dough, cut some vents, and brushed the tops with egg, then sprinkled them with sugar and cinnamon, and baked them on parchment paper at 375 for about half an hour. 

I’m not gonna lie, I was also doing a lot of running around and shouting and waving my arms about something completely unrelated to food, while I was making 20 pies, and ruining pineapple, and rolling chicken in flour, and burning it, and burning the other side, and snatching apple peels away from the dog, and so on. It is an actual miracle that I get dinner on the table every day, even when I’m not all worked up about something, which I was. It’s like a Greek tragedy in there every day, I don’t know what goes on. But eventually everything got cooked, and I had it in my head that we needed butternut squash, too, so I chopped that up, drizzled it with honey and olive oil, sprinkled it with kosher salt and chili powder, and broiled it until it was a little blistered, and I guess we had pie for supper and squash for dessert, I don’t know. ἔξοδος.

TUESDAY
Beef stroganoff

Yeah! Stroganoff! Someone, and I’m very sorry I don’t remember who, posted this on Twitter

and the vision that was planted in my brain/still remains./And I haaaaad/ to make stroganoff. 

I usually make stroganoff with ground beef, but honestly, it’s gotten so expensive that it was only like three dollars more to get a big hunk of roast. It’s called “budgeting,” sweaty. I followed the Deadspin recipe. These recipes are invariably delicious, but incredibly obnoxious, so I went ahead and made a card. 

Jump to Recipe

I was very busy on Tuesday, so I did all my chopping and slicing and mincing in the morning,

and when dinner came, it all came together in a flash. It’s very easy, and is a great way to furnish yourself with enough calories to survive an eighteen month siege.

First you lightly fry the sliced meat in butter

And I was very determined that this stroganoff would turn out tender, not tough, so I fried the meat very lightly indeed. Then you remove meat from the pan and fry up the onions in more butter, salt it, then add in the garlic 

then the mushrooms and tarragon and pepper.

This is the point where you add brandy if you have any, which I did not.

Then you put your meat back in, heat it up, blorp in an insane amount of sour cream, heat that up, adjust your salt, and that’s it. 

While you are cooking this, you boil up a pot of egg noodles, and you serve the stroganoff over noodles.

So delicious. My only disappointment was I didn’t taste the tarragon much. I don’t use tarragon often, so I was looking forward to it. Maybe I should have saved some out and used a bit to garnish the top and bring up the flavor a bit. We all have colds, though, so it’s a miracle we can taste anything.

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Three pizzas, and I made the mistake of not making one plain cheese pizza. Oh, there was howling and complaining. I have heard the cries of my people, and next time I will make one plain cheese pizza. 

This time, I, monster, made one pepperoni, one mushroom and olive, and one prosciutto and arugula (that’s what the extra prosciutto was for. That’s called building suspense. Look it up, sweaty). That third pizza was just remarkable. Fresh little curls of parmesan frolicking on top, so nice.

First you make an arugula salad: A few handfuls of baby arugula, the juice of a small lemon, a few drizzles of olive oil, and kosher salt and pepper.

Then you make a normal cheese pizza but spread plenty of thinly-sliced raw garlic on it, and some fresh rosemary if you have it (which I did not), and drizzle a little olive oil over that, and give it a little salt and pepper. Bake as normal, and when it comes out, spread it with torn-up prosciutto, and top it with the arugula salad.

It’s so good, it almost makes me mad. What the hell is this? Why is it so delicious? Who comes up with this stuff? Gosh! 

THURSDAY
Kielbasa, potato, and Brussels sprouts

The kids were helping me make the shopping list on Saturday morning, and more than one shouted “Kielbasa!” They are prone to shouting things like “Kielbasa!” without meaning anything in particular by it, but I wrote it down anyway. But they were all pretty adamant that they didn’t want any cabbage, and they seemed to mean it. I don’t really know any kielbasa dishes besides the one-pan deal with potato, kielbasa, and cabbage, so I thought why not make the same basic thing but swap in Brussels sprouts, which people do like? 

It turns out lots of other people have had this idea, including the New York Times. I followed an uncharacteristically simple recipe by them (well, they sort of sheepishly suggested tossing some mustard seeds and almonds in there, but they admitted that it wasn’t really necessary), and it turned out fine. I’m a fool and didn’t save the recipe when it let me in for a free view, but it’s just a basic sheet pan deal with potatoes, some kind of sausage, and Brussels sprouts cooked with olive oil, salt, and pepper for a while, and then you toss it with a honey mustard dressing and continue cooking it. 

I used three ropes of kielbasa, two pounds of Brussels sprouts, and probably three pounds of potatoes (red would have been nice, but they were like a dollar a potato, so I just cut up some baking potatoes), and I think the honey mustard was four tablespoons of mustard and six tablespoons of honey. Something along those lines. 

So I cooked it at 425, I think, for about 25 minutes, I think, stirred it one time and then drizzled the honey mustard on and finished cooking it, then pulled it out about twenty minutes later

I guess the almonds would have been pretty good, and it would have been good to use dijon mustard instead of cheapo yellow mustard, but it was fine as it was, and it certainly was easy. Maybe a tiny bit dry.

I think next time I will make extra honey mustard sauce for a little dipping after it’s cooked. 

The original plan was to make King Arthur hot pretzels to go with this meal, but there was nothing anywhere near enough time for that. Next time! 

Come to think of it, I do know another kielbasa meal: Jambalaya. Ooh, it’s been quite a while. I think I’ll make that next week. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Just whatever. 

And now! Next Tuesday is our twenty-fifth anniversary! We will be going out for a little outing at a later date, but for the day itself, we thought it would be fun to just cook a nice meal for the family. We like cooking together, as long as we’re not too rushed. 

Damien is probably going to make Korean fried chicken, which is guaranteed scrumptious, and I am thinking of making a baked Alaska, probably with strawberry, coconut, and mango ice cream. You’re supposed to spread softened ice cream onto the cake in layers and let it freeze, so that will work well with homemade ice cream, which comes out of the machine soft anyway. 

I have had baked Alaska only once, in 8th grade when our French class went to Quebec and were horribly obnoxious to everyone in the entire hotel and city and country the whole time, but never so much as when they wheeled out the baked Alaska. I am very sketchy on the details besides that everyone was screaming, especially my friend Becky, so if anyone has any more useful details or experience with baked Alaska, please share! We do have a small blow torch. It seems like the individual components are easy, and it’s mainly a matter of starting well in advance, sticking to the plan, and not panicking, and that’s how you earn the moment where you set it all on fire. Kind of like,,,, twenty five years of marriage.

Anyway, I may get someone else to make the cake part, because I’m not great with cake. I’m good with ice cream, though. And setting things on fire. 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

Deadspin beef stroganoff

The tastiest, coziest, most calorific cold weather comfort food known to mankind. You can make this with ground beef, but it's so good with thin, tender slices of beef. Please don't ask me what cut of beef to use, as I don't know.

Calories 500000000 kcal

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lbs beef, sliced into thin, flat pieces
  • 4-6 Tbsp butter
  • 2 medium onions, diced or sliced thin
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup red wine (optional)
  • 16 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • bunch fresh tarragon, minced (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 32 oz sour cream
  • egg noodles that you will need to cook while you are making the stroganoff

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, melt most of the butter and cook the beef pieces very lightly, until they are just a little brown but still partially pink.

  2. Remove the beef from the pan, put the remaining butter in, and put the onion in, and cook it until it's slightly soft. Sprinkle it with salt, stir, and add in the garlic and cook for another few minutes.

  3. If you are adding wine, splash that in. Add in the mushrooms, tarragon, and pepper, and continue cooking until the mushrooms are soft and fragrant.

  4. Add the beef and any juices back into the pan with the mushrooms, and heat it up. Stir in the sour cream and continue stirring and heating.

  5. Add salt if necessary, and serve stroganoff over hot egg noodles.

What’s for supper? Vol. 311: In which I go astray with lemons

Apparently it is Friday! I had no idea. Follow me for more organizational tips. 

Like most of the country, we’re feeling a bit pinched financially, so I’m trying to pare things down a bit. I stuck to my usual method (looking up the supermarket flyers and basing the menu around the meat and produce that’s on sale), but I was a little more severe about it than usual, and managed to slice quite a bit off the grocery bill this week, so that felt good. We still ate pretty well. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Fancy chicken sandwiches, raw broccoli, fake Pringles

Just regular chicken burgers, but on ciabatta rolls, with red onion, tomato, aioli mayo, and smoked gouda (which was on sale). A very pleasant, flavorful sandwich. 

If you are wondering what the difference is between aioli and mayo, aioli is made with garlic and olive oil and and mayo is made with egg yolks and canola oil. I suppose aioli mayo is made with eggs, olive oil, and garlic, although I didn’t check the label. Just slathered that stuff on.

SUNDAY
Apple pancakes, sausages, OJ; gingerbread cake with lemon frosting

Damien had to go to Florida for a quick business trip, so we did the ol’ “Daddy’s away, let’s just have pancakes” routine. You know how, when you’re making pancakes, the first batch turns out terrible? This was like that, except all the other batches were also terrible. I have no idea what my problem was, but I absolutely massacred these pancakes. I also got very frugal and chopped up and threw in some quite elderly apples that I probably should have just let go in peace. The kids were very gracious, though, and ate everything up. 

I had more success with dessert, which was a belated birthday cake for Clara. I used the King Arthur gingerbread cake recipe. I am a pretty poor baker, prone to mid-recipe panics and irrational sulks, but King Arthur has saved my bacon more than once, and I recommend them if you are a baker who lacks confidence.

This is a classic gingerbread cake recipe, with coffee, plenty of molasses, and all the cozy autumn spices.

I made a double recipe and baked it in silicone rounds, and they turned out lovely. 

You’re supposed to serve gingerbread with just a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, or maybe some whipped cream, or possibly a light glaze, but this was a birthday cake, so I went whole hog and made a big batch of thick lemon buttercream frosting. I followed this Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe (it’s just a basic buttercream recipe, made with heavy cream, plus fresh lemon juice and lemon zest), and that, too, turned out lovely, very rich and lemony, and a pleasant pale yellow (more so than it looks in the photo below). Here I have just tossed a handful of lemon zest on top. 

Then I got the brilliant idea to candy some lemon slices for garnishes. I have candied lemon peel before, for lemon meringue pie, but I wanted something a little more flashy, so I bought a bunch of hard lemon candies, smashed them with the marble rolling pin I got at the dump

and — okay, here is where I went astray. 

First I sliced up some lemons and laid them on a pan on parchment paper. My first mistake is I should have laid them on paper towel, or something absorbent, because lemons do weep. My second mistake is that I smashed the candies and then decided I would melt them in the microwave and pour the melted candy over the lemon slices. This . . . kind of worked. 

But the candy started sort of boiling before it was completely melted all the way through, and I was afraid of ruining it, so I didn’t have a lot to work with. 

What I should have done, maybe, was sprinkle the crushed candy bits over the lemon slices and put the pan in the oven to melt it all together that way. I think. You can see that I also didn’t take out the seeds. I remember making the decision not to do this, and telling myself it would be more authentic or something, but obviously I just didn’t feel like picking the seeds out. 

Anyway, I ended up with more or less candied lemon slices that were a tiny bit floppier than I would have liked, and a little bit weepy. As someone who got a little bit weepy over a Gary Larson cartoon yesterday, I really cannot judge the lemons for this. 

Then I watched my ten millionth video on how to frost a cake, frosted the cake, loused it up completely like I always do, and decorated it with sort-of candied lemon slices, marigolds (which are edible), and some candied ginger slices. I also threw on some candy squiggles that I had the foresight to make, once I realized that the candy was going to end up squiggly whether I wanted it to or not. And it turned out kind of pretty!

Weird, but pretty. The candy squiggles give it a bit of a doctor’s signature look, which I always think is nice. And see, you can see how the lemons are weeping.

There there, lemons. 

Actually, I think it’s the lemon candy that’s weeping. It’s too bright to be lemon juice. I don’t know. Well, the cake itself was good. Moist and dense, but still tender, and not gummy.

The lemon frosting was maybe a little too sweet, but that’s buttercream for you. A successful cake overall, I thought. 

MONDAY
Pasta with meat sauce

Damien was still away, so I reverted to an old kid-friendly meal: twisty pasta with jarred spaghetti sauce and ground beef. I did fry up a chopped onion, but I think that’s as far as I went with the seasoning. And wow, was it bland. I used to cook like this all the time.

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday was a little experiment: I made just three pizzas, to see if it would be enough. In our heyday, I would make six extra-large pizzas, and there would only be scanty leftovers. As the family shifts and the birdies fly the next, I keep decreasing how many pizzas I make, and this week I had to acknowledge that, when I make four pizzas, there are leftovers hanging around all week long. So I made three, and there were three or four pieces left after everyone ate. This does not sit right, but the data is in. 

Here is a pie chart demonstrating how much pizza our family ate:

Tee hee. (Then we ate the rest of it.)

WEDNESDAY
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits

Last week, while frying chicken for the chicken biryani, I thought to myself that I really ought to try frying chicken for a main course again, because it was surprisingly simple and easy, and why not? 

So, the answer to this question is: Frying up six or seven pieces of chicken to go in a larger dish later in the day is one thing. Frying up 24 pieces of chicken while everyone hungrily waits for dinner on a school night is quite another. It was not simple! It was not easy! And also I forgot that only one of the big burners on the stove works properly, and the other one just stays on high and burns everything, and the other two are tiny and useless. So, that’s why not. 

I don’t have regrets, though. But I’m starting much earlier in the day, next time. I more or less followed this recipe, except that I dredged the milk-soaked chicken in regular flour seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. I have to admit, it was frrrrrreaking delicious. 

I over cooked it somewhat, so the outside wasn’t exactly beautiful, but it was tasty as heck, the meat was juicy, and all the kids said it was great and I should make it again. So that’s a win! Here’s my unbeautiful but tasty plate:

As you can see, I also made garlic mashed potatoes that were kind of not great. They were very small potatoes and I was rushing, so I decided not to peel them, which works okay if you are going to mash them very thoroughly, which I did not. Oh well. I make mashed potatoes infrequently enough that the kids consider them a treat and were happy to have them. Here’s the recipe, if you want to do it right:

Jump to Recipe

I also made a few dozen biscuits that turned out pretty well.

I have a reliable biscuit recipe that calls for cream of tartar and egg, and the biscuits come out rich and fluffy, with a fragile, buttery crust.

Jump to Recipe

Overall a popular meal. Gravy would have been great, but I just ran out of time. I also wished I had some sauteed spinach, but again, time. 

THURSDAY
Leftover fried chicken, fries, corn

I was planning (well, “planning”) Greek chicken something something yogurt sauce I dunno, but there was a lot of fried chicken left over, so we just picked up some frozen fries, heated up some frozen corn, and had chicken again. 

You can see that the coating adhered nicely, even unto the second day, so I’ll definitely stick with this recipe next time. Maybe even make some gravy.

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, chips, salsa

And then, like I said, apparently it is Friday! At least that’s what it says here. And now I’m headed to the windowsill. 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

moron biscuits

Because I've been trying all my life to make nice biscuits and I was too much of a moron, until I discovered this recipe. It has egg and cream of tartar, which is weird, but they come out great every time. Flaky little crust, lovely, lofty insides, rich, buttery taste.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, chilled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cream of tartar.

  3. Grate the chilled butter with a box grater into the dry ingredients.

  4. Stir in the milk and egg and mix until just combined. Don't overwork it. It's fine to see little bits of butter.

  5. On a floured surface, knead the dough 10-15 times. If it's very sticky, add a little flour.

  6. With your hands, press the dough out until it's about an inch thick. Cut biscuits. Depending on the size, you can probably get 20 medium-sized biscuits with this recipe.

  7. Grease a pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.